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Day 88 – June 12, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Politics, Business & Economics, Travel Stories, Humour, Space & Astronomy, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Have you ever wondered why the number of UFO sightings seems to be way down in recent years? It’s really pretty straightforward… once upon a time, people weren’t walking around with cameras (actually, entire TV studios) in their pockets. All UFO stories were relayed by word of mouth. Nobody would’ve expected a person to have a camera on them, and when pictures did show up, it was one-offs… look, a bright blob in the sky… the only reasonable explanation is aliens who’ve somehow managed to bend the laws of physics and time and space… and after their journey that must have taken millions of earth years, decided to just park 50,000 feet above the ground for a few minutes before speeding home for another few million years. Yes, that is indeed the likeliest explanation.

Truth is, if a flying saucer of any sort showed up today, it would be seen and captured by thousands of people. It would be on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter… from a thousand different angles. The fact that’s never happened should tell you something. And to be clear, there are unidentified flying objects all the time — unidentified by you and me. But rest assured, someone probably could identify it. And they wouldn’t tell you it’s little green men.

Funny story about UFOs though… I’ve never seen one, but I did cause a bunch of people to see one… and since this was in 1987, in the middle of the desert of northern Chile, there was nobody around with a camera… and here’s the story. My cousin and I had driven past a guy on the street selling fireworks. Side-note, in many places around the world, Chile among them, every time you stop at a red light, you will be accosted by a salesman of some sort. And they’re not all selling dingy crap… sometimes it’s ice-cold sealed bottles of water, charging cables, hats, cigarettes. But sometimes it is total crap. And sometimes it’s animals, like a skinned rabbit turned inside out. You usually keep your windows rolled up for those ones.

Every corner, someone is hocking something. And so, at some intersection, some guy jumped out with… fireworks… no idea why he had any or where he got them, but it was interesting enough to pull over and check out his stash. We bough a bunch of stuff, including a curiosity you wouldn’t see around here, at any of the firework pop-up shops that show up near Halloween.

What it was… was an open-bottom hot-air ballon, made out of wire and tissue paper. It was pretty big — fully inflated, maybe a 5-foot diameter ball of wire and paper that held a big candle in the “basket”. Does this thing really work, we asked… oh yes he said, very well… and proceeded to explain to us the process of unwrapping it and inflating it… after all, fire and tissue paper aren’t always going to go together well. OK, so cool… let’s get it… and we did. And on one of the following nights, we went a few km. out of town into the middle of the pitch-black desert (pitch black except for the crystal-clear, star-filled southern night sky, a real-life planetarium) and fired off a bunch of fireworks… and left the ballon for last. But eventually we got to it.

My cousin sort of held the balloon “up” while I lit the candle and held the basket straight and flat to the ground. Very quickly, the thing inflated… it was very impressive how little time it took to heat up the air underneath the ballon. Within 2 minutes, he didn’t need to hold it up… it was a big, glowing ball… and that air was hot, and pulling very hard… and I’m not exactly sure at what point I was supposed to let go, but eventually I couldn’t really hold it… so I let go, and the thing shot up into the sky, surprisingly quickly. It was incredibly impressive. Up it went, very quickly and very high. Ooooh. Ahhhh.

And then… well, the air isn’t necessarily still at certain altitudes. The wind caught it, and it started to drift toward town. Oh shit, that’s not ideal. And then… the wind caught the basket and candle, and ever so slightly tipped the basket to the side, causing the candle to come closer to the edge… like the edge of the bottom of the balloon itself. You know, the tissue-paper ballon.

What happened then was really impressive to see, even from far below on the ground. It caught on fire, and it was all entirely consumed within seconds, the entire thing engulfed in flames. For a few seconds, it was an impressive glowing fireball. Of course, that quickly became nothing more than a very hot mess… a collection of burning wire, which came crashing to the ground. Oh, the humanity.

We ran over to where this mess of wires hit the ground, glowing hot and still slightly burning…. and did the responsible thing and called the fire department. Ha ha, as if… no, we just buried it all in sand, and I’d be surprised if it weren’t still there today.

But the next day, no pictures… but a lot of people had seen it Did you guys see the UFO? What UFO we asked… oh yeah, this big glowing ball in the sky around 10pm. Oh yeah… no, didn’t see it. Oh, you missed it… it was huge, like 10 feet tall. An hour later, the story we heard was 20 feet tall. 30 feet… someone saw it land. Someone saw what might have been an alien. Someone’s dog barked, and it never barks; maybe more than one alien. By the end of the day, it was a full-on War of the Worlds.

We kept our mouths shut, because during that time, the country was still under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and breaking laws wasn’t a good idea. There was enough illegality about all of that, that talking about it was a bad idea; but hearing the story get taller and taller… that was amusing.

Anyway, as we’ve recently seen, the ability for anyone and everyone to be able to document what’s going on around them is leading society to new levels of accountability — which can only be a good thing. “Because I said so” is no longer an accepted threshold for the truth, no matter from whose mouth it’s emerging. This is where I’d end up saying something that someone might conclude is a Trump-bashing sort of statement… but I don’t need to. Like with UFOs, look at the evidence (or lack thereof) and make up your own mind. When things are going downhill and the top guy is saying things have never been better, you don’t need to have take a graduate course in critical thinking to figure it out.

