Monday, April 5, 2021

Grab bag and opinion. Your mileage will differ

Not a very productive day.

I took the Silverado into a mechanic because of issues with the brake/trans-shifter interlock. His test tool indicated it was likely to be the switch on the brake pedal.

This truck had brake-light issues before I bought it and the dealer monkeyed with the vehicle trying to sort it out. I can imaging the switch got fiddled with.

Kubota was exposed to Covid at work and it took some serious convincing to get him to go in for a test. It isn't just him. Belladonna (who has had both Moderna shots) works in a healthcare setting. Mrs ERJ had both of her Moderna. I had my first. Both Mrs ERJ and I take care of my mom on Fridays.

For what it is worth, Kubota is running a fever of 100.


I got a phone call from an engineer who I used to work with. He built a pole barn and is fixating on the posts he used. He described the oddity he had uncovered in the construction, a slightly undersized joint between the concrete piers and the 6"-by-6" posts.

Did I mention that this engineer designs things to withstand nuclear strikes and other severe events?

As I listened to the options he had come up with to remediate the issue (box in with plywood and fill box with concrete....and other options) it occurred to me that his building would survive any Michigan weather event short of a direct strike by a tornado...and nothing he could do would make it survive that.

Then he went off on a tangent about the "vaccine". Neither he nor his wife plan to take it.

So here are my thoughts on the vaccine:

Public health is not concerned so much about the outcome for the individual but with aggregate "statistics" or characteristics like mean-distance-between-naive-targets and "number of infected per patient" and "time patient remains infective" and "cost to treat a patient and opportunity costs incurred there-in".

Where Fauci jumped the shark is when he stopped thinking like a public-health epidemiologist and started attempting to re-engineer society to withstand direct hits by tornadoes and nuclear devices.

Herd immunity is an aggregate characteristic. Pockets of Covid will smolder but that should be a very minor concern for public health epidemiologists. Heck, Polio and Bubonic Plague are out there smoldering.

Magic Dirt

One thought that sticks with me is when large, successful landowners were driven out of Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). Their large operations were taken over by uneducated natives.

It is worth noting that Rhodesia was so successful at growing food that it was known as the Breadbasket of Africa.

Many of the natives who took over the land had never really "farmed" before. The woman may have scratched out a plot and grown some maize and pumpkins to stretch the food dollar but it was nothing like the scale of the large land-owners.

Is some cases, the natives had worked with the land-owners before driving them off or murdering them.

While the natives worked with the land-owners, they saw the land-owners spread fertilizer (i.e. "magic dirt") on their fields and immunize their cattle with vaccines.

After murdering them, the natives found places where the dirt looked like the material used for fertilizer and they spread that dirt on the fields.

For a while, there was enough residual fertility to produce some decent crops but then the yields fell off a cliff.

Same deal with the vaccines. The vaccines looked like a few drops of milk in a glass of water. Unfortunately, a few drops of milk in a glass of water do not protect cattle from the extreme disease pressure of Rhodesia and the cattle died like flies.

A more recent "magic dirt" example is from Flint, Michigan. Flint opened their own water treatment plant when the City of Detroit informed Flint that the cost of water was going to go up.

Suppliers of chemicals to treat drinking water informed the officials from the City of Flint that they needed to buy this-that-and-the-other thing. One of those chemicals was phosphate.

One of the Flint executives determined that he did not need to spend money on phosphate because A.) He knew people and could tell when somebody was trying to swindle him and B.) The physical quantity was so small it could not possibly be important.

Without the phosphate added to the drinking water, the lead in service pipes and solder experienced intergranular corrosion and kids in Flint experienced lead poisoning.

The commonality of all three stories is that the buyer (more accurately the person who decided to not-buy) did not trust the science because he could not see it or did not understand the mechanics behind it. The buyer thought he was sophisticated because he did not trust what others were trying to tell him.

I am still a trusting sort. From a public health standpoint, the vaccine would be useful even if it only conferred immunity to 65% of those who receive it.

