All posts by Alexander Van Berg

Miscellany

My Contribution To The Mnemonics State Of The Art?

In my previous post, I talked about some products designed to improve mental speed and memory.  As an absolute beginner, I don’t anticipate too many novel insights on my part, but I did discover a few things that didn’t seem to be covered, and might be worth sharing.

(If you aren’t familiar with the subjects in that previous post, the following won’t be very useful to you.)

1.  Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory teaches the listener how to organize memories so they are easily accessible later.  With the methods that are shared, one tends to end up with a lot of different ordered lists.  (Ordered lists are a strong motif in the course, but it’s not the only memory application taught.)

For example, one might memorize all the U.S. presidents in order, the periodic table of elements, the human bones, and so on.  For a task like that, at least two memory systems were taught.  Using the primary system, each element of each list goes onto a “peg”.

You develop various “peg lists”.  The peg lists are ordered.  Some peg lists might be 10 pegs long.  Others might go up to 100, or even more.  The pegs are where you place the individual items to remember.

You pick the peg list you feel is best for the ordered list of data to memorize, and then, using specific criteria, go element by element and associate the ordered elements with the ordered pegs, pairwise.

But with even just a few ordered lists, it seemed to me like sometimes one of the challenges is remembering which peg list you used.  And furthermore, it seems to me that when you do remember the peg list that you used, and then remember the first peg/item memory that you created, the rest of the list, at that point, gets recalled relatively easily.

Therefore, if the first peg/item association has greater significance, greater effort should go into creating it.

Taking the example of U.S. presidents in order, George Washington will be the first item.  As far as the peg list to use, the listener can pick from various peg lists that were taught in Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory: the “tree list”, the “body list”, the “house list”, and also a custom list based on the major system.

The best list to use virtually gives itself away in this case.  The “tree list” begins: tree, light switch, stool, …  (Although that list only has 20 pegs to begin with, the listener is challenged to add more, and in this case will need to create 26 more.)

The “body list” begins: toes, knees, muscle

(My) “house list” begins: chest, dresser, map…

The major-system list begins: tie, Noah, mow

The list to use really is a dead giveaway.  The “tree list” is absolutely what should be used.  George Washington and the cherry tree he felled are part of the national consciousness.  There’s even a little bit of scandal and drama, and that makes it even better.  His act of chopping it down will be the memory, that, in this case, doesn’t even need to be dreamed up; all the hard work has already been done for us.

Several years later, when you want to randomly recall the list of U.S. Presidents, and you have also memorized hundreds of other lists, I believe it will be very important to remember the peg list that was used, and the first peg/item association.  And since a natural and intuitive first peg/item association has been created (more like adopted in this case), that will not be a problem.

Diving a little deeper into cognitive psychology, the instructor talks about how once you mentally get a handle on something related to what you want to remember, it’s like grabbing ahold of a chain that you can start pulling on.  So the idea here would be like we are trying to make that first chain link big and easy to find.

If I were daring enough to create terminology for this concept, I would label this first peg/item association the door association” and/or the window association”.

In my opinion, it’s tangibly more important than the rest of the associations to come, and so additional care should be given to it.

 

2.  In general, and certainly in specific situations, spend extra time creating multiple mental linkages.

The custom major-system list taught in Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory goes up to 100.  Pegs 60-69, as taught, are below:

  • cheese
  • cheetah
  • chain
  • gym
  • shower
  • shell
  • judge
  • sheikh
  • shave
  • Jeep

I don’t think that list is very good, and I’ll elaborate more on this shortly.   Furthermore, 60-69 is especially difficult because the words can begin, phonetically, with three different consonant sounds (ch, sh, j).  That alone makes this series of 10 pegs more difficult to remember than the other 90 pegs.

It’s worth the effort to improve the list.

The image of a horse jockey is clear, crisp, loud, and unambiguous in the mind's eye: garish clothing, huge helmet, short stature, and a short whip. Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.
The image of a horse jockey is clear, crisp, loud, and unambiguous in the mind’s eye: garish clothing, huge helmet, short stature, and a short whip. Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.

