Friday, May 24, 2024

AI - Stealing Voices, Artwork, and Water

AI is an environmental issue. 

Microsoft-backed OpenAI requires water - massive amounts of the limited resource:

"pulled from the watershed of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers in central Iowas to cool a powerful supercomputer as it helped teach its AI systems how to mimic human writing. . . . Microsoft disclosed that its global water consumption spiked 34% from 2021 to 2022 (to nearly 1.7 billion gallons, or more than 2,500 Olympic-swimming pools), a sharp increase compared to previous years that outside researchers tie to its AI research. . . . ChatGPT gulps up 500 millilitres of water every time you ask it a series of between 5 to 50 prompts or questions. . . . Google reported a 20% growth in water use in the same period." 

Last February an article in Forbes addressed this same topic:

"1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people. . . . At the same time, our world is racing ahead to advance AI into every aspect of our world. With the rise of generative AI, companies have significantly raised their water usage, sparking concerns about the sustainability of such practices amid global freshwater scarcity and climate change challenges. Tech giants have significantly increased their water needs for cooling data centers due to the escalating demand for online services and generative AI products. AI server cooling consumes significant water, with data centers using cooling towers and air mechanisms to dissipate heat, causing up to 9 liters of water to evaporate per kWh of energy used."

Thursday, May 23, 2024

News Alert: Masks Work! Better Masks Work Better!

A new paper is out that definitively concludes absolutely, without question that masks/respirators reduce transmission of respiratory infections.

It's important that this work is published, but it's a shame that it's so necessary ONLY because there are so many misinformed nay-sayers who objected to mask mandates enough to actually influence policy to the point that some Health Care workers don't even mask near infectious or immunocompromised people - even around preemies - because they don't have to anymore. It's important because Covid is still here, of course, still killing and disabling people daily, but also TB, measles, and whooping cough have made a huge comeback. I'm not sure this paper will change policy or public opinion, though. We're well immersed in post-truth governments at this point. But at least it's something I can wave around when people tell me I've been duped by lies from, um big-Covid?? And I really, really hope the paper makes an impact on our nose-diving culture.

Here's co-author Trisha Greenhalgh's salty thread on this incredible paper in full below. Loud letters are hers, but anything bolded is my emphasis:

"13 authors, 38,000 words. 413 references. One conclusion: these devices work. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

On the Importance of Hobbies

I taught grade 10 Careers for a bit. I changed it completely from how it was typically taught, though, which was largely one Myers-Briggs-type test after another. Kids in other classes came out knowing what colour they are and what kind of job that might relate to. The biggest take-away that I heard from kids in other classes is that they can do absolutely anything they set their mind to do. My class went down a different path.

How does this help me find a job??

I did have them think a bit about who they are, their personality, goals, skills, passions, values, and lifestyle to start, but only for a couple days. Then we created the standard résumé and cover letter, but now there are templates that do the formatting, and I have no idea how teachers stretch that into more than a day or two (checklist here). Then we looked at the many, many types of jobs out there and requirements to get them with tons of guest speakers to help. But then we moved on. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Transformation of the Self

Over thirty years ago I was in an on-again-off-again relationship that I just couldn't shake. After months of a variety of attempts of different types of therapies, I lucked into a therapist who walked me through a version of the Gestalt exercise of talking to a chair that ended my longing for this guy on a dime.

The exercise had me reimagine many ways he had enraged me, bringing all that to the surface. Then it raised any guilt I had around my own actions towards him, sadness around missing him, and finally ending with celebrating what I learned from him. It took just an hour, and I left feeling completely finished, excised of any clinging or craving, and able to effortlessly say "No thanks!" to his next late-night phone call. Pairing words and actions with emotions in a contained and structured time and space, that gives some order to the chaos, might do next to nothing -- but it might help to move through a difficult transition. I was so impressed with this power hour that I went to grad school to study ritual work. Gestalt psychotherapy is a far cry from cultural anthropology, but I perceived a connection to rites of passage that help neophytes transition from one state to another.

I recognize the cringe-factor in all of this, but it's worked for thousands of years to take children into adulthood, and we've kept at it when marrying and burying, so there's likely something useful in the process. And it feels like we need something transformative more than ever.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Harmful Misinformation

Two threads - one from a retired doctor on deducing misinformation and one from a current doctor frustrated with other doctors who ignore the information presented by patients. We have so many quality studies that vaccines help, that masks are effective, and that Covid can affect many systems long term, but we're loathe to acknowledge our current state of affairs.

