Monday, March 30, 2015

Welcome To The Party

Hi. Nice to be back. Fully and completely.

I was going to spend my day off tomorrow coming back to re-visit the entire (and ongoing) Ebola outbreak.

But today, on his blog, American Mercenary went there.

And I replied in comments.

Which occasioned his reply, and now this post, mainly because it's too frickin' big to fit there, it bogged down and choked his Disqus comment server, and I needed this excuse to kick me in the pants and drag me back to this whole thing eventually.

So, let's get to the rat killin':

AM wrote:
Aesop, I've always been a bit in awe of your ability to be so certain about the uncertain.

Why stop with "less than one third"? Why not say "Less than one tenth?" or "Less than one hundredth?" or "Less than one thousandth?"

What gives you any certainty for a bounding of the uncertainty?

It is an interesting question, isn't it?

The same question, asked a different way, is "how do you know even a fourth of cases were accurately reported?" Or "How do you know the population of any given country isn't complete and total bullshit?

And to go one step further, do you know if the rate of under reporting has been consistent or inconsistent? If it is consistent we can still use under reported numbers to track the progress of the epidemic. If the reporting has not been consistent, how would you know?

Here goes: 

I appreciate the snark, but unfortunately, WHO selected the "less than 1/3rd" Fudge Factor for those reports some months back, which has been noted on this blog over and over. In fact, it was revised to a higher Fudge Factor the worse things got, because it became crystal clear even to the doorknobs at UN/WHO that the locals were deliberately spinning numbers out their fourth points of contact as a matter of course, and the previous "1/2" Fudge Factor was No Longer Operative. Unless they've taken away the breadcrumbs, the memos to that effect from last July/August/September/October etc. are still available online, including on the Wikipedia page concerning the outbreak:
Note: the CDC currently estimates that actual cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are two to three times higher than officially reported numbers[1][2][3].
(Nota bene that those Wiki links are to a CDC report, Science Magazine, and the LATimes' story on the subject, respectively. From last September and October. So as far as plucking that factor out of my back end, my hands are clean. I can still pull this out of recollection, and I haven't touched the issue since about last December, IIRC.)

And the exact point of the exercise has been that the reporting of the statistics by the involved countries was and is complete and utter bullshit, then, now, and ever shall be. The "1/3" Fudge Factor is the minimum of how much BS to ascribe to the stated numbers. The upper limit is bounded only by the actual population on the ground.

IIRC, I think I only made that exact point about 200 times amidst the height of the crisis.

Like here.
Or here.
Or probably any number of 200 other posts anytime after July/August.

The entire key to managing this outbreak, by all expert testimony of world-class epidemiologists, is having and effectively deploying sufficient resources, which requires accurate intelligence about where and how bad the outbreak is, and is progressing.
And actually having those resources.

Which has been and continues to be the exact things that have never existed anywhere in West Africa from 400 B.C. to date, inclusive, not least of which because you're dealing with people who have to wear open-toe sandals to count to 20, and have literacy and numeracy rates that make Appalachia look like Caltech and MIT, before we even get into the self-serving corruption problems endemic to the world's poorest former colonies, or the abysmal lack of response to this from outside until well past the date it would have mattered.

Has this spiraled along the exponential mathematical pathway it could have done by now?
Thankfully not. Huzzah.

Why didn't it?
No frickin' idea, anywhere, from anyone.
(Personally, I'm hoping it was the Invisible Hand of the Grim Reaper, selecting out hordes of Darwin Award Finalists with carefree abandon, particularly the 50% of people there who are sure Ebola is caused by witchcraft, and the 45% who are convinced it was cause by the United States practicing witchcraft, but that's just my mischievous nature breaking free for a moment in the sun.)

How bad was it then, and how bad is it now?
We know precisely two things: Jack, and sh*t.

So we don't know where it went, why, or how, and we don't know why it stopped or what was most effective, because we never had any accurate data to go by, not even roughly.
Which makes any official pronouncements about the outbreak from on high as relevant to actual medical science, as astrology forecasts are to actual astronomy.

