Random Thoughts – Randocity!

The Rise of the Sociopaths

Posted in mental health, security by commorancy on January 10, 2021

While this title above might seem like the name of a fiction novel, it isn’t. It’s actually what is happening in the world and specifically in the United States today. Yes, mental illness is on the rise, but so is COVID. Let’s explore just how COVID is playing a part in this.

COVID-19 and Sociopaths

Let’s lead this article with the primary explanation of what is occurring in the world. It is estimated that at least 1% of the United States population is psychopathic, which includes sociopaths. Sociopaths are one subset of mental health. However, this is a subset of mental health that allow people suffering from it to do a lot of damage very quickly when placed together.

When COVID-19 arrived, those who do not suffer from mental health issues feared (and continue to fear) for their their own lives and safety and thus, retreated to their homes. These same sane people who are cautious of getting COVID, are particularly fastidious about washing their hands, are limiting their exposure to others and are only shopping when necessary. Basically, these people are staying home and not being reckless with their own health, their family’s health or of those around them. They take all precautions, wear masks, order take out only, visit stores rarely and refrain from heading off to shopping malls, crowded movie theaters or hanging out in large crowds.

Sociopaths, on the other hand, don’t care about any of that pesky ‘safety’. Not only have they been told by Trump that the virus simply isn’t that dangerous, they personally choose to believe that themselves. The sociopath believes only what benefits them or their ego and discards all else. Being constrained by wearing a mask, staying at home and not being able to socially gather isn’t of benefit to a sociopath. Sociopaths actually need others around them to do their bidding, stroke their ego and to interact. A sociopath who doesn’t have “friends” to hang out with isn’t really a sociopath. Sociopaths appear to be extroverts even though they are technically loners. Though, the word ‘extrovert’ doesn’t accurately describe how a sociopath operates. Suffice it to say, a sociopath requires people to manipulate… and manipulate them they do. We’ll come back to this aspect shortly.

Because COVID-19 has shut in so many, those who are still running around with careless abandon primarily consist of sociopaths… or rather, those people who have sociopathic tendencies. Like pretty much anything, there are degrees of sociopathic behavior… which means a person can be a little sociopathic or extremely sociopathic with added traits like narcissism. Before COVID-19, society consisted of both normal mental health individuals and those with mental health disorders. Because sociopaths can blend in and appear normal, their behaviors were mostly kept in check by those “normal” people around them. Sociopaths deeply wish to fit in with a crowd so they can have their ego stroked. To do that, they adopt behaviors that appear to be the same as those of their sane friends around them. This reinforcing behavior keeps many sociopaths in check.

Since COVID-19 and the loss of so many “normal” people being out and about, the sociopaths have lost their reinforcing behaviors… yet they still need their egos stroked, still need to be able to manipulate people and still need all of the satisfaction they had prior to COVID-19. As a result, like attracts like. Because those who are running around are primarily sociopaths, they tend to gravitate towards like minded sociopaths. This firmly leaves sociopaths, who were formerly able to keep their mental health state in check with their sane friends, with their mental state unchecked and unbounded.

Trump

Donald Trump has shown himself to be a nearly text book narcissistic sociopath. What does that mean? It means never a hair out of place, an orange complexion, always dressed in a suit or another “smart” outfit… all the way down to his trophy wife. He surrounds himself with things and people that not only stroke his ego, but support his personal agendas.

Because he’s a sociopath, he doesn’t have a conscience… which means he’s brutally honest to a fault, he doesn’t tolerate people who won’t do his bidding and he will just as easily tell you off as act like your friend. In short he will do whatever it takes to get his agenda accomplished. If a sociopath doesn’t get their way, they will throw a tantrum. Narcissistic sociopath tantrums don’t usually include self harm, but they may harm possessions, animals or people around them both verbally and/or physically.

When their tantrum is over, they will act as though nothing ever happened. They won’t talk about it and they don’t want to talk about it. Instead, they are still laser focused on getting their way using whatever means is required.

Sociopaths always seek popularity, which is why Trump was so in love with Twitter. Having over 70 million followers is a HUGE ego boost for anyone. Being able to spout a message and instantly see thousands of responses is mesmerizing and incredibly satisfying to a sociopath… which is why Trump tweeted so frequently. Unfortunately, that satisfaction is fleeting. Like a meth user needing his next fix, sociopaths need their next ego fix constantly…. why Trump tweeted so much every day. Sociopaths have an insatiable ego-boost appetite.

If that’s where Trump’s sociopathy ended, I might not even be writing this article. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here. Sociopaths are also expert at manipulating people by using lies, boasting, blackmail and fakery. There is no measure considered too extreme by a sociopath to get someone to do something for them. In fact, the more you tie yourself to a sociopath, the more they will use you for their own benefit. Unfortunately, to manipulate someone requires pathological lying. Both sociopathy and pathological lying go hand-in-hand. This type of lying means tricking someone into believing something that is untrue and then having that person act on that lie.

Conscience is non-existent by a sociopath. This means that they simply cannot feel sorry for, empathize with or in any way feel for someone else’s plight. They simply don’t have this ability. Because of this lack of empathy towards others, they will do and say anything without remorse. Just witness some of Trump’s speeches for various examples.

In short, a narcissistic sociopath like Trump, needs others to help him and stroke his ego at the same time. If they stop helping, they are summarily cut off. To invite a sociopath into your life is to invite a toxic relationship that will end badly.

Followers and Sociopaths

Trump’s goal is to not only stroke his own ego, but gain as many followers to do his bidding. In fact, he has done this. He has used lies to manipulate his followers into action. His latest action, unfortunately, went horribly awry at the Capitol Hill building. Unfortunately, when cornered, a sociopath begins making mistakes… which is exactly where Trump is. On January 6th, he was cornered. He either had to accept his loss (which is of no benefit to him) or he had to manipulate people in an attempt to change the outcome.

He attempted to manipulate Mike Pence into this, but that effort failed. He then resorted to inviting (and inciting) a crowd to Capitol Hill that turned into insurrection. Because his desperation level, as a sociopath, is increasing, so is his ability to rationalize outcomes. Typically, sociopaths are able to play out scenarios in their heads and see the outcome they desire. As long as they follow a specific set of lies and manipulation, they can usually affect that outcome. Unfortunately, these outcomes require unlimited amounts of time for the outcome to finally occur.

When tight time constraints are in place, the ability of a sociopath to see and plan for everything needed becomes clouded. They can’t manipulate and lie fast enough to get people to believe those lies and affect their goals. This then leaves the sociopath desperate and flying by the seat of their pants. Desperation only leads to instigating rash, difficult situations and mistakes… and in the case of Trump, with inciting insurrection. Because January 6th had arrived, he didn’t have enough time to plan a way to engineer a successful coup. Instead, he left it up to the crowds by requesting they do this work by “fighting”.

Trump knew very well the type of people he had invited to Capitol Hill and he was well aware of the types of paraphernalia they would bring with them. He didn’t have to explicitly tell his cabal to storm into the building as it was all subtext to be read between the lines. His mostly sociopathic cabal was well aware of exactly what he wanted done and attempted to execute it on his behalf. Unfortunately, because his cabal was a loose set of people rather than a cohesive group, no planning was initiated between those who breached into the building. Because of the lack of planning, they all did whatever they pleased as his cabal was mostly loner sociopaths themselves who can’t work together as a team. Thankfully, however, his cabal wasn’t organized enough to lay siege, occupy or hold its occupants hostage on Capitol Hill.

Election Rigging

Though, that didn’t matter. Trump has had 4 years to gather, indoctrinate and manipulate his cabal into doing his bidding through lies, lies and more lies. Remember that sociopaths are almost always pathological liars. His most blatant lie being that he won the 2020 Presidential election, when he clearly had not. Of course, his second lie was that since he didn’t win the election, the election must have been rigged. Nevermind the fact that rigging a Presidential election is basically impossible, which this fact has since been proven that no rigging was found. Trump continually cited counting irregularities, ballot counting issues and people’s anecdotes (lies from even more sociopaths) as rigging, but never actually provided any proof of that fact… to which nearly every court case Trump has created was dismissed due to lack of evidence. Nevermind that voting irregularities do occur in most every election, but are eventually found and reversed through proper vote counting and procedures long before the state certifies its counts.

Worse, he claimed that many dead people voted. Hello! The world is presently under threat of COVID-19. We’ve had 373,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States to date. As of this article’s publish day alone, we’ve had 4,112 deaths from COVID-19. On November 3rd, we lost people to COVID-19. On November 4th, we also lost people to COVID-19. That means that every day since the 2020 Presidential election, people have died to COVID-19… many people who voted. So, yes, there will have been people who are now dead who voted in the election. That’s not fraud. That’s not rigging. That’s statistics.

Further, if a candidate wished to perpetuate fraud in an election, why would he or she do so with such a narrow margin? It doesn’t make sense. If you are intent on winning an election through fraud, wouldn’t you bump the numbers up to a least 60:40 or 70:30 so that there was no question about who, in fact, won? Why would you leave the win at almost 50:50 with such narrow margins in some states that it required recounting 3, 4 and 5 times?

No, I contend that someone intent on rigging an election would do so to such a degree that there would be no question about who won and who lost… and more specifically, who won immediately. With a 60:40 split, that would mean news services could call the election within an hour or two, not days.

Is rigging even possible?

Let’s understand that rigging an election would require access to not only one state of systems, but 50 states worth of independent systems. None of the each state’s voting systems are linked together. That means that Florida’s systems do not talk to systems in California or Idaho or anywhere else. This means that if someone wanted to rig an election, they would have to physically visit the voting centers in all 50 states and in all cities in all of those 50 states.

We’re talking about thousands and thousands of people all over the country simultaneously touching thousands of voting machines and making changes. It’s simply not possible or even feasible. Biden’s team and even the Democratic party doesn’t employ that number of people. Let’s forget all about the fact that Republicans and Democrats alike operate these election centers.

Worse, if an election were rigged, that also means that every race is suspect… not just the Presidential race. But no, the Republicans weren’t having any of that nonsense. They only blamed the Presidential race, but not the other election races on that same ticket. It doesn’t work like that. If an election is being alleged as rigged, all elections held that night are suspect. No candidate can win if even one race is under investigation for having been rigged. You can’t cherry pick what you want and leave the rest out. This is a classic sociopath behavior. Choose only the things of benefit, ignoring all other things. Logically, you can’t do that when calling out election rigging. Either all election races are suspect to fraud or none are.

Yes, it gets worse

Because the sociopaths of the world are out in full force due to their lack of conscience and empathy, they don’t care if they get COVID-19… or, more importantly, if they give COVID-19 to others. For this reason alone, the primary people attending Trump’s rallies and gatherings are very likely sociopaths, just like Trump. Like minds attract and all that.

That’s not to say that everyone attending is a sociopath, but the vast majority of those people attending his rallies are almost assuredly sociopaths… because those who don’t want to get COVID-19 are not heading out to his rallies, let alone large gatherings. That’s why Trump’s attendees almost never wear masks. That’s an ego thing, too. To wear a mask hides the very thing that allows the ego to be stroked. Anyone who is a narcissistic sociopath won’t wear a mask because it hides the ability to have the ego stroked… something a narcissistic sociopath desperately needs at every moment.

Because Trump’s followers… or more specifically, his rally attendees are primarily sociopaths just like he is, they have no moral compass. That’s why so many were willing to bring weapons AND grin for the camera within Capitol Hill. That’s ego at work. A sociopath needs to be praised for sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s desk, for pulling her plaque down smiling at the camera, for stealing her lectern, for breaking windows, for taking selfies with a cop. Anyone who does not have a mental health issue doesn’t need to do any of these things. These people doing this at Capitol Hill don’t have a moral compass, which very heavily implies every one of these people are a sociopaths.

Yes, there were people who were not entering the building. Yes, there were people who may have shown up simply to stand in protest. However, there were also thousands who crowded the steps, broke down doors and windows and allowed themselves to be photographed while grinning. Perhaps not everyone in that crowd was a sociopath, but those who don’t have a moral compass, who yell out death threats and who beat up cops, these are not sane people. Sane people don’t behave like this.

Trump has rallied and goaded people who are just like he is into these actions through lies. His sociopathic followers choose to believe his lies because it benefits them to do so and helps stroke their own egos.

This is the danger and risk COVID-19 and, by extension, sociopaths poses to society. By keeping the sane people at home, it leaves those with mental health issues running amok on the nation. This is why this article is entitled, “The Rise of the Sociopaths”. Our country is now under siege by these mentally challenged people. As long as Trump still has a mouthpiece to lie to them, he can incite his sociopathic followers further into action. The problem is, with Trump’s loss of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, this is leaving him even more desperate and in need to reach out his followers to have them do even more damage. Trump will be required to take desperate measures to mobilize his cabal. The country is truly in peril by sociopaths.

We’ve only got 10 more days until the inauguration. However, Trump has 10 days to plan something big with his sociopathic cabal to not only undermine that inauguration, but perhaps damage the United States and democracy beyond repair. For this reason, it is imperative that Trump be removed from office immediately. He is a danger to not only himself, but to the United States and to the rest of the world.

Why not simply ask Donald Trump to resign? That won’t work. He’s a sociopath driven by ego. Voluntarily giving up his Presidential power isn’t something he can do. He has no moral compass or empathy. He simply can’t feel for the predicament he has placed the United States into. In fact, a sociopath cannot ever place blame for a problem on himself… even if he caused it. Donald Trump simply can’t see that he has done anything wrong by inciting insurrection. As a result of feeling like he’s done nothing wrong, he won’t give up his office. However, Trump does understand prosecution…

If I were on Capitol Hill, I’d be immediately offering Trump a deal in exchange for his resignation. While such a deal may be distasteful overall, the important national security part is that Trump is removed from office and can do no further damage. What deal is that? Offer Trump prosecutorial immunity with permanent exile outside of the United States in exchange for his immediate resignation. To negotiate with a sociopath, you must offer a deal that greatly benefits them and one that they can’t refuse. This offer greatly benefits Trump and the United States. It offers Trump a way out without any penalty of legal action and it forces Trump to leave the United States so he can’t possibly mobilize local crowds ever again. Secondarily, by enforcing permanent exile, it doubles the stakes by preventing him from ever holding public office again, without the need for impeachment.

As long as Trump remains in the United States, he remains a threat to national security in or out of office. The only way to stop that is to send him packing. I honestly don’t care if Trump ends up in jail or not. He just needs to be prevented from doing further damage to the United States of America and, sadly, prosecutorial immunity is actually a small price to pay to make that happen.

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Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Posted in Health, medical, safety by commorancy on December 31, 2020

If you’ve watched CNN, Fox News or CNBC, you’ve probably seen a number of medical correspondents like Dr. Sanjay Gupta or Dr. Leana Wen who consult for CNN during this pandemic. Let’s explore their lack of fiduciary responsibility to the general public.

Medical Doctor or M.D.

To get a license to practice medicine, a person must not only obtain a preset amount of medical training and gain experience in the form of internships, they must also agree to the Hippocratic Oath. This oath originated with Hippocrates (born 460 bc). This oath essentially states, among other information, “First, do no harm”, however, this exact wording does not exist in the oath in its original Ionic Greek form. Instead, it has been translated with levels of interpretation necessary to be understood by an English speaking audience. One might say that the original Ionic Greek form has been altered and updated to modern society standards.

The difficulty with revisionism by third parties is that these revisions were not by the hand of Hippocrates. Regardless, the sentiment of what Hippocrates wrote still essentially remains.

With the phrasing of “First, do no harm”, this runs quite a bit counter to the COVID-19 vaccine. Let’s dive in and understand exactly why.

Mouth Piece

One thing you have to understand about the medical industry, particularly for “celebrity” medical doctors is their level of sway they have with the general public. With a brand like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he has built his celebrity reputation on seemingly good and sound medical advice over the years. As he has so carefully built this brand, he has been careful to ensure that his messages are in keeping with his brand message and also doesn’t run counter to his medical training or, in general, the medical industry. The same can be said for Dr. Leana Wen, though her brand image is far less solidified than Dr. Gupta’s.

Unfortunately, during this pandemic, these medical “doctors” have taken an odd turn, staking their own personal brands and reputations on a rushed vaccine.

Instead, these medical correspondents, not just for CNN, but all of these news networks, have simply become talking head mouthpieces for the medical industry as a whole. While the pandemic rages and gets worse, killing ever more and more people, these mouthpiece medical practitioners sit in front of cameras spewing the rhetoric of an industry that really hasn’t proven itself to be harmless. More specifically, the pharmaceutical industry.

The Medical Cycle

The medical industry is, unfortunately, a bunch of collusive teams all working together to create a whole. I’m not here to say that each of these industries are bad in and of themselves; it’s just that when combined, they create a whole that’s not completely without “First, do no harm”. It’s very difficult to regulate disparate industries that have only minimal relationships with one another.

Below is an image that demonstrates both the collusive and parasitic nature of each of these industries. With that big $ sitting in the middle, it represents an industry that makes trillions every year. Let’s understand exactly how much money is at stake:

“How much money is in the healthcare industry? In 2018, the global healthcare sector’s revenue was $1.853 trillion, an increase of 4.5% on a year-on-year basis. When it comes to healthcare expenditures, the US tops the list, spending $10,224 per person.”

https://policyadvice.net/insurance/insights/healthcare-statistics/

Over $10,000 per person per year! Wow! What other industry in HISTORY makes this much money per person per year? Yeah, collusion.

