Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘health

Third COVID Anniversary / Follow-up: Various

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In a few days, we will have the third anniversary of my first text on COVID.* In the year since the last anniversary, COVID-mania has petered out and I am going through a period of low motivation to write. Correspondingly, I will just mention a few brief points:

*See [1] for the original text and [2] resp. [3]/[4] for the previous anniversaries.

  1. These new twelve months have, again, confirmed my fear that the countermeasures would do more harm than good. They did—and by a very considerable distance.
  2. There are some (based on my state of knowledge) inconclusive signs that the after effects of the countermeasures, especially lockdowns and market sabotage, will continue to hit the business world, that many who managed to get through the prime crisis were left sufficiently injured and with sufficiently reduced reserves that they might yet falter. (Not to mention the losses in e.g. missed growth opportunities for those who do survive.)
  3. The likely long-term effects on humans, especially on children, might be far worse. Adult health, youth education, socialization of infants, whatnot, have all suffered massively through the countermeasures. Here, too, much of the damage might only become noticeable in the future.
  4. Developments in knowledge during these three years have almost without exception come down on the side of the “sceptics” and against the likes of Fauci, Birx, and Ferguson. COVID, lockdowns, masks, vaccines, …—on each item, the “sceptics” were right and the self-proclaimed “experts” wrong.
  5. Nevertheless, there are large groups, especially of politicians, who stubbornly insist that this-or-that was a success, that millions of lives were saved, that inflation is just “greedy capitalists” (“price gougers”, Putin, or similar), whatnot. Whether this is stupidity/ignorance or intellectual dishonesty, I do not know, but it is absurd, intolerable, and horrifying.
  6. There are no true signs that the reckoning that is so urgently needed will take place. At the end of the day, the perpetrators of this travesty, be they incompetents or evil manipulators, will get away unpunished, unless some drastic change takes place. Bad as that is, the worst part is that the main reason for a reckoning is to prevent repetitions. Without a reckoning, repetitions are more likely, especially if large parts of the population have already been indoctrinated into seeing various idiocies as normal and acceptable.

Excursion on “amnesties” and the like:
A common attitude among the early COVID-fanatics in light of later developments (apart from the aforementioned denial) is some variation of “We did what we thought right, no-one could have foreseen what would happen, and we cannot be blamed!”. Well, there were a great many others who did foresee what would or could happen, be it with an eye at the economy (like yours truly), at medical issues (note, in particular, the Great Barrington Declaration), at consequences for children, whatnot. Moreover, many of us openly warned about negative consequences. Our warnings were ignored—worse, we were condemned and defamed en masse as e.g. COVIDiots, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers,* anti-science extremists,** peddlers of mis- and disinformation, … But now, they suddenly claim that no-one could have foreseen this-and-that!

*Notably, with no regard for the degree of opposition (including very sensible positions like a “test more before we inject half the world”) and with no regard for opposition to specifically the COVID vaccines vs. opposition to vaccines in general, which is a very, very different thing.

**The idea that someone like yours truly would be anti-science, even without the “extremist”, is absurd—and quite insulting.

To any policy maker or advisor who calls for a self-serving amnesty: Not only should you have foreseen the potential negative issues on your own, had you had a brain and actually used it, but you were told about the potential negative issues—you were outright and explicitly told! You have no excuse whatsoever and you have no right to an amnesty. That you have the inexcusable audacity to ask for one merely serves to condemn you further.

Excursion on the “precautionary principle”:
A common excuse by COVID-fanatics is the “precautionary principle”, that we must act strongly because we do not know how bad COVID could be. This is disingenuous and turns the world on its head. In truth, the “precautionary principle” would dictate that we proceed with caution with the countermeasures, as we know that humanity easily survived e.g. the Spanish Flu,* but we do not know how bad e.g. the effects of lockdowns would be—those of us who used our heads and understood even elementary economics knew that they would be bad, but to predict the exact consequences was near impossible. If we look at the vaccines, there might never, through the entire course of human history, have been a better example of when the “precautionary principle” should have been applied—to not inject (or try to inject) billions of humans with multiple doses of poorly tested vaccines. What if things had gone very, very wrong? (As opposed to the “somewhat wrong” that we have reason to suspect today.) What if the vaccines had turned out to be troublemakers on par with Thalidomide? Certainly, no precautionary argument concerning something so trivial as COVID could have outweighed that risk.

*Note that even the very early estimates around COVID, outside the panic-mongering of idiots like Ferguson, pointed to a lesser danger than once from the Spanish Flu—and incomparably lesser than from some of the epi- and pandemics of even earlier times. As is, COVID turned out to be closer to the regular flu than to the Spanish… For that matter, cancer kills more humans per year, year in and year out, than COVID.

Then there is the damage to Rechtsstaatlichkeit and democracy… To this, note that principles of this type are especially important when things go wrong, to prevent governmental and other abuse, to reduce the risk of totalitarianism and dictatorships, etc. To swear by such principles in times of smooth running and then to abolish them when a crisis appears, well, that is incompatible with the very ideas behind them—like building and bragging about a storm cellar and then, when a tornado actually comes, to remain above ground “because reasons”. Again, the “precautionary principle” speaks against the policies of the COVID-fanatics—the true COVIDiots.


