Hi folks! Right now (end of November, 2020) we are fortunate to have some very good mid and long-term news on several fronts at once about our globally stressful and depressing pandemic. The fact that manufacturers all around the world are seeing success with their vaccine trials lifts a lot of our fears about never-ending troubles, and is also broadly reassuring that no one corporate entity will be able to extort, or call all the shots (some are already volunteering to offer their solutions at cost, for the duration of the pandemic).

All of that being said, the immediate picture in a lot of places, including my own province of Ontario, is frightening. Numbers which looked stable and under control are now rising, as people grow tired of the caution and extra bother.

Mind you, it is also very important to scale things, and this pandemic is teaching us a lot about thresholds of awareness and action. Australia reacted VERY strongly to a comparatively sparse epidemic, and though their measures went far beyond a lot of other countries (including police checkpoints to keep irresponsible people from travelling far from home), they seem to have stopped the spread more effectively than almost any other large western freedom prioritizing nation.  Impressive stuff.

Most other places have been hesitant to be stern with their citizens, no one wants to offend a potential voter – though businesses have been stuck chasing many expensive (though also understandable) changes in government policy, hoping to still be in business when the dust finally settles, perhaps a year or so from now (if we’re lucky and work together).

The production and distribution of vaccines is still going to take awhile yet – so we are still going to need to be actively careful for the time being, to make sure we don’t overrun our medical services completely in the meantime. And please folks – let’s not ever indulge in gratitude-fatigue on that front. These are people who were already humanitarians by training and inclination – who are now fighting our war for us, and they are doing it with incredible courage and self-sacrifice.

Some mask scoffers are just irresponsible fools – the kind who laugh at all sorts of hazards, and don’t believe in any responsibility which is not forced upon them by law. But some are skeptics who point out how ineffective a lot of masks are, and how bad a seal they make. For those people – and also for those who have been careful all along, I have a few ideas.

You will need:

1) A will to live, a sense of caring for community, and a desire to help people who are weaker and more vulnerable.
2) A belief in basic tested and proven science. (Yes there are bugs so small we can’t see them, which can kill us and people we care about).
3) A few very simple household tools.
4) Internet and a mailbox (for the basics which can then be modified/optimized).

The most obvious problem with masks from the start has always been the seal – especially around that difficult sharp plane-change on either side of the nose, where it meets the upper cheek. The little metal strips built into most masks – reusable and disposable both, simply aren’t stiff enough to hold their shape for hours and hours. Foggy glasses prove it.

For this I have found nothing better than classic copper staples (probably residing right now in your attic or lockup, holding an old cardboard box together). The metal is stiff enough but still malleable. A broad bladed set of pliers will easily pull and then press out the curves, forming a nice flat piece, use the curve of a set of (big) needle-nose pliers, to bend it over, and you’ll get a nice top-curve suiting your own personal nose profile (check the fit and re-do as required to get it just right).

If you use blunt-nosed ‘safety scissors’ you can pinch and cut through the sewn seam which holds the weaker metal inside your reusable mask, without risking a deeper cut that damages the outer seal, and then work this new piece in, bit by bit, caterpillar style (bunching and relaxing). But while this hack does anchor your mask firmly on your nose and keep your glasses from fogging, talking is still rather difficult. Chin movement makes the mask shift around too much – and yet we are not supposed to touch!

So we tried ordering these cheap plastic muzzle pieces (and also replaceable air-filters) and using those, we seem to have found a just-right mix. The muzzle can go into the same pouch as the filter, that way you have cloth, not plastic against your face – but that muzzle box not only gives you a freer chamber for breathing and a better seal (all airflow directed through the filter), it also frees up your mouth to talk, with almost zero mask movement. Best seal yet by far, as measured by rate of billow on exhale, and suckage on the inhale! Might even allow for lipstick (I’m out, so could not test this).

This whole mask thing feels like a higher stakes version of a weird story that went around a few years ago. Someone did a survey which suggested that dental floss is of no proven statistical benefit. Of course hygienists around the world were horrified by this irresponsible advice, but to me it was clearly indicative of something else – most people go through the motions with minimal effort about things which they don’t consider important, or know how to do well.

Ask a hygienist – use expanding floss (completely different friction profile) and be thorough about it, every day! Because there is no other simple way you can clean those surfaces of your teeth which face each other – I mean none. Brush bristles are much too big, and water-pressure devices will not even remove a soft sugar coating! Of course if you can’t be bothered to work over each of your teeth in turn, top to bottom, and only ever use the stuff to extract embarrassing bits of broccoli, you will see very little of its potential benefit. But that is a result proportional to awareness and effort, rather than a true measure of the value of that simple and very useful survival enhancement technology!

Finally – though the overt calls seem more muted lately, since the numbers show foolish behaviour remains widespread, a word about “Rights”. We do not have the right to endanger other people simply because we are angry and selfish. People who insist this is their right are missing the central point. Rights are reciprocal. You think you have the right to hurt others, then you are INSISTING that others have a right to hurt you, just by being ignorant and stubborn about it. Pure silliness, right from the get-go. Traffic laws exist because we recognize we actually have an active duty to cooperate, in order to make things work. This is part of what we pay for our lifestyle – and there is no other way we could live like this.

Anyhow, this idea of a right to make other people pay because we’re upset is not a defensible position for anyone over the age of five. No wait, that’s not fair, it’s actually worse than that – after all, a whole lot of five year olds will very happily wear a mask all day long – just so long as there is a super hero, princess or dinosaur involved.

I am always curious about what you are thinking

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