What the above image says is that Hospitals rely on both Doctors and Pharma companies for their continued monetary success. Note that I didn’t include equipment manufacturers in this graph, but know that they are out there. Medical equipment manufacturing is a tertiary industry that is needed to supply all 3 of these industries with similar equipment. In fact, the equipment manufacturers are probably the only industry that are mostly outside and don’t act in collusion, but instead, they sit to the side and feed above monetary cycle. However, these equipment manufacturers also make more than their fair share of money from this industry.

Also note that the arrows flow in both directions because money flows both ways. Doctors feed the pharma companies by prescribing. In return, pharma companies grease the Doctors via kickbacks, residuals and free medicines. Hospitals pay their Doctors, in return Doctors act as sales persons for the Hospital by using their expertise and brand reputation to bring repeat business to the hospitals. Pharma and Hospital relationships are entirely obvious and money flows both ways buying and using medicines.

There’s also the research arm of this industry, but most of the drug research resides within the pharma companies. There are also the insurance companies that, while not directly part of the medical industry, act as the glue between the public and this entire industry. Without this “monetary glue” the entire medical industry would fail and couldn’t exist. Should insurance companies be included in the above? No, because they do not practice medicine in any way. They believe they should by making medical decisions based on when to cover and not cover illnesses, but they are firmly outside of that industry.

I don’t wish to digress into the scammy and unnecessary nature of the insurance industry, so I won’t. However, I may write a follow-up article to discuss just how much of a leech, a scam and an unnecessary burden is the insurance industry on pretty much every part of life. I’ll leave it at that. Let’s continue.

Industry Acceptance, Coercion and Blackmail

Doctors are practically held over a fire to keep their license. Instead of being about altruism, it ends up being about falling into the trap of someone bigger than you. A doctor’s practice is held over the fire by their license. Without a license to practice, doctors can’t make a living. It’s basically a legal form of coercion.

What that means is that unless a doctor practices social restraint and, in fact, continues to tow the industry accepted lines of thinking, the doctor may find themselves out on their ass without not only their job, but without a way to make a living. This means that a doctor is almost constantly “coerced” into towing both big pharma ideals, but in towing hospital ideals. They must make sure their opinions don’t run afoul of either of these two entities, either one of which could see to it they can’t make a living.

Either of these “big brothers” may coerce and collude to keep the doctor in line, just like a parent keeps their petulant child in line. Threats of being fired or, worse, losing their license is a strong incentive not to make waves in the industry and to tow the sometimes distasteful practices that have been tossed at their feet.

Medical Correspondents and News Channels

As we circle back around to news channels, we now begin to understand why both Dr. Gupta and Dr. Wen mostly pretend that the COVID-19 vaccine is entirely safe and effective. If they don’t do this pretending, particularly with their powerful celebrity status, this could torpedo the entire vaccine acceptance strategy (and their own personal careers).

I’m not here to say that these vaccines aren’t safe or effective, but I’m cautiously optimistic… the exact stance a medical professional should take. When Dr. Gupta got his shot on camera, I could see a fair amount of trepidation in his eyes. However, his words (and forced expressions) overrode his eye and body language. Just watch the video below and notice his wide eyed expressions closely:

What this says to me is that while he does in some way believe the safety and efficacy, he also realizes the dangers of this mostly untested vaccine. In fact, I got the distinct impression that he felt like an unwitting pawn in this situation.

Levels of Desperation

With the amount of deaths per day, the medical industry feels a tremendous amount of pressure coming from every angle. There’s pressure coming from politicians (and the President) to come up with a solution to the pandemic. There’s also internal pressures coming from pharma companies towards doctors to push their latest “vaccine” as efficacious and safe.

With this measure of not only industry pressure, there’s the level of desperation by the public into wanting a fix and wanting it yesterday. The economy is failing. Businesses are closing. Unemployment is spiking. The pandemic is taking a huge toll on our current way of life. It’s digging deep into every industry, every person and into every single aspect of our current social existence.

Because of all of these levels of desperation, pharma felt pressured to delivery something, anything. They did. The difficulty is not that pharma delivered, but what they delivered.

Prudent or Reckless?

There’s a fine line between being prudent and being reckless and sometimes it’s difficult to see when that line has been crossed. Unfortunately, desperation is never the reason to jump into something that appears to be a miracle. That miracle might, in fact, turn into hell.

The doctors claim that the medical technology used in the vaccine (messenger RNA) is something that’s been in existence for years. The difficulty is that this technology has never been used in vaccines, at least not until today. Even while the technology may have been known for years, putting it into practice is an entirely different thing.

From concept to vaccine delivery was a total of about 9 months, the time it takes to conceive a baby and deliver it. Those 9 months included a rapid clinical trial of a month or two at most.

Most drugs that hit the market have had years of clinical trials (i.e., plural… more than one). This vaccine had a total of one clinical trial. Sure, the amount of participants was large, but it was still only one clinical trial. In fact, the trial excluded certain at-risk groups of individuals, such as pregnant mothers and other at-risk people. In effect, the trial utilized only healthy adults without preexisting risk conditions. Unfortunately, that leaves the vaccine at risk of causing harm “in the wild” because it won’t just be put into the arms of those non-risky individuals. It will be inserted into the arms of pregnant women, children, asthma sufferers, COPD sufferers and all manner of people with diseases of the mind and body.

In short, the quick trial skipped key tests… test that may negatively impact those at-risk folks who were not represented during the clinical trial. It’s risky and it’s disturbing.

Let’s come back to Dr. Gupta and Dr. Wen on CNN.

When these correspondents appear on CNN, their banter about the vaccine is one-note. It’s almost as if what they’re saying is entirely scripted by the pharmaceutical companies and not of their own words. I’ve yet to hear ANY cautionary warnings or verbal trepidation from either of these “doctors”. As I said, “Scripted”.

It all seems so contrived and canned as if to “reassure” the public how safe and efficacious the vaccine is.

Exercise Caution, Restraint and Critical Thinking

While these TV news doctors continually spout almost 100% positive rhetoric that these vaccines are perfectly safe, I’m not convinced… yet. I’m firmly still in the “wait and see” camp. The clinical trial was way too quick, provided way too convenient results and hasn’t in any way been challenged by doctors who should be challenging how the trial was handled.

Instead of challenging anything about the trial, these doctors are being shown given a literal shot in the arm (see above). Even politicians are doing this.

Is the vaccine efficacious AND safe?

The theory behind the vaccine formulation has merit, to be sure. It forces the body to create and replicate antibodies against alleged innocuous portions of the virus. The difficulty is that the mRNA is a foreign invader. It’s something the body hasn’t seen before. The body’s immune response may be somewhat calculated, but there’s no way to know long term effects on the body.

Could the vaccine lead to disruption in key functioning of other body functions either now or in the future? These are thing we can’t know. Because the clinical trial wasn’t able to test any portion of it long term, we simply have no idea what long term effects the vaccine may have on the body’s systems. We simply don’t know what the vaccine may cause 1, 2, 5 or 10 years later.

Compared to getting COVID-19, it’s a toss-up. COVID-19 may also produce these same effects in the future. We can’t know what we haven’t tested… and that’s exactly where we are with the vaccine. Injecting portions of this foreign invader into the body with a minimal tested trial, we simply don’t know long term effects.

We aren’t even sure just how efficacious this vaccine technology will be against the virus in the future. We might find that even after the second dose that the vaccine’s effects wear off 6 months later. The vaccine’s effects may not even be effective against future mutated strains of COVID-19. Again, because the clinical trials couldn’t test long term ANYTHING, we simply have no information. This is the reason why critical thinking is important. We must use our brains and realize that without proper testing, this vaccine may not be all of what it is claimed to be.

Not only might it not be effective, it might cause more side effects than giving us the immunity it was intended.

Wait and See

If you’re thinking, “I work on the front line so I need it”, think twice. That’s desperation talking, not critical thinking. You can’t jump on board simply because you fear getting the virus. You must take the vaccine because it has proven itself useful, not because someone says that it is. Believing hearsay is the quickest way to problems.

I’m not saying the vaccine isn’t efficacious. What I am saying is that the vaccine hasn’t yet proven itself efficacious other than under very specific and controlled circumstances. The world doesn’t work like a controlled clinical trial. There are far too many unknowns when giving shots to people who are not under controlled conditions. This falls under the safety factor. These unknown safety issues can lead people to injury and death. These are possible consequences from these vaccines. It seems that the clinical trial was mostly focused on efficacy over safety. That’s not to say that safety wasn’t a factor in the trial, but it wasn’t the primary motivation in its formulation.

Injecting an unknown substance into your body always has risks, from infection, to allergic reactions to unforeseen consequences, such as Bell’s Palsy, injury or death. We simply can’t know what we don’t know.

Money

Let’s come back to that big $ hanging out in that image above. Money is how the world works. No one does something out of 100% altruistic intent. No, money is how the world-goes-round. Big pharma companies aren’t in it for the altruism. They are in it for how much money they can make. While those who receive the shot may not pay for it, make sure you understand that pharma companies are well paid for producing these vaccines. Without money, these vaccines wouldn’t have been made. It is about how much money pharma can make off of it with as few negative consequences as possible.

Unfortunately, drugs aren’t without side effects. Pharma companies are well aware of that fact. Therefore, for every drug they introduce, they have not only insurance, but also lawyers to work through injury and death lawsuits.

With the pandemic, we really don’t know if suing Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca will even be allowed. Because of the pandemic, the government might give these pharma companies complete immunity from prosecution or lawsuits. What that means is that these pharma companies might have been given carte blanche by the government to produce whatever they want with impunity… no matter how damaging it may become.

Future Vaccines

There’s also a danger in the manufacturing process. As the first batch of vaccines might be somewhat effective, future produced vaccines might not fare as well. As the manufacturers find cheaper materials, faster processes and more efficient manufacturing, that can cause errors to creep into the formulation. That could also mean that vaccines made in February might be less efficacious and more dangerous than those produced in December.

We simply don’t know what Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca might introduce, alter or change in a few months or even next week. It’s extremely hard for me to jump right into this “vaccine is safe” argument and state that the vaccines are 100% anything. There are way too many unknowns to make blanket statements about this vaccine.

For this reason, I’m firmly in the wait and see group. I want to allow others to have first dibs at the vaccines to see how well they fare and what possible outcomes might result from their experiences. After I see how that works out for them, I can then look at those side effects and make a better informed choice.

Right now, we simply don’t know enough. We are flying mostly blind. We need to be able to see exactly how bad the vaccine’s effects may get to judge it against what we know about COVID-19. Only then can we make an informed choice. You don’t want to jump into the vaccine only to find yourself in the hospital clinging to life because the vaccine had a severe consequence on your body. COVID-19 is a bad disease, but the vaccine’s long term consequences could ultimately be worse. We simply don’t know… which is why waiting at least some time is prudent.

Vaccination Confusion

As we move into the vaccination process, comes confusion and, in some cases, sabotage. The confusion stems from many different reasons and from different directions. The first confusion is the two dose schedule. Some people will assume one dose is enough and skip the second dose. Worse, some patients may not be told that there is a second dose (or will forget due to memory issues) and will end up skipping the second dose not knowing it is required to receive full effect from the vaccine.

The second problem stems from multiple vaccines from different manufacturers. As of this article, there exist two approved vaccines in the United States, including the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. There are three more are on the horizon including AstraZeneca, Janssen and Novavax. Because each of these vaccines have different storage requirements and likely different administration schedules, this puts the onus of which virus vaccine you receive on you. If you get a first dose of the vaccine, but you don’t remember which manufacturer’s vaccine you received a few weeks later, you won’t know which follow up dose to get. That leads to…

If you get the Pfizer vaccine initially… then for the second required dose, you can’t switch and get the Moderna vaccine. The two don’t work together. Because each vaccine has a different mechanism of action and formulation, the vaccines are not interchangeable from the first to second doses. You must get the same vaccine for the second dose that you got in the first dose. Some people will conflate this, take the wrong second dose, assume they are protected and then get COVID-19.

The next problem is vaccine administration practices and vaccine authenticity. A hospital has already gotten mixed up and administered the wrong medicine instead of the vaccine. While this may seem to be a clinical error, it goes way deeper than that. As administrators of smaller and smaller hospitals and medical clinics become responsible for buying vaccines to administer to their patients, inevitably these mix-ups will become intentional. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some clinics are intentionally injecting plain sterile water into the arms of individuals instead of the authentic vaccine. It could be that the clinic simply can’t get a supply or it could be the administrator is unscrupulous and is selling the vaccines out the back door for real money while injecting patients with fake product.

Speaking of intentionally doing things, we have already seen a hospital worker allegedly intentionally sabotage a supply of the vaccine by taking it out of the fridge overnight. That hospital worker has since been fired (and now arrested), according to many sources, but all of the above is just the tip of this unsettling iceberg.

Counterfeit Product

This last problem, keeping in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, is grey and black market product. As vaccines slip out the back door of hospitals and medical facilities, unscrupulous scalpers may attempt to sell and inject this grey and black market product into people who are way, way down the list. These products might range from authentic to plain sterile water to dangerous drugs. You don’t know what you’ll receive when you go the grey market route. Keep in mind that even reputable hospitals might even fall prey to injecting grey market or counterfeit vaccines into people. There is a wide range of ways that all of this can manifest.

Right now, we’re at the very start of this process. By the end, we’ll have heard of most of the above, if not a lot more shysters, scams and hucksters trying to make a quick buck off of the vaccine.

For safety precautions, always ask to watch the medical worker pull the vaccine from a properly labeled vial. If you can request them to show you the vial beforehand so you can read the label, all the better. Make sure that the label appears genuine and that the product appears authentic. While fakes can sometimes appear better than a genuine product, in a hospital medical setting, one would always hope that everything dispensed is entirely genuine. If you’re visiting a urgent care clinic or a small medical facility, like a doctor’s office, make sure that you ask when they received the vaccine, how old it is and if it was properly stored.

If you’re injected with an improperly stored vaccine or, worse, a fake product, it might do nothing at all or it might have negative health consequences. So, to the best of your ability, request to inspect that the vaccine is authentic and ask all of the right questions about storage and handling. If your doctor suddenly says they have vaccine doses at a time when hospitals are unable to obtain them, this should be a huge red flag. A doctor’s office may have gotten counterfeit product from a scammer.

Scammers abound and these are people who are more than willing to take advantage of small doctor’s offices for their own scamming benefits. They will pretend to be medicine distributors only to sell the office cheap and fake products. By the time the doctor’s office realizes and potentially injects some patients, it may be too late.

When considering your turn at the vaccine, be exceedingly cautious as the vaccinations progress into the future. Scammers WILL find ways to scam this entire process if not outright sabotage it. You must be diligent and ask the right question before they jab that hypodermic needle into your arm.

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COVID-19: Should I help out?

Posted in advice, Health, medical, pandemic by commorancy on December 22, 2020

Here’s a solid question that may appear to not have a clear answer, but it really does. Let’s explore.

Emergency aboard a plane

Imagine you’re flying on a plane to get somewhere. Imagine that the person across the aisle from you appears to be having trouble breathing and is sweating. Then, imagine that same passenger begins having a seizure which turns into a medical emergency. Now imagine another medically trained passenger steps up and begins performing CPR on this now stricken passenger and continues performing this activity until the plane lands (i.e., over an hour).

This scenario just played out on a United Airlines flight on Monday December 21st. A scary situation to be sure. Is jumping in to aid a possibly COVID-19 infected passenger wise? Could this situation have been avoided?

COVID-19 has familiar symptoms including shortness of breath, sweating, fever, chills and other outward signs of infection. These symptoms, particularly when this severe, should be easily spotted. Yet, no passengers, none of the flight attendants, none of the airport or airline attendants did anything to question this clearly ailing man before boarding, while boarding or during the flight. How does this happen?

Airline Negligence

Before I get into the meat of this article, let’s discuss the side dishes. This side dish is negligence. When you’re flying on a commercial jet, it is the airport, TSA and airline staff’s responsibility to properly vet passengers all along the way for who may be showing outward symptoms consistent with COVID-19. How does an airport and an airline miss his condition? This is the job of those who run airports and airlines. This is partly why they get paid.

Clearly, this man should have been coughing and having trouble breathing even sitting in the terminal. COVID-19’s symptoms don’t appear at a moment’s notice. Clearly, not only is the airport itself, but so is United Airlines entirely remiss in spotting this ailing passenger at the many touch points of passenger check-in. Even the TSA failed to spot his condition!

How does an airport and a wide array of airline and airport staff miss seeing a sweating, ailing, coughing passenger in their midst? I’m at a loss here.

Passenger Due Diligence

It’s not really on the passengers to do an airline’s or an airport’s job. However, it is on every passenger to stay aware and vigilant of their surroundings. We’ve all been taught to stop, look and listen. During a severe pandemic, it is firmly on ALL of us to be aware of our surroundings. With the pandemic, we need to become even more vigilant and hyper aware of those around us by listening to and watching everyone around us. If someone is coughing, sneezing, wheezing or appears in any way distressed, you should not only move away from them, you should get as far away as possible.

However, when we’re sitting in an airport waiting for a flight, we’re trapped at that terminal. What that means while we can move away from someone who appears to be ailing, we must also notify those in charge that a specific passenger appears to be in a problematic state. At that point, those in charge would need to step up and determine whether that person is ailing, has a fever or appears to have any outward signs of COVID-19 and to pull that passenger aside and deny them access if necessary.