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Day 87 – June 11, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Follower Favourites, Business & Economics, Life in Vancouver, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , |

I grew up not too far from Oakridge Mall™… it used to be my go-to mall… but, just like the changes that have transformed Vancouver over my lifetime… the same thing can be said about that mall. It’s presently undergoing a massive renovation, and I’m curious how it’ll all look once it’s done. Until they started the renovations, it was still a go-to kind of mall. Great little hole-in-the-wall sushi place, great foot reflexology place, David’s Tea™ , Radio Shack™/The Source™. Renovations or pandemic; they’re all gone.

For those who’ve been around long enough, you might remember two things about that mall, and others that had a Woodward’s™ … things you haven’t thought about in years, but I’m about to remind you. Both have to do with the Woodward’s Food Floor™ , the ancestor of Safeway™. First of all, at a counter at the front… the best frosted malts on the planet. The most well-known bribe imaginable… kids don’t want to go shopping? Offer them a WFF frosted malt. Done deal. I’ve never been able to find anything like those; a Wendy’s Frosty™ is the closest thing, but it’s not the same. Who knows what gave it that intangible incredible taste. For all I know, it was mixing the malt with the non-biodegradable styrofoam cup that it came in, the kind where it makes that delicious scraping sound as you try to reach every last molecule of yumminess. If anybody reading this knows of a place locally that makes really good frosted malts… please… tell me!!

The other thing was the Parcel Depot™ — which sounds like something out of The Jetsons™ if you’re not familiar with it. You’d buy your groceries, which would always we be bagged by some kid… into paper bags. But instead of just handing you a shopping cart full of bags… or maybe schlepping them out to the car for you… what he’d do is put them in giant plastic tubs. Each tub had a number painted on it. Each tub also had a ratty-looking plastic shingle with the same number. The bags would go in, and the shingle (or shingles, if it was one of those massive haul sort-of trips requiring multiple bins) would be handed to the shopper. And then… the magic. The tubs would disappear underground, on a mysterious conveyor belt that took them into the abyss.

Actually, it wasn’t the abyss… it was an island in the middle of the parking lot, the Parcel Pickup™ where you’d drive the car, pop the trunk, hand the shingle to some other kid who’d find the appropriate tub that had magically materialized in said island… and load your trunk. Incredibly futuristic, in hindsight.

Around 30 years ago, I had this friend… who was dating a girl who was a hairdresser. She was really nice, and would cut my hair for free. I had to drive out all the way to New West, but so what… free haircut! And then, one day, they broke up. He was sad. I was sad too, because I lost my hair hookup. He’s laughing right now because he’s reading this. Hi Andrew.

And so, around 30 years ago but a few weeks later, I happened to be at Oakridge Mall™ and realized I desperately needed a haircut, and there was a hair salon place there. It was called Raymond Hair Design™ , located roughly where BMO™ and The Apple Store™ are today. I wandered in, asked for a haircut… I didn’t have an appointment of course, so they hooked me up with whoever was free — turned out to be a very nice young (we were all young back then) lady who cut my hair and did a great job with it. Good enough that when I needed a haircut next time, I went back to the same place and asked for her. And this went on for years, until one day she told me that she and a few of her co-workers were starting-up their own place… maybe I wanted to follow her there. Of course… where? Near Broadway & Granville. For sure… so for the next few years, that’s where the haircuts took place. And then one day, she said she’s going out on her own… she found a little place and signed a lease… maybe I wanted to follow her there. Of course… where? Near Broadway & Granville. Aren’t we near Broadway & Granville right now? Yes, indeed… it’s a couple of blocks away. Great.

So the haircuts moved over to the new place for several years… a kind of dark, below-ground little spot…but it did the job… until one day she said she’s moving again, to a bigger and brighter spot. Great, I said… where..? Near Broadway & Granville. Yeah…isn’t that where we are right now? Indeed… just a couple of blocks away. Heh, ok. See you there. And that’s where the haircuts moved to… and that’s exactly where I was a few hours ago, for the first time since February 24th. I typically cut my hair every few weeks… it grows quickly. It’s been 15 weeks…

I must say, I was really happy to go there. My hair desperately needed it, it was really nice to see her and catch up, and, of course, the feeling of restoring normality that comes with all of that. It was weird… we were the only two in the entire salon, she was wearing a mask… but still… so, shoutout to Jenny — she’s reading this too. I can’t seem to find the best frosted malts on the planet, but I found the best haircuts 30 years ago, so I’m sticking with it.

Speaking of sticking with it… you know, I can’t sign off without some sort of pandemic correlation… that seems to be *my* TradeMark™… but this one is easy… like I said, for us around here who’ve behaved relatively well, so much so that our numbers are allowing us the steps toward normality… this is the sort of reward that comes with it. It’s not a lot, but like many things we used to take for granted, it now comes with a new appreciation. I suppose like oxygen… it’s not a big deal and you never think about it… until the moment comes where you can’t get any. Suddenly, it becomes a very big deal, very quickly. Haircuts aren’t life-or-death, but neither was most of the life we were all accustomed to… it’s just nice to be heading back in that direction. Like I said, Stick With It™ … we’re getting there.


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Day 86 – June 10, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Life in Vancouver, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Back in 1992, I went to a rock concert — Metallica, at the Pacific Coliseum… the Black Album tour, arguably their best. A very memorable concert, but before the show… something just as memorable…

Back in those days, like today, you stood in line to get checked by security before going in. Back then, they weren’t looking for guns or knives, though of course those would be confiscated… they didn’t even care about drugs. But alcohol, and the bottles that would house it — that was the big no-no. My friend and I were good little boys, so no concerns. We waited more than 15 minutes for the line to slowly snake its way to the doors, but we finally got there… and then this happened: My friend went in first, and the security guy frisked him…. and frowned. “What’s this?”, he asked…. “Huh?”, says my friend…. “Oh… oh shit… uh… oh boy….” and reaches into some lower hidden pocket of his relatively thick winter jacket and pulls out… a grenade.