This is exactly why the original pronouncements from CDC, like "This will never get to the US", and "We KNOW how to handle and contain this disease", turned out to be total horseshit too: they don't know what they're talking about, and they don't KNOW they don't know what they're talking about, because they're basing their announcements on prognostication based on happygas, NOT on actual scientific analysis or sober reflection on reality and facts on the ground. AND THEY NEVER HAVE.

In the West, it's even worse: the US effectively managed, what, eight or nine simultaneous cases?
And our max capacity is...eleven. Then, now, ever.
A number they had in any of those three countries last March or April, three months before anyone much cared.

The greater point was and is:
This disease will get out, again, and we'll fail to deal with it, again, and next time, once it gets to 12 cases, that city is f*cked.
Twelve cases apiece in two cities and that state is f*cked.
Twelve cases apiece in three cities, and we're Liberia, or Sierra Leone.

And if we're very very lucky then, you might contain it in just one time zone, or on one side or the other of the Mississippi, or the Rockies. At gunpoint.
If it gets to any African or Asian megalopolii, where the number of potentially infected people who can spring for a plane ticket is seven orders of magnitude more than all of the rural African continent, fuggedaboudit.

So how many MOPP suits does your unit have, and how long do they work saturated in infected blood?
And what happens if the factory where they make them is inside the Hot Zone next time?

This is a temporary pause, and we neither know why it paused, or when or where it will return.
We only know that unlike all previous outbreaks, it hasn't burned out and gone away, and now it probably never will.

And as long as we allow them to do so, it's a virtual certainty that people will continue to get on planes there, and bring the disease here and to Europe, in both of which where it won't be noticed immediately, and will thus propagate and spread, and that if it does so over the 21-day incubation period, it could infect enough people that, just like in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, it will suddenly spread like wildfire, in cities where the Black Death isn't just hyperbole, but merely dimly recalled actual history. And then the Gods Of The Copybook Headings are going to have their due, in exponential hyperbolic glee, without any nod towards dismissive snark, nor any regard of officialdom's irrational exuberance.

And the bodies of the disbelieving and the slow to respond will be stacked like cordwood.

AM is, by any manner of measurement I can devise, a thoughtful and bright guy, a serving Army officer who evidently survived the recent purges, and in all likelihood, destined for field-grade and higher service.

So while we may occasionally disagree on finer points, I wish him nothing but the best, and hold his posts and comments in high regard, because he takes things apart and puts them together rationally, as a rule, if not entirely. If it were otherwise, he wouldn't be over there to the right on my Blog Roll.

But having noted that the figures we were being fed were pure crapola, pretty much for half a year, which was reported on, sourced, and fact-checked ad infinitum, I can't begin to understand when or why he ever thought it was otherwise, which is the kiss of death to ever understanding this disease or combating it scientifically and efficiently, let alone putting the slightest shred of faith in any official pronouncements regarding it.

My official policy remains: "Ebola: Run for your lives." because the signal to noise ratio is at best 1:10,000, and worse than that the higher up on the panjandrum scale any of TPTB reside.

I didn't think this was news anywhere, but evidently I haven't made the point frequently, forcefully, and cogently enough yet. My apologies for tiptoeing around that 800-pound gorilla.

Comments are wide open.

Monday, March 9, 2015

As the Tag Says, "Whatever Doesn't Kill Me..."


Greetings, visitors and any faithful readers.
Endless apologies for the continued delay in adding fresh content. Your patience will be repaid shortly. (Anyone betting you I'd shut up on the 'net very long, take the longest odds you can get, and retire early on your winnings.)

Work is work. To be more specific, it's five nights in a row/60-hour weeks, vs. my former 3 nights/36-hour weeks. And now at a new higher pay rate. It's amazing how hard you can work when the other choice is literal poverty. The paychecks are commensurately effing awesome. The only drawback is that my enforced unemployment came rather unexpectedly, and with my cash reserves on fumes, so I have a bit more catching up to do, but that's happening at 200% of the former speed it would have otherwise.

