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Day 59 – May 14, 2020

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

Thinking about my time in Northern Chile, in Copiapó, a few decades ago… led me to realize how much of that experience has aspects relatable to a lot of what’s going on these days… around here and around the world. Here’s an interesting sociological observation…

Back then, there wasn’t much to do except work. With no TV and only one radio station, it felt very much cut-off from the rest of the world. There was exactly one magazine kiosk that got anything in English, and everything was always, at best, a couple of days behind. But a 2-day-old New York Times was better than nothing, and I’d read every word of it. Most days looked like this: You’d be up early, get to work… work until lunch… which could turn into a 3-hour break if you threw errands and a siesta in there… and then back to work, till about 7pm. Then an hour or two of socializing, and then dinner… then sleep, and back to it next day.

It was about an 8-hour work day… 8:30am to 1pm, 3:30pm to 7pm… and the socializing to which I refer was often not more than wandering the streets and running into people and chatting. A feature of every single city, town, village in Latin America is what’s called the “Plaza de Armas” — a central plaza, usually located near the heart. Any place that has at least two sets of parallel roads will have the middle of that tic-tac-toe, and that is the de-facto Plaza de Armas. Often, it’s much bigger… 2 or 3 sets of streets ending at the square from all sides. A 3×3 block of grass, trees, paths, benches, statues. And the hub of outdoor social activity.

I lived a block away from the Plaza, so I was there often… and it was great. Lots of people milling around, kids kicking soccer balls around. It was also a commercial area… some artisans selling their work, and the permiter around the plaza on all sides — that was the “downtown”, if that’s the right word… populated with government offices, businesses of all sorts; the typical eclectic collection of one-off mom-and-pop shops, including two thirds of the entire town’s restaurants.

But right around that time is when things began to change.

Some Latin-American satellite TV company began offering service in Santiago… and quickly, people were asking… if Santiago can get satellite TV, surely it must be possible in Copiapó, which is actually 800km closer to the equator… right? Of course, and don’t call me Shirley.

It was a big deal when the TVs showed up. A handful of people got them, and crowds would gather in the street to peer through these peoples’ living room windows to check it out… and those windows to the world offered a very impressive view. For example, recall a show called Miami Vice… two cool cops, Ferraris, fast women, alligators, flamingos, everything in pastel shades of pink and blue… wet streets, slicked-back hair. The whole package was pretty impactful around here; imagine how it looked to people who’d never neither seen nor imagined any of that. And the commercials. Sensory overload. And an emerging attitude and understanding that the world has a lot more to offer, and why can’t we here have all that… stuff.

And then one day, a SuperStore/Costco sort of place showed up. They bought up a huge parcel of land and built a warehouse-sized shopping experience, with aisles and tall shelves. Very quickly, that became the Plaza de Armas; that’s where you’d go to socialize and be seen. And, of course, you can’t go to a shopping destination without at least the illusion of shopping, and that’s what it was… people walking up and down the aisles, filling their monster-sized shopping carts with crap they didn’t need, and in many cases, probably didn’t understand… all while running into other people. You’d hear snippets of conversation like, “Oh hey Pablo! You’re here too, yeah awesome, hey check this thing out, it’s a carbon-monoxide fire flood detector emergency light, cool eh, yeah, ok nice seeing you”.

Pablo didn’t need that device, nor pretty-much anything else in that basket. Pablo was a labourer, his wife was a housewife, and they lived in a modest home… and could never afford any of that stuff. So after an hour of socializing and filling the cart, when it was time to go home for dinner… Pablo and his wife, where-and-when no one was looking, would just ditch the cart and go home. And from there emerged a job that I don’t believe exists in many places: the “restock-the-shelves-from-abandoned-carts” gig, popular only in cultures where something so jarring is imposed, that it actually shifts the underlying fabric of society.

Once the cat was out of the bag, that society changed, and never looked back… and it could be argued, not for the better. Not for the better because it didn’t happen organically. It didn’t slowly grow to that; it was self-imposed, and it was weird… and some things that used to exist in the past, to a great extent, vanished. But also, arguably, for the better. A consolidated place to shop, a bit of free-market capitalism to keep prices fair. Progress, change, sometimes not evil, sometimes necessary, sometimes good.

