I’m attempting to develop/train a deep learning model to pick the same lines that I think are key when extracting patterns from photos.

Jetson Nano hardware isn’t supported by folding@home, or it would be cranking away on covid proteins. But it can’t, so my Nano can work on my little art project. It’s far from achieving the goal as yet, but some of the results from this latest training run are intriguing. Unfortunately, the results from the other training examples at this point aren’t nearly as pleasing.

As Coronavirus Statistics Evolve…

I believe that some people will begin to say that Chinese base level travel restrictions and rapid travel lockdowns saved that land from the worst of the disease, and the prediction of that talk saddens me. I love that we in the U.S. can hop in an RV and ramble on wherever we please, when we please, money and prior commitments permitting. Unfortunately, this freedom does lead to a predictable vulnerability to massive parallel infection of certain diseases. You see, because we know our freedom, we use it. People move around, sick or no, and can spread airborne respiratory viruses.

It is not really the same in China. They had many movement restrictions, fines and fees and rules, even before the virus. People in China are used to being restricted to certain places, they don’t think of freedom of movement as a basic right. So, they don’t fight quarantines, and don’t flee infected areas as much, and the government has pre-built checkpoint areas to easily convert to road blocks.

But freedom of movement is an important tradition in the U.S., and serves a valuable economic purpose. It allows concentrations of specialization and talent. It is key to the strengths and abilities of our companies. It’s Apple, it’s Microsoft, it’s Tesla, it’s Hollywood, it’s Broadway. It’s the best of the U.S., because we can move freely.

So let us not consider general travel restrictions for the future of the U.S. Let’s not covet China’s advantage against Covid-19. Because our vulnerability, in this case, is also our strength, tradition, and a key part of the national identity of the U.S. With the exception of native americans, The U.S. is made of people that came to be a part of something, and people that are descended from people who came to be a part of something. But maybe… if you go back far enough… even the native americans are the people that came. Came across now sunken land bridges, came on clever ocean craft. Yes, I like to think that there is some basic common ground between us all in that way.

Day 3 in the Western Quarantine Zone

Awareness and precaution, are advised at these times. Conflict, hoarding, and bullying are ill-advised and may be more dangerous than the virus. This brief disruption will pass, but memories of fights and crimes will live on.

Stay peaceful out there. If you have to attack anything, let it be your own fear or anger. Engage the authorities to assist with disputes, and defend yourself. But don’t go on the offensive in these of all times. Channel your antsy-ness towards production or learning. Take some free online courses. Take some time to teach your children some things they don’t get in school. Take some time to lay out plans for further ahead then usual. Do good.

One thing to learn about is the effects of staying predominantly at home when you used to be going out a lot more. This change in behavior can affect how much pollen or pet dander you get exposed to, and your body will adapt to the new situation. This can mean nasal and sinus symptoms, sneezing, runny nose, and it’s important to be able to recognize that that’s not Covid. Sneezing is likely if you spend almost a full week indoors, and then go out and get exposed to a sudden influx of pollen, or if you spend much more time then usual cooped up with a beloved pet. But, even if sneezing isn’t Covid, it can still spread the disease if not properly covered. The current guidance is to sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm, on the inside of the elbow, to block dispersion of your fluids.

Day 2 in the Western Quarantine Zone

Doing some mask research for work, I found a Chinese N95 mask supplier called Fullcare. They advertise a production capacity of 120000pcs/day, and export 90% of their product. They are also located in Hubei province near Wuhan, reknowned first site of major coronavirus infections. They advertise a price of $0.12-0.35/mask currently on made-in-china.com. For some reason, I don’t find myself attracted to the deal, just as well, as I’ve heard that there are export limitations by China being placed on masks leaving China.

