The Value of the Masks

OK. Once again, I’m not a scientist, an epidemiologist, a doctor, etc. But I have a personality quirk that compels me to research interesting (to me) topics and then write about them. You may feel free to ignore my post, or take it with a grain of salt. But as usual, I will try to provide the best information I can have. If you can find ample evidence to contradict me on this, please feel free to share. I love learning (weird for a person who struggled with school grades, I know) and information and ideas always intrigue me enough to listen.

I’ve seen a LOT (and I mean an insane) amount of posts regarding face masks and the corona virus on Facebook. Some of them have been pretty well reasoned, even if somewhat flawed or incomplete. In some cases, they’re memes with the line “I’ll wait”. People post these things up and think they’re so snappy, or witty… and in most cases, they’ve tried to distill a topic that is fairly elaborate and complex down to a sentence or two, and overlook a lot of facts that actual change quite a bit.

Face masks have been a particularly complexly debated topic. Are they effective against the coronavirus? Are they helping or harming us? What is the point of using them? Which ones work, which ones don’t, etc.

I can’t offer you sound medical guidance, but I can try to explain the scientific reasoning behind the face mask. There is sound medical logic, but you need to understand that it’s not something you can sum up with a sentence; not unless you understand that the sentence will likely only answer a single direct question, and not provide details on a more complicated question on their own.

So to understand the issue here, people are asking “what’s the point of wearing a face mask?”.

Do they offer any protection against the coronavirus or any other viruses? Do they present more of a risk or hazard than they prevent? Why do we need to do social distancing if we have face masks? Why do we need to wear face masks if we have social distancing. Now I’m going to try to break this down as best I can, and I’m not going to call you an idiot for questioning this. If you’ve waited for your explanation, this is it. It’s long; it’s not hard to understand, but it involves a LOT of moving pieces to fully appreciate. So let’s get started.

The short version is: the face mask does NOT guarantee you you won’t get sick from a virus. It’s true that many virus particles on their own are much smaller than most filtration masks handle. But the virus particles do not travel on their own. They can survive on certain surfaces for extended periods of time, some are resistant to UV exposure (sunlight). But to travel, most of the particles that make up a virus need to travel through the air in an aerosol form. And this is where we need to understand what the masks are trying to accomplish.

Here’s an experiment to conduct. It’s fairly simple, might only cost a couple of dollars, but it will teach you a valuable lesson. Get a spray bottle; the type that you put a household cleaner in, and fill it with water, and add a bit of food dye. Set up a piece of poster board outside. Now, measure out distances of 1 foot, 6 feet and 25 feet. Move to the farthest point out (25 feet), aim the sprayer at the cardboard, and spray. Nothing’s appeared on the poster board, unless you have a REALLY strong gust of wind heading in that direction. And even then, it’s unlikely to carry that far. Move to the 6 foot range, and repeat. You’ll probably seem some light speckling on the poster board, maybe even some moderate spots appear (depending on how strong a spritzer you have). Now, do the same thing at one foot. Obviously this close you’ll see a big spot appear on the poster board.

So what happened? Plain and simple, the particles from your spritzer dissipated too much at 25 feet to make it to your target. At 6 feet, the particles were larger, so the concentration of the particles was much greater and could hit the target better; however, the fact that the concentration was so tight means that a smaller obstacle could block a fair amount of it. At 1 foot, the concentration is VERY tight, but again, that means a smaller obstacle will catch and prevent it from passing through to the target.

Now, repeat the sequence of tests, but put a washcloth or dishrag just in front of the nozzle. If the rag gets soaked after a spray, move it so that you have a fresh, dry bit of cloth in front of the nozzle.

The spray will almost entirely end up caught by the cloth or dishrag, and very little if any will end up on the target at 6 foot. A bit more might get through and hit the target at 1 foot, but in all likelihood you’ll see less particles from the spray through the mask at 1 foot than you would without it at 6.

For one more test, you can repeat the test by putting the piece of cloth in front, and then holding a piece of wood in front of it. The piece of wood simulates an arm, especially around the inside of the elbow. Again, the amount of spray, if any, that reaches the target, will be VERY minimal.

Now some people might say “Well, yeah, but you moved the cloth in front of the nozzle each time. I can’t carry enough masks to keep switching them.” Yes, that might seem like cheating. But look at it like this: how often do you have a sneeze that’s as high in content of moisture as a spray bottle? Probably you don’t sneeze with the volume of liquid coming out. Honestly, if you do, it means a high volume of mucus and other bodily fluids coming out. Without a face mask, you might sneeze into your hands… or the mucus may be coming out of your nose or even (this is always gross) your mouth… and do you just leave it there? No, you go and get some tissue paper, and white it off. Probably if it was fairly bad, you’ll wash your hands and face. After all, isn’t that what we tell our kids in most cases? Wash your hands if you sneeze into them. More often than not, now, we try to teach them to sneeze into the crook of their arms whenever possible. And we tell them not to give someone a hug after that; forget the virus part – it’s just gross to get a hug and be covered in goop, right?

OK, so there’s less force coming out of your typical sneeze than a spritzer bottle, and that means that you’re not pushing out the volume of moisture that the bottle does. If there’s a smaller volume of moisture to begin with, suddenly those obstacles are made much more effective.

So now we have a reason for using some sort of barrier over our mouth or nose.

The next big thing that people bring up is that wearing the mask spreads the disease, because people tough their faces, or the mask, or whatever, and then touch other things, other people, etc. Yes, there is that risk; but the quantity of virus particles making it through a half-way decent mask is already greatly reduced. Further, touching your face, even on the mask, doesn’t spread the virus until you start touching lots of other things. That’s why stores and a lot of public places have stands and dispensers for sanitizer around, and you’re encouraged to apply a bit every so often. This isn’t a guarantee to stop this virus (or any virus), but it’s a form of redundancy to mitigate the risk.

Look at it this way: most cars now have safety belts, various air bags, and crumple zones designed into to collapse certain parts of a vehicle, while providing greater integrity to the passenger compartment. Safety belts on their owns usually save lives. Admittedly, sometimes they have cost lives, but over the years, as some accidents have happened, engineers and designers have researched improved ways of making the seat belts safer, and the potential for injury or death from the safety belts has generally gone down. Air bags have had the same history. Early designs could have some dangerous flaws – it took careful consideration, sometimes redesign, to fix those issues and mitigate risk factors. Crumple zones have failed, or just not been strong enough to properly handle impact. Again, designs were looked at, testing was performed, the ideas were improved upon.

