Items filtered by date: Sunday, 28 July 2019

Weird but awesome news! I am totally onboard with this idea! The petition, which was started by the nonprofit Halloween & Costume Association, has received more than ninety five thousand signatures as of Sunday afternoon (the 28th.) Technically, the petition is addressed to President Trump but since it’s not a federal holiday, the President can’t officially change the date. We the people of the United States could simply decide to change the date and celebrate on the last Saturday of October, but that would require Herculean amounts of communication to retail stores, schools and people all over the country. Which means, while I am one hundred percent onboard with changing the date - it might be easier said then done.

Regardless, it kind of seems like common sense to me. Permanently moving Halloween to a Saturday would mean that it would be easier and probably safer for kids to celebrate. It would certainly be much easier for parents to organize a weekend Halloween celebration instead of taking them out on a school night on Tuesday evening or whenever the 31st happens to fall on that particular year. 

The fine folks over at Autoinsurance.org analyzed 24 years of fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians and children occurring after 4pm when Halloween falls on a weekend vs a weeknight. Their recent study, which can be found here, clearly finds that weekdays are more dangers for trick or treaters than weekends. Their study supports moving Halloween to the last Saturday in October, too!

But maybe that’s just us! The petition in full reads: 

“It's time for a Safer, Longer, Stress-Free Celebration! Let's move Halloween to the last Saturday of October!

  • 3,800 Halloween-related injuries each year. Talk to your kids about safety before they head out!
  • 82% of parents don’t use high visibility aids on their costume, be sure to incorporate reflective tape, glow sticks, finger lights or light up accessories
  • 63% of children don’t carry a flashlight while they are trick-or-treating. Grab a clip-on light if they don’t want to carry one! Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween. Discuss safety, pre-plan a route, stay on sidewalks and use crosswalks
  • 65% of parents don’t discuss Halloween safety with their children. Talk with your kids and offer ways to ensure a fun and safe experience
  • 70%of parents don’t accompany their children trick-or-treating. You’re never too old to trick-or-treat! Grab a costume and take advantage of some good ol' fashioned family bonding!
  • 51% Of Millennials say Halloween is their favorite holiday, why cram it into 2 rushed evening weekday hours when it deserves a full day!?!”
Published in U.S.

A 6th case of West Nile virus has been confirmed in Clark County, Nevada. The Southern Nevada Health District has declared an “outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases” following new cases of the virus being reported.

This summer has been a wetter season in the Southwest, most likely causing an uptick in mosquito activity.

States throughout the country have been reporting cases of West Nile virus as well, with the highest occurring in Arizona (42 cases as of 7/23/19 per CDC).

 

wnv-activity-07092019.jpg

 

West Nile Virus Disease Cases* and Presumptive Viremic Blood Donors by State – United States, 2019 (as of July 23, 2019)

State

Neuroinvasive

Disease Cases†

Non–neuroinvasive

Disease Cases

Total

cases

Deaths

Presumptive viremic

blood donors‡

Arizona

42

15

57

1

16

Arkansas

1

0

1

1

0

California

2

0

2

1

1

Colorado

0

1

1

0

0

Iowa

0

2

2

0

0

Kentucky

1

0

1

0

0

Maryland

0

1

1

0

0

Missouri

1

0

1

0

0

Nebraska

1

0

1

1

0

Nevada

1

0

1

0

0

New Jersey

1

0

1

0

0

North Dakota

1

0

1

0

0

Oklahoma

1

2

3

0

0

South Dakota

0

1

1

0

0

Virginia

0

1

1

0

0

Wyoming

1

0

1

0

0

Totals

53

23

76

4

17

*INCLUDES CONFIRMED AND PROBABLE CASES.
†INCLUDES CASES REPORTED AS MENINGITIS, ENCEPHALITIS, OR ACUTE FLACCID PARALYSIS.
‡PRESUMPTIVE VIREMIC BLOOD DONORS (PVDS) ARE PEOPLE WHO HAD NO SYMPTOMS AT THE TIME OF DONATING BLOOD THROUGH A BLOOD COLLECTION AGENCY, BUT WHOSE BLOOD TESTED POSITIVE WHEN SCREENED FOR THE PRESENCE OF WEST NILE VIRUS. SOME PVDS DEVELOP SYMPTOMS AFTER DONATION.
PLEASE REFER TO STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT WEB SITES FOR FURTHER DETAILS REGARDING STATE CASE TOTALS.

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus was originally discovered in the 1930’s in the West Nile district of Uganda.  It is believed to have reached the United States in the late 1990’s.

It’s in the family of Flaviviridae in which the disease is vector transmitted, such as by ticks, or mosquitoes, and can infect mammals as hosts. West Nile is in the same family as Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, and Japanese Encephalitis.

Culex genus/species of mosquitoes are the usual culprit.  They feed from evening to morning, hence are more active during those times.

How is West Nile transmitted?

A mosquito contracts the disease while feeding on an infected bird and then can transmit it to humans.

 

WNV-transmission-cycle.jpg

 

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus infections?

80% of those infected do not exhibit symptoms.  Some however, may elicit the following if they have mild illness:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint  pains
  • Weakness
  • Rash

Rarely (1 in 150 people) may become seriously ill with neuroinvasive symptoms.  These include:

  • Headache
  • Neck pain/Stiff neck
  • High fever
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Since mosquitoes are the primary vector, avoiding them is paramount to limiting infection.  We recommend the following:

Clean up areas of standing water around the house such as kiddie pools, puddles, buckets as they provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Wear light long sleeve clothing, pants tucked into socks/shoes when outside.

Use DEET or insect repellant that can also be sprayed onto clothes when planning to be outdoors.

