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Odd Lots

Short items presented without much discussion, generally links to other Web items

Odd Lots

  • Pertinent to my last two entries here: City Journal proposes what I proposed two years ago: To reduce the toxicity of social media, slow it down. What they propose is not exponential delays of replies and retweets to replies and retweets until those delays extend fifteen minutes or more. Like a nuclear reactor control rod, that would slow the explosion down until the hotheads cooled off or got bored and went elsewhere. Instead, they suggest Twitter insist on a minimum of 280 characters to posts. That might help some, but if the clue is to slow down viral posts, eliminate the middleman and just slow down responses until “viral” becomes so slow that further response simply stops.
  • A statistical study of mask use vs. COVID-19 outcomes found no correlation between mask use and better outcomes, but actually discovered some small correlation between mask use and worse outcomes. Tough read, but bull through it.
  • While not as systematic as the above study, an article on City Journal drives another nail in the coffin of “masks as infection prevention.” Graph the infection rates in states with mask mandates and states with no mask mandates and they come out…almost exactly the same.
  • Our Sun is getting rowdy, and getting rowdier earlier than expected. Cycle 25 is starting out with a bang. Recent cycles have been relatively peaceful, and nobody is suggesting that Cycle 25 will be anything close to the Cycle 19 peak (1957-58) which was the most active sunspot max in instrumental history. What Cycle 25 may turn out to be is average, which mean 20 meters may start to become a lot more fun than it has been in recent (slow) years.
  • And this leads to another question I’ve seen little discussion on: To what extent are damaging solar storms correlated to sunspot peaks? The huge solar storm of 1921 took place closer to the sunspot minimum than the maximum. The legendary Carrington event of 1859 took place during the fairly weak Cycle 10. As best I can tell, it’s about individual sunspots, and not the general state of the Sun at any point in time.
  • NASA’s Perseverence Mars rover caught a solar eclipse, when Phobos crossed the disk of the Sun as seen from Perseverence. The video of the eclipse was sped up, but it really is a startling image, especially if you know a little about Phobos, which is decidedly non-spherical.
  • I found this very cool: An online, Web-based x86/x64 assembler/disassembler. Although intended for computer security pros, I found it a lot of fun and it may turn out to be useful here and there as I begin to revise my assembly book for the fourth time.
  • Skipping sleep can lead to putting on belly fat, which is absolutely the worst place to have it. Get all the sleep you can, duh. Sleep is not optional.
  • How many stars are there in the observable universe? It’s a far trickier and sublter calculation than you might think. But the final number looked familiar to me, and might look familiar to people who do low-level programming.

