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Crowdsourcing -You need to read this one


The pope has quarantined himself and THIS just popped up on the news this morning:

So, the heads of state are starting to get infected. That’s very significant. And whether we like him or not, the fact that Trump was in India just a few days ago and India hasn’t updated its status for about a week, should raise alarm bells. If Trump becomes sick or incapacitated, Pence is supposed to be next in line. But I can just imagine the chaos in the White House as the staffers start looking out for #1 and it won’t be Trump. Is there a plan?

For that matter, should the candidates be getting close to crowds when there is no way of knowing for sure what the current infection rate is in the US?

It’s all connected, oh best beloveds. Let’s keep calm and think ahead.


Most of the time, ALL of the time, you commenters are amazing and conscientious people. I appreciate every one of you.

But there are days when I wonder if you could please pay attention to posts that are just as important as elections. The Coronavirus posts are what I’m referring to. If I put one up, I hear crickets in the comments section and, guys, we just can’t do that anymore.

I don’t think we can trust our government to give us good information anymore. You’re probably saying, “duh”. But I’m serious. This is what the Masha Gessens were referring to at the beginning of the Trump administration. We are so overstimulated by a barrage of outrageous behavior from Trump that we are in danger of shrugging it off when something really urgent happens. We have to snap out of it.

In the last couple of days, I put up posts about what I’ve seen on the JHU Covid19 tracker that look really disturbing. There was a significant blob of infection at the Oklahoma- Kansas border that grew quickly over the course of one day and then disappeared, like magic. I don’t know where those cases came from or where they went. Shouldn’t we know?

There is still the puzzling case with India. It hasn’t changed it’s confirmed status in over a week. That’s 1 billion people surrounded by a sea of red from China and Iran who are blissfully immune to this rapidly spreading and dangerous virus. And if that’s not strange enough, Trump just spent time there and came back from India the day before his disastrous press conference. Shouldn’t we know what’s going on with India, especially since so many of our offshore technical resources are locate there and many onshore technical resources still travel back and forth?

I’m not saying we need to keep people in holding pens. I’m saying that the lack of transparency makes us vulnerable because we don’t know what’s going on around us. Community spreading is possible because we look at those red dots and say, well, it’s not in my city yet. How do we know that? I mean, how do we know that in the age of Trump? How do we practice defensive disease control when we can’t see the disease coming?

I’m not blaming Johns Hopkins University for disappearing dots in Oklahoma but it looks like someone leaned on the users that maintain the site to delete some crucial data. Or some sources stopped sending updates. That’s something scientists are taught to never do. The data is agnostic. We just report it. You can’t predict or formulate hypothesis or draw conclusions unless the data is transparent and honest.

So, we have to rely on ourselves. We need to become the Waze of Covid19. We need to practice “see something, say something”. We need to write requirements for tracking the virus without the help of JHU or the CDC. Carefully, calmly, accurately. We may need to create our own app. For the code challenged among us, this is the time to figure out how to get it done.

As an American citizen, I want an app for crowdsourcing Coronavirus cases and observations so that I know the risks to my community in real time.

Your turn. Write your own “As a, I want, so that” requirement.

17 Responses

  1. There is very little travel between China and India. The Himalayas make ground travel difficult between the two countries and if you have to take a flight, both the Chinese and Indians view other locations as more desirable than the one across the border. Add to that the food and language issues. I’ve lived half my life in India and have seen very few Chinese – many more Europeans and Americans than Chinese. That’s the optimistic explanation for the lack of coronavirus cases in India.

    A less optimistic explanation could be that people are just not being tested enough. I don’t believe the coverup theory because the media in India is very aggressive and not easily controlled by politicians – even more so than US media.

    • I’d like to believe that but Modi is not my ideal leader any more than Trump is. It would be naive of us to look East for the source of infection, wouldn’t it? Iran is getting hammered. What are the barriers between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan?
      My best guess and fear is that the barn door has been open for some time now and that the horses are running free in India. I’ll be surprised If there aren’t reports of widespread infection by the weekend.
      I hate to say that because many of my colleagues are from India and have family there. But just because it looks quiescent doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get ahead of the problem. We have whole buildings full of Indian IT professionals who are traveling back and forth. Viruses are international.

  2. First, quick personal note, I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling (local state hopping) to help a couple of relatives with expected surgeries and unexpected surgeries/illnesses.

    I was intrigued, and concerned, by the disappearing info on Johns Hopkins site, about which you wrote, I just wasn’t in a position to reply that day.

    In addition to your ask of a crowdsource tracking app, I would like to see local governments suspend activities and events where large crowds gather, such as concerts, sporting events and, yes, campaign rallies. That is a quick and, relatively, painless action that could significantly reduce exposure.