Any one of those safety devices on their own might save you, or might cause you higher risk. The combination of those safety tools help to reduce the overall risk to a much greater degree. And the reality is that you may not be able to save everyone from a deadly accident. If a train hits your Honda Civic, you’re not looking at a high chance of successfully walking away. But if you’re a reasonably safe driver, and practice good defensive driving habits, and if other people are doing the same, the risk factor for deadly accidents is reduced, and the outcome of those accidents will likely turn more towards people surviving, possibly unharmed.

Yes, wearing a face mask could cause some of the germs to spread. That’s not wrong. But proper hygienic practice means that you combine wearing the mask with other actions to reduce the risk. You wash your hands or use sanitizer whenever possible, you wash your mask or replace them daily, and you have to actively push yourself to be aware of your actions more. This doesn’t outright stop the disease, but it helps to mitigate a LOT of the risk of spreading it.

Now some people still ask: why do we need to practice isolation or social distancing if we wear the masks? And if we wear the masks, why do we need to perform isolation and / or social distancing. If you look back to the experiment, the further you were from the target, and the more obstacles you put in front of the “source of a sneeze”, the greater the reduction in the spread of the virus particles. The guidelines that the CDC and WHO put out were based on the idea that the more space between people, and the better the barrier protection, the greater a reduction in potentially spreading the germs. To be honest, 6 foot might not quite be enough to entirely eliminate the spread. An article I read recently said that the truth is that a distance of 25 or more feet is probably closer to the necessity to fully eliminate that risk. The reason for the 6 foot rule, though, was to cut down the risk as much as possible, while looking at the reality of space concerns. Supermarkets can’t possibly guarantee being able to space things out so that we can always be 25 feet from everyone else. In fact, in most public places, you can’t do that; outdoors it’s a bit different, but if you’re outdoors, chances are that the UV light of the sun will help to kill more of the particles. And remember that UV light rays can still penetrate cloud cover to some extent, so they do get through to help out, even on a cloudy day.

So why is the government mandating lock-down even outside if we have all these precautions? Good question: first, we’re not really in a true lock-down, nationally. In a real lock-down, you wouldn’t be allowed to leave your house… at all… for any reason. The steps the government took in most cases was to issue an order to remain at home as much as possible, to avoid unessential travel, and to avoid crowded spaces. In some very specific instances, there were period were some locations had stricter requirements. For example, in New Jersey where some friends of mine live, there were restrictions that you had to fill out a form to keep with you when you went out for an errand, such as getting groceries, or picking up a loved one from work. The reason for this was simple. The government saw that people weren’t taking the guidance voluntarily, so they needed to temporarily enact some laws to mandate behavior, because they’re trying to look out for the best interest of the population.

And that leads to the second part of the answer. The issue with how viruses spread is that it’s not usually the severely sick who spread it; it’s those with minor symptoms or no symptoms that risk spreading the disease. Similar to how vaccines for diseases like Polio work, if you have 100 people, perhaps 90 percent of people could be infected and never have known. The virus isn’t strong enough to even temporarily give them any noticeable symptoms. Another 5 – 7% will show some symptoms, but be able to resist it, and their bodies can recover from it. The last 3 – 5% may fall into the category of immuno-compromised. They can’t fight off any infections, or if their bodies are fighting with that, a secondary illness can come in and lead to fatality. That’s how AIDS leads to death a lot.

Now people who are immuno-compromised can’t even get a vaccine; they could get ill even from an inactive version of any virus being in the body. While their body is trying to eliminate the virus particles, which would normally let the body “learn” how to protect itself, the body is too exhausted to start dealing with a second illness which is active, and that can be lethal. However, people without a compromised immune system can fairly easily “learn” that method of killing / removing the virus particles. If you give them the vaccine, the body learns rapidly to fight the infection, and then can actually kill and remove it rapidly; rapidly enough so that it can’t survive long enough for you to pass it on. If enough of the people who can safely receive the vaccine do, it maximizes the chances of preventing the virus from being carried around, and therefore infecting (and potentially killing) the people who cannot.

The masks are meant to do the same thing. If the water particles from your sneeze or cough are too big to actually pass through your mask, then they can’t get into the air and travel far enough to get to other people. If you’re practicing social distancing, that risk is further reduced. If you’re avoiding public places and adhering as much as possible to the rules to avoid gatherings and crowds, you’ve reduced that risk further, still.

The other things about viruses is that they can mutate. So far COVID-19 seems to mutate slowly, so the risk of this isn’t high. But enough people passing it around, and enough people’s systems fighting it off, it could lead to changes that cause new strains of the virus. By minimizing the risk of exposure while a vaccine does not exist for this virus, we reduce the chance of it being mutated. Then, if / when there is a vaccine, most people’s bodies will eliminate it and flush it from their system; if it’s happening rapidly in most people, the chances of it changing are reduced even more.

Getting back to the masks, they help to contain the virus if it is being expelled from your body. If you follow proper guidelines, you have contained most of the virus; you’ve kept distant enough from people to mitigate the risk of a few smaller droplets getting out into the atmosphere; by not being out unnecessarily, you have both allowed for people to not have to go into crowded spaces and risk spreading the disease even more; if we do this for long enough, we may but the time necessary for a safe vaccine to develop and be deployed.

