Om-nom-nom-icron is eating the world

Looking at COVID data is depressing. Even if people are much less likely to die from the Omicron variant, the numbers are so massive, even a small percentage of bad infections is causing problems in hospitals and death tolls are rising. The UK has canceled all pre-and post-travel testing regimes. “COVID is here to stay, and if you are vaccinated there is nothing else to do,” seems to be the sentiment. And at this point with the Omicron variant burning through vaccinated and unvaccinated alike that sounds about right. Seems everyone will get it, and we will have herd immunity to this variant… until it comes back next year, mutated again, becoming another strain of “the common cold”. Hopefully we can travel again soon. Singapore is as good a place to be during a pandemic as anywhere but you can’t go more than 40 kilometers, at most, without needing a passport. I’m not the type of person who can go their whole life and never venture more than an handful of kilometers from their home… I live about as far from my birthplace as I can and my passports tend to fill up faster than they expire. I can’t wait to travel again. First world problems…

Anyway, lets have some fun. If you can’t make fun of it then it has already won…

Original chart from the New York Times
Original chart from the New York Times

That’s not how religion works

[W]e have religions centered around this thing, and we have no idea how it works

Brian Hare, quoted in Detailed Footage Finally Reveals What Triggers Lightning [], published by Quanta Magazine.

Isn’t that what religion is for? Who are these lightening worshippers? And will an detailed, scientific explanation put an end to their lightning religion? Even if we were not in the midst of a neo-dark age filled with people who mistrust science, but I doubt it. That’s not how religion works.

Featured image uses screen grab from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, © Lucasfilm Ltd., and this image [] from msim1238, CC BY 2.0


COVID19, empathy and the ugly side of American freedom

Did you know that America is one of the most empathetic countries in the world? In the top ten according to this survey from the University of Michigan []. Though the authors of the study do note that the psychological states of Americans have been changing in recent decades – leading to a larger focus on the individual and less on others. So, they hint that America’s rank may drop in the coming years.

This study was released in October 2016. Literally a few weeks before Trump won the election…

I expect that if they re-ran that survey today, after four years of Trump and the continued fracturing of American society, that America would place a lot lower than seventh. I think that personal freedom has trumped empathy for a large portion of Americans. A portion that has so little empathy that they can’t wear a mask, to help everyone —to help society as a whole, the same society they want to make great again— because someone has tried to mandate that help, to protect health care system, to protect the more vulnerable, to try and ensure less people die of COVID19 and other illnesses during the pandemic. They can’t do this to help others because someone made a rule that “infringes on their personal freedom”. Maybe if they weren’t forced to wear a mask they would out of there sense of empathy for others who might get sick? I doubt it.

These people clearly value their personal freedom more than the lives of others. Their version of America washes its hands of any duty or responsibility to helping Americans. It’s freedom, or liberty, as a religion, a blind faith. 800,000 people have now died from COVID19 in the US, but “fuck them, my freedom is more important” is what anti-maskers stand for. “My right to not wear a mask is more important than others right to life”. Another front in their religious war to preserve their precious personal freedoms, to go along with “my right to own a gun, any gun, is more important than others right to life” so we can’t have any common sense discussion on how to address gun related violence and deaths, “fuck the kids of Sandy Hook, fuck the kids of Columbine, my right to an AR-15 is absolute”. “My rights, my rights, my rights…” But never “my duty” or “my responsibility”, or “our duty” and “our responsibility” (one caveat: the more conservative, e.g. Republican, someone is, the more likely they are to be anti-mask, but also Republicans are more likely to have served in the military, which is a often seen as a duty to the country, even when service is voluntary as it is in America.)

Even it everyone wore a mask all the time, people would have died, but it seems reasonable to think a lot fewer than 800,000 would have died. According to this BBC article [] from last year, Singapore had 90% adherence to wearing masks (and that seems low to me being here…), still deaths do occur and have climbed steeply in the past 6 months due to the Delta wave. Even if everyone wore a mask always, some would die. But surely if you have any empathy you would gladly suffer a bit of personal inconvenience —wearing a mask— to protect others (as well as yourself) from illness, regardless of if the government mandated it or not? Even if it only saved 10% of 800,000 people, that is 80,000 people who would still by alive thanks to your choice to be a bit inconvenienced by wearing a mask?