Lots of Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • Sandia Labs has invented a way to extract metals from coal ash, including rare-earth metals used in batteries and electronics. Furthermore, they do this using food-grade citric acid, which is relatively benign from an environmental standpoint. The treatment makes the coal ash residue much less toxic, and thus easier to dispose of.
  • It took a few seconds to decide if this listicle item was in fact satire, but it seems to be factually accurate, to the extent that facts are presented. Behold a stack rank of The Most Miserable Cities in America. Arizona has both ends covered: Bullhead City is the most miserable city in the state, but Scottsdale is said to be the happiest city, and Phoenix the city with the greatest job security. The Phoenix suburb of Gilbert has the lowest poverty rate, not just in Arizona but in the whole country.
  • A lot of misery is caused by debt. Here’s another stack rank of our 50 states (it’s a long piece; scroll down to find the full table) this time by debt per capita. Arizona is #42, which I consider pretty good. Wyoming is #50. My home state of Illinois is #4. and, as usual, the king in this wretched wreck of a castle is…skip the drumroll, please–New York.
  • Mary Pat Campbell operates a fascinating site called Actuarial News, which aggregates articles about economics, risk and statistics in many areas, including COVID. She’s an excellent aggregator, in that her capsule summaries save time for me by letting me decide quickly whether a piece is worth reading in full. Highly recommended.
  • Arizona has administered 8,197,928 doses of COVID vaccine as of today. 59% of the population is fully vaccinated, while 69.5% of eligible persons are fully vaccinated, including 88% of the over-65 cohort. Unfortunately, the state does not track breakthrough infections, which are a topic of great interest to me right now.
  • Every new Windows 10 machine I’ve bought in the last couple of years has pestered me to “get even more out of Windows” at boot time. You can’t kill the screen except to delay it by 3 days. Here’s how to kill it so it never comes up again. I’ve done this on three machines so far and it’s worked every time.
  • Antarctica just had its coldest winter on record . Average temp there went down to -61.1C, the coldest ever recorded. Russia’s Vostok station went down to -79C, (-110F) just one degree from the coldest temp ever recorded on Earth. Brrrr! As for fear of the Antarctic ice melting and killing us all, well…don’t sweat it.
  • From the No Shit, Sherlock department comes a revelation that full-fat dairy products do not increase heart disease risk. I’ve been following the high-fat/low-fat issue for 20 years, and this is not new knowledge. Of course, the knucklehead interviewed at the end said that non-tropical vegetable oils are even healthier than dairy fat. To the contrary.
  • A study performed by a Native American health service found that treating COVID-19 patients with monoclonal antibodies was very effective: Only 17% of infected patients treated in the study were later admitted to a hospital, and only 3% died.
  • Here’s another drug to watch for early-intervention COVID-19 treatment: fluvoxamine (Luvox) which is a well-understood SSRI antidepressant that also has anti-inflammatory properties. See this paper published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases.
  • Merck has a new antiviral in testing with “phenomenal” success against SARS-COV-2 . It will cost $70/pill. Why is there a furious war being waged against ivermectin? It’s a well-understood and safe generic that costs $2/pill. Meanwhile, much of the health industry, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacists, and even doctors (who should know better) are standing around watching people die, even as evidence is piling up that ivermectin is effective against early COVID-19. Merck’s new drug may be a gamechanger, but the game is crooked as hell.

  • Since we’re talking about diseases, I’ll throw this in: Certainty is a disease. An interesting piece from Inc explains how certainty is a key element of the Dunning-Kruger effect. My own views go like this: Certainty and competence are inversely related. The more certain you are, the less competent you’re likely to be. Many years observing humanity suggests to me that the more you scream about how right you are, the more likely you are to be wrong.

Odd Lots

  • Research shows that ivermectin works. Here’s a paper published this past July in The American Journal of Therapeutics. I’ve read in a number of places that ivermectin is one of the safest drugs known. No, the FDA hasn’t approved its use against COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine wasn’t FDA approved either until a few days ago. I can’t help but think that people are dying needlessly because of all the government screaming and yelling about people taking horse medicine, when taking horse medicine is a vanishingly small phenom. If ivermectin has no serious side effects, why not let doctors try it? What’s the downside?
  • Here’s a 30-page review of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of ivermectin in treating COVID-19. Again, if it’s a safe drug that’s been on the market and widely studied for 30+ years, why not let people try it?
  • It’s become harder and harder to find evidence of the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in combination with zinc. I’ve looked. The early clinical experience emphasized that the two work together or not at all. I find it weird that nearly all the studies I’ve seen test HCQ either alone or with azithromycin–but not zinc. Clinical evidence shows that the combo doesn’t work well on late and severe cases, but rather when symptoms first appear. Still, if ivermectin works as well as recent studies show, HCQ’s moment may have come and gone.
  • I may have backed the wrong horse. Recent research seems to show that the Moderna vaccine generates twice the antibodies as the Pfizer vaccine does. Now let’s see some research on the rates of breakthrough infections versus vaccine type.
  • Here are some recent stats on the prevalence of breakthrough infections. The real eye-opener would be to know which vaccine is best at preventing breakthrough infections. That said, the chances of breakthrough infections occurring is very low. If you don’t read the paper, at least skim down to find the odds chart. Cancer risk is 1 in 7. Breakthrough infection risk is 1 in 137,698. I like those odds.
  • Ugggh. Enough virus crap. Let’s talk about something else. My pre-2000 pandemic penny jar (a thick glass bottle that once held cream from Straus Family Creamery) continues to fill. Last week I got a 1950-D wheat penny. A few days ago I got something a little odd: A 2 Euro cent coin from Ireland, dated 2002. It’s almost precisely the same size as a US penny, and if I didn’t look closely at coins I might have missed the fact that it was 19 years and an ocean away from home. Getting pennies from the 1980s is an almost everyday thing now. The penny jars are clearly still out there and still emptying into the McDonald’s till.
  • We lived near Santa Cruz for three and a half years and never visited its famous Mystery Spot. It turns out that mystery spots, roads, hills, and holes are all over the place. Here’s another interesting compendium. Yes, it’s bullshit. Yet I get the impression that it’s often very clever bullshit, and I wouldn’t mind getting a look at one or two.