Each bin shows the concentration of antibodies for "spike" proteins that are characteristic of the Covid virus. The three bins are "No vaccine", "after one dose of vaccine" and "after two doses of vaccine". The two separate clouds of data in each bin correspond to "never had Covid" and "already had Covid". Original image from Zerohedge

A marked-up version of the same data. From a public health perspective, the rna vaccines are effective at increasing the number of antibodies in most people. However, there are some people (perhaps HIV positive or in chemotherapy) who are relatively unresponsive to the vaccine.

What does this graphic tell us? First, realize that the vertical axis is logarithmic and every hash-mark varies by a factor of ten. The range of antibodies for a naive-naive subject (one who never had Covid and has not been vaccinated) ranges from 10e-2 to 3x10e+1. Stated another way, in one hundred random samples naive-naive patients, the person with the most anti-Covid antibodies has three thousand times more than the naive-naive with the fewest. In fact, 4% of the naive-naive sample had 1000 times more antibodies than the least protected naive-naive. Those four patients are circled in red.

Those four naive-naive patients also had as many antibodies as the median naive patient with one dose of the rna vaccine and the worst performing patient with two doses of rna vaccine (circled in purple).

The second take-away is that a single dose of the rna based vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) provide almost as many antibodies as a case of Covid-19.

The third take-away is that the typical naive patient who never had Covid and then received two doses of the rna based vaccine has approximately five-times the number of antibodies as the person who had a case of Covid.

This is not unique. Tetanus vaccines produce more antibodies than a case of lockjaw because tetanus infections typically occur in anaerobic pockets or clumps that are not accessible to the immune system. Apparently Covid has a bag-of-tricks to hide from our immune system, one of which is a pass-key to enter cells so quickly as to elude B-cells.

Please note that I am NOT trying to convince anybody to take the Covid vaccine. That is an intensely personal decisions. I am simply sharing the reasons why I, and Mrs ERJ took the vaccine.

Gratuitous garden picture

Lettuce seedlings. Can you tell the window was to the right of the seed tray?

Freezer update

I cancelled the delivery of the freezer. Eight-hundred-and-forty-six thanks to Chuck who commented on the April 1 post.

I read the reviews for that particular freezer. And even though the average was 4.5/5 for the reviews, there is a class-action suit against the manufacturer for paying reviewers to write positive reviews. Note: reviewers, not people who actually bought the unit.

Major problems included the door (not an issue for me) and the sealed unit durability (a show stopper).


  1. Neither the wife or I, at opposite ends of the political spectrum and aged 67 had any qualms at all about getting the vax at the earliest opportunity. Yeah, herd immunity blah blah blah civic duty and all that. We just want to go on living and not be afraid to go out.

  2. You're more than welcome. BTW, the horror reviews were across all brands of upright freezers - none seemed worse (or better) than any others. You do have to dig a bit to find the "actual buyer" reviews as opposed to the "paid reviews" but when you do it's quite enlightening.

    Everything's now made in China; Haier, IIRC, bought GE's appliance biz, Electrolux (Sweden) owns Frigidaire but guess where they're made...etc., etc.

    Appliances that used to outlast 3 generations now have an 8-10 year life span which, amazingly, the makers brag about (my LG washer came with "built to deliver at least 10 years of service" printed on the front of the manual). My fancy Whirlpool french door fridge (which lasted only 6 years) taught me how to "break the code" on appliances - "made in America" means "put together from parts shipped in from everywhere else." I now seek out verifiable buyer reviews like a lifetime CIA analyst, buy the absolute cheapest and feature-free appliances I can find and negotiate rudely and ruthlessly for the best strip-them-naked deal I can. They don't care enough about me as a customer to build stuff that lasts, so the least I can do is return the favor.

    Cars are on the same path. Itty bitty little turbo charged engines - smaller to save weight to meet the federally-imposed CAFE gas mileage standards - need turbos to get enough power to move the $@#$ car. They're 100K mile engines, not the 300-500K of "old style" 283 Chevy pushrod V-8s or the Dodge/Plymouth 318s. And, yes, grandad's '63 Impala eventually rusted out, but with the new cars one relatively minor crash damages so much structure they're totaled out.

