No one complains about not getting a sunburn

If you have an email account you have probably received spam mail or a few jokes but lately the number of emails on healthcare and covid 19 have exploded. These emails range from informative to conspiratorial but there is one thing that these mails don’t ever mention.

Masks help. They should be thought of in same light of that 20th century personal protection equipment – sunblock. At the beaches and at the pools people use this miracle lotion to prevent the dreaded sunburn. Nobody, well nobody that I have ever spoken to has used suntan lotion and complained that they didn’t get sunburned.

We should remember this when “complaining” about wearing masks in corona times. We wear them with the hope that we never get sick. We should look at the bigger picture and remember the goal is to wear these uncomfortable things for a while and just grin and bear it.

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PPE, Masks and Covid hands

I can only suppose that Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was a think prior to Covid 19 but my head must have been somewhere else as I never heard of it.

Well, I hear about it now. It is on the news, periodically you even hear normal people talking about it. I hear it more than most people as my wife works in a hospital. During the early days she was unhappy at how many people would be hording personal protection equipment which made it difficult for the hospital to get enough for their staff.

She was also at times critical of bits of advise that was available for people via the internet. I have to be honest, it is possible that in the past I actually tuned her out – after all I wasn’t hording anything.

Well, it all came up the other day when I was finishing up on a home project. It involved some painting and because I didn’t want to get paint on my hands so I wore a pair of gloves.

After removing my gloves

Well, as I was cleaning my hands and complaining about it when my wife reminded me about failures of PPE. Masks and gloves do an amazing job of protecting you but only if you use them properly. Simply adding medical gloves does not necessarily make you safer. In my case paint provides a very visible reminder gloves do not provide magical protection.

If you are not careful of how you use gloves you might very well get Covid 19 or any other dirt or disease on your hands when removing them. Wearing medical gloves may just give you a unrealistic sense of security.

The best advise seems to be

  • wash your hands
  • social distance
  • wear a mask

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The right to sue … pandemic style

At first blush you might think that this somehow relates to the USA – land of opportunity plus guns and lawyers.

I actually couldn’t believe it when I heard it but apparently a local high school just recently lost a legal case about teaching religion classes, but first a bit of background.

In Germany, since World War II, it is required that the schools teach religion. This effectively ends up being Catholic religion, Protestant religion, and ethics class. The student’s parents can make this decision until they are age 14 at which point the students can make this decision themselves.

However, the school system has been a bit more disrupted than usual in the last six months due to the pandemic. Initially at my local high school it was decided that to prevent students from mixing between classes for health safety reasons all students would be required to take ethics class. This would allow the same groups of students to remain together and to be taught by their normal teacher.

As often is the case, it is impossible to make everyone happy and despite being in the middle of a pandemic a set of parents wanted their child to take religion not ethics. To a minor degree I can understand not wanting to confuse your child with other religions or even weaken their belief by being introduced to a different religion that would cause you to question the tenants of your own religion. I really don’t think that ethics should create any problems. What are some of the topics taught in a typical ethics class.

  • collaborative inquiry
  • critical thinking
  • introduction to faulty rationalization
  • expose students to alternate viewpoints

It is conceivable that in grade school ethics is somewhat limited in the scope of what it can cover due to the age of the children.

Yet, not being from here I thought I would ask a local to see if I could get a better understanding of the situation. The parents were in effect fighting to for the right to have someone who was not a clergy member but rather someone who had been approved for teaching. In effect the students would indeed cover similar material but probably receive less thorough learning when compared to the church itself. After all, most students in Germany who take either the Catholic or Protestant classes in school already have their own church. In my church there are classes the students as well as both adult and youth bible study sessions.

In effect, the parents of this child were fighting for the right for a lessor education in a specific religious topics during a pandemic. They might not have realized this but they were increasing the circle of students that their child was exposed to which increased the chance they would bring home Covid 19.

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Happy Halloween 2020

It has been a pretty amazing year so far. We have seen presidential impeachment, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce they are stepping down, Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, Explosion in Beruit, A 7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, Protests caused by the killing of George Floyd break out across US (and the world), and United Kingdom withdraws from the EU.