Now while this has lead to a lot of tough situations (people being laid off from jobs, small companies struggling vastly, etc), it was really a matter of making sure that this was contained as much as possible while long-term solutions could be found; and we couldn’t be sure exactly how dangerous this was right away. However, given the nature of how this virus could effect people, the concern and caution was wise – it might not have been completely necessary, but what if we didn’t take these actions and were wrong? As of today (May 19, 2020) this virus has killed 320,000 worldwide. 92,000 of them here in the U.S.A. Now what if we hadn’t taken the precautions, including wearing the masks when we went out in public? There is the potential that the virus could have spread far more, and more people who are at risk could have become symptomatic – including those with critical conditions. Our health system has finite resources, it is entirely possible that some hospitals might have been overwhelmed by cases of this virus; and then the risk is that people with other conditions and injuries could NOT get the help they need. That leads to other people who could potentially have a dangerous issue turn fatal. That could have lead to a much higher death toll. The typical flu season in the United States is considered to run from November through April (sometimes coming on as early as October, and lasting as long as May). That means the flue season, when the risk of infection is high and the degree of fatalities is also high, is 6 – 8 months. You can look at these estimated numbers on flu deaths vs infections. The word season in the last 10 (not including 2019 – 2020) the worst was the estimated value in the 2017 to 2018 season, at 61,000. That is higher than the rest of the years by a margin of at least 10,000 – the next highest year was 2014 – 2015. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html So in a typical 6 month span, the worst outcome was 61,000 – just over 10,000 a month. In the US alone, to date, the death rate was 92,000. And the actual dates being considered start only back on January 22nd. 3 months, 27 days. Half the length of the typical flu season, and 50% more deaths than the typical flu – and that’s WITH the extensive protective measures in place. There’s no way to be sure what might have happened if this virus went on a full 6 month cycle, and even more, no way to know how bad it could have been had we not put the practices into place to protect people.

So the government largely erred on the side of caution.

There are other viruses that have the potential to spread and cause wide-spread devastation. Ebola is a good example – it takes a number of days to incubate (grow) and then it is extraordinarily dangerous; the mortality rate, depending on the strain of the virus, is anywhere from 25% – 90%. And the average means about 50%. Think that over. Take half the people you know (including family members) and eliminate half of them. And since the incubation period for Ebola is about two weeks, that means that you could be spreading it in all that time. The fortunate thing about Ebola is that it isn’t airborne – you can’t easily spread it by sneezing or coughing. It usually requires blood or saliva; it’s far more vulnerable to UV light, it’s not resilient enough for most environments, and the source of the virus is believed to be a region that doesn’t have a high degree of air travel – namely nations in central and mid-northern Africa. We’re lucky about that.

So the conclusion to this: the masks won’t stop you from catching the disease – they stop you from spreading the disease if you do catch it, especially being important if you’re lucky enough to be symptom-free. If the population at large all take the necessary steps, then few people if any are spreading the disease before their body can kill and flush it. That means people who have a harder time with illness are less likely to be exposed and infected (because many of them take these measures of staying home or distant as a regular course of action) and we’ve bought that much more time to find solutions that will let us resume our daily lives. I know it sucks. I want to go out and take train photos and videos. I miss a lot of social activities like going to the train club I belong to, going to movies and going to parks. I’m lucky I have a job that allows for me to work from home. I know a number of people who have made their entire living around a small business that they started and have run for years – and quite a few of them have minimal resources to survive during this time. Some of them are watching their work and effort crumble. I do know what that’s like. I’ve had a small business of my own, before. And I’ve seen the effects for myself on how fast a lack of work can lead to collapse. I won’t tell them they’re wrong for wanting to have their life’s work survive. Most of them are not rolling in the dough; but they chose the line of work that they did because they enjoyed it. If we really care about helping them out, we’ll need to jump back to the opportunity to make use of their services once again when this is over – that may be tough, because a lot of people will still be struggling with their own finances after being furloughed, perhaps laid off permanently… a lot of people are going to feel the economic crunch. It’s not selfish of small business owners to want to prevent that; but that means that the population at large needs to follow the guidelines set out for prevention as quickly and as much as possible, until we can get that better solution.

That’s not a guilt trip – that’s a fact. I doubt anyone wants to see others die. It’s not about you being at fault; it’s about you contributing to a solution.

I hope that this article has given you some better insights. I hope that you’re able to understand better what the masks are for. You can call it a sign of subservience that could lead to eroding of your rights. The Declaration of Independence was set out with the line:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

Life is the most precious of these rights. It’s not about “infringing on the rights” of others; it’s about promoting the chance for others to experience things. If you’re frustrated, if you’re upset, if you’re angry, it’s OK – the situation is frustrating, upsetting, and being angry about it is perfectly natural. You can’t be told it’s not any of that reasonably. It is about trying to prevent a much larger and riskier situation. It’s unlikely that we’ll have this go on for many years. Too many resources are already being directed to eliminating the risk. It’s also unlikely that another virus like this could crop up quickly. Even if there is, we’ll have a better understanding of what we can do to prevent the spread, and the next time, if people participate in the efforts like masks and social distancing to a greater degree, early on, the more severe lock-down strategies might not come forward. We might be able to go on in a more regular fashion, allowing for time to stop pandemics.

Try to think of this as a chance to contribute to a solution for the welfare of more people. And when we’re passed this, make sure you do as much as you can to help out those small businesses that were suffering through this. They are worthy of saving, just like our lives.

That G Looks Shady…

Folks, it’s time for a bit of education. I have seen at least 50 posts this morning about 5G signals and how they’re contributing to the Coronovirus. This is the same thing that happened with swine flu, bird flu and SARS in conjunction with the release of 4G and 3G cell phone services in the past decade. So I’m going to explain a few things with me. I’m sure some of you won’t believe it, but I’m going to go with the assumption that many of you will bother to read through this article and STOP TO THINK for a moment about what I’m saying. I don’t work for a cell phone company. I don’t work for a telecommunications company. I have no stock in those companies. I’m not actually profiting from any of this, so when I say “you can trust that I have no ulterior motive”, it is something you can actually believe.

I am a software engineer; I’ve studies computer systems and all manner of technology related to communication – not just what is in use today, but what has been a part of communications on this planet for the better part of 100 years. I make my living writing software at an insurance firm; software that is used for tracking quotes on commercial insurance. Prior to that I’ve done software for banking, I’ve done software for medical, software for shopping carts, websites for promoting a seamstress, a website for a restaurant, and a website for a confectioner (candy store). I’ve taught technology related to video production, 3D animation, editing photos, making websites, writing video games, and designing buildings.

The computer systems and communications degrees might sound like the most important factors here, but the truth is, the most important factor in my ability to explain this comes from the fact that I can read and write. So with that said, let me explain this to you – it’s not hard, and it’s important to know what you’re really looking at.

