Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Capitalism is good, not evil.




I recently went on a four day vacation to Kings Canyon and Sequioa National Parks.  It was the first time my wife and I had gone on a decent vacation.  It made me realize that it's good to be fully employed again, to be able to take paid vacations again, to have good health insurance and be more healthy, to be able to afford some nice things and enjoy life more fully. I feel sorry for people who think corporations are evil, billionaires are evil, oil is evil, anything that makes money, or gets you ahead in 
life, or makes life easier and more comfortable is evil, and the only things that matter are social issues and the environment. Those are the same hypocrites that make daily use of things that made humble inventors into billionaires, things made by corporations using oil and gas products, the same people who often have never had to face the social issues they complain about. I used to be one of those people, so I know about that self-defeating attitude. It only sets you up for a life of poverty, misery, and general dissatisfaction, which probably explains why those people make up a disproportionate number of the whiners on Facebook. Maybe they're just lazy, dreamless, ineffectual, or unable to adapt and compete in the modern world? Whatever it is, they lack a well-rounded world view in which capitalism, social issues, and the environment can, and do, easily coexist. Maybe those people should walk everywhere instead of using transport, spin their own plant and animal fibers to make textiles to fabricate their own clothing, grow and process their own crops and livestock for food, attempt to treat their own injuries and diseases, live in meager huts of their own construction and be at the mercy of the elements, and generally live a miserable Stone Age existence. Then they might "get it" why humans have toiled for the last 10,000 years to build the civilization we have today.


- Dave Bad Person


Here's an article I've copied about some of the myths commonly perpetuated about capitalism.


4 Common Capitalism Myths Debunked

The term Marx coined stuck and has led to some confusion about why markets actually work.

 One of the most disappointing things I face as a college professor is the lack of understanding most students have regarding capitalism. The simple fact is, despite its importance to our daily lives, relatively few people have a strong grasp of what causes economic growth and why markets are so central to continuously rising standards of living.

In my teaching, I have encountered several myths or misperceptions about capitalism from students as well as individuals outside the classroom. Dispelling these myths has become a focus of much of my teaching.

One of the most pervasive misunderstandings about capitalism is the idea that it was created by someone. Some of this can be attributed to the language used to describe Adam Smith’s role in explaining the market process. The common reference to Smith as “the father of modern economics” can lead people to assume that he in some way created the market system. It is also not unreasonable to conclude that, since socialism is generally reliant on planning, many would assume that capitalism is as well.

Markets arise out of our human qualities.

However, as Friedrich Hayek explained, the market system is not really “created” as much as it is a system that evolves out of human interaction and discovery. Similar to language, the market economy was not created by a single individual or group but evolved over a long period based on the interactions of many people. The rules and institutions which support the market economy arose from these interactions.

This notion of a spontaneous order emerging out of the individual actions of millions of people, and the discovery of rules and institutions that will facilitate the continual progress of this order, may be the most important aspect of capitalism. It succeeds because it arises out of humanity itself.

Unlike socialism, which attempts to impose rules and institutions regardless of their conformity to human nature or desires, markets arise out of our human qualities. And the rules and institutions that facilitate the ability of markets to perform are discovered as we discover ourselves and in the way we interact with one another.

This may be the most pernicious of all the misunderstandings I encounter regarding markets. The idea that absent market capitalism would create greater shared wealth within society continues to permeate the thinking of a great deal of people. This is despite mounting evidence that, as markets are used by more and more countries, global poverty is steadily decreasing.

All developed countries have market-based economies.

Importantly, the evidence is clear that this decline in poverty has happened as countries have come to embrace market capitalism as the way forward – especially China and India. As other countries see the success of these two previously very poor countries and begin following their lead, we can expect to see poverty in the rest of the developing world significantly reduced as well.

In the Wealth of NationsAdam Smith explained how markets, by continuously expanding the range of goods and services to an ever-increasing number of people, would produce what he called “universal opulence.” However, since Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels first launched their frontal assault on capitalism, many intellectualsentertainers, and even politicians have embraced the idea that capitalism causes poverty, or at least prevents people from escaping it, and more disturbingly, that socialism leads to greater prosperity for the masses.

It’s not surprising, then, that these ideas filter down to the public-at-large. But this idea that capitalism leads to poverty for the masses while socialism leads to their prosperity is exactly opposite to all the evidence we have.

All developed countries have market-based economies. Those developing countries seeing the greatest growth have adopted market principles. Contrast this with countries that have fully adopted socialism, such as Venezuela or North Korea. It is troubling that incoming students do not understand this.