In other words, there were so many touch points that failed to identify this distressed United Airlines passenger, it really throws into question just how diligent and effective airlines and airports really are to screen infected passengers. It’s clear that they missed this passenger. It’s also clear that the passengers themselves missed notifying those in authority.

Passenger Aids COVID-19 Passenger

When the distressed passenger moved into a medical emergency aboard the flight, another passenger aboard that flight decided to jump in and perform CPR. The aiding passenger wasn’t entirely sure if the passenger was COVID positive. However, it has been reported that the wife of the passenger had later stated he had tested positive. This means that this aiding passenger should have known he had tested positive before performing CPR. Here’s Face’s tweets on this subject:

He claims that the distressed passenger’s wife never mentioned that her husband had tested positive. However, it has been reported that she had stated that he had tested positive. I’m not sure of this conflicting information, but it’s possible Face never asked her before jumping in to perform CPR. Unfortunately, his efforts to perform CPR didn’t succeed and the passenger succumbed to his COVID-19 medical fate and died.

As a result, this helping passenger has now tested positive himself. Should he have jumped in to help? Let’s understand this question a bit more in detail. It is also the meat of this article.

Helping in a post-COVID world

While Face may seem like a hero at a time when this passenger needed CPR most, the difficulty in performing this medical intervention is ultimately COVID-19. Coughing, sweating and fever don’t indicate a condition that warrants CPR. It indicates COVID-19. CPR may be required IF the person goes into cardiac arrest. However, let’s understand the position this distressed passenger was actually in.

This situation occurred aboard a flight while in the air. Flights have limited access to medical equipment, but planes do have a defibrillator… a defibrillator which should have been used first to attempt to resuscitate this patient before attempting CPR. Planes may have small oxygen canisters aboard for flight attendant use. It is unknown if this was used.

COVID-19 is an illness that can escalate into a life threatening situation quickly, particularly aboard an airliner where air pressure and oxygen saturation is reduced at 30,000+ feet. That means less oxygen is available when flying on an airliner. For someone with trouble breathing under the throes of COVID-19, boarding an airliner, as in this case, could end up a death sentence.

As I said, there is very limited medical equipment aboard a commercial jet. Let’s understand that even as hospitals get inundated with massive amounts of COVID-19 patients, even their ability to handle these patients is limited and in many cases fails leading to death. Why then would a good Samaritan think they can save a COVID-19 patient clearly requiring access to hospital equipment and oxygen?

Lending Aid

While I applaud Face’s willingness to jump in, the effort ultimately proved entirely futile. Worse, not only did it prove futile, Face became infected with COVID-19 by performing his good Samaritan routine. I applaud good Samaritans willing to self-sacrifice to help out another person, but at some point, you have to logically deduce the odds of success.

For example, if the wife had been forthcoming about her husband’s COVID-19 positive test, it would have been perfectly clear that this passenger was afflicted with COVID-19 and that almost no means could impact his survival short of a hospital visit. That means this first responder would know his odds. Considering that there is very little medical equipment aboard a plane, performing CPR alone would not be enough to stem the tide of what COVID-19 is doing to this person’s body. Logically, he should have assumed COVID-19 (based entirely on this person’s symptoms) and deduced his efforts would fail. Helping is great, but not when the risk far outweighs the reward.

Let’s better understand this logical dilemma. If hospitals with access to their best doctors, best procedures, best medicines and best equipment can’t save severe COVID-19 patients under that level of distress, what makes a basic trained first responder think that performing CPR alone can?

At some point, you have to calculate the odds of success and deduce when the risk is greater than the reward. For Face, this means the unknown of how COVID-19 would impact his health. Will he survive his own infection? Could he end up in a similar situation clinging to life?

That’s what we all face in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world. We must make critical decisions that can impact our own survival.

However, this situation could have been prevented if even one person had stepped up at the airport prior to boarding, recognized his symptoms and called an ambulance to get him to a hospital. Seeing how far along that he was with COVID-19, it’s possible that even a hospital couldn’t have changed his fate. However, that everyone missed recognizing his so obvious symptoms not once, but many times all along the way is disconcerting… no, horrifying.

Ever Vigilant

As we move further and deeper into this pandemic, regardless of the vaccines, we must acknowledge this virus’s effects on the world. We must remain vigilant to those around us no matter where we are and what we are doing. What that means is that if we’re at a grocery store or restaurant or at Target (or aboard a plane), we must remain hyper aware of those around us. We need to stop, look and listen. If someone is coughing, sneezing or appears to be sweating or having any other outward signs of illness or distress, we must move as far away from that person as we can get. You must always look out for you in this pandemic. No one else is.

If you can leave the building and come back later, even better. There’s no reason to stay and risk your own health or those of your family by bringing COVID-19 home. COVID-19 is clearly a devastating illness with severe consequences. Denying that these consequences exist is a recipe for exactly what happened to both Face and that distressed passenger aboard that United Airlines flight.

Worse, every single passenger and crew aboard that same flight could potentially face testing positive for COVID-19 following that flight. There’s no telling exactly what may have flown around in the air while that passenger performed CPR. That situation is a danger to everyone aboard that flight… which means that everyone aboard that flight can now become super spreaders unless the passengers are forced to self-quarantine for at least 14 days. Yet, I haven’t heard anything about this. I’m not even sure that everyone aboard that flight is even aware of what happened. Has United Airlines contacted the CDC with the passenger manifest? Has the CDC contacted every passenger to ensure quarantine? Doubtful.

Not only did United Airlines ignore this aspect of this COVID-19 positive man’s ride aboard the flight, the airline acts like everyone who was aboard is now perfectly safe.

This is why we must ALL remain vigilant. We must step up and call out people who appear to be ill. We must stop them from boarding flights or trains or entering stores. If an airline (or manager) refuses to take action, we must refuse to board the flight and choose to take another flight. Is it really worth risking your own health for the possibility of becoming infected while on a flight, all while knowing that a coughing and sneezing passenger is three rows up from you?

Air Travel During a Pandemic

With the pandemic quickly spiraling out of control, is it the best of ideas to be hopping aboard a plane? While I know that sometimes we must travel for family emergencies or other situations out of our control, we must also acknowledge when not to travel.

Right now, traveling aboard any airliner, train or other means and which affords contact with members of the public, isn’t the smartest of ideas. Worse, many airlines have been reducing their responses to COVID-19 by increasing passenger load aboard planes while the pandemic escalates into the highest infection rates and deaths we have seen so far. While I realize a lot of people don’t believe the pandemic is real, the above United Airlines story is a stark reminder of how very real COVID-19 is.

If you don’t need to travel during the pandemic, don’t. There’s no reason to sit next to other people who may not be as vigilant or as concerned about the pandemic as you are about your health. Unfortunately, our illustrious President has entirely downplayed the seriousness of this pandemic… even going so far as to ignore the worst surging portion of the pandemic entirely over the last several weeks since the 2020 United States Presidential election. This apathy has been taken to heart by many people who believe just as our lackadaisical President.

While we can’t control what others do, we can control what we ourselves do and how we respond. That means avoiding public transportation, avoiding eating at restaurants, avoiding shopping in stores, avoiding doing outdoor activities where we come into contact with the public in close proximity and choosing to not go out unless absolutely necessary. If you need to invite someone into your home, like cleaning staff, baby sitters, plumbers or electricians, require that they wear masks the entire time they are in your home.

Quarantine Period in the Home

For anyone entering into your home whom you don’t know, such as plumbers, electricians or even maid services, they can easily bring COVID-19 into your home. It’s important that you ensure that you protect your home and family. After someone has entered your home, you should avoid the room they have visited for at least 24 hours (if possible) and open the windows to allow it to completely air out. If you can’t avoid using that room, then you may want to use Lysol or another disinfecting product to clean the surfaces they have touched. If you can wait an hour or two for the air to settle, then you can use disinfectant on surfaces to kill any viruses they may have left behind.

For maid services, you should request limited services to limit their exposure around your home. Better, suspend maid services or limit them to once a month. It can be difficult to stop emergency home services, but optional services should be limited or eliminated.

It’s difficult to foresee every single possible exposure in your home, so just use your best judgement. If someone wants to enter your home and it’s not critical for your home, reschedule for them to come back after COVID-19 has passed.

Where do we go from here?

The pandemic is not going away. It’s also very real. Should we bank on the vaccines? No. It is a stop-gap measure. At first glance, it may appear to be the pin that punctures the COVID-19 balloon, but it may simply be a small bandage. That small bandage may prevent the balloon from popping when the pin is inserted. Instead, it may allow a very slow deflation which could take years to ultimately deflate.

Ultimately, the vaccine has promise, but it has not yet proven itself to be the single thing that halts this virus in its tracks.

The only person who can keep you away from infection is you. Taking the vaccine may help and is something that may be required eventually, but only you can prevent you from becoming infected. You have to decide when and how often to go out. You must decide whether you wish to attend a gathering where the vast majority of people are not wearing masks. You must decide how important your health is to you.

For example, the distressed passenger above took it upon himself to subject hundreds of other people to COVID-19 aboard a flight knowing that he tested positive. Who in their right mind does this? It’s clear he wasn’t in his right mind. This is the mind of, at best, a sociopath… someone who puts their own goals above all else and above all others. Karma had other plans for him. Many people don’t believe in Karma and Fate. Good on them. That doesn’t mean Karma doesn’t exist.

While movies like Final Destination take Karma and Fate to ridiculous levels by setting up highly elaborate Rube Goldberg machines that ultimately result in the death of a character, Karma doesn’t work like that. Karma is the act of making the unexpected happen at the most inopportune times, mostly as a result of a careless act by the individual.

For example, if a person is in the throes of COVID-19 and is already in severe breathing distress, the reduced oxygen and pressure on a plane at a high altitude is likely to cause a cardiac episode. Why? Because the body cannot get enough oxygen to support the body’s systems. While one might not think that Karma is at work, it is. Anyone who understands how planes operate must recognize this situation. If this man had realized his own level of lung distress, he would have turned around and checked himself into a hospital, not boarded a plane. By not understanding exactly how well a plane’s oxygen functions at high altitudes, he sealed his own fate (and potentially those he infected along the way).

His stupidity coupled with Karma sealed his fate aboard that airplane. There was literally nothing that anyone could have done to prevent that situation from unfolding. You can’t resuscitate someone with that low of an oxygen saturation level. Planes do have small oxygen tanks for flight attendants to wear in case of emergency, but it is unknown if those tanks were used or even if they were enough to help. Regardless, that passenger’s fate was sealed when he stepped onboard that flight.

What this all means is that you need to know what you don’t know. In this case, what he didn’t know about how oxygen levels work on a jet ultimately killed him. As I said above, even with the best of medical care in a hospital, survival of this virus can be a problem, particularly if the body becomes that level of distressed. There was no way a random trained individual could provide the level of care necessary for a COVID-19 infected person who was that far gone. No, that distressed passenger sealed his own fate by entering that plane. He may have also callously sealed the fate of all aboard that flight by infecting them. However, Karma stepped in to intervene, but not before allowing everyone aboard that flight to potentially become infected.

Ultimately, that man will no longer be able to spread COVID-19 to others, but unfortunately at the price of he himself dying.

Denying COVID-19

COVID-19 is a real and dangerous virus. It is at least 6 times more deadly than cold and flu viruses combined. For those who continue to deny that COVID-19 is a real, I feel for you. I don’t understand that level of delusion, but I can feel for you and pity you. The phrase “Ignorance is bliss” only holds true when that ignorance leads to something other than death. When death is involved, ignorance is most definitely NOT bliss.

However, for those folks who are willing to attend rallies and gatherings without masks, who visit bars and party like it’s 1999 and who choose to “Throw caution to the wind”, then there’s an award for that… The Darwin Award. If you bring COVID-19 down upon yourself by choosing to ignore your own personal safety and then subsequently die, then a Darwin Award waiting for you on the other end. Too bad you won’t be able to accept it when you’re pushing up daisies.

As the author of this blog, I’m perfectly okay with that. In fact, I wholeheartedly endorse allowing these folks to become infected. If they can survive, fine. If they die for their own stupidity, then the gene pool has been cleansed of yet another stupid person.

People can be kept from their own folly for only so long. Eventually, people succumb to their own bias and prejudices and will do whatever they feel they must. If that means hanging out at a bar with others drinking and cavorting in close proximity, well then “Hello, Mr. COVID”. If that leads to a Darwin Award, so be it.

I don’t wish harm on others, but I also won’t keep people from their own fate and folly. It’s not my place to tell people how to live their lives. However, I can write advice articles like this to inform. How someone utilizes this knowledge is entirely on them. If that knowledge is ignored, that’s perfectly fine.

I write these articles to relay my own knowledge and experience. My blogging goal is to use my knowledge and experience to help others become just even the wee bit wiser. If that happens for even one person, then I’ve done my job. I can’t save the world, but I can help save those who wish to read these articles and learn from my experiences on this earth.

Anyone who chooses to deny and ignore COVID-19 as though it doesn’t exist deserves whatever fate befalls them… that fate which has arisen from that ignorance. I shrug and walk away from those people. There’s nothing I can do for those who wish to remain ignorant. Darwin has other plans for them.

Full Circle

To circle back around, if you are a medical professional or a trained first responder, you need to rethink your own involvement with COVID-19 distressed individuals outside of a hospital setting. The only exception is ambulance drivers. These are not only trained professionals, they have a mobile hospital at their fingertips. They can then transport the distressed individual to the hospital quickly for further treatment. Outside of an ambulance setting, attempting CPR on a distressed COVID-19 patient at 30,000 feet up is not likely to succeed.

Everyone must be smart enough to calculate the odds of a COVID-19 breathing distressed patient. Even hospitals with their vast array of medicines, equipment and expertise can’t save every COVID-19 patient in distress. At some point, the patient must be left to see if their own body will overcome the illness. In the case of the distressed COVID-19 patient aboard the United Airlines flight, there was almost no way to save that person with the extremely limited amount of medicines, medical equipment and expertise aboard that airliner.

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Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Posted in advice, COVID-19, virus by commorancy on December 10, 2020

This is a very good question, but the answer may not be as simple as you think. Let’s explore.

COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is clearly the news of the year. It is a virus with an approximate 6% mortality rate for at-risk individuals. What that means is that for every 100 people infected, around 6 people will die from contracting it. That’s a 94% survival rate. While 6% seems low, it’s high when considering the number of people infected so far. By comparison, let’s consider that the Flu’s mortality rate is about 0.1 percent. To see one death to Influenza would take 1000 infections.

Let’s consider that there are around 330 million people in the United States. We’ll go with this number for calculations, but the population of the United States may now be closer to 350 million people as of 2020. Let’s consider that 2% of 330 million is 6.6 million deaths and 6% is 19.8 million deaths. If the range of mortality swings from 2% to 6%, that’s somewhere more than 6 million and less than 20 million dead due to COVID-19 if the majority of the United States population becomes infected. That’s a lot of dead people… way more than from Influenza and colds combined.

COVID-19 was identified by China on December 31st, 2019 to the World Health Organization. However, the virus may have been in circulation as early as mid-November 2019. This means that the virus could have been circulating the globe since late November 2019.

Statistics

As of this article, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 290,000 people in the United States. Compared against the reported number of infections of 15.5 million, that’s an approximate 1.9% mortality rate. That may seem lower than the 6% high, but that’s partly because hospitals have had time to reduce the mortality rate under their care. It’s also that during the summer into fall, those who tested positive were younger adults whose survival rate is much higher than older adults and those at risk.

Unfortunately, the Spring statistics when the virus first appeared showed the mortality rate much closer to that 6% number than it is today. There are many reasons for this change, but suffice it to say that survival of the virus isn’t going up specifically. It’s that the age (and survival rate) of those infected during the summer have skewed the numbers of dead in a lower direction. Though, medical workers have also had some time to help work through better treatment options which may have had some impact on survival in some cases, including the use of Remdesivir. The only way to know the true mortality rate is for the virus to spread through the entire population of the U.S. before we can really know the survivability statistics.

Vaccination

One other way to alter the survivability is by developing a vaccine that can help our susceptible and fragile human bodies build up immunity to this virus before exposure. To that end, pharmaceutical companies are hard at work fast tracking human vaccines that have been tested (albeit with limited trials) for their effectiveness.

Unfortunately, fast tracking a drug through the United States system is fraught with peril. Most drugs go through years of many clinical trials and FDA approval processes before being allowed to be sold within the United States. This is the way the FDA works. Years of clinical trials ensures that each drug’s side effects are mostly documented and known. Fast tracking a vaccine through the system means that while the efficacy of the drug may be somewhat proven, the long term side effects have not at all been tested. Long term testing of side effects cannot happen when a drug maker has a few months to formulate a product and a few weeks to test it.

Side Effects

What all of this means is that these vaccines may have unintended side effects that could appear weeks, months or even years later. In fact, these long term effects could lead to cancer or any number of other deadly diseases or medical conditions. These vaccines are simply untested and unknown how far or deep these unintended side effects may go.

Sure, it’s great that a rushed vaccine may (or may not) produce an immunity to COVID-19 (we’ll come to this point in another section below), but at the cost of what future medical reality? Do you really want to be the first to jump out of a sinking boat into another sinking boat simply because it looks like it isn’t?