I’ve spoken before about the radical lifestyle changes we’re all getting used to… and will quickly point out the obvious; today’s changes are not by choice. We’re not copying the behaviour that some other culture 30 years ahead of us is providing us as an example that we may wish to emulate. This has all been jammed down our throats. If we could snap our fingers and Restore to our Saved Game from 6 months ago, we all would.

I think it’s an important thing to keep in mind; to some extent, this current new-normal will provide some great insight for when things are ready to go back to the old normal. We’ll have the luxury of going back to our old ways, with the insight gained by having imposed upon us a whole new set of ways of doing things. I’m optimistic about the emergence back to the “new” old-normal… because it’ll ideally encapsulate the best of both worlds.

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Day 58 – May 13, 2020

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

Here’s a common scenario… there’s that cute girl in algebra class you’ve been dying to ask out, but you’re not sure. Like maybe she’s been giving you some looks… maybe. And finally one day, she’s alone at her locker and you somehow dig down for every milligram of self-confidence you have within you, convert it into courage, walk up to her, and babble something like, “Yeah so like… hey.. like you know, if you like… umm… you know, if you ever like maybe wanna study together or go out and I dunno, do something or whatever like maybe.. you know… I mean like you know, you don’t have to, but maybe you want to but like… ok.”

Or another scenario… you have a joke… you think it’s pretty funny, but it’s also sort of offensive… maybe. You think you know this crowd and setting… board room, end of meeting, end of day, everyone is in a good mood… and they’ll like it… you think. It should be ok. It’s funny. We’re all friends here, sort of, right? So, you serve up your joke…

In quest-based video games, you die a lot. And when you do, you’re magically reborn and you keep going. Early game developers were quick to address the concerns of annoyed players who had to keep going back to the beginning every time their character died. From there emerged the “Save Point”, where you could set a point (“Save Game”) from where you’d resume next time you died. If you were in a forest, approaching a castle and suddenly… the ground was littered with first-aid kits, fancy weapons and ammo… well, it’d be advisable to pick up all that stuff and then Save Game before you storm that castle, because you know what’s coming.

It’d be a different world if we could all periodically Save Game and then Restore when things didn’t go our way.

Like in my first example, you’d have done a “Save Game” before you went up to her, before she laughed in your face, and her nearby friends looked up and noticed what was going on and also laughed, and the last thing you heard from behind you as you ran away was “are you serious?”, your face burning hot and red like a tomato…

Or in the next example, you tell your joke, but instead of laughter, you’re met with stony silence and several “what an idiot” expressions…

So what do you do? Restore game, of course. In both those cases, a full rewind to before the micro-implosion in your life, like it never happened.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t offer that, so at any given point, we just make the best decision we can going forward and hope it works out, knowing full-well that in hindsight, it might have been a mistake. You have the rest of your life to process the regret you just managed to generate… because there’s no going back.

But let’s recognize that the vast majority of the time, we’re all making decisions based on what we hope is in our best interest. The thing is, defining that best interest has become more difficult these days, with the vastness of conflicting interests. Whether we’re talking about the planet… or the individual levels of governments that control certain parts of it… or the people below those governments, the individuals like you and me… there is a colossal, multi-dimensional tug-of-war going on. A lot of finger-pointing and blame. A lot of the three most famous words you hear at a racetrack or casino or poker table: woulda, coulda, shoulda. None of those particular venues would function at all if we could Save Game and Restore. Oh, well gee, I just lost all my money on a horrible decision — let’s just go back a few minutes.

The giant gamble some governments are taking with people, and that people are taking themselves, also doesn’t offer a Restore point. We’re stuck with what they tell us to do, and what we choose to do. And at the end of it, there’s one thing I can be sure of, as I’ve said before — nobody will have been right, and nobody will have been wrong. Part of the reason has to do with the unexpected direction things have taken in some places. Part of the reason is that we’re learning something new every day. Part of it is that there are people who march around with no masks, guns and signs that say things like “let the weak die”. I will never be able to relate to that person, and vice-versa.

And part of the reason is that it’s impossible to judge any of it until we can look back on all of it. That will be a big, thick book, with hundreds of chapters and an additional LXVIII appendixes.