Written by michaeleriksson

March 12, 2023 at 1:22 pm

Follow-up: Some observations around a weird illness

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As noted in an earlier text, I had a weird-but-short illness almost three weeks ago—from almost top-shape to very ill to semi-shape in a day or so. (And almost top-shape another day later, but after publication.)

However, I still have a major problem with sleep and tiredness, if not as major as on the day in question. Compared to my normal state, I have been much more mentally sluggish, low in energy, unable to get to working, etc., through a large part of most days; and I have on several days lost a few hours entirely to failed attempts to go to sleep or to simply vegetating, because I have been too tired to even keep my eyes open. Today and yesterday have been particularly bad.

As of now, among the main candidates, I am uncertain whether this is some issue caused directly by the illness, just a temporary continuation of the sleep disturbance from the main day of illness, or a temporary sleep disturbance coincidentally occurring close in time to the illness. (I have experienced similar situations in the past, but never for so long and only rarely to such a degree.)

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January 28, 2023 at 4:54 pm

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Some observations around a weird illness

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On Sunday, I was feeling a little under the weather, but not in a manner that pointed to anything unusual.

On Monday, I woke up very prematurely, with a headache, and feeling very under the weather. Within hours, the headache had turned splitting and I had developed a very high* fever. The rest of the day was both a waste and highly unpleasant. I tried to distract myself through light reading and watching some movie or other, but found this near impossible: on the one hand, I was, for long stretches, so sleepy that I could not concentrate; on the other, the headache was so bad that I often found myself unable to overcome it and actually get around to reading—despite knowing that such activities can distract from an illness and make the illness less of a burden. Except for a very brief wink here and there, I could not sleep either, be it because of being too tired** or because the headache grew worse when I laid down on the side (which is my preferred sleeping position; I find it very hard to sleep on my back). In terms of health-related discomfort, boredom, whatnot, this was one of the worst days that I have ever had; and, apart from two cases of food-poisoning, it might have been the single most abrupt drop in health that I have ever experienced.

*For want of a suitable thermometer, I do not know how high. Based on general feeling and own-hand-to-forehead tests, inexact as they are, it was one of my worst. (Here and elsewhere, I caution that my worst might be well short of issues experienced by many others and that many claims carry an unstated “by my standards” disclaimer.)

**Paradoxically, I often have problems with sleeping when I am in the greatest need of sleep. I do not know why, but I suspect that my brain or body becomes stuck in a “remain awake” mode once a certain barrier of being awake relative being asleep is passed. This manifests in both trouble going to sleep and shortened sleep phases.

Today, Tuesday, I woke up feeling much better. I was still ill and still worse than on Sunday, but it might be the single most abrupt improvement of health that I have ever experienced. The fever was (going by my subjective and inexact tests) gone, after having been diminished late on Monday. I had some remnants of the headache in the morning, but it soon disappeared. Some feeling of weakness was left and I had a few instances of a new cough, but not very many (and none in the last few hours). I also suspect that I managed to get an unusually long and deep sleep between the days, as my sleepiness was similarly reduced, but I have no recollection of when I would have fallen asleep. I even managed to go grocery shopping in the morning without stretching* myself.

*An important restriction. So far, I have been able to accomplish almost any attempted everyday activity of a physical nature even when very ill, by making natural accommodations (e.g. walking slower). The issue is more one of discomfort, pain, and/or lethargy than of “cannot”—but going grocery shopping when a little ill and when very ill remain two quite different things, and I naturally tend to avoid the latter whenever I can draw on existing supplies.

(As for Wednesday and onwards, we will have to see. A slight cause for pessimism is that illnesses are prone to linger for a prolonged time with me, even after their culmination.)

Two additional observations:

Firstly, I found the mental activities during Monday’s illness worse than the physical activities. For instance, standing up from the floor (I have a somewhat Japanese sleeping arrangement) was easier than reading a chapter of a book.

Secondly, based on the claim that fever is a part of the body’s defenses, not just a random symptom, I deliberate did very little to reduce the fever, including abstaining from any and all pills, and kept myself well bedded down, until I reached a point where I feared growing too warm. Whether this helped, however, is impossible to say with only one data point and no control group. Apart from that, I followed standard advice of drinking much water (of which much-less-than-normal was coffee) and kept my energy intake up, even at the cost of shifting my diet too far towards cookies and too far away from healthy and vitamin-rich.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 10, 2023 at 11:44 pm

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My depressing loss of endurance

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During the COVID-countermeasure era, I have lost my habit of walking to stay in reasonable “cardio shape”. Yesterday, I set out to break the trend, by going for a long walk, partially in hilly areas.*

*In my estimate, I ended up somewhere in the range 12–15 km. Due to the hills, which make a major difference, this would have been no triviality even in the past, but the comparison of effects is depressing.

The result was not only ample proof of how much I have lost, but also of how many training effects can play in that do not normally register. (There is also the issue of experiences forgotten—like the benefit of ensuring that toe nails are cut and that hydration is kept up before walking longer distances. I dropped the ball on both.)

The first half (give or take) was OK. I did not have quite the drive in my step of the past, but I felt just fine. The second and hillier half saw me run out of energy to the point that I had to stop repeatedly,* caused cramps in my hip muscles and an unusual amount of leg weakness,** left me with sore feet,*** saw me with some bend in the neck and upper back,**** and this, and that. While I have been more tired in individual peaks before, e.g. after taking a long and steep hill at some tempo, I cannot recall ever being so tired for so long before. In particular, I am used to, to some degree, resting and recuperating on flat stretches (while still walking), which simply did not work this time around—instead, I actually had to stop to rest.*****

*Lack of cardio endurance.