Here’s my customized 60-69:

  • cheese
  • cheetah
  • china
  • shim
  • shore
  • shell
  • judge
  • jockey
  • shave
  • Jeep

(For me, “china” as in “fine china” is what works best, but for someone else, it could just as easily be uppercase “China”. )

Here’s why I prefer the customized list that I created:

 

•  Much better verbal flow.

“cheetah” verbally flows/rolls to “china” much more naturally/fluidly than “chain”.  “cheetah china…” just rolls off the tongue much more naturally than “cheetah chain”, and most people will quickly realize that when trying to memorize about 100 other pegs.

Good verbal flow from “shim” to “shore”.

And so on.

 

•  Much better semantic flow.

The semantic link from “shore” to “shell” is very good.

The semantic link from “shell” to “judge” is vaguely kind of good once you consider the idea of a fraudulent shell corporation.

And so on.

 

•  Also, just better individual pegs.

For example, the mental image of a “sheikh” was bound to look like an abstract Arab, and this would later present a problem when trying to remember why in the world you have a mental picture of an “Arab” in a memorized list you’re going through.  On the other hand, a (horse) jockey is a much cleaner, crisper, louder, unambiguous image, unlikely to be confused with anything else.

But on the other hand, “shore” will definitely be confused with “beach” later on, unless you devise a way to disambiguate it.  My method for that was to visualize “shore” as very rocky, without sand, without people, and overcast – basically the opposite of a beach postcard teeming with humanity.

etc.

 

Sub-item #1 (better verbal flow) and #2 (better semantic flow) constitute the additional mental linkages that make the updated list superior, in my opinion.

You’ve added more ways to remember a list.

Great Design

Things Worth Remembering

This Christmas, get yourself a gift that promises not only to reward you, but to keep on rewarding you indefinitely.

I was intrigued a while back by several products on the market.  One was a relatively new DVD titled The Secrets of Mental Math.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  The instructor is clearly a student and an expert in mental math techniques, and he goes over the best methods and techniques that would be accessible to the average person.  This is not a hard DVD to watch, but many will probably get more out of it with multiple viewings.

The other product, fittingly, was from the era of audio cassette tapes: Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory (“As Seen On TV!”).  The analog nature of the tapes sort of romanticizes what the product reveals.  And that is that the human mind was an analog picture recorder, analog emotion archiver, and analog pattern matcher from the very beginning.  We go through school and learn digital ideas and digital techniques (e.g. 2+2=4), but it’s never anything that the mind stores in its “native file format”, which is analog.  As someone who had never heard of the techniques presented, it really, really impressed me!

These products will yield different rewards to different people.  It’s something that you can take and use as much or as little as you like.  I believe at the very least – and the Mega Memory tapes touch on this – these products work to un-calcify the mind.

Finally, in my opinion, it’s a crime that these subjects are not mandatorily taught in high school.

So if you received any gift cards this year, and you aren’t familiar with the above subjects, reward yourself richly and check those products out.  I doubt you’ll regret it.

Vintage Quotes

Author’s fanedit version of “the phone call” scene from Valkyrie (2008). Original clip available courtesy of “Movieclips” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k9bFzgXeXE.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet


Remarkably, few film sub-genres are such reliable earners across time, across demographics, and perhaps most telling of all, across film production teams like the Internal Nazi Fratricide sub-genre is.  (I’ve actually thought for some time that some type of sociological research study could be done, and that it might shed some light into why that is.)

Valkyrie (2008) is undoubtedly one of the highest quality films in this sub-genre.  Yet, another “fanedit” seems to be in order, and I believe this one, as well, wades into the objective-improvement zone.

If you haven’t seen it, Valkyrie depicts a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and ultimately there is mass confusion as to whether the assassination succeeded or failed.  This causes alliances to whipsaw, intrigues and suspicions to pile up, wholesale misinformation, and all of this leads up to “the phone call” scene.

Above you have my (objective?)-improvement fanedit.  Assuming I understand that scene right, the idea is kind of like the Devil has come back from the dead – and that naturally portends to upend everything.  (Hitler’s voice on the other end of line is the first time the viewer and the film’s relevant characters learns of his survival.  He was presumed dead and his loyalists were being jailed, with executions or worse likely looming.)

And yet the original release (right down below for comparison) includes a whole lot of perfunctory, pedestrian details that bog the scene down with unnecessary information, and distract viewers from its intended purpose and true value.

