Ebola and “fearfulness”

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heathcare_workersIt seems like government agencies and hospital administrators are more concerned with keeping the public from being overly “fearful” than taking care of our most at-risk workers: nurses.  I’m not a medical expert or scientist, but I do possess common sense.  Would it be an overreaction to conclude that maybe we should

  • properly isolate Ebola patients from other patients?
  • provider nurses and doctors with high-quality protective gear?
  • limit the number of sites where Ebola patients are being treated?
  • limit the number of hospital workers treating Ebola patients?
  • ban travel for healthcare workers who exposed to Ebola for 21 days?

We appear to want to solve this problem from the top down, rather than the bottom up. Here’s what I would say to all of the well-intentioned government and NGO leadership, industry experts, and academics: our best thinking got us here.

A Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF – Doctors Without Borders) worker in West Africa said in an interview on CNN that they didn’t need more money or more heads, but arms and legs.  In other words, hands-on workers to help combat the disease.

Ultimately, we’ll need to ramp up our efforts to find a vaccine, which is where the government could truly be effective.  Let’s identify which pharmaceutical and biotech companies have the highest capabilities in terms of discovery and manufacturing ramp-up and set about removing obstacles to getting this done.

In the meantime, the public would be better served if we spent more time taking the necessary precautions to prevent Ebola’s proliferation than keeping us from panicking.

Why I think the US will (eventually) be forced to take combat action against ISIL

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Today, Turkey’s military has launched airstrikes against Kurdish PKK rebel forces.  We’ve all seen the pictures of their tanks standing guard on their border while Kurdish fighters bravely defend Kobani against the ISIL onslaught.  Here’s why I think it is inevitable that we’ll end up fighting ISIL:

1) Not much of a coalition
As usual, we can count on the UK and a few European allies, and possibly on Saudi. Turkey would rather stand by and watch the city of Kobani fall than aid their enemy the Kurds in any way.  Our erstwhile NATO ally won’t let us use our airbases.  I can only assume that Turkey, having ransomed their hostages from (read: funded) ISIL, is fulfilling yet another condition of their release: inaction.

While Iran are capable of facing up to ISIL, they’re a sworn enemy of Israel and stand in opposition to the other big power in the region, Saudi Arabia. They are clearly working to develop nuclear capabilities (read: weapons of mass destruction) and are ideologically at odds with the West.

2) The Iraqi military is toothless
Sunni Iraqis won’t support the Shi’a dominated central government and are essentially choosing what they see are the lesser of two evils. ISIL also has the support of former senior Iraqi military officers (remember “de-Baathification”?).  Giving them more training won’t help; giving them more military hardware will just give them more opportunities for ISIL to capture it.

3) Middle East nations won’t cut off funding
Mostly because they’re unable to do so. Some wealthy types will continue to write checks to directly or indirectly fund ISIL. There are plenty of ideologically like-minded folks in that part of the world and beyond. However, there may be another motivation: checking Iran’s growing power in the region.

4) No one else will do it
There’s exactly a 0% chance that China or Russia will do anything they perceive will increase the US’s prestige or influence in the Middle East. Israel is constrained in that they don’t want to provoke attacks that will make them the focal point for (more) extremists.

My favorite season

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The only season with two names (i.e. Fall and Autumn, I prefer the latter), it is the time of year that evokes many different ideas and sensations for me.  I can still recall that funny feeling I would get just before returning to school after the summer break.  It’s a kind of nervous anticipation of new challenges to be faced, discoveries to be made, reacquainting yourself with friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Every season brings about change: plants blooming in spring, the arrival of summer’s heat, etc.  There’s something about autumn, though, that has always appealed to me.  I love the turning of the leaves, which is still a minor miracle even when you understand the biology of it.  The arrival of the crisp autumn wind kind of feels like nature is cleaning house, kind of like opening up the windows after a stifling day.  The harvest time marks a shift to heartier food and drink (Oktoberfest!).  It’s a time of transition ahead of the coming winter: putting the lawnmower away, the glass in the screen door, etc.  It used to be about the smell of burning leaves, but now more about folks using their fireplaces again.

Random memory from childhood —  This would happen every year in my home town on a Saturday in October, but I never was conscious of exactly when, although I’m not exactly sure why.  Typically, I would wake up to the sound of a fire engine’s siren, which would seem to go on way too long for it to be on an emergency call.  Then it would hit me that it was the annual fire safety thing they would put on for kids and their families.  We’d head on down to the local firehouse.  After waiting in line for what seemed like an hour, you’d arrive at the table piled with donuts (powdered sugar, please!) and cider, which I still associate with this time of year.  Then, inside the firehouse to watch a fire safety film — same one every year, probably; you know, the one with the Air-Fuel-Heat triangle, kids getting caught playing with matches, the animated Dalmatian, etc.

All good, but then came the finale, the real reason why you came: a ride on a fire truck, sirens screaming, bells ringing, zooming around town.  My preferred spot — standing on the rear step, holding one of those big chrome handles, with a fireman (OK, firefighter) in full gear the only thing preventing me from falling off and bouncing along the pavement like an errant basketball.  Can you imagine this today with all of the liability insurance nuttiness and over-protective parenting BS?  Anyway, some 40-plus years later, I think about how this simple ritual got the community together and made for a fun time.

There is another sentiment associated with autumn: that wistfulness about what’s coming to an end.  The leaves falling off trees and turning brown, the fields being plowed under after the growing season, the days getting shorter, all are a kind of boundary marker.  Psychologically, you’re kind of preparing yourself for the coming of the cold, for spending more of your days indoors.  I think that I enjoy the Fall best for this very reason: the dual emotions I experience when I think about the contrasts of the season.  The autumn colors and falling leaves, Indian Summer days and brisk nights, blustery days and early sunsets, parents waiting for the kids at the bus stop, it’s all good for me.

Global trade, explained

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Some shoppers in a local store were selecting clothing items from a discount rack, and I overheard them talking about sending them to relatives, ostensibly, in Central America somewhere.  I had to think about this for a second.  Clothing manufacturers produce goods offshore to keep costs low, and import them to the US.  Whatever can’t be sold at full price, whether it’s excess inventory or goods that are just not selling, is offered at a discount.  Those same items might then be purchased by immigrants, possibly to be sent back as gifts their families in the very countries where they were produced.  Hypothetically, a worker making a particular sweater could actually receive it back as a birthday present after a journey of more than a thousand miles.

Coins

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I cannot believe how the price for ancient coins has risen on eBay.  Whether or not these are really a good investment is in doubt.  You need to make sure you’re buying something that is genuine and not a replica first of all.  Then, you need to gauge if the price seems reasonable.  It helps to know something of the history, but knowledge of what’s rare and what’s commonplace requires some research.

I’ve been looking at examples of Marc Antony legionary coins for a while (ship from battle of Actium on face, legionary standards and legion number on obverse).

Marc Antony coin

I was willing to spend maybe a few hundred for one; now, the quality you get for that price makes them considerably less attractive.

 

Home phone

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I get my home service as part of my cable package.  Despite going through the opt-out thing, the only calls I seem to get are telemarketers or charities (real or sketchy).  Seriously thinking about getting rid of it all together. #spam #telemarketerssuck