Name brand recognition or coincidence

When you work or live outside of the USA you sometimes want to have a taste for the familiar. It is actually surprising just how many products that have a big footprint in the US have little or no market presence in other countries.

It has been ages since I wanted a peanut and jelly sandwich but I do like to have peanut butter from time to time on my bread. Because peanut’s are not native to Europe a lot of peanut based foods are also not so common here.

I don’t have a favorite local brand as they keep changing at my local supermarket. I bought some a while back and I didn’t think anything about it until my wife surprised me with an actual US peanut butter.

It was then I notice the similarity. I do not think that most people in Europe know anything about Jif peanut butter but I was surprised to see my local peanut butter looking similar to a familiar brand.

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The dirty business of politics in the 21st century

I don’t know how old you need to be to have heart the following saying.

damned if you do and damned if you don’t

Of course this phrase has the dictionary definition of an unwinnable situation. I have been watching the drama play out in Washington DC and it is difficult to know what the actual politicians think. I see news clips or bloggers talking about how in private the politicians are saying there was no fraud in the presidential election but nothing on the record.

I do rather wonder if this is partly because those politicians or vice president are in an unwinnable situation but one with rather serious consequences.

It is one thing to be the unpopular kid on the play ground who has the fear a bully might take away your lunch money or generally harass you. Can you imagine in what position the politicians are in. They know that there is a republican base of approximately 74 million people who seem to be supporting President Trump in all he does. Just a week ago, a pretty small group of those supporters took their beliefs quite a bit farther and occupied the capital. The group that went all the way and broke into the capital appear to be more hard core than most. They must be in order to travel from their home, most of which were outside of DC, just to attend this event and create this chaos.

Now imagine that some of these people live in your home district or somewhere in your state. I can only imagine that one reason the politicians are so quiet about their Trump opinions is that they can imagine a lifetime of having a flaming bag of poop on their door step, cars scratched in a parking lot or worse.

I think that all politicians on both sides of the aisle have this in their mind but what about vice President Mike Pence. Before January 6th, he had pretty much two choices.

  • Preside over electoral vote counting in ceremonial role
  • Somehow try and overturn the election in favor of Donald Trump

With these two choices he must have felt like he somehow won the worst job in the world – quite literally.

His current boss is not at all understanding of anyone who does not fulfill his requests. If Mike Pence fails to overturn the last possible opportunity overturn the election the chance his boss would show some understanding was slim. He might be fed to the “not so understanding” Trump base creating problems with disgruntled voters for years to come. The net result could be those flaming poop bags or toilet paper on Halloween at the minimum. If he looks behind door number two and somehow overturns the election, he will also be vilified by the non-Trump base, have the opportunity for toilet paper and such on Halloween. Door number two doesn’t seem any better but it gets worse.

If he had tried to fool with the electoral vote process, it would have eventually been overturned by the Supreme Court and go down in history as a traitor to democracy.

damned if you do and damned if you don’t

All of this hassle for this ceremonial vote counting. Is it any wonder that he did not choose to take up the congress request for him to implement the 25th amendment of removing Trump from office. He has been thrown under the bus while he was with his family in the capital building. He was probably concerned that “… even worse” might happen to him from the Trump supporters if he had removed the President even a few days early.

I think it is possible to not respect the vice president at all and still feel a small bit sorry for him. Not for his politics as he has pretty much determined his own future but that the constituents in this political game are taking this too far.

Posted in Soapbox | Comments Off on The dirty business of politics in the 21st century

Covid 19 problems real or imagined

I received a email about death. I am not going to post the entire email but it was related to the death of a generally healthy doctor in Florida a few weeks after taking a covid 19 vaccine. The facts of this is as follows:

  • died 15 days after first injection of vaccine
  • Death of thrombocytopenia(ITP) which is a lack of platelets
  • Light drinker (on social occasions)
  • Non-smoker
  • generally fit who did outdoor activities

According to my email, ITP autoimmune condition, is the third most common problem after getting an influenza vaccination. It is always sad when someone dies before their time has come which is why Covid 19 is such depressing disease. It has been the straw that has been breaking the back of many people who have other health condition. Sure, eventually they would have also succumbed but this might have been years or decades later.

Was this death the result of a vaccine? It is difficult to say but we can say that as of the writing of this blog, Jan 12, 2021, approximately 29 million doses have been administered and there does not seem to be any other people who have had this reaction.

