June 30, 2020

Lobsters are fascinating creatures… they can live to be over 100 years old, they’re fertile till the day they die, they have blue blood, and every other sea creature generally leaves them alone to live their lives. They live long, untroubled lives… unless they wind up in a dirty tank at the front of a restaurant with their claws trapped by rubber bands.

Many years ago I was at a Chinese restaurant and was looking at the menu which was written in both English and Chinese… so I was trying to map the 3 Chinese characters to what they mean. By comparing “Lemon Chicken” and “Sesame Chicken”, I could figure out “Chicken” and then quickly figure out “Lemon” and “Sesame” and verify it against “Sesame Vegetables” and figure out more from there. A fun brain exercise. A fun game of decoding. Anyway, what I think I figured out is that “Lobster” is described in Chinese as “Little Sea Dragon” — isn’t that cute? I was so proud of myself for figuring that out.

Actually, another restaurant story… this one from Costa Rica… a group of us went to a really good restaurant… seafood, of course, right on the beach. We were there for about 5 hours and consumed at least twice as many bottles of wine. And when we were staggering out of there in the wee hours of the morning, we passed the lobster tank near the door. It was full of normal sized lobsters, and one giant monster. One of my friends… Scotty, who is almost certainly reading this… asked about that lobster… how old is he, how long has he been here? And upon hearing the answers, declared, “I’m freeing him!!”

“What, señor?”

“You heard me! I’m buying that lobster right now, and I’m setting him free!!”

So he did. Not a cheap lobster… but we all ceremoniously marched him down to the water and launched him into the pitch-black abyss of freedom. I’d like to hope he made it into deeper water, and wasn’t to be found back in that tank a week later.

Actually, another side-note… there’s a very interesting/bizarre movie called “The Lobster”. If you want a real “WTF was that?!” movie experience, I highly recommend it. Don’t google it or read about it; just watch it… and… nah, ok, no spoilers.

Lobsters… here’s the thing… a lobster is actually a soft-tissued creature that happens to live in a shell all its life. And as it grows, it needs bigger shells. Multiple times in its life, it’ll shed its shell by a process called “molting”, and inhabit the new one it’s been growing. The interesting thing is that it only grows into a new shell when it’s grown big enough to get uncomfortable in its current one. In other words, the lobster only grows as a result of its discomfort. If he were a happy little lobster never pushing his boundaries of comfort, he’d never grow. Which is all, of course, a bit of a metaphor to simply state that as we navigate through life, it’s sometimes when we push through our points of discomfort and challenge ourselves a bit, that we grow. Correction — that’s pretty much the only time we actually grow. Knowledge can come from the outside, but growth comes from the inside. And if we all sit around getting fat and lazy because life no longer poses any challenges, I guess it’s up to us individually to impose some discomfort onto ourselves and make the best of it.

Certainly this pandemic has thrown us all into an unforeseen amount of discomfort; what we do with it seems to be about the only thing left in our control. And to extend the meaning a bit further… the lobster is most vulnerable when it sheds its shell… for a period of time… between a few minutes up to a few hours, he is without his armour… naked and exposed to the world. The epitome of truly uncomfortable. If that’s the way 2020 has left you feeling so far, you’re not alone… but tomorrow begins the latter half of the year… every day is one day closer to being able to look back at this year with 20/20 hindsight (haha, that used to be a lot funnier) and figure out what we made of it. The shell we’re all trying to grow is a silver lining around a pretty big cloud.. what it all ends up looking like… individually, collectively… remains to be seen.

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June 29, 2020

One good thing about Mondays is we get some updated data for everything.. and for the most part, at least in Canada, it looks pretty good. An average of 9 new cases a day over the last few days, here in B.C., though I suspect we’ll see that go up in a week or two. A little family cluster may make a small difference, but Brandi’s?