Cool things:
I now have direct experience with another dozen medium to large ERs locally.
I have met a lot of great folks, and am constructing a short list of places I'd consider making a full-time employment home.
Several of them started pitching me to sign on FT after seeing me for about two shifts.
While trying to keep my head from swelling about that, it's nice to
a) prove that you still have the chops to do the job, esp. serially in front of strangers, and
b) a little ego-stroking after the crotch-kick of getting shoved out the door at an employer isn't a bad thing.
If this is anything like what it's like to be a pretty girl from age 16-45 or so, I can at least understand some of the attitude that goes with it. Without the PMS complications.

That doesn't mean getting pushed into a pool of career icewater wasn't an effing PITA, but the end result will be that I'll probably make enough money this year to move into a higher tax bracket, and suffer the agony of being able to reach some lifelong financial goals in short order. Poor poor me.

A few other observations:
Keep a career back-up plan: a part-time job, small-potatoes self-employment, or whatever, but have a second gig. Something. Anything. Even if it's barely paying for itself, a small cash flow beats none at all, and your car doesn't run on a tankful of canned food or ammo reserves. Ask me how I know that.
While I likes me my firearms, I've always been a more well-rounded preparer than a gun nut, but if you've never visited the local collateral loan merchant (AKA pawn shop) you should be aware that any of Gaston Glock's tactical Tupperware is readily convertible to $250 cash money in most populated precincts, and that's without things nationwide being dire. So, for instance, three or four of them "extra" that you can part with for a few months equal your monthly readies. Again, ask me how I know.
Then imagine what their barter value might be under more dire circumstances. Esp. if you had a few spare magazines and a couple boxes of ammo apiece.
The same is most definitely not true of just about anything else you might think of.
Again, go visit the local hock shop, and chat them up, to get a no-BS idea of the actual value of things you might wish to convert to cash should the need arise. As someone who would formerly never have ventured into the pseudo Arab bazaar marketplace they represent until necessity forced my hand, you'll learn a few things, not only haggling, but you'll also get an idea of what's hot and what's not (e.g., any functional pistol is cash in the bank, whereas a brand new iPhone or high-end camera is nigh on worthless. Surprise.)

Free internet when money is tight is a gift from heaven (and Starbucks/Mickie D's/the local public library). With a laptop and the time, you can do for $0 what would otherwise be a couple of hundred $$ in cell/wifi bills. And if you haven't done a job search in awhile, the entire world is now online. Walking into an office with a resume these days is tantamount to telling an employer that you can take Morse code at 30 words a minute, or type at 80 words/minute, as if that should mean something to them.
(For those of you to whom Neil Armstrong and 8-track tapes are history as remote from you as the Thirty Years' War, Google "telegraph" and "typewriter". Those of us with underwear older than you are will quietly tolerate your confusion until you bone up on such arcana.)

OTOH, showing up on time (by which I mean early) with a good attitude, being flexible, and showing up, putting your head down, and getting the job done without any drama queenery once you get the job is timeless, in every career field since Thag and Og were making stylish saber-tooth cat skin leisure attire and chiseling wheels out of stone.
I save my sarcasm for here online, by and large. Believe me when I tell you it never wins you points at work, unless you own the joint.

Lest anyone think I'm going all Pollyanna, or selling out from financial necessity, let me assure you I've already collected a few choice bucketfuls of carefully distilled snark, soon to be shared here, and even more so over at Shepherd Of The Gurneys in upcoming installments. And then some. Suffice it to say that as much fun and pleasantness as I've discovered in my expanded work universe, the depths of Stupid out there are unplumbably bottomless, and probably incapable of measurement with existing instrumentation.

As an example I'll be explaining shortly, the level of emergency preparedeness even after the recent Ebola outbreak have proven inarguably that things are now not only far worse here than I predicted 6-8 months ago, they are worse than I could have imagined then or even now without the direct experience of seeing them again and again.

Which is a short tease of explaining that, No, Ebola Hasn't Gone Away, And It's Not Going To. Better effing believe there'll be more to come on that front in short order, just for one example. In fact, 2014 wasn't the problem, or even the wake-up call, it was more likely the last whistle stop before the missing bridge ahead. Stew on that, boys and girls.

So whatever you were doing to prepare for the vagaries of life before my hiatus, keep on knocking it out. Life is not going to get more predictable or happy for anyone any time soon, by any reasonable examination of the facts. Plan accordingly, and I'll be throwing out more details in coming days.