Herd Immunity

The measles outbreak in Washington keeps getting more distressing. Currently, there is a small selection of doctors willing to give exemptions to parents just because. I believe these doctors should be punished, because they are risking a lot of lives. There are currently 325 million people in the US. 3% of them are not immune to measles despite vaccinations. Meaning there are more than 9 million Americans that don’t get measles simply because herd immunity prevents measles.

Since 9 million is a lot of people to wrap your mind around, we’ll think about it in smaller terms. Between Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and my newsletter, I have roughly 2,000 followers. That means 60 people who follow me are not immune to measles despite being vaccinated.

And as I’ve said before, measles is one of those lovely diseases that becomes contagious before symptoms begin to show. This means a child with measles can infect people around them as early as 7 days before they start having symptoms. 7 days is a long time to spread measles without knowing you have it.

This becomes an even scarier thought when you consider how many people a child can come into contact with before showing symptoms: school, daycare, grocery stores, after-school activities, and family outings to the park.

This early exposure is why we have outbreaks of diseases like influenza every year. Once a person is sick, everyone avoids them. Until then though, they are exposing a lot of people to their germs. Influenza and viral pneumonia are usually only contagious for a day or two before symptoms show and neither is a very hearty virus, they don’t do well when exposed to the elements. Unlike measles, when exposed to the environment, influenza usually only survives a few hours. Measles can survive for a day or more on surfaces even in cold weather and rain.

However, because 89% of people in the US are vaccinated against measles, even when exposed to it, they don’t get it. Unfortunately, that percentage has been dropping since 2002. In 2002, the CDC listed measles as eradicated. Enough of the US population had been vaccinated against it that outbreaks and epidemics were unlikely. Cases still popped up, especially among unvaccinated populations, but we weren’t in fear of major spread.

But as I said, that percentage has slowly been dropping. As of 2018, we’d dropped to only 86% of the US population being vaccinated against measles. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it means 9 million children have not been fully vaccinated against measles in just 16 years. And three percent is enough to significantly weaken herd immunity.

Now, the measles outbreak in Washington might be spreading. It made the news when it was 33 cases of measles. Now the state of Washington has more than 100 cases. Oregon has 22 cases and Idaho has 15 cases. These lower numbers in Idaho and Oregon aren’t alarming by themselves, but between 2016-2018 Oregon only had a total of 31 cases of measles. Idaho had 12. And the same time period in Washington had 37 cases. In two months, Washington has seen triple the number of cases in 2019 as they saw in the three previous years combined.Not surprisingly, Washington has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. It also has a larger population than the state of Oregon and Idaho combined.

For people like me, without measles immunity, Washington might as well be a third world country. Worse, most people who don’t have immunity don’t know it. Unless you work somewhere that requires you to have a titer test for measles (some health care facilities require them) or you get measles, you may not realize you’re part of the more than 9 million people that is not immune to measles.

I know, only because I got measles and this resulted in the University of Missouri demanding new MMR vaccinations followed by a titer test when I was accepted to attend college there. The only reason I haven’t battled measles multiple times is because of herd immunity. To people like me, herd immunity is literally a life saver. The mortality rate for measles is higher in adults than children. But if you don’t know you aren’t immune, and you are exposed to measles as a result of say a vacation, then you are taking measles back to your home, where 3% of the population is not immune.

Besides, it should be terrifying anytime the prevalence of a disease triples. This is how the H1N1 pandemic started in 2009. A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease. It isn’t just Americans that suffer from 3% of the population not having immunity. Nearly all Western countries require vaccinations. That 3% applies to the population of the UK, Germany, France, Italy, so on and so on. In countries without vaccination protocols and/or where the population doesn’t have easily accessible vaccinations like Mexico, India, China, Egypt, and tons of other countries, the chances of outbreaks for measles is much higher and worse.

Measles has an 8% serious complication risk for children. This means 8 out of every 100 children that catches measles will suffer brain damage, hearing loss, digestive issues, lung issues, and death. In adults, it’s about 20% that suffer severe side effects from measles.

Going back to my original example, this means of the 60 people that follow me that don’t have measles immunity, 12 of them will either have hearing loss, brain damage, lung damage, problems with their digestive tract, or will die as a result of catching measles. On a national scale, if measles becomes an epidemic, more than 2 million people could suffer these symptoms or die as a result of the loss of herd immunity. This is especially difficult for someone like me, I have a chronic disease that affects my immunity to every day bugs, because the nerves in my digestive tract are hyperactive due to CRPS, I don’t have a good immune system. A poor immune system battling a disease it already can’t handle, makes me very high risk for death and the other serious side effects as a result of measles.

Herd immunity is defined as 89-95% of the population being vaccinated against a disease. It is that number the prevents outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. That 89-95% has immunity to the disease. If they catch something like measles, their bodies recognize the disease and immediately begins pumping out antibodies to kill the virus and dead viruses aren’t capable of causing illness.

Then there is something called partial immunity. Some portion of our population regardless of vaccination status is immune to measles. Most of them had a very mild case of measles previously and so when they are exposed to the virus again, their body begins to make antibodies to kill it. They usually get sick, but only have a mild case and they aren’t as contagious as those that do not have immunity.

However, it is the 89-95% that keeps the rest of the population from getting sick. Partial immunity means you probably won’t spread it to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that crosses your path, but that complete immunity population that received their immunity via vaccines are incapable of spreading the disease at all. Even if they got an extreme form of measles and got sick from them, their antibodies are killing the virus fast enough to keep them from being contagious. They are the ones that keep the 3% of us without immunity from getting sick, along with the 8% or so of Americans that are unvaccinated against measles. While 3% of children born after 2002 are not vaccinated against measles, roughly 11% of the population was not vaccinated nor had immunity to measles even with vaccinations in 2002. Only in 2014, did this 11% result in more than a hundred or so cases of measles in the US. In 2014, there were 616 cases of measles in the US, the highest number of cases in a single year since the 1980s.

But as I said, our vaccination rate has dropped from 89% in 2002 to 86% in 2018. We no longer have herd immunity to measles. Without it, every outbreak runs the risk of becoming an epidemic. This is especially disturbing given a new study coming out the UK. Between 2015 and 2018, whooping cough cases increased by 7%. The US saw a similar rise at 6%. Most of us have been vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis). However, like measles, there will always be a small portion of the population that despite vaccinations, is not immune. As immunization rates have fallen in the US and UK, pertussis cases have risen and like measles, if you have been vaccinated, there is no reason for you to suspect you aren’t immune, until you get it.

Interestingly, most anti-vaxxers don’t realize they are benefitting from herd immunity. If you don’t vaccinate your child against measles, there’s a good chance your kid will still probably never get it, because we have herd immunity. It isn’t until your child tries to travel overseas that they’ll find their lack of immunizations a serious problem. Even with my titer results, I was forced to get a completely new set of MMRs in 2006 when I decided to travel to Germany. And I was told by my doctor that he would not sign off on the special immunization form I needed if I didn’t get them. I got them. I didn’t get measles, but again, Germany enjoys herd immunity from measles. When I jokingly told my doctor I was going to move to Belize, I was told it would be inadvisable, because I’d probably get measles and at 39, my risk of serious complications was high.

The Truth About UFOs

Everyone says they want the truth when it comes to UFOs. And everyone suspects world governments are covering it up. It’s a great theory, but the truth may not be the best idea when it comes to aliens.

If intelligent aliens are visiting the Earth, I’m not sure people can handle it. Since 6,000 BCE when the Sumerians rose to build the city of Uruk, humans have been having issues with ethnicity. The Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Vikings, Vandals, Mongols, Assyrians, Russians, Germans, Americans, Indians, English, French, we have all had periods of intense racism.

Humans can’t get past genetic differences that cause skin tone differences, do we really think we are civilized enough to handle a totally different and new race? I don’t think we are.