Dr. Jon Meddings wrote: 

Thinking about that poor family with a child dead from measles. The penultimate cause of death was of course misinformation, fuelled by an appalling industry that profits from our public inability to separate truth from baloney. 

I've long been a fan of Carl Sagan - a wonderful scientist who died in the 1990's. He was the quintessential science communicator and I loved and read, all his books. One book in particular captivated me. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Well worth a read if you have time. Even today his ideas ring true. In particular he addressed the vaccine problem we have today with what he called his "Baloney Detection Kit". Let me paraphrase it here. 10 questions, and I'll use Anti Vax as the test case.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Covid and Crypto

 I was a bit confused at the connection between Covid and Cryptosporidium Parvum. 

Tern has shown a clear correlation in cases, as Covid rises, so does Crypto. But Crypto is a parasite causing diarrhea. How does that work?? Is it just more severe in people with Covid?? Then Daniel Brittain Dugger explained how Crypto affected people with AIDS as an opportunistic infection. This paper shows a connection between HIV and cholangiocarcinoma - bile duct cancer - that enables parasites to move in more easily and thoroughly. "Cryptosporidium parvum is the most frequently isolated pathogen in patients with HIV cholangiopathy." Back in 2017 it was reported that Crypto occurs in "up to 50% in AIDS patients" in less developed countries, but Tern is ringing an alarm that the rates are skyrocketing in the UK. The interaction appears to be from Covid, particularly people with Long Covid showing Crypto leading to weeks or months of GI distress on top of everything else. 

I'm also seeing more people who have died of pancreatic cancer, something that once seemed relatively rare, but that could just be because I'm hitting that age. There is a connection to Covid, however. It targets the pancreas. Over two years ago there was a suggestion that "evaluation of pancreatic function should be increased in post-Covid-19 patients, both adults and children." 

Something else to keep in mind when considering whether or not to wear a mask to the shops. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

AI Enhanced

 This cartoon really helped me understand something.


My school board announced a new initiative, the mandatory grade 11 English class will now focus on Indigenous voices. I used to teach Indigenous Studies, and couldn't get more than ten kids to take the class as an elective, so it's not a bad idea. But here's how they explained it:

It's about 100 words - barely a full paragraph - but the school board required the assistance of AI to write it???

Nope, it seems that maybe they're bragging that they figured out how to use AI, as if having assistance from a computer program somehow makes it better. It's like someone writing out a bit of math - that a 20%-off sale means you'll get that $29.99 jumper for only $24 - and bragging that they used a calculator to figure that out. Will we get to a time that people are more impressed if you can write a paragraph or do some simple math without using a computer?? 

The ability to communicate - to be able to write a simple explanatory paragraph - is such a vital skill. I can understand acknowledging it's part of our reality as educators and that it's something we have to learn to work with, but I don't understand promoting its use to write a social media post.

We're entering truly bizarre times.

Monday, May 13, 2024

What is University For, Part 2

Does making it all easier make us lazier educators, or is neoliberal politics to blame?? 

The Quality of Teaching has been Strained: 

This is a back-in-MY-day story, but I think it's necessary to look at how far we've strayed. 

When I was in teacher's college, we had to make it through four practice teaching sessions spaced out over the year in which we took over an experienced teacher's classes while they took notes at the back of the room. Typically the first placement is sink or swim, and some bail at that point, but by the fourth one, at the very end of the year, student teachers have honed many necessary skills. It's tricky for people in History Departments because they also cover social science and humanities courses, and being proficient in one doesn't make you proficient in all. My very first placement was teaching social sciences, my teachable, but my associate also gave me an American History course to teach as well. I knew almost nothing about history at the time. He gave me the textbook, but I also spent hours in the public library night after night, scanning other books enough to give me answers to any potential questions. I worked my ass off for the weeks I was there to make sure I did the best job I could and to make sure I didn't look like a total idiot in front of the kids.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

All for Health, Health for All

The World Health Assembly is meeting in two weeks for the 77th time. Their theme is in my clunky title up there as they claim collective solidarity around pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPPR), WHO financing, and emerging threats including climate change. They hope to adopt a new global pandemic accord to "leave the world better protected and prepared for future pandemics" with little mention of the pandemic we're currently normalizing.

A letter in the Guardian from Desmond Whyms reminds us, 

"With the new Office for National Statistics data showing two million people reporting Long Covid, we need to wake up to the need to improve indoor air quality through better ventilation, filtration or UV disinfection. This should be high on the agenda of the negotiating team crafting the pandemic agreement, to be unveiled at next month's World Health Assembly. But it remains silent on these essential public health protections. Without global commitment to action (and accountability) we will continue to be vulnerable to waves of deadly and debilitating diseases, with disastrous consequences for society, economy and health services."