The underlying foundation of capitalism is human freedom.

The term “capitalism” was coined by Marx as a pejorative towards market-based economies. The term stuck and has led to some confusion about why markets actually work. As economic historian Deidre McCloskey has noted, people at all times have attempted to amass capital (land, resources, and money). But those collective attempts didn’t lead to the type of society-wide economic growth we have seen since 1800.

The underlying foundation of capitalism is human freedom. As Adam Smith recognized, when individuals are permitted to pursue their self-interest through markets, they are amazingly good at finding ways of bettering not only themselves but society as well.

Equally important, as economist Joseph Schumpeter explained, out of this freedom arises a continuous process of improvement – what he called “creative destruction.” It is this constant innovation – discovering and bringing to market new products and services, finding ways of improving existing products and services, and finding more efficient ways to create these products and services – that truly drives economic growth and increases standards of living.

The fact is, while the accumulation of capital is a feature of a market economy, it’s certainly not exclusive to it. It is individual freedom and the innovation that arises from it that drives the engine of capitalism.

While it is true that some individuals and firms succeed while others do not in capitalism, this also is hardly an exclusive feature of markets. All economic systems have some individuals who succeed and others who fail in one form or another.

Over the long run, society in its entirety benefits as a result of markets. 

However, capitalism is different in this regard in two important ways. First, capitalism increases the number of “winners.” Unlike other systems, capitalism reduces the barriers to entry into market activity for larger numbers of individuals. The resulting competition provides greater opportunities for success (both great and small) than in any other system.

Second, over the long run, society in its entirety benefits as a result of markets. This is because markets, as mentioned above, bring more goods and services within reach of more people than any other system.

Markets also produce products and services that improve our lives in ways that our ancestors could never have dreamed. Just consider all the things that exist today, that didn’t a mere thirty years ago. The simple fact is that today even the poorest modern Americans have more goods and services at their disposal than kings and queens did just two hundred years ago.

So, although individual firms may fail, and individual people may not gain great wealth, the fact is that, over the long-run, we all win by enjoying better living standards than previous generations.

If the United States is going to continue to see its economy grow and the living standards of its citizens improve, it is important that students are taught the basics of the economic system that has allowed them to experience Adam Smith’s “universal opulence.” Without this basic knowledge, they're easily led to believe the myths I’ve mentioned and to vote for politicians and policies that will ultimately undermine the very system that has made their lives significantly better than their ancestors, as well as better than most of their contemporaries across the globe.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Covid19: When the Pandemic becomes Endemic – Spoiler Alerts



Written by an acquaintance of mine on July 16th, 2020.


Covid19: When the Pandemic becomes Endemic – Spoiler Alerts

 

Okay, friends and family – I have been asked by many folks to share my thoughts about Covid-19 not only because I am a “front-line” person who goes to work to take care of Covid-19 people every day but also because I am an MD/PhD educated, board certified pulmonologist who has been operating ventilators and reading science long before it was cool. Fine – I am happy to share my expertise but… first a disclaimer…

 

I don’t care about convincing anyone of anything. I’m not interested in a debate or trading references or anything of the kind. If you think I’m wrong on something – that’s great – I am not encouraging a debate. This is my perspective given my education and experience. If something is confusing or needs clarifying, then I will try to clear it up but honestly, if you don’t want to read more – don’t. It’s not a big deal, and I don’t really need to educate anyone about anything outside of work. Secondly, some of what I will relate/suggest is my approach alone (and my opinion alone! Based on my own thinking about Covid-19) – you won’t find it in “current guidelines” or UpToDate or anywhere else (especially not the avalanche of bullshit – ahem, expert opinion coming out of XYZ).  Again, no need to debate and feel free to ignore this whole post and we can go on being friends as usual. Third, some of what I have to share is upsetting – so be it – this is intended for an adult audience only.

 

For practical reasons I have divided this up in sections – and I will try to employ a brief Q & A, or FAQ approach – if you have a legit Q or FAQ, I might add it to the FAQ – you never know.   And finally, unlike Tony Fauci – I don’t have to worry about offending Trump or Trumpers with a little reality and/or my political opinions such as they cross-pollinate with this subject. Again, these are my thoughts and your feelings about MY opinions do NOT interest me, this is strictly a public service for those that want it.

Okidoke!!!

 

Practical Stuff – i.e. What do I do WHEN I get Covid-19

 

Q –Will I get Covid-19?

