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By gzt (Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 09:37:48 AM EST) gzt, terrorists, disease, flu (all tags)
Hey, I'm supposed to be a guy who thinks about probability, rationality, risk, reward, incentives, etc. I mean, at this very moment, I'm preparing some kind of presentation about behavioral economics. So, anyway, I'm flying down south tomorrow, so I might as well mention what I think about this whole swine flu thing, since, hell, I'm healthy and 25-50 years old, a prime target for atypically lethal pandemic flu strains.


The short answer is that I'll be washing my hands more frequently than usual while at the airport and on the plane, but I'm not going to care that much. Do they let you carry on little thingies of alcohol-based hand-sanitizers? I don't know how these things work anymore and I very rarely fly. The last time I flew was in 2006.

Who the hell knows what the odds are of a massive outbreak of deadly flu? Whatever they are, there's a pretty good chance that one's intuition is higher than the "true probability". So I am not particularly worried. It's like terrorism. However, this really is not something you can operate on by assigning probabilities. How the hell would one know that the true probability of this flu turning into the next Spanish flu is 1/100 or 1/10,000 or 1/1,000,000? It's absurd to think about it that way. It would be some fluke one-off event. You can't know, you can't guess, you have no real history of tragedy: it's like stock market crashes. They are all unique. Thinking in terms of probability and expectation will only make you silly.

The only answer is to say, well, sanitizing your hands frequently is fairly low-cost and low-impact, but it is highly-effective in terms of preventing disease transmission. I always come down with a cold or something when I fly, anyway, so I'll probably be happier in the end if I wash my hands frequently at the airport even if I do look a little neurotic. If it does suddenly turn 12 Monkeys on us, well, I'd rather die terrified than live forever. I live as few men have dared to dream. If you let this nonsense get to you, the terrorists have already won.

Okay. I have to work. And prepare a friggin' presentation.

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Flying into the eye of the storm | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Get the facemasks too by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #1 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 10:21:43 AM EST



what, is someone going to... by gzt (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 10:39:04 AM EST
...sneeze into my open mouth or something?

[ Parent ]
I assume that they'll absorb aerosol particles. by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #4 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 11:04:06 AM EST
Such as those that fed back from the drains at Amoy Gardens in the SARS outbreak.

It seems where I work we've just put in an order for two disposable masks a day per person for the 90 working day duration of any outbreak that occurs.

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Then again, it is Texas by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 11:07:34 AM EST
if someone felt threatened by the mask-wearing gzt, they could shoot him.


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and it totally wouldn't impress anybody. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 11:50:32 AM EST
they'd think i was one of those queer yankees or something.

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I smell a marketing opportunity by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 11:55:36 AM EST
Harley Davidson branded N99 facemasks.


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P100 by marvin (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 12:26:31 PM EST
I'm trying to decide between wearing my full-face respirator on the bus, or maybe just the half mask I bought for the workshop, which has a P100 particulate filter. That ought to be entertaining. Maybe I should grab a Tyvek suit from our asbestos supplies while I'm at it, and fill my pockets with green nitrile gloves.

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Can you print a quasi-official looking badge? by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 12:27:10 PM EST



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Not necessary by marvin (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 01:46:03 PM EST
I am expecting that the big biohazard symbol that I intend to paint onto my tyvek suit will free me from the need to even carry quasi-official documents.

I could make a badge using crayons, and rely on the fact that nobody will come close enough to actually look at it. Fear. Having fun with it.

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I was thinking a New World Order one by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 01:52:51 PM EST
maybe an Illumunati one, something to drive the wingnuts crazy.


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I am a wingnut by marvin (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 01:57:39 PM EST
And am already crazy.

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In that case, make it an ACORN badge by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #17 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 02:04:13 PM EST



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ur eyez r mucous membranez by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #21 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 03:00:34 PM EST
i think u know what needs 2 b done here.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

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Full face it is, then by marvin (2.00 / 0) #22 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 03:21:09 PM EST
My bus ride is an hour long each way, so I don't think I can carry enough cylinders for a Scott Air-Pak. Steel would be impossible, and even four kevlar ones would be difficult without a Sherpa or similar expendable porter.

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sit quietly by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #26 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 05:43:09 PM EST
do not expend needless energy. you will be fine.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

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epidemic/pandemic by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #2 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 10:26:25 AM EST
(I wonder what's the difference..)  both are like terrorists -- they like large crowds and places where people gather..

A few years ago, IIRC, some post-analysis of the Spanish flu blamed some political gathering in philly for being a major part of the spread.. Would the disease have spread otherwise ? Probably.. But large crowds, and mobile populations help a great deal..

If you liked the Asian^WAvian Bird Flu by MohammedNiyalSayeed (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 12:47:07 PM EST

you'll love the Mexican^WAmerican^WSwine Flu. Twice the hype, now with political finger-pointing by "both teams" that has nothing to do with reality.

Man, do I need to figure out a way to blame that dude who broke my Tonka Truck in 2nd grade for this thing, or what?


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
people are already finger-pointing? by gzt (2.00 / 0) #11 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 12:52:35 PM EST
I hadn't been following the news that much. That sounds fun. So damn ignorant.

I'm still washing my hands a lot at the airport. I always get a cold or something when I fly somewhere.

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I haven't glanced at the news by MohammedNiyalSayeed (2.00 / 0) #19 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 02:13:38 PM EST

I get all my "political" information from the assortment of unqualified service work personnel I count as my "facebook friends", and their constant barrage of partisan accusations backed up by the authority of autodidact pundits.

I've had this cold for about 3 months, maybe four now. I like to think it's like a protective coating of dirt that prevents me from getting other diseases. Then again, I'm not a doctor, nor a pundit, nor am I one of my facebook friends, so what do I know? Obviously the Republicrats are to blame for whatever this is.


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
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effing liar by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 02:58:24 PM EST
Tonkas don't break.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

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They do if they hit a big enough IED by MohammedNiyalSayeed (4.00 / 1) #23 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 03:24:40 PM EST

That bastard must pay!


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
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wrong-o by marvin (4.00 / 1) #24 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 03:25:33 PM EST
My little brother broke my Tonka toys. I'm still bitter.

After 33 years, do you think it might be time to let that issue go?

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Good luck. by Driusan (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 01:14:55 PM EST
Remember, if I can not get lynched in Texas, you can not get lynched in Texas.

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Vive le Montréal libre.
are you black or gay ? by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #16 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 01:58:31 PM EST
I mean, I know canadian, and living in french canadia does some things..

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Worse by Driusan (2.00 / 0) #18 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 02:11:47 PM EST
A liberal.

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Vive le Montréal libre.
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What they don't tell you... by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #25 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 05:05:30 PM EST
The whole hand-washing thing?  Extremely important.  But what they don't tell you is that it isn't to prevent you from catching something.  It's to prevent you from passing something to someone else once you have it.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
so if I rub the doorknobs with my hands, by garlic (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 06:07:52 PM EST
and then lick my hands, I'll be fine?


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That depends by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #28 Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 07:35:24 PM EST
You will if everyone else who touched it washed their hands.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
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Sure, primarily by gzt (2.00 / 0) #29 Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:58:28 AM EST
I wash my hands a lot more often when I'm sick for that reason. But it is helpful for me because I absent-mindedly touch my face, nose, lips, eyes, etc fairly frequently. I'm usually not that big on hygiene except when it comes excrement and raw meat, but I think there's enough of a cause here to, just in case, try to keep the hands clean.

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Flying into the eye of the storm | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback