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Kai's Diary, Jan 6, 2022: Hurtling into the Eye of the Tiger

While the Titanic sank, did people complain that evacuation measures felt too severe?

While the Titanic sank, did people complain that evacuation measures felt too severe?

April 14, 1912, 12:25 am – Yes, the boat hit the iceberg, but putting the children in lifeboats is the most destructive thing imaginable to their psyche. It’s time for us to stop all this evacuation talk and just complete the voyage.

April 14, 1912, 1:30 am – Yes, the first seven watertight compartments are now flooded with frigid North Sea water, but it’s time for us to stop being ruled by our fears and get back to our normally scheduled travel. We MUST open the shuffleboard courts on the lido deck.

April 14, 1912, 1:55 am – Look at the children’s faces when they’re in lifeboats. They’re frightened. They’re confused. They don’t want to be here. Their parents don’t want them there. We need to put them back on the boat, whose deck is now pitched at 90 degrees. 

It’s time to declare this sinking OVER.

April 14, 1912, 2:05 am – Look, I too want to survive this sinking, but I look at how people insist on wearing constrictive life-vests and taking to lifeboats, and I sympathize with those who want to spend their time drilling holes in the hull. Better to show this ocean we don’t fear it than to cower.

April 14, 1912, 2:20 am – Do you know what a full evacuation of this sinking ship will DO to our scheduled arrival time?

The cure can’t be worse than the *glub glub glub*…

If you’re wondering, yes, this is what it looks like to participate in western social media these days, it might as well be the Titanic sinking while an alarming number of both educated and uneducated, professionals or not, are arguing for an end to precautions and mandates. They’ve just had enough of trying to protect themselves from death already. I wish I were joking. Previous pandemics show the pattern was the same though, history is constantly repeating itself, and in the 1918-1920’s H1N1 Spanish Flu pandemic, the last wave was the worst because people were sick and tired of caring about their lives. We didn’t have internet or vaccines back then, though. We should be more intelligent and better, but human nature is what it is. I wonder if Western media would still say China was too strong and draconian in our pandemic preventions, or if they’d quietly eat their hats in peace.

While in China we can be grateful for our post-pandemic vigilance and freedom, most of the world is in lockdown #5 and fed up with trying not to die.

While in China, we can be grateful for our post-pandemic vigilance and freedom, most of the world is in lockdown #5 and fed up with trying not to die.

I’ve been playing Mahjong a fair bit with Xiaolin, and our good friends Randy and Jessica, so somehow a lot of local ex-pats and foreigners have been getting into Mahjong and all-foreigner games are becoming quite normal. Randy is very competitive and can’t get enough, and my wife is starting to really enjoy it. I can play a beautiful hand for an hour or so, and then I start to lose focus, but I do really enjoy the fluidity and strategy required to do it well. And I enjoy it when Xiaolin sees my hands and yells things like “Qing Yi Si!” and “That’s totally Fu!”

"That's totally Fu," Xiaolin cried, and I guess that means it's a pretty good hand of Mahjong.

“That’s totally Fu,” Xiaolin cried, and I guess that means it’s a pretty good hand of Mahjong.

“I got banned from Facebook for two days for making a joke.

In a crisis, jokes are not allowed,”