A –Yes.  There is enough community spread of this disease that we will all get exposed sooner or later, and we basically all get it when we are exposed with an adequate inoculum (more on that later).

 

Q –If I have to get Covid-19 – why take any precautions at all?

A – A few good reasons – collectively, we cannot afford to get it all at once – since it is really hard to guess who will need hospital oxygen and ICU level care (ventilators and other sexy stuff), we don’t want to run out. The whole point of “Flattening the curve” was not to prevent any spread (or new cases). That’s impossible – but if we slow down the rate that people get it – then we can treat those who would die without good treatment. Also, the longer you avoid it – the better we get at treating it. I’m already better at treating this than I was three months ago, and I have access to better information about using steroids, ventilator strategies, anticoagulation, blah blah blah all the time so the longer you and your family avoid getting sick, the more experience and tools I will have when I treat you.

 

Q –How do I know if I have Covid-19?

A –You will have fever (get a digital thermometer) and you will feel crummy. If you have a fever and feel crummy, you have Covid until proven otherwise. Act accordingly (see below).   If you are still too stupid to get a $10 digital thermometer while there is a global pandemic and you think you are gonna die – send me a message, I’ll loan you one, but that’s pretty stupid. Hahahahha.

 

Q –Should I get tested if I have a fever and feel crumby?

A –Sure – won’t hurt. But if you don’t get tested then still assume that you have it.

 

Q – I feel okay (no fever, nothing really new (out of my usual hyperaware state now with every little throat scratchy or sneeze making me crazy). Should I get tested?

A –No. On a symptomatic day – the RT-PCR test (Nasal swab test) is only 65% sensitive so a negative test doesn’t mean much and it only is a snapshot for that day. A lot of people think they can get tested and then be okay visiting old relatives. That’s a silly waste of a test. If you’re symptomatic you shouldn’t visit vulnerable people and if you’re not, you only have (at best) about a fifty-fifty chance of detecting your infection and you can still get infected as you travel. As of now, tests for the “worried well” are just wasted tests.

 

Q –I’m sick (I have Covid) – what should I do?

A –Rest. For reelz. Isolate. For reelz. If you are symptomatic it takes 1-2 weeks to really get better. Plan on that. Do not take a lot of weird bullshit you’ve never taken before. If you do that you won’t know if you are sick from being sick or sick from the new weird bullshit. Weird bullshit includes hydroxychloroquine (or anything that sounds the same), mega dose of any vitamin or anything you read about that is being used to treat another disease that doctors are “investigating.” You CAN take half a full-size aspirin a day (since Covid causes blood clots and strokes) unless you have had issues with bleeding and you SHOULD take STROKE symptoms seriously (even if you are young).!!!!! So facial droop, slurred speech, can’t move my arm – don’t blow that off. That’s a real emergency– go to the emergency room right away – you may need to get a clot fished out of your lucky head and there are strict time limits before that kind of thing stops helping.

 

Q –I’m sick (I have Covid) and I’m having trouble breathing. What should I do?

A –Go to the emergency room or at a minimum check your oxygen blood saturation (digital monitors are $20-$40 on Amazon). If you are reading less than 92% on room air then you need oxygen – suck it up and go the emergency room – you have Covid already – and you need oxygen. If you don’t trust the reading (i.e. It reads 60 or 70 or 80 %) test it on another human (who feels okay) and if it works on them, but it reads less than 92% on you, then again, go to the hospital. You might not feel that bad, but your body is short of oxygen and you could collapse at any time. If you can’t spend that kind of money on a O2 monitor and you think you are dying/hypoxic send me a message and I’ll loan you a monitor. But honestly – it’s like $30.

 

Q –How do I avoid/delay getting Covid?

A –Wear a mask (over your nose).  While wearing one under your nose might prevent you from spreading it – the limited protection you get from wearing one with your nose exposed is zero. Avoid hanging out indoors with people you don’t want to get Covid from. Everyone you spend time with indoors should be a person you don’t mind getting Covid from – if fact, you should just assume that you will get it if they have it (they might not know it).  

For the record, isolating amongst people you live with next to impossible. Same with cars. You won’t get it from touching random doorknobs or street signs or even shopping cart handles. Way way too much time and bullshit has been spent trying to “sterilize” objects. Put your effort into thinking about your direct contact with people – especially inside. In case it isn’t obvious yet, outside is better. Air flow is good (it reduces the concentration of any infectious agent/inoculum) and sunlight kills Covid pretty quick. 10 minutes in the sun kills 90% of the virus. You won’t get it from a casual walk-by contact while you are outside exercising – that’s very unlikely, you’re going to get it from a party or at work or delivering a very large pizza to a very small person in a medium sized elevator.

