Need to maintain vigilance regarding COVID-19

I feel Ashley Bloomfield’s (NZ’s Director General of Health) concerns are valid. Feeling the pulse in general, I am sensing…

  • An up tick of sentiment against the counter measures in general, including the prospect of lock downs and mask wearing in New Zealand, particularly on the more conservative side of the political spectrum.
  • People not getting tested or otherwise refusing a test when showing respiratory symptoms or when otherwise directed to do so by their doctor.
  • A general feeling that most people have become unduly complacent, prematurely patting ourselves on the back and living like the Virus won’t ever come back.

The thing I feel is that all it takes is one case to come undetected into the community and can possibly see this whole situation go up in flames like a tinderbox.

Need to maintain vigilance regarding COVID-19

Current Personal Take regarding CoViD-19

Indeed, my views have shifted over time. This is a rapidly evolving situation where frankly anything can go. I do agree that CoVid-19 is serious enough to warrant extra and utmost caution including taking measures such as proper and thorough hand washing, staying well away from others if you’re sick (CoVid-19 or not), and drastically limiting any non-essential travel. This is more so with protecting the more vulnerable in our communities (such as those who are elderly, who have pre-existing medical conditions, who are immunocompromised) along with flattening the curve to avoid overloading our health services (which includes the many hard-working health personnel on the front line).

At the moment, I am of the feeling that the lockdowns happening around the world on balance will save lives but a question does hover over whether these measures will ultimately be a net positive for people’s livelihood in terms of situational (e.g access to gainful employment, individual “agency”) and mental well-being overall in the longer term.

While I agree this situation is indeed serious, I am still of the opinion that many of the commercial mainstream media outlets globally have been irresponsibly fanning a counter-productive, unhelpful, and needless level of panic among the general population by cherry-picking the most extreme stories to come out of this. It would appear that a lot of people on the regular social media channels have been induced in to talking themselves in to a funk including lapping up what I consider as needlessly extreme apocalyptic fearporn doom scenarios and this appears to be getting more pronounced as the situation rolls on. I have been avoiding through blocking as much as possible, my own consumption of any mass media or social media during this period.

I don’t begrudge our own Government imposing a lock down. Given how globalised we were, The New Zealand Government had to do something (or at least been seen to do something) and it appears to be having at least a visible and measurable positive effect by way of decline in new cases each day. In saying that, as the lock down rolls on, I am seeing a lot of people’s mental well-being starting to decline being holed up in their homes and I am concerned that we could see a bit of increasing push back happening in the form of defiance or disobedience among a few of our own citizens.

People I feel need to be mindful that the Data, particularly surrounding death rates, coming out globally may be skewed until such time we can broaden testing availability to more of the general population. The people who will be most often tested at this stage of the cycle naturally will be the ones showing the worse symptoms.

Once this current situation recedes, It will be interesting to see if we will also be taking more consideration of other potentially deadly respiratory diseases such as influenza from here on in. I’m picking physical distancing (more commonly referred to as social distancing) will become a matter of habit for a few years after CoVid-19 comes to pass and may even be something encouraged as a matter of common courtesy every flu season.

Again, like any view expressed in this blog, my views are most certainly subjected to change as events unfold and as new information comes to light.

Current Personal Take regarding CoViD-19

I fear the panic more than the virus itself

In confession, I currently feel greater anxiety towards the panic and public reaction over the COVID-19 virus more than the virus itself. This sentiment of mine is no doubt subject to change however as events unfold.

Yes, Take positive proactive steps to safe guard yourself and your community, friends and family including such precautions like proper and thorough hand washing, staying away from others if you’re sick. But please don’t be an idiot and fan the fear around social media or hoard stuff like toilet paper.

That said, yes, I believe the New Zealand government could be doing more to safe guard our borders and taking stricter quarantine measures at our major ports, at least to slow any spread down and minimize overloading our Health services (by way of helping to “Flatten the Curve”).

I fear the panic more than the virus itself

Drowning does NOT look like drowning

An interactive website I found that provides information on recognising signs of drowning in a child along with the opportunity to practice recognising these signs.

URL: http://spotthedrowningchild.com/

The key take away here is that… Drowning does NOT look like drowning

Quoted from the site… “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.”