Let’s just all remember — we have no ability to Save Game. We have no ability to Restore. None of us have a functional crystal ball. All we have is the ability to make what we think to be good decisions, and hopefully create a going-forward future with the least amount of regret.

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Day 57 – May 12, 2020

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

One of the most interesting times in my life was a year away from school, Vancouver, and real life in general as I knew it. I packed my bags in the late Summer of 1987 and headed down to Chile, returning in the late Spring of 1988. I wasn’t here for the Calgary Olympics… in fact, I missed them entirely because where I was had no T.V.

Where I was… was in a town called Copiapó, in northern Chile, in the middle of the Atacama desert. No T.V., one radio station, one very old movie theatre, three questionable restaurants, lots of dirt roads. It’s grown a lot, both in population and modernity, but back then, it was like living in the 1930s. There were telephones, but not many. My phone number had 4 digits.

The relatable aspect these days was the culture shock of going from what we’re used to around here, to that — literally overnight. It’s the same sort of jarring impact life around here has recently given us. As tough as it was down there, especially initially, you get used to it… and over time, it seems normal. Those three questionable restaurants… well, they seemed to have gotten better over time.

One of them was Chinese food, and it the first couple of times, it was awful. The next few, not so bad. By the end of my time down there, it was among the best I’d ever had. Same thing with another hole-in-the-wall restaurant, where the food was awful to begin with… and it ended up being my favourite. By the end of it, they’d named a dish after me… where I’d described to them how to cook giant clams… by soaking them in white wine, then coating them in garlic butter, smothering them in parmesan cheese and baking them. Squeeze a lemon over all of that at the last minute. Certainly not my recipe, but they’d never heard of it. Deeeeelish.

But as much as you get used to it, you remember your old life… and you miss it. The one thing that made it all palatable is what, in common terms, is called an “out”. “Outs”, like in poker, where after the flop, your hand is behind and you need some help — but you’re not dead yet. Perhaps the only chance you have is to pair that King in your hand with one of the last two cards. As far as you know, there are three Kings left in the deck. You have three outs. When you have a crappy but well-paying job… and sometimes you’re close to just saying to hell with it… because in the back of your mind, you have a “anytime you want to join us, just call — start tomorrow” job offer pending in the background, there’s your Out. In baseball, quite literally, as long as you still have some outs, you’re in the game. It might be the bottom of the 9th with two outs and nobody on base and you’re down 10-0… but you still have an out. Many teams have come back to win games from exactly this situation. As long as you have an out.

Down there, my Out was that I could, with little more than a couple of week’s notice, find myself on a plane back to Vancouver. Knowing that Out existed made things tolerable, no matter what. It was there if I needed it, and the peace of mind that came with that… made all the difference.

As distant as they are, we have Outs here. Many of them. They’re not on the near horizon, but life will eventually get back to normal.

For the moment, we’re stuck in this new-normal, and that’s what it is — for now. I’m actually sick and tired of the dystopian “new normal is here forever”, “your life will never be the same” bullshit-scare-tactic click-here-to-read-more stories. They’re awful, pandering to our worst fears. Trust me, things will eventually get back to normal. There will be restaurants and operas and music festivals and beaches and hockey games and race tracks and graduations… with full crowds. It’ll be more than 10 days from now and less than 10 years from now. We can refine that range as time goes on… call it within a one-to-three year window before things are back to totally normal, with hopefully some remnant changes that make sense now and make sense in the future.

And when things are back to normal, we will look back at this time and think… yeah, that sucked. As used to it as we got, as new-normal as it was, it was nothing like the real thing. Indeed, that’s what went through my mind when I came back from Chile and went to one of our local Chinese restaurants. Truly, there was no comparison. But that in no way diminished the fact that what I got used to, at the time… it had its moment, and it served its purpose.

In baseball, when you hit into that final out, you’re Out. In poker, when your opponent flips over his cards to reveal a hand so strong that nothing can help you, it’s called drawing dead.

Nobody around here — not you, not me, not society — is drawing dead. We have Outs. Let’s continue to play our cards right, like continuing to do what we’re doing — and we’ll win this thing.

