The Best Pair of COVID Charts I’ve Seen

This is looking very good!

via CovidTrends and Google

 

The US COVID death charts are following… probably.

Borrowing History of Library Books in California

Here’s one way to keep track of the books you’ve borrowed from the library. Many libraries in California do not let you view your checkout history, citing California law that mandates the confidentiality of borrowing records. I can understand that but I wish my local library let me choose.

My library, and thousands of others use a service called Library Elf. I see a few main benefits:
* view consolidated library accounts… ie. see if your daughter’s account has overdue books
* see a history of the books you’ve checked out
* get nice email reminders of almost-due books

I’ve been using it for about 2 months and it works pretty well. It’s free for me because my library subscribes to it. It might be free for you too.

Bluetooth Earbud Tip for Zoom

I recently got some bluetooth earbuds for using on Zoom for Windows. Here’s a super tip

Bluetooth connects to computers 2 ways. “Headset AG” or “Headphone stereo”. AG is 2-way (the earbuds are headphones and a microphone) while regular is 1-way (the earbuds are just a headphone). The problem is that when you do it 2-way, the sound quality in both directions is much lower, telephone quality.

The tip: set ALL of your sound outputs on your computer to go to the “regular” bluetooth device and use the microphone on your laptop. Now you have great sounding wireless headphones. It can be tricky to figure out how to change all the outputs. Here are the key ones for me:

In Zoom:

I selected the Speaker “Headphones (Mpow Flame Solo Stereo)” and not the “Headset (Mpow Flame Solo Hands-Free AG Audio)”. And the the microphone, I selected the one built into the computer “Microphone Array (Realtek High Definition Audio”.

 

In Windows, Click on the Speaker icon in the tray to get this menu and…

 

then click on the correct speaker like so:

Now (hopefully!) all of your audio outputs will go to your earbuds in high quality. Enjoy the cordlessness!

 

Facebook and Imgur Fasting

I’m taking a 3 day Facebook and Imgur.com fast. Interrupting the Doomscrolling cycle will be good for my mental health.

(reminder to my future-self.. I keep scrolling, thinking I’m looking for the positive story that will give me hope and set me right. What I end up doing is building a catalog of negative stories that drive me further to look for the balancing positive ones. Hence, the doomscrolling cycle)

COVID Projections

I place this here as a reality check to myself, suggesting how long this pandemic still has to go, and as a landmark for when some anti-vaxxer says something like “Nya nya, see? The infection rates fell on their own. I knew I didn’t need to get vaccinated!” To which I respond with this quote from covid19-projections.com on 2-3-21:

Summary
– We estimate COVID-19 herd immunity (>70% of population immune) will be reached in the US during summer 2021 (Jun-Aug 2021). At a high level, herd immunity is a concept in which a population can be protected from a virus if enough people possess immunity.

– At the time herd immunity is reached, roughly half of the immunity will be achieved through natural infection, and the other half will be achieved through vaccination.

– New infections may become minimal before herd immunity is reached. But due to imported cases and localized clusters, it is unlikely that new infections will drop to zero until at least 2022.

– Deaths may drop to low levels even earlier (May-Jul 2021), in part due to a vaccine distribution strategy that initially prioritizes high-risk individuals. Once deaths fall to minimal levels, we may see a relaxation of restrictions.

– Summarizing the above findings, our best estimate of a complete “return to normal” in the US is mid-summer 2021 (June/July 2021).

– We estimate roughly 70-75% of the US population (230-250 million) will receive at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of 2021, with children being the last group to receive it (fall 2021).

– We estimate around 30-40% of the US population (~115 million) will have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus by the end of 2021. That is an additional 50 million infections since mid-December 2020.

– This translates to a final US COVID-19 death toll of roughly 600,000 (±100,000) reported deaths, or ~300,000 additional deaths since mid-December 2020.

(Frank T. pointed me to this source, thanks Frank!)

Presidents and GDP

“Follow the money.”

I have several times promoted the idea that the president’s political party has no influence on the US GDP or any other major economic indicator. I used as evidence some charts and discussion I’ve found online and eyeballing of Federal Reserve charts. I think I was wrong! I came across an article today that says my eyeballing skills are not as good as I believed! The research and newspaper article says, among other things:

Since 1933, the economy has grown at an annual average rate of 4.6 percent under Democratic presidents and 2.4 percent under Republicans, according to a Times analysis. In more concrete terms: The average income of Americans would be more than double its current level if the economy had somehow grown at the Democratic rate for all of the past nine decades.