Recognise Drowning in a pool

The Youtube videos utilized on the site are from the Lifeguard Rescue (Channel)

Drowning does NOT look like drowning

Financial Crystal ball gazing 2020

These are pretty much “Stab in the dark” predictions please acknowledge disclaimer

Have quietly Pilot bought into OTC:GBTC, while everyone attention wise appears to focusing their mind elsewhere. However I believe that in the shorter to medium term that prices for the asset class may continue to be soft and may even halve from its present day price (in which case, it would be an opportunity to add to the position)

We may see another parabolic run up in the next 2-3 years, provided some one doesn’t somehow manage to compromise the integrity of this particular asset in the meantime. Even if my “stab in the dark” prediction materializes, I feel the next BTC run up bubble is unlikely to be anywhere near as great (in terms of multiples of gains) as the last few parabolic run ups, given the trend of each such run up has been less than the preceding run up

Equity markets and asset prices behaving as per last observation and have seemingly started accelerating. However I am still cautiously feeling the pulse and this may change at short notice given financial system is behaving I believe well outside historical norms. I still assert things have been deeply distorted due to central banks unleashing the biggest ever liquidity glut known and a significant sustained correction I further assert is extraordinarily well past long overdue.

Away from the purely financial side of things, my prior concerns over global food supply and security have been increasing. How the world can best mitigate such an eventuality, I don’t yet know of an idea.

We’ve been in a very long period of relative calm and abundance (in the developed nations) but see a lot of risk factors that could potentially unseat this in the next decade or so.

Financial Crystal ball gazing 2020

A2 Hosting Shared tier impressions

Update: 27 December 2019 – Have now received confirmation of a refund from A2 Hosting.

At the same time of setting up my Digital Ocean droplet as part of the Early December site move, created an account with A2 Hosting on their shared “turbo” server (with “Performance Plus” add on), drawn in by the positive reviews on Webhostingtalk and their up to “20x faster” marketing along with their 66.6% off Black Friday Specials

I copied NUI.NZ to both a Digital Ocean Droplet and to my account on A2 Hosting (both at their respective Singapore data centers) to begin comparing the two. After some testing, discovered that the Digital Ocean droplet performed faster for my use case in terms of responsiveness, speed and consistency.

  • NUI.NZ on Digital Ocean loaded up in 3.2 seconds on Average.
  • NUI.NZ on A2 Hosting shared turbo loaded up in 3.9 seconds on Average (with Caching enabled and A2 Optimisation plug in installed) but was bursty / less consistent and felt so much less snappy and responsive overall.

A2 Hosting’s marketing had led me to believe that I would have access to 2 CPU cores and 3GB of RAM on a burst basis versus the 1 CPU and 1GB set up with my 5 USD/month Digital Ocean VPS droplet.

Additionally, setting up their A2 Optimisation plugin they had developed for WordPress and then clicking “Optimize all” will crash even a shiny new and fresh install of WordPress into the white pages of death. If the aforementioned didn’t crash it, enabling Memory Cache on the WordPress instance will most certainly crash it. After much frittering around I did manage to get the plugin to work but only in rather limited situations I’ve found. It is my belief A2 Hosting should seriously consider removing the plugin as it is I believe impacting their brand.

I’m also a little bit disappointed with how they have structured their so called “any time” refund policy. Within 30 days, you can get a full refund, after 30 days however, what they will do is re-bill you at the regular rate for the rest of the paid up period then give you what is left. I struggle to think of anyone who will be (willingly) paying regular rate given the performance I’ve seen of their shared hosting product. I have to admit, this has darkened my regard I have towards the A2 Hosting brand.

I have now requested a cancellation and refund under A2 hosting’s 30 day risk free policy. Given prior experience with Shared hosts and my impression of some of the way A2 Hosting do things, I don’t have enough faith to see out the full 3 years with them

I have to admit, over the years, I’ve started really souring of Shared hosting in general and believe it should be left for only of the most insignificant of web projects (Personal websites). Sure, if you are a largely a neighbourhood bricks and mortar (Vet Clinic, Dentist, Hairdresser, etc) business and just need a site with a handful of static pages (and may be a blog, but would argue at a stretch) then Shared Hosting may be Okay.

If on the other hand you’re a business who is almost entirely dependent on the web, it should go without saying you shouldn’t be using budget shared hosting… ever. Unfortunately, I see many businesses and online only retailers for what ever in their right signing up for shared hosting, installing Woo Commerce / Presta shop and once their site goes down or goes slow, they are seen screaming to high heaven on all the support channels and web hosting forums begging for a resolution.

A2 Hosting Shared tier impressions

More site Maintenance.

In the latest round of website maintenance issues… In the latest version of Chrome, v79 for Android, it was found the Tiled Galleries weren’t displaying / resizing properly anymore and were ending up being cut off on the right hand side. The funny thing was that the Desktop and iOS variants of Chrome (v79) were unaffected. Similarly, all the other browsers (Such as Brave and Firefox) on Android would display the same galleries fine.

