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April 30, 2021

Two-tier Society

Even without vaccine passports, we are being nudged into a two-tier, clean vs. unclean, caste society. The CDC has issued guidance for choosing safer activities, and not surprisingly, the unvaccinated are asked to take demeaning, anti-social prevention measures that the vaccinated do not have to undergo. Furthermore, the unvaccinated are described as “less safe” or “least safe” if they attempt to participate in normal social activities.

There is no logical reason for this segregation. If the vaccines are really as effective as is being claimed, vaccinated people should not be in any danger. But as we have seen over the past year, logic and reason have had no place in the decisions made by our governments to shut down society.

Despite the Biden administration’s assurance that the federal government will not mandate vaccine passports, it is becoming apparent with each passing day that they will in fact be implemented – whether by private business or state governments is not clear yet. We should also remember that the federal government has not been exactly truthy in the past, so its promise cannot be taken too seriously.

April 20, 2021

The Illusion of Freedom

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

– Frank Zappa

April 6, 2021

The Purity Cult

Even before the official introduction of “vaccine passports” in this country, we’re already seeing signs of people creating their own private (or sometimes public) versions of these passports. I know of family groups and exercise classes that exclude the unvaccinated, and our state government has imposed rules that are more restrictive for the unvaccinated.

These are all examples of what the Britsh scholar Edward Hadas calls the “purity cult” in his essay, The war against Covid-19. As with religious cults, this cult does not use logic to divide the clean from the unclean, the pure from the impure. But unlike religious cults, this one uses the veneer of science, or more accurately, scientism, to explain and vindicate itself. Let’s look at this cult’s anti-logic more closely.

April 1, 2021

The End of Private Life

“With the invention of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end. Every citizen, or at least every citizen worth watching, could be kept for twenty-four hours a day under the eyes of the police and in the sound of official propaganda, with all other channels of communication closed. The possibility of enforcing not only complete obedience to the will of the State, but complete uniformity of opinion on all subjects, now existed for the first time.”

– George Orwell, “Ignorance Is Strength”, from 1984

March 16, 2021

Windows, UTC, and the hardware clock

Users of Windows / Linux dual boot systems might notice that the time of day is correct in LInux but incorrect in Windows. I ran into this problem with a PC at our local library. There is a fix for this, but to explain the cause of the problem in the first place, we have to look at the 40-year history of the IBM PC and subsequent compatible computers.

March 5, 2021

Quarantining books in Koha

In September our little library (which is closed to patrons right now and only does curbside pickup) was asked by the state library agency to put returned books in quarantine when they are checked in. We now move returned books to a “dirty” table, where they are sanitized once a week by a volunteer, then moved to a “clean” table. After resting there for a couple of days, the books are moved to the shelving cart.

This procedure means that a returned book could be in quarantine for as much as a week. During that week, we want the Koha OPAC to show the book as being in quarantine, and hence unavailable for checkout. Then when the book is made ready to be shelved, we want Koha to show the book as available.

The way to achieve this is to check the book in twice. On the first checkin (performed when the book is moved to the “dirty” table”), we want Koha to mark the book as unavailable and in quarantine. On the second checkin (performed when the book is moved the shelving cart), we want Koha to mark the book as available. We also want holds to not be fulfilled until the book is checked in the second time.

Here is how we achieved this in the Koha staff client:

  1. Go to Administration / Authorized Values. Find the NOT_LOAN category (should be on the second page). Add a new authorized value for NOT_LOAN with value -5 and description “Quarantine”.

  2. Go to Administration / System preferences. Search for TrapHoldsOnOrder. Set it to “Don’t trap”.

  3. While still in System preferences, search for UpdateNotForLoanStatusOnCheckin. Edit it and add the following lines:

0: -5
-5: 0

This has the effect of changing the NOT_LOAN value of an item to -5 (quarantine) on the first checkin, and to 0 (available) on the second checkin.

In order to undo this quarantine system, erase everything in the UpdateNotForLoanStatusOnCheckin system preference.

February 10, 2021

Linux on Lenovo Ideapad 3

I was asked to install Linux alongside Windows 10 on a new Lenovo Ideapad 3. There were several problems to solve: getting Windows setup to not require a Microsoft account, fixing the boot-related options in the BIOS, finding a working version of Linux Mint, and getting the touchpad to work.

January 12, 2021

CDC mortality data for all causes and natural causes

In an earlier post I described how to download CDC weekly mortality data for the years 2014 through 2020 and import them into a MySQL database.

The first interesting piece of data I looked at was the number of deaths by all causes and by natural causes for each year. (At the time of this writing, only the data for the first 49 weeks of 2020 are available. To make the comparisons more fair, I used the data for the first 49 weeeks of all the other years.)

year all causes natural causes
2014 2422841 2234024
2015 2541452 2336303
2016 2561148 2339197
2017 2632472 2397635
2018 2669694 2436463
2019 2678618 2440590
2020 2999326 2763829

There are several things to be learned from this:

  1. The deaths by natural causes make up the great majority of all deaths (92% in 2020, 91% in 2019).
  2. Total deaths by all causes were 320708 higher in 2020 than in 2019, an increase of 12%.
  3. Deaths by natural causes were 323239 higher in 2020 than in 2019, an increase of 13%.

It is surprising that deaths by natural causes increased by such a large amount, much greater than the increases for previous years. Because natural deaths make up most of all deaths, and because the increase in natural deaths was almost the same (actually slightly greater) in absolute numbers as the increase in all deaths, it seems likely that they account for most of the increase in all deaths. It will be necessary to examine the other causes of death to see if this is true.

December 23, 2020

How to use CDC mortality data without the Internet

The CDC mortality data for the last two years is difficult to find, but thanks to a posting on Lockdown Sceptics I was able to go directly to the data on the CDC site. This site contains death data for all of 2019 and 2020. But the site is bit clunky to use, and some filter condition operators (such as <=) aren’t supported. So I decided to download the raw data and import it into MySQL so that I could run my queries directly. Here’s how I did that:

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