And I’ve heard the arguments that it would bring mankind closer together, as they united against something decidedly not human. But again, I think it would highlight our differences and create more divisions. You’d have those that were pro-alien and those that were anti-alien and that division would probably continue to start wars.

Think about how Americans dealt with abolition. Decades before the Emancipation Proclamation, we human beings were fighting over whether we should or should not support slavery of other humans. Those that were pro-slavery were known to burn down the homes of abolitionists. Free blacks would be captured and taken to the plantations, even if they had never set foot in a southern state. During WWII, Americans who spoke out against the internment of Japanese-Americans were risking their necks.

Why would humans react better to aliens? And humans who wanted to extend rights to extraterrestrials?

The only way aliens unite humanity is if they are hostile, like in Independence Day. As of yet, if aliens are visiting Earth, they are doing it in the same way that Douglas Adams discussed in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, buzzing lesser developed planets and beings.

Unfortunately, this means that if I’m in a position of power and know aliens are visiting, I keep that shit as quiet as possible. And I ensure other world leaders are also keeping that shit to themselves… because the last thing I want is for journalists at the Washington Post or New York Times reporting to Americans or Brits or anyone else that reads their papers, that Kim Jong-Un just brought out a UFO, some alien bodies, and proof of extraterrestrials. That is something I would take quite seriously, like nuclear attack imminent serious. However, since aliens would create mass panic that resulted in toppled governments, if I’m Kim Jong-Un, I’m also not sharing that information for my own protection, which is a fairly good motivator to not break the agreement that says aliens do not exist.

Next week, I have a post about UFOs in the Soviet Union.

Oranges, Grapefruits, Lemons, & Exploration

Anyone who has ever attended a book chat with me or read my blog knows I’m a giant nerd. I’ve always been a giant nerd. I was terribly bored in junior high and high school, so my graduating GPA doesn’t show that I’m a nerd, but that’s okay. In 10th grade, a counsellor figured it out and I was put in Honors and AP classes. I did very well in these classes.

I took a class in genetics (which was awesome) and in 11th grade, I had to retake world history and was placed in AP world history with Miss Jones. I also had Miss Jones for anthropology/archaeology. Of my high school teachers, Miss Jones was one of my absolute favorites.

In AP World History we covered topics a little faster and Miss Jones was prone to give us extra information. Information that in the grand scheme of things, we’d probably never use, but which was interesting. One of my Facebook friends posted a meme the other day about oranges: are they called oranges because they are orange or was the color named after them. And that extra information Miss Jones used to give us, suddenly had a use.

The sweet orange is a hybrid fruit; crossing the bitter orange with the pomelo creates sweet oranges. The majority of us eat sweet oranges – valencias, Cuties, Halos, etc. And the fruit was named after the color. The first orange entered Europe in the late 1500s. Citrus fruits were so incredibly expensive that they were often used as decorations by the nobility. Pineapples, grapefruits, oranges, kiwi, starfruits, all of these were “new world” fruits, they came to Europe only after the age of Exploration in the 1400s and 1500s. A British explorer brought the first orange tree back to England in the late 1500s and gave it to Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth would pass out oranges as a sign of favor. The oranges she handed out were inedible, because they were bitter oranges.

What explorers hadn’t realized was that the sweet oranges they were eating while in the New World, weren’t the same oranges they were taking back to Europe. Simultaneously, but separately native tribes in the Americas had been cross breeding oranges and pomeloes. These sweet orange trees were kept under lock and key. The first sweet orange tree would arrive in Europe in the 1700s.

Pineapples and oranges were the most expensive of the new world fruits. Pineapples at certain times were worth their weight in gold. Europeans never really developed a taste for kiwi and it was the least valuable of the lot. Even the poor and working classes in England could afford kiwi in the late 1700s and 1800s and it gained popularity among those classes. Until just before WWI, most working people in England had never tasted an orange or a pineapple. It’s something those of us born after 1918, take for granted. We don’t think about fruit as being a high priced commodity, because it is virtually everywhere. We have access to hundreds of different kinds of fruits.