**Muscles not used to prolonged stress. Cramping might or might not have been partially due to dehydration, but definitely not entirely, as I have been dehydrated before during such walks without so severe problems.

***Feet not used to that many steps. Some soreness would likely have been present in the past too, but no to this degree. On the upside, and to my surprise, there was no actual blistering.

****Walking does not just hit the legs. The upper back, relating to posture and arm movements, is another important area—and another one no longer used to the prolonged effort. (I do some minor strength training, but that helps little with this type of endurance.)

*****Recuperation, in at least some regards, takes place when the stress on the body falls below some individual level that depends on personal shape. This change, compared to past long walks, might be the single most telling one.

Once back home, I was very unproductive and had the unexpected problem that one of my upper-back muscles cramped very painfully when I tried to stand up. While this cramp did not resurface when I tried again a minute-or-so later, it was another reminder of how many muscles are involved in walking.

Today, unsurprisingly, I woke up to the sorest muscles I have had in many, many years…

On the upside: A sign that I am still far from lost was the last hundred or so meters to my apartment, where I coincidentally shared my route with someone who appeared to be in truly poor shape (but presumably was much less tired): I walked past him with ease, having a considerably higher natural speed even at this stage of exhaustion. When the road turned from flat to steep, for the last section of the journey, I took a break to catch my breath. He caught up and went past me. I crossed to “‘my” side of the road and began the ascent. As I looked back when opening the door, I found that he had managed half the distance, give or take.

Excursion on COVID-countermeasures:
As I have warned for well over two years, the countermeasures do/did more harm than good, including through indirect effects like this one. It is true that my own lack of self-discipline plays in, but I very, very much doubt that my situation of loss of training through loss of continuity is unique. Even if we look just at health, through such and other effects, the countermeasures are bound to have caused a greater loss, including of years-of-life, than COVID, it self, ever could have.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 21, 2022 at 9:52 am

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A few words on COVID vaccines / Addendum: Second COVID Anniversary

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In yesterday’s anniversary text ([1]), I left out a few points around vaccines that I had planned to include:

Firstly, I have made one highly incorrect prediction (but I am not certain that I ever put it in writing): If the vaccines proved problematic, then the Biden administration would immediately cease its attempts to take credit from Trump (“These are Biden’s vaccines. They have always been Biden’s vaccines.”) in order to wash its own hands and blame him (“These are Trump’s vaccines. They have always been Trump’s vaccines.”).

The vaccines did prove problematic—and, to my great surprise, Biden et al. doubled down on the lie that they were not. In retrospect, this might not be that surprising, as it fits well with the overall approach to COVID both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. (Cf. [1] and how compliance and whatnot appears more important than truth. This likely with an element of “never admit that you were wrong”, which seems to be a politician’s motto.)

This has been taken so far that even the benefits of natural immunity have been drowned out in the propaganda and, now, when natural immunity is slowly admitted, we hear that “The virus is a vaccine! How lucky are we?!? (But not as good a vaccine as a real vaccine!!!)”. This, of course, turns the world on its head: a vaccine is an attempt to gain the immunity caused by a real infection without the disadvantages (say, the risk of death) from such an infection. To call the virus a vaccine shows such a complete lack of insight into the matter, or so horrifying an intellectual dishonesty, that a summary firing should be the consequence. It is the more absurd, as there is disagreement whether the vaccines actually are vaccines, or merely something “vaccinoid”.

Secondly, vaccines (in particular; other counter-measures in general) appear to have gone from a means to an end, i.e. a way to fight COVID, to an end in it self.* As is often the case, politicians, journalists, and their ilk, have not kept the eye on the ball and asked questions like “Why?” and “What do we want to achieve?”. Instead, vaccines, or rather a high vaccination ratio, has become the end: We must have a high vaccination ratio! (Why? Because we must have a high vaccination ratio!!!!) We must push vaccinations on school children! (Why? Because we must push vaccinations on school children!!!!)

*Note that this can be seen as an alternative and/or complementary explanation to the “enforce compliance” explanation for some odd governmental behaviors.

This, admittedly, is a somewhat common human failing, and not one that I am immune to, myself, but that makes it all the more important to be aware of it. Larger organisations, including governments, should certainly make the effort to have some type of check or repeating reminder, possibly even some type of “means or end” manager. (And even for e.g. the individual citizen, it can pay to occasionally ask “Why do I do this? Is this activity a means to an end or has it become an end in it self? What ends do I really want to reach?” and similar.)

Thirdly, the general “public policy” approach to the development of the vaccines was fundamentally flawed. (And, yes, this is a point where I would put significant blame on Trump.)

My impression of the background thinking is that “Capitalism can move mountains. Let it do so with the vaccines!”. So far, I would actually agree, but the approach in detail was deeply flawed. In particular, the point of (medical) capitalism is not to heal or prevent but to earn money—and this appears to have been forgotten. (Indisputably, the vaccines have been far more successful as money makers than as vaccines, per se. This is another example of means vs ends: To a company like Pfizer, healing is one of the means, while making money is the end. This is as it should be, but others must remember this in their dealings with such companies.)

