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This Week's Featured Recording: for Friday, July 23 recorded nearly a month ago during an epic thunderstorm while practicing for a sub gig north of town on the 68-rank Holtkamp at Sewickly Presbyterian, this charming little thing was written by a contemporary and friend of Mozart who spent most of his wandering life in Italy. From the 26 operas he wrote until the time he cheesed off Mozart by not coming through on a promised opera commission to the time a doctor burned off his nose trying to treat an unknown illness (Mozart was very sympathetic), this man had a very interesting life! I edited out the unbelievably long thunderoll between sections.

Sonata in C
Josef Myslivecek (1737-81)

Game of percentages   July 23, 2021

It appears that very few people understand percentages. Some days it seems like nobody does, which is a bit ironic. I'll explain.

The big news out of the White House this morning seems to be that a few staff members have gotten Covid. Vaccinated staff members. Now the White House is scrambling to figure out how to deal with it after first pretending it didn't happen and now trying to tell people it did happen but it doesn't matter--you know, how your four-year old deals with getting caught doing something he's not supposed to. This is straight out of the handbook for the behavior of Children and Politicians.

But luckily for us, The Media is there to make sure we all think this is a very huge deal, and are justly terrified about it. Because that means all of that freedom that the administration told us was ours if we only got vaccinated WAS ALL A BIG LIE! ohgodwe'reallgonnadie.

I mean, if somebody who got vaccinated also got the disease, it must mean the vaccination doesn't work! Because, you know, it's supposed to protect everybody. All the time. No backsies.

It's strange, but I think I remember somebody telling us a long time ago that the vaccine was 95 percent effective, which would mean (fire up your calculators) that one person in twenty would still get sick. Even with the vaccine. Remember that part, kids?

No, of course we don't. This is one of those things we just aren't that good at.

I have a friend who likes to beat up on meteorologists. Now these are folks who live by hedging their bets. Everything with them is about 40 percent, or 80 percent, or some sort of maybe-it-will, maybe-it-won't kind of thing. But their clients don't like that idea, so they just round--badly. Usually if a weatherperson says there is a 50 percent chance of rain, my friend will say, "It's gonna rain today." Even though a fifty percent chance is right down the middle of the fairway. There is just as much chance of no rain as there is of rain. That's not much of a commitment on the weatherperson's part. But, my friend having pronounced her own judgement, if it doesn't rain, then the meteorologist is WRONG! (grumble grumble those people never get anything right grumble grumble).

Even an 80 percent chance of rain means that one in five times it won't rain. It's kind of annoying planning your picnic around such great mysteries, but hey, that is how they roll. It's kind of complicated so don't pin us down. The only time I really got sore at a weather service was when I got rained on during a run one morning and they had said there was a zero percent chance of rain. I figure that one didn't pan out.

Ninety-five percent is freakishly effective for a vaccine. It is far better than the flu shot usually is. But of course, one year I got the flu, and when I got back to a class I was teaching, the first thing one of my students said was "you should get a flu shot!" I tried not to seem too annoyed. "I did" I replied. "Remember, shots are only about 60 percent effective." That also assumes that you caught one of the same strains that were in the shot; that a year earlier the makers of the shot correctly guessed which strains would wind up being dominant that year, and that your shot hadn't started to wear off. I got the flu at the end of March after getting vaccinated in November. Imagine if I'd gotten the shot back in August when Everybody is shrieking at you to hurry up and get it six months before flu season (nobody seems to know how long these shots are effective, but there are people in the medical community who say it may be around six months, and others who think it could be as short as three).

The point being that some of us who got our shots are still going to get sick, though it is not likely it will be severe. It would be helpful to everyone if the hesitant half of the population decided to get theirs, too, so that this year doesn't wind up being deadlier than last and we all have to make the same sacrifices we've been making since this whole mess started. There is a simple answer to this crisis now, but it will only last until the virus mutates into something the vaccine cannot protect against. Then we will have to start over again. In the meantime, life is still uncertain. You have to play the percentages if you want to decide whether to do something. There is no absolute guarantee I can make you that you won't drop dead while visiting pianonoise. But I'd say the odds are pretty low.

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