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Daily dose

Mozart, spaghetti, eclipses & zoonosis

You may be able to spot a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse this weekend link

On June 21st, at 3:45 UTC, there would be an annular solar eclipse in which the moon only partially covers the sun creating a flaming silhouette. This rare event happens once every one or two years when the moon comes in between the Earth and the sun in its farthest point in its orbit. It will be visible in northern India, southeastern Europe to northern Australia in varying degrees. Don’t forget to use the proper equipment in viewing the eclipse as looking directly at the sun could cause permanent eye damage. And no, sunglasses, x-ray films, polaroid filters, or color films won’t give you protection.

The tangled history of spaghetti bolognese link

The spaghetti that we know – pasta noodles with red sauce often referred to as spaghetti bolognese has nothing to do with the Italian town of Bologna. Its origins can be traced to when Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796 and the Italians’ embracing French cooking. American soldiers and Italian immigrants brought it to the United States at the end of World War II. The growth and global expansion of American fast-food chains then exported it to the rest of the world.

Mozart may reduce seizure frequency in people with epilepsy link

A study suggests that listening to Mozart reduces the frequency of seizures in people with epilepsy. It doesn’t say exactly what in Mozart’s music gives this benefit. Maybe music from other classical masters like Beethoven, Bach or Vivaldi would give the same positive effect. From time to time, I put on Spring from Four Seasons just to lighten up the mood and get the creative juices flowing.

“Cat” by strogoscope is licensed under CC BY 2.0
People probably caught coronavirus from minks. That’s a wake-up call to study infections in animals, researchers say. link

The consensus among experts is that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 came from bats and then jumped to humans in what is called zoonosis. Now there’s a growing body of research that suggests the sources of other pathogens may be closer to home as our domesticated animals in farms and including our pets are potential reservoirs.

Even during the SARS outbreak in 2003, it has been proven that cats and raccoons played a role in the spread of the virus in Hong Kong. Back in April, minks in Dutch fur farms got sick from SARS-CoV-2 and later passed it on to humans. Aside from pet cats and dogs, lions and tigers in zoos have also caught COVID-19. So what can be done with the certainty that there would be another outbreak? Better and widened surveillance that includes animals both domestic and wild.

What we can learn from New Zealand’s successful fight against COVID-19 link

The exact opposite of what the Duterte administration did and is doing. New Zealand may have had the advantage of a smaller population and geographic isolation, however the following steps proved more decisive:

  • The early shutdown of its borders
  • Early ramping up of diagnostic testing
  • A meticulous contact tracing system

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did well on risk communication, explaining clearly and frequently what was happening and why. This made people feel that they were part of a communal effort to care for each other. She promoted solidarity. – Gavin Yamey, director of the Duke Center for Policy Impact in Global Health

In contrast, the Duterte government did the opposite:

Relented on imposing travel restrictions even saying that it didn’t want to offend China

Communication was all over the place: from having different officials saying one thing in the morning only to have another official contradict it later in the day.

They even had the bright idea to classify cases as “fresh” and “old” in their official reporting which only made things confusing. It didn’t hide the fact that more people are getting COVID-19 despite imposing the longest lockdown in the world, billions spent, and the available capabilities of local health experts and scientists.

Worse, Duterte’s late-night appearances on TV were laced with his signature profanities and incoherent statements were clear only one thing: threatening to jail or kill critics and naysayers.

We’re in the third month of the outbreak in the Philippines and it seems that this terrible situation will drag on for longer.

Categories
Daily dose

Flying, children’s blood vessels, pepper sprays & the office

How Safe Is Flying in the Age of Coronavirus? link

Just like with SARS back in 2003, air travel has helped spread novel diseases the world over. Today’s COVID-19 pandemic is no different that’s why a lot of us are worried about the risks of getting sick in an airplane. Charlotte Ryan and Naomi Kresge have answers to key questions about the safety of air travel as some countries are now reopening for business and relaxing travel restrictions. If you think about it, the same questions apply to other modes of mass transportation such as buses and trains where a lot of people spend a lot of time in an enclosed environment.