 

Q –How do I reduce my chance of dying when I get Covid?

A –Delay your infection as long as possible. Stop yelling at everyone else for not keeping you safe – it’s not their job and it’s not really possible and it raises your blood pressure. You are part of an endemic infection attacking our species and that’s not going to change anytime soon – so stop attacking your friends (the only people who will listen to you anyway) and start being proactive. Get your chronic health bullshit under control –if you smoke – quit. If you have high blood pressure – stop with the salt/junk food. If you’re fat – lose some weight. If you’re diabetic, take your meds. You can’t make yourself younger or change your blood type but you have had (and will have) literally months to address this stuff and if you face this disease with your chronic health bullshit out of control, you have blown off the things you could have done to help yourself get through it more easily.

 

Q – I don’t want my sick-old-obese-immunosuppressed-diabetic-friend-lover-mom-dad-kid-mailperson to get Covid – what can I do besides pointing fingers at everyone else and being a pain in the ass?

A –Keep the vulnerable isolated and interact with them yourself in low-risk/transmission ways – Assume it is in the community. I’m sorry to say but those with real risk factors have to seriously consider that they will be in isolation for a very long time – perhaps indefinitely. Even with a vaccine (or more likely many suboptimal vaccine options) they will still face a difficult choice about how much risk to allow into their lives balanced against how much they want to interact with their friends-lovers-moms-dads-kids-mailpersons. The risk from small groups of people (or a single person) on a given asymptomatic day is really pretty low and we should keep in mind that some of our “vulnerable” people would rather risk dying than miss out on years of the kind of in-person hugs and visits that make life worth living.

 

Q –My (insert person here) died and there is a funeral – should I go?

A –No. Avoid large gatherings period but even more concerning – if you have a person in your family that got really sick, you are playing with fire – I have seen multiple members of the same family get destroyed by this disease – there is a genetic susceptibility that we haven’t really characterized yet so take your Covid family history seriously.

 

Q – I had to go to the hospital – am I going to die?

A –No. The vast majority of people will not have to go to the hospital. Of the people that have to get admitted to the hospital for oxygen, only a small portion need the ICU (around a quarter of them) and only half of those will need a ventilator, and only half of those will die – and I’ve had lots of old people get this and come out okay on the other side, but having said that – if you are helping to make decisions for an old sick relative, especially if they had kidney failure beforehand (have been on dialysis treatments) that’s a really bad set-up. People with kidney failure from either diabetes or high blood pressure or both have had those diseases for a long time – and their bodies and blood vessels are far older than they look. Don’t neglect the suffering they may be enduring in the ICU. Especially if their quality of life was not so great beforehand –they often suffer for weeks in the ICU before dying and sometimes it takes a clearheaded person in the family to say that so-and-so might “be a fighter” but that doesn’t mean that if they could make their own choices that they would choose to die in pain.

 

Science and Epidemiology

 

Q –How important are masks?

A –Hard to say for sure but they do slow down spread so we should be embracing them. Having said that, masks when you’re alone, when you’re outside alone, in other words when you’re in low risk situations just doesn’t make that much difference and if it keeps you from complying in high-risk (indoor, crowded) situations – then refocus you energies on those high-risk situations. There is such a thing as alarm fatigue, compassion fatigue, concern fatigue, stress fatigue, fatigue fatigue.   Embrace the mask when you need it so you can do the most good. However… don’t kid yourself – even if everyone had masked up right away, we still would have this disease to deal with and we’d be having similar conversations off and on for the next few years.

 

Q – I read a lot about the R0 – (pronounced R’naught). What is the R0 for this virus?

A –The overall R0 (the number of new cases each confirmed case is likely to generate) will change based on the social context – part of avoiding large events/super-spreader events is to reduce spread (not eliminate – that’s impossible kids). So when we change our exposures/behavior as group, this also affects the R0 and that’s why outdoor events are better than indoor and small events are far less worrisome than large from a public health standpoint.

 

Q –Why is the mortality always changing, and/or going down when more people are getting infected?