Not a live grenade, of course… just a $5 army-surplus “hey, that’s pretty cool” sort of grenade. I imagine if this were today, some undertrained overzealous security fill-in would scream out “GRENADE!!” and there would be pandemonium. But back then…

“Yeah, I’m afraid you can’t take that in with you.”

“No… no, of course not. I’m so sorry. I…”

“You’ll have to check it.”

“… check it?”

“Yeah, coat check… go in, turn left… far wall, there’s a coat check… leave it there.”



“…. Ok.”

So in we go, turn left, go to the far wall to the coat check… he puts the grenade down on the counter. Coat check older lady doesn’t bat an eye… she picks it up, tapes a number to it, gives him the corresponding number, and puts the grenade on the shelf behind her. He hands her $1. Surreal.

After the epic concert, we’re herded out along with the rest of the unruly mob… and we’re far from the coat check, on the other side of the building. “What about your grenade?”, I asked him, as we approached the exit. His response strongly implied he wasn’t too interested in retrieving it.

Every time I see a grenade (which isn’t too often, notwithstanding the Bruno Mars’s song 10 years ago), I think about that grenade. I wonder what became of it? Did it sit on that shelf for a while? Did it make its way down to the Lost-and-Found? Is it still in some “Forgotten stuff people have left behind” pile in some basement storage room? It probably made its way into someone’s home, and when that person is asked where it came from, I wonder what they say.

This is the sort of story that wouldn’t happen today. Even here in Canada, where we’re a lot more chill than south of the border, but still. At one point, I suppose it was ok. These days, no way.

While I’ve been around, Vancouver has gone through three growth spurts, timed with three relevant events… Expo’86, the late 90’s handoff of Hong Kong back to China… and, more recently, the 2010 Winter Olympics. All of them brought lots of people to the city… and many of those people liked what they saw, and decided to stick around.

Those three events shifted the identity of this city… growth, diversity… some degree of “world-class”ness… creating different versions of time and place. Context. A grenade today on a U.S. city street during a protest? Serious problem. 30 years ago at a concert in Vancouver? Not so much.

It’s interesting how I always manage to tie-in some distant historical curiosity of my life and make it relevant to this present-day pandemic. And, more recently, tie it into the societal changes that are occurring. There’s no magic in my writing… it’s just the simple fact that history repeats itself, more often than we think. In concrete terms, pandemics have been reappearing for as long as man has been around. So have protests. And concerts. Same old stuff, dressed-up to be relevant as the flavour of the day. And whenever these days, you’re finding yourself thinking, wow… this is unimaginable. This impossible. This can’t be happening.

Yes, it’s imaginable, possible and it’s happening… again. Because it’s happened before. And it’ll happen yet again. It might look different… H34N87. COVID-68. Civil unrest because the [X] people are sick and tired of the [Y]’s people treatment of them.

We are living in interesting times, but let’s be clear… we’re not that special. Most people have lived through their generation’s versions of the same things. The key aspect is… did they learn anything from it? Have we learned from what they’ve learned, or are we doomed to make the same mistakes?

Yup… some rhetorical questions answer themselves.

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Day 85 – June 9, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Business & Economics, Travel Stories, Humour, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

My old high school calls me once a year… to sit on a sort-of Dragon’s Den panel thing… where all the students in business classes come up with business ideas and business plans, and the top 5 projects get presented to a panel of Dragons, much like the TV show of the same name. They do their business pitch, and the panel decides on the winner. Fun, interesting… and encouraging. There are some very bright, and soon-to-be successful kids coming down the pipe.

The winning pitch a few years ago was an App — ringtones that only young people could hear. Those higher frequencies, above 17.5KHz… most of us can hear them when we’re young… but by the time you hit 40, the ability goes away. The older you get, the farther down that number drops… below 15KHz and downwards. The presentation and demonstration were great; a bunch of blindfolded kids all putting their arms up in unison when the ringtone was activated; the rest of us unable to hear a thing. But the thing has other uses too — I used to use it to annoy my kids or get their attention. For those who can hear it, it’s loud and annoying, a super-high-pitched squeal that drives young people crazy. And nobody else can hear a thing.

It reminds me… a technology that didn’t exist when I was a kid… and has now cycled through to obsolescence… CDs, which were designed so that nobody would miss hearing a thing… 44.1KHz means 22,500Hz per stereo channel, more than enough frequency range for any human, and even more than enough for dogs to be able to hear that final note in “A Day in the Life”.

It’s also interesting that the standardized length of an audio CD, around 74-80 minutes (650-700MB)… was decided-upon because someone insisted that a full recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony must be able to fit. Recordings of that Symphony range from 70 to 79 minutes, so it’s all good.