    I cannot stop thinking about the life cycle energy costs of all this; thinner, lighter sheet metal, more plastic, turbos on tiny engines, etc. to save a few miles per gallon and reduce assembly manpower costs, but the cars (and "energystar" appliances, don't forget) get replaced every few years instead of running for 30 or more. I'd love to see an accurate and truthful comparison of "operating money saved" versus "cost of having to build a new one as a replacement every few years" for all this stuff.

    1. You were thinking you're saving money as a consumer? I was thinking they're making more as marketers, and with a more regular, predictable cash flow.

  3. So, covid, vacs, etc sometimes beginning a post like this is strange or difficult as finding a starting point is elusive. Prior to Thanksgiving my wife was involved in an unfortunate frozen turkey incident. That sounds more exotic or interesting than it really was.(wife is short,reached in a frozen foods bunker to find a bigger turkey, rested her side on said bunker to pull turkey, bruised ribs... hers not the turkey) This is not the first time she has bruised ribs in an odd way( a nurse where she works gave her a bear hug while lifting her, bruised ribs) . Since she works in a medical field and knows how little can be done for ribs since she's been there done that, she refused to go to the doctors. Between that point and a month later she had been tested(negative) several time because ... coworkers.Since there didn't seem to be much improvement weeks later I was finally able to get her to get checked out. Nurse practitioner looked at the x-rays and said no break must just be a bruise. Two days later the actually radiologist read the x-rays and said,"Uhhhhh you have pneumonia". Back to the doctors to get a script for antibiotics(and more tests this time a rapid AND a 5day which both came back neg AGAIN.) After the antibiotics didn't work, she was advised to go to a stat care where they did all the tests including a C T scan. They found the tell tale sign of "broken glass in the lungs and said you've got it ... but NOT ONE of the more that 8 actual tests in the preceding month showed positive(the only way we REALLY know she had it was her loss of the sense of taste). During all this time my wife and I slept in the same bed, ate at the same table watched the occasional tv show etc. During this time neither I nor the college aged kid got sick(I did have a three day mild cold). The wife has now had both shots and is long since back to work. As a side note, I've never had any of the childhood diseases. Not even chickenpox when the 1st wife got them. I had an opportunity to chat with the infection control doctor of a medium sized hospital and he told me that he thought my immune system must just be soooo bad that it didn't recognize these illnesses. I think my system is soooo GOOD that most illnesses go running to their mommies when they run into me, but he's the one that's been to med school, not me. All of this is a lead in to me trying to decide if I really want the darn shots. If I can get the J & J maybe but the "experimental" ones uhhh. In my state the psa's about the "vacs" have ended with their triad of truth " safe, effective, and well tested". My view is none of those three statements have been very well proved.

    1. As long as the vaccine is a political football i will not take it.

  4. Uninformed: Ref your statement, "In my state the psa's about the "vacs" have ended with their triad of truth " safe, effective, and well tested". My view is none of those three statements have been very well proved."

    maybe they hedge it as "...for certain values of "safe". certain values of "effective, and certain values of "well tested"'

    sort of like, "Well, Larry, Darryl and Darryl all agreed it was safe and effective, so, it's well tested!"

  5. "a slightly undersized joint between the concrete piers and the 6"-by-6" posts" Can you elaborate on this? I have some experience with building design and can't make sense of this.

    1. I was not sent a drawing but this is the best I was able to weave together in my head based on what my friend told me over the phone.

      Piers (I assume they are concrete) were sunk into the ground (Kalkaska sand) and the tops of the piers had a "clevis" (his word" on top that accepted 6" square glue-lam, vertical support beams.

      The "clevis" does not accept the full 6" post but approximately 3-3/4" of it so the people erecting the building had to whittle the end of the 6" square posts into 6" by 3-3/4" rectangles to insert into the clevis. The joint is approximately 12" above the poured, concrete floor.

      I have never seen anything like this kind of construction and my mental image may be way-off in the weeds.

    2. Sounds like they used an anchor for a 4X6 rather than a 6X6. Probably a Simpson CBS46 or CBSQ46. Probably OK if the anchor is embedded to the proper depth and the post rests directly on the base offset.


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