A – A few reasons. 1) we are getting better at treating covid19, 2) the people who are getting it are generally younger and healthier so fewer (not zero) are dying 3) it’s too soon – diagnosis lags 1-2 weeks behind the infection event, and the deaths lag 2-4 weeks after the diagnosis, and the reporting lags a week after the deaths. So depending on the data you are looking at, it's always already somewhat behind. That’s okay – it’s true of the night sky too – if you don’t know what I mean, I recommend a “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking.

 

Q –Why are we doing worse than the rest of the world on Covid measures?

A –We are a large heterogenous country, with lots of tolerance for individual liberty which simply prevents us from doing the draconian public health measures that are needed to really control a highly transmissible respiratory illness. We also have had no leadership (or counterproductive anti-leadership) on a Federal level so our responses and decision making have all been on a local level. This is not good but it is also not all bad - the good news is that your local environment i.e. Your local ICUs and hospital capacity are a good measure of how well your local area is dealing with the pandemic/epidemic and opening and closing the tap (see below) can and should be done a hyperlocal level. In addition, and I cannot emphasize this enough – any reckoning of “how we’re doing” needs to account for the fact that we are still very early on in this pandemic – this is a new disease for our species (more below) and it will be a long time before we get a real handle on the health, economic (also important!), and psychosocial (also important!) impacts.

 

Q –Why don’t we just hunker down and wait for a vaccine – it’ll be here by the end of the year.

A –Already we’ve shown that we can’t do that. Not only is it really hard on our economy (just ask any of your friends and family who are unemployed how their pandemic is going and you’ll have more insight) but be aware that we have never had a vaccine for this type of virus before and furthermore, vaccines have their own problems (some can actually make diseases worse) and often offer only partial protection to some of the population. Usually older sicker people have less robust reactions to vaccines if they do at all. I think we will generally have access to some partial protection in about 2 years and a large portion of our population will be nervous about getting it - in this case, rightly so since any of these vaccine candidates will have been vetted far less for safety than previous vaccine efforts. In addition, as I said, many vaccines only lessen the impact of an infection and do not prevent infection and it is very hard to tell how any given person will respond to an inoculation. So again, eventually we will all be rolling the dice. I do think that in 5 years or so we will have a lot of the data we would like on a couple of different vaccine options and our antiviral and complication therapies will have improved, but by then you will have been inundated with so many Covid “horror” stories, dead celebrities, as well as recession fatigue and mental illness, that it’s hard to predict where most people's heads will be.

 

Q –If I get Covid can I get it again? Am I safe if I had it before? I think I had it in January or February – actually I’m sure I did, I was really sick.

A –No one really knows. You probably wouldn’t get it again immediately and probably never quite as bad, but that’s a guess. Also, if you think you had it before April and live in San Diego, you didn’t. There was a very nasty strain of para-influenza virus that swept through the US this winter and in the early Spring. That was what you had (probably). While it is tempting to think a sizable fraction of the population has already been infected even outside of the New York area – they haven’t. And for my San Diego peeps – that’s definitely true of you.   We simply didn’t have the body count to support that and now independent antibody testing here confirms that our population still remains largely unexposed. That will shift over the course of the next two years. Hopefully not all on the same week! Also a quick word about antibody testing – as of now, it’s not helpful for an individual – until there’s a larger pre-test exposed population amongst us there is still a 50/50 chance that any positive is a false positive– so don’t be a sucker for that either. You can look up specificity and pre-test probability for extra credit on your own time.

 

Q –You are talking about time frames like 2 years… 5 years… are you crazy?!

A –No, I’m not. Which brings me to the point – if you are living in a way right now that you can’t sustain for that period of time, you probably have to tweak your personal behavioral code to match your personal risk/benefit calculation. It’s probably not reasonable for most of us to not meet anyone new in person for 2-5 years (or to demand that people do so). Likewise it probably is reasonable to limit indoor events to just small groups of participants and to ask everyone to mask up in those contexts.

 

Q –California has like tons of metrics to measure what we should be doing/opening, etc. why aren’t we hearing more about that and blah blah blah.

A –As I’ve said before – the only metric that really matters is hospital/ICU space. If you have hospital/ICU space then people who would survive with good care won’t die from inadequate care. The rest is all gobbledygook that are best-guesses for surrogate endpoints. Think of it like a tap. When the hospitals get full you close the tap (risky social interactions: multi-people and indoors) until they are less full and when they are less full you open the tap (more interactions) until they start to fill up again.  It is trial and error and it’s the best way we have to minimize avoidable death. Notice I said “avoidable” deaths – not all deaths. This will kill quite a few people and while that’s sad it's also part of life. Everyone gets sick and everyone dies – what is so scary is that this is a brand new way to get sick or die.