Citrus fruits like oranges and pineapples literally changed the world.

The Myth of Teen Pregnancy

I listened to someone complain recently about the high rates of teen pregnancy. I wanted to beat my head against a wall. Teen pregnancy rates are very similar in 2018 to what they were in 1948. In 70 years, the rate of teen pregnancies hasn’t increased, the social understanding of it has changed.

From 6,000 BCE to 1965, marrying girls off at ages as young as 12 was common practice. The average time between marriage and the birth of the first child is 2 years. This means from 6,000 BCE to today, 14 year old girls have commonly been pregnant all over the world.

Among the poor, the acceptable age for a girl to marry is younger than among the wealthy, making brides of 8, 9, or 10 years old “normal.” This still happens even though we in the West like to shake our fists about it.

In 1948, a girl married and stopped going to school, it didn’t matter if she was 12, 14, or 18. And a pregnant married girl certainly didn’t go to school. Hell, it was considered problematic for a female teacher to become pregnant even if she was married, because the world was convinced it would entice her students to get pregnant (baby rabies).

The difference is in 1948, we didn’t have “teenagers.” People were children and then they were adults. There was no such thing as a teenager. A married, pregnant 14 year old was a woman, not a teen, not a child, a woman, an adult in charge of her household.

We lament pregnant 14 year olds today, not because “teen pregnancy” didn’t happen in the old days, but because teen marriage was the norm.

I’m always shocked when I read Pride & Prejudice because Lizzy and Jane are old!! Lizzy is 20 and unmarried! Jane is 21 and unmarried! Of course, their three younger sisters are out in society, they have got to start husband hunting, especially since Lizzy and Jane haven’t been very good at it. But oh ho, Lizzy and Jane are of the landed gentry, they are daughters of a nobleman. So perhaps they aren’t past their expiration dates, but only because they aren’t poor. If they were poor, they’d be married by 16… As a matter of fact, 4 of the 5 Bennett daughters would be married if they weren’t members of the nobility. And at 20 and 21, there would be some lamenting if children hadn’t come of either Jane nor Lizzy’s marriages by that age.

Where was I with this? Oh yes, teen pregnancy rates haven’t increased much in the last 100 years. Our perception of teen pregnancy has undergone a significant change as we understand teenagers better and no longer considering marrying off our kids at young ages.

Correlation and Causation

I used to work in public health and then I got a history degree. As a result correlation and causation are very important to me. And just like when I was 20 years old, working on cancer cluster research it boggles my mind when people don’t understand the difference between the two or confuse them.

Correlation is when two things happen simultaneously that may or may not be related. Causation is when something happens and causes something else to happen.

For example, everyone who gets cancer drinks water. Does this mean water causes cancer? No, it means people need water to live. The two correlate, water isn’t the cause. And before you argue that not every person on the planet drinks water, yes they do, it may not look like water or taste like water, but it is still water. It doesn’t matter if it’s tea, coffee, soda, beer, Kool-Aid, fruit juice, V8, Gatorade, sparkling water, tap water, or distilled water, it’s all water. Even milk and wine is primarily water.

Now, if you live somewhere like Herculaneum, Missouri, there is a very, very high chance that drinking the water will give you cancer. Because Herculaneum, Missouri is a superfund site: a location where the soil and groundwater has been contaminated with toxic chemicals due to improper disposal of hazardous materials.

But most of us don’t live near a place like Herculaneum, Missouri and the water isn’t going to cause us cancer. It’s a correlation. The two things happen simultaneously, because people need water to live and people get cancer.

