April 2020


Like it or not, we are living in an historic time. In many ways, how the COVID19 is being handled in the US reminds me of how Boeing handled the 737 Max. Ignore a problem, present it as a non-issue while entitled people enrich themselves... technical people who raise their voices are drowned out... and then it gets much worse. We are in a perfect storm of stupidity. Maybe the stupid-o-meter will max out and we will bend that curve. Or maybe this is the new normal.

Fake news, alternative facts, untruths, misrepresentations... there are lots of euphemisms for lying.  As Big Daddy said in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, "You've got to live with it, there's nothing to live with but mendacity."

But when the BS comes from the top during a global crisis, maybe a majority of people will finally wake up and realize we will be better off with whoever 46 turns out to be. Be careful how you express this sentiment, as Peter Wehner at The Atlantic points out, schadenfreude is not a good look.   Even if 90% of the content on the internet is fake, you can still (mostly) trust technical experts. Who is likely to be telling the truth?  I'd start with the World Health Organization - it is, after all, their job to "promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable." 

First of all, if the virus kills me, I am gonna be really pissed. Second, I'd like to apologize to all the people that I was mean to in my life. Excluding people I worked with that suck, people that I was mad at or that I hate. Nevermind, I take this all back. Who knew that the flu can kill you? I did, my uncle died of it when he was three years old.

Let's watch a video of spring break revelry in Florida, where the beaches were kept open by Governor Ron DeSantis, to keep the cash flowing. Not long after, Florida became a hot spot for COVID19, and there's no doubt that college kids brought home an unwanted souvenir.

Practicing unsafe incelhood

That poor guy is gonna regret that interview when he starts applying for jobs.

Meanwhile, that DeSantis is trying to blame New York for Florida's problems. If we have learned anything in the past four years, we are not in an age where "leadership" accepts blame for themselves. Experts are warning us that we need to keep physical distance for the coming months. Here's a church in Florida that doesn't agree.

Infecting the flock with more than the usual horseshit

Oops, that pastor just got arrested. Can I get an Amen?

Exponential growth

"Growing exponentially" is one of the most over-used and misunderstood phases.  Something that has exhibited rapid growth is often reported as exponential. 99% of the time this is a false statement. In the case of a pandemic, it is accurate. 

Exponential data requires two things: it must fit a model of Y=something*10^X, and the data trend must show more than two points fit that curve. The best way to see exponential functions is to plot them on a log Y-scale, where they appear as a straight line. In the case of the COVID19 virus, you likely won't see an accurate trend on how many people have caught the disease, as not everyone who has it has been tested or even shows symptoms. The "hard" data is in the deaths. Thanks to Alex for pointing this out.

Below, deaths per day in the US up to 28 March are plotted against an exponential curve (orange line). As an engineer, I took a shortcut and created that line using a decibel equation, a parlor trick you can use with your friends to predict the future  As you all should know, 1 dB is a factor of 1.2 (we often approximate it as 25% increase), 3 dB is a factor of two, 4 dB is a factor of 2.5, 6 dB is a factor of four, 7 dB is a factor of five, 9 dB is a factor of 8, 10 dB is factor of 10, and 20 dB is factor of 100. Yeah, no one really remembers what 2 dB (x1.58), 5 dB (x3.16) and 8 dB (x6.3) are.  At 1 dB/day, the death toll would rise by a factor of five over one week... it's actually worse than that, that line is plotted is 1.25 dB/day. Note that the data fit so perfectly on March 27 and 28, it's hard to see the two separate lines.  The data after March 28 is purely a projection.

If you add up the cumulative deaths (greay line) you see that it asymptotically becomes parallel to the deaths-per-day line. In this case the cumulative deaths are 4X the deaths per day. Maybe someone with some math skills (Alex, help a brother out?) could derive what the sum of an exponential series looks like for me. The steeper the slope, the closer the cumulative deaths and deaths per day become.  If things don't improve, we will hit the 100,000 total dead on April 11.

Here is an animation, by Dr. Raymond Rumpf at UTEP. Thanks for sharing! Here is his description of the animation that we shamelessly copied from that page:

Here is a visualization of why lockdowns and social distancing will save lives during the coronavirus outbreak. Doing nothing allows the virus to spread very quickly through our population. This creates large numbers of infected people that overwhelm our hospitals beyond capacity. Many sick people will die that would otherwise recover if given proper medical care. When sufficient control measures are in place, people are not moving around as much so the rate of infections is dramatically slowed. Even though the same number of people may ultimately get infected, less people will die because our hospitals are not overwhelmed. Do your part to protect our most vulnerable.

Stay the eff home!

How does it all end? No one knows for sure, but exponential growth cannot continue when you have a finite population. Eventually, people that don't have the virus are surrounded by people that survived, that are no longer contagious.  This is the opposite of the early days when any contagious person is surrounded with people that can still catch the bug. And of course, social distancing will effectively reduce the slope of the projection while we wait for a vaccine. Maybe millennials will get to buy some cheap-but-haunted houses.

Two things that will make a much bigger difference in the short term will be widespread testing, and true quarantining.  We still don't have enough test kits available, months into this mess.  And people that are quarantined typically return home to their families or whoever they live with. Every city needs a "Corona Hotel" where everyone that tests positive but is not deathly sick gets their own room, with robotic room service.  You just have to pick a hotel that won't collapse... Maybe the Trump Tower in New York?

End of the world playlist

Yeah, this is probably kind of pushing the limits of graveyard humor. I am truly sorry for everyone that lost someone in this pandemic.  But here is a playlist of my favorite songs about the end of the world, feel free to play it at my memorial. I'll leave some money to provide the refreshments. 

The End, by the Doors

People Who Died by Jim Carroll (video with Lou Reed at the Capital Theatre in NJ, 1984, awesome)

Five Years, by David Bowie (personal favorite)

It's the End of the World by R.E.M

Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

One of these days I'll post this playlist to Spotify.  If I live.  For more light-hearted listening, try The Unknown Editor's Road Trip playlist on Spotify created back in 2019 when we could actually go somewhere.


Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

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