“Running kids” by iwannt is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Why children avoid the worst coronavirus complications might lie in their arteries link

Children have less severe forms of COVID-19 compared to adults, especially those with diabetes and hypertension. The main difference, according to Frank Ruschitzka a cardiologist at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, may lie in the endothelium that lines the blood vessels which are in better condition in children compared to in adults. Healthier endothelium is able to withstand infection from SARS-CoV-2 which avoids the devastating blood clotting often seen in adult patients.

Paul Monagle, a pediatric hematologist at the Melbourne Children’s Campus has a similar theory. He thinks that when SARS-CoV-2 invades endothelial cells, it disrupts communication between such cells, platelets, and plasma components that results in excess clot formation which could result in death.

Can existing live vaccines prevent COVID-19? link | link

A group of experts has made the argument that the polio vaccine should be tested against COVID-19 because it strengthens the immune system against a wide range of diseases aside from polio. It’s fairly recent and existing polio vaccine are not included in current trials by WHO and other health experts in their race to find a safe and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.

“Crash UC Davis” by tpfliss is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
How to handle a pepper spray attack – link

The ingredients that go into pepper sprays are not regulated by the US government. Manufacturers have their own blend and the ingredients are not printed on labels. This means there’s little that scientists know about its composition so they can’t really say how harmful it can be. I’ve had a whiff of tear gas before way back when my sister and I were still kids when we found a small canister in my aunt’s purse. It was a nightmare and they say pepper sprays are far worse. Yikes!

“Office” by Super Rabbit One is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Death of the Office – link

Before Google and other tech start-ups started the fad of open office spaces with slides, bean bags, and free snacks, the ancient Romans as it turns out were on a league of their own. As they dedicated more time to leisure ‘work’ was wherever and whenever they were not having fun. It’s an interesting overview of the origins and evolution of the office. Something we all miss somehow as we work from home due to the pandemic.

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Daily dose

A blog reboot

“Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” – I could still remember the way Sean Connery screamed that while pacing around with a glass of scotch in his hands in one of my favorite movies about inspiration and writing, Finding Forrester.

That in addition to the various writing courses I have taken online in the last couple of weeks and my constantly growing list of notes and bookmarks are the inspiration to my latest blogging reboot. As you may have noticed, this blog is once again carrying the Four-eyed Journal as its name. I’ve come full circle, so to speak, in a grand plan to meet the following goals:

  • Write consistently
  • Update this blog regularly
  • Grow my writing portfolio
  • Serve you, my dear readers, with useful finds from the internet

In concrete terms, from this day I would post a regular serving of links to interesting finds from the internet and social media laced with my commentary. It would also include pseudo personal notes about daily life. It would be posted on this blog every other day or at least five days a week.

Then from time to time, I would post an essay or a long-form and highly polished piece at least twice a month. If you are a subscriber to my weekly newsletter, Monday Mash-up, then you’d know how it will look like. Worry not though, as the juiciest bits of content would still be reserved for it.

So in the coming days, expect more fresh content although as a fair warning, the first few posts would be a bit rough around the edges as I try to get more comfortable into this new blogging routine. Hopefully, the updates would be of good use for you, my dear readers. If you have any questions or even objections to this, do let me know in the comments section below or get in touch via email. I would also love to see anything that you found online that you think is interesting, cool, funny, controversial – anything that caught your fancy.

Lastly, a sort of medium-term goal, I would publish a podcast that summarizes the week’s ‘daily dose’ that dives deeper into one or two of the links that would be mentioned. It could feature a guest as an expert or someone that I could pick brains with just to spice things up and present a different take.

Exciting times ahead and hoping you’ll stick around for the ride.

Categories
Daily dose

A guide on buying or upgrading your PC

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing all of us to either work or study from home, the need to have a capable computer has been greater.

Asking around for what CPU, how much memory, or what type of hard drive from someone who knows about computers could be confusing if you’re unfamiliar about these. It also doesn’t help that IT-guys or the tech-savvy like myself would just throw a list of specs and use nerd-speak as this topic easily lights us up like a Christmas tree. Often times, the confused look from friends, family, and colleagues would mean I just spoke in an alien language. And yes, biases and personal loyalty to brands can even make things more confusing.

