Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Thoughts and Reflections on – Estimating the Number of Cases – Part 1 of a series

Admittedly, there are multiple problems with all of the numbers being reported.

1: The China cases appear in the early stages to have been underreported, partly at first because no one knew what they were seeing, pre Dec 31, 2019. Then the eight doctors in Wuhan (I call them the Wuhan 8) put out a post on social media there was a problem. One of those 8 died a few weeks after the lock downs started in Wuhan (Jan 23, 2020 or so). Since then there have been all kinds of indication that things are really bad in China. In recent weeks, there have been multiple indications that things are still a problem such as:


A: Economic indicators still show output like the Chinese New Year’s Holiday is still going on but the party is telling everyone that production has returned to normal.

B: Various videos showing body bags every few doors on main streets.

C: Villages blocking roads so no one can enter them. (The family I live with had the grandparents talking about traveling to Fuzhou to attend a funeral but can’t go because the area closed itself off a few days later.

D: Tencent, a Chinese media company, accidently posted on the internet the number of cases being around 157K with a little over 25,000 deaths. The post was only up for a few minutes before it was changed. The thinking is that someone accidently posted the real numbers, thinking those numbers were the party approved numbers.

E: Someone noted that for several days the number of reported deaths was almost exactly 2.1%, like plus or minus one from what 2.1% of the total number of cases would be. The thinking is that someone was being ordered as to what to report for number of cases and told to make the reported deaths as 2.1%.

F: Satellite photos seems to show large amounts of organic material in Wuhan center, even though all factories have been closed for weeks. It is believed this is from crematoriums running around the clock to dispose of the dead.

G: A report that out of the 15 crematoriums in Wuhan that three broke down from ‘overuse’. It is the first time I ever heard of any crematorium breaking from too much use.


1: Until recently the United States only had a limited number of test kits. The CDC released a set of testing procedures, which I downloaded and read, but basically unless a person traveled to the infected area or had known contact with someone in the infected area, they did not test. COVID-19 is contagious even though a person may not show any symptoms for a few days. The R0 ( R naught, how many people will an infected person pass the illness to) appears to be somewhere between 2.4 and 4. As a comparison, the typical flu has a R0 of 1.2; every five people with the flu will pass it is 6 people.

2: A few of the people that have tested positive for COVID-19 had no known contact with someone who traveled to an infected area or themselves had traveled to an infected area. This also has happened in Germany. Basically, we are now getting to the point where some people who get COVID-19 we do not have any idea who they got it from, so we can’t test people to find out.

3: There are problems with the test kits. There was an earlier batch that didn’t work but that was fixed this week, but the current tests for COVID-19 still have a problem that a lot of the time they will return a ‘false negative’; meaning a person who is infected may test negative for the virus. To get around this problem a person that has or may have the virus has to be tested multiple times to make sure they are not infected.

4: Even if the reported numbers and deaths out of the China area are accurate, which indications are they are not,  there is still a disaster in a number of weeks. even starting from a low number, the results increase dramatically. Originally, most of the reports seemed to think the number of cases would double every 6 or 7 days. more recent reports seem to indicate that the number of cases may be doubling in 2.4 days.

For the estimate I did last week for the United States I used the reported number of 35 cases and a doubling every seven days, with 15% expected needing hospitalization. Using those assumptions I came up with that around week 25 all of the hospital beds in the US would be filled with COVID-19 patients.

The measure if I am right or not is to see if the number of cases double every seven days; so today we have 84 cases.

If my estimates are right, then next week at this time the number of cases should be over 160, then 320, 640, etc.

If the rate of increase in the number of cases starts to ‘flatten out’; i.e. no more doubling, then I am wrong and would need to redo my estimates.

At the moment, with no reliable test kit, no treatment, no vaccine and not even being able to tell who has been exposed to the virus, I expect the doubling of cases to go on.

It is also troubling that places like Africa have reported just about no cases, even though Wuhan had direct flights every day carrying about 1,500 people to Ethiopia. The fear is that with all of the cases elsewhere, there must be a number of cases in Africa and are spreading to other areas, but no one knows because they have no test kits.