Decided to try and debug it. After much blooming mucking around trying to get Chrome PC DevTools to recognize my phone. Managed to start walking through the code and identify where it was flipping out… but not necessarily understanding why.

PC Desktop Chrome v79 Devtools Debug freaking out and closing the USB Debugging connection

All I know was at the highlighted line, it would skip right out without error. Often at the same time it would cause my USB Debugging / ADB connection to the phone to die, requiring me to revoke all Debugging access permissions on my phone and then trying to re-authorize the connection to get it going again.

The section of code checks if all the images have been loaded up prior to executing the actual resizing / re-scaling of the Tiled Gallery images.

Anyway, have since identified and implemented a workaround in code and I am now testing it out on all the browsers I have access to. I am thinking however that this isn’t anywhere near the last of the challenges I will be facing while maintaining my own web presence and services going forward (as opposed to relying on Facebook / Instagram for that). Facebook have whole dedicated teams to troubleshoot shit like this.

More site Maintenance.

Site Move + State of the web.

Moved NUI.NZ again. This time to cheaper self managed hosting at Digital Ocean. Was on Cloudways who turned out to be excellent, though couldn’t justify spending almost 40 NZD a month on what essentially was a personal homepage hosting a bunch of personal photos. New arrangement will probably save me around 300 NZD per year.

I’m probably increasingly one of the last few netizens in New Zealand who still bothers to maintain a fully fledged personal website as the primary means of staying in contact with Friends and Family, particularly where I host my own photos (and video clips) on my own domain rather than putting it on one of the many proprietary services.

I have trouble with supporting the like’s of Facebook given their track record behaviour. After all they are a business whose first and foremost aim is to maximise profits and believe that it is not a good idea for us collectively allowing them to so much power over our communication lines between friends and family and subsequently our lives in general. They aren’t some benevolent organisation, being a for-profit entity, they are ultimately answerable only to their shareholders

Giving the increasing complexity of maintaining a website along with Web development becoming an increasingly specialized field… we are seeing more and more personal websites simply become single page landing sites which contain little more than a series of links to one’s social media accounts on the proprietary platforms owned essentially by Advertising companies.

Site Move + State of the web.

But what will be the “Trigger”?

The theme has been the same for years. If the legion of economists and financial experts are to believed, the markets are over valued, the world is awash with money. We are totally hooked on cheap credit and a crash is imminent, but this ‘crash’ never ever seems to come. Indeed, even with me, my feeling is that a sizeable financial correction is extraordinarily well past overdue. The thing I feel hasn’t be covered in great deal is how might such a financial crisis end up being triggered? Hardly anyone I feel has actually really covered this in a great deal of depth.

It appears that as long as central banks keep “printing” Money (from thin air), this action appears to be very supportive of equities and the property market and is insulative of any world Crises that may ordinarily spoke the market. Unless anything untoward happens, Asset prices such as equities and property prices I feel will continue to escalate and may even accelerate in the short to medium term from here on in. There seems to be NOTHING that will cause a crash as long as central banks and commercial banks keep creating money and pumping it into the system by way of Fractional Reserve Banking.

Something I penned on a scrap piece of paper. This scenario is probably unlikely to eventuate, but at the same time, wouldn’t be surprised if it does.

There are however underlying risks at any time that can seemingly jump out of the blue and come bite everyone in the arse. When such an event will happen I believe it’s anyone’s guess as to when such a catastrophic event will happen and ultimately such an event is outside our ability to predict with any sort of usable accuracy. A correct prediction by anyone would basically be down to pure chance / luck. Statistically, someone will undoubtedly guess correctly and may get fawned over by the masses looking for any sort of answers as being some guru who had some insight.

The way the system is currently structured, if and when something does occur to be sufficient to get the boulder moving. The subsequent chain of events is going to be absolutely devastating. Once say a bank fails, there is a tendency for others to collapse along with it. Loans may be recalled, Entities stop investing, money stops flowing, More loans are recalled, People get laid off, Home owners may be forced to sell into a sliding market, trigger more loan recalls, panic selling ensues, Sell stops are triggered on stocks dumping more equities into the market, ultimately an unstoppable panic driven chain of events will be happening feeding upon itself in a frenzy and will undoubtedly drive asset prices to absurdly low levels.

So far the ‘Risks’ factors that I can see that may sufficiently trigger a crisis at some point.