How could this have been done better, if we did want to use capitalism effectively? By all means, waive some of the usual protocols and test requirements.* However, make sure that the vaccines are taken only on a voluntary basis,** and that the citizens are given enough information for informed consent. Moreover, do not waive e.g. the possibility of liability claims and do not promise to cover such claims on behalf of the vaccine makers. Now, let anyone qualified who wants to make a vaccine make and sell a vaccine to those who want to take one (and paid for by the user or his insurance—not the government). If e.g. the increased liability risk is a fear for the vaccine makers (understandable), it must simply have the individual give informed consent that he waives the liability (possibly, partially or merely with an upper cap) in order to buy the vaccine—which, given current data, might still be a rational decision for the 80 y.o. with multiple health issues, but not for the perfectly healthy 20 y.o.

*Under the assumption that we really want to have vaccines at “warp speed”. Considering the comparative triviality of COVID (compared e.g. to the Spanish Flu), I am not convinced that this is a good idea, but it has certainly been the “official” premise.

**A necessity due to the waivers. There might or might not be some room for truly exceptional exceptions, but e.g. a mere “works in a hospital” is well short of that standard—let alone a “works with others in an office or a factory”.

Yes, this might have given us vaccines later and/or another set of vaccines and/or more expensive vaccines (notably, to compensate for the greater risk for the vaccine makers), but this is not really a bad thing, considering the dubious record of the actual current vaccines. In the alternate reality, we have preserved the right of the citizen to choose, we have kept the responsibility for flawed products on the product maker, etc. Vaccines would be brought onto the market when the maker foresees a net win from sales profits over liability claims,* which implies a greater degree of own confidence in the product. Etc.

*As opposed to the current sales profits with no liability claims. (Here, I take sales profits to imply revenue minus more regular costs, e.g. for development, production, and distribution.)

(This is just a rough outline/illustration of principle. Going into details, there are many questions to answer, e.g. whether a vaccine maker should be allowed to move this specific operation to a limited-liability subsidiary.)

Written by michaeleriksson

March 6, 2022 at 10:14 am

Second COVID Anniversary / Follow-up: Various

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We are not quite at the second year anniversary of my first text on COVID (COVID-19 reactions doing more harm than good?), but I might as well get it out of the way, especially as it ties in with some recent texts on my personal situation.

To begin, I will simply quote a portion of last year’s anniversary text:

[…] that the risks of isolation are severe and that the damage to the economy outweighed any gains from the lock-downs. Above all, perhaps, that politicians do not act in a reasonable and reasoned manner, based on scientific evidence (and a reasonable evaluation of such) and a holistic view that takes side-effects and opportunity costs into consideration. Even were the countermeasures justified and beneficial, which seems even less plausible today than back then, they do not constitute good decision-making but, on the outside, luck with pinning the tail on the COVID-donkey.

Another year in, and with reservations for very recent developments, this holds even more strongly now than it did back then—another year of abject failure, of propaganda posing as science, of unnecessary economic damage, whatnot.

The second year has certainly been far harder on me, personally, than the first, for reasons like growing frustration with and anger at governmental malpractice and disgusting propaganda (cf. below), my reduced ability to escape construction noise, the harsher shutdowns, etc., etc. Note e.g. that it has been roughly a year-and-a-half since I last visited a restaurant or even a cafe, that a visit to my father that was planned for the summer of 2020 has been delayed by almost two years (and counting),* that the limited opportunities to do something in town have reduced my motivation to leave the house, in turn reducing both my amount of exercise and my exposure to sunshine.

*Note that we live in different countries.

A few recent articles, e.g. The Nudge: Ethically Dubious and Ineffective from the Brownstone Institute, have dealt with the topic of “nudging”—a grossly unethical and destructive attempt by various governments to impose the ‘right” opinions on the population. (And the source of many inexcusable claims, e.g. the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” bullshit.) It is not the job of the government to govern the opinions of the people—the government is to be governed by the opinions of the people.* If not, we do not have a democracy. Worse, if those in power can dictate what opinions others should have, then we risk a further cementing of opinion corridors, with the associated loss of science, progress, free debate, whatnot.

*Which is not to say that a government, even in a democracy, should flail about like a weathervane as the whims of the public change. However, there must be a clear mentality of the politicians being the servants of the people, not its masters.

Indeed, in my previous anniversary text, I also wrote:

Worse, and something that I might have failed to predict or deduce, is an amount of misinformation which goes beyond what reasonable could arise, even taking the understandable early lack of knowledge into account. This might be sheer incompetence, but I cannot deny a very strong suspicion that politicians have deliberately lied in order to get the people to do what the politicians wanted. (Remember that slowly boiling frog?) For instance, few would go to the barricades over “two weeks to flatten the curve”, but very many would have over “it will be months and months and no end in sight, even a year later”.

This, too, has been supported by the subsequent events. (And while the end might be in sight this time, “a year” has been superseded by “two years”.)

A particular sub-issue is how this type of “nudging” and other manipulation is often based on the assumption of a complete idiot at the other end—as with much of advertising and “public relations” work. Maybe, the idiots are fooled, but what about those who are intelligent, think critically and for themselves, want actual scientific evidence,* etc.?