Those guys were operating with the same sort of license and permission as a pub or restaurant — many of which are open… as opposed to a nightclub, all of which are still closed, as they should be. But from a disease-transmission point-of-view, I’d have to think Brandi’s to be a higher risk than a typical nightclub, let alone a restaurant/pub. Not speaking from experience… but I’m pretty sure whatever guidelines should have been in place… were not being followed, though I’d be curious to see what an acceptably-socially-distanced lap-dance might look like.

Brandi’s is presently shut down, and is likely to remain that way… so we may never know. But I’m sure at least a few people who were there on those nights when they may have been exposed… are not too keen to come forward… and, as such, might themselves become patient zeroes of their own clusters. That “Honey, I’m going to be working late at the office” crowd… we shall see.

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By |2020-10-08T01:21:58-07:00June 29th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , |10 Comments

June 28, 2020

I’m not a big fan of countries or provinces deciding to limit their reporting on new cases and whatever else. It’s like they’re deciding what they think we need to know, or want to know. I think we’re all sick and tired of misinformation, and lack of information is the same thing. It’s funny… we used to laugh at places that did this. There were those rather amusing episodes of the Iraqi information minister, during the 2003 invasion… the guy just making it up as he went along, claiming with indignation that the Americans were nowhere near Baghdad — even as, in the background, American tanks could be seen and heard rolling by. It was really funny when it was them. But now, south of the border… the president has been at it for a while, and now the vice-president is getting in on the act… standing up in front of crowds, the media, the world… spewing complete and utter bullshit.

“We have made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” Pence announced… somehow disregarding the 2,500,000 infections, 125,000 deaths and surging numbers in the majority of states. The worst numbers on the planet. “As we stand here today, all 50 states and the territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly.” Wow. Now it’s not so funny, is it.

Well, I will do what I can reporting whatever numbers are made available… usual disclaimer, if it’s in italics and grey and smaller font, it’s just a guess. Average, extrapolation, intelligent guess… until I can (hopefully) backfill it with some real numbers. Quebec’s explanation is that they’re doing so well that they don’t need to update things daily. Well, that’s fantastic until the weekly update shows up with a 500% increase. I hope that doesn’t happen.

And looking at the evolving disaster south of the border… where half the people, including those fearless leaders, are telling you “Mission Accomplished!”… while the other half are trying to be heard, saying… no… it’s not. Their numbers are up-to-date. And scary.

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By |2020-10-08T01:21:58-07:00June 28th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics|Tags: , , , , , , |1 Comment

June 27, 2020

Until I run out of interesting words, I’ll keep coming up with them… such as…

Lachesism (noun): The desire to be struck by disaster – to survive a plane crash, or to lose everything in a fire.

It’s an interesting one alright… and perhaps one that’s relatable to anyone who at some point in life has felt like they need to hit a big reset button. There are some interesting pieces out there, written by people whose lives have gotten immeasurably better as a result of this pandemic. Trapped in a low-paying crappy job, or crappy living situation… or both… and with no way out. But suddenly… the job is gone. The bad roommate situation dissolves. The government helps. The online business takes off.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from that, it’s that you don’t have to wait for a huge disaster to start making changes. We’re all aware of what keeps us from making those big, life-changing decisions… usually fear. But it’s interesting… that when that decision gets made for you, people often surprise themselves with the ability to step up and deal with it. If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger… and that often means stepping out of your comfort zone. Some people just can’t do it, but are very appreciative, in hindsight, when what’s on the other side of the comfort zone turns out to be a lot better. They just needed a little nudge. Or a huge, unexpected kick.

 

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June 26, 2020

Here’s another interesting word…

Mauerbauertraurigkeit: (noun) The inexplicable urge to push people away, even close friends who you like.

The context I’ll use to describe won’t involve a person, but rather an entire province… that being Quebec, who’ve announced they will no longer be announcing daily numbers…. and since they, by far, involve the greatest number of cases in the country… it now messes up all the numbers. I guess I will make intelligent guesses, based on pure speculation and a bit of math… and once a week, there will be a correcting entry to show just how off I am. Italic numbers in shaded grey are just good guesses.

Indeed, it feels like they’re pushing us away… “let us deal with our own issues” — but, of course, it affects us all. The national numbers will be off continually. My opinion… it’s a little too soon for that.