Oh, …. and the worldwide pandemic. Lets all just act like children and try and enjoy Halloween and ignore the rest of 2020 for one night.

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Do smart phones create insecurity

The title is actually a bit harsh. Smart phones just like any other IT tool or can be used securely or insecurely. I don’t usually think about this until recently. A colleague told me of how he had a death in the family and of course there was no plan for dealing with the various technical devices.

Of course the problem was not dealing with the ISP to cancel DSL nor dealing with a smart television. The television was ancient, yet most people in the 21st century have accounts at various sites around the internet some of which have subscription fees.

How to know which services need to be canceled if you don’t know what services are being used? Well, most correspondence is done via email and if you can get access to that you have a lot of control. In this case there were kindle books and a Amazon account.

The email address was not in question, which today is almost always the user id, so how to get into Amazon. I never heard how they managed but they did manage to get into the cell phone. I can only guess that this was due to either no security pin or a well known security pin. Based on various stories in the news Apple was not involved to assist in the unlocking process.

Regardless of who managed to get into the phone, access to a cell phone is not usually enough to solve the problem of knowing which services a person is using. Quite a few of those services do send periodic correspondence. Most cell phone email apps do not require that you enter the username and password beyond the first time time. This is extremely convenient and somewhat secure as usually cell phones are secured with a pin or some other form of security method.

With access to the deceased person’s email account means you can simply ask Amazon or any other service to reset your account password.

Having a smart phone does not create any insecurity in itself but if it not properly secured it creates a even bigger security problem. You can reset existing passwords or perhaps take over certain aspects of someone’s life.

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Physical security = security

Papa, I cannot log into this old computer. I don’t have the administrator password.

I work in IT so I actually know better. It all started when my son came home with an old computer monitor from school on the last day before summer vacation. Why bring home old hardware? My boys shared an old tower computer but also shared an old laptop. It was only later I found out that there was a small bit of computer envy but could a single old monitor fix this situation?

Grandpa actually had gifted the boys an old computer some time back but we didn’t set it up. Only now months later did we discover nobody had the administrator password for the computer.

So we rolled up our collective sleeves and got to work.

Mounting NTFS partition

Password security is important but physical security is more important. I know this because we simply pulled the hard disk out, booted up Linux on another computer and reset the administrators password. Our first problem was mounting the hard disk.

The NTFS partition is in an unsafe state. Please resume and shutdown Windows fully (no hibernation or fast restarting), or mount the volume read-only with the 'ro' mount option

I had not experienced this exact problem before. Apparently Microsoft had made some changes about Windows 8 called fastboot which helped with the boot up speed. The downside is that this creates problems when mounting the partition.

Clean shutdown

I guess the big Microsoft knew that this might cause some sort of problems in some situations and has made it possible to do a clean shutdown in Windows 10, well perhaps in older versions as well. Do perform this clean shutdown simply hold the shift key down while shutting down the operating system.

It is possible to disable Fast startup in windows 10 under power settings. However, all I wanted was a clean shutdown and that was possible without even logging into Windows.

chntpw

I installed chntpw on my Linux machine.

sudo dnf install -y chntpw

Using the program was self explanatory, I simply choose to clear the administrators password. It actually took much longer to mount this NTFS file system than it did to clear the password.

I read a good blog about using chntpw program.

The most important take away from this experience is not that Windows 10 is a bad operating system. Of all the versions Microsoft has released Windows 10 does seem to be quite stable and reasonably intuitive to use.

However, this exercise has proven that physical access, well that coupled with unencrypted file systems makes it trivial take control over someone else’s hardware.

Live Linux DVD

The computer that we were working on was a tiny mini-pic without a DVD. However, this entire process is also just as easy using a USB stick with a bootable live image or a live DVD.

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The weirdest laws in the world

Today I’m going to talk about the weirdest laws on earth.

Did you know that in the state of Pennsylvania men are not allowed to buy beer without a written letter by there wives where it says they’re allowed to buy beer? Now the question occurs what if he isn’t married and doesn’t have a girlfriend?