*As opposed not just to sloganeering but also to empty claims of scientific evidence.

Chances are that they will not only remain sceptical, but that they will grow more sceptical due to the cheap and intellectually dishonest argumentation. Indeed, in many cases, they might even be infuriated (as I have often been) by some of the manipulation attempts. Shaming attempts is something that I consider particularly offensive and particularly unconvincing—I viewed them as nonsensical and insulting even as a child. That I have to endure them as an adult is inexcusable. (The more so, as the ones attempting the shaming are usually of far lesser intelligence and insight.)

Indeed, I repeat my observation that publicity work is often directed at claiming the exact opposite of the truth. (Presumably, in the belief that “fixing” public opinion is easier and/or cheaper than fixing the actual problem.) Often, the claims are the louder and the more transparent the more severe the problem. For instance, among my recent mail, I have several claims from my health insurer (HUK Coburg) that I would receive terrific service and value for my money, winning over the entire line—but, in reality, this company is a fucking travesty, rent seekers protected by governmental coercion of customers, delivering over-expensive, low-value products, sometimes crossing the border to what I would consider criminal behavior, and showing horrifying signs of incompetence, to the point that even a notification that I have moved has overtaxed them.* But what happens when I am told that I am lucky to have the honor of being a customer? Do I go from severely dissatisfied to happy? Hell no! I am insulted, I grow angry, and I become even more dissatisfied. It is the same thing with the misleading government propaganda, which ignores facts and arguments in favor of assertion, emotional manipulation, and shaming attempts—I am insulted, I grow angry, and I become even more sceptical to the next thing that the government claims.

*I am still a “health” customer only because switching health insurers is tricky. A number of other policies that I once had with the same company are long terminated.

Moreover, the reactions of various groups, notably governments, seem more directed at stomping out dissent than at achieving something real. The point is not whether lockdowns, masks, vaccines work and/or are harmless—the point is that “we said so and you have to conform”. The point is not whether someone without a mask risks his own or someone else’s health—the point is that someone without a mask defies the will of the government. (Cf. similar problems with e.g. far-Left hate-mongering in various countries. Note how far too many issues, especially involving the Left, have turned into quasi-religious crusades, where emotions, unfounded and superficial beliefs, and “personal truth” rule, while facts, arguments, and actual truth are ignored or even condemned.)

Looking back at some of my own early COVID-texts, they would often have gone even further, had I known back then what I know today. No, I am not talking about COVID-specific developments, but of more generic medical and epidemiological knowledge. For instance, I did not have a clear understanding of the difference between being infected and being a “case” resp. the “infection fatality rate” and the “case fatality rate”. (Then again, neither media nor politicians seemed to have such an understanding either.) For instance, there have been many claims made by e.g. various governments that seemed at least potentially plausible to me at the time, but are not so from a more informed point of view. The likely most notable example is the idea that COVID could be more-or-less exterminated even after a non-trivial international spread had already taken place and despite the high infectiousness. As the weeks went by, it became clear to me that this would not happen, but it should have been clear much earlier, possibly even at the time of my first text.

(Indeed, even in the early days, there were experts, e.g. immunologists, who clearly said that this or that is unlikely to work, violates prior practices, whatnot. They were ignored or condemned back then—but two years of experiences have proved them right.)

A particularly interesting case is the variations of “two weeks to flatten the curve”: I was sceptical from the beginning, because an exponential curve which is temporarily restrained would not be permanently flattened—once the flattening measures were removed, it would come roaring back. (In other words, it is less of a flattening and more of a postponement.) But let us call it “two weeks to give society and the healthcare system time to adapt”, which seemed somewhat plausible to me. Looking back, this adaption does not seem to have brought much and, if anything, it would have been better to flatten the curve when it had already grown steeper. Instead, I very strongly suspect, the “two weeks” were never about flattening or postponing anything—they were a matter of getting a foot in the door, so that two weeks could grow to four, eight, sixteen, whatnot weeks, while the frog boiled. Indeed, only after almost two years do the lockdowns and other overreaching countermeasures seem (knock on wood) to be on the way out.

Overlapping, there is one area where I am torn on whether I made a major error in prediction (most of the time, I have been right, even with the burden of some early medical naivete):

In a text from March 2020, I say:

The last (2020-03-30) data for Germany above has 57,298 cases and 455 deaths. The corresponding (yearly) numbers for influenza regularly go into the millions and the thousands, respectively—in Germany alone. It is not a given that COVID-19 will reach even that level—and it is outright unlikely that the numbers will be an order higher.

Official statistics at the moment have many millions of infections* and well above a hundred thousand dead**. At the two year mark, it is unfair to compare with a single (regular) influenza season, but it seems fair to say that the (regular) influenza numbers have been exceeded. (While still being well short of a truly severe influenza outbreak, notably the “Spanish Flu”.) When it comes to “an order higher”, things grow complicated (cf. footnotes and note that the influenza often has similar problems). For a comparison, look at German Wikipedia and the 2017/2018 flu season, which was an unusually bad year (but did not break through to Spanish-Flu levels):

*Not cases. This includes those who have tested positive but do not display enough symptoms to be considered cases. Chances are that I misused “case” in the original quote, however. Of course, the number also excludes those who were infected (or even cases) without being tested. I make great reservations for the use of the widely discredited PCR test, which is highly prone to false positives (at least, as used to test for COVID).

