There's A Swab In My Thingamabob

Another a fun week of WTF!

Curious Minds… What is the reasoning behind Covid-19 anal swabs?

Come on China! You cannot want to continue being in the news when it comes to the corona virus that swept across the world over the last 18 months.

If your brain did a reboot after reading the headline, here’s a recap. Several Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Qingdao are requiring anal swab checks in addition to nasal and throat swabs for some international travelers.

There is a contingent of Chinese doctors that support the idea that traces of the corona virus can be identified for longer in the anus versus the respiratory tract. However, most medical professionals who don’t own stock in Proctology companies agree there are some serious flaws with the anal swab approach.

Covid-19 collects mainly in the respiratory tracts. This means that not only are the viral counts higher and possibility of detection stronger in the early stages but this is also when detection is most important due to possibility of transmission to other people.

The viral loads found in the anus however are typically a lagging indicator of infection; meaning identification of a viral load in the feces may indicate a previous infection but does not correlate to a current infection or the ability to transmit.

Studies have shown that higher viral load counts in anal swabs show some correlation with adverse clinical outcomes which would make sense. For those whose body is effectively fighting the infection, the virus does not spread to the extent of whom the body is struggling to fight the infection. As the body shuts down and the virus overloads a person’s ability to fight the infection, viral loads in areas other than the pulmonary system increase.

It should be noted that anal swabs are not new to the Covid-19 identification efforts. For those that have respiratory-tract issues, new-borns and some psychiatric patients anal swabs can be an effective test.

Please note, the above list did NOT include people who travel by airplane. So, if you are someone who is easily triggered…well you probably aren’t reading this newsletter, but if you are… Do not travel to China right now. You can’t afford the psychological stress.

Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

Enjoying some excellent vegetable fried rice and crispy honey shrimp on a Saturday night outing with me lovely wife, I half expected our bill to include the flaky C shape of the fun Chinese fortune cookie. No such go.

Years ago I would go to a Chinese restaurant with my dad and they had fortune cookies with a dab of hardened sweet cream on the bend, making the cookies quite edible and even somewhat delicious.

So imagine my surprise when the lack of a fortune cookie in 2021 sent me down the rabbit hole of vendors who produce the Chinese cookie with sweet cream…and ended with a swift punch in the gut. The fortune cookie is not Chinese at all. Fortune Cookies Lies!

Instead the invention of the fortune cookie is wrapped in controversy and mystery. Based on initial evidence (initial google hole) the fortune cookie began appearing in California in the early 1900s. Thankfully, in the mid 1980’s the San Francisco Court of Historical Review (yes, there is such a thing) held a mock trial regarding this mysterious cookie.

The verdict? Preponderance of evidence for the San Francisco based court led to a decision that Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant, began serving these cookies in the Japanese Tea Gardens of San Francisco between 1907 and 1909.

Yet, this also turns out to be incorrect (the cookie lies continue)!

Research now shows that the fortune cookie can be traced back as far as the 1870s to shops in Kyoto Japan. The Tsujiura Senbei, or fortune cracker, has the same shape as the current day fortune cookie. These fortune crackers traveled to the U.S. in the late 1880s and 1890s with Japanese immigrants. And the rest was a very complicated history.

Let’s Get Visual

For those needing a recap (like myself), the War on Poverty generally refers to the Economic Opportunity Act, which increased the number of federal programs providing aid from 1 to over 40, for those facing poverty. This act came when the national poverty rate was about 19% and in decline. In 1967, 3 years later, the estimate for the national poverty rate was 14.2 percent.

In 2016, the estimate is 12.7 percent.

Since enacting the programs that began the War on Poverty, an estimated 23 trillion dollars has been spent through federal, state and local governments.

I’m sure there is a lot of complexity to this issue. However, this approach doesn’t appear to be yielding results. Is there something better?


Theodor Seuss Geisel… Dr. Seuss.

On the chopping block.

Our new national pastime, judging and evaluating the past by the criteria of today. Popular and engaged by an ever growing group of people who can find hurt in the oddest of things.

It grows ever tiresome. Some people have too much time on their hands.

We will continue to celebrate Dr. Seuss in our household, his entire collection, because they are fun, whimsical and most assuredly not racist.

For those on the warpath sniffing around Dr. Seuss… “Go sell crazy somewhere else, we’re all stocked up here.”

The World of AI & ML

Sometimes a story, idea or topic comes around and makes me think… “Man, I’m in the wrong business”.

This week’s AI & ML topic is likely near and dear to the Dr Evils of this newsletter community.


Machine Learning



Raspberry PI for kill mosquitoes by laser

That’s right, a paper released at the end of January discusses the use of deep neural networks to identify mosquitoes and then using a connected Raspberry PI and a 1W laser, shooting those mosquitoes with said laser.

Its about time we took the fight to mosquitoes. The galactic council responsible for the management of Stich from Lilo & Stich are sad.

Even more exciting is this initial setup is land based but the author of the paper discusses extrapolating this technology onto a drone. Drones capable of DFA (Death From Above) towards mosquitoes.

As Gordon Ramsey would say: Brilliant!


Roast 2020.

: If 2020 were a social media platform, it would be Twitter.

Couldn’t agree more. As Obi-Wan once said, “Twitter. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”. I’m almost positive that is a direct quote, either Twitter or Washington D.C. was the subject.

The great thing about Twitter is it practically writes this section for me. Few things in my life are as dependable as the insanity that is Twitter.

An aside that will swing back (promise): as a Libertarian there are a variety of topics up for great discussion with both liberal and conversative people. However, there also exist the Leftists & the Rightists, people so entrenched in ideology that they wouldn’t know reason if it came up and bite them on their Plotinus (philosophy joke!!).

Courtesy of Twitter this week comes a trending topic, Party/Riot in Boulder CO! The trend… Apparently, the party was an example of white privileged, right-wingers being, and I quote, “selfish selfish assholes”. “A perfect example of hypocrisy by the police.”

In actuality, 500 to 800 students were at a party which devolved into a riot as property damage occurred and this riot was broken up by SWAT using tear gas. Social media and body cam footage is being use to press charges. And this occurred in Boulder CO, which voted overwhelmingly liberal (70+ percent) in the last election.

Oooo Twitter people….

Quote of the Week

Allan McDonald passed away this past week. If you don’t know who Allan is, he was the engineer and manager that refused to sign off on the launch of the space shuttle challenger. He was overruled by executives and Challenge was launched anyway.

12 days after the Challenge explosion, during a closed door hearing Allan raised his hand in the back of a large room and exposed the attempt at covering up the O-ring failures during launch.

Al was fond of stressing his 7 R’s.

Always, always do the right thing for the right reason at the right time with the right people. [And] you will have no regrets for the rest of your life.

I know we’ve been away for a couple weeks and I will endeavor to make sure Am I or Are the Others Crazy gets back on pace. I’m in the midst of making changes, home, job, family. I’m excited for the next couple months and although they will be very dynamic I’m

As always, if you think someone would enjoy reading, please feel free to share the love.

Share Am I or Are the Others Crazy

Or, if you just can’t get enough, feel free to subscribe.

Looking for more, excited to support this endeavor? Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Check out Your Data Story as well for more data science content!


IG: JasonWilcoxPhotography