Here’s another correlation, that does seem to be completely random. Nearly everyone I know with CRPS owns a dog. When I first started experiencing pain and problems with my hands and forearms, I owned a border collie named Frisky. Did Frisky cause my CRPS? No. I have two possible injuries that caused my CRPS and neither was dog related: injury one I stood up on a teeter totter and the person on the other end jumped off, I broke my wrist. Injury two I accidentally shoved a woodburner into my thumb and caused a 3rd degree burn right down to the bone. Either of these are possible causes. Burns and broken bones are the most common triggers for CRPS. Here’s the shitty part of that, they aren’t the only triggers. You can develop CRPS after spraining an ankle, breaking a nose (no bones in the nose), having a surgical procedure, or childbirth. There is a correlation between owning a dog and having CRPS, but not a causation. And plenty of people own dogs that never develop CRPS.

False and misunderstood correlation and causation is the reason there’s an outbreak of measles in the state of Washington. There is a correlation between vaccination and autism. Vaccinations became more common in the 1950s and 1960s. Autism was diagnosed for the first time in 1933. However, it did not become a “common” diagnosis until the 1980s. The diagnosis of autism, has nothing to do with vaccines and everything to do with our understanding of mental disabilities and the desire to differentiate and define them better.

I’ll give you an even clearer example of misunderstanding of the two. 1952 is the first year that heart disease was the number one killer of adult Americans. There is a definite reason for it, but not a cause. We didn’t suddenly have a massive increase in the number of people dying from heart disease. From 1870-1951 the number one killer of adult Americans was tuberculosis. In 1949, we found the first antibiotic that cured tuberculosis. In 1950 and 1951 the use of streptomycin to cure TB became widespread across the US, Canada, and UK. As a result, 1952 is the first year millions of Americans didn’t die of tuberculosis. There wasn’t an increase in cases of heart disease, there was just a decrease in the mortality rates of TB.

However, if you look at the data searching only for causation, it appears curing tuberculosis made heart disease more deadly. More confusingly, correlation can mask causation. When you start searching for a cause, a strong correlation can be misleading. For example in the 2000s violent crime in Detroit, Michigan dramatically decreased. Gun sales also decreased. The two did not cause each other. The two were caused by the same factor and correlated very strongly as a result. I remember reading a sociology paper about lower gun sales leading to less violent crime at the time. However, gun sales and violent crime decreased because the population of Detroit decreased. In 1990, Detroit had a population of 1.2 million people. In 2000, the population had dropped to 900,000. By 2010 it was down to 650,000 people. The drop in population means fewer criminals and fewer people available to legally buy guns.

I’ve used simple examples, but causation can be very complex. There might be six or seven factors at work in a causation, some of which may not be obvious. The black death was one of the worst plagues to ever hit the human population. But bubonic plague isn’t actually that contagious. There were multiple factors at work to make the Black Death as formidable as it was: drought caused crop failures, crop failures lead to even higher rates of malnutrition, malnutrition causes higher susceptibility to diseases and illnesses, Bubonic Plague mutated to become communicable person to person without the parasitic vector (no fleas needed in other words), also malnutrition leads to fewer antibodies to fight a disease once you have it, making bubonic plague nearly 100% fatal. And suddenly, Bubonic Plague a common illness in the 1300s kills tens of millions across Europe and Asia.

Catherine of Valois – Matriarch of Insanity

Catherine of Valois was the daughter of the French King Charles VI. History has mostly forgotten about her, but perhaps they shouldn’t have. The princess didn’t do much worthy of being remembered though. Charles VI and Henry V arranged for Catherine to marry the english King (Henry V). They were only married a few years, before Henry V died. During that time though, they had one son who would go on to be made king Henry VI.

I have blogged about the French King Charles VI in the past, because Charles VI was seriously mentally ill. Modern thoughts on it are he probably suffered from schizophrenia. This is rather important, because Catherine of Valois is the great grandmother of Henry VIII and the great, great, great, great, great grandmother of George I, who started the Hanoverian dynasty and gave us Mad King George III.

I know most people don’t think of madness when thinking about Henry VIII, but there’s some evidence to suggest that Henry VIII had some issues with mental instability and his eldest daughter Mary, was known for being a hysterical, nervous type who suffered persecution mania and claimed that God spoke to her on a few occasions.

