Sunday, January 26, 2020

One more

I found an extensive article from a few years ago on the effectiveness of flu vaccines. The author believes that flu vaccines have been grossly overhyped, but that they remain the best tool that we have against the flu.

I have not been following the coronavirus news very closely; in my opinion its outcome could be anywhere from minor to devastating. The information available at present is very limited, and possibly also unreliable.

In other news, I've been doing rounds of sewing and deep cleaning. We just bought a steam cleaner, which I will be trying out soon.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Found it

I've been trying to find this quote again for a while:
In short, man's modern skill in the prevention and control of disease has succeeded to some extent in stripping civilized populations of their natural immunities, leaving them acutely vulnerable when virulent germs do attack.  It is difficult to foresee a solution to the problem.  The microbes that can cause disease are too prolific, too adaptable and too widespread to be made to disappear from the face of the earth overnight.
Nor can vaccines supply the whole answer.  So many kinds of bacteria and viruses exist that at present it is impossible to vaccinate people against all of them.  The great success of the smallpox vaccine comes from the fact that until now only one strain of smallpox virus has been known.  The pneumococcus and streptococcus bacteria, on the other hand, together have at least 100 different strains; a vaccine against only one of them would be next to useless.
To complicate matters further, some germs have an alarming way of developing new strains that are unaffected by existing vaccines and drugs....
Useful as modern drugs may be in treating or curing disease, they are now undergoing a critical reappraisal as it becomes clear that microbes have powers that remain beyond the magic of medicine.  Sanitation, rising living standards and vaccinations, without the aid of drugs, have brought the major epidemics under control in most of the industrialized nations.  Thanks to drugs, man's burden of illness is greatly eased.  But despite recent optimism, microbial diseases are a constant threat.
It's from the Time-Life Life Science Library volume Health and Disease, from 1980. Forty years ago, and the situation now is not much different.

From here, another interesting quote:
On average, the annual flu vaccine is around 40 percent effective.

Compare that to about 90% effectiveness for other vaccines, because different flu strains are prevalent every year, and the ones they put in the vaccine are only a guess.

I've contended before that the strains in the vaccine will almost never match the strains in widest circulation, because mass vaccination leaves the "potential sickness space" to be occupied by other strains. It is worth quoting:

Somewhere I once read a statement by a doctor (I wish I had the reference, but I don't) saying that vaccination could only ever be an effective strategy against a limited number of slowly-mutating micro-organisms.  Limited, because there is a physical limit to how many vaccinations a human body can receive and produce immunity from. Slowly-mutating, because the antibodies that are created to identify and destroy a particular threat won't be effective if it has changed so much that they can't recognize it.

Influenza is not slowly-mutating, and has a variety of strains. So, for the flu shot, each year "they" try to guess what the most prevalent strains will be (say, strains A, B, and C), and the manufacturers produce a vaccine that targets these strains. A fairly high percentage of the population dutifully get their flu shots, and for most of them it is effective: they don't fall ill with strain A, strain B, or strain C, and so those strains don't spread through the population. Instead, the flu strains that go around are strains D, E, and F. Health officials issue a statement:  "Oops, we guessed wrong. We promise to do better next year, so be sure to get your flu shots then!" Rinse, and repeat the whole sequence the following year.

So, the strains that are in your flu shot are never the strains that are actually in circulation around you that year. Probably widespread flu shots do help somewhat to reduce the total number of flu cases, by blocking the spread of the frontrunner strains each flu season. But they can't be counted on to protect any particular person from getting the flu, and it is bad science to claim that they can. (Public health policy operates on the assumption that People Are Idiots, and shamelessly uses bad science and propaganda to promote its various initiatives. But actually, only Most People Are Idiots.)

Supposedly, this year's vaccine is relatively effective, combating the strains that were going around last year, but somehow at the same time 2019-2020 has been a relatively bad flu season.

Friday, January 17, 2020


I don't pay attention to the weather reports, usually. For very short-term weather, I can go outside and look up. For anything further out, I figure that any weather that's appropriate to the season may happen, and I prepare accordingly. The local weather forecasts have not always been the most accurate, so I don't rely on them.

But even I heard the forecasts for the snowstorm that is just starting to hit now, and I got my errands done ahead of time. Not because I thought the forecasts were correct, but because I thought they were unlikely to always be wrong.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Blanket storage, and other things

I found a place for the ten or so blankets of various sizes that were generally to be found on the floor:  the large TV cabinet that houses a smallish TV that we are not yet using. The blankets fit nicely, and they are accessible, and so far most of the children don't know that they're in there.

I also finished spending my Christmas money. One of the things I decided to buy was a new dish drainer; not the one on the counter for clean dishes, which I turned around to make look less worn, but the one that I keep in one side of the sink to collect dirty dishes and utensils that need to be handwashed. (For some reason this system confuses almost everyone.) This one was much more worn than the other, after eight years of use.

But the store that I had the gift card to continues to be hopeless as a place to shop for practical things, so I just bought beauty products that are a bit beyond the minimum that I usually buy. That was fun.

I found the dish drainer that I wanted at the hardware store, instead. They even had one in a "bisque" color that would match the sink, but I chose to stay with white.

I've noticed that I have not really been into doing creative things lately, only reading about them. So I went to the library and got some more books about things that I want to think about, but certainly not do right now, such as making bobbin lace. One of the books that I got recently was an Elizabeth Goudge book that mentioned Honiton lace; now I have a much better idea of what she meant.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Places die too...

...according to George MacDonald.

A church building that I put in many hours helping to renovate and enlarge, once upon a time, has been sold, and the church has moved. Given its location, the building is certain to be torn down and replaced with something looming and modern, just as it replaced the original house on the site, where the church began.

The good news is that the church sold the building because they have outgrown it again. They have started another round of place-making in a very visible, can't-miss-it location with lots of potential.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Usability testing

I paid attention during the holiday gatherings at our house, to see how the re-arranged spaces were working.

For the most part, things went well. The wisdom of simplifying furnishings and of using fewer, larger pieces of decor was confirmed. Even during normal times, there is a lot going on in our house; the background needs to be beautiful, simple, and easy to maintain.

We don't have many Christmas decorations, only two small boxes plus the tree stand. I didn't buy a pine garland this year; last year's was nice, but really too much for our house. Our Nativity set, Advent calendar, Christmas tree, Joy sign, and Christmas cards hung up over the fireplace were enough seasonal decor, when we added Christmas music and food and guests; basically the same decor as in this past Christmas tour post.

One thing I did notice was that the conversation area that I made around the fireplace was cramped, when we were using it as a gift-opening space for the entire family. But we managed. There were enough places for everyone to sit, but the floor space just disappeared under gifts and wrapping paper.

Friday, January 3, 2020

I've been busy

The public comment period for our electric utility's latest 15-year plan ends next week. I've been working hard on my letter.

Their filing with the public utility commission contains a lot of information, but I also kept finding pages and documents on their website that give a fuller picture of their plans.

I learned that they did, or are now doing, a pilot project on shifting electricity demand, where they charge six times more for electricity from 3 to 8 pm on weekdays than they do from midnight to 6 am.

They are actively working on building up electric vehicle support systems and adoption.

Also, apparently they are rolling out some of their advanced metering and other new technology in Colorado before they do in Minnesota. The same thing happened with the push for low-emissions vehicles; first California, then Colorado and some other states, and now Minnesota is thinking about following suit.

I was able to scientifically calculate that even if they accomplish their ambitious plan of going completely "carbon-free" by 2050, it would reduce climate change by maybe 0.005 degree Celsius, if that.