 

Q –What about my kids?

A –They’ll be fine. In fact, we should all be super thankful to our gods and monsters that this doesn’t affect kids more severely – there’s no obvious biological reason that should be the case – imagine for a minute if you were asking people to go to work (and feed you) if there was even a 5% chance this disease would kill their children or put them in the hospital.   Now take a deep breath and be ecstatic that almost all kids will shrug this off.  Having said that, we don’t know much about kids as transmitters and/or reservoirs but they probably are, and that is just another reason this will be with us for a long time. Oh, and you cat people – probably your cat is a reservoir too – ah well, nature is funny. One thing that is a rotten shame is that keeping your kids super isolated is probably not a great idea (they need peers for their brains to grow, and you – as much you’d like to be – are not a peer). So you might need to let them out into the world even if it puts you (and the adults they interact with) at some risk, but again that’s a decision each parent has to make.

 

Q –No seriously, what about that Kawasaki thing that happens to kids?

A –It happens really rarely – like barely at all, and it’s pretty easy to treat with steroids. But this brings up a good point – this is a new disease, and so as it affects so many people (literally hundreds of millions of people will be infected this year and billions in the next 5 years or so). We will see lots of unusual cases and unusual outcomes and unusual stories – but these shouldn’t dramatically impact your thinking about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. You don’t stop flying because of a crash and you shouldn’t stop eating because a friend got food poisoning. There are lots of horrible, kill-you-tomorrow-with-no-warning things that pop out of nowhere (google aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage if don’t feel like sleeping tonight) but we live our lives by basically internalizing and then largely ignoring that we are all going to suffer and die. That’s been tough to do the last few months since Covid has dominated everyone’s every waking moment – but we do need to remind ourselves that just because we are gonna die doesn’t mean we shouldn’t live and that to be alive is an inherently unsafe state of being. It always was.

 

Q –Why didn’t this just “go away?”

A- There are so many things that do just “go away.” But this actually points out some very interesting things about the times in which we live. First of all, if you put in place leaders that want to hollow out and dismantle the government (and they do that) then you don’t have government available to deal with a real crisis. And that’s what this is – a real crisis. Many crises are non-sense. Trade wars, real wars, the price of a paperclip – these are all things that humans agree to disagree on, and because of that – they are hugely impacted by perception. These joint delusions about whether a piece of paper (dead trees with ink) can really make you rich or poor is a function of our agreement that it does, and therefore is subject to the “reality distortion fields” that Steve Jobs used to motivate engineers to make the iPhone and motivates the Instagram Universe to make Kylie Jenner a star. However, there is a layer of reality that doesn’t care what you agree to or not – it just is. This objective reality is reminding us in gentle terms that we can throw whatever tantrums or parties we’d like – nature does not care. There are basically two human responses to nature – Faith which helps us to appreciate and accept nature, and Science, which helps us to understand and influence nature. When we turn our backs on Science we are basically throwing our hands up and saying to nature – do whatever, I give up, my Faith and Philosophy will help me accept whatever comes. That’s a totally okay thing to do – it’s just not what I want to do. So, in the future you will find me a more vocal advocate for Science – and I hope you will be too.

 

I hope this was somewhat helpful and if not – no big deal. Try to remember that everyone is suffering, each of us in a slightly different but equally valid/terrible way, and if it’s possible to be nice to someone – especially someone who is suffering in a way different than you, it might be good karma to do that. Just a suggestion.

 


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Dave's soil mix for growing succulent and desert plants

My seed raising mix, essentially identical to Mesa Garden's recipe
My seed raising mix, similar to Mesa Garden's recipe
Here is my soil mix for succulent and desert plants. The mix should be mostly mineral materials with minimal organic matter so that it mimics the low oragnic content of desert soils. This doesn't mean the soil is necessarily poor in nutrients. Mineral materials contain the inorganic salts that plants combine with water and carbon dioxide to create organic molecules using photosynthesis. A mineral soil is suitable for most plants. Think about a hydroponic system, there are no organic components in the system other than the plants. Most plants do not require an organic component in their soil.

Main mix. This is what I use for almost all my succulents and desert plants.

