June 27, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The only thing hotter than the infernal weather is… the anticipation for this week’s contest!

Yes, indeed… it’s that time again… and, perhaps, for the last time… because given how the numbers are looking, pretty soon we’ll be at the point where there are 3x as many people guessing as there are reasonable guesses. This is, of course, a great thing. Here are the daily new case averages for recent weeks:

Today: +74
Last week: +104
Two weeks ago: +161
Three weeks ago: +210
A month ago: +315

Beautiful trend… so what’s our three-day total going to look like? Guess way… the contest is open from now till noon tomorrow – and, as usual, apart from the coveted bragging rights, $100 to the charity of choice to whoever is first in guessing closest to the actual total.

If you were to base it on recent averages, 3 x 74 = 222… a number that would’ve counted, on its own, as a good day a month ago. Exponential growth? Now we’re dealing with exponential decay. Beautiful.

Guess away, good luck… and with respect to these numbers dropping drastically, let’s hope the outside temperatures also follow suit…

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June 26, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

On a completely different topic… man, it’s hot as Hell out there… and speaking of Hell – here’s a good segue… you know who belongs in hell? Paul Bernardo… who was briefly in the news a few days ago, and will be again in the future.

Paul Bernardo is brutally psychotic rapist and murderer who was put away decades ago, but as long as he’s alive, we’ll keep hearing his name every few years.

Here is the Paul Bernardo news cycle from now on:

parole hearing/denied
parole hearing/denied
parole hearing/denied
dead.

Not sure how many cycles there will be, but you get the idea. It ends when he finally arrives in Hell.

When Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, they instituted the “faint hope” clause… which, after fifteen years of a life sentence, allowed the convict a chance to ask for a parole hearing… a long-shot chance to get out… one that would never apply to monsters like Bernardo, but the hoops need to be jumped through… and it’s problematic, because it requires testimony, often from the families of the victims… tearing open wounds from the past – every 2 or 3 years.

The idea behind all of this was that if the convict thought he’d have a small chance… effectively, a small chance in hell… perhaps he’d behave better and make better efforts to better himself, etc. Most of those dangerous offenders are beyond rehabilitation, so the whole thing is a pretty big and expensive and stressful waste of time.

Accordingly, the whole faint hope thing was abandoned in 2011, but everyone whose crimes occurred before that were “grandfathered”, so they still get to play the game… a game that will die off along with these remaining prisoners. Then, they can all hang out in Hell together.

You’d think I that’s all I have to say on this particular topic, but I’ll tell you a interesting story related to all of this… some other time. Right now, I’m going to go cool off… because, do you know how hot it is? Exactly.

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June 25, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

When this pandemic started, my daughter Sophia had recently started grade 11. That was at the time when we were all worrying about this getting totally out of control; watching those exponential-growth graphs; looking closely at the TTD (Time To Double) numbers. I can still tell you… that if cases are growing at 10%, they’ll double in a week. At 6%, it’ll take 12 days.

Slowly, those percentages dwindled to the point where they became far less concerning… and, eventually, irrelevant. Today’s percentages are actually close enough to zero that unless something drastic happens, I should just remove them. But in March of 2020, that number was over 40% in Quebec… a TTD of 2. Cases doubling every two days. Today, that number is 0.02%. Go Habs.

And that’s not the only thing that’s changed. Sophia went from grade 11 to grade 12, and today is the last day of that particular adventure. Right around the time I’m posting this, she and her classmates will be walking across the stage, receiving their well-deserved awards and diplomas, and putting the whole high-school experience (with a pandemic thrown in for good measure) behind them.

The crappy part is I can’t be there. I’m watching the livestream from home, as are all the other parents. The good part is that family from all over the world can also watch. And even though I’m not there, I think the screaming and cheering at the TV will be loud enough that even though the school is several kilometres away… they’ll hear it.

For Sophia, the end of a big adventure… and, also, the start of an even bigger one.