Original clip courtesy of “Movieclips” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k9bFzgXeXE.

1. Do we really need multiple “hello” greetings from one side of the phone line?

2. Did we really need multiple reiterations of how prisoners are to be captured, in this particular scene?  (Which, again, steals attention away from the true value of the scene.)

3. Perhaps most ludicrous of all is seeing exactly how a Nazi soldier would exit from a standard room – first opening the door, and then closing it behind him.

On a side note, to make this simple fanedit I tried out the freeware version of Lightworks – a video editing application that many people recommend.  My impression of Lightworks is that the paid version must be incredibly better than the free version – otherwise I don’t understand the level of acclaim.

To spice up the phone call audio (trying to harken back to the age of lower-quality audio), I used Audacity and the “Walkie Talkie” distortion effect.  However, instead of applying that built-in effect once, I lowered the effect level, and then reapplied it several times in succession.

In closing, I’ve seen this type of issue in lots of different media content, and also outside of media.  For something that’s run-of-the-mill, it doesn’t typically matter if the details are somewhat formulaic.  However, for something that’s supposed to be supercharged with a distinct, higher level of interest, there really ought to be an acute attention to what details are present, how those details are presented, and what the overall effect is.

 

Miscellany

Dumb Hacks: Help!! My dinosaur Windows computer doesn’t keep time anymore, but I’m too lazy/afraid/cheap to change the CMOS battery!  

CMOS event for dinosaur tech.

Deep inside old Windows desktop computers is a CMOS battery that helps Windows keep the correct time after the computer has been turned off or put to sleep.

When that battery eventually dies, Windows will not have the correct time when the computer comes back from sleep or from being turned off.

There are actually plenty of reasons one might not want to bother changing that battery out.  I figured out how to make the computer sync with internet time when it powers up or when it comes back from sleep.  In doing so, time synchronization is done completely through the Windows OS, and it only requires internet access.  For a simple use case like mine, that was the superior solution.

What actually didn’t make sense was how scattered around the solution for this seemed to be.  Everyone seemed to have this same problem with their old desktop computers, and 99.999% of the time it’s a dead CMOS battery – yet there didn’t seem to be one comprehensive solution posted anywhere.  I had to pick up the different parts of the solution from different web articles buffet-style.

Below is a solution for Windows 10 that works for me.  I’m not an expert in most of what’s going on, and I can’t guarantee there won’t be rare edge cases that come up and cause problems.  What I can say is it solves the problem for me.

  1. Copy the following block of text and paste it into an XML file somewhere on your computer.  (Alternatively, you can just download it as the following text file [Wordpress doesn’t allow standard XML file downloads].  Then, change the file extension from .txt to .xml, or alternatively, leave the file extension alone and in step #5 broaden the search filter from ‘XML files’ to ‘All files’ and simply navigate to the text file.)
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-16"?>
<Task version="1.4" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/windows/2004/02/mit/task">
  <RegistrationInfo>
    <Date>2021-09-28T22:55:59.1253844</Date>
    <Author>Admin-PC\Admin</Author>
    <Description>Syncs time upon power up or wake from sleep.</Description>
    <URI>\Microsoft\Windows\Time Synchronization\SyncTimeOnPowerOrWake</URI>
  </RegistrationInfo>
  <Triggers>
    <EventTrigger>
      <Enabled>true</Enabled>
      <Subscription>&lt;QueryList&gt;&lt;Query Id="0" Path="System"&gt;&lt;Select Path="System"&gt;*[System[Provider[@Name='Microsoft-Windows-Kernel-Power'] and EventID=107]]&lt;/Select&gt;&lt;/Query&gt;&lt;/QueryList&gt;</Subscription>
    </EventTrigger>
    <BootTrigger>
      <Enabled>true</Enabled>
    </BootTrigger>
  </Triggers>
  <Principals>
    <Principal id="Author">
      <UserId>S-1-5-19</UserId>
      <RunLevel>HighestAvailable</RunLevel>
    </Principal>
  </Principals>
  <Settings>
    <MultipleInstancesPolicy>IgnoreNew</MultipleInstancesPolicy>
    <DisallowStartIfOnBatteries>false</DisallowStartIfOnBatteries>
    <StopIfGoingOnBatteries>false</StopIfGoingOnBatteries>
    <AllowHardTerminate>true</AllowHardTerminate>
    <StartWhenAvailable>true</StartWhenAvailable>
    <RunOnlyIfNetworkAvailable>false</RunOnlyIfNetworkAvailable>
    <IdleSettings>
      <StopOnIdleEnd>true</StopOnIdleEnd>
      <RestartOnIdle>false</RestartOnIdle>
    </IdleSettings>
    <AllowStartOnDemand>true</AllowStartOnDemand>
    <Enabled>true</Enabled>
    <Hidden>false</Hidden>
    <RunOnlyIfIdle>false</RunOnlyIfIdle>
    <DisallowStartOnRemoteAppSession>false</DisallowStartOnRemoteAppSession>
    <UseUnifiedSchedulingEngine>true</UseUnifiedSchedulingEngine>
    <WakeToRun>false</WakeToRun>
    <ExecutionTimeLimit>PT72H</ExecutionTimeLimit>
    <Priority>7</Priority>
  </Settings>
  <Actions Context="Author">
    <Exec>
      <Command>%windir%\system32\sc.exe</Command>
      <Arguments>start w32time task_started</Arguments>
    </Exec>
    <Exec>
      <Command>%windir%\system32\w32tm.exe</Command>
      <Arguments>/resync</Arguments>
    </Exec>
  </Actions>
</Task>