This isn’t saying the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t effective. They may very well be. But, we also don’t know what else may come to those who cannot wait. If you take the vaccine and then a month later develop a nerve disorder, then what? The damage has already been done. You can’t un-vaccinate yourself. Once you take the vaccine, it’s a done deal. The cards fall where they may. If that means that you become debilitated by a separate disease, then you’re stuck with that choice for the rest of your life.

Waiting Game

What I’m stating is that this is a game of wait and see. What I mean is that we’ve waited this long for a vaccine, we can wait a little longer. Being the first person to have that needle stuck in your arm may mean future health problems. We simply don’t know what’s in store with this vaccine.

What I’m advocating is waiting to see how the early adopters fare. Let them be the guinea pigs to inject themselves. Let those early adopters jeopardize their health first. When you’re buying an Apple product, the 1.0 version is always literally the worst version to buy. It’s never ready to go day one. The same exists for this vaccine.

Can it get worse?

After all of the above, it can still get worse. Considering that the vaccines for COVID-19 currently being formulated are explicitly designed to trigger an immune system response, there’s always a danger. First, it could trigger the wrong response in the body. The below documentary describes a clinical trial for an immuno-mucking drug which ultimately led to a Cytokine Storm in almost every trial participant, which in-turn nearly killed every participant in the trial. If the trial had been performed in any place other than in a very large hospital under hospital auspices, the trial may have been lethal.

Second, consider that when taking this vaccine, you’re likely to leave that medical facility the very same day without any further monitoring. You’re going to head home or back to work or out shopping immediately. If your body spirals into a cytokine storm half an hour after taking the vaccine, it could be fatal before you ever reach a hospital. You won’t be at a hospital for them to notice and treat you. Even then, hospital staff aren’t likely to determine that it’s a cytokine storm reaction. Instead, they’re likely to admit you under the guise of COVID-19 and then treat you as if you have COVID-19… that even assumes that with the overcrowding of hospitals to COVID-19, that you can even be admitted and treated. If the hospital misdiagnoses the cytokine storm, it could be fatal. Even respected journals have published theories discussing cytokine storms as a possible outcome from a COVID-19 infection. In fact, it is supposed that many of the deaths from COVID-19 may, in fact, be because of a cytokine storm.

If an adverse reaction occurs after taking a COVID-19 vaccine, the hospitals may not have any beds to treat you. Yet a third reason why it may not be a great idea to take the vaccine during this hospital overcrowding situation. Considering the unknowns surrounding these vaccines, it may be medically wise to consider all options, including waiting to take the vaccine until a time when hospitals are far less crowded.

You don’t want to be first in-line and then end up in the hospital hours later clinging to life because your body’s immune response has overreacted to the vaccine and your organs are shutting down.

Realities, Theories and Promises

It’s always wise to consider all options before you jump into anything that requires poking a needle into your arm. Anything that is something you haven’t taken before is always a risk. These vaccines are particularly at risk because not only were they rushed to market, not only were they not fully clinically trialed, not only does this vaccine muck with immune system responses, not only does it claim efficacy, it may not even work as promised and may have unknown side effects.

The theories surrounding the method of action for these vaccines is that these vaccines are designed to elicit the same immuno-response as COVID-19 in the body. That’s the theory (and the promise). If the formulations are off, if the quality control is suspect, if the manufacturer can’t replicate the vaccine properly, if the vaccine is improperly stored, it can lead to all sorts of complications. This is the reason it’s important to consider all options before being stuck with a needle.

You don’t want to find out that your body rejects the vaccine and now you’re in a life or death struggle. But, that’s an immediate response. What about long term responses? We simply don’t know what those are. The vaccine companies and doctors are espousing exactly how “safe” these vaccines are, but they’re speaking out of turn. In reality, they have no idea how safe or effective these vaccines actually are.

Even if the best case is that the vaccine does exactly what it claims (and there’s a chance it won’t on at least some percentage of the population), it may turn out that the vaccine’s effects only lasts for 3 or 4 months. That’s effectively the same as wearing SPF in the sun where you have to reapply it every 30 minutes. Yes, SPF works, but at the cost of constantly reapplying it. Same for this vaccine. Unless a vaccine lasts for years, it’s not really a vaccine. It’s a drug. If you’re required to re-administer this “drug” every 2 months, that’s not really a useful product. Worse, you’ll end up exposing yourself to this drug every 2 months which increases the risk of short and long term side effects with each dose.

We simply don’t know how long this “vaccine” lasts. Taking this shot every 60 days is really not an option. I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies would love this for money making purposes, but heading to the doctor’s office for constant shots is not an option.

As a result of the rapid testing, there’s no way to know just how long the antibodies will last in the body. We could also find that in just a few months, a new strain of COVID-19 has taken hold, invalidating this “vaccine”. It’s impossible to know much about the effectiveness of this vaccine.

Risks vs Reward

Yet, CNN and other so-called “health correspondents” vigorously advocate the use of the vaccine and completely downplay all of the above concerns.

The risk with this vaccine is that it does nothing to stem the tide of COVID-19 deaths. That taking it was all for naught. We can certainly go through the charade of an ineffective vaccine, but what may come out of it is, at best, little. At worst, even more death.

We have to weigh which is more problematic, COVID-19 or the vaccine itself. I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies have formulated this vaccine with the best of intentions. We know how that proverb goes…

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

that and Murphy’s Law

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong

Rushing to produce anything medical is fraught with unknown consequences. It is these exact unknown consequences that may very well lead us down the road to hell.

Way Down The List?

If you’re way down the list of vaccine recipients, consider yourself lucky. Those who are most at risk will be the ones who will test both Murphy’s Law and this proverb. The difficulty is that it is the front line medical workers and those most at risk earmarked for the first batches of the vaccine.

If the vaccine has consequences which are as yet unknown, complications for our front line workers could turn our hospital systems into ghost towns. If even 10% of the medical workers die as a result of unknown consequences from being vaccinated, that will leave our hospital systems unable to cope with the the mounting COVID-19 illnesses, let alone those who are ill strictly from the vaccines (see next section for more details).

These vaccines are very much an unknown risk. COVID-19 is a risk, but it is known. Which risk is better? I’ll have to let you decide. If you feel the risks of taking the vaccine are being overinflated here, then by all means go have a poke. If you’re cautious about your own body, then you may want to wait until others have jabbed themselves first. Never in the history of never has a vaccine been produced this rapidly. We just can’t know what we don’t know. Only after a first batch of vaccines have been widely disseminated and administered with few ill effects will I personally feel more confident about these vaccine risks.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccine’s efficacy will fare as well as its safety record, however. The vaccine might prove to be safe and not at all risky, but how well (or long) that it is able to fend off COVID-19 has not yet been determined. For the efficacy, we will have to wait at least several months to determine.

Front Line Medical Workers and Vaccination

[Updated: 12/16/2020] Here’s a point that’s highly concerning and I thought needed more detailed discussion. Since the powers that be have decided that the front line medical workers will be the first in line to get the Pfizer vaccine, this could set the United States up for a huge future medical system failure. I can’t sugar coat this next part at all. Should an unknown medical condition rear its ugly head a month after these vaccines have been administered and incapacitate or kill many of these front line medical workers, that could leave our hospitals in a huge problematic state. As I said above, even a 10% reduction in the front line medical workers could devastate our hospital system so much so that they can no longer function.

It’s not like medical schools are ready to graduate 10% more medical students into the system who are “ready to go”. If such a problem grows way beyond 10%, then it’ll become an epic disaster. Any unforeseen problem with these vaccines could quite literally decapitate our hospital system leaving not only a disaster in this vaccine, but thousands of people without the medical care they need just as COVID-19 is ramping up to be the worst medical disaster in recent history.

Basically, if we think COVID-19 is bad now, such a vaccine failure could decimate the United States’s ability to medically handle this escalating pandemic. With such a vaccine failure, it’ll be almost impossible to foresee how much worse it will get with the loss of 10% of our front line medical workers. Let’s not even discuss the devastating blow to investors that will be laid bare on Wall Street. Considering that politicians also want to be first in line, such a vaccine failure could devastate our election and Capital Hill.

Note that the above is not intended to predict anything. In fact, these are suppositions… what if scenarios. We may find that the vaccine is perfectly safe and entirely efficacious. However, considering how rushed-to-market these vaccines are, such a vaccine failure is not at all out of the realm of possibility. In fact, simply because this failure possibility exists, I have to grit my teeth every time I see some random medical doctor on CNN or Fox News or any other news program espousing just how safe and efficacious these vaccines allegedly are. Worse, these alleged “medical professionals” completely downplay the above possibility. Even news networks which have been extremely biased towards specific politicians have completely ignored this possibility.

If I had been in charge over who gets the first vaccine doses, I would not dose every front line medical professional. Instead, I would temper that decision by giving it only to a critically short list. Any hospital professionals who are not directly in contact with COVID-19 patients should wait until we know if the vaccine has any unforeseen consequences. Dosing every front line medical worker could accidentally leave not only hospitals in the lurch, but other critical front line industries severely short on staff, like pharmacies, grocery stores and other critical industry workers.

If we think COVID-19 is bad today, a vaccine failure could take COVID-19 to a whole new level of survival… way beyond the devastation that we presently face today.

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What to write?

Posted in blogging, pandemic by commorancy on December 6, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I’ve found being a blog author has become extremely difficult. While I love video gaming (and I’ve written a number of articles on this topic), COVID-19 has put a crimp on being a blog author… at least for me. Let’s explore.

The Pandemic’s Effects

I love writing this blog. I do. However, it seems that every time I decide to write an article, the pandemic weighs it down like a wet blanket making the article trivial by comparison. It makes it difficult, then, to write articles that are either directly or indirectly about the pandemic. If the article is not about the pandemic, the content seems somehow trivialized by it. If the article is directly about the pandemic, then this blog has gotten off track of being Randocity… or random thoughts.

And, it gets worse.

As more and more people find themselves out of work, as the economy drops deeper and deeper into recession, as people find themselves homeless or evicted, writing these blog articles seems some how trivialized by all of this… which then makes it difficult for me to continue writing in the midst of this pandemic. Yet, I still want to.

For me to pretend that nothing is going on in the world, in similar form to our present illustrious orange President, is disingenuous or, worse, delusional.

I want to write about everyday things, but unfortunately this pandemic is making this difficult in so many ways… the first being that even heading out to the store itself is fraught with peril. In other words, every time I head out to the store, I place myself in peril of contracting COVID-19. For every store or restaurant interaction I have, it’s basically playing Russian Roulette. Eventually, one of those interactions will lead to a personal infection. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

This situation goes for everyone, not just myself.

Denials and Facemasks

I still see people every day denying COVID-19, its effects on the economy and on the country’s health. I see people espousing not wearing masks and claiming that it’s all a big hoax. That the pandemic is somehow fake and being perpetuated by fake news. This is extremely delusional. I understand the want to deny it all. I get it. To deny it means that people can go about their everyday lives without thinking about the pandemic. That’s very enticing, but not at all realistic or healthy.

Unfortunately, personally denying COVID won’t stop the broader and bigger economic effects. It also won’t stop people from dying from COVID. Those situations are already in play. Governors are enforcing mask and shutdown orders. Hospitals are seeing patient spikes to the point of breaking. These are facts that cannot be denied. Sure, people can bury their heads in the sand, like an Ostrich, but that will not stop the economic impacts already in play by our country’s leaders.

If this situation were fake, would hospitals be overrun by COVID? Would Governors be ordering systemic business shutdowns? Would people be dying from COVID in greater numbers than any other current disease within the US?

Topics and Trivialities

For this reason, writing a blog about topics that don’t acknowledge the seriousness of the present United States situation seems disingenuous. It also makes writing blog article topics extremely difficult… like discussing the latest, greatest Apple tablet or Wearable or PS5 console release. These are luxury items that, while they make our lives easier and better, do nothing to solve our current economic situation nor this medical crisis.

Even watching current TV shows where the fantasy of living without COVID still prevails also seems disingenuous. On the one hand, we all want to remember the days when we didn’t wear masks, where we could visit an amusement park, restaurant or social gathering without worry. We want those days back… and eventually we will get them back, but not before this purge is complete.

85% Herd Immunity

One question that is continually asked is when the U.S. (and the world) will see herd immunity for real? The answer to this question is when at least 85% of the population is vaccinated or has survived COVID-19. Only after this 85% number will this virus become a thing of the past for the United States and, indeed, the world. However, we are a LONG way off from that 85% number… way WAY off from that.

At present, the United States has seen maybe 4-5% of its entire ~330 million population infected. That means ~95% of the population of the US still remains uninfected. That’s literally a crap ton of people who haven’t become infected.

Some people contend that there’s a whole lot more infections that haven’t been included in the counts, perhaps as much as 10% of the population. If that 10% estimate were true, there would be a whole lot of dead bodies somewhere as COVID-19 kills between 4-6% of everyone infected. At 10%, that would be around 33 million people infected. At a 5% mortality rate from COVID, that 33 million worth of infections would mean 1.65 million dead bodies somewhere… in addition to those who have already been counted as dead.

Yeah, I don’t think so. Logically, we are no where near the 10% infected rate because the dead bodies aren’t yet lining the sidewalks of major metropolitan cities. You can’t just hide 1.65 million dead bodies. These grim statistics are a sad reminder of the times we live in and how far we have not yet come with COVID-19.

The Count Rises and Vaccines Dawn

Considering the above, the present population of the United States is 330-350 million people. 5% of 330 million is 16.5 million dead bodies. But, you say, “What about the vaccines?”

The vaccines give us hope, but not necessarily answers… yet. The theory is that the vaccines and clinical trials have focused in having the body produce antibodies against COVID-19. The difficulty is that these vaccines were only tested against the antibody production. While some vaccine trial participants may have come into contact with COVID-19, the vast majority of these trial participants were not exposed to COVID-19 has part of the trial. Instead, the trial focused on having the immune system produce an immune response against the vaccine’s included foreign invader.

If the vaccine makers got it wrong, miscalculated or made even the tiniest of mistake in their assumptions, then the vaccines are worthless. We’re literally banking the farm on a vaccine that has not really been tested against COVID-19 for real… other than by accident. In other words, the clinical trials have provided mostly anecdotal evidence of efficacy.

The vaccine makers really don’t know how effective their COVID-19 vaccine will be against the real virus. Trial participants were not exposed to a live form of the virus, but were only tested for production of antibodies from what’s included in the vaccine. The presence of antibodies, or more specifically, the antibodies triggered by the vaccine, may not protect us from the actual COVID-19 virus. The assumption is that the generated antibodies will help reduce the severity of the live virus. This logical assumption is all “best guess” based on past virus behavior and that the produced antibodies will counteract COVID-19 when contracted.

In other words, vaccine makers really do not have any idea if the vaccine will be ultimately be effective or even minimally effective, let alone how long it may remain effective. The rush to get the vaccine out the door leaves gaping holes which would otherwise be filled by proper long term testing during clinical trials… holes that cannot be filled properly when this vaccine is being tested and released so rapidly.

Side Effects & Long Term Health Concerns

Going beyond the speedy nature of releasing the vaccines rapidly comes with other health concerns. The bottom line is, without long term clinical trials, there’s no way to know what longer term health effects might result from taking any or all of the vaccines. Do you really want to be inline for something that hasn’t been properly tested?

I get it, particularly for front line medical workers. Any protection is likely better than zero protection. But, which is more of a risk / threat, COVID-19 or the vaccine? This is a very difficult question to answer. I know that the drug companies are trying to do their level best to produce a functional and effective vaccine. However, cutting corners to get this vaccine out the door, particularly when it comes to long term testing is ripe for future health problems.

However, I’m sure the government will absolve all of these vaccine makers from all liability as a result of releasing these vaccines so rapidly. This means that should you end up with cancer or heart disease or organ failure as a result of taking the vaccine, you won’t have any legal recourse.

Rushing to produce anything, especially a drug, is ripe for health problems. We simply do not know what long term effects may arise from the use of these vaccines. Unfortunately, this virus is so prevalent and virulent and is causing so much economic havoc, the government may be forced to require every United States citizen to be vaccinated, thus ensuring all of the negative outcomes that arise from these rapidly released vaccines.

It all comes down to whether the vaccine works as advertised. We could find even after inoculating the entire United States population that COVID-19 still manages to kill millions… rendering the vaccine worthless. Ultimately, these vaccines are effectively the medical version of rolling the dice. It’s also not merely rolling the dice one time, however. It’s rolling the dice several times successively and hoping each and every time that we see a 7 or 11 with every single roll. What are the odds in that without using loaded dice? Just ask any craps dealer in Vegas.

The New Normal

Blogging in this new world reality makes it difficult, as a blog author, to come up with ideas that don’t seem trivialized and irrelevant by the world situation. I have found it exceedingly difficult to write about the latest Apple watch, the best new printer, the PS5 or even Hue bulbs without considering this new world normal. When I put keyboard to page and begin filling in this white space with words, with each and every word I write I have to consider the present disruption in our world lifestyle.

Even watching QVC and HSN shopping channels, I see just how naïve these channels seem when trying to hawk jeans, leggings, nail polish or a Chromebook in the midst of this pandemic. Computers are useful, particularly to keep up with the news. But the rest? Yeah. The only thing that QVC and HSN can tout is contact-free shopping. Unfortunately, their deals are not always that great… meaning, you can get better deals at brick and mortar retail stores. The difficulty comes in having to enter a store and put your health at risk to buy one of these in-store deals.

