Wear Your Mask

None of this is new, you’ve seen it all, but I hope by showing you where it comes from that you’ll be better equipped to handle anti-mask bullshit from bloviaters.

Masks make a difference. They do help. How do we know that? I’ll show you. Usual mea culpa: I’m an amateur who believes the experts – and only the experts, based on real research – not an expert myself.

I’ve gathered some of what experts have done – and then what they say. After that, we’ll check the anti-mask “evidence” spread on social media by non-experts who often say what HUGE experts they are, then tell you masks are bad without doing any experiments (cos designing, then doing, good experiments is not easy and it takes time) and without any valid evidence.

First, why even talk about masks? Because we breathe. We all know people who emit spittle as they talk, and we dodge them and stand back when they get excited! But we don’t all realise that we ALL emit droplets when we speak. Here are two graphs in the same block of someone saying the words “stay healthy” while wearing a mask and while not wearing a mask. The person’s emissions were video’d under special conditions (check the link):

– The number of flashes was highest (top arrow) when the “th” sound in the word “healthy” was pronounced –

Here’s a snapshot of one frame in the video, which corresponds to the top bigger red arrow in Panel A – the highest number of speech droplets visualized in an individual frame of the video recording.

– spit droplets from the ‘th’ in the word ‘healthy’ – so someone saying ‘stay healthy’ could kill you! –

OK, so we have evidence that we spray. Of course, your Granma knew we spray germs when she told you to ‘catch your cough’ and when she avoided you when you had a cold (which is also a corona virus).

Next we found out that COVID-19 can be found on way smaller droplets than these – called ‘the aerosol effect.’ Now you need to not just avoid being coughed on or ‘spoken on,’ you need to be wary of the air where people have been, as aerosol particles linger WAY longer and travel WAY further than the bigger droplets which led to the 2m ‘social distance’ guideline (which politicians and businessmen soon reduced to 1,5m, down to 1m, down to ‘full taxis’ – side-by-side. These reductions were NOT done for our safety, BTW!).

Next, we (“we” – scientists on behalf of “us” – humans who know the scientific method is the best way to investigate things) looked at old epidemics and noticed there was less spread in places where people are used to wearing masks. In April already, this effect was noticed in the current pandemic too.

Next, scientists looked at 172 studies on corona-type viruses. After very careful analysis they gave a sober, cautiously-worded statement (this is a tiny excerpt – click the link to read the full study): ‘We found evidence of moderate certainty that current policies of at least 1 m physical distancing are probably associated with a large reduction in infection, and that distances of 2 m might be more effective, as implemented in some countries. We also provide estimates for 3 m. The main benefit of physical distancing measures is to prevent onward transmission and, thereby, reduce the adverse outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Hence, the results of our current review support the implementation of a policy of physical distancing of at least 1 m and, if feasible, 2 m or more. Our findings also provide robust estimates to inform models and contact tracing used to plan and strategise for pandemic response efforts at multiple levels.The use of face masks was protective for both health-care workers and people in the community exposed to infection, with both the frequentist and Bayesian analyses lending support to face mask use irrespective of setting.’

The most recent study I found was in Denmark where masks were not compulsory and most people did not wear them. A trial showed that people who did wear them in a randomised trial did get some benefit, even when all others around them were not wearing masks.

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SO: You’ve always known this, but which is the best mask to use? Its not important. Comfort is probably the most important consideration, as wearing it comfortably and consistently is key. Having the ‘world’s best mask’ around your chin helps a rich, approximate, earth-shattering, statistical fokol. That’s zero. May as well strap it around your wrist fgdsake.

If you want a suggestion, surgical masks are generally more protective than cloth masks, and some people find them lighter and more comfortable to wear. The bottom line is that any mask that covers the nose and mouth will be of benefit. The concept is risk reduction, not absolute prevention. Don’t not wear a mask ‘because it’s not 100 percent effective.’ That’s just silly. Nobody thinks burglar guards are 100% effective, they install them to substantially reduce their risk.

Remember ‘All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten?’ Wash your hands often and well; Wear your mask; Keep more distance than you think (3m is better than 2m is better than 1m is MUCH better than french kissing); Avoid closed spaces (any indoors if you can help it; at least reduce that ‘essential’ indoor time); Avoid people (yeah, yeah, as far as you can – and that’s usually more than you do; also reduce your time spent with them); Get your groceries delivered (Checkers charges R35 to deliver up to 30 items within one hour – it costs you more to drive there and back and you’re rating your time at R0 – How much time have you got left on earth? Correct, you don’t know. But you do know that it’s precious).

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What about “scientific evidence that PROVES masks are bad for you”?? Search for it. It will take you to wacko sites that tell blatant lies absolutely routinely. Always check the sites on wikipedia; and check their claims on snopes.com, and other fact-checking sites. Here are ten of the best fact-checking sites. Use them!