**But note that a poor separation between “died with” and “died from” could make this number misleading.

Das Robert Koch-Institut schätzt die Zahl der Toten durch Influenza in jener Saison in Deutschland jedoch insgesamt auf 25.100

(The Robert Koch-Institut estimates 25.100 deaths through influenza in that season in Germany)

We can see (a) that COVID is not astronomical worse than the 2017/18 flu (but might be for some lesser year), (b) that speaking of an order more in terms of deaths* might be justifiable when we look at the COVID epidemic in its entirety. We might be around a factor 5 at the moment, which is short of the roughly 10 usually used, but, logarithmically, we are closer to 10 than to 1 and COVID is still ongoing.**

*But not necessarily cases or infections. I see no good numbers on the linked-to page, but influenza is typically less deadly, which makes it likely that the difference (relative the difference in deaths) is considerably smaller.

**Order (of magnitude) is a somewhat vague concept and the focus on factors of 10 is a consequence of the number system used, with no “higher” meaning. The limits between them is similarly vague, but I often think in terms of the square-root of 10 or approx. 3.16, i.e. that the “range” of 10 is 3.16 to 31.6, the range of 100 is 31.6 to 316, etc. Above, 5 > 3.16 and therefore in the range of 10, not the range of 1 (i.e. 0.316 to 3.16). (However, chances are that I used a more simplistic 10-vs-1 thinking when writing the quoted text.)

On the other hand, if we look at comparable waves, e.g. the flu of 2017/18 against the original COVID, Delta, or Omicron, a different situation might apply—and the question arises, which comparison is the most fair. (To which I have no good answer or would answer “it depends”.) This is also where my original naivete plays in, in that I thought too much of COVID as one season or wave, which would run its course and then disappear—possibly, for the duration; possibly, until next year. This season or wave might well have been considerably longer than a flu season, but would not have lasted for years. Here I was, in part, too influenced by what I knew about the flu, in part, too influenced by the official propaganda of “if we lock down and wear masks, we can exterminate COVID”, which, of course, turned out to be complete bullshit.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 3, 2022 at 11:00 am

The reserve theory of survival

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As an addendum to some of my texts on COVID (e.g. [1] from earlier today):

In my thinking around survival and longevity, I tend to rely on the “reserve theory [of survival]” or “reserve principle [of survival]”. (For want of a better name. While the idea is reasonably obvious, and likely to have been had by a great many others, I cannot recall ever having encountered it outside my own thinking, and I am not aware of any names other than my own.)

The idea is that we all have a certain reserve in various bodily functions/organs/whatnot that is more than enough to handle a relaxed and unstressed situation, even for most elderly. However, if these reserves are exhausted, either because of an increase in stress or a decrease in the reserves, then we have a problem—possibly, a deadly one. For instance, that very old lady might have enough reserves to e.g. go to the store, but if her handbag is snatched, trying to run down the thief might be too much. Similarly, a bout of flu might reduce her reserves to the point of making even a store visit a life-threatening experience. (Leaving aside whether someone with the flu, irrespective of age, should be running around town.)

These bodily whatnots include factors like heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, … Even someone with e.g. a bad case of liver disease can live in the now, at least with some care, and maybe even reach a respectable age, but his life expectancy is likely to be well short of what it could have been, because further losses of liver function are covered by lesser reserves than they would have been with a healthy liver.

The problem with age is, of course, that various damages, wear and tear, age related deficits, whatnot accumulate over the years, while the state of training tends to worsen. (With the lesson that those things that we can still train with age might be well worth training. It is no coincidence that the active elderly tend to live longer than the inactive.)

A good example is the heart, in a simplified model, where two values, resting heart rate and maximal heart rate, can illustrate the reserve. A sporty teen might have a resting heart rate of 50* beats per minute and a maximal heart rate above 200—a reserve of more than a 150 beats per minute or 300% compared to just resting. Wait until the same person has grown 90 and out of shape, and the same numbers might be 100 and 120—a reserve of 20 beats per minute and 20%. Which incarnation will have a problem with that flu?

*Numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. They are intended for illustration, not medical exactness. (But I do not consider them unreasonable.)

A problem with both the vaccine debate, in as far as risks are at all acknowledged, and medicine in general is that there is little concern for such reserves—the patient survived now and what comes later is not our problem. If that lung cancer patient had one lung removed to successfully remove the cancer, he was “healed”—but what about his life expectancy with that lung gone? How many years of his life might that have cost him? (But note that I am not saying that the decision to operate was faulty. It might very well have been the lesser evil and an objectively correct decision. The point is that there is a difference between truly being healed and being “healed”.)

Now, looking at COVID vaccines: Let us say that someone experience some side-effect, e.g. a heart issue, for some time, and then bounces back. There was no death—so no big deal. Right? But what if the side-effect left a permanent reduction in reserves? A little bit of scarring on the heart muscle, e.g., might not be very dangerous at twenty—but what about the same heart sixty years later? It might, for instance, be the difference between a deadly and an almost deadly heart-attack, because the reserves needed to survive were not there.

(Of course, similar thinking might be needed with COVID, it self, or any other disease.)