Radio waves, the ones that carry radio signals, are a form of non-ionizing radiation. What is non-ionizing radiation? Non-ionizing (or non-ionizing) radiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum (photon energy) to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Read that carefully. Non-ionizing radiation does NOT carry enough energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule. For any form of change to a substance to take place, you need to alter the composition of the elements that make up that substance. Changing the state (solid, liquid, gas, plasma) is NOT the same as changing the electro-chemical structure. Something going from solid to liquid to gas to plasma is about how much energy is applied to those substance, but NOT about how many electrons the substance has. In other words, it’s a physical change, not chemical, nor electrical.

That means that radio waves do NOT change anything about the properties of any substance. Why is this important to know? Because the 5G signal from your latest iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices is, in fact, a radio signal. There are a number of different frequency ranges that are used for 5G service, depending on the service, and the country – and each country generally handles identifying ranges of frequencies which they make available to the various cell phone carriers. So T-Mobile would have one set of frequencies, Sprint would have another, Verizon another, AT&T another… and many of the smaller “budget” carriers then license subsections of the frequency range of a bigger carrier; or they allow the bigger carrier to handle the responsibility of keeping things organized; and the bigger carriers charge more simply because they prioritize their direct carriers to have the best access. That’s why you pay more for the “brand name” service of a cell phone carrier.

But that doesn’t mean that the 5G signal is safe… does it? Well, actually, it might not in-and-of itself, but you need to understand that the same radio frequency concept that drives your cell phone is also driving the FM radio in your car or home. In this case, the FM radio has a range of 88 to 108 MHz, and radio stations all use a specific frequency with about 200 Khz of separation between one radio station and the next; and if they’ve set up properly, they should be smack-dab in the middle of that frequency.

That’s why you have radio stations like: 88.1, 88.3, 88.5, 98.5, 101.3 – notice how they all end in odd numbers? Why is that? Well, let’s say you have a radio station. Your station is assigned to the 93 MHz band, specifically you’re supposed to broadcast on the frequency 93,300 KHz. That means that your signal should be heard between 93,200 KHz and 93,400 KHz. The next station up would be from 93,400 KHz to 93,600 KHz, and that would mean dead center is 93,500 KHz. Now modern car radios are digital, so they tend to lock on specifically to the frequency… So your radio station is 93,300 KHz (or 93.3 MHz), and that means your radio in your car is, theoretically, going directly to 93.3 MHz. In practice, signals can be affected slightly by atmospheric distortion, fluctuations in power to the transmitter, and other forms of radio distortion that make a signal “noisy” – adding static. So your digital receiver will try to adjust itself to lock on to the signal where it is strongest, without leaving that 200 KHz window for your signal. So if, briefly, 93,298 KHz is where the signal lies, the receiver will try to adjust to that frequency to give you a clean signal.

The 88 MHz to 108 MHz signal range means that, with the proper 200 KHz buffer, you’d be limited to 100 stations. Last I checked, there are more than 300 cities in the United States of America alone, and of those 300 cities, all of them have more than one radio station… so how can there be all these stations if there are only 100 stations with of range?

The fact is that radio frequencies don’t necessarily have THAT much range in terms of physical distance. On average, they get around 30 to 40 miles. That’s why you can tune to a station in one city, and drive to a city about an hour’s drive a ways (if you do 60 MPH speed) – and the radio station will either no longer be the one you were listening to, or it’ll simply be static… and maybe an occasional blip of a signal from the one in your home town. At about the 35 mile mark, you’ll start to see a fairly rapid degradation of the signal. It’ll start being fuzzy, full of static, and eventually just drop right out. And if you were listening to a hard rock station, you might now be listening to NPR’s All Things Considered… or just random static. If there is a radio station in your town that is licensed to operate at 93.3 MHz, and one in the next city that also has this frequency, the fact that they are 60 miles apart means that the signals will barely interfere as it is; and commonly the FCC tries to keep things organized so that the signals won’t overlap at all; I mean, I like the idea of crossover music, but Beethoven and GWAR don’t entirely mix.

OK, so great, we understand radio signals for FM. What does that have to do with Cellular signals? The cellular phone services are just in another part of the same range of radio frequencies. Depending on which service and which generation of technology we’re referring to, they could be in a number of different places on the range of frequencies that make up the radio spectrum. They all have one thing in common, though – they are all, still, non-ionizing radiation – and that means, again, that they can’t rip away or add on an electronic to any atomic / molecular construct. And that means, there is nothing changing about the substance. That means that the substance stayed precisely the same! That’s right, your cell phone can’t cause cancer, because cancer is a growth of abnormal cells caused by a change in the atomic / molecular composition of those cells, which can only come from a change of chemical composition which would require either direct chemical interaction or ionizing radiation… and your cell phone doesn’t work on that form of radiation.

Even more importantly, a virus which mutates and can suddenly infect humans can’t have been mutated, manipulated or engineered by a cell phone signal because, once again, those sorts of changes would be chemical in nature – and they would require ionization to cause that sort of reaction WITHOUT a chemical driving the change.

So I’m betting now, some people are saying “but what about radiation from sources like Nuclear Power Plants”. Yes, those forms of radiation are dangerous – potentially lethal, in fact. But that’s not energy on the radio-frequency ranges. The radiation produced in nuclear reactions is, in fact, ionizing radiation. It’s caused from the breakdown of the physical fuel sources with electronics being freed from the fuel to either crash into each other and either causing a fission reaction (where they split) or fusion reaction (where they merge) to generate heat. And the heat is then used to run a steam turbine, which turns a generator, which produces the electrical current that goes out to electrical grid serving your home and business.

The radiation produced from these sorts of fields is ionizing, and VERY dangerous. That’s what made Chernobyl such a scary thing – the ability to contain that ionizing radiation was lost, and the whole of space around it was suddenly alive with a form of energy which can easily change the composition of atoms and molecules. That’s what killed many people, whether rapidly because of the near immediate expose to changes in their body that would be lethal, or through the gradual change of their body structure to create tumors and cancers. Truthfully, none of the deaths happened due to radiation immediately, but due to fire and physical explosion at the plant. The radiation-related deaths took at least several hours to happen; not that it made it less horrible. In fact, those were probably the more gruesome deaths. But I digress.