  • Some sort of Pandemic, similar to SARS or another airborne virulent infectious agent.
  • Supply side shock of an essential resource, such as Food Shortages / Famine. An event such as plague, disease or disaster that ends up reducing the food supply. Food price going out of control, eventually leading to panic buying feeding (pun not intended!) on itself.
  • Spreading Civil Global Unrest. In the case of Hong Kong and Chile, there were an underlying sense of discomfort. Civil unrest was often ignited by a single policy in the style of a feather breaking the camel’s back.

The reality is, I feel we haven’t learned very much if at all from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. The credit and liquidity bubble I feel is a lot more lofty today than it was back in 2008 before the shit hit the fan. The last run up of asset prices have almost, I feel, has been entirely credit driven and along with artificially low interest rates.

Indeed, with no end insight to current trajectory of asset price inflation from ever loosening monetary policy.  Have been cautiously investing back into the equity market for the last 3 years.

Have up until recently been focusing my investments primarily towards REITs and Property Stocks, however, it would appear that ship suddenly sailed away from the start of this year catapulting the unit prices across the New Zealand REIT basket from below Net Tangible Asset Ratio to well above it. Additionally, prior was getting yield of 7% pre-tax on that sector, however, this has completely sunk down to a mere 3% dividend yield. Will cease adding any more to that sector and will be cancelling all Dividend Reinvestment plans, I feel this sector is now largely over valued.

The only other near term opportunity I can identify is possibly in some stable higher yielding companies, both here and abroad for which there are still plenty.

That said, am keeping a close eye on the pulse of the global economy. I think regardless though. If and when the next crisis comes and in spite of any safe guards taken, I’m still going to be reamed in some way whether I like it or not.

TL;DR – Financial System no longer obeying usual economic fundamentals. Unprecedented Flood of liquidity sees us potentially on the cusp of a relentless rampant run up in Asset and equity prices. The bubble may be about to inflate even more and faster than it has in the recent past. If something of sufficient severity does managed to spook the market and snow ball, then expect blood on the streets.

But what will be the “Trigger”?

Influenza shot efficacy questioned.

After receiving the flu shot for as long as I remember, the episode last weekend represents perhaps the 4th year in a row that I’ve come down with “Flu like” symptoms. The distinguishing symptoms of Influenza (vs the common cold) as advised my by GP would be Fever (in my case, 39.1°C at the armpit, normally 36.8°C), Chills, Body ache, headaches and stomach upset which I all experienced over a week.

  • The GP mentioned The Flu Vaccine was perhaps not the best match for the current circulating strains this season.
  • The manufacture by way of Fresh eggs have been implicated as a potential issue possibly causing the Vaccine to mutate too much from the targeted strains. (Link)
  • For some certain strains in any given Flu Season, the Vaccine may only be minimally effective. (Link)
  • In terms of efficacy of the Influenza Vaccine in general season by season, the average success rate of clinically confirmed influenza would appear has been placed at roughly 40-50%.
  • There is also the odd paper from studies suggesting that getting the Vaccine every year could blunt immune response for subsequent seasons. (Link)
  • Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a section of unspecified “colds” and other respiratory ailments that very closely mimic the flu medical research has yet to uncover.

While I still support the idea of as many people getting the flu shot as possible, (if not for the benefit of one self, but the protection of the collective so to speak), it would behoove manufacturers to actually drastically improve on this vaccine… Admittedly, after 4 years of Flu shot failures, it does get tiring.

This is not a shot against vaccines in general at all, and is specifically about the flu shot only. People who misconstrue this as an Anti Vax article ought to have a clip around the ear

 

Influenza shot efficacy questioned.

Swazi Apparel to move part of their manufacturing to Thailand

Swazi NZ, Davey Hughes in a YouTube clip has announce they are moving production of their Fleece and Base layer clothing lines from their Levin Factory (here in New Zealand) to Thailand. The technical garments such as raincoats and jackets will still be made in New Zealand.

This in my view represents a not so insignificant change of direction from their original brand values and which they built the brand on.

Swazi Apparel to move part of their manufacturing to Thailand

Not that anyone really cares

The Matrix Synapse server will be left running and maintained, but not going invest too much of my time in the Fediverse. There is simply not enough uptake of Matrix to really warrant the expenditure of my time.

I probably won’t be following up on suggestions for any other collaboration systems unless a very good case can be made to do so. I’ve determined there’s really nothing out there that will ever compete with Faceborg at this rate, given the network effects and the widespread level of (dopamine driven) dependence on Facebook is out there.

For anyone bored enough, the manifest of my failed attempts can be read here. Anyway… Resuming my virtual digital hermit hood.

Not that anyone really cares