Hopefully, something will change and things will not turn out as bad as the projections show they might.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr. – March 01, 2020

Building an AGI/SGI (Artificial General Intelligence / Super General Intelligence) – Pre Draft 001

After looking over some of the material over the last few weeks, I believe that a major step in the software part of the problem of building an AGI has been done and the hardware needed to run an AGI needs to be built.

I termed this a ‘pre draft’ since this is a very general outline of what is being planned.

I define an AGI as a machine that would have the abilities of a typical person and test around 100 IQ. It would be able to pass the Turning test with no problems and do anything else that a typical person could do who was limited to interacting with the real world through a computer interface or connections.

From what I can tell, the typical person has about 1,000 billion neurons with multiple connections between each and the hardware for an AGI project should target the same. The simple form is one neuron would be like a CPU with its own memory cache.

I see such a project where the hardware and software would be improved in steps, where as the hardware expanded, the software would perform better, which would then be improved with more or faster hardware; etc; until at some point the combined hardware and software would be working as an AGI. I also envision that by improvements in hardware and software beyond an AGI is that eventually the system would improve to the point that it would become a SGI (Super General Intelligence) ; a machine that would have the capability of multiple people all in one system.

My ‘general feeling’ is that the first step for hardware could be done for about $60 million to $70 million USD with about 10% of that amount needed each year for operational issues; such as lease space for the equipment, electricity and cooling, system administrators, repairs, etc. I expect the costs of such a system to decline at least 10% per year minimum as the hardware improves, becomes faster, takes less space and electricity to run and better programming  makes less hardware needed.

The end result of this expenditure of money would be a system that would be an AGI and having the same abilities as one person with an IQ of 100.

I expect such a project to have at least three major iterations or changes as the project is going along. The end result of the capabilities of one person for a cost of $60 million to $70 million is not very cost effective but once one AGI was made, subsequent ones could be made at lower and lower costs over time until they were very cost efficient and give people capabilities that had never existed before in computing intelligence.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr. – Sunday, February 23, 2020 11:50am

Upgrade Server/Web Site to CENTOS 7

Server upgrade. Going from Virtual Private Server (VPS) GEN3 with CENTOS 6 to GEN4 with CENTOS 7.

For a while I had been trying to figure out how to do an upgrade from a godaddy GEN3 to GEN4 VPS (Virtual Private Server). I had been trying to use the upgrade tool within WHS on the server to move accounts. For whatever reason, I could never get it to move properly BUT today I found that if I went to the CPanel for the website and did a Backup on the old server of all the files, and then used this to do a restore from the file under WHS, that the account and everything else was there just as it was on the old server. The last part seemed to be to just change the IP address on the A record to the new sever and everything appears to be find.

The web site and domain name seems to be working fine. The other domain name with any content, seems to be going to the old VPS so somewhere there I must need to change the A record on the DNS for that domain name.

I think I got things working and we will see on the 15th when I do not renew on the GEN3 server if everything keeps working, it was somewhat confusing as to how to make the change but things seem ok and working.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Thanksgiving Day November 28 2019 – Talking about politics at the holiday dinner (or not)

Today is Thanksgiving Day 2019.

I do miss past years, especially Thanksgiving Day 2011. On that day eight years ago, was one of the best Thanksgivings I was ever at; it was at my friend Roger’s new house and it just happened to be the one and only holiday that he had in that house since he passed away Nov 2012 before Thanksgiving that year.

However, as I listen to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program I find it alarming that the first segment’s discussion is if people are going to talk about politics or not for the holiday! Citizens of the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth are now unable or unwilling to talk about politics. I view this as a sign of decline since allegedly people who are adults are unable, unwilling or prohibited from talking about politics because most of the adult population are emotionally unable to handle such discussions or simply do not want to talk about such things because, apparently, it distributes their view of the reality.

The most recent caller, as I type this, suggested ‘just forget politics and enjoy the  holiday’; I will remember that as I spend most of this holiday working as much as possible to finish a project that is late and remember that most of the people simply coasting along in life seem to think that everything is fine, which it is not.

In any case, after a pause in writing this, I just returned from a friends house, visiting before dinner with other friends, and we talked about politics for over an hour!