2. Open the Windows Task Scheduler.  Typing “Task Scheduler” in the Windows search bar should bring it up.

3. If you want to keep this task organized, expand down to: Task Scheduler Library | Microsoft | Windows | Time Synchronization.

4. Right click on the Time Synchronization folder and select ‘Import Task…’

5. Navigate to that XML file you saved on your computer and open that file.

6. You will get a dialog with multiple tabs.  You can review and edit all the properties of the new task.  If you want to proceed with it, then click ‘OK’.  Clicking ‘Cancel’ will abort the entire process.

Once you add the task, it will run whenever the computer powers up or when it wakes up from sleep.  This should sync your local Windows OS time with internet time, reliably, and irrespective of your dead CMOS battery.

Finally, you can always right click on this new task and simply click ‘Delete’ if you want to get rid of it.

Poor Design

Cinema Fan Edit: A Blockbuster Of A Miss

Desolation in a future dystopia. Bridge scene from Blade Runner 2049.
Desolation in a future dystopia. Bridge scene from Blade Runner 2049.

This post is only going to be useful for those who have seen both Blade Runner films.

I’m not a Blade Runner franchise fanatic by any stretch of the imagination.  (In fact, I mistakenly thought the character Deckard was “Dreckard”.)  That said, in my opinion, the two released films have been very high caliber.

I recently saw Blade Runner 2049, and I feel one hole in the soundtrack is so large, I had to categorize this under “Poor Design”.  I feel like this improvement should have been almost instinctively apparent to the creators.

The existing score is extremely high quality.  But as I viewed the film, I couldn’t believe (and still can’t believe) they didn’t fade in the original Vangelis Love Theme from the original Blade Runner during K’s soul-crushing breakdown on the bridge in Blade Runner 2049.

This would have knocked the scene completely out of the park, cemented the scene’s status as classic cinema, and even moved the needle as it pertains to the entire film’s critical rating.

If you have access to both materials (video is NSFW), you can easily see what the fan edit would be.

Poor Processes

Critical Media Studies II: It’s The Government, Stupid

Following up on my previous post, there’s certainly no shortage of curious COVID-19 mainstream media coverage deserving of an actual examination.

Below is a recent headline from the Los Angeles Times:

First and foremost, the article is an op-ed.  This concept alone may deserve a separate discussion.  In principle op-eds are a useful feature for a newspaper to have.  In reality, it allows a newspaper to renounce all editorial responsibility for printed content.

In this particular case, a Los-Angeles-area doctor is describing how her patience is at an end, and as more COVID-19 patients are rolled through the door, she has rapidly diminishing compassion for each new individual that she treats.  The doctor goes on to illustrate this dying compassion for one such patient as she describes her interactions with that patient and the treatment provided.