The Federalist is one bullshit site. They also publish false information and pseudoscience that is contrary to the recommendations of public health experts and authorities; and fake news about election results. Trump fans.

Typical of these sites’ disinformation was taking the Denmark study I mention and saying “A study in Denmark proved that masks are useless for COVID-19,” instead of the truth: The study found that face masks did not have a large protective effect for wearers — but did provide some protection to wearers, and did also provide benefits to other people. Note the difference in language: The DEFINITE conclusions by bullshitters; vs the CAUTIOUS conclusions that real scientists take, knowing things may change.

Another instance was taking one case of a driver who crashed his SUV into a pole in new Jersey on April 23. He blamed his collision on his mask. He told police he passed out because he’d been wearing an N95 mask for too long. Initially, the investigating officers believed him, writing in a Facebook post that he was the only person in the car and passed out due to “insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake.” The driver’s bulldust went viral! The police department later updated their post, stating that they didn’t know “with 100% certainty” that “excessive wearing” of an N95 mask was a contributing factor to the accident. They added that “it is certainly possible that some other medical reason could’ve contributed to the driver passing out.”  But bullshit websites crowed “masks are bad for you, you get too much carbon dioxide!’ – and people who should know better forwarded and forwarded without checking (please don’t do that). A quick check can show you: actually, you don’t.

Another website The Gateway Pundit “is known for publishing falsehoods, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories.” So when they tell you ‘All the experts are wrong, we have scientific proof masks are bad for you!’, check their research, then check some real research – and then dismiss them with the contempt they deserve.

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Go and find a fact-checking site now. A slightly different ‘ten best’ are suggested here.

There’s also AfricaCheck.org for checking bullshit in Africa – we sure need them, so I sent them a donation. Go and see how they caught Herman Mashaba bullshitting.

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Oh, and please note I use the term BULLSHIT very deliberately. It’s a real thing:

In his essay On Bullshit (originally written in 1986, and published as a monograph in 2005), philosopher Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The “bullshitter”, on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking to impress.

Quote: “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

Bullshitters can exhaust you. As Alberto Brandolini’s Bullshit Asymmetry Principle states, “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” Dr. Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work seems like a very good and kind and decent person. Because she suggests we use generosity, empathy, and curiosity when speaking truth to bullshit (e.g. “Where did you read this? or Where did you hear this?”) can go a long way in our efforts to question what we’re hearing and introduce fact.

Be a Cynic – It’s the Decent Thing To Do

It’s claimed that at the age of 44 our cynicism starts to grow. But being cynical isn’t necessarily a bad thing, argues Julian Baggini. It’s at the heart of great satire and, perhaps more importantly, leads us to question what is wrong with the world – and strive to make it better . . .
Test how cynical you are

Thanks to Julian Baggini with added emphases and additions of my own!!

If there’s one thing that makes me cynical, it’s optimists. They are just far too cynical about cynicism. If only they could see that cynics can be happy, constructive, even fun to hang out with, they might learn a thing or two.

Perhaps this is because I’m 44 (um, I was once!), which, according to a new survey, is the age at which cynicism starts to rise. But this survey itself merely illustrates the importance of being cynical. The cynic, after all, is inclined to question people’s motives and assume that they are acting self-servingly unless proven otherwise. Which is just as well, as it turns out the “study” in question is just another bit of corporate PR to promote a brand whose pseudo-scientific stunt I won’t reward by naming. Once again, cynicism proves its worth as one of our best defences against spin and manipulation.

I often feel that “cynical” is a term of abuse hurled at people who are judged to be insufficiently “positive” by those who believe that negativity is the real cause of almost all the world’s ills. This allows them to breezily sweep aside sceptical doubts without having to go to the bother of checking if they are well-grounded. In this way, for example, Edward Snowden’s leaks about the CIA’s surveillance practices have been dismissed because they contribute to “the corrosive spread of cynicism”. So the spread of truth – the revelation of evil! – is blamed on ‘cynicism!’ “If you catch me doing evil, you’re a cynic!!” Think about that lie!

In December 1999, Tony Blair hailed the hugely disappointing Millennium Dome as “a triumph of confidence over cynicism”. All those legitimate concerns about the expense and vacuity of the end result were brushed off as examples of sheer, wilful negativity. “If I spend a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money on a half billion-worth white elephant, you’re a cynic!!” WHY THANK YOU, TONY!

A more balanced definition of a cynic, courtesy of the trusty Oxford English Dictionary, is someone who is “distrustful or incredulous of human goodness and sincerity”, sceptical of human merit, often mocking or sarcastic. Now what’s not to love about that? AND IF TONY BLAIR MOCKED CYNICISM IS THAT NOT A REALLY GOOD REASON TO HAVE A SECOND LOOK AT IT?