As always,

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr.

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28 ,2019

Roger Anderson and Musicquest Comic Book Store in memoriam (November 09, 2012)

            Today, November 09, 2019, it will be seven years since I got word that Roger Anderson had passed away at 1:47pm and what I expect will be a sad day for everyone that knew Roger.

            I remember I got the call from a friend of the family, Ing, and was told “Roger died”. It was a Friday. I was at a customer site at that moment and not sure what was going on. The person delivering the message was not a native English speaker, so I was hoping that I had misheard her or somehow it was a miss translation. (Of course, how much off could two simple words be?) So I rushed around my customer site telling the controller and human resources person that ‘everything was fine, but I had to go immediately to Shrewsbury to check on something.’ On the way their I called one of my classmates, who was an attorney in Massachusetts at the time, and put him on standby in case a lawyer would be needed.

            When I got to his house at about 2:30pm, it turned out, Roger really had died. Roger did not get up for the day, like he normally would, even in the worst of neck or back pain to at least have a coffee and talk with his family in the morning like he normally would. So they went to check on him around 11am, found they couldn’t get him up, and ‘he was gone’. We had always feared that in Roger’s declining health days that he was going to end up in a nursing home that would take up all of his assets but never, ever expected that when the end came, he would just simply ‘be gone’ and nothing possible to be done. The day before Roger seemed fine. While he was recovering from something like the flu, he was generally ok. I even spent time helping to get his van running with the expectation that Roger would go to the store for several hours and be open for customers getting their comics from the weekly shipment. I remember leaving Roger’s house at 10:15pm the evening prior to Roger passing away, and outside of his family, I was the last person to see Roger.

            The whole problem with the van was somewhat amusing. Roger, for whatever reason, had a habit of letting the gas run down in any vehicle he was driving. Normally, this was not a problem but in the one he had at the time, a GMC suburban I think, if you let the gas run down to about 1/8 of a tank or less, and the weather got cold, I think frost would form on the gas filter in the tank, and then you would have trouble starting the van. The same thing happened about a year earlier where I helped Roger with the exact same problem, until I realized what was probably wrong and fixed it (get more gas, then jump the battery and then the van was fine). The problem is that by the time I figured out what was wrong we would have spent so much time trying to start the van that the battery would need to be jumped, after a few more gallons were put into the gas tank. So on this evening, just like months prior, after trying to start the van for a while, with it seeming it was going to start, I ran the battery down. Then I realized what the problem was, had to make a few trips to the gas station to put in a few gallons, jump the van battery from my car, and then finally could get the van started, recharge its battery. Since I had to run the van for a while, I took it over to a car wash and cleaned it up a little. That all took about 90 minutes or so, but at least then the van was ok for the next day.

It is hard to believe that so much time has passed and how things have changed. While everyone had some hope that maybe Roger’s comic book store, Musicquest, would somehow be able to stay open, that was not be to and now the space is currently vacant. I have thought about maybe trying to reopen the store, once I was in retirement, but realize that without Roger there can be no Musicquest and is something that I mentioned about the whole comic book store thing. As long as the owner is still around, it is possible for a store to keep going. Even if all of the inventory is gone, the owner can just setup with a stack of comics, a table, chair and phone and ‘he is in business and the store still alive’; but if the owner is not around anymore, then even with a mountain of inventory is it not possible for the store to keep going. While there maybe some kind of business there, it will not be the old store plus after a period of time many of the old customers will have gone elsewhere.

            I have been fortunate in that I have been able to stay in contact with a few of Roger’s friends and customers, even after all of these years, and hope to continue to do so in the future.

            In the first few years after Roger was gone, I had keys to the store space and would go there for a few minutes on November 09 every year, get some Chinese food from the restaurant next door and read some of the latest issue of Knights of The Diner Table comic. (I was even able to do this one last time after the building was sold in 2014 since nothing was being done with the space with the new owners.) In recent years, I will stop over and take a few pictures of the building front, even if it is just from the window of my car, like I did one year since it was night out and raining and wanted to get ‘my memorial’ of this day.