I have always been a missionary for HP, Intel and nVidia whenever someone asks what computer they should get mainly because I once worked for HP. As the years went by I have learned from personal and professional experience that the best way to handle this kind of question is to have an understanding of what the computer is for so that I could offer better advice instead of imposing my personal biases. So I took a different approach and applied what I learned from working for HP: good customer service which for me is helping others help themselves.

So I ask them what do they need to a computer for? Is it for work or personal use? By personal use, it means casual word processing, internet browsing, or more intense work like gaming or graphics/video editing, etc? Because computers can be customized to meet each scenario.

Once it’s clear what the computer is for, my next question would be: “How much are you willing to spend?” A specs list or a brand may just turn into a wish-list if it’s too expensive for the person you’re trying to help. Only after getting the answers to these two questions do I actually give my own recommendations.

What would you use the computer for?

The rule of thumb is quite simple: the more complex a task the more powerful a computer needs to be.

Internet browsing, word processing or creating slideshows – school work mainly:
  • CPU
    • latest generation Pentium, Core i3 from Intel
    • Athlon and Ryzen 3 from AMD
  • System memory or RAM
    • At least 4GB
  • Hard disk space
    • at least 500GB HDD (disk drives that have spinning platters)
    • at least 256 SSD (solid-state drives, basically large capacity flash drives)
  • Video/Graphics
    • Integrated Intel, nVidia or AMD GPU with at least 1GB of memory
  • Operating system
    • Windows 10 64-bit
    • Ubuntu Linux

Remember: with the specs above, do not expect to be able to play PC games, edit videos or graphics.

Mid-level gaming, video/graphics editing:
  • CPU
    • Core i5 or i7 from Intel
    • Ryzen 5 or 7
  • System memory or RAM
    • At least 16 GB
  • Hard disk space
    • at least 1TB HDD (disk drives that have spinning platters)
    • at least 512 SSD (solid-state drives, basically large capacity flash drives)
  • Video/Graphics
    • Dedicated GPU or graphics card with at least 2GB of its own memory
  • Operating system
    • Windows 10 64-bit
    • Ubuntu Linux
Heavy or HD graphics/video editing and high-end gaming:
  • CPU
    • Top-tier Core i7 or i9 from Intel
    • Top-tier Ryzen 5, 7, 9 and Threadripper from AMD
  • System memory or RAM
    • At least 32 GB
  • Hard disk space
    • at least 1TB HDD (disk drives that have spinning platters)
    • at least 512 SSD (solid-state drives, basically large capacity flash drives)
  • Video/Graphics
    • top-tier dedicated GPU or graphics card with at least 16GB of its own memory from either Intel or AMD
  • Operating system
    • Windows 10 64-bit (for gamers)
    • Ubuntu Linux (for developers)

An alternative would be a MacBook Pro.

Basically, at this point, it will all depend on how deep your pocket is because you will definitely spend a lot.

The third way: upgrade your current PC

If you already have a notebook or desktop PC, upgrading some of its components would save you some money and give it a new lease on life. While some can afford to buy a brand new PC or device, most would find it challenging given that some have been laid off or had taken pay cuts. There are also the more practical ones, who prefer to upgrade a few components to give their current devices additional computing power.

The key to everything is compatibility with your motherboard. This is where all of the components are physically connected and come together to work as one. Knowing the model of your motherboard will answer all of the compatibility issues:

  • socket for the CPU
  • slots for the system memory and graphics card/GPU
  • the type of hard drive (platter HDD or solid-state SSD)

If it’s a laptop your upgrade options are usually limited to the following:

  • RAM
  • hard disk capacity

The CPU and graphics card/GPU are essentially part of the motherboard. You’re better off buying a new notebook if you need a more powerful chip and graphics card.

Hopefully, this simple guide would help in your choosing a new computer or upgrading your existing one. If you have questions feel free to ask in the comments below or send me a note.