Of course, cynicism is neither wholly good nor bad. It’s easy to see how you can be too cynical, but it’s also possible to be not cynical enough. Indeed, although the word itself is now largely pejorative, you’ll find almost everyone revels in a certain amount of cynicism. It can provide the impulse for the most important investigative journalism. If Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had been more trustful and credulous of human goodness and sincerity, they would never have broken the Watergate story. If our amaBhungane and Noseweek investigative reporters just nodded when politicians and – ESPECIALLY – businessmen gave them their press releases, we’d be up Shit Creek! Um, further up Shit Creek!

It can provide the impulse for the most important investigative journalism. If we were all habitually trustful and credulous of human goodness and sincerity, then there would be no questioning of dubious foreign interventions, infringements of civil liberties or sharp business practices.

Perhaps the greatest slur against cynicism is that it nurtures a fatalistic pessimism, a belief that nothing can ever be improved. There are lazy forms of cynicism of which this may be true. But at its best, cynicism is a greater force for progress than optimism. The optimist underestimates how difficult it is to achieve real change, believing that anything is possible and it’s possible now. Only by confronting head-on the reality that all progress is going to be obstructed by vested interests and corrupted by human venality can we create realistic programs that actually have a chance of success. Progress is more of a challenge for the cynic but also more important and urgent, since for the optimist things aren’t that bad and are bound to get better anyway.

This highlights the importance of distinguishing between thinking cynically and acting cynically. There is nothing good to be said for people who cynically deceive to further their own goals and get ahead of others. But that is not what a good cynic inevitably does. Whatever you make of Snowden, whistleblowers and campaigners such as Karen Silkwood and Erin Brockovich are both cynical about what they see and idealistic about what they can do about it. For many years, I too have tried to make sure that the cynicism in my outlook does not lead to cynicism in my behaviour.

That’s not the only way in which a proper cynicism challenges the simplistic black-and-white of received opinion. The cynic would surely question the way in which the world is divided into optimists and pessimists. Optimism has various dimensions, and just because some people take a dim view of human nature and some future probabilities, that does not mean they are hardcore pessimists who believe things can only get worse. Cynics refuse to be typecast as Jeremiahs. They are realists who know that the world is not the sun-kissed fantasy peddled by positive-thinking gurus and shysters.

Indeed, the greatest irony of all is that many of the people promoting optimism are unwittingly feeding a view of human nature that is cynical in the very worst sense. Take psychologist and neuroscientist Elaine Fox, who is on Horizon tonight talking about her book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain. Like many, she traces our tendency to make positive or negative judgments back to our brains and the ways in which they have been cast by our DNA and shaped by our experience. Her upbeat conclusion is that by understanding the neural basis of personality and mood, we can change it and so increase our optimism, health and happiness.

The deeply cynical result of this apparently cheerful viewpoint is that it encourages us to see what we think and believe as products of brain chemistry, rather than as rational responses to the world as it is. Rather than focus on our reasons for being optimistic or pessimistic about, say, the environment, we focus instead on what in our brains is causing us to be optimistic or pessimistic. And that means we seek a resolution of our anxieties not by changing the world, but by changing our minds. If that’s not taking a cynical view of human merit and potential, I don’t know what is.

So far, I have avoided the easiest way to defend cynicism, which is to point to its illustrious pedigree in the ancient Hellenic school of philosophy from which it gets its name. But I would be cynical about that too. Words change their meanings, and so you cannot dignify the cynicism of now by associating it with its distant ancestor.

Nonetheless, there are lessons for modern cynicism from the likes of Diogenes and Crates. What they show is that a proper cynicism is not a matter of personality but intellectual attitude. Their goal was to blow away the fog and confusion and see reality with lucidity and clarity. The contemporary cynic desires the same. The questioning and doubt is not an end in itself but a means of cutting through the crap and seeing things as they really are.

True cynicism is a protest against corruption, luxury and insincerity. Diogenes, the story goes, was called a “downright dog,” and this pleased him. He said a dog bites its enemies, a cynic bites his friends to save them!

The ancient Cynics also advocated asceticism and self-sufficiency. There is something of this too in their modern-day counterparts, who are aware that we waste too much of our time and money on things we don’t need, but that others require us to buy to make them rich. People who live rigorously by this cynicism are often seen as grumpy killjoys. To be light and joyful today means spending freely, without guilt, on whatever looks as if it will bring us pleasure. That merely shows how deeply our desires have been infected by the power of markets. It is the cynic who actually lives more lightly, unburdened by the pressure to always have more, not relying on purchases to provide happiness and contentment.