Neither Henry VIII nor Mary were as mentally ill as Charles VI of France, but modern research on the subject does suggest that mental illness might be an underlying complication that lead to Henry VIII’s hot-tempered nature and paranoia about being incapable of producing an heir to the throne with either Catherine or Anne Boleyn.

How does that tie into the Hanoverians? Catherine of Valois had two children after Henry V died with a Welshman named Owen Tudor. Henry VI grew up to be a decent man, not just a good king, but a good man. After the untimely death of his mother, Henry VI took over caring for his very young brothers. He bestowed earldoms on both boys and managed to get both of them advantageous marriages (they were technically illegitimate and Owen Tudor had served in the house of the king, but not in a high ranking position as he was a Welshmen). It was the descendents of one of these illegitimate children that eventually married into the German Royal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which is where George I came from.

There has been much speculation about what was wrong with Charles VI of France. We don’t have good records from his times of madness. We have some records written by his brother, who served as regent when Charles VI couldn’t rule. But, his brother was murdered and his many of his papers confiscated by the nobles involved in his murder. Porphyria, which is what we are nearly certain George III had, is hereditary and it has different stages and phases. Sometimes, symptoms are incredibly bad, sometimes they aren’t. And someone can have porphyria with only mild symptoms.

What little we do know about King Charles VI’s illness could support a diagnosis of porphyria, but it could also support a diagnosis of schizophrenia, another hereditary illness. Interestingly, both conditions rarely cause the same intensity of symptoms in women, that they cause in men. Catherine of Valois was prone to hysterical fits. Meaning she may have had mild symptoms of either, but being a woman, she wasn’t given the same interest as the kings from her lineage. There is a growing school of thought that Henry VIII’s obsession with having an heir was more about mental illness than wanting to ensure the Tudors kept the throne.

The current rulers of England, Queen Elizabeth II is actually related to King Henry VIII and King George III (genetically speaking, much more closely related to George III than Henry VIII, but still related). And this may explain why many of the male heirs since the death of Queen Victoria in the 1800s have had short life spans. Even mild porphyria still causes enzyme deficiencies that can shorten a person’s life. During WWI, the King of England changed the family’s name from Sax-Coburg to Windsor because anti-German sentiment was incredibly high and the family was basically British at that point anyway.

And the interesting and somewhat bloody royal history for the last 600 years in England, is the result of Catherine of Valois.

True Crime – Cold Case

I have watched a lot of true crime lately. To cut down on expenses, we got rid of cable and started using Hulu live. It’s about $70 a month less, which is nice and we still have DVR capabilities. And since I can watch it on my phone or tablet, I’ve had a few days where I ran shows like Unusual Suspects as background noise while working.

One of the things that surprises me every time, is when they have cold cases. Not the solving of cold cases, but the shock to the family of the killer. Several cases I’ve watched recently took decades to solve and the killer was young at the time (sometimes a mere teenager).

To some degree, I’m used to serial killers having full lives after killing people, but it still surprises me when it’s just an average run of the mill killer. I know that sounds weird, but people who only kill once, really aren’t psychologically built for the long game. They aren’t sociopaths or psychopaths.

These crimes are often crimes of passion; violent, rage filled killings. Not plotted or planned, like in the case of serial killings. Yet, these killers even though they only killed once, go on to have families.

Then suddenly 20 or 30 years after the crimes, the police show up and arrest them thanks to advances in forensics. How shocking for the spouse or any children.

And then the awkward explanations… and the gut wrenching decisions. Can you stand by a husband who raped and murdered his neighbor when he was 17 or 20? But he’s never even yelled at you? Honestly, you’ve never met that man that did that terrible thing. The man you know has always been the perfect husband and father.

I feel sorry for these people; the spouses and children. It must feel like stepping into the Twilight Zone. In one moment, everything you thought you knew changed and your life became nightmarish. And the questions: How could they be married to a murderer and not know it?