 

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By |2020-10-08T01:21:59-07:00June 26th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Interesting Words|Tags: , |6 Comments

June 25, 2020

Here are today’s numbers and graphs… and, just for fun, a word of the day to make you think a bit:

Exulansis: (noun) The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.

A pretty relatable word these days… like, everyone is going through their own version of “What is going on?!” — no doubt at some point it’s not worth trying to explain your particular version of coping. This word has been around longer than the pandemic, but it’s never been more relevant.

 

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By |2020-10-08T01:21:59-07:00June 25th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Interesting Words|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Day 100 – June 24, 2020

And on the 100ᵗʰ day, he rested. Well, not quite… but let’s see where we’re at…

Precisely 100 days ago was St. Patrick’s Day… March 17ᵗʰ. On that day, the number of cases in Italy was spiralling out of control. The case numbers had doubled in less than 5 days, to over 30,000. In the U.S., the case numbers were at 6,500… but had doubled in less than 3 days. I had seen a chart of that, and graphed it. Then I’d adjusted it, to a common starting point. And then, I added in Canada (whose case count was 600, having doubled in about 3 days as well). We were a week behind the U.S., and around 2½ weeks behind Italy. Huh… interesting… I bet other people might be interested in seeing that. So… I posted it. And that generated enough interest that this became a simple exercise of updating those graphs every day, hoping like mad that we wouldn’t be following the U.S., who in turn hopefully wouldn’t be following Italy.

And so began an interesting journey of analysis, introspection and observation. What was intended to be a brief analysis of the numbers and graphs… quickly turned into my ramblings… you know… while I’m here… maybe I have something to say… so now that I have a little soapbox to stand upon, let’s make the most of it. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep up this pace of an entire article a day, about some eclectic topic that may have possessed me… but let’s go with. I’m pretty proud of hitting 100 days in a row… not a single day missed. Even I’m surprised I had so much to say.

This is starting to sound like a goodbye, but it’s not… but just like the frantic nature of this virus in its early days, around here it’s slowing down… and so am I. I’ll continue to post the daily numbers and graphs, because there are actually some people who are viewing this just for that… but the quality and quantity of posts… like what you’re reading right now… will diminish, especially in the near future as it’s summer and I’m making every effort to unplug as much as possible. I will still endeavour to post… whatever I end up posting… consistently at 5pm… but, you know… it’s summer.

If you’re missing the daily fix, it’s interesting to note that many of these articles have aged well. Not that they’re that old to begin with, but I’m happy to announce that these 100 posts… as well as whatever else I write in the future… will also be available on my own web site… which launched about 10 minutes ago. The advantage of reading there is that the posts are searchable… something that after 100 days, I myself have made use of… (“Didn’t I already write about that…?”). If you visit www.kemeny.ca and click on the seal (the red, waxy kind… not the marine animal that can balance a ball kind), it’ll take you to a beautifully formatted version of these 100 posts… and whatever comes after. It’s very trippy reading back on some of these; it reminds me where my brain was at, on those specific days.

Here’s another one of those cool words:

Jouska: (noun) A hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head.

This blogging thing is kind of fun. Actually, it’s a lot of fun… I guess more than anything, it’s because it’s what that word alludes to… but actually spelled out. A compulsive jumble of thoughts becomes a lot more coherent when you sit down to write it out, word by word, in a form that others will understand. Who knew. It’s given me an urge to write something longer… maybe a book, ideas for which are already brewing. If I mange to get around to it, you will all be the first to know.

Until then… hey, I’m still around… some hopefully interesting content will show up here in the future… I promise… just not every single day. In the meantime, allow me to quote my favourite provincial health officer… whose words should always apply — not just in the midst of a pandemic: Be kind, be calm and be safe.

 

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Day 99 – June 23, 2020

I’ve written before about how sometimes, new words are needed…. to capture an essence that’s only describable by a lengthy paragraph. It’s great to see that such words often already exist.

Here are a few:

Vemödalen: (noun) The frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist.