The Los Angeles Times is essentially rubber stamping a point of view that it’s OK for doctors to not have normal compassion for an individual patient, based on the previous 1,000 patients that were rolled through the door.

Was this patient a revolving-door patient that got admitted to this hospital a dozen times?  No, of course not.  As far as the reader can tell, that was his first visit to the hospital.

In the article, the doctor made a great case for why she is angry and for why she is frustrated with the situation as it pertains to the aggregate.

The problem is that she is misapplying that blame to a single individual.  The individual is responsible for what they have done as an individual.  They’re not responsible (as far as we know) for the previous 1,000 patients that were admitted.

Furthermore, that doctor’s completely incorrect state of mind is easily demonstrated by asking the following question: Would this doctor have low compassion for that individual patient if that patient had been the only COVID-19 patient at that hospital?  Of course not.  You can bet the doctor wouldn’t even remember the patient, much less condemn him.  In both cases, the individual patient is exactly the same.  The frustration the doctor is having is purely with the aggregate.

The entity that typically deals with problems as they pertain to the aggregate is the government – in this case the federal government.  The government handles public policy.

As it happens, the CDC (up until recently) has exercised virtually unprecedented executive authority, stating people did not have to pay their landlords due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This type of declaration had every veritable hallmark of a “We’re All Gonna Die” emergency.  The thing is that, if that were true, such extraordinary measures aren’t really that different than just mandating people take the vaccine.  The point is that, as it pertains to COVID-19, there’s no question the federal government clearly understands the concept of extraordinary measures.  In fact they have already taken them – just not the ones many doctors want.

If a medical professional is angry about the aggregate situation, there is an entity that’s responsible for addressing those concerns, and that entity is the government, and the more dire they believe the situation is, the more of a government responsibility it is.

The aggregate problem is not the responsibility of an individual patient – no matter what they did or did not do wrong.

The doctor in the op-ed articulated a significant complaint, but she did not direct it to the proper channel.  She did not direct her anger and frustration to the proper channel.

Newspapers should never rubber stamp a point of view that endorses doctors assigning the wrong level and the wrong dimension of blame to a single patient.

 

Poor Processes

A Million Shades of Gray & Critical Media Studies

There is an old maxim: Newspapers are meant to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comforted.

Looking back to the 1st Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, extraordinary protections were provided to the press.  We can presume the authors of that document had slightly loftier goals in mind – things that go beyond “the affliction model”.  Perhaps things like general edification of the public.

If life has a million shades of gray, then the affliction model of news reporting is like trying to take a photograph of life with a camera that can only print colors as either full black or full white.

Take the following headline that has made its way around the different news outlets recently:

The headline and story are tinged with a notion that so-called “anti-vaxxers” have no integrity.  Specifically, that their actions and statements, on their deathbed, are incongruent with their stated philosophy.  However, there is a difference between being desperate, and having no integrity.

Some people who are against the death penalty suddenly become curious about it when a family member is massacred.  However, that doesn’t mean they were “wrong” in the first place, or never had any integrity.  What it actually means is they are having a very strong emotional reaction to something.  Strong emotional reactions lead to irrational thinking.

In my opinion, anti-vaxxers are wrong in their calculations when it comes to COVID-19.  But desperate requests on one’s deathbed doesn’t automatically make the original point of view incoherent, disingenuous, correct, incorrect, or anything else.  It just means that someone is having a strong emotional reaction to being on death’s doorstep.

The counter-example is some people who are dying of cancer (or some other terminal illness) will resort to paying con artists who offer miracle cures.  We can’t deduce from their desperation that they were wrong their whole lives, if for example, they had previously said these same scam artists should be shut down by authorities.

Great Design

3 Stock Market Ideas Contrary To Conventional Advice

A popular user post courtesy of reddit's wallstreetbets. Tattoo commemorates one user's massive gains of several hundred thousand dollars on an underdog stock.
A popular user post courtesy of reddit’s wallstreetbets. Tattoo commemorates one user’s massive gains of several hundred thousand dollars on an underdog stock.