I’m blown away at this analysis! I always hand-wavingly-guessed that Republicans had an edge when it came to sound fiscal policy. Republicans wear suits better (remember Alex Keaton on Family Ties?)… “greed is good”… all that! But this research turns the idea on its head!

The research paper uses some economics theory and math to say (warning, economics geekery. read the paper for more info):

…it appears that the Democratic edge stems mainly from more benign oil shocks, superior total factor productivity (TFP) performance, a more favorable international environment, and perhaps more optimistic consumer expectations about the near-term future.

The research was published in the peer reviewed American Economic Review in 2016.

– The research article, Presidents and the US Economy: An Econometric Exploration (local copy)
– The New York Times article: Opinion: Why Are Republican Presidents So Bad for the Economy?

My New Favorite Musician For Kids: Jim Gill

I came across Jim Gill’s amazing finger play song One From The Left and got hooked. He’s got a huge catalog of catchy, fun kids songs. Check him out!

COVID Vaccination #1

Star Trek Acid Party

Such a lovingly crafted.. umm… acid trip tribute to Star Trek The Next Generation!
The love shows in the details.

(via JWZ)

Wireless Earbud Headphones for Zoom Recommendation

I use Zoom on Windows a lot lately. I wanted cordless earbuds to decrease the number of wires at my desk so I went exploring. Here’s my recommendation:

All of them have “ok”-ish microphones. When at my desk, I use the mic built into my laptop but sometimes switch to the built-in mike when walking around.

MPOW Flame Solo is the best bluetooth earbud for me
– $40 on Amazon
– They “just work”. It has taken a little effort to figure out how to switch between my now multiple audio-out options on my computer, that isn’t the fault of the earbuds. Syncing is easy, turning on and of is easy.
– audio quality for music is nearly as good as my wired earbuds, I use them for music
– The over-the-ear design means they stay on my head and I don’t have to rely on squeezing the earpiece into my ear to stay on (like the Tozo T12)
– The volume and sound response (highs vs lows etc) is sometimes a little bit less than my wired earbuds. But look ma! no cords!

 

Tozo T12 is my second choice
– $40 on Amazon
– Also “just work.”
– They work as well as the MPOW Flame Solo but the in-the-ear-canal design bothers me since there is something shoved in my ear canal! And they sometimes fall out when I make a big facial expression like a wide smile.

Jabra Evolve 65T was TERRIBLE
I thought these would be the best due to the company’s reputation and their price tag but I was wrong!
– $220 on Amazon. What?? Yes!
– They occasionally make a very loud click in my ears. Once it happened when I walked away from my desk, maybe it lost bluetooth connection? Once it happened while I was trying to configure it. Earbuds should NEVER blast my ears with a loud click!
– The audio balance for music is often 90% to the left and can’t be fixed. I googled around and found several forums filled with people saying “yeah, that’s a problem. I called Jabra and they couldn’t fix it.” One fix seemed to work for some people: sticking a needle in the microphone port below the “R” on the right earbud and wiggling it around. I gently tried this (on my brand new earbuds) and it didn’t work.
– I had a bit of trouble configuring them to work. Making the sound path from Zoom/Spotify/default computer audio to the speakers wasn’t intuitive and the manual consisted of just 4 pictograms. I muddled through but a little more help from Jabra would have been nice. Here are some hints (that Jabra doesn’t mention!): The Jabra “Sound+” app for Android can help you configure the earbuds… but some forums say it is responsible for the left-balance problem. You should get the Jabra Direct Windows program to set up the Jabra USB Link 370 USB Adapter.

Anker Soundcore Spirit X no good for Zoom on Windows
– $30 on Amazon
– They work great on my Android phone
– They sound about as good as the others. The two over-the-ear earbuds are tethered to one another. I had heard people say that a tethered design would make it so you don’t lose one earbud; to that I say “Meh, just don’t lose them!” I find the tether bothers my neck. When I turn my head, it catches on my hair a little and pulls at the earbud a little. I solved that by putting the cord over the top of my head, which makes me feel rather dorky!
– HOWEVER, they are no good for connecting to a Windows computer! They disconnect randomly. Many people online have said similarly that they don’t maintain a connection. And there’s no fix.

Old school wired earbuds
I still keep them near my desk because they sounds a little better than the bluetooth earbuds and they don’t run out of battery. But the wires are a hassle.

PS. Luke, you were right all along!!

PPS. I should try Aftershokz bone conduction headphones. They have a boom mike and a good visual profile (I want to look normal-ish to my clients and not wear giant headphones)… thoughts?