This could indeed just be a rare autoimmune reaction or latest disease caused by something else. The numbers that came up during my research were perhaps a few thousand cases a year for ITP. The human body is pretty complex, there are also a number of other autoimmune diseases that occur that have not yet been blamed on Covid 19.

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Systemic Lupis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Graves disease
  • Celiac disease

I was not aware that these more common diseases are actually autoimmune diseases and between all of them they cover millions of unhappy people each year.

Fun fact. People with celiac disease cannot eat foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and other grains. It is because of this disease that it is possible to find so many gluten free products in the supermarket.

It is also possible to anaphylactic shock when getting a vaccine or some injection which also can be quite serious but can be brought about by a number of different external factors succh as insect bites, foods, medications, latex exposure or exercise. It is also possible to have an anaphylactic shock for no reason whatsoever.

Yup, all of this actually sounds similar to something my father once said. If you give a can of (your favorite soft drink) to one million people someone will probably die. Indeed, nobody wants to die from something as mundane as a vaccination but some of the Covid 19 alternatives are worse.

  • Permanent heart damage
  • Permanent lung damage to the air sacs in lungs
  • Strokes or seizures
  • chronic fatigue
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Blood clots and blood vessel problems
  • death

I guess all of this focuses around your risk horizon. If you think that big pharma will kill you you can roll the dice and see how you fare with Covid 19.

I am not a medical physician so none of this is advice but I am going to give the vaccine a chance. The second worst thing that can happen is a mutation that give me X-Men powers.

Stay healthy.

Posted in corona times | Comments Off on Covid 19 problems real or imagined

The crux with drugs

In the intervening months I have actually read quite a few emails about trust. Rather than bore you with a complete list here is a few of the more common issues of trust.

Don’t trust

  • .. the media
  • .. masks
  • .. the <fill in the blank> political group they are socialists or fascists
  • .. the election, it is rigged
  • .. <fill in the blank> government official they have an agenda

I especially like the list item on that list. If there is a voter or citizen who does not already realize your politician has an agenda you may need to readjust your thinking a small bit. Yet, today I am more interested in medication and not just those little blue pills.

Big pharma

Pharmacutical companies are not non-profit nor are they just for the betterment of mankind. There have been in recent times stories of how some companies are taking their medical patents and using them to legally to take medications which used to cost dollars to increasing the prices so they cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2017/02/10/a-6000-price-hike-should-give-drug-companies-a-disgusting-sense-of-deja-vu/?sh=317c910971f5

h ttps://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/business/a-huge-overnight-increase-in-a-drugs-price-raises-protests.html

We can see with this brief look they are no angels. It has been raised by some people on the internet that the new Covid 19 vaccine is not just new but done using a completely new technology one that uses mRNA. One of the questions is this an effective vaccine? Well, who knows but that isn’t as important as the second question will there be any unknown safety issues in the future because of it. Before considering this we might consider the rest of the world around us.

Energy

Fracking is a new way of extracting energy from the ground. We have no idea of the long term effects of this new method of injecting water and chemicals into the rock to extract the locked energy. There could be safety issues with either the method or the chemicals used.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_additives_for_hydraulic_fracturing

https://www.wilderness.org/articles/article/truth-about-fracking-and-environment#

This is not the only energy issue. There have been other environmental problems due to the oil industry. Why is this important? It really isn’t unless you want clean water for drinking or to be used in the processing of food.

Agriculture

Back in the day the big boy on the block was big tobacco. They were selling a product that was intended to be lit on fire and inhaled. This product was accused to causing cancer, heart disease, strokes, and lung disease just to name a few. The industry did the only thing they could which was to downplay these issues. Eventually, in the US, they did come to a massive settlement with 46 US states and 5 territories. It seems likely that there was some merit to this case and that this product was not the healthy choice and but yet the companies fought to continue for decades.

https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/topics/commercial-tobacco-control/commercial-tobacco-control-litigation/master-settlement-agreement

Products

Construction and manufacturing are not necessarily innocent either. A few decades ago it was decided that Asbestos should not be used due to the health side effects related to this product. In 1991 Asbestos was banned in the US in a majority of products. However, the knowledge that this was a problem since the 1940’s didn’t prevent them from continuing to use it as long as they could – well even use it today in some consumer goods but in lessor amounts.

https://www.asbestos.com/products/consumer/

https://www.mesotheliomahelp.org/asbestos/history/

Asbestos did spawn quite a few lawsuits but one of which awarded Judith Winkel 13 million against Colgate-Palmolive. It seemed that her talcum powder was contaminated with Asbestos.