An outright disgusting related area is the description of some developmental problems affecting the brain with e.g. “most have a normal intelligence”. The hitch? The word “normal” is taken to imply an IQ above 70, or two standard deviations below the mean. These cases of “normal” intelligence might then have taken a hit of two standard deviations compared to where they “should” have been—a truly massive loss. In individual cases, we might have someone who “should” have been a genius, suffered some mishap, and ended up with an IQ half of what he might have had—-but, because he is still above 70, he is deemed of “normal” intelligence.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 20, 2022 at 5:19 pm

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COVID counter-measures (!) wrecking immune systems / Follow-up: COVID-19 reactions doing more harm than good?

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I just encountered a very disturbing read. Among* the claims made:

*I recommend reading the original text in full. The inconsistent quotation marks are present in the original.

Children need to come into contact with dirt (or put more scientifically: bacteria, microorganisms, viruses in general) in order to build immune systems that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

“All the sanitary measures necessary in a pandemic” have meant that this very necessary contact has been massively reduced, pediatrician Mário Cordeiro tells the paper, leading to babies and toddlers particularly becoming dangerously ‘vulnerable’.

This is yet another indication that the counter-measures against COVID are doing more damage than COVID—a cure worse than the disease by far. (And not a very good cure either, at that. Witness Sweden and Florida.)

Apart from the specifics of the article, there are at least two more abstract points illustrated, which, in turn, illustrate the problems with such massive interventions.

Firstly, any major (and many minor) changes of the status quo are likely to have unexpected* side-effects, especially when they are very prolonged. I would argue that even the highly predictable side-effects of the COVID lockdowns and other interventions, e.g. bankruptcies, should have been enough to bring more caution; however, the risk of unexpected side-effects makes it that much more important to be cautious.

*With hindsight (cf. excursion), I do not find this surprising and others might have seen the risk a lot earlier. Maybe, I just missed the risk because my main period of interest was over after the first few months; maybe, I would have missed it anyway. It seems fair to assume, however, that our nitwit politicians did miss it, as they failed to recognize even the more obvious and more short-term threats (and/or willfully choose to ignore them).

Secondly, over-protection is a bad thing. Now, drawing the line between protection and over-protection can be hard, but most of the Western world is highly over-protective. Consider not just COVID and all the “for your own good” measures, but also e.g. colleges that try to prevent (!) students from coming into contact with claims that they disagree with; welfare systems that do not just help the truly needy, instead opting for an elimination of personal responsibility, giving incentives for low earners not to work at all, etc.; schools that do not allow children to walk between school and a near-by home; or so extensive healthcare that biological fitness, be it in evolutionary terms or, similar to the above, short-term individual fitness, is increasingly taken out of the equation, ensuring more and more medical troubles over time. Then (cf. excursion) there is the attitude of many parents …

Excursion on over-protection and myself:
I had an over-protective mother, of whom the above quote reminds me. I was big on putting sand, pebbles, whatnot in my mouth as small child, which always caused protests, often even physical interventions, from my mother. She was certainly well-intentioned and I have since grown to find the habit disgusting, but since I first heard claims like the first paragraph above, I have wondered whether she did not do more harm than good. Her over-protection definitely held me back at times. I can e.g. recall visiting my cousins, who showed me how to use a small* weed-wacker (?). While aunt and uncle were aware and said not one word of protest, my mother threw a fit when she returned and I proudly wanted to show her what I had learned—things like that are worse for a child than a largely imaginary risk of a minor injury.

*As in, could-cut-the-grass-around-a-fence-post-but-not-much-more.

Similarly, because she had a do-everything-for-the-children attitude, both I and my sister entered adult life woefully under-prepared. I enjoyed it at as a child, but adult me paid the price, as I was left to make many mistakes later than was needed (and when she could not help) and with too lacking experiences when it came to e.g. cooking and cleaning. What if she had not protected child or teen me from mistakes, but allowed me to make them and then helped with correcting them and drawing the right lessons?

Written by michaeleriksson

August 6, 2021 at 12:19 am

Follow-up II: Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey

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As I wrote last week ([1]), the German government has been jumping back-and-forth on the topic of an Easter ease-up, clamp-down, or business-as-usual (by the COVID standards).

It appeared that the last bid had been “business as usual”, but, as I learned a few days later,* this was not the case. The individual German Bundesländer (“states”), to some degree individual municipalities**, are allowed to set their own rules, within some limits, and it appears that they are doing so. In the case of Wuppertal, where I live, I have been unable to find a reasonable description of the exact rules that will apply, but it appears that stores may only be visited after a “rapid test” (“Schnelltest”) during the Easter days. I am taking the safe course and treating the situation as a five-day*** everything-will-be-closed. Correspondingly, despite having been grocery shopping yesterday, I went again today to load up a little.

*I had not originally looked into the details, but merely noted the repeated pin-the-tail attitude.

**With reservations for what exact word applies.

***There appears to be some unclarity over the time spam, but my impression is that the Sunday (everything closed anyway) and the two holidays (everything closed anyway) are complemented by restrictions for both tomorrow/April 1st (ha!) and Saturday (April 3rd).

Here we have two issues: Firstly, does it really matter from a COVID-POV whether I went to the store today or whether I had done so on Saturday (as originally planned)? I doubt it. Secondly, quite a few other people seemed to have had the same idea, making the store unusually full for the time of day (and likely to grew much worse as the day progresses). Considering the governmental obsession with keeping distance, would this not make matters worse from a governmental perspective than if the store visits had been spread over several days? It would not surprise me.