For us… well, this uncalled-for adventure isn’t quite over yet… but if we were all in grade 12, we’d be at the point where the final papers are all handed in, and all of the exams have been written. The stage is set… and soon, we all get to walk across it. And then we get to collectively throw our caps (ie masks) in the air and, with the same sense of anticipation being felt by this awesome group of graduates… get on with our lives.

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June 24, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Bruce Hornsby has had more than one hit in his illustrious career… he’s no “one hit wonder”… but if you’ve ever heard of him, there’s no doubt you know his most famous song. And maybe that’s the only one you know. If he’d never written another song, his legacy may not be that different. It was pretty much the first thing he ever put out… it won Grammys, it went multi-platinum, etc. Deservedly so. And for many, that’s the last they remember of him.

The song, of course, is “The Way It Is”.

Bruce Hornsby’s song answers a lot of questions (that are typically rhetorical, but shouldn’t be) with that answer. Why Black segregation? Why such a divide between rich and poor? That song would go on for years if you kept adding relevant questions to it. Any well-entrenched part of society that’s unfair, unbalanced and/or just plain insane – gets defended by that answer.

The answer, “that’s just the way it is” is the ultimate cop-out. The ultimate passing the buck. The ultimate “not my problem”.

That song came out right around my 18th birthday, just a few months after graduation. And that is exactly the age where teens get thrown into the real world. Accordingly, they look around at where they landed… and ask lots of questions. And that particular answer is never accepted graciously.

Side-note, it was an argument with a university prof that was the final nail in the coffin of my academic career… me telling her that her sorting algorithms may have been great in the past, but recent advances in computer theory — and the languages that have emerged as a result — offer other possibilities. Nope, it’s her way or the highway. And her final response to my well-thought-out and logical and correct arguments? Too bad… that’s just the way it is.

After all is said and done, once this pandemic is over, we’re all looking forward to getting back to normal. Or are we? What, exactly, *is* normal?

Getting into your car, driving 25 minutes in rush-hour gridlock, finding parking that’s $19.00 for the first hour and then ten cents an hour for the rest of the day – when all you need is 30 minutes… wandering into an office and waiting, being guided into a room with lots of people and lots of papers laid out, signing them till your hand feels like it’s going to fall off, heading back to the car but stopping at the Starbucks on the way for a 300-calorie fancy drink that you didn’t really need and would never have gone out of your way for… but jeez, you know, it’s right there… so what can you do. Get back to your car — annoyed at the bullshit parking price you paid — drive home in lighter-but-still-stress-inducing traffic… get home, see that two hours have somehow elapsed… and for what? What part of any of that seems “normal” ? It didn’t feel normal back then, but if you’d ask anybody why all that’s necessary, you’d hear back:

“That’s just the way it is.”

And you’d ask, “Well, why? This sucks. There must be a better way.”

“Nope… that’s just the way it is.”

Funny how a pandemic can change things. You need all of this signed? No problem. But I can’t come to you and you can’t come to me. OK… figure it out… and figure it out they did, and I love it; Zoom at precisely 10am, say hi, flash the ID, step through the verification of the digital signature, step through the paper work and click-click-done. Twenty minutes, tops. No driving/polluting. No $20 parking fee down the drain. No 300-calorie Starbucks that you certainly could’ve lived without. And more than 90 minutes to do something actually productive.

Everyone is grumbling about how we’ll never be back to normal. There’s no going back. The “New Normal”.

Call it what you want… but I embrace it with open arms.

If you actually enjoy the song-and-dance I described above, don’t worry… I’m sure offices and board rooms and copy rooms will all be open fully soon enough, and then you can participate in all the signing ceremonies you like. But if the new normal means optionally throwing that away and adding the Zoom version, talk about a win-win. For me, for everyone who thinks like me, for the environment.

I understand that some people don’t like change, but as we’ve learned in so many ways over the past two years, there’s a lot that needs changing… and perhaps we need to be grateful to this pandemic for creating answers for questions that desperately needed asking. Bring it on.

And for those who don’t like it… well, for once… the answer is actually appropriate. Too bad. That’s just the way it is.