Gaming

Taking this a step further, Sony and Microsoft have recently released new consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X, respectively. Unfortunately, it’s really a bad time to release these consoles. Game studios must rethink how to hire and manage their game development staff amidst the resurgence of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations. Companies must now retool how to hire staff, how to work on products and how to ensure these products function all while keeping their staff safe and healthy.

In fact, we likely won’t see the full effect of COVID-19 for at least 2-3 years within the gaming industry. The PS5 and the Xbox Series X are likely to have very slow starts as a result. The next gen games that usually hit the stores 2 years after a new console release may not hit stores for 3-4 years due to the pandemic. This means that to buy into a PS5 or an Xbox Series X now could mean a LOT of dead shelf time for these consoles. The PS4 had about 9 months of dead shelf time when the console basically had only a handful of games available. For the PS5, that dearth of games could extend to 18 months or longer. If developers can’t get together as teams and work to solve gaming problems remotely, then this new normal may mean extended development times by A LOT. In fact, COVID-19 may put some of these game studios out of business.

In a year or two, managers may be able to work through the kinks of a remote workforce, but in the few months since COVID-19 appeared, managers are just barely getting a handle on it. Even then, many managers intensely despise having remote workers and prefer to have people’s butts in an leased office chair and firmly sitting behind a desk.

Work from Home Policies

This remove working paradigm MUST shift or any company may perish, literally. COVID-19 can see to that. Companies can no longer force people to bring their butt into the office when that action may jeopardize the health of not only themselves, but the health of everyone they come into contact with. Worse, because many office buildings have toxic ventilation systems, these systems ensure the spread of COVID-19 throughout the entire building. Just one person, one sneeze and hundreds may become infected. Office building ventilation systems are some of the worst, most disgusting, most non-hygienic systems ever designed. Many office buildings are worse that you think.

Yet, office managers don’t take this complication into account when they lease their office space. Instead, they lease based on monthly spend and based on space required. They don’t take into account proper building ventilation or the health of the workers based on this.

Case in point, I spent the better part of 5 years in a 6 story building. In all of those 5 years being employed at that company, I’d contracted maybe 2 colds and no flu. In fact, I contracted most of those in my first year, with nothing during the remaining 4 years. Later, I accepted a new job in a 16 floor office building. In the first year, I had contracted at least 3 colds, had two separate bouts of bronchitis and the flu at least once. After quitting, I no longer got sick. The ventilation system was entirely toxic. In that building, it only took on person coughing or sneezing on the second floor and those droplets traveled throughout the entire building to infect someone even on the 11th floor. As I said, the building was basically a toxic petri dish.

As an employee, these are uncontrollable situations you are forced into when you accept a job in some office buildings. You simply don’t know how toxic your company’s leased office space is until you come down with illnesses frequently.

It also didn’t help matters that my company refused to offer paid sick time. Instead, if you needed sick time off, you were required to use your PTO. This meant people didn’t. It meant co-workers chose to head into the office with colds or flu and whatever other malady, which forced them to spread it around the office to others. Because the ventilation system in this building was already piss poor, it meant anyone susceptible would be exposed even if you were on the other side of the building (or even on another floor) from the sick person. It’s part of the reason I had to quit that job. The building’s toxic ventilation system left me with no other choice as, at the time, there was no work-at-home option and no way to rectify that toxic office space environment. Although, there were some manager problems that also could not be resolved, the constantly being sick played into my decision.

In a way, I’m glad I’d quit that job long before COVID-19 appeared. Otherwise, I’m fairly certain that I likely would have gotten it simply because of that toxic office building environment. In fact, I wasn’t even sure who I could have approached at that company to discuss this toxic building environment. It’s not like they would have made the decision to move office buildings strictly because of my single complaint.

Blogging amid COVID-19

Taking a full circle back to how this article began, I’ve given a few reasons why it’s now difficult for me to blog about trivial luxury conveniences amidst the seriousness of this pandemic. I’d love to write an article and offer a way to rid the world of COVID-19. I’d love to write an article that can solve the world’s ills. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is a virus that doesn’t have an easy or fast answer. Even masks offer limited effectiveness.

While I respect you as a reader and want to offer you interesting information and content, I don’t want to trivialize COVID-19’s effects on the world. I don’t want to write blog articles that ignore COVID-19 or make it seem like I’m not taking COVID-19 seriously.

I actually DO take COVID-19 seriously. I do wear a mask when shopping. I limit when I go out and how often. I only go to the store whenever it’s absolutely necessary. I try to stock up on food with each trip. When I choose to eat restaurant food, I do it infrequently, always take the food to go and make sure to wash my hands after each and every trip out. I also take a full shower after I’ve stepped back into the house for the day before heading to bed. I also wash my clothes if I know the clothes have come into contact with anything suspicious (chairs, tables, baskets, carts, etc). I prefer to wear gloves when I’m out and about, particularly at the grocery store.

Whenever I bring my grocery items home, I still wash them and sometimes allow them to sit for several days before using. With mask mandates in most stores these days, this has become less of an issue. But, I’d still rather be overly cautious than risk my own health and the health of those around me.

Future of Randocity

For now, I’m still planning on blogging, producing how-to articles, video gaming articles, movie reviews and various other information when it seems appropriate. However, I will refer readers to this article when discussing how seriously this blog author is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before I proceed with any further articles, I wanted to write this content to get this information out there and get this off of my chest. It’s difficult not to take this world situation seriously. Yet, I still see many who call it fake or a hoax or deny that it’s a problem. It is none of these. COVID-19 is a virus. It will attack the body like any other virus. It will kill people, like the Influenza. However, it’s much more deadly than any other virus we’ve yet seen. It is a serious virus and it should be taken seriously.

I won’t necessarily write about COVID-19 with each and every article. However, I will refer back to this article whenever someone comments that Randocity is not taking the pandemic seriously. The pandemic is a serious situation. It concerns everyone everywhere, even if not in the United States.

Considering the statistical numbers of infected so far, this virus has the ability to kill at least 5% of the United States which is 16.5 million people dead. At the present ~280k death toll, that’s just 1.6% of the potential 16.5 million dead. So, yes, Randocity takes this pandemic seriously. It’s not a joke. It’s not funny. It’s not a hoax.

When I write an article about a camera or Kickstarter or a Movie Review or a How-To article or a video game or any other topic that doesn’t discuss COVID-19, this blog is acutely aware of this pandemic and its affects on so many families and the economy. With that said, I don’t want this blog to become solely about COVID-19, however. I want this blog to remain focused on random thoughts and random ideas. I want to be able to discuss all sorts of ideas here, including COVID-19, when appropriate.

With that all said, I will continue to write about whatever thoughts come to my head including technology that’s interesting and products that I have tried.

If you’re reading this and you’re struggling to get through 2020, I completely feel for your situation. I realize that so many families may be on the brink of eviction because of the job situation. It’s difficult for all of us, including myself. My situation may be better than some, but don’t think that I’m not feeling the pinch from COVID-19, just as so many of us are.

End of the Year Thanks

I have to assume that by reading this article, you are a loyal reader. For those who have been reading this blog from when this blog began as well as any new readers, I want to sincerely thank you for following and continuing to read the articles I write here on Randocity. I also wish the best of health to you and your family for this holiday season.

If you enjoy Randocity’s articles, I’d like to ask you for a favor. Please like and share these articles with your friends and family. Since you like this blog, perhaps your friends and family will too. The more you share this blog, the more it helps me continue to produce content like this as well as future content. I love to write this blog and I want to continue doing so, but I need a little bit of your help to share the word.

Please consider sharing on on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. These are excellent locations to help me with getting the word out about Randocity. Again, I thank you for reading and here’s to a much, much better and brighter 2021. Happy Holidays!

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What Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax means?

Posted in business, microsoft, Sony, video gaming by commorancy on October 28, 2020
Can the PS5 succeed?

I’ve had this question recently posed to me on a Twitch stream. Yes, I stream games on Twitch in addition to penning this blog. I haven’t cross promoted my Twitch stream on this blog because blogging and gaming are mostly unrelated. However, if you’re interested in watching me game, please leave a comment below and I’ll post my Twitch channel. Let’s explore the answer to the above question.

Bethesda and Microsoft

Microsoft isn’t really a gaming company. They are a software company who produces gaming products in among all of their other hardware and software product lines. Sony is, likewise, not really a gaming company for a similar reason. Sony is mostly a content producing company who also produces gaming hardware.

Anyway, Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax likely means eventual changes to all of Bethesda’s game franchises. In fact, I’m actually surprised that the FTC has allowed such a purchase considering the negative impact it will likely have on consumer choice.

Sony and Microsoft

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Sony and Microsoft are rivals when it comes to gaming systems. Sony has the PlayStation and Microsoft has the Xbox. Because Microsoft owns the Xbox console, purchasing large gaming companies firmly pushes this situation into conflict of interest and consumer choice reduction territory. Additionally, Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax before the PS5 has really launched can become an easy way to keep the PS5 from succeeding.

Why? Microsoft has designs on making the Xbox Series X console succeed and be more successful than the PS5. To do this, they want to lock Sony’s platform out of as much content as they can. How will this manifest with Bethesda’s games?

While the final outcome is entirely uncertain, the handwriting is on the wall. What I mean is that Microsoft may eventually make all of Bethesda’s newest released games exclusive to the Xbox. That means that Bethesda’s game franchises (plural) may ultimately end up playable only on the PC and on the Xbox console. Yes, that could mean that both the Nintendo Switch and Sony’s PS5 are equally negatively impacted by this purchase.

Both Sony and Nintendo could find themselves without future Bethesda titles on their gaming platforms. That could mean no more Fallout, no more Elder Scrolls, no more Doom and no more Wolfenstein will make their way onto Sony or Nintendo’s platforms. It doesn’t stop there. Titles like Bethesda’s upcoming Starfield, which has yet to be released, could be pulled from release on both Sony and Nintendo’s platforms… leaving this game only available on PC and Xbox.

Sure, it may lose Microsoft money by not releasing these games on these non-Microsoft platforms, but Microsoft will more than make up for those game sales losses by pushing more Xboxes and PCs into the home. Eventually, these games will be sold to newly purchased Xboxes and PCs more than making up for the losses in sales on those other platforms. Basically, Microsoft has an easy way to do the dirty to both Sony and Nintendo as far as Bethesda games are concerned.

Microsoft is also well aware of the leverage they hold over the gaming industry by purchasing Bethesda. More than this, Microsoft can steer new consumers onto their Xbox line of consoles and away from Sony and Nintendo consoles strictly by enforcing Xbox Exclusives.

Exclusives

Bethesda isn’t the only studio on the planet. However, Bethesda is a large studio with many very cherished video game franchises… franchises that bring in a lot of cash and drive console purchases.

While Microsoft can enforce making upcoming Bethesda games exclusive, Microsoft doesn’t necessarily have to take this step. However, knowing that Sony pretty much kicked Microsoft’s butt with the PS4’s sales, Microsoft isn’t eager to repeat that trend with the Xbox Series X. Purchasing ZeniMax gives Microsoft a definite edge. It also means Microsoft might also be eyeing the purchase of Activision, EA, Rockstar and even Ubisoft. Don’t be surprised if Microsoft snaps up some of these additional game developers as well.

By Microsoft purchasing large game studios like Bethesda, they can control which console becomes the dominant console this time around (i.e., theirs). This means even more exclusive Xbox games.

Exclusive games force consumers to buy specific hardware platforms to play these exclusive titles.

PS5

What does this news mean for a console like the PS5? It puts the PS5 at a severe sales disadvantage. Microsoft could request Bethesda to not produce PS5 games. Without Bethesda’s support on the PS5, that leaves the PS5 at a major disadvantage in the upcoming next gen gaming market.

This is part of the reason I am not purchasing a PS5 at this time. I’m waiting on how this plays out. Bethesda’s ownership by Microsoft means a very real possibility of future exclusive Xbox titles from Bethesda, with no releases on the PS5 or the Nintendo Switch.

This change would put Sony and Nintendo with a clear sales disadvantage. Sony would have to rely not on Bethesda games to drive the PS5’s sales, but instead rely on Sony Studio game releases… games they have developed themselves or by studios they own (i.e., Sucker Punch).

That doesn’t mean the PS5 will be worthless, but it means that the future of Bethesda’s games being released on the PS5 has become very unclear. In fact, I’d use the word “muddy” to describe these waters.

Here are some questions that come out of the above:

  1. Should I buy and Xbox Series X or a PS5? The answer to this question entirely depends on what Microsoft has planned for Bethesda. If they intend to turn all future Bethesda releases into Xbox exclusives, then the answer to this question is… buy an Xbox Series X. Even then, I’d still recommend buying an Xbox Series X because there’s a zero chance of losing Bethesda games on the Xbox. However, there’s a high probability the PS5 will lose Bethesda’s future games. The even larger answer to this question also depends on whether Microsoft plans to buy more large game studios.
  2. Will Bethesda lose money? The answer to this question is, no. Microsoft has deep, deep pockets. They can withstand any short term monetary losses from making Bethesda’s games exclusive to the Xbox and they can also withstand the long term needs to recoup those losses by selling new Xbox consoles and any exclusive Bethesda games. The more consoles Microsoft sells, the more games they can sell.
  3. Will Microsoft force Bethesda to make exclusives? Yes, they will. This is guaranteed. The question is, which games will be forced into this category? That’s still unclear. Will it only be some of Bethesda’s games, all of them, new games only or some combination of this? We don’t know. However, I can guarantee at least one of Bethesda’s games will be released as an Xbox exclusive. My guess is that most of Bethesda’s games will become exclusives.
  4. What about existing Bethesda games? What happens to these? Microsoft isn’t stupid. They will allow existing games to continue to be sold and operate on the PS4 and any other older non-Microsoft consoles. They won’t rock this boat. Instead, Microsoft will look at upcoming unreleased games and use the games that have never been released to become exclusive.

As a result of these questions and answers, it’s clear that if you love Bethesda’s games and you wish to play future upcoming Bethesda game franchises, you may want to wait before investing in one of these new consoles. It would suck to spend a wad-o-cash to walk home with a PS5 only to find that the one Bethesda game you thought you could play is now an Xbox Series X exclusive. That means, you’ll never see that game released on the PS5. Microsoft is very likely to make this situation a reality.

If Microsoft buys even more of these large developers, they could lock Sony’s PS5 out of the mainstream gaming market. That would push Sony’s PS5 into a situation like Nintendo (and the PS Vita), where the console maker is entirely responsible for creating compelling game franchises for their respective console on their own. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough to keep a platform like the PS5 alive.

In other words, with the purchase of Bethesda, there’s a very real possibility that this time around that Sony’s PS5 will be the underdog.

Ramifications

The bigger ramifications of this purchase is the lack of and reduction of consumer choice. This purchase can easily push Microsoft into an even more monopoly status than they already are. Locking down the biggest game developers to exclusivity for the Xbox means causing the PS5 to ultimately fail and for the same reason the PS Vita failed.

Personally, I believe this is Microsoft’s true agenda. The Xbox One’s sales paled in comparison to the PS4. Microsoft is not eager to repeat this situation with the Xbox Series X. By buying large developers like ZeniMax / Bethesda, Microsoft can all but assure the success of the Xbox Series X… and, at the same time, assure Sony’s failure of the PS5.

This purchase is honestly a one-two punch to Sony…. and for Sony, it’s gotta hurt.

Sony and Gaming

If Sony is smart, they’ll run out and buy Rockstar or Ubisoft right now. They shouldn’t wait. They should purchase one of these companies as fast as they possibly can. Rockstar would be the best choice for Sony.

Sony could then have this same bargaining chip in their back pocket just like Microsoft has with Bethesda. Should Microsoft dictate Xbox exclusivity for Bethesda’s upcoming games, Sony can do the same thing for Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption (once they own Rockstar). Ultimately, it will be a “tit for tat” situation.

In fact, Sony should buy both Ubisoft and Rockstar and have two bargaining chips. Even still, such a game exclusivity war would lead to fracturing the gaming market in half. Basically, the consumer would be forced to buy multiple consoles to play games that formerly landed on both consoles. It’s a loss for consumer choice… which is why I’m surprised the FTC hasn’t stepped in and blocked this one.

I’m guessing that because the final outcome has not yet manifested, the FTC can’t see the forest for the trees. However, once hindsight forces 20/20 vision, it will be too late for the FTC to block this purchase.

What does this mean for Fallout?

I know this is a very specific question about a very specific game. However, I was asked this very question on a Twitch stream. Let me answer it here.

If you’re a fan of the Fallout series and you’re unsure which of the upcoming console to buy, I’d recommend waiting to see what Microsoft has in store for upcoming Bethesda games.

With that said and to reiterate what I’ve said above, there is now zero chance that Microsoft will withhold Fallout for the Xbox Series X and newer Xbox consoles. However, Microsoft can easily block the release of future Fallout games from the PS5 and the Switch. This means that a consumer’s investment of cash into a PS5 could see the console without any future Fallout or Elder Scrolls or Doom games.

What that means is that should Bethesda take on the challenge of remastering Fallout 1, Fallout 2 and Fallout New Vegas for the newer consoles, these games may only find their way onto the Xbox Series X as exclusives and may not be found on the PS5.

Basically, proceed with caution if you really, really want a PS5. You may find that like the PS Vita, without titles released from Bethesda, the PS5 may end up a dying console before it really gets the chance to take off, particularly if Microsoft buys even more of these large game studios. If the PS5 does fail due to Microsoft exclusives, it will be mostly thanks to Microsoft.