The fact is that the forms of radiation that come from nuclear power and similar applications is SEVERELY dangerous; but it’s not the same thing as radio-frequency radiation. Radiation is probably the word that scares everyone anyway. Everyone hears it and thinks of “Chernobyl” or “Hiroshima” or “Nagasaki”. But frankly, radiation also means your microwave oven, your stove top, your television set, your furnace, your hot-water heater, and even your own body! OH NO, MY BODY?! MY BODY IS PRODUCING RADIATION? Yes, it is – in the form of heat. In fact, anything generating heat is really generating a form of radiation. That word, radiation – it just means the release of energy. So anything that releases any form of heat, light, sound, or radio waves is, in fact, producing radiation.

OK, so wait a minute. Are you saying that all these radio signals aren’t dangerous? Yes. But aren’t they unnatural? I suppose you could say they are, because of the source… but these same radio waves exist in nature already. Want proof of it? Fine. What is the Arecibo Observatory?

The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope in the municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. It is a giant collector of radio signals, used for making astronomical observations of the universe. In fact, it’s commonly thought that telescopes only take “pictures” of things. But what they really do is receive a signal as some form of radiation. Remember that light is a form of radiation as well. Are you afraid of the lamp in your living room giving you cancer? No? Why not? Because it’s a non-ionizing form of radiation. Unless you touch a hot bulb, it can’t hurt you. The light is something that doesn’t damage your body. At least, not that sort of light. Visible light doesn’t cause damage to you. And it’s part of the same sort of spectrum of electro-magnetic radiation. Back to Arecibo, that telescope collects radio-waves that come in from outer space and is used to look for repeating signals. Those signals have pretty much all been naturally occurring signals; radio waves generated by stars, mostly. And those waves have been bombarding the earth since the beginning of the planet’s existence. If radio waves were dangerous, life would never have existed at all. The average star has a lot more power than all of the cell towers in the world combined.

So does that mean there is no government conspiracy involving radio waves and viruses and all that sort of stuff? Yes, sadly, it’s all fantasy.

But wait, what about the weapons that were being designed for use on crowds. Stuff to cause nausea, pain, vertigo…. all that stuff? What about microwave weapons?

Well, I can go into more detail on that if you want at another point, but the short version is: most of the weapons of that nature either used ionizing radiation – which lead to them being outlawed by Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions of 1977, or they make use of things like bright lights which are non-ionizing radiation which simply overload your nerves temporarily. These are physical effects, not chemical effects, and while they are dangerous, they aren’t the cause of radio-waves. They’re an entirely different spectrum of electro-magnetic radiation that works VASTLY differently. Also, if the government really intended to use that sort of stuff, why did some of the systems that were developed and tested in 2003 – 2004 disappear? They weren’t effective; they were energy intensive and not nearly as effective, plus the risk was too high of the wrong folks getting that technology, so it was decided that it wasn’t worth deploying… and that was the end of it. But they don’t work anything like your cell phone or radio.

Well, OK, I suppose your radio can cause nausea, but I blame the music itself, not the radio that broadcasts it.

OK, so let’s sum all of this up.

Cell Phones, FM Radio, Wireless Internet and even Bluetooth technology all use radio-frequency radiation, which is non-ionizing radiation. That means that it cannot cause atoms or molecules to be manipulated into losing or adding electrons, meaning that the structure and makeup cannot change, meaning it CANNOT cause you to get a virus, bacteria, tumor, cancer or anything else.

The only form of communication that can be dangerous in this fashion is lasers, because they light frequencies they use can cause burns to your eyes. So don’t ever look into the source of a laser. They have use as medical tools in restoring site, but they are always operated by doctors under carefully controlled conditions. Some lasers do cause ionizing radiation, but they aren’t effective for communication devices in a general sense, because communication depends on wide area broadcast, and lasers only work effectively with a tightly focused beam. So they won’t likely ever be used for communication that way.

Finally, for all the conspiracy buffs, I have two points to make. First, the problem with the idea of a government conspiracy is that for it to be effective, the concept has to be VERY simple, and involve the fewest number of people to execute said conspiracy. Second, there has to be an outcome that justifies the effort put into the conspiracy – and an outcome that makes it easier to maintain order. Causing chaos that leads to needing to spend more money to help people would be working at odds with the very conspiracy that’s being concerned.

Now, if you do want to learn about a possible conspiracy and cover up related to radio that IS interesting, look into the conspiracy of numbers stations. That is a conspiracy that has been going on for quite some time, and it makes a whole lot more sense.

PS – If you’ve made it this far, I’m attaching a link to the United States Frequency Allocations chart for the Radio Spectrum on Wikipedia. Understand that the signal for 5G in the spectrum is somewhere between the 2 and 6 GHz ranges… and that range varies by country, so if 5G is the supposed problem, then every single part of the spectrum would be a danger, because the allocations might be different in other countries, meaning everyone is being exposed to those frequencies from different sources, so cell phones wouldn’t be the only problem – literally everything would be the problem.

The 2016 radio frequency chart for the United States

Wait! Do you know what you asked for?

I was going to write an article about the Coronavirus and how it is affecting the world, but I realized that 1) people are panicking enough about it that I can write about something else that can make people nervous and 2) people are apparently at risk of catching the Coronavirus just for discussing the Coronavirus. In fact, there was a doctor in China who died from the Coronavirus after talking about the Coronavirus; I’m not making this up, by the way. But you can look it up. I don’t want to talk about the Coronavirus any more and risk catching the Coronavirus.

Instead, I’ll write about something else. Like the fact that my son is now traveling with his classmates to Canada. They’re going on a very fancy bus, enjoying more comfortable accommodations than I do trying to fit in an airline seat (excuse me, I asked for the SMALL sardine can, thank you). They’re on a class field trip for 8th graders to Quebec, Ontario where the official motto is: Va-t’en, idiot américain / Go away, you American jerk. Remember, in Canada, everything needs to be written in French AND English, to increase the chances that people standing next to each other will be given conflicting information.

While there, the students have the opportunity to see how people from another country, who speak a different language, and a moderately different culture, hate the average American.

I can’t say I entirely blame people from other countries for hating us; after all, we tend to hate them, they tend to hate each other. Realistically, international relations could best be summed up as 195 sovereign nations staring at each other crossly while secretly giving each other the finger.