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Self Organizing Criticality: Slowly, then All at Once

 Alex Walker, Climate Finance Program Manager at Environmental Defence, wrote about spotlighting and mythbusting this week's government studies on climate change and finance:

"The Senate Banking commmittee had a study on Thursday of Senator Rosa Galvaz's amazing Climate-Aligned Finance Act. I wouldn't call all the witnesses experts on climate finance. Let's bust some of the less-than-expert myths that were said. 

Gina Pappano, CEO of an anti-divestment organization, who is so unaware of climate change that she asked Suncor to scrap their net-zero plan - which they rejected. If Suncor believe in climate change more than you, it's an issue. 

Some great quotes include “energy is our economy…our economy is energy”. Seems to have missed the stat that Canada’s largest economic sector is real estate.
* “Investment [in oil and gas] leads to emissions reductions because investment leads to innovations”.  Lie. Reports found $10 billion+ loans made to O+G companies to reduce emissions, but every single one increased production. Investment = more oil and gas.
* “This bill would undermine the Canadian economy itself”. Also false. Not sure she actually read the bill. CAFA is designed to protect the Canadian economy against the systemic physical and transition risks of climate change.
* Finally “Nobody is doing any costing on what net-zero means to our economy”. False! Extensive modeling exists on the cost-savings of reaching net-zero over letting climate change run rampant. Climate change will cost Canada $5.5 trillion by 2100. Net-zero looking a lot cheaper now, huh?

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Funding Applicable Covid Research

Almost a year ago, the WHO put out a report clarifying the unpredictability of the viral evolution of SARS-CoV-2. But there's so much that remained unsaid.

The report doesn't mention the economic burden of Long Covid, despite that it's linked to a worsening labour shortage or costing the US economy up to $200 billion/year. This morning, David Joffe, respiratory physician, wrote:

"We are being outpaced by the virus. Doing nothing is proving to be very costly indeed!! . . . The WHO are nothing more than the paid mouthpieces of the governments that fund their largesse provide troughs for their snouts. Assuming they have any interest in those, other than themselves... Nah!!" 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

More Evidence the WHO is Complicit in Spreading Covid

More damning evidence that the WHO knew that Covid is airborne right from the get-go:

Maarten De Cock wrote,

"At the time when WHO was assuring the world: "Covid-19 is NOT airborne" a 'return to office--document for WHO staff in Geneva stated: Ventilation system has been modified - increased volume of external air - no recycling of air - filters rated as high as we can go."

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Conspirituality

 George Monbiot has a compelling theory to explain what makes people believe conspiracies.

"Those who believe unevidenced stories about hidden cabals and secret machinations tend to display no interest in well-documented stories about hidden cabals and secret machinations. Why might this be? Why, when there are so many real conspiracies to worry about, do people feel the need to invent and believe fake ones? These questions become especially pressing in our age of extreme political dysfunction. This dysfunction results, I believe, in large part from a kind of meta-deception, called neoliberalism. The spread and development of this ideology was quietly funded by some of the richest people on Earth. Their campaign of persuasion was so successful that this ideology now dominates political life. It has delivered the privatisation of public services; the degradation of public health and education; rising inequality; rampant child poverty; offshoring and the erosion of the tax base; the 2008 financial crash; the rise of modern-day demagogues; our ecological and environmental emergencies. But every time we start to grasp what is happening and why, somehow this understanding is derailed. One of the causes of the derailment is the diversion of public concern and anger towards groundless conspiracy fictions, distracting us and confusing us about the reasons for our dysfunctions. It’s intensely frustrating."

He spoke to one conspiracy theorist, Jason Liosatos, who called Covid a fraud and "called doctors promoting Covid vaccines 'Mengele medics'." Yet Monbiot aligned with him in some ways: 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Yup. Still Here. Still Need to Clean the Air.

Covid has been implicated in creating more cases of PANDAS - pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. A 9-year-old girl dramatically changed personality after a viral infection she didn't even know she had! It was only after years of treating her symptoms as a mental health condition that they turned to a 44 day course of antibiotics which had fantastic results. 

"PANDAS presents in patients with sudden extreme anxiety and some can develop ticks or even can't walk. Others have regression in their speech, and it is all caused by the inflammation of their brain due to an infection. . . . Covid can also cause it. Both times the infection Ava had was missed as she was asymptomatic."