Odd Lots

  • The major social networks are now suppressing any mention of research that supports the effectiveness of ivermectin and HCQ against SARS-CoV-2. I’ve given up, as it’s a bad use of my time to try to slip information past those insufferable busybodies. So I guess I have to be content with Contra here and MeWe, which so far hasn’t given anybody any grief about discussing COVID treatments and related issues. Feel free (in fact, I encourage you) to spread these links around any way you can.
  • There’s what looks like a very good free PDF guide to home treatment of COVID-19, from The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. It aligns with the reading I’ve done of peer-reviewed research on the topic.
  • Another very good site for laypersons on COVID-19 treatment is The Front Line COVID Critial Care Alliance, a group of physicians who are trying to make sure people have someplace to go for information that isn’t vetted by a cadre of arrogant billionaires whose sum total of medical experience is putting bandaids on their owies.
  • I read a book last week from an Arizona physician who gathered over 500 medical research papers on topics that bear on the COVID-19 issue. The Defeat of COVID is sometimes a bit of a slog, but the citations are solid gold. If you have more than a passing interest in the topic, I encourage you to get it. You’re sure not going to see any of this research linked on the social networks.
  • One thing you have to remember is that the panic-porn industry is talking solely about cases. A case is a positive test. Period. A case does not have to be symptomatic. They aren’t talking about deaths because deaths don’t seem to be rising. Certainly deaths in Arizona are not. (Click through to the graph and it’ll be obvious.)
  • The CDC is withdrawing its support from the PCR test, which can be “cranked up” to absurd sensitivity. Here’s a direct quote from an article in the British Medical Journal: “Another problem with relying on PCR testing alone to define a COVID-19 case is that, owing to the sensitivity of the test, it can pick up a single strand of viral RNA-but this doesn’t necessarily equate to someone being infected or infectious.”
  • There are a fair number of studies of ivermectin as treatment for COVID-19. Here’s one from Antiviral Research, a journal published by Elsevier.
  • Ditto HCQ. Here’s one from the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, with this money quote: “Risk stratification-based treatment of COVID-19 outpatients as early as possible after symptom onset using triple therapy, including the combination of zinc with low-dose hydroxychloroquine, was associated with significantly fewer hospitalisations.”
  • To close out this COVID-19 issue of Odd Lots, a blatantly obvious bot-distributed hoax campaign on Twitter was not flagged by their supposed fact-checkers. I just did a Twitter search on “I just left the ER. We” and got quite a few laughs out of people making fun of the hoax, and (by implication) Twitter itself. Really, go look. It’s hilarious.
  • Had to fetch down a sample of the merriment:
    “I just left the ER . We are officially back to getting crushed by vegetables. Arugula is running rampant and it’s MUCH more transmissible than the original lettuce. 99% of our ICU admits did NOT eat a steak. Virtually ALL of them wish they had.”

  • (Many thanks to Bill Meyer for some of these links.)

