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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Why are we using 17th century technology to fight a 21st century virus?


Plague Doctors & Beaked Physicians | TaleWorlds Forums

      The great plague of 1665 in England had one way to limit its spread---social distancing.  Fast forward today and we are fighting today's pandemic with the same technique- social distancing.  Isn't it time we use technology to give us a better method of avoiding Covid-19?  We have test strips to tell us when a woman is pregnant.  Geiger counters tell us when we are near a radioactive area.  Metal detectors beep when near something metallic.  Dogs apparently can sniff out cancer.  Can't we develop an app on our phone that can alert us to where in our environment the Covid-19 virus is?  We only have social distancing because we can't see or sense where the virus is.  How do we make the virus visible?  Could our smartphone beep if we got within a certain distance from the virus? Sound farfetched?  Maybe not.  There are some efforts to use technology to detect biological viruses.  How about detecting if you have Covid-19 using an app on your phone by listening to your coughSmartphone apps are already tracking the movements of persons who have tested positive.
     Social distancing to limit the spread of the virus is like using a machine gun to kill a fly in a crowd. It may kill the fly but with a great deal of collateral damage.   Smartphone technology developed to fight this virus may be the silver lining to come out of this pandemic.  The energy and focus of the world's innovators may find the new 21st-century method to fight a future virus without destroying the world's economy.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The race between herd immunity and a vaccine

     We have all heard that the pandemic will not end until we achieve herd immunity or there is a vaccine.  The estimated timeframe for a vaccine is 18 months to 2 years.  This is explained as the fastest that any vaccine has ever been developed.  Even more discouraging is that many viruses such as AIDS has never had a vaccine developed.

Footage of Memorial Day Pool Party in the Ozarks Goes Viral | Complex

    As the Memorial Day weekend coincides with the beginning of many states opening up the restrictions we have been living with for 2 months, we will see how fast the virus expands back toward where we were when we started our social distancing.  The picture above from Arkansas shows it is naive to think people will continue social distancing with the warmer weather.  The only hope for a different outcome is that we have more testing and contact tracing.
     One lesson learned with this virus is that much more needs to be done to protect those most vulnerable to the virus.  Nursing home, prisons, meatpacking plants and other vulnerable sites need to be tested frequently and isolated quickly will dramatically lower the death rate.  Maryland's number of deaths would be reduced by 50% if you eliminated the nursing home deaths.  Social distancing the entire population seems to be something that you can only do for a short period of time.  Looks like the United States will follow Sweden to test out how fast we reach herd immunity.

     So Trump wants our religious congregations to open up this weekend for services.  I wonder if we will see Trump attend one of these packed services with unmasked congregants?  He could read a passage from his favorite book of 2 Corinthians.  Nope, he went looking for Jesus on the golf course again.

Trump golfs at his Virginia club amid the coronavirus pandemic ...

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     100,00 and counting.  Was he right?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Why we should never expect Trump to take responsibility for his stupidity

    From blaming everything on Obama and firing everyone who tries to restrain him, Trump's fragile ego will never allow him to own up to his mistakes.  He is now threatening to withhold funding from the World Health Organization because they believed China's misinformation and didn't warn the world of the danger of a pandemic.   Of course, this is exactly what Trump himself did. This is a pattern that Trump has used often in the past to shift blame from himself.
     Presently one of the books I am reading is "Dark Towers-the Story of Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction."  The book details how Trump defaulted on most loans he used to finance his properties.  Deutsche Bank was the only one that would consider loaning him money.  One theory is that Deutsche Bank washed dirty money from Russian billionaires.  The Trump connection to Russians often came through this arrangement.  Trump has been willing to work with the Mafia to build his buildings.  Often building unions in New York have Mafia connections.   Understanding this background with Trump helps us understand why he has so many problems with honest people.
      The book talks about how when Trump was building his Trump Towers in Chicago he was going to default on the loan to Deutsche Bank during the housing downturn in 2008.   Here is how the book describes what happened. 

"When the 2008 financial crisis arrived, Trump still owed $334 million on ­Deutsche Bank’s loan for his Chicago skyscraper. With the economy sinking, nobody was buying the luxury apartments in the building. As the loan’s due date approached that November, Trump filed a lawsuit, trying to void the loan because of the financial crisis, which he accused ­Deutsche Bank of having helped ignite. He sought damages of $3 billion. "

      Trump blamed the bank for creating the situation rather than the fact he had overextended himself in a bad real estate deal.  Any surprise he blames Obama for creating the problems we are having with the pandemic?

     Oh no, Eddie Haskell is dead!   Haven't we all known an "Eddie Haskell?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rethinking what an education is all about

     The pandemic has caused us to re-think many of our traditional assumptions.  We may have to recognize that the paradigms which have long controlled our lives are short-sighted.   How learning takes place is one of those areas to be re-examined.   Online learning has forced schools to re-think how they can provide a meaningful education blending the traditional classroom with newer enhanced opportunities to learn.  Unfortunately, I feel that most schools will still hold the classroom instruction as the key part of their educational experience rather than only a supplemental component.  The passive nature of most classroom instruction, especially in large lecture halls, should be relegated to a past educational reality.
      The new educational model takes advantage of new educational tools to make learning a more experiential.  Instructors in this model become more mentors than instructors.  Instructors use more of the Socratic Method of teaching.  In a nutshell, this Method believes the answers to questions ly within the student and not within the teacher.  The student learning comes from a designed learning experience supplemented with teacher/mentor sessions using the Socratic Method.  This change will require teacher training to be radically modified.
      I have had experience with this method of learning when I was in college.  I often took extra credits in a semester to quickly get my required courses out of the way to then have an opportunity to take advantage of independent study and independent research which was the core of what I wanted from a learning experience.  These credits allowed me to have one on one interaction with professors that were more meaningful for both of us than the traditional classroom experience of a 20 to 1 ratio of students to teacher.
       I know that skeptics will say that this model will not work for all students and that many students are not capable of learning in this less structured manner.  The wrong assumption in this argument is that this learning style is "less structured."  To work well it has to be as effectively structured as the more traditional classroom.  My argument would be that most of us learn more experientially than we do didactically in a lecture model.
       If there is a silver lining to this pandemic I would hope that it would cause us to re-examine the paradigms that will help us take advantage of new ways to improve our lives and well-being.  Those ways are out there if we are open to the changes we can make.

     I wonder if students and their families will be willing to pay full price for an education taken online from home.