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Rant Time: Fallout 76

Posted in botch, business, video game, video game design by commorancy on October 19, 2020

This is my final review of and rant for Fallout 76. As of the recent Fall update for Fallout 76 (Wastelanders Season 2), Bethesda has taken it upon themselves to make some very questionable and disingenuous changes to the “balance” of the game. Let’s explore just how cringeworthy this game has become.

Level above 200

If you have a character with a level above 200, you’ll probably have noticed a number of “balance” changes to the game. Formerly, the game spawned a maximum of around level 68 for most humanoid enemy characters in Fallout 76. After the most recent update, the enemy level cap has been raised to 100. Not only has this update to the enemy level changed the balance of the game for the worse, it has reduced the effectiveness of the biggest guns in Fallout 76.

In effect, Bethesda has heavily nerfed every weapon in the game so that they are incredibly ineffective against these newly updated enemies whose levels have been majorly increased for no reason.

This is not just an inconvenience, it’s sloppy and makes the game unnecessarily harder to play without a way to disable this increase in hardness. Effectively, Bethesda has broken the game. There’s no other way to say it.

Level 50 weapons

The maximum level of any weapon in Fallout 76 is 50. You simply can’t find a weapon with a higher level than 50. Some top out at level 45. Yet, Bethesda has increased most enemy levels to well over 100 in many cases (assuming the player is over level 100), thus making these level 50 weapons even more ineffective than they already were. Yes, this applies to Legendary weapons as well.

What I mean is that before this update, I could one shot most level 68 enemies in the game with a level 50 Legendary rifle. The maximum level you’d find on most enemies would be level 68. After this update, most humanoid enemies spawn at 100 which takes two, three or more shots to kill on a level 100 enemy.

By changing the max levels of spawned enemies, Bethesda has inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) nerfed every weapon in the game. These weapons are, in fact, nerfed so hard as to be almost as useful as a level 1 rifle of the same class. Many weapons can take 5-6 shots for a kill which formerly took one or two shots. This allows enemies to swarm you, thus making the game even harder for characters above level 100.

Level 200+ characters revisited

With all of the above said, let’s circle back around to a player character that’s level 200 or above. Rant on. Player character levels in Fallout 76 are effectively useless. In any other RPG, levels add strength, power and perks. In Fallout 76, it’s just a number.

The player character is actually only as powerful as the weapon level they wield. If the weapon is level 50, then the player character’s power to play the game is entirely tied to that weak ass weapon. The player’s level 250 or 300 number means nothing. It’s just a number and doesn’t at all play into the strength and power of the character. It’s a pointless number. The only number that matters is the weapon’s level.

Since the max weapon level in Fallout 76 is level 50, that means that any increase in enemy strength, enemy level and enemy HP means making the already weak level 50 weapons even weaker.

In Fallout 76, it’s the weapon’s level that matters. Because Bethesda has raised the spawn level of enemies for high level characters, it has effectively made having high level characters useless and pointless. The level 250 player character is entirely limited by those weak ass level 50 weapons, now even more than ever.

Penalizing High Level Players

Some of us have spent months (or years) leveling our characters to 200, then 250 and higher. Yet, the best that Bethesda can reward our time and effort is to weaken our weapons and turn our 250 character into a level 20 character again? Stupid.

Bethesda’s handling of the Fallout 76 franchise is not only stupid, it’s probably one of the absolute worst installments in the Fallout franchise bar none. Not only is Bethesda penalizing those of us who have spent months grinding our characters to higher levels, but it goes way beyond this.

Fallout 76 is supposed to be a prequel to Fallout 1, 2, 3, 4, New Vegas and likely 5 and the rest. Yet, so much swag has been introduced into Fallout 76 that has never appeared in the sequels, it doesn’t make any sense to be in Fallout 76. How can we have Nuka-Cola Scorched that has never appeared in Fallout 3 or 4 or any other installment?

It gets even worse. Fallout 76 ultimately doesn’t make any sense as to why it even exists in the Fallout franchise. It doesn’t add anything to the series. The Scorched don’t make any sense as they have never appeared in any sequel games. The only carryovers are the Ghouls, Super Mutants and the factions. Even the Blood Eagles don’t make sense as they have never been in any of the sequels.

Cartoonish

With every step Bethesda takes, they seem to fumble the ball every single time. Fallout 76 is a weak installment. Not only does it make no sense to even exist in the Fallout universe, its reason to exist is so shallow and laughable, this entire game is a cartoon.

It’s what someone might think a Fallout game is if they didn’t know anything and asked someone to explain it in one sentence. The premise in Fallout 76 is so weak, it’s a caricature of Fallout.

The premise of Fallout 4 was tied to a serious tone and kept the idea behind the nuclear apocalypse somber and in-check. Yet, in Fallout 76, it’s all happy-go-lucky as if the bombs dropping were a mere inconvenience.

The 24

The premise of Fallout 76 was to insert 24 real live players into a multiplayer Fallout world. Unfortunately, Bethesda’s shortsightedness got in the way of making this into a great game.

The multiplayer point to Fallout 76 is that each of the 24 people will exit the vault and begin rebuilding Appalachia. Unfortunately, there isn’t any rebuilding that is actually allowed. Sure, each of those 24 people could build a super tiny little cabin on a super tiny piece of land. As a result of this overly tiny constrained land, you can’t actually rebuild anything in Appalachia.

All other buildings remain busted, broken and dilapidated. There’s no way to fix them. Instead, the best each of those 24 players can do is build a me-camp. The only thing these me-camps do is clutter up the landscape. Worse, you can’t even build your camp near most structures as the game prevents that. This means that while the point is to rebuild, you can’t actually do it.

Worse, even if you manage to follow the main quest line through to completion and “get rid of” the Scorched virus, nothing in the landscape changes. All of the burnt, destroyed buildings and structures remain. Building a me-camp doesn’t fix or solve anything. Even then, these camps are only visible and useful so long as the user remains actively online playing. When the player logs out, so too do any structures disappear from the game.

Pointless

Ultimately, Fallout 76 is a pointless, vapid, hollow game with absolutely no reason to exist in the franchise and also has no redeeming merit, especially after this latest update. It doesn’t further the franchise in any useful, or more importantly, functional way. Any lore built is inserted in such a way as to be pointless in the end. None of the lore solves anything. In fact, we don’t learn anything in Fallout 76 that we didn’t already learn in Fallout 4.

The entire Fallout 76 game is money-grubbing exercise in futility.

Standalone Game

Bethesda needs to package up a standalone version of Fallout 76 that doesn’t require the Internet. Then, let us download our characters onto this standalone version so we can at least save all of the progress we have made with our characters. Otherwise, when Bethesda shuts down the Fallout 76 servers (and they will), any characters we have built will be lost.

Done with Fallout 76

Because Bethesda’s continually keeps screwing us players with every release, I’ve given up playing Fallout 76. This latest update is actually the last straw. I’ve tried to be patient with Bethesda. I’ve really tried… but my patience has completely worn down. Not only is the game exceedingly old (coming up on 2 years), Bethesda has honestly done nothing of note to make the game actually better or more playable. Even Fallout 1st, Bethesda’s expensive monthly for-pay subscription service, has done almost nothing to further the playablity of the game.

In fact, the only thing they’ve done is make the game worse with each and every release. Case in point, Wastelanders. The name itself tells you that it’s a waste… and it is.

Wastelanders added nothing new to the story of the game. The only thing that was added were a bunch of pointless NPCs that serve entirely as newbie tutorials… as if Fallout 76 was complex enough to even need newbie tutorials. The game is so simplistic and easy to learn that adding NPC tutorials to the engine is about as useful as teaching a driving teacher how to drive. Yeah, pointless.

The rest of the NPCs that weren’t tutorials ended up being daily quest givers asking us to do the same thing every single day over and over and over and over…. the very definition of grinding. Yet, there’s a hard-set and overly long cooldown timer that forces us to wait many, many hours to grind again.

War Never Changes, and Bethesda Doesn’t Either

Bethesda just doesn’t get its gamers or its franchise fans. Bethesda also doesn’t get why this game should exist. It also certainly doesn’t reward its long standing players for playing. Oh, no no no. Instead, it chooses to slap us in the face with each and every new release. I’m tired of dealing with those shenanigans. Gamers who’ve been playing the game for months then log in only to find that their best weapons are now only mediocre trash and have been rendered entirely pointless. Have I mentioned just how pointless this game is?

Worse, Bethesda couldn’t be bothered to actually add a compensating control by adding newer, more powerful weapons into the game. No, they couldn’t be bothered to do that. Instead, they screw our level 250 characters over and then expect us to be happy about it? Well, I’m not… hence this article.

If Fallout 76 was a great game once, it is no longer a great game today. Arguably, it never was a good game. In fact, it is probably one of the worst games to consider getting anyone as a gift. It’s not a particularly great multiplayer game, but even more than that, it’s a piss poor entry into the Fallout universe.

If anything, Fallout 76 shows us just how disconnected from the original Fallout franchise source material as a Bethesda can get. The creators of Fallout 76 really have no idea what a Fallout game is. Fallout 76 is now officially and literally the worst Fallout game in the Fallout franchise bar none. Bethesda would do well to sack Todd Howard and find someone who can actually come up with game ideas that people actually want to play and that are befitting of Fallout’s original apocalyptic premise. Perhaps with Microsoft’s 2020 acquisition of Zenimax, Todd may finally find himself on the outs. As for what Microsoft’s acquisition means to the Fallout franchise or the Elder Scrolls, look for an upcoming Randocity article.

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How to complete the Fallout 76 Legendary Run

Posted in botch, business, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on August 29, 2020

While this is intended to be a how-to guide, it also offers my take on whether or not this new rewards system is worth it. This article also serves as a review. Let’s explore.

[Updated for 9/29/2020]

The new ‘Legendary Run’ has started with a new game board. This game board is completely different from the images shown in this first Legendary Run. The rewards are similarly spaced and similar in style. However, as of the update needed to install this new ‘Legendary Run’ game board, Bethesda also made some very big (and unnecessary) changes to the game, shattering the already faltering game balance. As of this update and second legendary run, Fallout 76 is officially an unmitigated disaster. There is officially no game balance in Fallout 76.

Effectively, no matter what level you are, Bethesda has excessively nerfed ALL weapons and over-powered ALL enemies. A level 50 (max level) Bloodied Lever Action Rifle, which could pretty much one-hit and kill any enemy in the game and 3 hit and kill some of the hardest enemies (other than a Scorchbeast Queen), is now no better than a level 10 weapon of any kind. Any remaining balance that had been in Fallout 76 has been utterly destroyed by this latest update. To be honest, Bethesda has destroyed any remaining reason to play Fallout 76 in one update. There is absolutely nothing at all fun about Fallout 76 at this point… no, not even to play this updated second Legendary Run game board.

If I had even the tiniest of cravings to play this newest game board in Fallout 76, that craving has been totally and completely squashed by Bethesda’s ruining of the game balance.

The Legendary Run

What is it? As stated above, it’s a new rewards system for Fallout 76. It somewhat replaces the daily Atom rewards with a new type of currency called S.C.O.R.E. (another insipid acronym). For this article, I’m simply going to call it Score. Score points are given when you complete daily or weekly challenges.

By ‘somewhat’, I mean that the older Atom challenge system was designed as a loose, non-competitive system. You did these challenges at your leisure with no ramifications. This new system, on the other hand, sees a competition between you and a foe, forcing you to complete the game board ahead of the foe. Okay, so maybe ‘force’ is a strong word. However, it has the same effect as force because of the urgency required in keeping up with Zorbo’s game piece. Skipping a day of challenges can see you lose. Zorbo’s ship is the little teal ship where the gamer’s is a bright orange ship. See full game board image below:

TheLegendaryRun-GameBoard.-3084

What does ‘lose’ mean, exactly?

By ‘lose’, this is not yet clearly defined by Bethesda. It is currently believed that Bethesda will reset the board to start over with a new ‘season’ of The Legendary Run including all new rewards… after Doctor Zorbo (foe) reaches the final position on the game board. It has been confirmed as of September 1st that The Legendary Run ends September 8th (see image at right) at 12 noon Eastern / 9am Pacific. Additionally, not only is Bethesda offering double Score points until that time, they have added extra challenges to the board to help those who wish to get to the finish line and need a bit more effort. Still, it doesn’t absolve Bethesda from the OCD and anxiety issues that this challenge system brings.

If you haven’t completed the board, the clock is ticking on whether you will be able to complete it and get all of the remaining rewards. Remember when I said ‘force’ was too strong of a word above? Well, here is exactly where Bethesda applies the pressure. The assumption is that if you don’t complete the board by the time the foe reaches the end, you will not be able to finish the game board at all or receive any remaining rewards. You may even lose any unclaimed rewards (see CAUTION below).

For anyone not very far along, this means that to complete the board before the timer ticks down to zero, you’ll need to pay your way through the board using Atom (see the Pay to Win section below for more details) before Zorbo reaches the end and the board closes. In other words, if you’re still in Chapter 1 when reading this article, you’re going to be required to pay a LOT of Atom to fully open up the game board to the end.

CAUTION: As a warning, I strongly recommend that you claim every reward you are given. Don’t be lazy about this. Don’t leave any rewards unclaimed. Once the game board closes for the next season, you will likely not be able to go back and claim any unclaimed rewards. In fact, the board may be entirely wiped and reset losing any unclaimed rewards. Be extremely cautious as Bethesda is not likely to be forgiving about this at all.

Score Points

Score points are accumulated into a progress bar that’s either at the bottom or top of the screen depending on which screen you are in.

The Legendary Run also has a game board (see above) with individual rewards in each spot. As you progress and gain Score, your game marker moves to the next spot after you accumulate enough Score points for that specific place on the board. Each new game place increases the amount of accumulated Score it requires to move to the next game board section.

Under each game board section, you will find a specific reward. The rewards sometimes include currency like Atom, Legendary Scrip or Gold Bouillon. Other rewards include digital cosmetic items like Ghillie Suit paint jobs or Atomic Onslaught paint. You can even get consumables like Scrap Kits, Repair Kits and Perk Card packs. It also includes CAMP cosmetic items like a tree, a door or wallpaper.

Each spot on the board is already pre-marked with its reward. You only simply need to hover over the game board spot to view its reward. You can even click on it to get more details. There is no mystery involved. You know exactly what you’re getting all throughout the game board.

What I’ve LearnedThe OCD Run WARNING

Playing through and completing this game board, I’ve come to learn a few highly negative things about this system. As a result, I’m not a fan of this new system at all.

The first thing I noticed about this new system is that it is not at all forgiving. If you miss a day of challenges, you’re probably okay and can make it up. If you miss a week of challenges, you’re likely to be so far behind you can’t complete the board. Because of this primary problem, this system can easily trigger anxiety and obsessive compulsion to complete this challenge system in gamers. Gaming is supposed to be recreational, not something to become OCD over.

If you’re easily triggered by OCD, then you should completely avoid participating in this reward system. In fact, this game mechanism is so heavily tied to reinforcing obsessive compulsive behaviors, it should be outlawed in games. To me, a system like this is just as bad as for-pay mystery boxes. Hear me, Bethesda.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is not something we need to be indoctrinating into children using video games. Something like this is bad enough for adults, but training kids for obsessive compulsion early is a recipe for problems later in life. In fact, I’d suggest that a game board system like this is just as bad for children as are for-pay mystery loot systems which train those portions of the brain about gambling. Both gambling and OCD are equally damaging to growing and developing children.

I have a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll forgo that for now and focus on how to complete this game board. Suffice it to say, if your OCD is easily triggered, stay far away from this challenge system and focus entirely on just Fallout 76’s main activities.

How To Complete The Legendary Run

The bottom line in completing this run is not missing a day or week of challenges. You can skip one or two daily challenges per day, but you will need to complete every weekly challenge.

For example, I skipped every daily Nuclear Winter challenge (I despise that game mode and refuse to play it) and I was still able to complete the run. However, it did require hitting every weekly and as many daily challenges as I could complete. Yes, you will need to play through every daily challenge that you can. This means playing every single day’s challenges, seven days a week.

Yeah, that’s why I wrote the above warning. If you can’t commit to playing this game every single day, then you likely cannot complete the run through challenges alone.

Pay to Win

There is a way to get to the end without playing at all. You can rank up fully by paying 150 atoms for each board space. In fact, you can pay your way through the entire game board if you want. If you’re willing to run to the PlayStation, Xbox or Bethesda’s store and buy Atom, you can use that Atom to pay your way through each game board spot.

This can help you if you need to catch up. But, you can also simply avoid the daily grind and pay your way to the end.

The choices you have then are as follows:

  1. Grind your way through the daily and weekly challenges every day
  2. Pay your way through the board entirely with Atom
  3. Combine some grinding and paying some Atom to get you through to the end.

In fact, I believe most players will end up falling into category 3… which is exactly what Bethesda hopes. That means you’ll have to pay for Atom (or get it through other Atom challenges which are still available) to make your way through The Legendary Run. Though, Bethesda is also enamored with gamers who fall into category 2.

The one thing to realize about The Legendary Run is that you must forgo playing the game to solely focus on completing the challenges. This means spending most of your time working through the challenges and, you know, not playing the actual game itself. In other words, these challenges waste a LOT of time doing inconsequential things instead of completing the main quest line. This is such an unnecessary diversion, it actually undermines the game.