1 part decomposed granite (DG)
1 part coconut coir
1 part perlite
1 part red scoria

You can substitute different items depending on what's available in your area.  If you live in an arid or semi-arid area and have good desert soil, e.g. "sandy loam", you can substitute it for decomposed granite (DG).  Pool filter sand can also be used to replace the DG component, but it doesn't have the fine particles and soluble nutrients of DG and I personally don't like it. Coconut coir can be substituted with peat or commerically available "cactus potting soil". Coconut coir is best obtained as dehydrated compressed bricks for easy storage and transportation, and it's fairly sterile. Perlite can be substituted with pumice. Do not use vermiculite as it holds too much water. Red scoria can be substituted with black scoria. Some components can also be left out and the mix made from only two or three of the components.  The aim is to create a well draining soil with little organic matter.  You can also vary the ratio of the components for different ypes of tplants.

Seedling mix
Use Mesa Garden's germination tips and follow them to the letter.

2 parts coir (replaces Coconut blend potting mix)
2 part decomposed granite (replaces sandy loam)
1 part perlite (for aeration and drainage)
1 part vermiculite. (to hold water, young seedlings require constant moisture for the first year or so)


- Dave Bad Person


In defense of science, for science's sake







In my previous blog I mentioned this letter from Brazilian scientists, who were speaking out against those who profess to speak for science.  I put a similar post on Facebook as well, and someone shared my post, which resulted in the thread below.  



Tim shared a post
May 28
    Dave Bad Person added a post
    May 26
Some scientists in Brazil decided to speak out against anyone who professes to speak for science with regard to the pandemic. And how did they do this? By speaking for science!
At the end of the article each scientist who contributed to it is measured by how many citations they have, not by what contribution they've made to society. This is a perfect example of how academia has become a self-referential system where researchers chase citations and kudos from fellow researchers, rather than trying to solve real world problems. And don't you dare "dishonestly usurp science's prestige", because these children of the wealthy, these glorified hobbyists, these unqualified educators, they want to keep science for themselves, to be conducted only at universities, only by people with PhDs, to be hidden away in obscure academic journals that hardly anyone reads. They know science belongs to everyone, but they want to keep a monopoly on it, solely for their own benefit. Wankers.

Nelly
This post is bullshit Tim. Why would you put this out in the world? Are you anti-science now? Have you always been? Citations tell us that researchers are published and do peer-reviewed science.

Tim
By no means anti-science.
I like diverse opinion.
Dave is a very cynical and smart dude who has been deep inside academia, intelligentsia, and corporate science when he isn't blowing himself up in the desert.
He could probably be a speaker for Science On Tap for any number of topics. BTW, he makes a mean curry.
I posted the original article and he reposted into his timeline (you see top level here) and thought this was an interesting take.
Personally this was the first time I had seen an academic touting how many citations they had. Didn't realize that was a badge of honor of sorts which makes sense.
But I also see how it can be like a circle jerk of instagram influencers liking each other's work.
An interesting counter to my initial post.


This sub thread between Tim and Nelly went on further but veered off the topic.


Raymon
The interwebs distruption bots are strong with this one.



My response to Nelly


Dave Bad Person
I'm not anti-science, I'm anti-academia. I had a 17 year career studying and working in universities around the world as a biomedical researcher, and for the last 14 years I've worked in corporate research & development in the electronics engineering industry in San Diego, California. There is much I could say about academia, more than can be said here, but the core of it is in that post. The fact is that most of the research going on in the world doesn't happen at universities, nor is it conducted by people with PhDs (I have a PhD). University academics tend to think they have the monopoly on science and scientific research. They don't. I understand that universities are important educational institutions which produce highly trained professionals for society, but that is an entirely separate enterprise from the scientific research conducted at universities. Actually, most universities don't require their faculty to even have qualifications in teaching, which really just makes them hobbyist educators, amateurs. As for the research, there are currently about 2.5 million scholarly articles published each year in over 28,000 academic journals, most of them with a tiny readership. Most scientific journal articles are read in full by no more than 10 people. We currently produce more scientific data than we can ever use. Meanwhile, most of the progress in the last 25 years has come not from science, but from engineering. Science needs to be put to work for society, not hoarded away in the musty halls of academia, to be conducted only by those who've paid their dues to be part of the system. In the mid-20th century the investment in university research clearly resulted in a good return for society, but that's not so certain anymore.

Sean
Do you think this quantity-over-quality trend has anything to do with the move away from publicly funded basic science to corporate work that focuses on niches and profit opportunities?