And what’s further interesting is that by the time Beethoven wrote that symphony, he’d already lost most of his hearing. It’s beyond comprehension… perhaps the greatest piece of music ever written… by someone who never actually heard it. There are many stories about the premiere of that piece, in 1824… where Beethoven himself insisted on conducting, the equivalent of a blind air-traffic controller armed only with binoculars and a megaphone. Nevertheless, it was Beethoven, so he was given the podium, and threw himself into the role with great relish. The musicians ignored him and kept their eyes on someone else, who quietly conducted from elsewhere. The result of that was… that by the time the piece was finished, Beethoven was still a few bars behind, caught up in the version playing through his head… and he was still conducting while the audience was giving him the first of five full enthusiastic, jubilant standing ovations. At some point, one of the musicians stood up and turned him around, so he could see and appreciate the well-deserved cheers and applause. He couldn’t hear it, but he could see it, including hats and handkerchiefs being thrown in the air, arms waving wildly around… the whole thing was a tremendous success.

Indeed, it’s possible to have great success, even when the conductor doesn’t know what’s going on. Even when all he’s listening to are voices in his head.

There are too many examples… heads of state… governors… Swedish head epidemiologists, etc… a long list of conductors that are out of sync with their respective orchestras… and this is where the metaphor breaks down, because there’s no other conductor off to the side. Because the music isn’t so great. While the varying orchestras may be marching to a different beat, at the end of the day, they sound like one voice. And what does that voice sound like? In many cases, it’s numbers… not notes. And not great numbers when you start looking around at places that haven’t managed things well, or that have started opening up before they should’ve. Yesterday saw surges or record highs in Oregon, California, Arkansas, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. Russia and India have seen surges. Also, Summer up here means Winter south of the equator. Brazil is a mess, and getting worse. Peru and Chile are seeing some pretty ugly numbers. Ugh.

Around here, some room for optimism… for Canada overall, over the last few weeks, a slow but steady decline in new cases. The Time To Double has gone from 53 days to around 130. Ontario’s TTD three weeks ago was around 39. Today it’s around 100. And both Quebec and B.C., over the last week, have averaged a TTD of around 175. All very far cries from the early days of this pandemic where TTDs of 3 were not uncommon.

Let’s just keep in mind… this symphony isn’t over. We may have reached the first pause, between the first and second movements. But let’s also remember the rules of classical music etiquette… you never applaud between movements. You wait until the whole thing is over before you stand up and give it the final applause of great success.

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Day 84 – June 8, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Politics, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Recently (May 22ⁿᵈ, in fact), I wrote about my way of learning… how difficult I find it to just memorize something… how I actually have to learn it and understand it. And the flipside of that… how if I actually manage to memorize anything, it sticks with me forever…. I suppose because of the way I learned it; to some extent, I understand it… it’s not just a jumble of words.

Such is the case with my favourite poem of all time, one I learned over 35 years ago. A classic and a favourite, written about by countless students over the years. I learned it back then, I and I still know it… and next time we’re having a coffee or a beer or whatever, call me on it… I’ll be happy to recite it for you. And if you want a far better version, check out Bryan Cranston’s reading of it on YouTube. It’s incredible.

“Ozymandias” – by Percy Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

OK… great poem. Fantastic imagery. You can totally see it… and the symbolism and message is pretty clear. Some very powerful king, thousands of years ago (it’s understood this was Ramses II, who was Pharaoh around 3,300 years ago) built these colossal cities, huge monumental cities that will survive forever. And in the middle of it, a huge statue of himself, proclaiming to the world how great he is, fear him, worship him, etc. And… today, it’s all gone, except, ironically, for this shattered remnant of all that boasting. Look around at all my awesomeness… but there’s nothing to see. It’s all been swallowed up by the desert.

The conventional analysis has to do with us, 3,300 years later, softly chuckling to ourselves at the colossal ego of this guy, thinking his stuff would last forever. Ha Ha, silly pharaoh, don’t you get it, nothing lasts forever, ha ha, you narcissistic, pretentious ego-maniac. If you read my report, and those of my fellow students… and those of thousands of others who’ve had to analyze this poem, that’s what you’ll get. Every variation on that theme; the poem is about hubris, period.

I learned this poem when I was a kid. I thought about it when I started my first job, about how I was building a colossal city… for someone else. I thought about it a lot over the years, building my own cities, knowing full well that I’ll get to enjoy them while I’m alive and so will my kids and close friends and all that, but, of course, one day it’ll all be gone, or, better put — transformed into something else. Ozymandias’ empire crumbled to literal dust — the very sand from which it emerged. I’m now wondering about the present-day versions of that. What will become of these words… things that barely exist… ones and zeroes, which, in the right order — mean a lot, but scramble them a bit and you have nothing. And stuff… the house, the cars, whatever. All transient. Just stuff. And it made me realize something recently, after 35 years of thinking about this poem. That maybe Ozymandias wasn’t such a short-sighted inward-facing fool after all. Maybe what he’s proclaiming to the world is the opposite… it’s like, look around — all of you — everything you are doing today — for what? It’s all going to crumble. Look at me, and everything I built! Gone! All gone! Now there is something to despair about. He wasn’t throwing into our faces how awesome he was and how immortal he was… he was saying… jeez, people… look… if I can’t build something that’ll last forever, what chance do you have? None! It’s all for nothing. That is what you should despair about.

I wish I could go back to grade 10 and present that. Get a serious “wow” look from the teacher, who I would hope would see the genius in that interpretation and give it the A+ is deserves. As opposed to the C I got because, you know, “Mr. Kemeny, I find your effort lacking”.

What’s also lacking in effort, and arguably missing in action, is leadership south of the border. I’ve been bashing Donald Trump, and his response to this pandemic, for a while now. With good reason, in my opinion. I had thought it’d be the crisis that would define his failure as president. That’s going to be a smaller part of the story, as it turns out. Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, he perhaps could have had some redemption in the proper handling of what now, no doubt, will become the defining issue of his presidency.