The bigger picture also raises at least two other issues:

Firstly, federalism and subsidiarity. Normally, I am in favor of this more often than not; however, here we see it backfire. One of the most important points behind these principles is to protect the citizens (and other entities, including individual states and municipalities) from too arbitrary, too undiscriminating, too self-serving, whatnot decisions “from above”. If we look at the U.S. and the COVID approach of e.g. Texas and Florida, we see how this can work well.* In Germany, however, there appears to only be two approaches—hard lockdowns and harder lockdowns. Here subsidiarity does not serve to protect the citizens from the federation but to screw them over even when the federation does not. (While I have not looked into the details on other issues, my general impression is similar: if the federation does not screw something up, count on the Bundesländer to do so; if the Bundesländer do not, count on the municipalities.)

*Generally, my fears of the complete corruption of the U.S. in the wake of Biden have been slightly reduced in light of my growing awareness of the power remaining with the individual states and that the GOP might have fared better on the local level than on the federal level. (Nevertheless, the picture is very, very bleak. By the next federal elections in 2022, the damage will be absolutely horrifying, if things continue down the current path—even COVID aside.)

Unfortunately, I have no good solution to offer that would also preserve the positive aspects of federalism and subsidiarity, but a general principle might be that a “lower” entity may only ever weaken restrictions and regulations, reduce taxes, and whatnot compared to what a “higher” entity suggests. (Possibly, with some exemptions for extraordinary circumstances, say a local natural disaster or local riots.)

Secondly, communication: It absolutely, positively, must be mandatory that the involved entities communicate various rules in an explicit, clear, and timely* manner. This, notably, not restricted to COVID but in general. For instance, I have had massive problems, because my (now de-installed) gas heater was subject to various obscure, counter-intuitive, internationally unusual laws and regulations, spread over several different texts, none of which I had even encountered during my twenty-something years in Germany—until a belligerent and incompetent piece-of-shit of a chimney-sweep sics the authorities on me.** Given these laws, even discounting that they are unreasonable to begin with, it should have been the governments responsibility to inform me that I had to pay attention to certain regulations—which would have been trivial in light of both the heater being on registry and my purchase of the apartment being registered. Given the extreme size and complexity of current laws, and how often they go against common sense and/or vary drastically from place to place, the principle of ignorantia juris non excusat simply is neither conscionable nor compatible with Rechtsstaatlichkeit when the government has not actively informed the citizens or when the need for citizen to inform himself is obvious.

*To the degree that the situation allows. That e.g. an explosion in the infection rates can force a short-term measure is understandable, but this is not the case here where politicians have just been pinning-the-tail, and often concurrently.

**I will not go into details of the overall situation, but as a for instance: portions of the regulations are buried in the “Schornsteinfeger-Handwerksgesetz” (“chimney-sweep trade law”). That a regular citizen would even contemplate investigating what appears to be regulations strictly for the chimney-sweep trade is highly unlikely. Would you bother to read a “dog-groomer trade law” in order to find out e.g. whether pets must be spayed and neutered? Hardly. Would you even be aware that one existed? I doubt it. (That there is a “chimney-sweep trade law”, at all, might be seen as proof of over-regulation, even if the justification is larger than for dog grooming.)

As a minor correction to [1], it appears that Merkel’s back-tracking was only partially caused by the public outcry. Another part came from a business outcry, a “we simply cannot reasonably shutdown with such short warning”. This is certainly a legitimate concern, but one that should have been obvious to the government and one which I assumed had been taking into consideration, e.g. through discussing this with relevant business organizations. Apparently, this was not the case, and that makes the approach the more amateurish. To take just one example from my own professional experiences: In my last project, the topic of bank holidays was important, e.g. to calculate payout dates, often a week or more in advance. Assume that such a date is calculated and communicated today, and arrangements are made for payouts and book-keeping, based on a certain set of bank holidays, possibly spanning several countries. Assume next that tomorrow someone adds a new holiday, retroactively making these dates incorrect. Now, how are we going to resolve this? Without massive additional effort and chain-reactions affecting other businesses, the best bet might be to just send apologies (“due to circumstances outside our control, blah blah”) and hope that no-one is sufficiently dissatisfied as to sue, shorten payments, or jump to another provider.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 31, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Follow-up: Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey

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I have repeatedly compared government policy regarding COVID to pinning-the-tail, most notably in [1]. This especially regarding my local German situation.

This includes a statement that I considered hyperbole at the time:

Grab a pin-board. Pin notes with possible counter-measures on the board. Put on a blindfold. Throw darts at the board. See what counter-measures were hit. There we have this weeks policy. Next week? Who knows.

Today, I am wondering whether it actually was that hyperbolic: A few weeks ago, there was considerable talk of easing up on the restrictions over Easter, to allow this special-to-many occasion to actually take place in a reasonable manner. But, no, suddenly there was a drastic course reversal—the lockdown must be made even harsher than before, lest Easter turn into a major occasion for infections instead of celebrations. Cue public outcry—and suddenly the harsher lockdown is off the table again.

We still have a few days left. I wonder whether Frau Merkel will throw another dart …

Written by michaeleriksson

March 26, 2021 at 2:54 am