Sean
My biggest concerns about this article are 1. It doesn't really suggest an opposing viewpoint, but rather undermines the credibility of science in general while 2. supporting the political views of the ruling administration of Brazil, which has a hard-right stance bordering on authoritarianism and has been seen to spread propaganda and silence opposing voices.

Dave Bad Person
Sean, firstly, you seem to embrace the false dichotomy of basic vs. applied research. You can do both. As for corporate niche research, academic research is even more niche, fringe, and offbeat. And if it's not profitable or at least useful then it adds no value to society. If that leads to quantity over quality then it's just producing more of something we can't use.

Dave Bad Person
Sean, it d
oes not undermine the credibility of science at all. Science still works, it just doesn't have to be owned and controlled by university academics simply because they consider themselves the only people who should be conducting and speaking for science. Acadmics don't "own" science, it doesn't "belong" to them, it belongs to everyone. Questioning the authority and control of science by academics is something I'll never stop doing.
I'm not supporting the Brazilian political system with my post, not in any way.
And in the end, what did the Brazilian scientist's letter achieve? Nothing. Nothing except another tally mark on the citation count for those involved in writing it. "Publish or perish", the old adage of academia, as if reaching an annual quota of publications and getting kudos from your fellow reseachers is more important than solving real world problems. Society does not allow academics enormous freedoms just so they can engage in frivolous nonsense, while society gets nothing in return.

Sean
Dave Bad Person, 
I understand that basic and applied research are both important and not necessarily distinct. What I mean is that basic research with public accountability and no specific commercial application is on the decline while applied research is being done primarily by corporations with a profit motive. That doesn't necessarily lead to bad science, but it does select what kinds of science get done.
As for the article itself, it reads like an ad hominem attack on the researchers behind the current understanding of this pandemic and the recommendations being issued and not a refutation of the science with better science.

Sean
Dave Bad Person, 
I also disagree with the idea that science with no commercial application isn't valuable. Not much money can be made at this point from the discoveries in astrophysics over recent decades, but the understanding of our universe has huge value, especially over the arc of history. Medicines that cure chronic conditions rapidly would be less profitable than ones made to treat symptoms for long periods of time but I think we, as a species, are better served in the long term by the former.

Dave Bad Person
Basic research with public accountability. What kind of accountability are we talking about, citation counts?
Well I have a "whole" four publications in biomedical research that have been cited hundreds of times. Does anyone care? Did they make a difference in the world? No.
I also helped invent the LTE technology that billions of people around the world use everyday on their cell phones to communicate, interact, entertain themselves, and be productive. Does it make a difference in he world? Hell yes. I'm also currently working to help invent the various technologies that will make 5G work. Do you think it will it make a difference too?
But I guess astrophysics is going to be super valuable some day, because the goals and utility of astrophysics is...??? How many times a day do you use your smart phone's high speed wireless data connection to the internet, and how many times a day do you use astrophysics? Maybe you should get to work on those disease cures, you could solve important problems AND make profit.

Sean
Dave Bad Person, 
Public accountability meaning research that's funded by and conducted primarily for the good of the public, not a private entity. I don't quite understand the hostility coming through in your comments here. I guess your commitment to the deeply important field of consumer electronics is commendable? I don't deny that communication is an important tool for society, but really man? Science without a big payout isn't worth it?

Raymon
Dave Bad Person, 
you had me, until you said profit. One day, far far in the future, profit, money even won't be needed. Collective efforts, for the common good will become the norm. Maybe I'm a delusional snowflake, but name one time that star-trek ever showed the exchange of money?

Raymon
Oh, except the foriengi, but they were dicks.

Dave Bad Person
Sure. Science without a payout isn't worth it to me. I did that career for 17 years and at the end of all those years of study, hard work, and dedication I was getting paid barely more than minimum wage, had crappy benefits, and lived on the brink of poverty, same as I'd grown up. It was completely unrewarding both financially and intellectually. Meanwhile most of the PhDs I worked with were from fairly wealthy families, and thus money and employment had never been major concerns in their lives, and so they'd had the luxury of being able to chase their frivolous dreams and bizarre interests without concern for where it may lead. You both seem to have the same mental illness as most academics:  a belief that basking in the glory of science is more noble than making a meaningful contributing to society, that science should be purely for academics, and that being coddled and isolated in the university system is better than having to go out in the real world and adapt and compete in the workforce. Maybe your naive idealistic moneyless utopia will materialize one day? Be ready for the disappointment when you realize it's not coming and you based your life philosophy on a stupid science fiction TV show for nerds.



That's all for now.
- Dave Bad Person