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June 23, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19, Space & Astronomy|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Let’s take a closer look at out neighbours to the south, where the overall single-jab vaccination rate is around 54% and stagnating…

The top-10 most vaccinated states are: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire & New Mexico.

Vermont tops the list with a vaccination percentage of 73.1%, while New Mexico rounds out the top-10 with 60.8%.

The bottom 10 looks like this…

North Dakota, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Louisiana & Mississippi.

The best of those worst-10 is North Dakota at 43.4%. The worst is Mississippi at 36.0%

That’s quite a divide… where the top state more than doubles the worst one.

Here’s another interesting stat about all of those states…

In the last presidential election, of the top-10, all of them voted Democrat.

Of the bottom-10, 9 of them voted Republican. The one that didn’t, Georgia, is so inwardly-horrified at the result that their Republican-controlled government recently disenfranchised more than 100,000 potential voters, striking them from the rolls… and this was after enacting a number of laws that can only be called “Voter Suppression”. Take a guess which voters are most affected.

None of this is much of a surprise, though the blatant starkness of it is a little eye-opening… but what’s the deal? The blue state/red state divisions largely precede the pandemic, so how does it necessarily follow that raving, unrelenting Trump supporters would also be the anti-mask/anti-vax crowd?

The answer is a bit more complicated than “They’re just a bunch of ignorant rednecks”. The answer, in fact, has a lot to do with distrust of the government. When you’re poor and/or uneducated and/or sick and tired of hearing lies about how the government is going to do so much for you (and then doesn’t), you end up jumping ship to the guy you can relate to… he’s one of us, loud, abrasive, calls it like he sees it, etc. He’s not cut from government cloth.

Which makes Trump all the worse. If anybody could’ve convinced that group about masks and vaccines, it would’ve been him. It could’ve and it should’ve been him. Notwithstanding the shitshow it took to get him elected, it’s like the universe said “Hmm… there’s going to be this pandemic, and a lot of Americans will lose their lives. At least, who could we put in power in the U.S. to mitigate that? Someone that people who’d generally ignore government advice actually listen to?”

Without a doubt, his handling of this pandemic will be what history judges him on, and it’ll be appropriately brutal. When all is said and done, countless American deaths that could’ve been prevented… a figure officially set at over 600,000 at the moment, but the real figure is already a two-comma number.

Trump likes to make shit up as he goes along, depending who he’s talking to. We know he quietly got vaccinated while at the same time telling everyone it’s unnecessary. And then, a couple of months ago, this magnificent quote: ““In a certain way, I’m the father of the vaccine because I was the one that pushed it.”

At least we can end this relatively sad commentary with a good laugh.

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June 22, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Summer is only one day old, but it’s certainly making a statement. Glorious warm sunshine… hopefully a continuing sign of things to come, and I don’t just mean the weather. Blue skies, calm seas, smooth sailing… pick your metaphor; they all apply.

I’ve replaced the usual graphs today with others that are pretty cool to look at… and that tell an interesting story. These are vaccination rates since March 1st… for Canada, the U.S., and the usual provinces we’ve been tracking. These graphs show the daily totals (how “tall” each line is) as well as the breakdown between first and second doses… first doses near the bottom, in the lighter colours… and second doses above them, in the darker colours.

I posted one of these graphs for B.C. recently, but here’s all of them… and what do they tell us…?

First of all, with respect to the Canadian ones – the national one and the individual provinces – you’ll notice that the tips of the lines mostly trend upwards or are, at worst, flat. The flatness of some of those lines, for the moment, has more to do with supply limits than demand shortages. You’ll also note the disparity between first and second doses… a pattern that’s mimicked across the country; sometime around June 1st, there began a big push towards second doses… and today, in all provinces, second doses make up the vast majority of vaccinations. Here in B.C., today… close to 80,000 jabs… of which less than 10,000 were first vaccinations.

It’s also interesting to note what the U.S. graph has to say; that they’ve been doing second doses for a long time, and continue to do so… but with diminishing demand. And first doses…? Today’s levels are less than half of what they were seeing in April.