Just in case. In Alabama, it’s forbidden to drive a car while wearing a blindfold. Well, I guess there goes my dream to drive in Alabama while i wear a blindfold.

For the safety of fort Madison, Iowa law declares that before firemen move out to an operation they have to have at least 15 minutes of training.

In Kannada, it’s forbidden to Exit a plane mid-flight. Now if the plane were to go down is it allowed to parachute out? Or do you have to act like you’re the captain on the ship and you have to go down with it?

Here something I also didn’t know even though I live there. Hessen’s state law states that it is allowed to execute them. But Germany’s federal law states that it is illegal to execute anybody. But luckily federal law overrules state law in Germany.

Surprisingly in Urbana, Illinois if you are a Monster you are not allowed to enter the city limits.

In Scotland, you hope you don’t get drunk if you own a cow. because if you do you can be arrested.

So men and Boys if you live in NYC you got a Problem. Because NYCs law states that men are not allowed to stare after women. So men and Boys get your Looks in the first time otherwise you’re Destination has changed.

Here something I already knew is that you’re not allowed to stamp a stamp upside down in England. If you do it would Count as a betrayal.

If you live in Uruguay and you’re a cheater you have a Problem. ’cause Uruguay’s law says that men who find they’re wives or girlfriends cheating they have two options: either they kill both the cheating girlfriend/wife + the other Person or they cut off the nose of the unfaithful wife/girlfriend and castrate the man. Now the Question occurs is it the same if the man cheats on the Girl? And what happens if you catch her and you do option 2 but then she cheats again?

Sadly because of some vandals in Singapore all gum substances (except ones with therapeutic and dental values)and it’s all because some vandals vandalized a train station.

In Connecticut to be a pickle, the pickled cucumber must bounce, which I find is very absurd.

Here’s something that I knew which is, in Minnesota mosquitoes are considered a public nuisance.

Did you now, that in the UK you’re not allowed to be drunk in a Pub. Even though that law gets broken every single day it’s still in the book of laws.

As the game Crossy Road shows in Quitman,Georgia it is illeagal for a chicken to cross a road. Apparently Games do teach something.

In Turin,Italy it is illegal to walk your dog less than 3 times a day. They do mostly rely on neighbors to report it but it’s better than nothing.

Sources: https://youtu.be/gDhZ_HWMGHc , https://youtu.be/GTCuJgM5GLw and https://www.thelawyerportal.com/blog/top-10-weirdest-laws-around-world/ and thanks to pixabay.com for the pictures

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My Experience with Getting The Covid-19 Test

I heard this story from a close friend and was aghast at how bureaucratic it was to try and get a covid-19 test. In this particular story the problem was not lack of tests but such a bureaucracy that she probably drove 150 miles to eventually get a test.

Saturday August 15th.

I was on my vacation away from home and unfortunately my son got a sore throat that was painful even after taking ibuprofen. I chose to speak with a nurse about my son’s symptoms and she informed me that it might be strep throat but there was the possibility that he had covid-19 as a sore throat was a symptom. I called our provider, in Andover, to check if they did covid-19 testing at that location. Though it showed online that they did do covid-19 testing there the representative verified that they did not do the covid-19 test at that location. The representative told me that covid tests were not done at all locations and she gave me some suggestions on where I could go to get one such as CVS and a MinuteClinic. As I did not want to spread a potential covid-19 infection to my family members who were in a high risk category I chose to go and get my son tested.

I wound up driving from Annandale to Buffalo, but though my GPS showed the clinic at that location the pharmacy told me that it had been closed. I then tried to call a testing center in St. Michael who supposedly did testing. I was unable to get a person on the phone to verify this, so as it was getting late I drove there and I arrived fifteen minutes before they were supposed to close. I was told that I was too late to be seen and they didn’t do the covid-19 test either. They offered to set up an appointment the next morning but I decided to go home and try again the next day as most locations closed by 5pm.

