Thu 2020-03-26 01:31

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Seasonal influenza ("the flu") in the United States

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Season U.S. Population Cases (% pop.)* Deaths (% cases)*
2010 - 2011 309,320,000 21,000,000 (6.8%) 37,000 (0.18%)
2011 - 2012 311,560,000 9,300,000 (3.0%) 12,000 (0.13%)
2012 - 2013 313,830,000 34,000,000 (10.8%) 43,000 (0.13%)
2013 - 2014 315,990,000 30,000,000 (9.5%) 38,000 (0.13%)
2014 - 2015 318,300,000 30,000,000 (9.4%) 51,000 (0.17%)
2015 - 2016 320,640,000 24,000,000 (7.5%) 23,000 (0.1%)
2016 - 2017 322,940,000 29,000,000 (9.0%) 38,000 (0.13%)
2017 - 2018 324,990,000 45,000,000 (13.8%) 61,000 (0.14%)
2018 - 2019 326,690,000 35,521,883 (10.9%) 34,157 (0.1%)

* Estimated, because apparently we aren't bothered enough by these numbers to track them with certainty.

COVID-19 in the United States

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Season U.S. Population Cases (% pop.)* Deaths (% cases)*
2019 - 2020 329,340,000 54,453 (0.02%) 737 (1.4%)**

* Confirmed and presumptive cases reported as of 2020-03-25.

** Only about 95,000 individuals in the U.S. have been tested for SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). In addition, there has been no widespread testing for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in healthy individuals (which would indicate that the person previously had the virus, may or may not have been symptomatic, and later recovered). We don't even have a widely available antibody test, yet. So note that while this mortality rate looks much higher than seasonal flu, it may also be disproportionately high because we don't have accurate case numbers yet. Basically, we probably won't really know just how deadly COVID-19 is/was until after the pandemic runs its course.

I don't put these numbers up to downplay or diminish the seriousness of COVID-19, but rather to try to apply some reasoned perspective to what has become a highly sensationalized disease. One to which (in my opinion) people are assigning a disproportionate level of concern, and a vastly disproportionate response in measures to control it.

During the 2017-2018 flu season almost 14% of Americans caught the disease and 61,000 people in the U.S. died from it. I'm getting older and my memory may not be the best, but I don't recall a nationwide economic shutdown in 2017 or 2018. I don't remember everyone being told to stay home for two weeks, or the federal government spending $2 trillion dollars in stimulus to stave off a recession or depression. I don't recall runs on the grocery store or widespread shortages of toilet paper.

And importantly, I don't remember a 24-hour-a-day media blitz about what was (clearly, objectively) a deadly influenza epidemic. We didn't have a "national conversation" about the disease. In fact, it seems like most peoples' attitudes remain unchanged about influenza - that it's just a common, routine disease. You get sick for a week, feel like crap, and get better. No big deal. If your office is giving them out for free, you get a flu shot (maybe).

Why didn't I have 100 articles a day in my RSS feeds talking about an epidemic that infected 45 million Americans and killed 61,000, and yet today my feeds are flooded with stories about a virus that has (thus far) infected 54,000 Americans and killed 737? It just seems to me like something is really off base here.

Wed 2020-03-25 17:23

My wife got up at 5am this morning to get to the grocery store when they first opened. She came home with a six-pack of toilet paper, and I felt like Grandpa Joe. Ridiculous.

Fri 2020-03-20 06:02

Today was the first day my wife started working from home. I've been doing that for the majority of the last decade, including while we were living on the road in 2017-2018. So I kind of figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal. However, this is the first time we've both been actively working from home at the same time and in such a small living space (700 square feet). And this whole thing came about on a much abbreviated timeline that didn't give us a lot of time to prepare.

Laptop orders from all the major vendors are backlogged as companies everywhere are sending their employees home in droves to work remote. So I had to reach into my personal stock for a spare ThinkPad, image it with Windows 10 (yes, I died a little inside), and I offered it up to my wife's company to install their stuff to allow her to work remote.

Both of our "offices" are in our bedroom, and we knew that wasn't going to work for conf calls, etc. So after a quick run to IKEA for a cheap table (and some shuffling around of existing furniture), we moved my wife's desktop computer setup into the living room of the apartment. It makes living space a little tighter but it's not terrible.

Amazon is running behind on shipping orders, and we're still waiting for a small KVM to arrive so she can switch her peripherals between her personal desktop and her new work laptop. This morning I was scrambling around moving cables so she could get logged on. I ordered her a SIP phone but it won't be here until late next week. In the meantime, she's forwarding calls to her cell and blowing up my normally modest mobile bill for next month (no, we don't pay for an "unlimited" plan. Hint: for most people, it's a waste of money).

Since I don't allow foreign-controlled computers or devices onto my private network, I had to extend our DMZ from my office into the other room today, as well. Which required an impromptu WiFi buildout in between (my own) conference calls. Good thing I had that spare access point in the closet. Super fun day today, let me tell you.

Hopefully, tomorrow will go smoother and by next week we should have all the wrinkles ironed out of this new working dynamic.