All that aside, my son is getting to travel to a place that actually has COLDER weather and potentially more snowfall than Buffalo, NY – and quite often, that’s saying a lot. Of course, it’ll be no surprise if after the trip he comes back feeling a bit run down; travel is taxing on the body; my wife and I could vouch for that fact after our honeymoon. That’s a story for some other time; like after getting proper therapy and medical treatment.

For the kids (probably not the chaperones), it’s one of those enjoyable trips where they will get to learn about variations to culture, and the significance of language in shaping the lives of people from a region. Or at least it can lead to miscommunication when you place an order at a restaurant by asking for what turns out to be “Tax Not Included in Price”. At least, that’s what would happen to me.

I was never really good at foreign languages. They always seemed so… different. Which I realize is the point to learning them. But there is a vast difference between being able to understand a few key words or phrases, being able to speak or write less than half of them, and being able to do something other than saying you don’t speak the language, ask where there’s a restaurant (or bar), ordering something, realizing you need to get to a bathroom FAST, and then asking where a hospital might be, because there was definitely blood.

My son and daughter seem to be much better at stuff like this than I am (I mean foreign languages; not bleeding from digestive trauma). I think that my wife is generally better than me at languages as well. Which is good; they all like to travel, and being that they enjoy traveling, the are likely that they’ll be fine. I, however, am not much for leaving my hometown (except, maybe sometimes if it involves trains). Statically, I will be the one in a position to require new kidneys, and perhaps to cause the declaration of a travel ban against citizens of the United States of America. It’ll be entirely an accident, I won’t be trying to anger anyone. I’ll intend to say “I really like your family’s tacos”, but it will likely translate into “I wish to fondle your wife’s taco”. You might see a problem with that statement; if not, do not attempt to complement anyone on sausage, either.

So of course, I’ll need the thing about where to find a hospital, in the local language. When trying to communicate with people who speak different languages, you’re probably in a different country or at least a different region of your own country; or you’re in Hell, where everyone is yelling at each other incomprehensibly until the end of time; or you’re in line at the DMV – which is like Hell, but without the ambiance, and lasts much longer. Chances are, too, that there is also a local water supply that your body is not acquainted with, and you will NEED to have some help with issues of a medical nature.

At any rate, my son is traveling abroad, and in 4 days he will come back and share his experiences with the family. He’ll have explored a new place; he’ll have photos of wondrous sites; he’ll have some gifts, perhaps, for family; he might have a case of pneumonia or hypothermia, because, remember, it’s Quebec. And we’ll all laugh. And then he’ll cough a bit and we’ll all freeze because we’re back to thinking about the c**********… if you know what I mean.

Progress Report #10

I haven’t had the chance for much of anything this past week, sadly. For one thing, I haven’t had the energy to do a whole hell of a lot. Work has suddenly picked up drastically, and the 5 (or maybe 6) projects I am assigned to full-time have suddenly all sprung to life on the same day (last week Wednesday, for the record). As a result, I end up coming home most days and my brain is turned to silly putty before I can even contemplate doing anything else.

Work on my consulting projects has been pretty stead, too. Needless to say, I’m at my limit for current side-work. That’s not a complaint, but an observation. Two clients with on-going projects is about the max I can handle with everything else going on.

I spent a bit of time on trying to clean up the basement room this week and get ready to re-arrange things for the purposes of bringing in the other 3 train tables. So for the moment, everything is packed away while I try to get the space cleared up. I’m going to try to finish organizing that stuff tomorrow evening.

And of course, a large baby… namely the male Husky (Dexter) has been panicked by a few nights of thunder storms, causing him to jump in my bed and wake me out of a sound sleep, causing my to get only 3 or 4 hours at best over the past few nights.

So needless to say, this has sidetracked a lot of my stuff for the past 10 days. Well, at least, put me on a passing siding while I wait for things to steady down a bit more. This seems normal for the start of a school year, and the one and only positive thing to think is “at least we don’t have the kids going to 3 different things on 3 different nights this year”. Eli and Caidi are both doing scouts (Caidi is waiting for the girls’ sub-unit to form) and that’s only on Tuesday nights. If everything works out well with that, it’ll be the only non-school activity to worry about this year, at least until the start of softball.

I have 4 furniture projects I need to get going, not including the tables for the trains, our anniversary (and ghost hunt) in Gettysburg coming up, and possibly some other stuff for November. So needless to say, things won’t be getting less hectic anytime, soon. But I’ll take it. At least things won’t be dull, right?

Where The Heck Have You Been?

I’ve been pretty busy for the past weekend. I didn’t get to quite as much as I hoped to, but such is life. Still, I’m not going to complain, because a lot of people are far worse off than me.

As for my lack of updates, here’s what’s going on. My wife has had some… health issues… and taking care of that was the top priority. While there are still issues to be resolved, I’m hopeful that the answers she is starting to get will help her out in the end. It’s always a challenge for her – not because she does anything to purposely make herself unhealthy. She has a few health issues that came from straight-up biology, so she has to make an extra effort to take care of herself, and she’s often put aside her own concerns to take care of the children, friends… and me.

So it’s no surprise that sometimes it really can take a toll on her. But one of the things I admire most about my wife is that she pushes on, endures… and works to conquer challenges. She has already started on another art piece, and I’m hoping to keep her encouraged to work on it more.

And of course, I am grateful that she is still working with me to encourage better living as well. I face some health challenges of my own, though mine were caused by my own stupidity over the years. I’m fortunate that she works to keep me on the right path now, a bit late though it was in getting here. That’s on me, and no one else.

Anyhow, it’s not like I didn’t get ANYTHING done. No, I have managed to get my first train table started this past weekend with Eli’s help. I’m hoping to finish it up at the end of this week and at least have some track temporarily on it while I work to save up for part 2, which will consist of two more tables, purchasing track, and eventually, the final table, which has that additional feature for some scenery I will do.

Once I am finished with table 1, I will post up pictures from the build and maybe a quick video about the results. It’s been a learning experience, but thankfully I have a lot of help from a great son.

That’s the update for now. Stay tuned and check back often!

You know what’s annoying?