I got banned from Facebook for two days for making a joke. In a crisis, jokes are not allowed, and sarcasm is not a socially acceptable way to make a point, I suppose. At least on Facebook. A Facebook friend posted, “We need to open the schools now; the children are suffering.” I replied, “why don’t we just bury them alive and save time.” I shared this with Mavor, and he had a good laugh- intelligent, balanced individuals recognize this is both a joke and make the apt point that opening schools in a pandemic with unvaccinated kids is not a good idea. Facebook AI moderators aren’t smart enough yet to draw the same conclusions, and now, somewhere in the cloud, FB considers me a psychopath. It’s a shame, but since I lost a friend yesterday by asking her to clarify very poor-faith arguments, I suppose I’ll keep more friends just by staying off the platform anyway.
What were her arguments, you ask? Well, thanks for asking. She’d posted a Lancet study (a very reliable source, I told her) suggesting the difference between infectivity between vaccinated and unvaccinated people was only about 2%. She drew from that vaccines were not effective. I asked her to clarify, effective AT WHAT? If the question is, can they stop people from spreading the virus, then yes, 2% is not a big difference. But she wasn’t considering viral load, the amount of virus vaccinated and unvaccinated people have, how sick they are, how sick the people they spread it to get, and the fact that –Xiaolin calls, “Kai, it’s time for class!” I guess I’ll pick it up two hours later, and I hope I remember my thought.
An hour later, with a 15-minute break, I try to pick up the shattered pieces of my concentration. When I was young, I enjoyed my life without worrying about how I spent those years. Now I’m an old young man or a young, old man, and I am aware time is my most valuable resource. It’s not an infinite one, so I try to spend it well. Mostly, I succeed. I have great classes, and not so great ones, great days, and ok ones. I generally avoid the bad ones, except when fate provides. Luckily, they’re not in abundance- for which I am grateful.
Oh yes, I believe the point she was not taking into account is that not all infections are equal. Far from it, months and months ago, I put out a research paper citing 31 sources that showed very much that viral load was a key factor in the outcome. Two mask-to-mask (tiny escape/viral load) infections might result in mainly asymptomatic infections, enough to register on a test, but no one is getting sick. The body simply can adapt fast enough to fight it. This is why most cases are asymptomatic in high compliance countries where mask use is high, and NPIs are well executed. But a case where a person gets a cough into the mouth unmasked from one infected to another might be deadly- the body is simply overwhelmed with trillions of particles and can not fight it off. I say that to say this– someone saying, “we don’t need vaccine mandates because both vaccinated people and unvaccinated people are almost equally likely to spread the virus, while they are correct in the latter is wrong in the former. A society full of unvaccinated people spreading Omicron will have many sick and dead people. Studies show that it’s only 11% less infectious among unvaccinated than the Delta variant but in a highly vaccinated society. However, the virus will still spread. It will be mainly asymptomatic or minor, cold-like symptoms- 2 days of sore throat, sniffles, runny nose and sneezing, and very little serious illness. So, of course, vaccines are as important as ever, and their advice is not only factually wrong, it’s dangerous.
I posted a link to an article saying most people in the ICU are unvaccinated. They said I could show you a headline that says the opposite. I asked to see one. They sent me this, and you have to admit, it looks awfully photoshopped, faked, and not even a good fake. I told them so and asked what the source was. They ignored my question. I asked them, can you clarify what are you getting at? What are your thoughts on the vaccine? They fired back, hurt that I had labeled them an anti-vaxxer, and attacked their credibility. I believe they are a bit too sensitive to be discussing such serious matters if they can’t even engage in civil discourse. They sent me a message asking why I was discrediting them – as if asking for clarification was in itself an attack. By the time I saw the message, a few minutes later, they’d already blocked me — asking me why and then not letting me answer.
On the one hand, I could say… they’re a fool, and it’s no loss. Perhaps a hairdresser shouldn’t argue epidemiology with a published COVID author and journalist. But that reminds me of a time when I was pushing for masks and a public health official with 20 years of experience with the CDC made fun of me – an English Major, for trying to report on the pandemic with any authority. The idea doesn’t sit well with me. On further consideration, no, they are not the same: while that person mocked me and blocked me when it became clear they’d been wrong, and masks were needed, I had only asked for clarification, to examine data points, to use the scientific method and polite discourse to get to the bottom of the important issues we were discussing. It was not the same thing at all.

People are so sensitive on social media that asking for information is an attack on their character- one they can't forgive.

People are so sensitive on social media that asking for information is an attack on their character- one they can’t forgive.

To be clear, I don’t believe this headline is real. Not only does it look fake, but it is also illogical: most people in serious care are not vaccinated. The only way most people in the ICU would be vaccinated is if there are no longer any unvaccinated people, and, that way, a very small percentage of all cases would remain serious- it would still be a great thing, at that point, because it would mean the number of people in ICU would be a very small number. This is the context required to understand numbers, news, and headlines. I don’t think you need a college degree to understand the world, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
One of the saddest parts of the pandemic is people trying to be different and open-minded about science while real human costs and lives are on the line. Please think twice before you share an anti-vax meme- have you done your best to verify it? Do you really believe this? If someone you loved took it to heart and died, how would you feel about yourself later?
At least this interaction, as sad as it made me, got me fired up enough to finish this damn blog. Not only that, but I’ve decided to publish the sequel to Kai’s Diary as the Year of the Rat – starting in March, tracking the pandemic around the world, with a dozen bloggers on six continents, as they detailed how it hit them, and how their governments managed or mismanaged the pandemic. The difference with my experience in China is striking. Likely I can continue with Year of the Ox and Year of the Tiger and then either cap it at a four-book pandemic series of nonfiction or keep going for a dozen years and migrate into our climate fight, with the capstone of my philosophical musings being the work that will become “Solarpunk: An Optimist’s Guide to the Apocalpyse” which will hopefully be a tongue in cheek look at how China’s energy transformation saves the world. To be determined, but fingers crossed.
Just to leave this somewhere and move on – I want to say – if you give bad pandemic advice that could kill people, I’m going to call you out and challenge you to support your facts with data. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means your feelings aren’t worth living. Read that again: your feelings aren’t worth living.

“In the Western world’s brittle cancel-culture of convenience, at any time but especially in this current climate, any old dear friend or even a family member can be just an awkward 5-minute conversation away from being blocked – and possibly unfriended in real life.”

In the Western world’s brittle cancel-culture of convenience, at any time but especially in this current climate, any old dear friend or even a family member can be just an awkward 5-minute conversation away from being blocked – and possibly unfriended in real life. I posted my feelings online (shortly before my joke and the banning), and this was my friend Steve The Viking’s empathetic comment: “The very idea that this person – who isn’t the researcher who came up with any data – considers sharing info and unsubstantiated opinions as to their own *so much* that anyone questioning it is “discrediting” them blows my mind. They’ve attached themselves to a “side” so completely that it has become a part of their identity – they identify themselves by their connection to their opinions, and anything that confronts the “information” they share is seen as an attack on their character. *sigh*.”
I think this explains many problems with discourse and nuance on the internet today and why there is so much resistance to ending the pandemic. People don’t understand the news, and they don’t want to clarify their misunderstanding. They simply want their opinions to be true. I wish we spent more energy promoting education in the west. I learned so much living in China that I wish I could give back to my countrymen, so I will try to share the glimmers and nuggets that I mine, one blog at a time.


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