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Day 56 – May 11, 2020

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

William Henry Harrison was elected to the presidency of The United States of America in 1840, as only the 9th president of that young nation. Indeed, right around the time he was born, George Washington was giving his first State of the Union address. His running mate, John Tyler, was elected vice-president. But this posting has little to do with the presidency of Harrison, because he didn’t do much, and died a month into his term, leading to his VP’s ascension to the throne.

John Tyler (1790-1862) was sworn in as the 10th president, and served in that capacity from 1841 until the next election, where he was soundly defeated, making him the longest-serving president who was never actually elected.

Tyler may not have made a great president, but he did make a lot of children… 15 of them. He was 63 years old when one of them, Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853-1935), was born.

Lyon Gardner wasn’t quite as good as his dad at fathering lots of children, but he did ok, having 6 of his own. And he was certainly good at having them at an older age. One of them, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Junior, was born in 1924, when Senior was 71. And another, Harrison Ruffin Tyler (we can only assume after whom he was named) was born in 1928, when daddy was 75.

These Tylers clearly come from good stock… but it’s still mind-boggling to realize that since those latter two are still alive, John Tyler, born in 1790, has two living grandsons. Three generations that span the entire existence of the country.

That was perhaps the best example I could find of just how “new” the U.S. is. It’s arguably three generations old. From a Canadian point of view, someone born at the time of confederation (1867) could easily have a child that’s still alive today. Two generations.

There’s a rich history between these two young countries, who at times have been mortal enemies. In fact, it was a war that started both… and depending with which side of history you want to associate, you could say, as an American, that you “won” — and those defeated British, who went on to retreat to what ultimately became Canada, “lost”. If it means so much to call it that, by all means — take your victory. And of course it should be noted that both sides of the war were being fought by people who had much more in common with each other than the indigenous people, whose land it actually was.

The two countries weren’t done squabbling quite yet. The war of 1812, which technically was between the U.S. and the U.K. was really more Canada vs. America. We burned down the Capitol and White House in that one.

It’s not fair to summarize a complex war — that went on for years — in one paragraph, but the summary is that it was probably a sort of stalemate, which of course, in North America, means both sides thought they won. Or at least claimed they did. There is no overtime or shootout or sudden-death to an entire war, but by the time the Treaty of Ghent was signed, both sides simply had had enough. Nobody had any fight left in them, so that was that.

The fighting didn’t end there, as far as America was concerned because of course, the civil war came along… more similar people just fighting each other over ideology. The soon-to-be Canadians fought in that war too, on both sides — but the vast majority with the anti-slavery Union soldiers, who eventually defeated the Confederate states. Interesting little factoids… the soldier who organized the detachment of Union solders that captured and killed Lincoln-assassin John Wilkes Booth — was Canadian. And the composer of “O Canada” was a French-Canadian Union soldier.

By the time the two World Wars rolled around, the countries were strong allies, and have been ever since. The world’s longest undefended border. Each other’s largest trading partners, till recently.

But as young nations grow — and by any measure, these are still mere children in the sea of adult countries from around the world that have existed for many centuries or millennia — personalties begin to develop, and whatever the older generations may have had in common… well, things change. It’s sometimes hard to gauge whether you’re dealing with the attitude of an entire country, or just a vocal minority, or just its leaders… especially when the messages are so mixed. For two countries that are really pretty similar when you compare populations with anywhere else… we sure seem to be on different paths these days. Americans really like to stick to their guns… in every sense of that statement. The vast and conflicting confusion that’s becoming evident is worrisome to say the least. A cohesive plan is by no means guaranteed to succeed, but a confused, mismanaged one is doomed to fail. It seems like a lot of state governments aren’t listening to the feds. It looks like a lot of municipal governments aren’t listening to the state. It looks like a lot of people aren’t listening to any of those three, and just doing what they want — or cherry-picking what works for them, and hoping for the best.

I’ll end this with my usual profound gratitude that I was on the “losing” side of a War of Independence… and as much noise is being made about how poorly Canada is handling this at a federal level (it’s not a lot of noise, and it’s not really true) — or how the government here, whether provincially or municipally, could be doing so much better, because jobs economy lockdown jobs money jobs economy — yeah, we get it, we are all suffering. We’re also all surviving, and are far more likely to with an infrastructure that can handle it. I’ll take Canadian-handling criticism all day long. If what we’re doing is some version of failure, some version of “losing” — like the British or Canadians from wars of the distant past — I’ll take it.