I was reading up on the “black death” plague a while ago, comparing it with coronavirus to get an idea of what we’d be looking at. I determined that coronavirus is, while deadly, not currently anywhere approaching an apocalypse class disease. Coronavirus has easy transmission, there is no cure, and there is a long incubation period, but mortality rates are low for otherwise healthy people. The “black death” on the other hand, while curable with modern methods, was incurable at the time, killed lots of healthy people, and actually quite nastily co-opted fleas for transmission. Apparently, the fleas that fed on infected blood would get a clot in their gut preventing them from getting effective nourishment, making them ravenously hungry and much more bitey, which means that the “black death” actively encouraged its own transmission. That’s approaching an apocalyptic disease. At least, it was in its time and place. We’ve got fleas under control these days, and to some extent bacteria, though they get increasingly resistant. Coronavirus, on the other hand, is a dangerous disease, but for most, things things will get back to normal, especially with proper precautions.

Day 1 in the Western Quarantine Zone

Following the governor’s order, and the ever-increasing warnings, grocery stores shelves are being picked clean for certain items like bottled water, toilet paper, and non-perishable food stuffs. Likely, this is a transient effect that will normalize as restrictions stay constant or relax as they should.

As far as the effectiveness of the order, I wonder if it is premature for my area, in Sacramento. If the quarantine is enacted too early and then lifted, the peak infection will be offset to a later date rather than smoothed out over time. Of course, the quarantine is not 100% effective, and people working in essential sectors will still be exposed, as will be people utilizing those services, so there is some possibility of a smoothing effect.

Meanwhile, I’m loving tensorflow 2. It is a dream to use compared with the old tensorflow object detection api. Tensorflow, keras, and the special processor architectures that they take advantage of open the door for whole new approaches to problem solving, which will make problems that could once only be tackled by dedicated mathematicians accessible to competent engineers (as long as they’ve access to the processing power).

Gochujang, red miso, and flour.

There’s an optimal combination of these to make a creamy, spicy, umami soup base/thickener, and I’m iterating towards it now.

Gochujang is a Korean deep red fermented spicy pepper paste that I found about a few months ago, and have been tossing into various dishes without any disappointing results. The taste is hot pepper with that fermented lactic acid tang (similar to sourdough bread or kimchi).

Red miso is a fermented soybean and rice paste of Japanese origin that has a richer salty umami flavor than soy sauce.

In traditional western cooking, flour is mixed with equal weight of butter to make a roux to make gravy and soup. The fat helps the flour to blend evenly into hot liquids (pure flour clumps immediately when added in hot liquid). The above pastes aren’t really analogous to butter, but can still be combined with flour to make a cream base. When one needs to add flour to a hot liquid without clumping, but doesn’t wish to add butter, then one has to preblend the flour in cold liquid (1/2c flour to 1c water), and then stir the cold mixture into the hot liquid a little at a time. As it happens, there’s no reason that cold blend can’t include a flavoring of red miso and gochujang.

My most recent iteration: 1c cold water, 1/2c flour, 2tblsp gochujang, 2tblsp red miso whisked together until blended smoothly and then slowly poured into a near boiling 2.5c water in a sauce pan produced a thick red soup that was too salty and too spicy at those quantities. The soup thickened from a “Campbells cream of”-like consistency to a gravy consistency as it cooled (which is a property that I like in a hearty soup). In my next iteration, I’ll reduce to 1tblsp gochujang and 1 tsp red miso. I expect the final product to lend itself to making beef, pork, sausage, chicken, potato, or vegetable chowder-thick soups/stews.

Health Insurance Plan Evaluation

Health insurance plans have some well known attributes such as deductible, copay, maximum out of pocket, and preferred or required healthcare providers. These things are usually nicely summarized and explained in the plan information and quotes.

But there is another factor which affects the actual cost of any given health service. This factor is the negotiated rate that the insurance company has with the provider. What happens is, insurance companies go to providers and say something like, “this CT scan costs too much, we only want our plan holders to pay this much, and if you make us pay more, we won’t cover it, and our large group of plan holders won’t buy your service.” And then a price is negotiated. So whenever you have a copay or a deductible, a usually hidden part of the calculation of your actual out of pocket expenses are these negotiated rates for health services/prescriptions.

One of the key factors in how low these negotiated rates are, is how many people are in a given health plan, which gives the insurance company more leverage during negotiations. Because of this, I think that insurance companies should provide estimated plan holder numbers and a list of negotiated rates for common services/prescriptions as a part of any insurance quote along with the traditional copay, deductible, out of pocket maximum, and preferred/required provider information.