Google AdSense. This morning at 2:00 AM, when I couldn’t sleep, I thought, “hey, what the heck, I’m going to look at the front of my site and see if any ads are showing up. Probably not, but I can’t sleep so…”

And I go to the site and LO AND BEHOLD, THERE ARE ADS! And lots of them! Oh, good. Whatever that I had holding my account up has been released and ad revenue can start coming in, slowly but surely. 10 hours later, I go to check and… nothing. They’re gone again.

Google, WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?!

Site Design Questions

I’m sure you’ve noticed it in the past 48 hours or so. Stuff has been moving around a bit on here. Some blocks of content have changed around a bit. My ads have disappeared, reappeared, disappeared again.

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

OK, I’ll tell you (as much as I know). Apparently having a high volume of sudden viewership pushed me to a state where I needed to review and edit some of my AdSense account settings… perhaps because I’m close to the point where my ad revenue may require me to start being tracked for taxes.

Taxes? What? Yes, that’s right. Ad Revenue is income, meaning it’s taxable. So I had to update some info for that. I don’t think they wanted ads showing up before I had that info in. I guess we’ll know for sure in a day or so if that’s the reason for the weird ad behaviors. Once that gets sorted out, hopefully, your visits will continue helping that.

YOUR SITE LOOKS… KINDA VANILLA

So? I like vanilla! OK, honestly, I haven’t had a chance to put together the detailed template I intend to eventually put up on my site. I had a number of elements to work on and implement, and given the efforts involved and the limits to time recently, I haven’t had enough of an opportunity to work on that in depth.

So yes, I am planning something more intricate, but I’ve been trying to keep content coming first. After all, I can put the more detailed stuff on the design together over time, but winning and maintaining an audience is a bit higher a priority, and my graphics aren’t supposed to be the main selling point.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE PLAN THEN?

Well, obviously the content on the model trains and woodworking stuff is the highest priority, but aside from that I do intend to continue putting together my recipe collection and humor articles when the mood strikes.

Of course, I’m no Dave Barry, so I can’t promise the humor will be all that great, but what the heck, if you like it and visit, I’ll do more of it. Maybe it’ll improve over time. I have a few other thoughts for types of posts I may make, but I’m not ready to put those out just yet, so this’ll be it for the time being.

Hopefully that gives everyone some insight on what’s been happening here.

Dose of Humor #6 – The Science of Charley Horses

Charley Horses. If you’ve never had one, let me explain the feeling of waking up to one. Your alarm goes off. Maybe it’s the first time… maybe you’ve hit snooze once or twice or 17 times… and you turn over, deciding “yeah, I guess I should get up now and get ready to go for work”. And your muscles in your leg, given instructions from your brain to swing over and set down on the floor, instead decide “hey, let’s seize up in the most intense way as soon as we’re mid-way over the floor”.

So one or both of your legs experience a contraction spasm in such a way as to feel like giant rubber bands that have snapped. You then sharply contort your legs, trying desperately to find a position that will allow the sensation to subside a bit, while you frantically attempt to massage the muscle that seems to think that it should keep contracting.

In the process, you arch your back to reach the spot with your hands while the contraction continues to become more severe, resulting in you trying to adjust your leg even more trying to abate the pain, only to twist your body in just such a way that you have now pulled 1 or more muscles along the flank of your body, giving you a new cramp that means you are choosing between easing the pain your leg, which has been going on for at least as long as an average presidential administration, or the new pain in your side which feels like some horror villain has implanted a knife in you.

Meanwhile, one or more dogs has decided you are in distress and is attempting to help by licking your face, thinking “yes, if I drown him in saliva, he will no longer suffer”. This is much the same as the idea of helping a person who is on fire by pushing them into a vat of gasoline. At first, you think “this liquid will douse the fire”, but then you realize that the liquid is, in fact, smelly. Oh, and making that fire worse. Would it help if I dumped this powder on him to put it out? It’s labeled as “wood dust”. Seems reasonable.

And at this stage, the cat has decided “Oh, his weird position and sounds must mean he wants to cuddle and play”. So she climbs onto you with the 40 foot long razor blades she calls her claws fully exposed, and proceeds to paw at:

  • Your stomach
  • Your arm
  • Your chest (including, no doubt, the sensitive sections there)

which in turn causes you to flinch. The cat interprets this as you wanting to cuddle, so she spins around onto her back so she can rub against the muscles that are in mid-spasm on the side of your body. The dog, who now fancies him or herself an E.M.T. is licking more vigorously… that’ll make it better.

You flinch, which causes the dog to redouble his or her efforts, but sends the cat flying off the side of the bed, which you didn’t mean to happen, but it did, and meanwhile the flinch has caused both sets of muscles to contract MORE. The cat decides to jump back up because obviously that was just an accident, but we definitely need to extend our claws for the landing because we may need a better grip. Also, let’s try a landing on that part that seems to have a cloth covering right around the waste. PERFECT DEAD CENTER LANDING… though what is the lumpy sensation under this material?

And needless to say, this is why the snooze button function on an alarm clock should really be more of a “shut up, and I’ll get up when I’m good and ready”.

Also, a muscle spasm / drowning / knifing of soft external protrusions really should qualify as a medical excuse from work.

Dose of Humor #5 – Hi-Ho Dexter, Away

It was two weeks ago that my wife announced to me that she was ready to love again. By which I mean, she was ready to adopt a new cat. Sadly, back at the beginning of the year, her pet of 10 years, Peach, passed on, we believe due to a heart attack. It was, obviously, a heartbreaking thing, and it took her a bit of time to deal with the emotions of that loss. After all, it was the first real pet of that nature she ever had. Peach had been important to her and the kids, and even I will admit that though we had a bit of a tense relationships, she and I had enough of an understanding that we could work through the nuisances of things like me having to give her a bath.

I’m no cat person. I always was raised with dogs, and so I never was all that keen on having one around. It’s very hit or miss with a cat on how they will handle things. Here’s an example of what may come to pass with a cat.

If you’ve tried really hard to keep a good place for that cat to use as a rest room, but that place happens to be in your laundry room, the cat may, if it’s in a bad mood, decide your pile of socks to wash is just as good as the litter box. I think you can understand the issue that may present. Socks smell bad enough as it is from warm weather. Cat urine just makes it that much worse.