Odd Lots

  • Mercury has a tail. Whodathunkit? With all that solar wind blasting over it, the poor planet’s already thin atmosphere is constantly being driven outward, forming a tail over 24 million kilometers long. That makes ol’ Merc the biggest comet in the Solar System. You can’t see it visually; if you’re used to astrophotography, shoot through a sodium filter to make the tail more visible. Some good shots at the link; check it out.
  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe has left asteroid Bennu and is headed for home as fast as limited fuel and orbital mechanics allow. It’s got 300 grams of asteroid dirt to drop, after which it will head into a parking orbit. NASA is considering another mission for the probe. Nothing crisp yet, but there’s still some life in the device, so why waste it?
  • Having listened carefully to 60 million stars in toward the galactic center, the Breakthrough Listen project has found no sign of alien intelligence. We may be the one impossibly unlikely fluke that solved the Drake Equation.
  • Relevant to the above: Our dwarfy next-door neighbor Proxima Centauri spit out a flare a couple of years ago that was 100 times more powerful than anything we’ve ever seen out of our Sun. If too many dwarf stars are in this habit, it could bode ill for the chances of life elsewhere in our galaxy, where we have red dwarf stars like some people have mice.
  • I stumbled across a British news/opinion site whose USP is going against the grain of conventional wisdom. Given the current drain-spiral of American media, it can be useful to have a few overseas news sites on your bookmarks bar. This one is definitely contrarian. It’s also sane and not prone to the often-comical frothing fury we see in news outlets here.
  • Tis the season to be stumbling, in fact: I stumbled upon Reversopedia, which is a compendium of things that we don’t know or can’t prove. The entries are odd lots for very large values of “odd.” E.g: “Why is space 3-dimensional? And is it?” I love that sort of thing because it makes me think about matters that could easily become the central gimmicks of SF stories.
  • Bari Weiss posted a solid article on Substack saying what a lot of people are thinking but afraid to say out loud: That vaccinated people don’t need masks, especially outside. Social pressure against mask skeptics is intense. Masks have become a culture-war thing, which is both absurd and dangerous: Antivaxxers are asking what is actually a sensible question: If the vaccines are real and not just saline solution, why do we have to keep wearing masks?
  • Substack (see above item) is an interesting concept, rather like a blog site that you can get paid for. A lot of articles can be read for free, and subscription fees for many writers are $5/month. It’s not a gumball machine for articles, but rather a gumball machine for writers. A lot of writers who would be anathema in big national vehicles can write there, gather a following, and make a living.
  • Is sleeping with your TV on ok? Short answer: No. (And I’m wondering how old the stock photo in the article is, given that it shows a glass-screen TV.)
  • IBM has just created a proof-of-concept chip with a 2NM process. IBM’s published density numbers for this node are 333M transistors per square millimeter, whew! They say 2NM will improve performance by 45% at the same power.
  • I haven’t said much about my book project Odd Lots lately. It was a classic “odd moments” project accomplished in moments scattered across the last year or two. I just got the first proof copy back from Amazon and will be cleaning it up as time allows. Most of what’s wrong are OCR errors of old writings for which I no longer have disk files and had to scan out of magazines. I expect to post it on Amazon before the end of May.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • I’ve mentioned this before in several places, but I will mention it again here and probably more than once again before it happens: On December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will be only one tenth of a degree apart. That’s one fifth the diameter of the full Moon. I’ve never seen two planets that close, and I’ve been looking at the sky now for 63 years.
  • As I mentioned in a recent entry, I’m putting my big 10″ Newtonian scope back together for the first time in close to 20 years. Most of the work lay in building a new base. (Termites ate the original, which I cobbled together out of scrap wood when I was 16.) The base is finished. The rest should be easy. With some luck I’ll get it all together and do a star test tonight. If my stars are in alignment, it’ll work. But hey, all stars are my stars, so I can’t lose!
  • While listening to Peter Hollens songs on YouTube, I stumbled across a remarkable women’s vocal ensemble: Brigham Young University’s Noteworthy. They’ve posted a number of videos, and all of them are amazing in terms of pure vocal harmony. Nothing I’ve seen tops their cover of “When You Believe” from the animated film Prince of Egypt. It’s the best song out of a very good bunch, and those ladies nailed it for all time.
  • I suspect that by now you’ve probably heard, but SF legend and former Analog editor Ben Bova died on November 30, of COVID-19 complications. He was 88. Ben taught for a week when I attended Clarion East 1973, and he was spectacular.
  • And as though that weren’t bad enough, Chuck Yaeger died this past Monday, December 7. Yaeger, to me, almost defines the word “badass.” He shot down 13 German warcraft during WW2, five of them on one mission. He rode the Bell X-1 to the sound barrier and beyond, and piloted the X-15 to the edge of space. He fought Death to a draw that lasted 97 years. Godspeed, General Yaeger.
  • Watch for Northern Lights from Thursday sunset to Friday dawn. (H/T to Hans Schantz.)