I’ll keep some version of these graphs around from now on, because… unless things really slide backwards, the story is shifting away from new daily cases and hospitalizations and ICU admissions… and now it’s becoming all about how vaccinated we all are, how immune we all are, and how ready to get back to normal we all are.

On this beautiful day… when B.C. crossed the 1,000,000 fully-vaccinated threshold… when the pharmacy where I got my AZ shot two months ago finally got around to calling me for the follow-up.. “Yeah, no, I’m good… thanks anyway…” and when there wasn’t a single C19 death west of Manitoba… yep… it’s Summer… in more ways than one.

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June 21, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

First things first… the contest! Congratulations to Shahar Ben Halevi! – whose guess of 231 was only two off the actual total of 229. Shoutout to Theresa Christina who guessed a few minutes later and was also only 2 off, but in the other direction, with her guess of 227. Shahar, let me know where you’d like it donated!

** EDIT ** Oops… ignore most of that last paragraph. Garry Saitz, congrats… 228 is closer to 229 than anything else. Shahar, I’m not going to pull a Steve Harvey here… we have two winners. Shahar, let me know. Garry… you too!

Secondly, to put to rest my decision-making with respect to dose two: My research, as I’ve written, has led me to think that, given the option, an mRNA vaccine for the second dose would be the way to go… if it was literally a choice, right at that moment. As it turns out, I wasn’t given the choice… I would’ve expected the pharmacy who gave me the AZ on Apr 22nd to have reached out by now, but they haven’t. The provincial system, however… the one I registered with ages ago – they did. And last week, booked me for an appointment for today. So… today I went, received my 2nd shot (Moderna) and, as far as I’m concerned, at least for now… that’s that. Almost exactly 15 months ago, I was writing pieces about how I expected vaccines would be available in 12 to 18 months. In hindsight, given my penchant for little contests, we could’ve held a pool where people guess, to the day, how long it would’ve been till vaccines show up. That would’ve been fun, and we could’ve raised a lot of money for charity. Oh well, a missed opportunity. Maybe next pandemic.

Finally… today, June 21st… often the longest day (ie most sunlight) of the year… the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer… has held, for the last 5 years, a more profound meaning. June 21st, 2016, was the day my dad passed away… and so now, every year, this particular day has a lot more meaning. It sometimes, appropriately, lands right on Father’s Day as well.

I wrote a lot about him five years ago… and, if you missed it the first time around, here you go:
https://www.facebook.com/kemeny.ca/posts/10154263810837481

Happy Summer everyone – it’s going to be a good one.

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June 20, 2021

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Happy Summer Solstice!! Happy longest day of the year!! And, of course, Happy Father’s Day!!! To all the dads out there, hope you’re having a great day and being spoiled appropriately. I certainly am, and I’m enjoying every well-deserved minute of it. And it’s not over yet… but before the festivities continue, dad or not, guess what day it is… hint, look at the two rows of yellow where the BC numbers should be…

Yes, indeed, it’s contest time… a contest so popular three people jumped the gun yesterday and started posting guesses. The contest starts *now*, and runs till noon tomorrow… and it’s simply this: Guess the three-day total of new daily new cases… for yesterday, today and tomorrow… and after tomorrow’s weekend numbers are released, whoever was first to guess closest wins the coveted bragging rights… *and*, a $100 donation the charity of their choice.

Enjoy what’s left of this beautiful weekend… and… good luck!!

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The Last (Daily) Post – July 6, 2021

By |July 6th, 2021|COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Science of COVID-19|25 Comments

The Last Post.

That’s the piece of music you’ll hear on Remembrance Day, November 11th at 11am, commemorating the end of The Great War.

At my school, there was a Remembrance Day service every year, and the lead trumpet player of the school had the honour of getting up in front of everyone and playing it. In my grade 12 year, that was me… but instead of standing in front of everyone, I did it from the gym next door… where the acoustics allowed me to harmonize with my own notes. As it’s typically played on a bugle (on a trumpet, you simply play it without pressing any valves… it’s all lips and air pressure), there are only three notes to work with… C E and G (in three different octaves)… and, as any musician will tell you, any combination of those notes (including all three) go together very well. Accordingly, my rendition of notes blending and harmonizing with each other was really-well received. A very successful gig – notwithstanding the somber occasion — and the largest crowd I’d ever played to. A few months later, at Expo 86, my Dixieland band played in front of 3,000 people at the Kodak Bowl. My largest and — with the exception of my sister’s wedding — last public appearance as a musician because, the truth is, I’m not a big fan of being on stage.