    I got the idea from watching a news report regarding a soccer match in Italy, in which the players competed at an empty stadium. Yes, people won’t get to see their team, band or candidate, but that is a small inconvenience for the immense risk of quickly and uncontrollably spreading the virus.

    I couldn’t believe that Trump went on about the large crowd at his event as worldwide pandemic was ramping up, but he did and here we are.

    If I were the Democratic nominee, I would make to sure to have a montage of Trump strolling about in India and attending a rally with over a hundred thousand people interspersed with the news reports of the virus spreading, during that time. And then mention that until the stock market tanked, he hadn’t even formally addressed the nation regarding the pandemic.

    Craven politics, yes. But holy hell, even with the most competent leadership we are in for a rough ride, with incompetent and corrupt leaders we headed for a possible crash.

    I’ve been here on TC since the PUMA days and greatly appreciate you, RD, for your insights on politics, culture and especially now, science. I placed a little in the tip jar and I hope fellow Conflucians have done so, as well. We’re going to need to stick together.

    • Thank you for the tip, Herstory. You didn’t have to do that but I appreciate it.

      • You have been consistently providing insight and analysis in ways that very few in the blogosphere have done. Do you think it’s time to suspend the aforementioned events?

  3. https://www.nejm.org/coronavirus New England Journal of Medicinte site for virus updates. Just as an ongoing resource.

  4. Something like this was almost inevitable, as Trump cut funding to CDC and other health organizations Why he did this is hard to fathom, even with him. Is he hoping for a national health crisis, so he can declare martial law, or because he thinks it will more seriously impact poor people? Did they let the people fly to California in direct contradiction of the CDC recommendations, because he hates California, Pelosi, Schiff?

    There is nothing rational that is going to come out of the administration, but no one can get rid of them until the election, increasing its existential importance. Pence is as dangerous as Trump, perhaps just as insane, but in a less acting-out way. The dictate to Dr. Anthony Fauci that he cannot say anything without consent of the administration, is truly horrifying. Perhaps he should resign and thus further damage Trump and his people? But he is a dedicated professional, so will not do that. But it is very difficult to know what the status of the pandemic is, if everything is going to be doled out as in the worst totalitarian countries.

    Without clear signals from the health professionals (I am sure we will see some of them on TV who are not government employees), people are mostly left to their own devices information, and relative calm or panic. And without orders from the government, people will be acting independently. As to what we should do, I guess we should find the most reliable sources of information and follow their advice. If things start getting canceled, the election may be canceled, which is about as bad a result as we can get. If people can’t congregate, then there might be ways to vote in absentia, but we know that the administration is not going to do anything to help people to vote, they never have. One thing we know for certain: every single thing Trump will do, will be in furtherance of his own continued power. Nothing will be based on trying to help people avoid getting the virus or getting medical care. But if there is no election, what are people going to do? Get out of the hospital beds and take to the streets?

  5. I found the tracker I use on one of your first posts about CoronaVirus. I compulsively check it multiple times daily.

    I wonder what happened to the people they “repatriated” from affected areas. Were they the big red dot in the middle of the country who are no longer there? Did they recover, die? Why don’t we know?

    I’m a terrible shopper, meal planner person. I really didn’t start cooking until I was in my late 40’s. Should I stock up on soup? Rice? Beans? I don’t know! Gah!

    I’m sad about my 401k, after almost 3 years of unemployment I was right about back to 2008 levels. Oh well, I am not planning on retirement for another 11 years.

    I wish the pandemic was already on the tail end.

    • Rice has the virtue of being inexpensive, and also it stores well if kept dry and free of insects and other vermin. The same is true of pasta, though this food is about twice as expensive as white rice. But then pasta has about twice the protein content as rice. Both of these may turn an ugly yellow from the oils becoming rancid with age. Never fear, just bring them to a boil and then pour off the yukky cooking water, and start again with fresh water.

      Beans have lots of protein. Their main problem is that as they get a bit of age, they require pressure cooking to become tender. Not many people have pressure cookers or know how to safely use them.

      Boxes of dried potato flakes can be used as extenders or substitutes. Last night I experimented with these as a basis for potato soup. I found the result to be edible, even pleasant. Powdered dried milk in metal cans keeps well, but the stuff is darned expensive. On the other hand, I’ve used water in place of milk for making my cornbread for years!

      Many people have bread machines sitting in storage somewhere. These will make a great-tasting hot food in short order. Flour doesn’t store well, so don’t try to gather a large stockpile.

      Small canned hams store quite well, and can add some good taste to other foods. They’re rather fatty, but they max out at 16 ounces and one could be quickly finished off if the refrigerator quits for some reason.

