Hobby Utility

So, we’re on a cruise ship and I got to thinking about the population and the environment and I developed a morbid curiosity. More about that below the fold. The high point, though, is that I’ve written another application — this one for the iPhone — that fills a neat, narrow niche: it’s a combination tally counter / lap timer. I call it MTBP, for Mean Time Between Phlegm, and that right there is a big clue about the rest of the post.

The Population

All our previous cruises have been on Disney, which really targets families. The Queen Mary 2, a Cunard ship, has some token affordances for children — a kids pool on deck 8, child life jackets, and, um, there must be other things, somewhere — but their target demographic is clearly older adults.

The Environment

It’s a ship. I mean, duh, right? But that means that, outside one’s stateroom, the line of sight distance to the next human being is usually measurable in single digit feet if not inches. Person-to-person contact happens multiple times per hour.

So, stop and reflect about old rich people. Smokers? Maybe they aren’t now, but I’d bet they were, fifty years ago, and not all have kicked the addiction. Diminished immune system capacity? We’re all old — of course we have diminished immune system capacity. Immunizations? Sure, we’ve had our COVID shots and our flu shots and all the rest, but none of that will stop a person from getting the common cold.

No shit, there I was, sitting in a theater with a couple hundred fellow passengers, and it sounded like a tuberculosis ward. You name a kind of cough – dry, wet, rattling, lung-expelling – it happens. Multiple times. Per minute. I started thinking about mean time between failures, because of course a room full of people, any one of whom can infect all the rest of us, looks a lot like a data center full of old hard drives without any kind of fault tolerance. I started wondering, am I just being paranoid, being a hypochondriac, or is it really this bad? How can I tell?

Well, I would need to keep track of coughs. Really, just a data point: a moment in time at which someone in the vicinity coughed. And then, I’d just need to compute the intervals between all those moments, and then calculate the average. This is all grade school math, no big deal. But, there’s not an app for that.

Now, there is. I wrote it. Over the course of the past several days, I’ve discovered a few important things:

  • Two years after the first COVID lockdowns, there are still grown-ass adults who refuse to wear a mask properly. Their noses are hanging out for everyone to see, but by God their chins and necks are covered. Maybe they’re just masking their gills.
  • I have observed, in this sample population of just under 3,000 humans, several people who remove their masks in order to cough or sneeze, and then replace them. I can only assume that it’s so that they don’t fog up their glasses. I infer that to these people, the point of the mask is to protect them from others, not to protect others from them. Thinking about this makes me furious.
  • There are a zillion tutorials online for how to write an iOS application, according to one architectural design or another. So far, I’ve not found the one-in-a-zillion one that actually applies to the way I want to structure and application, nor have I found an explanation for why I shouldn’t want to do it the way I want to do it.
  • In a room containing about 400 people, the mean time between coughs was just over 12 seconds.
  • People are, by and large, garbage.

Every time I finish some programming project, I think about writing the tutorial I wish I’d had when I started. I dunno, maybe I will. With over 8 billion people in the world, I hardly think I’m the only person with my particular needs.

Published by pirateguillermo

I play the bagpipes. I program computers. I support my family in their various endeavors, and I enjoy my wonderful life.

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