Uncommon Sense

May 11, 2021

Herd Immunity My Ass . . . Just Sayin’

Filed under: Culture,Medicine — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
Tags: ,

For your information, the adult population of the U.S. (18 years and up) is about 74% of all Americans. Of those 116 million have been fully vaccinated, about 34% of the total population. So, are we close to the 80-85% of the population needed to achieve the mythical “Herd Immunity”? We are not even half way there!

Part of this has to do with the fact that vaccines have just recently been approved for 16-18 year olds and, at least here in Chicago, youths down to 12 years old will begin getting vaccinated on Thursday!

In other words we haven’t even being trying for herd immunity as we excluded 26% of the population from getting vaccinated and we are just now opening the gates for part of those, the 12-17 year olds. We haven’t even begun on the under 12s.

And I am still hearing people claiming that everything will be “opened up” or “back open” by the Fourth of July.

I think these people need to start looking at reality. I have a fine view from this chair right here. I am sure they can find a similar viewpoint.

May 3, 2021

It Says So Right on the Label

Filed under: History,language,Medicine,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I was reading the label of an over the counter (OTC) medicine and right on the front it said “No Artificial Sweeteners” and “Contains 44% Xylitol.” Not being a chemist, you might not be confused here.

Xylitol is produced from xylose, a naturally occurring sugar, by both chemical and biological methods. In the chemical process, catalytic hydrogenation of xylose produces the sugar substitute xylitol. In the biological process, quite a few chemical “pretreatments” are needed before biological action (via bacteria or yeast) creates the desired product.

The distinction here between “artificial sweetener” and “xylitol” is “wafer thin” (“Waffer thin” as pronounced by John Cleese in the Monty Python masterpiece “The Meaning of Life.”)

The difficulty is due only to advertising, which is a form of propaganda (which it was called pre-WW2, then propaganda became a “dirty” word). In advertiser lingo there are “bad” words and “good” words. Only “good” words are to be used with one’s own products and only “bad” words are to be used with other products.

For example, here are some “good” words: natural and all-natural, fresh, wholesome, etc. And here are some “bad” words: artificial, synthetic, chemical, etc.

In the above instance xylitol can be found in nature, but it is hard to harvest, so it is synthesized chemically or biologically. Yep, xylitol (chemical names are not capitalized, btw) is artificial (the xylitol they put in that bottle certainly was anyway).

Now, before you go bonkers on me, do realize that butter is artificial. What? Butter isn’t natural? Nope, butter is not natural, certainly not “all-natural.” You can not go pick a pat or two off of a butter bush out back, you know. The word artificial means made through man’s arts. Many things you think are natural aren’t really. For example, you go out into your backyard and pick an apple off of your tree and take a bite. Hmm, natural goodness, right? It seems so (and I have fond memories of doing just that as a child; I can still recall the taste of those apples). But most often it is not. Most fruit trees have been artificially selected to produce “non-natural” fruit, hybrids. Almost all of the plants we eat were never part of nature. We created them though artifice. Artichokes were thistles, corn was this spindly little plant with inedible seeds, sugar beets were tiny little things, not the football-sized things we grow today, and all bananas and grapes had seeds. The change process is called artificial selection to distinguish our efforts from nature’s.

Take the case of aspirin. Aspirin, by far, is the most successful drug ever devised. It’s century plus history began from the recognition that a tea made from willow bark had analgesic properties (the Egyptians knew this). But the tea was bitter as hell and if you used a bit too much it gave you a very upset stomach. Much later, it was discovered that the active ingredient in the willow bark tea was salicylic acid. An effort was made to find a chemical variant of salicylic acid that was still potent by which didn’t have those side effects. Since salicylic acid is a carboxylic acid, one attempt was to turn it into an ester, a much less irritating class of compounds. Aspirin is the ester formed from salicylic acid and acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar, and a star was born. Aspirin is artificial and I am happy about that.