Food

I have never run a company which prepares food for resale. I can only imagine how much paperwork and rules that need to be followed. However, despite this there are numerous cases of food being recalled every year. I just picked one for 2020. It seems that this food had hard plastic included with it which is why it was recalled.

https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/08/01/2071442/0/en/FSIS-ISSUES-PUBLIC-HEALTH-ALERT-FOR-MEAT-AND-POULTRY-TAQUITOS-AND-CHIMICHANGAS-CONTAINING-FDA-REGULATED-DICED-GREEN-CHILIES-THAT-HAVE-BEEN-RECALLED-DUE-TO-POSSIBLE-FOREIGN-MATTER-C.html

I also remember in Germany a few years back there was a salmonella problem. It was not immediately known what was the source. If I remember correctly initially there was a tenative link between vegetables and the outbreak. This made salads pretty much non-existant until the source was found. The cause was bean sprouts.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24434173/

Contaminating containers

This hit me personally when a few years back my wife started to throw away some of our plastic food storage containers. I did not need to read the entire article to know I did not want my mama’s chili to leach chemicals from the container into my food.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-plastic-a-threat-to-your-health#:~:text=Studies%20have%20found%20that%20certain,including%20obesity)%20and%20reduced%20fertility.

Back to vaccines

What does all of this have to do with vaccines? Well these are things that we put into or onto our body. Every time a new vaccine is released conspiracy theory network publishes a lot of the same theories on how they will kill us. This time is no different, I saw this just the other day.

The vaccine is contaminated with aluminum, mercury, and possibly formaldehyde.

Well, no not really. Some vaccines contain Thiomersal which is a mercury compound but this not the dangerous methylmercury which tends to be found in fish. Besides if Thiomersal was a problem we would have been seeing the results as this has been used since the 1930’s as a preservative in biological and drug products.

https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/safety-availability-biologics/thimerosal-and-vaccines

Without being pedantic about it, lets focus on those three substances once again.

  • Aluminum
  • mercury
  • formaldehyde

Yup, Aluminum. Aluminum is not actually very good for the body and yet you will find it used in many of the deodorants on the market. Well, it shouldn’t be a problem if I smear a small bit of it under my arm. Yeah, but it is also used in quite a few other every day items.

  • Antacids
  • dyes
  • cake mix
  • processed cheese
  • baking soda/baking powder
  • cosmetics
  • lotions

I didn’t receive any emails this morning talking about how I should throw away my aluminum baking tins due to increase of Alzheimers, epilepsy, dementia or ADD.

https://keeperofthehome.org/eliminating-aluminum-from-our-homes/

We do not have to take a flu (or covid 19) vaccine but the reason we do is because the the chances of problems for the average person are pretty low (a small number of people per million typically have serious problems). Lets look at the counter argument. Nobody takes the vaccine and let nature take it course.

Well, the hospitals will fill up with people who would not have gotten ill. We need to keep them separated from the rest of the patients in the hospital but due to how easily spread covid 19 is, the hospitals get fuller and fuller. The problem is that hospital capacity is not infinite and if there is no free beds then other patients cannot use them. These other patients might be because of stroke, heart attack, auto accident or even appendicitis. If there are not beds for these people it goes without saying that other less serious conditions that can usually be schedule also cannot go to the hospital.

Depending on high the numbers are, the hospital personal will essentially become a death panel. They will look at your condition and say go home and they will call if they have space.

Should we take the vaccine? This is a tough call if you have bad health, are easily susceptible for diseases or are quite allergic to some of the contents of the vaccine. Those people are safer when the disease is not running rampant. The disease doesn’t run rampant when we have heard immunity which can occur only in two cases.

  • lots of people get the disease, some dying[1]
  • lots of people get vaccinated and so do not spread the disease

You shouldn’t trust that “big pharma” has altruistic intentions. Those companies are filled with people and people can make mistakes. However, should you hold the vaccine to a higher standard than these other industries? All of them affect our daily lives. Should you choose to skip the vaccine, please be consistent and hold all companies whose product is ingested to the same standard.

I am looking at you fast food, sugar and general processed food industries.

[1] Swedish herd immunity

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/11/18/sweden-coronavirus-surge-policy/

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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.

Posted in corona times, Germany | Comments Off on The right to sue … pandemic style

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.

Posted in programming | Comments Off on Happy Halloween 2020

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.

Posted in security | Comments Off on Physical security = security