So having a cat could be a wonderful experience about bonding with a loving animal, or might make you think that you’ve walked into an ammonia testing facility… and there is NO way to tell what you’ll end up with.

So my wife had decided that, much as she would always love Peach and miss her, she was ready to bring home a new cat who would become part of the family, but would not be a replacement for Peach, would just be a new family member.

And I had promised her that I would be OK with it when the time came, so I was obligated to accept this myself, which I’d like to think I have. Of course, there were a few concerns / caveats to the whole idea. Obviously, with having two Siberian Huskies, the cat needed to be OK with dogs (and yes, my wife had obviously thought all of that through well in advance) and I was adamant that whatever the case, I really didn’t want to deal with a kitten, mostly because I wanted the type of animal around that would have a known personality as an adult. Kittens look cute, but that uncertainty factor with personality is a severe concern to me.

My wife, ever the right-minded person that she is, really wanted to adopt an adult cat, knowing that there are too many in shelters and who really deserve a good, loving home, so she’d already set her mind on the idea of adopting based on that idea.

And so at the end of that weekend, I was awaken from a nap to find myself staring into the eyes of this… cat…. OK, here we go. Yeah, she had pretty eyes. Wait, is she really that small as an adult? I mean, she’s not tiny, but she’s kind of small…. oh, just a small 2 year old? How is she supposed to be with dogs? Seems friendly, so it’s probably OK? Alright, we’ll give it a try… oh we have to work her into the household… she’ll be sleeping and eating and… eh, OK, she’ll be living in our room until she adapts to the environment. Fine. Not destructive, but likes to climb? OK, I guess we’ll have to figure this out…

Yes, she is pretty…

Can I help you?
Can I help you?

So we that night and the next, she slept in our room. And then, Sunday night, we’re going to bed, and the cat has… disappeared. She apparently slipped out of the bedroom in a heartbeat while my wife’s back was turned, trying to shoo out the dogs who really wanted to meet the new friend and play with her…. especially her head. OK, not really, they just wanted to get to know her, but apparently freaked her the heck out, and she disappeared… somewhere in the house. And we have no idea where.

The next 24 hours is my wife frantically worrying more and more that she has not yet reappeared, and so we begin searching room-by-room to figure out where the heck she went. As it turns out, she shot into my son’s room and hid under his bed behind a few boxes. I discovered her on the third or 4th time looking, after realizing I had mistook her for one of his stuffed animals.

Sssssh.... don't tell anyone where I am...
Sssssh…. don’t tell anyone where I am…

She had decided to hide out in the room the dogs were sleeping in, and was essentially trapped because of trying to evade them. So we had our hands full figuring out, how are we going to get them comfortable if she panicked and ran to hide like that.

The next week consisted of trying to gently introduce her to Dexter and Ruby. Surprisingly, Dexter was generally very gentle with his inspections… it was Ruby, who was irritating to Pepper. Ruby, who has a bad tendency to request attention by using her nose obtrusively and her paws almost as much to get you to come over to her.

But my wife kept at it and amazingly, one day, the cat was able to stand staying on the bed with my wife and both dogs for an extended period of time. And apparently, Pepper decided “OK, I’ll deal with this”.

And of course, the whole time I’m trying to adapt to the idea of dealing with a cat again. Yeah, I’m just not a cat person, but this little furball…. well, she finally got me to admit that I kind of like her… well, OK, I actually love her…. she’s very friendly, and surprisingly likes to cuddle up to me as much as everyone else. And she’s pretty good about not using her claws wrong with me. In fact, she tends to spend more time trying to lick and groom me than anything else, but it’s kind of cute, so yeah, I’m OK with her.

Hi, Daddy, I'm going to just stay here next to you...
Hi, Daddy, I’m going to just stay here next to you…

But here’s the kicker. She’s bonded with Dexter. Crazy, hyperactive, over-sized, bear-of-a-dog that he is, they have gotten very close. Close enough that yesterday when I walked in, they were laying on the bed together. At one point he hopped off and she followed. And when he got back on the bed, she jumped back up and after he was lying down, she decided to curl up with him… after brushing against the underside of his neck and jaw area… she decided that she liked him.

This was.... unexpected
This was…. unexpected

And it keeps happening that way.

To the point that I am now expecting to walk in some day soon and see her riding on his back like the Lone Kitty Ranger meowing “Hi Ho, Dexter… away!”.

It might happen with Ruby, too, if she can keep from stuffing her nose into Pepper’s face so abruptly, but for now, it’s relaxing to know that they all get along…. unless they’re planning something… honey? Should I be concerned?

Welcome to the family, Pepper.

Returning to Social Media… because…

If you’re recall back about a month-and-a-half ago, I had announced a decision I’d reached to end my participation in Facebook. My reasoning was that, frankly, I was sick of the large volume of negative crap that I regularly was seeing posted onto the service, and with it being as annoying as it was, I just decided I’d had enough for good.

The honest-to-goodness truth is that my feelings on that are still more-or-less the same. I find that, quite often, I can’t stand the stuff I see on there, because people have seemed to lose track of the point of social networking – it’s not supposed to be about posting crap that drives people apart.

I’d scheduled my account for deletion and that was to be the end of it. But as the deadline for that deletion approached, I realized that I was having a harder time generating the traffic to projects like this site, because people tend to not go somewhere like a personal site anymore unless the link is regularly provided through a site like Facebook.

So I’m planning to use that account in an attempt to drive some visitors back to this site, in hopes that some of my content will help with generating visitor / ad revenue. And yes, that means I might post a few personal things on Facebook from time-to-time. But seriously, I don’t want the negative garbage that goes along with it. If you have something negative to say, please, you can do that on your own wall, and leave it there. Please, don’t post it to mine.

However, if you’d like to keep abreast of what’s really happening in my life, please, feel free to visit here. If you come in from a post on Facebook, that’s fine by me. If you want to post something to my wall over there, that’s great. If I don’t like what I see, I’m not going to say anything, I’m just going to delete it. If you don’t get the hint, chances are I will just remove or block you.

I’m trying to turn over to more positive mindsets. I’ve had too much of a negative one in life, and I really don’t want to waste the 2nd half of my life on any more of it. Hopefully this clarifies what happened, and we can just leave it alone, so I can get back to recipes, workshop stuff and model trains…