Current work on Long Covid from Akiko Iwasaki, PhD who works as a Sterling Professor of Immunobiology at Yale and was named one of top 100 influential people by Time Magazine. She explains that there are four hypotheses on different causes of Long Covid and all have growing evidence. Covid does all the things!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Cell Phones and Cigarettes

I have some concerns with the new rules for schools as reported by the CBC. The biggest concern is that the funding cuts came Friday, but yet another cell phone ban is the big news, and no money is left for cleaning the air. 

As a teacher, both cell phones and cigarettes being accepted without question and without boundaries is a problem. Well, students aren't officially allowed to smoke on the property, but we created a nice space for them, kids as young as 13, to smoke just on the other side of the property line out back to keep them from loitering on public property at the front of the school, which wouldn't look good. The same thing happened as a student in the 80s. It's still perfectly legal for children to smoke -- it's just illegal to give them cigarettes. That law comes from legislators unduly affected by tobacco lobbying.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

What is University For - Part 1

In case you've missed it, many students on university campuses have been protesting the ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

The police have been heavy-handed -- or outright violent -- with some of the students. Yet one prof wrote about his primary concerns in the NY Times: that the constant noise disrupts his class and the protests are upsetting for Jewish students.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Imagine If Goliath Won

A group of scientists backed by years of solid science couldn't sway the mighty World Health Organization from their path of destruction, and we've all paid the price.  


I'm just highlighting Julia Doubleday's latest article on the airborne fiasco here. Her piece in The Gauntlet: "The WHO's claim that COVID wasn't airborne cost millions of lives. Now, they're changing the definition of airborne.

"After two years of argument and discussion, [the WHO] has officially rebranded airborne viral transmission as "through the air" transmission. Airborne particles aren't aerosol anymore; they're "Infectious Respiratory Particles," or IRPs. . . . The correspondence [between the WHO and the aerosol expert petitioners in 2020] shows that the WHO either failed to grasp or represented themselves as failing to grasp the points made by the aerosol experts. Multiple times, they repeat false claims about how sure they are that COVID is spread via 'droplets', that respirator-style masks only need to be worn during AGPs (aerosol-generating procedures, an incorrect claim that is still repeated by medical practitioners today). . . . They cite no studies to shore up their claims that COVID must be spread via droplets, but sneeringly point out that the aerosol scientists have not produced 'peer reviewed' studies demonstrating airborne spread. In April 2020, of course, it was impossible for any peer review to have been completed concerning a virus that was then a few months old. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Another School Came Around - Not Soon Enough

Slides from Yale School of Public Health, one of the oldest school in Public Health and Epidemiology:

Monday, April 15, 2024

On Psychosomatic Illness

I don't know anything about Fibromyalgia, yet I wince when someone says it's psychosomatic. I wonder about almost any conditioned considered psychosomatic now.

I realize I'm using the term in the vernacular to mean "it's all in your head". That's how it is largely understood even though, technically, psychosomatic illness can refer to anything without a medical explanation. People communicating with the public have to understand the common usage of the term as it's being heard.

Jane Brody wrote about the concern with this label almost a decade ago (in full at the very bottom):

"When I was given a diagnosis of breast cancer in February 1999, many friends and readers wondered: 'Why did you get breast cancer? You take such good care of yourself!' . . . It seems that many people believe that if you do everything 'right', bad things won't happen. But bad things can and do happen. And they happen to the 'best' and the 'worst' of us. . . . If you're blessed with good health, you can say, 'I did it.' But if you lose your health, you know that external forces beyond your control can get in your way. Healthy people tend to act as if beneath every sick person is a healthy person trying to come out. . . . 

Wasn't it Susan Sontag who pointed out that whenever the cause of an illness is mysterious, it's assumed to come from psychological problems or a moral weakness? And once science finally figures out the medical root of the illness, that assumption disappears. Will we one day have a better -- that is, more scientific -- understanding of ailments like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Gulf War syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities or any of the other current 'wastebasket' diagnoses that many medical and lay people consider psychosomatic? 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Canada's Healthcare Crisis

A major backbone of Canada is falling apart, and much of it is from poor policy decisions that has led to a serious doctor shortage. 

Mary Fernando, MD, wrote about it. 

"A personal post in two parts: 1. Someone I love needs a specialist but wait times are dangerously long because of our specialist shortage. 2. As a doctor who resisted large money offers from the US to stay in Canada, I've lost something more important than money: my family's safety.