Sunday August 16th

The next morning I called my home clinic to verify if it was open and if it did the covid-19 testing, as overnight my son’s condition had gotten worse and he needed to alternate between ibuprofen and acetaminophen because of a very sore throat. My call confirmed that I would need to go to a different clinic, in Brooklyn Park, to get the covid-19 test and that I would need the recommendation of a health practitioner. After arriving and being screened at the clinic the nurse practitioner administered the strep throat test which was positive. I was informed that he could have covid-19 on top of the strep throat and they recommended that I get him tested for that. I was surprised to learn that I could not get him tested in the clinic and would have to call a specific number to set up an appointment despite the fact that the covid-19 testing tent was in the parking lot. Because I was aware that my son was contagious until he had been on the medicine for 24 hours, I chose to immediately go to the closest Walgreens which was 5 minutes away and start his medication. As he needed to take it with food I purchased him some lunch, gave him his medicine, and then called the phone number to arrange his covid-19 test. As I was only 10 minutes away from the clinic I thought it would be easy to go back and get the test, but I was shocked to hear that they were not accepting any more appointments at that site (it was 2:15). I was given a list of the available locations and times and chose the closest one which was in Princeton an hour north of my current location of Brooklyn Park. I was able to make it to the clinic in time for the appointment, get the test done, and I was given the pertinent information on when I would get the results. The nurse said 48 to 72 hours and the paperwork said 7-10 days. I was pleased that the results were online in my online account on Monday night and was relieved that they were negative.

This was a very frustrating experience. Several things made this difficult such as many of the convenience clinics have been closed and the hours for urgent care have been reduced. The ability to take the covid-19 test which is important to stop the spread was difficult as they were only available at specific locations that may or may not have available times to the fact that you couldn’t take the test in the clinic when you were at the clinic.

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Vitamin D a miracle drug or simple correlation

Vitamin D, just like many vitamins are important to good nutruitional health.  Our bodies need vitamins and various other minerals for general health.  Not having the recommended amount of these over time will create health risk factors depending on what you are missing.  Yet it is important to keep in mind that in times of health scares (ie epidemic or pandemic) it is easy to want to find  a silver bullet that will eliminate the deadly diseases and put our mind at ease.

As of writing this over 200,000 people have died in the USA as a result of the Covid 19 virus.  You can nitpick on these numbers but the fact is that diabetes or being overweight (or many other risk factors) would have killed these people anyway but it would have statistically been over a much longer time period than the six months it took to accumulate this death toll.

There are always studies or beliefs about many different supplements that don’t pan out.  Pointing to a specific supplement is much like a fad diet.  There may be for some people some relief but this is perhaps not due to the supplement itself but rather other factors, one unchangeable one is the luck of having “good genes” from your parents.

Rather than pin our hopes on something that actually has “needs to be studied further” (this is from the article not me) we can focus on much less glamorous options.

  • good diet
  • enough exercise
  • plenty of sleep
  • healthy body weight

A good diet will ensure that you get all the nutrients you need along with plenty of fiber.  Exercise doesn’t have to be 2 hours in the gym, it can be as simple as taking the stairs where there are escalators, park at the back of the parking lot when shopping, or taking an evening stroll.  If you do go outside and catch about 10-30 minutes of sunshine a few days a week you will have gotten your vitamin D.  There is inevitably not enough time to do everything and so going to bed on-time may feel like a punishment but it does guarantee your body is well rested and able to fight off infections.  This might be the common cold or even Covid 19.

Yet, lets take the side of suppliments for a moment.  What harm could a little extra vitamins do? Well, actually a lot. 

  • nausea
  • bloody stools
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • fluid build up lung/liver
  • hair loss
  • liver damage
  • severe headaches
  • bone pain
  • blurred vision
  • dry skin
  • vomiting
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • constipation
  • frequent urination
  • muscle weakness
  • confusion
  • blood clotting issues
  • nerve damage
  • jaundice
  • elevated liver enzymes
  • nausea
    https://www.flushinghospital.org/newsletter/can-you-overdose-on-vitamins/

I wrote this because I had received an email about how vitamin D deficiency might cause a 1.77 times greater chance to get the Covid 19 virus.  I find that to be a bit suspect as it sounds like they are advertising a silver bullet, but also because the article itself says

“… a finding that suggests that suggests randomized trials may needed to determine whether vitamin d affects covid 19 risk.”