On the surface, this comes to mind when you’re at the Leaning Tower of Pisa or Niagara Falls or any other world-class tourist trap… I suppose these days it doesn’t matter; digital pictures cost nothing. But for those of us who’ve been around long enough to remember that pictures came in expensive packs of 24 or 36, it’s a different story. You used to put a lot of thought before pressing the shutter button. And once those pictures were taken, it was several days before you could see the results. As you might imagine, taking pictures of your food wasn’t really a thing. Neither was taking 150 selfies to get the perfect one. Photography is a totally different experience these days, one we take for granted. But there’s more depth to that definition, and it touches on the entire experience that ends up being encapsulated in that photograph. Especially in an aforementioned tourist trap… where we’re trying to capture something we’d hope is unique to us, but deep down you know you’re just one of the insignificant many trying to capture the same thing so many others have tried. It’s an interesting duality, trying to be unique in a sea of similarity.

Occhiolism: (noun) The awareness of the smallness of your perspective.

I’m a good example… I’m here, happy to share my thoughts, but I’m aware I have a unique point of view; it makes sense for me, and I can defend it to the death, but there are those who’ll disagree and have their own points. I can probably argue their sides too, because I often understand them; I just vehemently disagree with them. But I’m well-aware it’s my unique perspective… one that’s the result of my own life experiences… and if I were able to visualize that, perhaps snap a picture of it, no doubt I’d feel a bit of vemödalen… because there’s nothing so special about it.

Liberosis: (noun) The desire to care less about things.

Everyone has their list of what’s important and what isn’t. The tops and bottoms of those lists are easy to define, or at least… should be. Your close family, top of the list. The idiot who cut you off and caused your blood pressure to blow up and caused you to yell a profanity… near the bottom. It’s the stuff in the middle, the stuff that could go either way, that often confounds us. Maybe we end up worrying too much or wasting a lot of time on something that ultimately isn’t so important. I try to apply a rule… don’t spend more than N minutes right now on something that won’t matter in N months. Easier said than done, perhaps due to my occhiolism — and the inability to be truly objective.

Combining all three of those is a good summary of my thinking these days, as I watch the world in what could only be described as a bad movie script. The sort where the writer walks into the meeting with a potential producer, and is laughed out of the office, being told to either write something that’s truly real, or pure science-fiction/fantasy. You can’t have both. A president too narcissistic to see or care that he’s destroying the fabric of his country? A global pandemic that many people aren’t taking seriously? Come on man… why not throw in some out-of-control wildfires in Australia, a near nuclear war with Iran and, for a bit of extra seasoning and comic relief, murder hornets. Get real.

So here we are… I think like many of you, I shake my head at what I’m seeing around me and am frustrated that the people who are supposed to be responsible and in charge and making such a mess of it. It’s not a movie I’d like to see, let alone be a part of. This whole thing is certainly not playing out like a Hollywood movie; maybe one of those dark foreign films, with a lot of black-and-white cut scenes of the past, hallucinogenic, colourful dream sequences, and, of course, lots of fancy, obscure words. The whole thing sometimes adds up to a worthwhile experience. In this case though, when we’ve come to the conclusion that the movie sucks, we can’t just walk out.

One last word:

Énouement: (noun) The bittersweetness of having arrived in the future, seeing how things turn out, but not being able to tell your past self.

Yeah, let’s all learn that one… you think it’s relevant now… just wait a few years. Or maybe weeks.

 

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Day 98 – June 22, 2020

The numbers don’t lie. They can be twisted into statistics, which certainly can… depending how you paint them. But the raw numbers don’t lie.

Cases per million

Tests per million

Deaths per million

Deaths per case

Deaths per test

This list of malleable statistics is informative, but at the end of the day, there are some hard numbers that make up what feeds all these different angles of looking at the same thing. In my opinion, when all is said and done, excess deaths will have to be the numbers that get broken down. Those are not difficult numbers to pin down. Every jurisdiction knows, or should know, how many people die every day, week or month. That’s easily compared to the same period last year, whether as raw numbers or as a percentage of the population. These little graphs are showing up all over the place, and, as expected, show bumps starting in March.