The masterful reading of that poem by Bryan Cranston is him speaking in relation to his character, Walter White. If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad — you’re lucky, because now you get to experience what’s arguably the best TV series ever made. Queue it up. Go watch it. Walter White starts off as a pretty normal high-school teacher. Then, you could say, he gets into drugs. And, over the next few years, things change dramatically. And, no spoilers, but… you could say, things don’t end well. Things crumble.

Donald Trump has literally built the sort of empire that’s meant to crumble. Towers, casinos, golf courses. Similar to those towers and ski hills and fake islands in Dubai… all will be swallowed up by the sand one day. And none of that matters. Nor should it. History will not judge him on how awesome his (now bankrupt) casinos were. It’s everything else. I look upon his mighty present-day works and despair. Fortunately, one day, every aspect of what’s defining this presidency will crumble, and the U.S. will come out of it in better shape than how things were when it all started… not because of this particular president, but in spite of him. And the students of the future will have plenty to discuss.

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Day 83 – June 7, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Science of COVID-19, Travel Stories, Humour, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Air travel has obviously been radically affected by this pandemic, but before everything went all to hell, it’s interesting to note that typically, there are so many planes (tens of thousands) flying around at any given moment, that it’d actually be impossible to ground them all; there’d be no room to park them. We caught a glimpse of that post 9/11 when, for a week, all air traffic over North America was stopped. Airports turned into giant parking lots — YVR was one of them, the taxiways and runways littered with an eclectic collection of livery. Another one of them was Gander, Newfoundland… a town with a population of around 10,000 people… and an airport that’s well-suited to emergencies, being the closest point between the U.S. and Europe… so when the call came in to every plane, “Get down now… anywhere… closest airport… NOW.” — every plane over the Atlantic, headed to the U.S… or every plane that had just departed, heading East… all of them set a course for Gander. The population of Gander almost doubled, for a week, when 38 planes carrying 6,700 people suddenly showed up.

And for a week, the air was clear — far clearer than it’d been for many decades, and it was an opportunity for scientists to gather data… to gather data that otherwise would never have been available. That was a very steep price to have paid for that data, one nobody would have wanted to pay. But since the opportunity presented itself, it obviously made sense to take advantage of it.

There’s the old saying… today is the first day of the rest of your life. And these days, until there’s a cure for this virus, today is also always the beginning of these rolling “5 to 14-day windows” where we get to see the after-effects of our activities.

We’ve come to learn a lot about the transmission of this virus, and how enclosed spaces for prolonged periods of time are a much bigger issue than being outdoors, being distant, and picking up the virus off a contaminated surface. Not to say that some of those things don’t pose a risk; they all might, but it differs… and effectively, the more exposed you are to the virus, both in time and volume, the worse it is.

The numerous protests going on around the world are a good example of these rolling windows, and everyone is keeping a close look at the outcome. It’s not an ideal experiment, but there’s plenty of data that’ll be made available; possibly very expensive data, as per the post-9/11 air quality numbers. In this case, the guinea pigs aren’t air particles… they’re human beings who decided to throw caution into the wind. While there are Covid-responsible ways of protesting… masks, outdoors, socially distanced… many people said to hell with it. We’ve of course seen many maskless crowded protests already anyway, so what’s the big deal?

Well — there will eventually be answers to that rhetorical question. George Floyd was murdered on May 25ᵗʰ, coming up now on two weeks. It’s hard to judge what effect the protests around the U.S. (and Canada) have had, especially south of the border where numbers weren’t slowing down to begin with. So, to be sure, they’re still rising… but are they rising faster than they otherwise might have? And to throw more variables into it, openings have been taking place in many different cities and states; how much is that contributing? Washington State was doing pretty well, but they had a significant spike a couple of days ago… a week after many new openings. Coincidence? Just a spike, not a trend? Time will tell.

Around here, time will tell as well — for now, it’s two straight days without real data… tomorrow’s update will backfill Saturday and Sunday.

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Day 82 – June 6, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Business & Economics, Life in Vancouver, Humour, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , , |

No new local numbers to report today… so… how about that thunderstorm early this morning…? 4:30am, I thought there was a photoshoot going on outside my window… then you do the “count the seconds” thing to see how far away it is… 3 seconds per km. or 5 seconds per mile. “One steamboat, two steam…” Ka-Blam!! Ohhh… ok, let’s not go outside. But eventually I did, to the monsoon… because thunder and lightning and rain aside, that is always the crispest, freshest air on earth.

After that, I lay awake listening to it… and guess what, there’s a word for that…

Chrysalism: the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm.

Then I fell back to sleep and hod some seriously weird dreams. Well, I often have seriously weird dreams… but these days, who doesn’t… no doubt they’re being seriously influenced by the events surrounding us all. If anyone wants to try to analyze, it was this… I was riding a motorcycle (I’ve never ridden an actual motorcycle) inside a mall — like the third floor of a luxury mall (I really dislike shopping). The mall was completely abandoned, but most doors were open and the shops were all in perfect condition… so I was driving through these ultra-luxury stores.. fashion, shoes, purses, etc… never stopping… and at some point, the luxury stores turned into more normal stores… a hardware store, even a pet store, with lots of full aquariums. “Who’s feeding the fish?”, I wondered in my dream. And that was pretty-much it.