Some numbers… the U.S. counted its 80,000th death over the weekend. Canada is under 5,000. That’s deaths per million of 247 vs. 132. And today was the third straight day of declining new-case numbers in Canada.

Bring on the phased re-openings… with all things continuing as they are, that’ll be just after the upcoming long weekend.

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Day 55 – May 10, 2020

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

As it’s Sunday, no B.C. numbers today… so I’ll throw in my usual guess, which today is just the same as yesterday’s +15, and we’ll leave it at that… and hopefully that’s pretty accurate (we’ll know tomorrow) because it’d imply another good day all across the country. Speaking of good days, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there… I hope those who are celebrating in person have found a safe and socially-responsible way to do so. The weather is certainly cooperating… outside is good, for many reasons. Just stay away from others and it’ll be more than fine. You know the drill.

Mother’s Day every year marks the point in the NHL playoffs where fans around here are trying to figure out who to cheer for now, because if the Canucks made the playoffs, they’ve probably been recently eliminated. There’s a reasonable chance they could’ve gone a little deeper this year, but we’ll never know what this season and post-season would have looked like, were it not so rudely interrupted. We can only speculate.

Speaking of hockey and speculation… back in the day, when Wayne Gretzky dominated the NHL, it became a bit of an issue what to do with him in hockey pools… the pools where you draft players and then accumulate points as the players on your team accumulate goals and assists throughout the season. Fantasy sports leagues do this on a whole new level, where you have to decide who on your roster you’ll “dress” for tonight’s game, because you can’t play your full team of 22 players. Rest assured, in today’s world, the guy who got to draft Gretzky would dress him 100% of the time. In fact, Gretzky was a bit of a hockey-pool one-man wrecking machine, because whoever got him usually ended up winning everything. To prevent that, one possibility was to break Gretzky’s goals and Gretzky’s assists into two, as if he were two separate players, and then someone could draft one or the other. But even there, his assists alone were dominant. Or, of course, nobody got the opportunity to draft Gretzky, and that kept things even.

That was a good example of the tail wagging the dog, a good metaphor where one little statistically-significant aspect of something can have a profound and obfuscating effect on everything else. And, as mentioned, one option is to remove it entirely,… but then things look a whole lot different.

Today’s example of the tail wagging the dog involves a pair of U.S. states, New York and New Jersey, very much the hotspot of this outbreak in the U.S. Let’s call that area NYJ for simplicity.

NYJ has a population of 28.4M out of the American total of 331M which is around 8.6%. But out of the American total test case count of almost 1.4M, they have 35.6% of them. And 44.7% of the more than 80,000 deaths. Not just the hotspot, but now very much the epicentre, which was not always the case.

What’s interesting, and good for NYJ, is that they’ve managed to get things far more in control than was the case not so long ago. The individual numbers there are flattening and trending well. Who knows what that will look like after seeing the crowds in Central Park, but at least they’ve contained things to a manageable level… and, in doing so, made the U.S. numbers in general look a lot better… and consequently, created a lot of false optimism.

The Federal recommendation for re-opening involves declining case rates over a period of 14 days. This does not mean 14 straight days of succeedingly-declining numbers. It simply means a 14-day period after which the number of active cases is simply lower, ie recoveries (plus deaths, I suppose) have out-paced new cases. At present, numerous states are in varying stages of re-opening. At present, the number of states who meet that 14-day criteria is… zero. Nevertheless, openings with reckless abandon. Because that’s Freedom.

Perhaps a better spelling of that word these days, in some places, would be “Free-dumb”. Somehow, freedom and the constitution and liberty and guns all get wrapped up in the same, confused package. There’s the word for it.

Indeed, more than 200 years ago, American founding father Patrick Henry proclaimed “Give me liberty or give me death!”

It seems some Americans, not happy with having to make a choice, and perhaps a little greedily — both from inward-facing and public-facing points-of-view — have found a way to obtain both.

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Day 54 – May 9, 2020

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

Especially these days… you know what’s worse than no WiFi? Crappy WiFi. Where the email kind of crawls in, but the attachment is now stuck and won’t refresh. Where you swipe down on Instagram, and it just hangs there forever. Where the webpage only half-loaded and managed to lock-up the browser. Where you need to get onto that Zoom meeting but it won’t connect. Or when it connects, you’re getting two frames per second and your face looks like the guy from Minecraft.