Learning About The Dark Web

I’ve been hammering away on Innocent Dreams as of late. I got the idea while doing the final bits of research for Ritual Dreams (it happens more than one might think). I had read an article about a cult that made a good deal of money selling child porn on the dark web. And suddenly, I needed a book about a snuff film being sold on the dark web. Fiona needs more parts anyone. Gabriel, Lucas, and Xavier have all played first fiddle in a book while Ace played second… So yes, Innocent Dreams would be Fiona’s time to shine.

I thought “I got this.” After all, what better way to learn about the dark web than the internet. I quickly realized that scholarly articles about the dark web aren’t as plentiful as I thought. But that’s okay, because my best friend works in cyber security. And I’m not an idiot, I am capable of learning…

And therefore, “I still got this.”

Famous last words. My readers know that I try to be as accurate as possible about everything. It’s part of the reason I do a ton of research (that I just like to do research). I’ve put down over 15,000 words on Innocent Dreams and in my spare time, I’ve been researching the dark web, cyber crime, and how to catch cyber criminals.

I will point out now, that I started Innocent Dreams, with only the vaguest ideas about the dark web. I mean I read news articles about the bringing down of the Silk Road when it happened. I’ve looked at some Ranker lists about disturbing shit on the dark web. And that’s it. That is literally all I know about it, except that I have to use a client like TOR to access it. Which I don’t have. I have never even looked at a web page on the dark web, let alone have an understanding of what it does. This is an area of technology that has gone right over my head, completely.

A while ago, I banged out a paragraph in which Fiona is trying to explain how things work on the Dark Web and sent it to my best friend, because despite the articles I have read, I’m still a little fuzzy on it. Her reply was kindly, considering I had it almost completely wrong still. I tried to implement her suggested changes regarding something about nodes which are used to back track traffic or something.

But let’s be honest, when it comes to the dark web, I’m an idiot. For instance, I was introduced to the term Dark Net in several articles. Fine, originally I thought it was just an alternate name for the dark web… But the more articles I read, the more I began to think it was some sort of shopping network on the dark web, not unlike Silk Road had been, but with more security measures and things. As I write this, I’m still not entirely sure which description of Dark Net is accurate.

I have some serious techie readers, which has created this fear they might read Innocent Dreams and go “OMG it’s the literary version of The Net! How dreadful!” Which would indeed be dreadful.

On January 30, 2019, I surpassed 20,000 words. My best friend is currently getting another master’s degree and I will have to beg her to look over Innocent Dreams when I finish so she can correct some of the technical stuff… But otherwise, I think it’s going pretty good.

Keeping Up With Technology

Recently, I was listening to Third Girl one of the later Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie and Poirot had a thought that made me pause. The book was published in 1966 (probably written in 1964 or 1965). Poirot is thinking about a writer friend of his, a woman named Mrs. Oliver who writes detective stories. His thought is “this woman make me feel like a human computer.”

The line jarred me at first, forcing me to take a momentary break from the book as I considered it. Then I did a mental head slap. Of course, Agatha Christie knows about computers in 1964 or 1965. They existed back then, in early forms. Not home computers or anything (for my blog readers born after about 1984 – which is the imaginary date I seem to have embedded in my brain as the dividing line for those who once lived without technology such as cell phones, home computers, etc).

As a writer of serial killer thrillers, I try to keep up in advancements of technology that may be applicable to my books. I also try to keep up on psychological theories regarding crime. Just because Christie didn’t have the internet at her fingertips doesn’t mean she would have ignored these advancements and leave them out of her books.

I dare say, it’s probably quite the opposite. Because she was a writer of crime fiction, every advancement on both the side of the criminal and law enforcement would have needed to be within Christie’s grasp. No doubt the prolific novelist had several police officers within her sphere of friends to keep her appraised of technology they were using and I suspect she probably consulted with a handful of psychiatrists and psychologists as well.