Which brings us to this particular Last Post.

People have asked me how many people actually read these posts. The answer varies… from a minimum of a few hundred for the lame ones… to thousands for the good ones, and, on a couple of occasions, the number well-exceeded 10,000. The first one of those big ones got close to 500 shares in the first 24 hours, a piece comparing B.C.’s response to that of Louisiana. That was back in April of 2020, when the glaring differences in responses between countries, states and provinces were becoming very apparent, and I didn’t have a lot of great things to say about what they were doing down there.

It was really the first time I realized I was reaching an awful lot more people than I imagined… a few scattered people from some very far-away places, sure… but also large pockets of people in places … [Continue Reading]

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July 5, 2021

By |July 5th, 2021|COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19|9 Comments

First things first… the contest! It is indeed a good time to shut it down because now there are far more people guessing than reasonable guesses out there. Special shoutouts to Carey Brown and Kiyomi Hunter whose guesses of 88 missed by one. Also special shoutouts to Claudio Arato and Stephen Silver whose guesses of 86 also missed by one. Extra special shoutout to Lauren Faccin whose guess of 87 was bang-on, but unfortunately… she wasn’t the first to guess that.

That excellent guess was first posted by Sam Ari – so… congrats, Ari! And let me know to where you’d like the $100 donation directed!

It’s a good thing when we’re running out of room for guesses. The last twenty-four hour period saw a grand total of 20 new cases… a number so low it takes a lot of hindsight to find the last time… which was in July of… 2020. See? Good hindsight. Things are very much heading in the right direction. Around here.

But… on that note… a final word about our neighbours to the south…

The pandemic journey of what used to be the most powerful and respected nation in the world has been a bumpy ride, and it’s not over yet. It could be. It would be. For numerous reasons I’ve been hammering for 16 months, it most definitely should be… but it isn’t. It actually might have been… had the virus not adapted faster than the attitudes of so many people. There’s a chance it might have faded away, had the Rø remained what it was figured to be originally. Variants changed that, especially Delta… and there could be others, and hopefully they don’t run out of letters in the Greek alphabet to name them all.

Last week, the U.S. had 12,219 people hospitalized. Today, that number is 12,740. Last week, the U.S. had 3,522 in ICUs… and today, it’s 3,634. This doesn’t imply frightening, scary growth (yet…), but it certainly indicates things trending in the wrong direction. Just look at the U.S. graph of hospitalizations compared to Canada or any of the provinces… there’s a flattening, and then a slight bend up… and all of it driven by places with low vaccination rates. The lecture halls of the future studying this pandemic will see a lot of hands … [Continue Reading]

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July 4, 2021

By |July 4th, 2021|COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Space & Astronomy|47 Comments

Alrighty… one last kick at the can. One final shot at fame, fortune and glory. One last grab at all the marbles. Yes indeed… it’s the last ever (please, let’s hope…) “Guess the Weekend Totals!” contest.

For those new to it, it’s pretty simple: In the comments below, write your guess as to what B.C.’s three-day new-cases total will be; the winner will be the person who guesses closest first, and I am almost certain someone will nail it bang-on because, while it’s a lot more difficult when we’re getting 500 cases a day, it becomes a lot easier when we’re below 50.

Indeed, the new-case numbers for the last three days were 43, 49 and 35… which averages to a number very familiar to Douglas Adams fans: 42.

Wow… in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide..”, it took the Deep Thought supercomputer 7.5. million years to come up with that number… and I just did it in my head!

Well… since this is the last one, I’m going to play too. I will take that number, the literal “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything”, multiply it by 3, and guess 126.