Finally, the Cynics were notorious for rejecting all social norms. Diogenes is said to have masturbated in public, while Crates lived on the streets, with only a tattered cloak. Whether anyone is advised to follow these specific examples is questionable, but it is surely true that we do not see enough challenging of tired conventions today. Isn’t it astonishing, for example, how, once elected, MPs continue the daft traditions of jeering, guffawing and addressing their colleagues by ridiculous circumlocutory terms such as “the right honourable member”? It comes to something when the most controversial defiance of convention by a politician in recent years was Gordon Brown’s refusal to wear a dinner jacket and bow tie. People would perhaps be less cynical about politicians if the politicians themselves would be more (decently) cynical.

Perhaps the biggest myth about cynicism is that it deepens with age. I think what really happens is that experience painfully rips away layers of scales from our eyes, and so we do indeed become more cynical about many of the things we naively accepted when younger. But the result of this is to make us see more sharply the difference between what really matters and all the dross and nonsense that clutters up life. So as cynicism about many – perhaps most – things rises, so too does our appreciation and affection for what is good and true. Cynicism leads to more tender feelings towards what is truly lovable. Similarly, doubting the reality of much-professed sincerity is a way of showing that you respect and value the rare and precious real deal.

It’s time, therefore, to reclaim cynicism for the forces of light and truth. Forget about the tired old dichotomies of positive and negative, optimistic and pessimistic. We can’t make things better unless we see quite how bad they are. We can’t do our best unless we guard against our worst. And it’s only by being distrustful that we can distinguish between the trustworthy and the unreliable. To do all this we need intelligent cynicism, which is not so much a blanket negativity, but a searchlight for the truly positive.

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Be a courageous cynic. Thanks again to Julian Baggini

Speaking of Bullshit . .

This is American football. At Super Bowl time. And Keith Knight of The K Chronicles gets it. It could just as well be soccer, rugby, olympics or any of the scams that ‘professional sport’ is these days . . and has been for a long time.

My additional South African punchline would be “The fact that these sports get funding from our Lotto as “charities”: PRICELESS!!

Steve Reed wrote drily: Now hang on Koos. (Sure its a $10 000 ticket, but) I heard today that under your seat you will find a goodie bag. This contains earmuffs, hand warmer, a radio, Chapstick, mittens, tissues and a bandana! Definitely worth it.

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Our friend Louis used to say ‘Dis My Gat Se Deksel’ which means ‘This Is My Arsehole’s Lid’ meaning ‘This Takes the Cake’ or – ‘This Beats Me’ or – ‘How the Hell Do You Explain That?’ or – ‘What a Scam!’

Bullshit, Frankincense and Myrrh

Or biblically, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold is valuable, frankincense and myrrh not so much. but BULLSHIT! Now, bullshit: Bullshit has made billions. Take how you were bullshitted and went Oooh! and Aaah! when you were told gold, frankincense and myrrh, even when you didn’t know what the hell they were talking about, and when you SHOULD have been asking WTF is that!? George Davie? Emma Morton? Anybody? What’s frankincense? would have caused an awkward silence, followed by whispers of ‘trouble-maker.’ Good children would go Oooh! and Aaah! and move on . .

So WTF IS ‘frankincense and myrrh?’

Smellies. Derived from tree sap, or gum resin, both frankincense and myrrh are prized for their alluring fragrance. Frankincense is a milky white resin extracted from Boswellia sacra, a small tree that grows in Somalia, Oman and Yemen. These grow to a height of five meters, have papery bark, sparse bunches of paired leaves, and flowers with white petals and a yellow or red center.

– frankincense boom leaves and flowers – Boswellia sacra –
– pic by Scott Zona https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5409339

Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from Commiphora myrrha, a tree commonly used in the production of myrrh. It can be found in the shallow, rocky soils of Ethiopia, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. It boasts spiny branches with sparse leaves that grow in groups of three, and can reach a height of three meters.

Commiphora myrrha

The processes for extracting the sap of Boswellia for frankincense, and Commiphora for myrrh, are essentially identical: Harvesters make a longitudinal cut in the tree’s trunk, which pierces gum resin reservoirs located within the bark. The sap slowly oozes from the cut and drips down the tree, forming tear-shaped droplets that are left to harden on the side of the tree. These beads are collected after two weeks.

– sap, saps –

It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-pest and can be used for oral uses. It has been used as an astringent, antiseptic, anti-parasitic, anti-tissive, emmenagogue (huh?), and antispasmodic agent. It was commonly included in mixtures used to treat worms, wounds, and sepsis. And very helpful in fumigation. Hey! When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, right? Our parents had castor oil and guess what? They used it for a lot of the above.

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The lesson? Don’t ever say Oooh! and Aaah! Say WTF is THAT!?? And when precocious kids ask it like that, take them seriously and answer – or say I Don’t Know.

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