Design Failure

In fact, this entire challenge system runs 180º counter to what the design goals for this board were stated to be. It was claimed that this new challenge system would work in concert with gamer’s actual game play. In reality, it’s just the opposite of that. To complete this board, you have to focus on the challenge tasks 100% at the expense of all else. Many of the challenges are esoteric. You don’t naturally go looking to kill 3 Deathclaws unless it’s part of a quest line. Even then, I don’t know of a single quest line in Fallout 76 that requires you to kill 3 Deathclaws as part of the quest.

You might find yourself near Deathclaws as a result of a quest line leading you there, but you don’t need to kill them to progress the quest. The most famous of these main quests is the Enclave quest which leads you to the Abandoned Waste Dump to begin this quest line in a bunker inside of a cave, with the cave infested by Deathclaws. Naturally, Bethesda assumed you might kill those Deathclaws being in close proximity. However, you can sneaky sneak your way through that cave and avoid killing those Deathclaws entirely. You can even flat out run through the cave to the elevator and be on your way. In other words, killing these Deathclaws is not naturally part of your game play activities.

That’s just one example. There are many other such useless challenge examples, such as taking over workshops. You don’t do this as a natural part of any quest line or as a natural part of game play. If you take a workshop, it’s entirely your choice and you must go out of your way to do it. To take a workshop comes with its own game baggage, the least of which is paying for the workshop in caps, the immediate Defend Event and any PVP activities assuming you do it in a public world.

As a final example, if you never play Nuclear Winter, you are now forced to enter that game mode to do whatever is required to pick up the NW challenges. That’s the very definition of unnatural game play.

While there may be a handful of activities that are considered ‘natural gameplay’ such as chewing bubblegum or collecting water, there are just as many that require you to spend time doing things you don’t normally do.

The Legendary Run forces unnatural game play onto the gamer (in addition to the anxiety and obsessive compulsion to complete the board). You must first find out what the challenges are for that day and then explicitly spend time completeing them. I ended up spending most of my play time grinding the challenges and not progressing quest lines. The Legendary Run is not a natural game play system and diverts attention away from playing the actual game.

Atom and Rewards

Another negative about this new system is that we have lost our most basic way to gain Atom. Yes, there are spots on the board that occasionally award 150 Atom, but that’s ultimately way less than the amount of Atom we were getting before this system launched.

Before The Legendary Run, we were getting around 50 Atom for daily challenges and up to 1000 Atom for weekly challenges. At 7 days, that would be 350 + 1000 = 1350 Atom per week. With this new game board, that dropped to around 150 Atom per week. That’s way, way less Atom than we were formerly getting by completing daily and weekly challenges.

Yes, in somewhat of an exchange, we are now getting some exclusive board rewards, but at the expense of not being able to buy much stuff in the Atomic Shop.

Bethesda’s Greed

I get it. I really do. Bethesda wasn’t making enough money off of selling Atom in the digital stores. I guess they thought they were giving too much Atom away. They felt they had to cut down on the amount of Atom being given out by challenges to force more sales of Atom. As I said, I get it. Greed rules.

Unfortunately, because of Bethesda’s greed, they have now saddled everyone with a system that so highly triggers OCD in gamers and wastes so much in-game time that it’s actually a huge loss for the game.

I mean, Bethesda’s systems get worse every single time they release and The Legendary Run is no exception. This is truly one of the worst ideas that Bethesda could have implemented in Fallout 76. Not only is The Legendary Run unforgiving, not only does it completely trigger OCD, not only does it force gamers to pay real money for Atom, not only does divert the gamer away from questing and towards spending time question for Score, the rewards offered are mostly inconsequential and the run itself is completely unfulfilling.

Worse, everyone gets the SAME rewards, so they are not at all unique. I preferred shopping at the Atomic shop directly. Everyone can pick and choose the things they want, so not every gamer has the same things. When it’s all cookie cutter, there’s nothing unique about what’s being given away. Everyone who reaches a specific game board spot gets a Ghillie suit paint, big whoop. So now, everyone who completes that spot has it?

What happens when you complete the board?

Good question and one Bethesda should have solved before rolling this system out. Yet, they didn’t. When you complete the game board and there’s nothing else to be had, the daily challenges still issue Score. Score that has no place to go and nothing to win. Once you complete the game board, there’s no reason to complete the daily or weekly challenges as it’s simply a waste of time and effort.

Instead, Bethesda should have planned for this eventuality and converted the system back to the older Atom system after the board is completed. This would allow gamers to still continue to get SOMETHING after completing the game board. We did just complete the game board. Shouldn’t we get some kind of continued reward for completion? Where’s the incentive to continue? There isn’t any. Crap design in my book.

Repeat?

Will I do it again? No. It’s a waste of time and effort. It diverts away from completing game world quests. Seriously, these daily challenges can sometimes take over 2 hours to complete. That’s 2 hours I could have spent finishing up quests. That’s 2 hours I could have been having fun taking over and building workshops. That’s 2 hours I could have spent hanging out with a few friends. That’s 2 hours I could have spent building out my camp. That’s 2 hours lost to challenges that get me what, yet another Ghillie or Onslaught paint? Heck, that’s 2 hours I could have spent writing a blog article.

Yet, if you really want that Fireplace secret door, you’re going to spend a massive amount of time enduring challenges and fighting OCD compulsions.

Triggering OCD behaviors in video games is not something we should be encouraging in video games. Bethesda shouldn’t be rewarded for creating this system. They should be scolded. Better, these kinds of OCD compulsion inducing systems should be outlawed in video games for the same reason that mystery loot boxes have been outlawed by triggering gambling compulsions.

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Grahm’s Meat Cook Tips

Posted in tips, video game, video gaming by commorancy on August 24, 2020

If you’re reading this, you’re probably playing Fallout 76. This likely also means you’re playing the Meat Week event, until August 26th, 2020 (i.e., two more days left as of this post). This event runs every hour on the hour. Let’s explore.

Playing Drums and Turning Spits

A lot of people seem to think that these activities don’t matter to the event. They do. In fact, they’re very important to the event succeeding.

Both playing the drums and turning the spit do several things at once. The first important thing these activities do is to majorly slow the decrease of the Event’s progress bar by a lot. This gives those performing collection more time to complete their collection activities in larger quantities. The more people who are handling these two activities, the slower the progress bar decreases. While these activities don’t increase the progress bar by themselves, they aid in reducing the decrease. This is why these activities are important.

Further, these activities significantly contribute to the 100% success of the event (i.e., getting the best prizes from the event). If no one is playing the drums or turning the spit and everyone is running around collecting meat and greens, contributing Chally’s feed and cleaning up messes and fires, that’s not enough to get 100% event completion.

All aspects of the Meat Cook event need to be touched, including turning the spit and playing the drums in addition to all of the rest. More than this, these two activities are important to contributing to the 100% success of the event, which affords the best prizes. When I have played through this event without these activities, even when the progress bar reaches the steak, you won’t necessarily see the best prizes without these stations having been manned.

Not only do these give the best chances at the best prizes, these slow the progress bar’s decrease by allowing the collectors to collect more. Without these being manned, the progress bar decreases quite a bit faster.

Also, manning the spit 100% of the time during the event raises the chances of getting the best prizes. Keep that spit manned at all times!

Collecting

It seems that everyone prefers to run around finding and collecting greens and critter parts. It makes sense. It’s the only combat activity at this event (such that it is). I get this aspect. This activity alone can’t carry the event.

Cleaning up and Putting out Fires

This is also an important activity. Cleaning up dirty messes, putting out fires and picking up after Chally is also important. Don’t forget this activity.

Prime Meat Collection

Here’s one aspect that doesn’t seem to be that important to the event. Grahm makes it a big deal, but the best that contributing Prime Meat does is give you Scrip at the end of the event.

Chally’s Feed

You’ll learn how to create Chally’s Feed the first time you play the event. To make Chally’s Feed, you’ll need 2 Boiled Water, 2 Carrots, 3 Razorgrain, 3 Tatoes, 1 Wood. This means you’ll need to plant carrots, razorgrain and tatoes at your camp or in a workshop. You can use Green Thumb to double what you pick and Super Duper to help in duplicating more quantities when you craft. You craft this recipe on a cooking station.

Contributing Chally’s Feed to the hay pile near Chally will help you gain a better reward at the end. I don’t believe Chally’s feed contributes to the overall reward of the event, but it does give you a personal reward for feeding Chally. You can feed Chally once every minute or so as there is a cooldown timer after you deposit.

Depositing

When you’re done collecting, you’ll need to deposit your collected items into the Critter Chunks or Greens area. Don’t forget to do this.

Here’s where people make the mistake of attempting to drop what they collect in one by one. DON’T DO THIS. You need to collect as much as you can, then drop it all in at once in a large amount. The more you collect and deposit together, the larger of a deposit bonus you will see. This can move the progress bar very far, very rapidly.

This is why sometimes the bar moves from chicken leg all the way to steak with one go. It’s because people are collecting massive amounts of everything and depositing it all at once. Don’t collect and drop one by one. Do it in bulk and you’ll get a bigger deposit reward.

[Update 8/25/2020] One thing I forgot to mention about Grahm’s Meat Cook is … if 3 people are on the drums and 3 people are on the spits during the entire 2 minute countdown timer before the event begins, this can sometimes start the event just past the turkey leg icon (middle of the progress bar). This means that it only takes a tiny bit of work to complete the event. I’ve seen events that have completed in around 30 seconds if all 6 people are manning these two activities before the event begins. Apparently, these activities do contribute to the event even during the pre-event 2 minute countdown timer. I can’t tell if this is an oversight by Bethesda or intentional.

Hopefully, this helps you win this event if you’ve been having troubles. Please leave a comment below if you have questions.

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Rant Time: Is Apple protecting our devices better than Google?

Posted in Apple, botch, business, Google, mobile devices, security by commorancy on August 20, 2020

While many people believe that Google’s App store is a far inferior store to Apple’s app store, there is also a misplaced belief that Apple’s store offers more propriety than Google’s Play store. We need to understand more about both ecosystems to better understand the answer to this article’s question. Let’s explore.

App Protection

Certainly, iOS appears to be more resilient to malware on the surface, but is it? Google’s Android also appears way more prone to malware on its surface, but is it? We need to understand more about both of these operating systems and each OS’s overall ecosystems.

Let’s understand better how and why Apple has garnered its appearance of propriety, with “appearance” being the operative word. The first reason that Apple appears to have a better system in place is primarily because iOS doesn’t allow side loading of apps. What is side loading? Side loading is the ability for the user to load apps outside of the Android app store, for example using a USB cable or, more importantly, by downloading an ‘APK‘ file directly to your device from any web site.

While there are means and methods of side loading apps on iOS, it can only be done through Apple’s developer toolkit. You cannot perform this process directly on a phone in the wild. You can’t even do it with iTunes. If you had even wanted to side load an app, you’d have to jump through some fairly complicated hoops to make that happen on iOS. Because of this one thing, this forces you to download ALL apps from the App store.

On Android, you can not only use the App store to download apps, but more importantly, you can side load them. Side loading an app on Android does require some security setting changes, but this change is easily done in about 3 simple steps.

Does side-loading account for all of Google’s malware?

No, it doesn’t. After all, there are many who likely haven’t changed the necessary side-loading parameters and have still been hit by malware. So then, how did the malware get onto their phone? Likely, through the App store directly.

One App Store

Here we come to the second reason why propriety seems to prevail at Apple. With Apple, there is one and only one app store. With Google, there are many, too many. Google not only runs Google Play, but there are many other App stores including:

  • Amazon
  • Samsung Galaxy Apps
  • Aptoid
  • Sony Apps
  • Huawei App Store
  • F-Droid
  • GetJar
  • AppBrain
  • SlideMe
  • 1Mobile
  • Opera Mobile Store
  • Appolicious
  • NexVa
  • Kongregate
  • Appland
  • Itch.io

These stores are all independently owned and operated. This is not a complete Android app store list, but it gives you an example of how many different app stores are available for Android. This is significantly different from Apple’s iOS, which only supports one app store and that store is operated by Apple and Apple alone.

There is no such thing as a third party app store for iOS. It simply doesn’t exist.

Multiple App Stores

Because of Google’s insane choice to allow many app stores to operate simultaneously by different companies, Android users are at the mercy of each of those app store’s propriety. The difficulty is, there’s no rhyme or reason or protection afforded by many of these app stores, let alone Google Play. The secondary problem is that some of these app stores come preloaded as the primary download store on some Android devices.

Clearly, Google branded devices come shipped with Google Play set up. Amazon devices some shipped to use the Amazon app store. However, no-named brand Android devices likely come shipped with one of the above non-Google stores installed. In fact, it could even be set up to a store not in the above list… a store operated by the manufacturer of the device.

Careful with that App

The difficulty with multiple app stores is one of, you guessed it, propriety. What I mean by using this specific word ‘propriety’ is the app store’s ability to police its content for completeness, functionality and, yes, malware. In short, propriety is a company’s ability to protect its download users from malware or dangerous software.

The difficulty is that while Google might have enough money to throw at App vetting to ensure higher quality apps reach its stores, not every store in that list has the money to afford that level of commitment.

What this means for consumers is, when you use a random app store, you take your chances with malware. Multiple stores combined with side loading is nearly the sole reason why Android gets a bad rap for malware. These two things are something Apple doesn’t do in its ecosystem. For Android, it’s worse still. As a consumer of a device, you don’t really know which app store is the default on your device. Most app store manufacturers properly label their apps, but cheaper devices made by random Chinese manufacturers tend to play games with naming and might name their app store app Goggle Play or Gooogle Play or even simply Play Store. There are many ways that manufacturers of cheap phone devices can trick you into thinking that you’re getting your apps from Google’s store… when, in fact, you’re not.

Not only are there too many app stores that can provide questionable apps, Android has been licensed by so many random Chinese manufacturers (okay, so perhaps licensed isn’t necessarily the correct word here… it’s more like, ripped off). Anyway, if you buy into any of these super cheap Chinese phone brands, you have no idea where your apps are really coming from. Although, because it’s Android, you should be able to load Google’s Play store (the real thing) and use those apps instead… with should being the operative word. The device manufacturer could have instituted a block to prevent the use of the Google Play store.

However, replacing a crap store with Google Play typically takes effort on the part of the consumer… that and knowledge that they must take this step. Most consumers are oblivious to this aspect of their phone’s use and naturally assume the included app store is looking out for their phone’s well-being and their own best interest. You should never assume this, not even with Apple devices.

Apple’s App Store

Here we circle back around to Apple. We are beginning to see why Android is in the state that it’s in, but how much better is Apple’s ecosystem of devices?

A lot of people believe that because there’s only one iOS app store and because Apple is the sole operator of that store that this somehow makes Apple devices safer to use.

Security through Obscurity

This is a phrase tossed around in the security communities. What it means is that because a platform is more obscure (more exclusive and closed), that that somehow makes the platform safer to use. Security through obscurity works maybe 10% of the time. Maybe. The other 90% of the time it’s less about obscurity and more about best practices.

For example, you should never load random apps from any store. It doesn’t matter if it’s Android or Apple. If you don’t know anything about the developer, you shouldn’t trust them. Why?

App Store Approval Process

Apple’s app store approves apps for release into the store based on specific usability criteria. For example, that the developer is not including terms-of-service restricted content or features. Restricted content being whatever Apple or Google or that specific app store deems off limits within an application.

The developer must verbally or on a written form affirm that their app does not contain such restricted content when submitting it for approval. Even then, Apple may or may not be able to verify such an affirmation. Basically, developers can lie and say their app doesn’t do something that it does, in fact, do. Apple and/or Google may not be able to see the app doing it until that specific set of code in the app is triggered. In other words, the app may appear totally genuine enough to pass Apple’s and Google’s store submission criteria.

We have seen some apps which have been released into the app store as a result of such affirmations only to be pulled from the store when it is found that the developer lied about what was affirmed and stated to have not been included in the app. Apple doesn’t take kindly to lying about app features, particularly when you can see the app doing things it shouldn’t be doing.

Apple is relatively quick on removals of offending content from its app store. Google Play and other Android stores may not be quite so nimble in this process. In fact, many of the third party stores may not even police their apps at all. Once it’s in the their store, it may be there more-or-less permanently. Apple is much more active and selective with maintaining that their apps are upholding developer agreements. However, there is a limit to even Apple’s propriety.

Epic Games

This is a recent fight between Apple and Epic Games. Epic Games apparently decided to change the way it utilized in-game purchases, which has since culminated in Apple rescinding Epic Games’s license to use Apple’s developer tools. Both Apple and Google have since removed Fortnite from their respective app stores citing violation of the store’s terms.

In-app payments require that developers hand over a portion of their profits to Apple and Google. However, there are ways of circumventing that by including outside payment systems in apps. I don’t know exactly what was included by Fortnite that triggered this specific problem, but apparently Epic wasn’t satisfied by Apple’s greedy in-app payment system and decided to take a stand.

Some may think this is about consumer protection. It’s not. It’s about Apple profiteering protection. Apple cites its terms that apply equally to all developers, but in fact, this specific condition is intended to maintain Apple’s profits. Yes, it does apply to all developers (well, almost all developers… see Amazon below), but it is also a condition that is unfavorable to developers and extremely favorable to Apple’s bottom line.

Ramifications

Apple picked a fight with the wrong company in this “epic” (ahem) fight. Epic Games also happens to be the developer of the Unreal game engine. This is a very widely used game engine throughout the gaming industry. It’s probably one of THE most commonly used engines, particularly on gaming consoles.