Christie did attempt to make her mysteries and detective novels as true to life as possible. Granted, she took some fictional liberties, but that’s just part of being a writer. (Which reminds me that I need to get a lecture on how the dark web works from my best friend for Innocent Dreams – Which is going to involve snuff films just FYI – I’ve been working on the plotting of it since finishing Ritual Dreams and writing has been significantly easier without the Lyrica in my brain).

But this is the stuff I love about older novels. Christie’s novels from the early 1940s suddenly start to feature automatic lifts (elevators… until this time all elevators in a Christie’s novels were run by a porter). Before the outbreak of war in 1938, elevators were manned by a porter who used a lever to take you to your floor. The automatic elevator was a thing, but a rare thing. People preferred the kind run by porters, it added a bit of personality to something as dull and dreary as an elevator ride. With war came shortages of men to work as porters and run elevators for every Jane, Joan, and Jenni that needed to go up to the fifth floor and so the automatic elevator suddenly became fashionable as there was no need for a porter to run it.

My two favorite things; history and literature.

Syphilis, Pompeii, & The New World

Syphilis is a very nasty disease. If left untreated the bacteria damages organs as well as attacking bones. It can also eat holes in your brain. In the 20th century, archaeologists and historians came to the conclusion that syphilis was a New World disease that hadn’t existed in Europe prior to Columbus’ famous voyage. The body casts of Pompeii have proved this idea to be incorrect. About a third of the bodies cast at Pompeii show congenital syphilis disease on the bones.

There’s a lot going on in that statement. First, casts of bodies at Pompeii. When Mt. Vesuvius ruptured in 79 CE, the Roman city of Pompeii which was nestled at the base of the volcano was devastated. A huge pyroclastic cloud enveloped the city, before lava bombs (yep those are real), lava, and and ash buried the city. A ton of people died where they stood.

That ash and hardened lava encapsulated the dead of Pompeii. The soft tissues rotted away, but the shape of the body remained as a sort of negative image. When Pompeii was rediscovered, scientists filled those negative images of the bodies with plaster creating casts of the bodies. The plaster hardened with the bones of the dead in them. For about 40 years, we’ve been running imaging tests on those casts.

Specialized MRIs and CT scans allow us to see details on the bones. Congenital syphilis is passed from a mother to her infant. The baby is born with the damaging Sexually Transmitted Disease (I believe STI[infection] is the revised term for it). Because prolonged exposure to the bacteria that causes syphilis causes weakening of the bones, we can examine even prehistoric bones and see if the person had syphilis.

We believed Columbus’ crew brought syphilis back from the New World (the Caribbean Islands) because no evidence of syphilis had been found in mass graves in Europe predating the 1500s. And there should be. Plague pits sprang up all over Europe at different times, during different epidemics; The Black Death, the Justinian Plague, not to mention the hundreds of cholera outbreaks that killed huge numbers in urban areas during the Middle Ages. Since a healthy person is more likely to survive an epidemic or outbreak of illness than someone who’s sick, plague pits should contain bodies that show definite evidence of syphilis.

And yet, aside from Pompeii, we don’t find that. So what exactly happened to syphilis between 79 CE where it was absolutely present among the citizens of Pompeii and the 1300s when the Black Death reduced Europe’s population by about 50% or so? Why don’t we find evidence of syphilis in plague pits.

I read an interesting theory recently about this. The Romans had better hygiene than nearly everybody from 600 CE to the 1870s CE. We know some diseases that cause high fever (like malaria and Scarlet Fever) will kill bacterial infections already present in the body. The theory states that because Rome practiced good hygiene, the rate of infection by diseases that cause extremely high fevers was lower during the days of Pompeii than in the Middle Ages. But because it was common for children as well as adults to come down with diseases that create high fevers in the Middle Ages, the rate of syphilis infection as well as the length of time it lasted in the body, may have kept syphilis from surviving long enough to cause organ or bone damage. (PS: both Cholera and Bubonic Plague cause fevers high enough to kill other bacteria in the body and these were fairly common diseases in the Middle Ages.)