Interesting thing, back in the day of computer programming… computer memory (RAM) was a valued resource, and good programming meant keeping the memory load low, especially if you had to be sharing it with other tasks, and the operating system. This was back in the day when memory addressing had a limit… an actual physical limit. An 8-bit CPU with only 16-bit addressing can, at most, address 2¹⁶ bytes — 64K of RAM, like with the famous Commodore 64. These days… for example, this Mac has a 64-bit CPU and 64GB of RAM… exactly one million times as much memory, the vast majority of which never gets used. And, for what it’s worth, the CPU powering this Mac is probably idle 99.9% of the time.

But… back when memory management really mattered, a good operating system would have implemented in it a sort of “garbage collection” — where it would go around and find snippets of memory that had something in it, but that was no longer being used… and would free it up . These little fragments of memory could then be consolidated into bigger chunks of free memory, which could then be used by other programs. All modern operating systems still do this.

It’s been said that dreams might be some sort of garbage collection where the brain, while we’re quietly sleeping, goes around getting rid of fragments of memory you no longer need. And possibly, before turfing it into oblivion, you brain consolidates it all into one big pool, which by then of course will be a jumble of disjointed, unrelated thoughts… and combines them into something that your brain then interprets into the craziness that you wake up from thinking… “what was that??”

Given the state of the world, I guess it’s no big surprise that our heads these days are full of a lot of thoughts, a lot of emotion, and a lot of junk. Great ingredients for some crazy dreams.

Today is also the anniversary of D-Day — 76 years ago, the best that America, Canada and the U.K. had to offer… stormed those five famous beaches of Normandy, and embarked on a campaign that ultimately led to Victory for the good guys. It’s ironic that the same U.S. army that played such a key role in liberating the world of an oppressive maniacal tyrant… may now be called upon to suppress its own people, by a “leader” who applauds authority via violence, be it the military, the police, or just protesters whose views align with his. For him, that violence is ok. For those protesting that sort of oppression and violence… not so ok. A “leader” who forgets that we’re all supposed to be on the same side, fighting for what we know is right. Kind of like those guys 76 years ago. Or, these days, kind of like how we’re all fighting this pandemic. There was no confusion back then. There should be no confusion today. We are in this together.

So, on that note… here’s a another word for you, this one of Japanese origin:

Kuebiko: A state of exhaustion inspired by acts of senseless violence.

How very on point. How very appropriate. A word for an emotion that we’re all feeling these days… despair/anger/exhaustion/resignation/tiredness… all fused into one convenient word that our brains can process in one chunk. A word that is probably pervasive in all of our dreams.

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Day 81 – June 5, 2020

Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, The First 100 Days, Politics, Science of COVID-19, Travel Stories, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

My list of top-ten favourite movies has evolved over the years, but since 1994, the number-one spot has been held by a title that’s unlikely to ever move from that spot. The movie is “The Shawshank Redemption”, based off a Stephen King novella by a similar name. Stephen King movie adaptations are very hit-and-miss, especially as SK is known for giving movie rights away to aspiring film makers for $1. The good ones get proper treatment though, and it doesn’t get any better than this one. If you haven’t seen it — just do. Don’t Google it, don’t preview it, don’t research it. The less you know, the better it’ll be.

I’m going to talk about one particular scene… and don’t worry, this doesn’t spoil anything. In this scene, which takes place in Shawshank prison, a particular prisoner gets hold of a record player and some vinyl. The record happens to be from Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro”. He starts playing it, and quickly realizes he’s in the same room from where the P.A. system for the entire prison is operated. He flips on all the amps and starts blaring this beautiful duet to every corner of the prison.

The movie is narrated by a character named Red, played by Morgan Freeman, and he describes it like this:

I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't wanna know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you those voices soared, higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”

I had the experience of seeing this opera in Italy, and experienced something I’d never seen… after this particular aria (an aria in this context is a little song within an opera), the applause was so thunderous that it brought the performance to a halt. The applause turned into a standing ovation, and the chants of “Brave!” — side note, the plural of Bravo is Bravi — but when it’s feminine, like if you were applauding a single female, you’d say Brava!, but the plural, as would be appropriate in this duet sung by two women, is Brave. Anyway, the chants of Brave turned into “Encore!”. Typically, of course, an encore comes after the performance, not during it… but technically, in French, “encore” means “again” — and that’s what the crowd wanted. And that’s what the crowd got, much to their rapturous delight. The performers and musicians turned back a few pages, rewound 4 minutes, and did the aria again. Very powerful.

The aria (“Canzonetta Sull’aria”) comes along at the perfect time in the movie, and its effect on the audience is similar to what Red describes in the prison. Again, very powerful. Red doesn’t know what the aria is about, but I do, so I’ll tell you… these two women are scheming… one of them is a Countess, and she’s dictating a note to her maid… because, as it turns out, the Count is sort-of into this maid, and the Countess is trying to catch him cheating. So, she’s dictating to the maid, a note… a sort of “Meet me later tonight out by the bushes” sort of thing… where she (the Countess) intends to dress-up like the maid and catch him red-handed. Good stuff — not anywhere near as pure and powerful as Red may have interpreted it, but at least it’s intriguing.