 

Above I’ve posted an image from a user post in reddit’s wallstreetbets.  If you’ve been following financial news at all, you’ve surely heard about the frenetic run-ups in various underdog “meme stocks”.  These stratospheric gains have materialized due to massive crowdsourced interest in bidding these stocks up, which in turn has led to complicated secondary effects that have pushed the prices up even further, and this has made some people a lot of money.  In some cases, near-bankrupt companies are able to sell additional stock at those highly-inflated prices, rake in an unusually large amount of proceeds, get out of dire straits, buy some time, regroup, and inch closer to a self-fulfilling prophecy where that company might actually be valuable in the future.  I would definitely not recommend this line of investing for most people, but I think it’s genuinely noteworthy because of the sheer audacity of the movement, its disregard for conventional wisdom, and its discovery and belief in a new idea – whereas previously, people were simply set in their ways and couldn’t see anything of interest.

With that said, in my opinion, conventional stock market commentators, gurus, and authors have largely overlooked some of the best and simplest ideas for the average DIY stock market investor.  Below I’ll list 3:

1.)  Don’t just learn about stocks – learn about options also.  The stock market is never perfectly priced, which is why people buy certain stocks.  They buy them because they’re betting the price will rise, and that’s generally to say those stocks are mispriced.  Likewise, options can be mispriced, and this leads to a second area of potential profit.  Additionally, options can help people shape their risk and their bets more accurately.  Stocks are like a hammer, which is a useful tool, and options are like adding a bunch of extra tools to the hammer.

One of the most common things a retail investor does is buy stocks and then hold them indefinitely.  That investor is literally leaving money on the table each and every year by not selling call options for the stocks that they own.

In my opinion, one of the greatest sins committed by stock market gurus is this sin of omission.  It’s almost a crime when they don’t mention anything about simple option strategies that would bring in easy, ultra-low-risk money for many investors.

2.)  Strongly consider starting out in a Roth IRA or standard IRA.  The reason is pretty straightforward.  These IRA accounts only allow you to deposit $6,000 per year, only allow 3 day trades per week (until you’ve built up extra funds), and disallow the borrowing of stocks (which carries unlimited risk).  Thus, you’re much less likely to lose your life savings in the blink of an eye, before you’ve even had a chance to get the hang of the stock market.  In that sense, IRA accounts create very useful guardrails for those new to the stock market.

There are penalties for early withdrawals from an IRA account.  However, if you were planning on doing this for your long-term financial health anyway, that generally wouldn’t be an issue for you.

Although this entire second point sounds like common sense, to the point you’d expect it to be an axiomatic rule-of-thumb, I can’t say I’ve ever heard it promoted anywhere.

3.)  If you’re looking to day trade, and you’re not 100% certain that you’re a superstar day trader that can generate a ton of money right away with high certainty, give strong consideration to doing it in an IRA account.

This is completely unorthodox.

To start, you will first need to build up additional funds to access full day trading privileges.  A minimum of $25,000 is the FINRA requirement.  The reason to go through all this trouble to day trade is two-fold:

First, profits in Roth IRA accounts are 100% tax-free, except for the very obscure UBTI, which you probably won’t be dealing with.  (Standard IRA accounts have their major tax advantage on the front end.  Roth IRA vs a standard IRA is a big decision, but the point is both offer a major tax advantage.)

Second, tax accounting for day traders is a nightmare.  This is beyond what most people would ever want to spend time on, and so you will be spending money having someone else do it for you.  But, if you can make your day-trading profits completely tax-free, no IRS return will ever necessary for those funds (barring extremely obscure exceptions like UBTI).

Poor Processes

A Crime In Two Parts: Consumers vs AEP

The 2021 winter storm in Texas has led to extraordinary problems and also extraordinary outrage.  The human side of the problem is actually a crime in two parts.  One involves production and state-wide operational management (i.e. ERCOT).  The other involves distribution of any available electricity at the local level by the local utility/retailer (whom, incidentally, ERCOT is quick to go way out of their way to subtly and pre-emptively throw under the bus).  For us, that means AEP Texas.

AEP Texas deserves to be hit immediately by a class-action lawsuit and wiped out of existence for all time. 

I suspect ERCOT officials will actually be called as witnesses to condemn AEP Texas in this lawsuit.

So there is no confusion, if space aliens came down to Earth and smashed the Texas power grid, such that even 5 watts of energy were still left, AEP Texas had better be up all night figuring out how to split that 5 watts evenly among Texas consumers.