Without access to Apple’s iOS developer tools, this engine is effectively dead on iOS (and MacOS) devices. Worse, developers who rely on Unreal to drive their own iOS games may soon find that they have to find another game engine. These Unreal engine users may wake up to find their Unreal-based game removed from Apple’s app store as a side effect of Epic Games’s removal.

If Unreal can’t be supported, then neither can the games that utilize this engine. This Epic Games fight has deep reaching ramifications for not only Apple, but also impacts every iOS device owner and every developer that uses Unreal to drive their game. If that game you love was built around Unreal, you may find that app no longer available in just a few weeks.

If you have the app downloaded onto your device, you can still use it. Bought a new Apple device? Well, don’t expect to cloud download that app again if it’s been removed. You’ll need to rely on iTunes backup and restore instead of Apple’s cloud storage… which relies on downloading the app again from the app store. If it’s been removed, the app will be unavailable. Only backing up and restoring through iTunes will recover apps you presently have on your phone device and which are no longer in Apple’s app store. Didn’t do this? Oh, well. That app is gone.

Apple’s Ramifications

Apple’s once burgeoning gaming section may soon become a ghost town. Maybe this is an exaggeration, but maybe not? Let me explain. The loss of the Unreal engine from the iOS platform is a huge blow to iOS game developers worldwide. It means game developers must either now build their own engine instead (to avoid such engine removals in the future) or rely on another gaming engine that supports iOS (at the peril of it being removed in the future).

Apple is effectively “Cutting off its nose to spite its face”. In other words, Apple has most likely done more long term damage to its own brand and products than it has done in short term damage to Epic Games. Sure, Epic’s loss of Fortnite on iOS is a big loss to Epic, but Apple’s loss of the Unreal engine is a much, much bigger problem for Apple.

If developers can no longer turn to the Unreal engine for use on iOS, then that means fewer games will be developed for iOS… at a time when iOS doesn’t need this gaming speed bump. Fewer games developed means fewer game apps in the app store. Fewer game apps means less revenue for Apple. Basically, Apple’s loss of revenue from cutting off developer access to the Unreal engine will come back to bite Apple hard in the ass.

Apple relies on that in-app revenue for its continued operation of the App store. If that revenue dries up, well so too will iOS devices while also undercutting MacOS notebook sales. It’s not just about Fortnite here. It’s about every iOS game using Unreal that also uses in-app payments legitimately. People won’t buy into a mobile platform when they can no longer find and play their favorite games, particularly if those games are on other platforms. The loss of the Unreal game engine is a big deal to Apple. Considering Apple’s paltry 10-13% mobile device market share as of 2019 (and shrinking), killing off development tools that bring revenue to the platform should be a big deal to Apple, one would think.

However, there are still other game engines that developers can use, such as Unity, BuildBox and AppGameKit. With the loss of the Unreal engine, of which many, many games are built on consoles, that means straight ports of well recognized and popular console games to iOS will become almost impossible. Very few console developers choose Unity and none use BuildBox or AppGameKit.

If Apple was hoping to pull over the bigger console titles onto iOS, they’ve just lost that opportunity by kicking Epic Games off of their platform. No console developer will spend several years porting their Unreal based game to Unity or one of the other game development kits. Without Unreal on iOS, the much larger money making console games will forever be locked out of iOS, simply because of Apple’s stupidity.

Instead of trying to work through a compromise with Epic Games over this issue, they simply pulled the plug. They’ve “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”. They’ve as I said above, “Cut off their nose to spite their face.”

Apple’s Stupidity

This is a huge blow to iOS devices and to consumers alike. Within the next year or so without Epic Games support on iOS, Apple’s gaming community is likely to dry up. Games like Fortnite can no longer come to exist on Apple’s platform because of the loss of the Unreal engine.

There is a bigger danger to using a third party game engines for iOS games. If you, as a developer, settle on a third party game engine and that engine developer has a fight with Apple thus causing their developer licenses to be rescinded, just like Epic Games, you could see your game pulled from the store or, more importantly, obsolete by the next yearly iOS release. This whole Epic fight has some serious ramifications to the gaming industry.

I guarantee that with Epic Games being pulled from the Apple platform and if this is allowed to stand going forward, Apple’s usefulness as a gaming platform will greatly diminish. Not instantly, but definitely over time. It will definitely erode confidence in iOS and MacOS as a gaming platform.

Lest you think I’m being overly dramatic, I suggest you look at this very long Wikipedia page and see the list of games produced using Unreal for consoles, specifically Unreal Engine 4. Every single one of these games had the potential of making their way to iOS or even MacOS. This hope is now lost. The loss of the Unreal engine on Apple’s ecosystem is a loss to the entirety of Apple’s devices.

If Apple had designs of getting into gaming, they summarily lost that hope in one fell swoop. What’s worse is that other game developers may follow suit and voluntarily pull their engines from Apple’s devices as well, leaving only the smallest and crappiest of game development engines available for iOS devices… firmly dragging Apple’s devices back into the stone age for gaming. The best you can hope are the silly finger swipe games that leave you bored in less than 15 minutes.

Sure, Bethesda, Ubisoft and Activision may continue to maintain their proprietary engines on iOS and MacOS for their specific games, but up-and-coming and existing Unreal console developers alike have lost any iOS portability inroads they might have seen on the horizon.

Though, I suppose this situation is a win for Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox consoles… and consoles in general.

Epic Games Ramifications

I would be remiss without discussing the ramifications to Epic Games, also. Certainly, Epic Games has lost a huge platform for both Fortnite and the Unreal engine … well, two with the additional loss of Google’s Play store. Though, I don’t think that Google has yet rescinded Epic’s developer license for Android. As a result, would-be game developers considering which engine to choose will not choose Unreal if they have eyes on iOS, MacOS or possibly Android (depending on how far Google takes this). For game developers who’ve already chosen Unreal, it’s probably too late to undo that choice. Game developers in the planning stages can reconsider which engine to choose.

Epic Games Unreal engine may not fall out of favor with the game development community. It was formerly an engine developers could rely on, more specifically for a wide range of platform support. With the loss of iOS and Android, that leaves a big hole for the Unreal engine, and Epic Games. That’s basically the loss of every mobile platform! Epic Games chose this battle by not wanting to follow Apple’s greedy rules.

Honestly, I don’t blame Epic. Amazon fought with Apple over these very same rules a long while back. Amazon chose to remove all ability to buy anything via their apps. Though, the Amazon app seems to have regained its ability to purchase junk, but I’ve no idea how they’ve worked this with Apple. Epic should cite Amazon app’s ability to purchase products using a third party payment processor. If Amazon can do this, Epic should be able to as well. It seems that even Apple isn’t following its own “all developers are equal” rules.

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games CEO, should call out this incongruity in Apple’s “equal” application its app store terms and conditions. If Epic Games is violating Apple’s purchasing rules, then so is Amazon… and so is any other company who is able to offer purchases using their own third party payment processor.

However, that doesn’t leave Epic Games without problems. Without iOS and Android for not only Fortnite, that leaves a huge revenue stream hole for Epic Games. That’s the downside for Epic. That and the loss of being able to license the Unreal engine to would-be iOS and potentially, depending on how far Google takes this, Android developers.

TikTok and WeChat

Beyond Epic, there are other problems brewing at Apple. The problem with Apple’s app store is that it will accept and publish apps from any developer from any part of the world. Yes, even communist bloc countries like China and Russia.

What does this mean for you as a consumer? It could mean spying, malware and theft of your data. Apps like WeChat and TikTok originated in China. These are apps that were intentionally designed and released by Chinese people who live in China and who have no ties to the U.S. and who don’t care about data privacy, your data or anything else about you. They don’t even have to follow United States laws. They want your money and they’ll do whatever they can to get it. They don’t care if they have to step on your toes (or turn on your camera and microphone at inappropriate times) to do it.

Apple has been entirely remiss in this area of vetting apps. Can we trust apps developed and produced entirely in China or Russia? Yet, Apple has published these apps to the App store and still allows them to remain in the store. But… Epic Games, a U.S. based game developer, can’t keep their app in the store because of silly in-app purchases? It’s perfectly okay to allow apps to spy and steal data for communist bloc countries, but it’s not okay for a U.S. developer to want to use a third-party payment processor. Yeah, Apple’s priorities are entirely effed up.

Apple’s values at this point are entirely suspect. What Apple has done to Epic is retaliation. It has nothing to do with propriety or consumer safety. It has to do with ensuring Apple’s revenue remains intact. If it were about consumer safety, Apple would have not only re-reviewed WeChat and TikTok for appropriateness the moment the President called them out, they would have been removed from the store.

This is where we learn Apple is not about propriety, it’s about making money. Losing the ability to make money from Fortnite (and by extension the Unreal engine) is way bigger of a deal than allowing Tencent and ByteDance to use their respective apps to potentially spy on U.S. consumers.

Here’s where consumers get lost in the mire and murk of it all. Apple’s silly hide-everything-from-everyone ideals allow this sort of behavior from developers to fester. Developers get to hide behind Apple’s veil of secrecy and “wall of friendliness” so that apps like WeChat and TikTok can flourish without consumers being the wiser.

Yet, here we are. Chinese and Russian apps are infiltrating Apple’s store with careless abandon, some of these are taking the Internet by storm, like TikTok. ByteDance rolled the big one with TikTok and now they can roll out spying measures if they wish, assuming they haven’t already.

I look on anything coming out of China as suspect. Most products coming out of China are third rate products that fall apart as soon as you sneeze on them. Many are counterfeit or are a stolen designs from an original product created outside of China. Clearly, China’s ability to innovate is limited. Instead, Chinese engineers must reverse engineer an existing design that originated outside of China only then to build their thing based on that existing design. Copying is said to be the highest form of flattery, but in this case it’s intellectual property theft.

With products that don’t need the Internet, such as a toaster oven or a microwave or a fridge, other than their possibility of falling apart or harming you physically, they can’t steal personal data or spy on you. Like physically harming you with junk appliances from China, downloading apps from an app store can be equally harming to you. They can steal keyboard input, turn on microphones and cameras at inappropriate times, grab your photos… they can even monitor which apps you use and watch your movement around the city via GPS on your phone. There’s so much data they can collect about you, including the contacts in your phone book.

By installing one of these communist bloc apps, there’s literally a mountain of data they can learn about you from your device. Spying? That’s literally an understatement.

Apple has given the communist bloc countries carte blanche access to U.S. owned devices through iOS. Google has done the same with Android. Worse, both Apple and Google are doing absolutely NOTHING about this. Treason by U.S. companies? That’s an understatement. They not only allow these apps to be published, they’re endorsing them… and some of Apple’s and Google’s own developers may even be using these apps personally. Talk about inception.

Spying

Spying was formerly thought to be about covert operatives running around gathering intel with crude and rudimentary devices in black garb. Today, it can be done in broad daylight using every person’s very own cell phone right in their hand.

Need access to listen in on a conversation at a specific GPS point… I can just hear someone say, “Let’s see which of our apps are on devices close to that location.” Yeah, this is a real thing. Simply enable the microphone and possibly even the outward camera and BOOM, you’ve got access to immediate intel relayed instantly back to you in real-time.

Yeah, that’s the danger of social apps like TikTok and WeChat. They can be used to eavesdrop on anyone anywhere. You only need to give access to the camera and microphone and boom, they’ve got access anywhere the app owners wish.

Apple can thwart this possibility potentially, but only if they add some heavy restrictions for when and how these devices may be used. Like, for example, these devices can only be enabled when the app is the front most active app and the screen is on (i.e., the user is accessing the screen). Even then, access to these devices should always require positive confirmation to use them every single time. Without positive confirmation, these devices cannot be enabled remotely.

Otherwise, spying is already here. Nefarious apps can listen in on what you are doing without your knowledge. They may even be able to switch on the camera and stream video data back to whomever. Yeah, bad news here.

Malware

Many people think malware means software that intends to cause malicious harm to your device. It doesn’t only mean that. Malware covers a lot of territory including spyware, malicious software, ransomware and many, many other types.

Any type of software designed to subvert your device for someone else’s use is considered malware. Don’t limit your thoughts to only software that intends to erase or destroy data. It doesn’t end there. It begins there. It ends with any software of malicious intent, including any software that is designed to spy on you, steal your data, copy data from your device or attempt to get you to do things that might compromise not only your phone, but also your personal finances.

However, the days of overt malware are firmly over. Now we’re seeing a new wave of software that makes itself appear legitimate by offering seeming legitimate services, but which have malware belying that happy-go-lucky façade. It’s the software version of social engineering. They trick you in believing you’re getting a real legitimate app, but underneath, these apps are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

This is a new wave of bad news rolled into one app. No one can know the ultimate intentions of an app producer. Hopefully and trustingly, we put our faith into the developers hands to “do the right thing”, to be upstanding and give us an app that does only what it claims.

Unfortunately, we’ve moved into an era that’s now firmly gone beyond this. If you’re getting an app from a U.S. developer, you can pretty much be assured that what the app says that it does, it actually does do… and nothing beyond that. That’s a given because U.S. companies must follow U.S. laws. With apps coming from China or Russia or Cuba or Vietnam or even North Korea (don’t kid yourselves here), you have no idea what their ultimate motives for producing that app are. Worse, they are not required to follow United States laws. Yeah, and that’s the problem in a nutshell.

Apple and Google’s trusting nature

These communist countries not only see the dollar potential wrapped up in these apps, but they also see the spying potential above the dollars. Not only can they divert U.S. dollars outside of the country to fund who-knows-what, they can steal your data and spy on you, too.

Why? Because Apple and Google are far too trusting and let them do it. They believe that developers will be good neighbors and not do untrustworthy things. Apple and Google are both trapped into believing that everyone will follow United States laws. Naïve! Unfortunately, that trusting nature is now being used against both Apple and Google… though, Google more than Apple by these communist countries. Google devices way outpace Apple’s devices in market share. In 2019, Apple’s devices made up just ~13% of the market, where Google’s Android devices made up a whopping 87%! Together, Apple and Google make up close to 100% of the market, with the small remaining percent running other mobile operating systems (yes, there are a few).

For Google’s saturation reason, it’s no wonder why malware authors are targeting Google over Apple. It’s a simple matter of low-hanging fruit. Google’s fractured stores and litany of device problems has led to where we are. Malware authors can have a field day with Google’s devices because they can take advantage of these tinier stores with much reduced release restrictions. It’s easy, then, for small indie developers to release malware onto Android… far too easy. It’s much more difficult to do this same thing on Apple devices. That is, until you realize exactly how developers are outwitting Apple’s far-too-trusting nature.

Once not-so-upstanding developers understand they can disguise malware underneath a legitimate service, they can then push that service out to app stores (with Apple’s blessing) and get people to use it, in similar form to TikTok. In fact, perhaps the app was even released without the malware to have the appearance of propriety (and to pass Apple’s initial scrutiny). Then, after enough momentum has been reached, the app developer can then slowly release updates containing bits of malware at a time. As far as I know, Apple doesn’t put the same level of scrutiny into app updates as it puts into new app listings. Apple’s hands off approach to updates means the author can slip bad features into updates under Apple’s and our noses and none will be the wiser.

Security Considerations

You always have to really think 🤔 about what apps you have installed and why you’ve installed them. More than that, you need to find out who specifically is developing your apps and where they are in the world. You might be surprised to find that the author doesn’t live in the country where you reside. If the author isn’t in your country of residence, they don’t have to follow your country’s laws for, well, anything.

Of course, you never know what an app author intends by writing and releasing an app. Even the money making aspect on the surface may not be the actual agenda. Hopefully, the app’s purported use case (making money) is the only reason the app exists. Unfortunately, subversion seems to be becoming more and more common in apps, particularly those that may not be developed in the same country where you reside.

For example, someone who develops an app in China doesn’t have to follow the laws of any other country than China. Meaning, if the app developer decides to include spyware, no laws will apply to that developer other than Chinese law. Even then, since they weren’t spying on Chinese citizens, they likely won’t be seen as having violated any Chinese laws… even when spying on citizens in other countries. Because the U.S. can’t apply laws to Chinese citizens, any spying that may have taken place is damage already done. The only action that can be taken is banning the app entirely from the U.S., just as Trump had wanted to do with TikTok.

Every mobile device user must remain on their toes. You can’t assume that Apple’s closed store nature will protect you from spying or data theft (all forms of malware). Apple is way too naïve for that. Instead, you must do the research yourself. Determine who develops an app you intend to install. Find out where they live in the world. If they live in a country where you do not, your local laws will not apply if the developer includes illegal activities in your place of residence. This means they can do a lot of nefarious things and never be caught at it, particularly if they live in a country like China.

If you want to safeguard your own data, don’t install apps without knowing where the author lives. No, not Android and not even on iOS devices. No, not even on… and especially not on company owned devices.

In this day and age of anyone and everyone who can design and build an app basdd anywhere in the world, we’ve firmly come to a time where our devices can be used to spy on us and those around us simply because we’ve installed a random app.

It’s now only a matter of time before government policies catch up with this technology trend and new laws begin emerging which intend to hold device owners responsible for treason when an app spies on and funnels data outside of your country of residence.

In answer to the article’s primary question. No, neither Google nor Apple is better at protecting our devices from malware. However, while the overt malware may be less common on Apple devices, Apple’s and Google’s trusting nature is now firmly subverting our devices for foreign spying activities… particularly when these apps are designed to intentionally use the camera and microphone.

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