And that’s sort of what this is about… when Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message” back in 1964, there was no Internet. People’s present-day information came from 4 sources.. TV, radio, print and word-of-mouth. The stakes back then were much, much higher. The words of Walter Cronkite were gospel; indeed, he was known as “the most trusted man in America”. Republicans, Democrats, Communists, Anarchists…. whoever — they may all have vehemently disagreed on many things, but they all listened to the same source. And perhaps that’s the fundamental issue; broadcast news went from boring to entertaining when competition came in… 3 major networks (and 2 here in Canada) were the critical mass… “real” news could survive in that environment. But beyond that, if you wanted to grab those advertising dollars, you’d better have had a competitive product… and that’s clearly when things went downhill… down to where we are today, where it isn’t news that people are after; it’s easily-digestible content confirming what they already believe, or want to believe, disguised as news. And the social media platforms welcome those clients with open arms, spoon-feeding them curated “news” that’s right up their alley… click-click-click… $-$-$.

The education that’s necessary that I spoke about yesterday… it has to begin at an early age, and it has to begin with critical thinking. Someone who can’t think for themselves will welcome the spoon-feeding that comforts them. I don’t want to think, I don’t want to change my mind… I’m happy with my beliefs, and look, a lot of other people think the same way. We can’t all be wrong. Gimme gimme gimme. Feed me. Om-nom-nom.

In the movie, Red is a convicted criminal with a grade-school education. He’s touched by something he doesn’t understand, but at least manages to guess the language correctly, and knowing full-well he can’t understand a word of it, comes up with an interpretation that suits the moment. There’s a huge difference between “this is what it says” and “this is what I hope it says”, and knowing when and how to apply that difference… that is the key for an educated, peaceful and harmonious future.

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October 30, 2020

By |October 30th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19|9 Comments

You’ll notice below that I’ve added Saskatchewan to the numbers and graphs. While their absolute numbers aren’t looking too bad, their trend isn’t great… and, unfortunately, they’ll soon be a relevant part of the national picture. But what’s worse is that they’re sandwiched between Alberta and Manitoba, and looking at how things are going in those two places, it’s starting to turn that corner from concerning to frightening.

Let’s recap a bit, starting with the fact that a Covid-19 infection takes up to two weeks to kick in, and that Thanksgiving in Canada was a couple of weeks ago. What effect was there from everyone who somehow thinks they’re above getting sick or being infectious or “having their freedom taken away”? To hell with this hoax, it’s just a flu, it’s just the government trying to control us, etc etc. Let’s get together and celebrate; it’s no big deal.

Listen… I don’t mind being that guy, the one that you consider to be nagging or preaching or whatever. Standing on my little soapbox, inciting panic by spewing the government lies. Telling you what to do like I’m holier than thou. Maybe that’s the way you see it.

I really don’t care how you view this message… but, to be clear, I’m no different than you – I can get just as sick and infectious as anyone else. I’m trying hard to avoid becoming either of those things, but, evidently, many of you are not trying as hard. Here it is again, in the plainest English possible: if you don’t wear a mask when you should, and if you don’t socially distance, and if you don’t wash your hands and sanitize and do everything you’ve heard 1,000 times from everyone around you that understands the implications of not doing so, this thing will spread. And it will spread exponentially. And we will *all* suffer as a result.

Last three days in Alberta: +410, +477, +622
Last three days in Manitoba: +169, +193, +480

Winnipeg will soon be starting a full-on lockdown; shutting it all down till this can once again be brought under control. The tipping point is unfortunately near, with ICUs at over 90%. When you spill past 100%, that’s where you have patients in hallways, in lobbies and out in the street, dying. Listen … [Continue Reading]


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October 29, 2020

By |October 29th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Interesting Words, Movies, Music & Entertainment, Philosophy, Art & Literature|7 Comments

An excellent scene in one of my favourite movies, “The Princess Bride” involves one guy continually using the word “inconceivable” … and another guy eventually saying to him, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

But the word we’re going to discuss isn’t that one… the word of the day is “freedom”.

Americans seem to think they have a monopoly on “freedom”. Hey guys… up here – we’re free too, you know. In fact, of the 206 recognized sovereign nations, the vast majority are also free.

On the list of countries that are not so free, you’ll find places like China, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Venezuela… places that are perpetually in the news, often for the wrong reasons, and that’s why perhaps we never hear about the rest of the world. Uruguay? Bulgaria? Mongolia? They all have their own problems to navigate, like any other sovereign nation… but their people are free, by whatever definition you want to apply. But perhaps since the U.S. isn’t meddling in their affairs, you never hear about them.

Somewhere along the line, the meaning of “freedom” has lost its way, especially by those who’ve never experienced the lack thereof. Anyone who’s been born and lived all their lives in the U.S. (and Canada), no matter how old they are, has never lived under a government that didn’t offer them freedom. Yet even today, more than half the world’s population lives without the basic freedoms we all take for granted.

It’s hard to put it in terms for people who’ve never experienced it, so let’s compare it to something relatable.

I’m old enough to remember well when smoking was ubiquitous. Ten-hour airplane flights so full of smoke you couldn’t even see the screen of the movie playing 20 rows ahead. Tiny no-smoking areas in restaurants, if any. Everyone smoked back then, whether directly or second-hand.

When smoking bans were proposed, there was a huge uprising… and the word freedom was thrown around a lot. It’s my right, it’s my freedom, all the bullshit arguments you can imagine. And it goes back to what I said yesterday; nobody wants to infringe on anyone’s rights. You want to smoke at home? As long as the smoke doesn’t bleed into someone else’s space, go right ahead. … [Continue Reading]


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October 28, 2020

By |October 28th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19, Life in Vancouver|16 Comments

Many years ago, I was standing on the southwest corner of Georgia & Burrard, waiting for the light to change so I could cross the street (to the east) towards the Hotel Vancouver. There was a car sitting next to me, on my left, waiting to turn right, onto Burrard.