The retro-analysis of these numbers will yield results that will get argued about, but those arguments will start falling flat the year after a vaccine shows up and things are fully back to normal. Certainly, they’re not all COVID deaths… but once you weed through cases of people who avoided the hospital out of fear and things like that, there won’t be another explanation.

In the meantime, we can only gauge where we’re at with numbers we can try to make as current as possible. Test positive cases is one. Virus-attributable deaths is another. Yes, we’re not testing enough. Or, as The President might suggest, we’re testing too much. Yes, some old people would’ve died anyway. Or, believe it or not, some old people can survive common colds or flus. Arguments on both sides, for now… but it’ll be hard to dispute ultimate deaths.

One number that we’ve all gotten used to is now changing… which is the average age of test-positive cases. How serious that turns out to be remains to be seen, but a lot more younger people are getting this. It’s no real surprise the Florida is turning into its own micro-disaster zone. Their governor (falsely) announced the curve was flattened, and things should head back to normal. Now we’re seeing the effects of what happens when you do that. The message that hasn’t been hammered home enough seems to be that until this thing is gone, it’s here. It ain’t over till it’s over. And I suppose the one thing about the presentation of this virus that makes it so difficult is how it skirts the line of “very serious” and “no big deal” so effectively, catering to both sides who’ve chosen what to believe. It’s at least 40x more lethal than a common flu, but it’s not 1,000x worse.

You may have noticed that my graphs and data have changed. I’ve removed Italy and South Korea. Both have been there from the start, because the entire reason I started writing was to track the path we (Canada) were on, as compared to others. There’s no longer much to learn from those two, because in three months, we’ve clearly defined our own track, both nationally and provincially. Thank you Italy and South Korea for providing us with data with which to compare, and congratulations on flattening your curves effectively.

What’s left now is the U.S to compare against. There was a time we were following them lockstep; fortunately for us, that deviated a while back. But what’s going on south of the border is still very important to us, so I’ve not only kept the U.S., but I’ve also added in the same level of detail as the Canadian national and provincial data. I’ve also removed the Time To Double (TTD) of 2 and added a TTD of 20. Indeed, things have flattened beyond the initial crisis. But as we’re learning, things can change. Numbers don’t lie.

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Day 97 – June 21, 2020

Many years ago, well before my ownership of horses entitled me to free parking, I found a great place to park when going to Hastings Park or the PNE.

All of the PNE lands are bordered to the north by McGill Street, and to the north of McGill street is New Brighton Park. And whereas parking at the PNE was $10, parking at New Brighton was only $2. There was a guy there, orange vest and little pad of paper, wad of cash for change if needed… he’d take your two bucks and let you in. It was a bit of a hike, because you had to walk up, and all the way around.. but no big deal; it saved a significant amount of money, especially if you added it up over time… and this went on for years.

One day, the PNE called up the City of Vancouver and said to them, hey… your guy at New Brighton… he should be charging more. And the City of Vancouver replied… what guy? And so unravelled what can only be labelled as an excellent example of opportunistic creative entrepreneurship… or simply, a scam.

Scammers come in all sorts of shapes a sizes… an infinite array of criminal opportunists. A very common one these days involves scam emails. Nigerian princes with fortunes to hide, Powerball winners with millions to give away, ex-army officials with bricks of gold to launder… an endless list of creative criminals.

I have an email address — fake name, fake address… that I use exclusively for mailing lists and subscriptions where I want to read content, but not interact. They don’t need to know who I am. As you might imagine, this email address has become polluted with spam…. and scam emails. At least one a week… some version of “I have millions of dollars to send you; please send me some small amount of money so we can process it”. I sometimes reply with one sentence, and it turns into a conversation until they eventually figure out I’m just wasting their time. But two relevant stories… one was years ago… here’s what happened:

The guy (in Nigeria) wanted to send me a gift card with $200,000 on it… but needed me to send him $50 to pay for shipping it to me. That there are people who would fall for this baffles me. But anyway, I said to him… sure… I sent you the money… here’s the Western Union MTCN number… and made up a string of digits. He wrote back and told me he went to WU and tried to cash it in… but the number I’d sent was no good. It was only 9 digits, and the MTCN should be 10. Oh… I’m sorry, you’re right, I missed a digit. Here’s the correct number… and I just added an extra digit in the middle of it.