Now it’s your turn… enter your guess in the comments below, and, as usual, for the final time, it’s not just the bragging rights and glory, but also $100 to the charity of your choice.

Good luck!

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July 3, 2021

By |July 3rd, 2021|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19|4 Comments

Death and taxes aren’t actually the only certainties in life, of course… there are a few more… among them:

1. Have you ever had a cold?
2. Have you ever had the flu?
3. Are you presently alive?

The answer is 100% for all three, for everyone reading this… but if you want to argue it’s not, that it’s probably 99.999 something percent, then ok, I’ll mention that not everyone pays taxes either… exhibit A would be the former president of the U.S. and his entire organization… who are about to find out the hard way that you don’t mess with The Tax Man. Al Capone got away with racketeering and bootlegging and murder… for decades. But he couldn’t defend himself against the charges of tax evasion, and that’s what sent him to prison for the rest of his life.

But this article is neither about Trump nor his ill-fated organization. Rather, it’s a discussion about certainties, and what they look like going forward.

Colds are around. The flu is around. Measles and Mumps and Rubella are all around too, but we rarely worry about them… for good reason. They’ve been vaxxed out of our “worry zone”.

There are some important things to note going forward… and that is, that cases of C19 will come and go. Pockets of cases will flare up here and there, like that group of insane anti-vax moms in California responsible for a measles outbreak. Up next, the glorious state of Arkansas with its deplorable vaccination rates; bring on the completely preventable next wave of C19.

Actually, to clarify, we may see flare-ups of cases here too. Should we be concerned? At some point (and we’re at it, of very close to it…), the thing to watch is no longer cases. They become irrelevant. What becomes important are hospitalizations, ICU cases and deaths… numbers which have plummeted, and there’s every expectation they’ll remain low… because, again… you know… vaccinations.

This pandemic turns into an “endemic” in different places at different times. We’re pretty-much there now around here… because once you’ve done everything you can, and the support infrastructure is in place, there’s really not much else. As odd as it sounds, does it actually matter if you catch C19? If you catch it, but you’re asymptomatic and/or non-infectious to others? I’d never really thought … [Continue Reading]

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July 2, 2021

By |July 2nd, 2021|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Business & Economics|2 Comments

On the last day of second-year university, I wrote my last exam on a Friday afternoon. That was the last thing after a tumultuous few weeks of final papers, projects and exams. I finished writing it, barely remember driving home, told everyone not to wake me… I’m exhausted, I already ate, leave me alone. I fell asleep around 6pm and woke up the next morning at 11am. That’s 17 hours of glorious, blissful sleep… and I remember it well because it’s, by far, the longest continuous sleep I’ve ever had.

And when I woke up the next day, I suddenly felt like I was in a vacuum. “Now what?!” What paper or project do I work on? What exam do I study for? There were no answers of course, but as the saying goes… when you stare into the abyss, it stares right back at you. Now what?

The government 3pm briefings were something I’d gotten used to. If you were here watching with me, you might have heard me screaming at the screen… not at Dr. Henry or Minister Dix… but rather, at the reporters serving up the softball questions. “Ask him this!” or “Ask her that!” I’d (very ineffectively) yell… and usually, nobody thought to ask what I’d desperately wanted answered. I took to Tweeting certain reporters, and a couple of times, by coincidence or because they listened, my specific questions got asked and answered… but now… this vacuum of silence. This abyss of zero information.

This is, of course, good. No news is good news. Usually. We can all hope we never see Dr. Henry on TV again, except when she’s receiving her well-deserved Order of B.C. and Order of Canada. But perhaps there’s a bit of Stockholm Syndrome as well. This pandemic has held us all hostage for more than a year, and even if it’s letting us go, there’s visible reluctance all around. I’m not saying we’re going to miss it, but certainly parts of it. I’m not saying I need to see the Henry/Dix 3pm gathering every day for the rest of my life, but there’s no doubt it held great importance for many people… and, truthfully, I will miss it. And while we’ve all become very used to masks and distancing, and the mental stranglehold of … [Continue Reading]

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