Just being “natural” is not a sign of “good” or “safe.” Rattlesnake venom, arsenic, and monkey dung are all natural but I don’t want any of them in my body. In foods and pharmaceuticals, if a natural substance shows some promise, it is studied to see if modifications could make it better. In the case of pharmaceuticals, if they are strictly chemical we look to see if we can synthesize it as a lower cost/higher volume process of creating it. Instead of extracting rare colored dyes from clams, we can synthesize what we want and have more variety and permanence. This is what we do.

Problems arise when what we synthesize isn’t recognized by the biological process responsible for the breakdown and recycling of our wastes (they are not natural you see). We are currently experiencing these problems with oceanic plastic waste and microfiber residues in all natural waters.

A Side Note Question—What kills more fish: chemical pollutants or plastic waste? The answer is: commercial fishing. We kill via this method orders of magnitude more fish than all of the sources of pollution put together. I mention this because we have blind spots and advertisers take advantage of them.

April 6, 2021

Getting Shot in Chicago

Filed under: Medicine,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:37 am
Tags: ,

Claudia and I walked a couple of blocks to a local field house today and got our first vaccine shot (Pfizer). I have read a couple of people’s experiences but mine seemed different. We were greeted by the ward alderman himself (he is the one responsible for setting up the event) and every volunteer, paid or not, was cheerful, efficient and helpful. Lines were long but moved along smartly. There was a volunteer every few feet to answer questions. It was nice to feel a community coming together to help one another. (I wonder how that felt to staunch Republicans or Trumpsters?) No fights, no squabbles, just good vibes and gratitude flowing.

We can do this, so why can’t we do it more often?

Also, I wonder how many of you had a first thought that “getting shot” meant by a gun?

February 5, 2021

Anti-Mask Protests

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

There continues to be anti-mask wearing protest rallies occurring fairly frequently (Only slaves wear masks . . . only slaves wear masks! Yeah!). The question is: what to do about those protesting by not wearing masks?

These are our fellow citizens so I think we should treat them with respect. I also expect them to treat the rest of us also with respect. So, they are free to make their own life choices. They are also free to suffer their own life choice consequences. This is a problem that solves itself, we just don’t want them to take us down with them.

So, we will respect their desire to not wear a mask, but this means that they cannot attend an event that requires masks. If a store/restaurant/whatever requires people to be masked, they may not enter. If the city or state they are in requires masks be worn out in public spaces, they must stay home. If their children’s schools reopen, but require the kids to wear masks, they will have to home school their kids.

I would also suggest that since they are engaging in reckless behavior that they should be last in line for respirators and oxygen in hospitals and last in line for vaccinations. Oh, and should they get the ghastly disease, their health insurance should not have to pay for their treatment because they were undertaking reckless behavior that they were warned against, but continued doing.

Oh, about the Anti-Vax Rallies . . . <ditto>.

Do realize I am being consistent. In my home state, California, a law was passed that motorcycle and scooter riders had to wear helmets when operating their rides on public roadways. Ah, the anguish expressed! “They are taking away our freedom!” riders complained. Not being someone to take away someone’s freedom, I also think that actions have consequences. So, if a motorcyclist gets into an accident when helmetless, then their insurance company should not need to pay out anything as reckless behavior was involved in the accident. (Yes, they still need to have insurance, silly!) Also, their health insurers shouldn’t be liable for paying to have them patched up, either. So, emergency healthcare professionals can, if they choose, patch them up a little, but only after their ability to pay has been established.

The cost of liberty/freedom certainly isn’t cheap. Sometimes it involves more than eternal vigilance, sometimes it involves hard cash. Maybe we should have the helmetless/maskless/vaccineless post a bond . . . hmm, still thinking about this one.

December 22, 2020

At the Risk of Being Overbearing . . .

I offer a link to yet another aspect of the Pfizer vaccine roll-out kerfuffle. This post explains why the critic “IM Doc” was disappointed in the article in the New England Journal of Medicine, which exists to inform people, especially doctors, regarding what they need to know.

Whether this can be laid at the fee of the NEJM or Pfizer is almost irrelevant (almost, but not quite). It does, however, lead one to wonder how informed the opinions of our own doctors are.

A Document Maven Looks at the Pfizer Vaccine Paper in the New England Journal of Medicine

 

Blog at WordPress.com.