He wrote back two days later, angry that he’d once again gone to WU, and been rejected. I told him I’m so sorry… looking at it now, I think I said 4 to one of the digits, but it’s probably a 9. Bad handwriting from the WU clerk.

Two days later he wrote back… very angry. He’d gone again, been rejected of course, and been told that if he shows up again trying to scam WU, he’d be arrested. Then he gave me a whole sob story… how he’s an old man, he has to take a bus 90 minutes into Abuja to get to Western Union, he doesn’t time for this and so on. Oh… I felt bad. Poor scammer.

So I got an official WU form and filled it out with great precision. Even the handwritten MTCN number, with a digit that could be either a 4 or a 9. I made it look official, put some official time stamps and everything on it. It was a real work of art. Then I sent him an angry email, with a scan of my masterpiece… saying… listen you idiot, I’m not sure if you or the Western Union people are the brainless ones. Here’s the official paperwork I got when I sent the money. Take this to WU… and go get your money and send me my giftcard. Jeez.

Well… I never heard from him again. And there are a few possible scenarios, one of which is he’s in jail. I hope so. One less scammer preying on gullible people.

The second story is happening right now, and I’m not sure what to do. I recently answered one of these scammers with a sort of “I already sent you the money” email. Note… this is an excellent way to engage… because if they fall for it, they’ll think they’ve got “a live one” on the hook. I sent that message, and it turned into a back-and-forth, but what happened recently was this… I told her I’d send the money again, and she said great… and sent me all of her banking info. Real name, real home address and bank account info. Huh… now what. Call the cops? FBI? Ship her a glitter-bomb? Blackmail her? So many possibilities!

The vast majority of the time, the scams are all about money. Follow the money, and you will find the scammer. But once in a while, it’s about something totally different.

Such was the case last week and yesterday, with a bunch of teenagers using TikTok and other social media, and totally scamming the Trump presidential campaign. It fooled everyone, including me. I thought there would be hundreds of thousands of people crowding downtown Tulsa, because we were told how much interest there was in that rally. They had expected to fill 22,000 seats inside, and an extra overflow of 40,000 outside. In the end, the inside had a little over 6,000 people. The outside was cancelled.

Ironic of course, that the rally was to pay homage to the biggest scammer of all. And interestingly — perhaps appropriately — this rally might actually end up being the beginning of the end. There’s only so much people can take, and every time Trump goes off-script, all bets are off. He’s said many stupid things “off the cuff”, when he switches from the teleprompter to his brain, and usually the damage control can take care of it. But this time? Even his own people had nothing. They served up the lamest of the lame excuses, the one that works ok in grade 1… when you don’t quite get it… when you’re still refining your sense of humour. When Jimmy has dipped Cindy’s ponytail into paste, thinking it’s funny. But it’s not, and she’s crying… so Jimmy serves up the good old “I was just kidding”.

Well… what are they going to say, to remove the Trumpian foot out of his mouth? There’s nothing to say. “I was just kidding” isn’t going to fly; not because it’s not funny, but simply because he wasn’t kidding.

What Trump said basically was… “My reelection is so much more important than all of you, that I really don’t care if you all die… well, ha ha, not all of you… but let’s not go crazy testing you all… because we will see numbers that will make me look bad. So let’s just slow down this testing, and pretend things are not as bad as they are.”

That’s a heavy dose of reality for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. The guy you’ve been defending for more than four years, telling you, in your face, literally… it’s ok if we don’t know you’re all sick. That’s not as important as my re-election.

Maybe, just maybe… some people will wake up and see… that they’re being scammed, by the greatest scammer of them all.

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