Be aware that many mosquitoes are active from dusk till dawn.

If bitten by a mosquito, contact your local medical provider if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health

As most of you know, the next version of macOS is named Catalina, or macOS 10.15. But I wonder how long Apple is going to use the traditional number ten versioning before goes to 11, or somewhere.

No matter. Regardless of the naming scheme, Apple has packed the usual bunch of new features. I suppose the most meaningful for the long-term is Catalyst, which allows for a new range of apps that can run on both iPad and Mac. I suppose it’s possible that this is the first step towards switching Macs to Apple’s brand of A-series ARM processors. It also helps developers build apps for both platforms with, supposedly, some tweaking here and there.

One key goal is to help iOS developers create Mac versions without a lot of time and expense.

Another important change — to some it’ll be the most important— is splitting iTunes into Music, Podcasts and TV apps. Your content libraries for all three remain intact, and the online iTunes store will still be there. If you felt that iTunes had become too bloated, too confusing, the new scheme might be welcome. It basically means that you are running apps that originated on the iPad on your Mac. You get a consistent look and feel on both platforms, minus the interface differences.

Honestly, I don’t really care. I have been using iTunes since the days that Apple acquired SoundJam from Casady & Greene.

So where am I gong with this? So I usually install a macOS beta by this point, but not this time, and it’s frustrating.

Hardware compatibility isn’t the issue, as most any Mac released in the last seven years is compatible, along with the 2013 Mac Pro. That leaves my 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro in the dust, but it hasn’t been supported for a while. It still works quite well, so I’m not about to send it out to pasture. Even that rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro, which may or may not arrive this  fall at the earliest, won’t be on my shopping list, largely because of its estimated $3,000 price tag.

But my iMac is fully compatible with Catalina.

My problem is Apple’s decision to finally drop 32-bit support, meaning that many older apps simply won’t launch in Catalina. Even an app that is 64-bit, but maybe has a 32-bit help feature, won’t launch. Apple has been heralding the arrival of this change by putting up messages that 32-bit apps were not “optimized” for a Mac when such an app was opened for the first time.

For the most part, it’ll probably make little difference for most Mac users. If an app is still being developed, a Catalina-savvy version will probably be released, and maybe it’s already there. But there are apps that won’t be updated, perhaps because the developer is no longer in business or working on the product.

So here’s my ongoing road towards 64-bit, and I still have a couple of problems.

It means I finally have to dispense with Adobe Creative Suite 5.5.

I have avoided subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud partly because I don’t want to add another monthly bill, and I am no fan of the “pay forever” marketing scheme. For individuals it’s $9.99 for a Photography package that includes Lightroom and Photoshop. Any other single app is $20.99 per month; the full app suite is $52.99 per month.

Now Creative Suite 5.5 is not just 32-bit, but requires a now-obsolete version of Java to launch. I’m trying out Affinity Photo and Pixelmator to see if either, or both, can offer the features I need from Photoshop. So far it’s promising.

But I’ve yet to resolve the audio question. As part of my production workflow for The Paracast, I use The Levelator, from The Conversations Network. As the title implies, it fixes level differences in an audio file, a sort of normalize on steroids. It is designed for drag and drop use.

Our network, GCN, requires 12 separate files for a single episode. But our premium ad-free version for The Paracast+, is combined into a single file courtesy of a scripting app, Stitch, which is supplied as part of the Monbots package offered by Felt Tip, publishers of Sound Studio.

These apps are 32-bit. As far a upgrading to Catalina is concerned, they are the deal breakers.

Now there are other ways, free or low-cost, to combine files in a single batch operation. Felt Tip is also working on a solution, but The Levelator is another story.

Audio apps do have a normalize function, which provides a consistent gain to an audio file. But that feature is nowhere near as powerful as The Levelator. It’s near-perfect, broadcast quality, though it doesn’t do anything to help with background noise.

There are automatic gain control (AGC) plugins that promise to achieve a result similar to The Levelator. But the most promising ones aren’t free. Some podcasters recommend Auphonic, an online audio processing service that optimizes levels, noise and other settings. Auphonic will process up to two hours of files per month free. For more hours, prices range from $11 per month for nine hours to $89 for 100 hours.

As a test, I took a particularly noisy episode of our premium podcast, After The Paracast, and gave it the Auphonic treatment. The process involves uploading to their servers, and when it’s ready, you download the “fixed” version,

I tried two levels of noise reduction, the default(“Auto”), and “High.” The end results were no different from what I could achieve myself with The Levelator and the noise reduction or Denoising feature in another audio editing app, Amadeus Pro. The process involves sampling the noise content (say during a pause between sentences) and basing its fixer-upper algorithm on it.

There is hope for users of The Levelator, however. I was recently informed by someone from The Conversations Network that a true 64-bit person may be possible, and I’m awaiting an update. Obviously lots of people need this app, and I wouldn’t mind paying a small sum to help them keep it going.

Until or unless my audio processing dilemma is resolved, Catalina remains on the back burner.

Update: A support person from Auphonic wrote that the corrected audio file was what they expected considering the issues. But it hardly makes sense to pay for a service that I can largely duplicate myself — well, if The Levelator is updated, or I find an affordable plugin to replace it.

In the scheme of things, not using a new macOS version is not so big a deal. The new features are nice — and I suppose I’ll get used to having to launch three apps to duplicate the functions of iTunes, since I do it now on my iPhone. Catalina will no doubt be faster and more reliable, since that’s been the direction Apple has taken in recent years with mixed results.

But if I never upgrade to Catalina, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST) and is the former host of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which was on the network for ten years. The Paracast is still nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2019. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

Published in Technology