And while I was standing there waiting, the woman in the passenger seat contemptuously flicked out her still-smoldering cigarette, which landed right next to my foot.

The sheer disregard and selfishness of that action got to me in that instant. I simply reached down and threw it back in the car, helpfully adding, “I think you dropped this.”

Just as I did that, the light turned green, so I proceeded to cross the street, without even looking back. The car was stuck there, waiting for the stream of pedestrians to cross, so it didn’t move. But I did hear her shriek from behind me. I heard the driver screaming at me, too… “Hey!! What the f#@&!!”

The guy blared his horn a few times too, no doubt scaring and upsetting the pedestrians in front of him. I heard more yelling, but, as I said, didn’t turn around so didn’t really see what else may have happened. There was no sudden explosion, so I suppose it all turned out ok.

If that happened today, I’m not sure I’d do the same thing… it seems reckless. On the other hand, the blatant selfish entitlement displayed by that woman deserves some sort of response. “I’m going to smoke right next to you, I’m going to litter right in front of you, I’m going to throw something on fire at your feet… and I couldn’t care less about what you or anyone else thinks.” It’s brutal.

The usual saying is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but I prefer a slightly different version: “Don’t do unto others as you wouldn’t have them do unto you” – it’s a subtle (but very important) difference… which is that as long as what someone else is doing doesn’t affect you, leave them alone. You don’t want people telling you what to do when it’s none of their business, right? So respectfully… do the same for them. Either way, don’t impose your actions or beliefs on those who aren’t … [Continue Reading]


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October 27, 2020

By |October 27th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Humour|5 Comments

The unfortunate truth these days is that there’s just too much to write about. Around here, numbers spiraling upwards. Down south, in a week, they go to the polls… and, to a great extent, just in time. I had a quick look at the headlines-du-jour, looking for something appetizing that I could sink my teeth into… but you know, never bite off more than you can chew… and for some reason, today… it just looks overwhelming. Some of it looks tasty, but there’s too much, and after eating so much of this over the last little while, I think I’ve had enough for now. Here’s a news story that looks as appetizing as a plate of nachos, the melted cheese still steaming, the salsa… the chilled sour cream… and a frothy Guinness sitting next to it… but I’ll pass.

The exhaustion leading up to this final stretch… and now, this last week… looks like the last 100 yards of a marathon… and I’m not talking about the Kenyan guy who just ran it in 2:09 and could probably go another 10 miles… I’m talking about the guy who decided 3 months ago to train for a marathon… and managed to survive running 15 miles last weekend, and now just decided to go for it… you know that look, the middle-aged over-weight guy, bald but with a headband anyway, wobbling his way over the finish line in over 6 hours and collapsing in a heap… that’s the way we’re all going to look and feel in a week. And that’s just us Canadians… our poor American friends to the south… well, it’ll be a long recovery.

And anyway, we have ourselves to worry about. This country just went over 10,000 in C19 deaths. As bad as that sounds (and, it is) – that’s less than how many people have died in the U.S. since Oct 14th… and those are the curated numbers; the reality is unfortunately higher.

There’s a one-week finish line to the U.S. election. There’s also a more-distant finish line to this marathon of a pandemic… and we’re definitely on that last, killer hill. Eventually it plateaus and there’s a nice, gentle downhill to the finish. Unfortunately, like the marathon guy whose face is so drenched in sweat that not even the … [Continue Reading]


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October 26, 2020

By |October 26th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19, History|5 Comments

The “politicization” of Covid-19 is really quite interesting to observe. Perhaps the right word is “weaponized” – with the U.S. being the best example. Forget the reality of it; there will one day be “Covid denial” – it’ll be something that “maybe didn’t really happen”, was “exaggerated”, was “fabricated” for “sympathy” or “political gain”… the same nonsense every other flavour of denier likes to preach.

The discussion in the U.S. that’s now appearing is puzzling when based on reality, but perfectly in-line with the paragraph above… that, given that C19 is a political fabrication, invented to damage the presidency of Donald Trump, as soon as the election is over, it’ll all just go away. Win or lose, the whole pandemic will have served its purpose.

Of course, after November 3rd, and continuing into the future, long after all the ballots have been cast, guess what… C19 will still be here, numbers will be surging, and people will keep dying. I wonder what the deniers will have to say after that. Actually, there’s no need to wonder; we can just assume it’ll be as confusing and misguided as what we’re hearing now.

So, let’s ignore the complete bullshit, and talk a bit about the more subtle bullshit. The White House Chief of Staff, twice now, has basically admitted that there’s no plan to control the pandemic. This is not really news, though it’s nice and surprising to hear some honesty so close to the source of misinformation itself. Unlike his boss, Mark Meadows isn’t saying it’s getting better. That it’s turned the corner. That it’ll be over soon. That the vaccine is just around the corner.

No – none of that. All he’s said, and doubled-down on, is this: “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.”

To put it in different terms, what he’s saying is this: “We have been lying for a while, knowing full-well that the messaging and actions we’ve put out are not going to work, and never would have, especially given the polarized electorate we have today… so, we chose to lie, and paint a rosy picture… long enough to get re-relected. We know a lot of people will die as a result – deaths … [Continue Reading]


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