            While I knew back then, that things eventually change, somehow I always felt that ‘the fun would never end’ and that somehow Roger would always be around. Now it is the later, am not really sure what to expect in the future, do miss how things use to be and know that it is all an era gone by forever. Once in a while when I am at the laundry mat or Chinese food take out place, that are still open next to what was Roger’s store, I run into someone that remembers the store and maybe even Roger, so at least I know that people still remember Roger and the store.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr. – November 09, 2019

Link to old web site for

Link to uploaded video of Roger on the Worcester Community Cable channel in 1984. Roger Anderson appearing on Greater Media Cable in Worcester, MA WCCTV-13 show Entertainment Showcase in 1984. This digital copy is from a VHS tape that was found as part of the Roger Anderson estate and saved by his friend Kraig.

Comic Book Stores (and Game Stores) – The Problems of Inventory Buildup and Low Goss Margins – Part 5 of a Series

Recently, I have noticed that comic book stores seem to have somewhat lower gross margins than they use to have in the past. In the past, the typical gross margin for items was on the order of 50% but recently I have seen some items being sold with margins as low as 15%. While 15% may ‘sound’ ok to anyone not running a store, it becomes almost impossible to keep a retail store open on margins that low.

While there was always a problem of inventory build up for all stores when the owner made a mistake on what they thought would sell and orders things that no one wanted, the low gross margins adds to this problem. As an example; in a podcast episode of ‘My Comic Shop History’ they recount how they thought the Ape series of comics would be a good seller so the store orders 150 copies. As it turned out, no one wanted it at all, and none of the copies sold. While an extreme case, it shows how hard it is to get ordering exactly right, and how bad things can go when that happens. While there is not much one can do about problems like that; since how can anyone always be right about all ordering, there is the additional problem of gross margins going down over time. The result of this seems to be that a lot of the reported profit (for those stores that are reporting any profit) from a store is getting ‘stuck’ in inventory; inventory that will not sell at any price and ends up sitting in stores for years or even decades.

One example of an item where there were lots of inventory all over the place, and this was a very successful item, was the 1976 pinup poster of Farrah Fawcett. I remember the first time I saw that poster in years was as part of the background on the TV sitcom, “The 70s Show”. I remember thinking, “wow, I can’t believe they (show creators) were able to find something like that”. I thought there was no way it could be an original from those original print runs and had to be a copy of the poster created special (printed up) just for their use within the show. As it turns out, there are still lots of these posters still around and the price is only around for $15 to $20 per poster. As an example of how many of these posters are still around, one ebay seller listed a few hundred of these posters for sale recently, still in the original shipping tubes with a note that they got them from a failed distributor. My impression is that there still thousands of these poster from the 1970s print runs of them. Another interesting fact surrounding this poster is that the company that originally put this poster out, Pro Arts Inc, went bankrupt. This happened even though they sold something like several million of these posters along with their other posters. My impression is that for some reason they printed millions of extra of these posters that did not sell, which are still turning up in inventories of various distributors and shops as they liquidate after all of these years. Pro Arts Inc itself has a somewhat interesting history since they had some kind of lawsuit on another poster and won, but spent more on legal fees than they won, and eventually went bankrupt with the two owners’ homes as part of the bankruptcy. There was also a book written by one of the owners where he basically accuses everyone, including judges, of ‘being in on the fix’ to take the company apart. I have not been able to find a copy of that book in any form but expect it will be an interesting read of how the company failed even though they put out what was the best selling poster of all time.

Now, comics and games are not the only thins that this problem happens to, but it is an industry where there are stores all over the place in the same industry, across the county, and we see this inventory buildup everywhere. Stuff does not sell, and seems to sit there forever, taking up space and costing money in rent, inventory taxes, etc to keep stored. Plus the money, or profit, of the store is tied up in these items, which may never sell.

While better ordering can fix part of this problem, it is impossible for any store to just order what will sell, since inevitable that owners will order things that will not sell and get stuck with them.

What would help this problem is if the gross margin on items was better, something like on the items of 10% or 20% improvement. That would help all stores so that even though items may not sell, at least the store will make more on what does and it will help to cover the losses on the inevitable mistakes made on ordering.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr. – Sunday, October 06, 2019