Wed 2020-03-18 15:33

It's been about two months now since COVID-19 first started making the rounds in the United States. Numbers vary by source and the precise moment you check, but deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are currently around 100 people.

100 Americans have died from this virus in two months. This is tragic. But, let's take a beat to put that statistic in perspective.

In the same two month period, on average:

  • 106,000 Americans died from heart disease.
  • 100,000 Americans died from cancer.
  • 27,000 Americans died from a fall, an accidental poisoning, or a traffic collision.
  • 4,000 Americans died from influenza.
  • 400 Americans have been murdered and nearly 8,000 Americans have committed suicide.

100 Americans dead from a new disease can sound scary, especially if you find yourself inundated all day, every day with media reports about it. But try to grasp the actual scale of the problem.

Over 600,000 Americans die every year from heart disease and we've never had government-mandated closures of fast food restaurants. Over 34,000 Americans died in traffic accidents last year, and we didn't close the highways.

100 Americans (out of 330 million) have died of COVID-19 and we are shutting down the U.S. economy in response, sending potentially millions of people into financial ruin.

My prediction: far more Americans will die by suicide in response to poverty resulting from our COVID-19 containment measures - than will die from the virus itself.

The real virus is fear.

Tue 2020-03-17 03:49

I'm not sure what Michael Tremer over at IPFire is smoking when he says that WireGuard isn't a suitable replacement for OpenVPN. In my view, he seems to be picking gnat shit out of pepper on the technical details while trying to grind some personal axe against the new protocol. Whatever his motivations... here at ground level on planet Earth:

I frickin' love WireGuard.

And I am a looong time OpenVPN user (like 15+ years, I think). I can't see how anyone who has worked with OpenVPN for a decade or more wouldn't find WireGuard to be a much-needed breath of fresh air in the Open Source VPN space. I mean, unless you just like dicking around with certificate chain management, session negotiation problems, dog slow performance, inability to use standard firewall rules for traffic management, etc. Me? Yeah, not so much.

And don't get me started on IPSec, of which Michael also sings praises. IPSec is great, until you need to connect a tunnel between two endpoints from different vendors. Then all bets are off. I've been building IPSec VPN networks for over 20 years and I won't willingly do a buildout unless I have access to both endpoints. Trying to troubleshoot an IPSec tunnel build between different hardware vendors from only one side of the connection is like trying to drive blindfolded in a foreign country while some guy with a strange accent gives you directions from the back seat.

I tried WireGuard when it was still in beta and I quickly became a convert. The protocol is straightforward, the implementation is easy (and easily scriptable), and the tunnel interfaces act like typical network interfaces so all the standard firewall tools (iptables, firewalld) work as expected. My experience with WireGuard has been nothing but great. I've since replaced my OpenVPN implementations on all of my static tunnels and remote access connections, everywhere.

Not only have I found WireGuard to be about 10x more performant than OpenVPN in terms of session build time and network throughput, I've also found it to be a hell of lot easier to maintain. Granted WireGuard is probably not suited to every single possible use case at this time (as Michael takes great pains to elaborate on). And granted, my personal use case doesn't cover a lot of the ground where WireGuard is lacking. I got 99 problems but running a remote access solution for 500 road warriors ain't one.

What Wireguard does - man, it does it really, really well. The biggest feature I've been waiting on is mainline kernel integration, and that's finally starting to roll out. So to me, the future of WireGuard is looking bright, indeed.

Mon 2020-03-09 13:31

To the drug dealer with whom I share a similar cell phone number:

Tara needs .5 and she's waiting for you by Nikki's.

To everyone else:

Did you know that SMS is not a secure messaging network?

Thu 2020-03-05 02:29

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Joe Rogan did a great interview with Adam Curry today. You wouldn't think of a former MTV VJ being a pretty plugged-in technical guy with a lot of background in the evolution of the Internet, but the guy is the frickin' Podfather. Anybody who wants a first-hand account of exactly why Gopher went the way of the dinosaur (hint: it wasn't adversarial interoperability), jump to 02:02:12.

Sun 2020-03-01 23:47

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Looking over at my #FOSScan this afternoon, I saw it was almost overflowing. Time to count it up and make some FOSS donations!

The change collected since I last emptied the can six months ago amounted to US$55.44. I've decided this time to donate the full amount to The Document Foundation. LibreOffice is an amazing application I use and rely on quite a lot, and I've never donated to TDF before. Time to correct that oversight.

This count brings my #FOSScan donations to a total of US$102.94 since I started the project just eight months ago.

Do you have a #FOSScan of your own? If not, eat a can of soup (or beans, veggies.. whatever), make your own #FOSScan, and start collecting spare change for Free Software and related projects today! Together, we can make a difference in Free Software funding.

Sun 2020-03-01 19:01

Ah, Sunday mornings. A nice lie-in. Breakfast. Coffee. Chit-chat with the wife. 1st Wave in the background...

Followed by accounting. Bills. Invoices. Software updates. Offline backups. Bug fixes.

Sometimes I feel like Sunday is just a bootloader for Monday.