Such has been my day, trying to do all of this… outside! But the trade-off in quality and quantity of this post is offset by all the glorious sunshine I managed to absorb, so we’ll call it even. And ZoomHanging with some friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years.

But I should point out that I did my outside gig — at home, in my yard, where social distancing is imposed by fences, hedges and the laws that apply to private property. Unlike some of the pictures and videos I saw from yesterday evening.

A stunning sunset by any definition, the sort where last year we’d all run down to English Bay or Spanish Banks and soak it all in. Except that this isn’t last year and things are a lot different. Or, should be a lot different, but judging from what I’ve seen of last night, there is a large part of the population that seems to have had enough, and to hell with restrictions and social distancing and everything else. It looked like the typical crowd getting ready to see the fireworks. It looked like a lackadaisical attitude of “We’ve had enough” coupled with “I’m young and healthy” coupled with “Even if I get this, outcomes around here are exceedingly optimistic” coupled with “I probably had this already and am immune.”

The combination of that will lead to — well, I have no crystal ball. We seem to have been spared the worst of it, around here, for now. It doesn’t take a lot to radically change that, and this entire thing is evolving very differently all around the planet. We’re doing very well around here — a world-class example when measured against other comparables — in fact, in populations of 5 million or greater, we are amongst the best on the planet, if not number one. This is the sort of false confidence that can lead to real trouble as the Summer drags on, as the heat sticks around, as the curve stays sort of flat but… annoyingly, still new cases popping up… and then the fall hits, and the second wave that’s looming on the horizon… which everyone seems to agree will be bad in some places. The question, of course, is where.

I have been following South Korea from the start; they are a good model to follow, and if you’ve been looking at my charts for any period of time, you’ll have seen that black line flat, and far below everything else. Five days ago, their new test-positive counts were +3, +2 and +4 for a few days. And in the last two days, they’ve been +12 and +18. They’ve had a flare-up, which started in a nightclub or two. South Korea, from the start, has managed things with massive testing and contact tracing, so it will be interesting to see how well they can contain this. Hopefully it flares down as quickly as it flared up. In a perfect world, it’ll get squashed right down, but… nightclubs? A hot, enclosed environment where people are sweating and breathing heavily in close proximity? We shall see.

Unfortunately, as we well-know, there’s a 14-day lag to know for sure. That’s in South Korea, and that’s also around here. We won’t know what effect, if any, the beach-crowding from last night will have. Or, tonight’s expected beach-crowding. Or tomorrow’s. Or next weekend’s long weekend. The problem with that is that neither outcome is great. If nothing bad comes of it, as in we don’t see a big rise in numbers, that will empower the “See? No big deal” crowds and it will become harder and harder to convince people to stick to it… and when people stop enforcing upon themselves what’s in the best interest of the greater good, we all suffer the consequences…. especially when September/October and the possible second wave all roll in.

Or, these numbers do generate a visible spike in positive tests… in which case the business re-openings and social relaxations… the phases 2, 3 and 4… all get pushed back until we have numbers which align with when those things should happen. And if you want to see what happens when rules get relaxed when the numbers aren’t where they should be, the U.S. will be providing many examples in the weeks to come.

For now, great day all across Canada… declining numbers everywhere… but now is not the time to irresponsibly give back all we’ve gained from all the sacrifices we’ve collectively made over the last couple of months. It seems a lot of people don’t understand that and/or don’t care. The effects of that remain to be seen.

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Day 53 – May 8, 2020

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

There is a 26-minute video going around called “Plandemic”, ostensibly a first part of a longer movie that’ll be released eventually. This blog is not about reviewing movies, but if I ever run out of things to talk about, maybe I’ll switch to that. Until then, I’ll try to stay on topic… but once in a while there will be overlap, so here’s what I think.