As it happened, many consumers in Texas (living in areas where there were zero downed power lines) were left wondering, contemplating, and also desperately praying for when this fabled “rotating” and “rolling” might actually start.  To their credit, AEP Texas exceeded even their own previous boundaries, delivering a remarkable moonshot by providing continuous power to some consumers during this historic power failure, simply by playing the role of judge, jury, and executioner in determining which other consumers would play the role of permanent whipping boy.  In doing so, they effectively guaranteed an uninterruptable supply of power to the newest Texas lottery winners.

Puns abound: Consumers should “just chill”.  Were you “frozen out” by AEP during this winter storm?  Perhaps the best and most hopeful pun of all is that process servers should serve up a “cold one” to AEP’s top brass.  God willing, this will occur immediately, and I would be willing to cut to the very front of the line to sign on to this lawsuit.

Finally, there’s a silver lining in some clouds, and I did happen to scrape together a nominal amount of useful information during this catastrophe.  Apparently our old (and thankfully broken) generator was something of a poison-pill-trojan-horse-monstrosity for any electronics in our house.  By default, generators create “dirty” electricity that’s vastly more chaotic than the clean sine wave electricity coming off the power lines.

It looks like the best generators are the ones that have a dual-fuel option, and also provide low THD (i.e. a relatively clean sine wave), and this narrows down the product selection greatly.

The following two dual-fuel generators are supposed to be back in stock this March:

CHAMPION 200991

WESTINGHOUSE WGEN12000DF

Points Of Controversy

Provocative Questions: Wet Blankets & Ultra-Blind Vaccine Studies

Do these activists strike you as the type of people who waited in line all day to volunteer for a trial vaccine study?  Photo by Ellen Schmidt of Las Vegas Review-Journal

 

Preliminary COVID-19 vaccine trials have yielded incredible initial results.  We are being told that the vaccines are 90%+ effective so far in these trials.

The effectiveness of the common flu vaccine is much lower.

Unless I’ve missed something, while these results are scientifically possible, we are not hearing too much in terms of possible bias in the studies.

The roughly 50% of the American population that is hesitant or unwilling to receive the COVID-19 vaccine most likely shares a giant overlap with the portion of the population that is generally against any and all precautionary measures.

That segment of the population will almost certainly expose themselves to higher levels of COVID-19 doses/loads, more often.

The problem here, if I’m not mistaken, is that higher infective doses can overwhelm vaccine protection.

“…in 2006, a large outbreak [of mumps] occurred among highly vaccinated populations in the United States, and similar outbreaks have been reported worldwide. The outbreak described in this report occurred among U.S. Orthodox Jewish communities during 2009 and 2010… Transmission was focused within Jewish schools for boys, where students spend many hours daily in intense, face-to-face interaction… Conclusions: The epidemiologic features of this outbreak suggest that intense exposures, particularly among boys in schools, facilitated transmission and overcame vaccine-induced protection in these patients.

That is to say, when those dogmatic individuals are likely excluded, voluntarily, from the COVID-19 vaccine studies, is the COVID-19 virus really getting a fair chance?

Is this really a fair fight?

Or, are these preliminary results nothing more than a demonstration of a good vaccine matched up against a tamed, muzzled COVID-19 virus with the kid-gloves on?  (Imagine the typical vaccine study volunteer.  Can you really visualize this volunteer casually attending “super-spreader” events?  Or, more likely, would you visualize him washing his hands, social distancing, and generally being paranoid and reducing possible infective doses all day long?)

Or perhaps said differently, might the flu vaccine be 98% effective if it were only administered to people who washed their hands all day long, wore a mask while in public, engaged in social distancing, and just generally engaged in preventative measures that reduced the frequency and volume of infective doses/loads? And yet, as it pertains to the common flu, people never lived their lives that way.

A double-blind study means that, initially, both the subjects and the researchers do not know which subjects received the placebo and which received the test vaccine.

For a real-world test, yielding real-world expected results, would we not need an (highly unethical) “ultra-blind” test, where subjects not only don’t know whether they received a vaccine or a placebo, but additionally, they also don’t know that they’re even in the study and that they’ve been given something?

Anti-Mask protest in Madrid.  Attribution unknown.