The same BBC article says that 73% of Americans self-report wearing a mask, that seems high given all the noise about anti-maskers in the news, 1 out of 4 is a minority but a large minority. Maybe just a very vocal minority. How much is this 27% of people who say they are not or will not wear a mask affecting the spread of COVID19 in America? Are most people in hospital today anti-maskers? or family of anti-masker?

As with seemingly everything in America, masks are a political issue. The MAGA wing of the republican party seems to be vocal core of anti-maskers, just as they are the vocal core of the anti-gun control and anti-abortion. They are also mostly evangelical Christians and it seems that many have forgotten to “render unto Caesar“[] and to love their neighbor as themselves [].

It is the ugliest side of America’s obsession with personal freedom that people won’t put on a mask to help American get through the pandemic with as few deaths as possible and a quickly as possible.

Cover image based on “The Ugly American” [] movie, original poster art [] from Wikimedia Commons. Incorporating images from: TheUnseen011101 [] on Flickr (also on Wikimedia []), Blink O’fanaye [] on Flickr, and [].

photography ranting

My Best Mobile Photos — 2017

In the first post in this series [] I said:

I started using Lightroom mobile to take photos on my phone sometime in 2017 so that’s a logical place to stop… let’s see if I can get that far.

Well, I made it, here we go, 2017.

I started the year with the iPhone 6S but, as it’s an odd year I upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus, the last of the iPhones sans notch. The camera was mostly similar to the iPhone 6S in terms of specs, enough that I didn’t notice that much difference. It did take better low light photos, less noise.

But I started the year with the 6S so lets go back to that. First photo is this beautiful shot taken on an unexpected trip to Antalya in Southern Turkey. On the way to Israel for a work trip in early January my flight was diverted to Antalya due to a snow storm in Istanbul. More info in this post [].


It was only one night, and by the next evening I was sitting on the rooftop lounge of my hotel in Tel Aviv, where I took this shot:


Fast forward 6 months and I took this next shot from a plane on another work trip, this time to Jakarata. This is one of the photos that I think is in my top 10 mobile photos ever. I used it as a background on my phone for a long time.


Up next is another photos from a plane, on yet another work trip, this time to Australia. But this time it’s our first photo taken on the iPhone 8 Plus:


Next up, jellyfish, at the S.E.A. Aquarium in Singapore:


My last two best of 2017 mobile photos were taken in Lightroom Mobile. I started taking photos in Lightroom in June of 2017, but not very many initially, it took a while before it started to replace the default camera app as my go to mobile photo tool. But by the end of the year I was taking them in Lightroom regularly if not most of the time. Today almost any photo I take is done in Lightroom, except for quick shots that I share and then delete over things like WhatsApp.

First up for Lightroom, this car, I think it was in Paragon mall’s underground parking:


And finally, almost at the end of the year, December 28th, this shot of the light show put on nightly by MBS:


So that’s it for 2017. 13 years worth of “best of” mobile photos. Will I stop now. Don’t think so. I’ve had fun looking back, now I will switch over to the photos taken in Lightroom but I think I will go on to 2018, and beyond. But once I catch up to now I’ll have to slow down, once a year post in January? We’ll see if I can stick to that.


Looking at you

Made myself a new iPhone background. Enjoy.

Looking at you by beggs. CC BY-SA 4.0

For the background pattern I used this pattern from Wikimedia commons: Japanese_Wave_Pattern.svg. [] It’s available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International [] license. That means this image is also available under the same license so go ahead and do what you want with it.

The daruma was traced from this image also on Wikimedia, under this same license: Daruma_doll,_cut_out_03.jpg [].

Dimensions are based on my iPhone 11 Pro Max. With parallax turned off the daruma’s sit just above the dock. Your mileage may vary.