      Buy some “comfort” items. Coffee is a no-brainer, as is chocolate drink mix. A large sack of your favorite candy bars could be doled out as morale-raising treats – daily or every other day. A large bucket of hard candy could be considered.

      As for the other stuff, I don’t trust the news reports these days. The “news-people” are now wage slaves, and their reports closely match those of their employers. Of course this was always the case, but in the old days there were many newspapers, and they could be compared and their stories discussed in detail by groups citizens on front porches or around the hot stove at the general store. These days Indianapolis has one paper, and people sit inside their air conditioned homes getting their news pre-digested from blogs and 24-hour TV coverage. No thinking necessary or desired.

      I try to follow a principle a fellow told to me many years ago – “Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.” Yes, many of the things we watch and read about are detailed little soap operas written and performed to shape our opinions and attitudes.

      For the people who don’t buy into the drama, there is the “stick”. Anti-BDS laws are an example. Getting called names, and even being banned from posting at some sites may happen if you don’t buy into whatever line the site owner is peddling. One old guy I won’t name is still sharper than a tack, except when he lets his pet prejudices take over his brain. “Robert E. Lee was a Great man. and so was his cause.” “Bernie Sanders is a vile Socialist/Communist.” “Climate change is Liberal nonsense”. But I still take a peek at his site every now and then looking for any non-crazy thoughts which might still surface.

  6. Wait, what – Kansas? On the Oklahoma border?

    This is the first sentence from that Smithsonian article I posted a link to downstairs

    Haskell County, Kansas, lies in the southwest corner of the state, near Oklahoma and Colorado


    I expect you, RD, would have known just how horrible the Spanish flu was, but I didn’t until reading this. And the article cites government misinformation as a major cause of that flu’s rapid spread.

    Yours is a very civic post. As an old impoverished retired mainframe programmer, I want one of those highly-paid OOP Apps writing whippersnappers to get right on it. An added incentive is that if this is anything like the Spanish flu, as youngsters they’re at heightened risk. (Serious, in spite of the tone. What else was github invented for?)

    • You might enjoy a trio of books by Ralph Gould titled Yankee Boyhood, Yankee Drummer, and Yankee Storekeeper.

      Towards the end of the last book he described taking on Undertaking as a sideline to his other business venture. He saw it as a profitable and not-too depressing affair – until the Spanish Flu arrived in his little town.

      “I had become professional with the ordinary routine – but this {burying forty friends and neighbors} was too much.”

      Worse than that, there were lingering long-term effects from the pandemic. People’s bodies had been damaged by their exposure to the disease, and his own wife lost a lung and died less than a year afterwards.

      Example: https://www.ebay.com/itm/193322890185

    • Yes, I read about the Spanish flu before and have been looking up videos and podcasts today. Only one of the hypotheses is that it began in Kansas and moved to Camp Funston with the farmers delivering food. But other origin sites have been proposed as well. There was a deadly outbreak of something in Southeast Asia before Haskell County and one other site that I think was in Europe(?). In any case, as bad as the Haskell county/camp funston outbreak was, it was nothing compared to the second phase of infection, which appeared to hit Philadelphia really hard.
      Anyway, listening to this stuff was sobering. Wilson’s admin suppressed the truth using a sedition act originally passed for war propaganda. Quarantine and population control was largely unsuccessful. You have to be extremely rigorous in isolating a population to have a marginal effect on spread. But we’re talking about the flu, not Coronavirus. The incubation period for flu is supposedly shorter for flu so that made it harder to control.
      The most disturbing thing I’ve read about Covid19 is it doesn’t seen to trigger immunity in everyone. Some patients still tested positive after they had “recovered”. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by that. I’ll bet the Aztecs has a similar problem with small pox. So anyway, your B cells aren’t keeping a record of which antibody to make if your body sees it again. That says to me that the pandemic has the potential to come back in waves until everyone has been exposed and has finally kicked their immune system into working. It means that making a vaccine that works is going to be trickier.
      It might be a good idea to start working on those ALK inhibitors in the meantime to alleviate symptoms until the body can recover.
      IDK, I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. I just know we’re screwed in the short term.

  7. Well here is something on how to prepare and protect yourself from TWO reliable sources:

    N.B.: RD and some of our intrepid commenters have already addressed the major points! Yay, team RD!

  8. So anyway, your B cells aren’t keeping a record of which antibody to make if your body sees it again.

    I didn’t even know this could happen! What a mean thing this is.

    IDK, I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. I just know we’re screwed in the short term.

    You’ll do until one comes along. At least you’re providing good information and sounding the alarm.

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