Russia and COVID

It wasn’t that long ago that some people were claiming that totalitarian/authoritarians were better at handling COVID-19. That came from counting China and Singapore as such and ignoring South Korea. But a bigger one was basically taking unbelievable numbers at face value: Iran being lower than Italy, Russia only having a single case at the time, India having none.

Yesterday the top three countries reporting new cases are:

  1. United States: 24,409 new cases
  2. Russia: 6,411 new cases
  3. Brazil: 6,398 new cases

They all have something in common. Nominal democracy or not, it seems the virus doesn’t care your politics, but it thrives when denial/lies cripple the response.

For well over a month, I’ve been waiting for Russia’s numbers to be in line with reality and that is starting to happen as the number of cases and deaths are becoming too great to categorize them as "pneumonia."

Russia just passed China’s totals and is now having record-setting infections and deaths. And remember when Putin sent a planeload of PPE to Trump? Well now he’s run out of PPE. The crazy thing was that was the beginning of this same month. I wonder how that stuff plays in Moscow now? Probably about as well as when Americans realized the United States sent 18 tons of PPE to China back in February. While Putin’s pathetic planeload was just a publicity stunt, Trump really shouldn’t be faulted for February, it was not replacing that, and doing far worse in that month and the months following.

I want to juxtapose that reality with this Reuters poll on "should the economy and business open even if the virus is not fully contained?" spells further disaster for Russia as it ranks #1 among countries (60%) compared to the 23-50% among western nations. I imagine Russia’s number is so high because their economy is in the toilet after Putin crashed the oil market. Nonetheless, this probably means their lockdown isn’t working despite the draconian punishment they are doing.

(Despite, all these astroturf "protests" in the United States, the U.S. is only at 35%. That number is probably a local peak as the U.S. is opening up in states that have regions of some of the highest new infection rates in the country. We won’t have to wait the requisite two weeks to call that experiment a failure.)

Guess that’s what happens when you are the world’s proponent for calling a pandemic "fake news." You end up getting high on your own supply when the virus hits you.

Lila’s first bicycle

I took off Tuesday from work to hang with my cousin, Peter.

After the recent death of his father, he was inspired to take up bicycling again for his health. I helped him buy a gravel bicycle. He also purchased a bicycle for his daughter, Lila.

We spent the day building and testing both bicycles and talking about a lot of stuff. Because we grew up six years apart on different coasts, this was the most time I think we’ve ever talked.

That morning Peter told Lila, “Uncle Terry’s going to come over while you’re in school and help me build your bicycle!” She asked if I’d still be there when she got back.

Well, even though I had insomnia the night before and gotten very little sleep, I had to stay. It was well worth it…

Lila's first bicycle!

Karen said Lila was telling everyone in her class how excited she is that she was getting a bicycle. Lila doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle just yet, but she already sticker-bombed her bike like a boss.

I wish them a long lifetime of happy trails. Hopefully, I’ll get to go on a couple rides with them.

2020-01-20 Australia: bush fires and how civilizations collapse

What is going on right now in Australia is horrible. It will, no doubt, make far future history books (if there is a civilization left) as an example of how we were staring obvious Collapse in the face, and said, “Whatever! I’d like more of that.”

This inspired Jay to mix his love of boardgaming and his bleeding heart to make this video on the game Hotshots and raise money for the bush fire release.

Continue reading about a socio-political irony after the jump

2020-01-25 Ree Family Eating SLC

Ree Family Eating SLC

My aunt, Gia sent this photo to the group on January 25, 2020.

On the back of the photo is written:

Around table: Mrs. Ree, Dr Francis (bro., dr,. physics), Joan, Dr. Alexis T. (dr. chem), Bernadetter (languages, psychology), Taresa (chemistry).
SEP 60 Miss 38A 0%

Given the misspelling of my mom’s name, I have a feeling this was an outtake from this article which was published later. This photo, unlike the others, has Francis in it, which makes sense as that was just before he went looking for a job with his newly-minted Ph.D. (beating my mom by a single semester).

As expected, even in a posed photo, Francis is enjoying eating.

January 21

On January 21st, as I was down with the flu, I received this e-mail from my cousin:

Hi everyone,

My dad passed away this afternoon very peacefully. My brother played a song that reminded my dad of his parents. My dad opened his eyes and looked directly at Peter – the first time he’s done this in many days – and then waited for my mom to come to the room, and then passed away.

We haven’t figured out yet when the funeral will be but I will let you know as soon as it’s decided.

Thanks everyone. It’s been a long journey and also a very special one.


I had a task entry for over a year, “blog about Francis” which I finally deleted yesterday. It has a huge number of notes, and in a different time I might revisit them. There is so much to write about my Uncle, I don’t know where to begin.

Continue reading some past Francis stories after the jump

The “conversation”

Read this today:

…that conversation is never going to be had. I’m already running into Trump-voting motherfuckers – people who said so, frequently online, the receipts are there – who now deny ever having done so. If that fucker loses in 2020, you’re gonna see so many people forget who Trump is that it’ll scare you, you’ll think all us white folks got some kind of new brain disease.

So true.

13 hundred engineers…

I get a lot of cold-email outreach tech spam. It’s especially insidious because they automate the personalization and do repetitive outreach, so I have to read a little bit before I ignore it.

Without embarrassing anyone, here is one such example I got today…

Good Morning your first name,

I hope this finds you well. I am following up on a note I had written to you last week. I completely understand your busy schedules, wanted to connect with you at your convenient time.

I see great synergies between your company name scraped from LinkedIn and X— and would be glad to explore synergies to work together towards to address your product development /engineering needs.

X— is an engineering team of 1300+ engineers…

After I read the second sentence, I filed it away, but my peripheral vision caught the beginning of the third, and I recalled that message.

1300+ engineers? Holy shit! What sort of business can you build with 1300+ engineers, I wondered. The Mythical Man-Month tells us that “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later” so by this math, you couldn’t even change a lightbulb with so many engineers.

So I had to pull up what this company does, which is my engineering equivalent of slowing down to look at a car wreck. Here is the first bullet point in the previous e-mail.

  • Certify your products through comprehensive Test beds to automate the build and QA cycles

Stop right there. Why the fuck would I want to automate my QA? You have 1300+ engineers, you can make them run all my test suites by hand. It’d probably be better output too because they must be some really shitty engineers.

(If you have 1300+ engineers and you are not one of the FAANGs, you are doing it wrong.)