I believe that this sentence can be paraphrased to the following.

“… this is an interesting observation but we need to actually test it to see if there is any causation”

In addition to just change to live a healthy lifestyle it might be a good idea to have a sceptical eye on health suggestions from the news … unless it is eat all of your vegetables.

Definitions 

A correlation between variables, however, does not automatically mean that the change in one variable is the cause of the change in the values of the other variable. 


Causation indicates that one event is the result of the occurrence of the other event; i.e. there is a causal relationship between the two events.

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The irrationality of bottle deposits

When I was younger, growing up in the USA,  I would see the occasional bottle littering the street and thought that perhaps if we simply sold all softdrinks in glass bottles with deposits this problem would go away – no more bottles in the streets and less garbage in the landfills.

Wow, a few years later in a different country that attempts to fulfill that dream has really changed my mind against such a solution.

In Germany a lot of drinks are sold with bottle deposits.  Rather than having a single coherent policy they initially opted for a jumbled up mishmash approach.  The easiest target for such a deposit was softdrinks, energy drinks and beer.

0.25                    0.25                      0.00              0.25                 0.00

If you purchase a softdrink or can of beer you have to pay a 25 cent deposit on the container. When this was initially implemented it was done in literally the worst possible way.  You had to keep your receipt and bring both the bottle and the receipt back to the place you originally purchased the drink.

I have no idea how much of a windfall that was for the sellers of such drinks but it must have been fairly large.  Who had the time to track where you bought your drink and make a special effort to get back to that part of town (or another town) to get back the deposit all without loosing the receipt.

Fortunately, the law was changed so it was then possible to return the container to any shop that sold that type of drink.  It was about this time that machines came to the rescue in the form of bottle return machines.

Simply show up at your favorite grocery store and start to pop those bottles and cans into the machine.  A lot of the machines accept cans while some do not – this wasn’t such of a problem for me.

A bigger problem was that not all bottle types can be put into the machines.  There are two different types of plastic  bottles, single use versus refillable.  The refillable bottles are a different type of plastic and much sturdier.  Instead of the same 25 cents as the other plastic or cans these bottles have a deposit of 15 cents.

This wasn’t so much a new rate as the rate that has always been used for refillable plastic bottles while refillable glass bottles have always been just 8 cents per bottle.

The exceptions

One of the nice things about shopping in Germany is that when you see some item for sale that costs 9.99, you know that it costs exactly 9.99.  The retailers have the labels printed to include the tax that must be paid.

I don’t know how many times I have spoken with someone from Germany who visits America for the first time and doesn’t understand how it is done there. Just how much will an item will cost? They don’t understand why an item might not cost the same as the next city over due to a city tax.  Each state has its own state tax with some items being exempt from taxes while other products such as alcohol have extra taxes added on.

I feel the same way now when purchasing a drink from a gas station as sometimes there is no deposit but sometimes there is 8, 15 or 25 cents deposit required.  Sometimes the deposit is included in the price on the shelf while other times not.

More exceptions

From looking at some of the exceptions it appears that the deposits are not designed to help recycle certain plastics nor metals.  The deposits do not appear to specifically target juices or water as it is possible to purchase drinks in a tetrapak without paying any deposit.

I initially thought that perhaps this might be aimed at people who consume alcohol (ie beer) and throw the empty cans on the street.  This is a possibility but that rings a bit hollow as there is no other deposit required for wine, sparkling wine or hard spirits.

The problem revealed

This entire conspiracy of bottle deposits was fully partially cleared up not that long ago.  What had apparently happened was someone had managed to convince the politicians that it wasn’t soft drinks or alcohol that was the problem but rather it was carbon dioxide.  Yup, it is the people who consume products full of carbon dioxide that are littering the streets.  Thus this last round of bottle deposits was levied on beverages that contain the hated carbon dioxide.

In the meantime, I have to remember to take some empty bottles with to the store as they are really starting to accumulate.

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