This video is well-produced and professionally-filmed. It lays out its story using every known method for conveying sincerity. It tugs at our heartstrings and incites outrage. How dare they. The video spends the first 10 minutes doing nothing but creating a narrative around the subject of the film, Judy Mikovits, being an underdog, a victim, a scapegoat… one of us, up against “the man” or “the establishment” or even just “common sense” — whatever individual challenge you may have holding you back, you can relate. She can relate. Nobody has ever heard of this woman before, so it’s important to start there — who is this person? Well, she’s clearly calm and collected and well-spoken, meaning she’s intelligent, meaning we can trust her. Notwithstanding much of what’s used to get us there is nonsense, twisted, unproven or simply fiction… it’s laid out very convincingly, and we don’t even hear the word COVID-19 until all of that is well-established.

The twisted, unproven and/or fictional claims continue, and it’s actually a bit jarring to see someone stating one-sentence lies with such calm conviction. Perhaps we have Donald Trump to thank for that. The ability to stand in front of a global crowd, spout easily-disproven lies with a straight face, and stand behind them because you have a mass of people who want to believe it and will support it and, when ultimately confronted with the irrefutable truth, will just shrug it off and laugh; haha, got you, you mis-understood, that was out of context, just being sarcastic, just kidding, whatever. Or even worse… yeah, we know he’s lying but so what.

In the video, there are facts that are easily disprovable, but the lighting, sound-editing and pacing, coupled with her calm, measured voice. Wow, it’s convincing. The Medium is the Message — indeed, Marshall McLuhan coined that phrase back in 1964. The same guy who coined the term “global village”, his vision of a more connected world thanks to the emerging technologies taking things in that direction. He died in 1980, but if he could see this video, he would be proud of his visionary assumptions, which were on point… how when you craft the medium, the message becomes secondary. The message can be anything you want it to be.

Also proud would be Joseph Goebbels, chief architect of the propaganda machine that fuelled Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Goebbels wrote the book on propaganda, a playbook that has been used countless times since… and that’s what bothers me most about things like Plandemic. Like a virus with multiple paths to attachment, this video is spreading, and it’s contagious to many different sorts of immune-depressed people. Instead of old and diabetic and asthmatic, this one attaches to… well, let’s break it down a bit.

There’s the usual crowd of deniers, those who yell Zag before you’ve even finished yelling Zig. The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” crowd, and there are many of those “partnerships” emerging these days.

There’s the crowd who want to fit in with like-minded people, and this video caters to them very effectively by grouping together countless unrelated conspiracy theories, and throwing them into the mix. Whether Epstein killed himself or not is quite irrelevant to this present pandemic (or is it?!), but it’s thrown in there. Maybe you agree with that, and this intelligent video agrees with that, therefore everything else in the video, you must agree with. Maybe you don’t like wearing a mask, for your own personal reasons… it traps bacteria, making it more dangerous… or it doesn’t fit well or looks silly or infringes on your constitutional rights; whatever reason you have, and whatever reason the video has, you both agree. Therefore, etc etc.

And then there’s the crowd who like to believe celebrities, because obviously, if they’re good at acting or singing or throwing a football or sinking a 3-pointer from beyond the line, they must be experts on this as well. Anyone with a blue “verified” checkmark on Instagram — well, wow, expert. And as per the point above, if I agree with said celebrity, then I’m like that celebrity. Wow!

I happen to know a lot of people… friends, professional contacts, and even family — with that little blue checkmark. None of them are epidemiologists. None of them are promoting this crap. Most of them, some of whom have audiences in the many hundreds of thousands, have come to understand that with a big platform, one offered these days by the global village that McLuhan was talking about, comes responsibility. The man with the biggest platform on this planet is using it to promote bullshit, so why shouldn’t anyone else? Press conferences, speeches, Twitter. The presidency of the United States is the greatest soapbox of all, and once people have decided that if anything goes for that guy, anything goes for anyone. And that’s where we’re in big trouble.

And that’s why this video crosses-over from just being the usual fringe nonsense to actually being dangerous. This video will kill people. That couple that ingested the aquarium additive that contained chloroquine phosphate — the man died, and the woman told NBC News that she’d heard Donald Trump speaking repeatedly about chloroquine and put two and two together, hey, isn’t that the stuff we give the fish?

People will see this video, feel empowered by its dangerous nonsense and, more than ever, act in what they believe to be in their best self-interest… without realizing that they’re not only taking themselves down, but possibly others with them.

I don’t have a simple answer to this, so here’s a complicated answer: instead of dismissing everyone who’s promoting this video as stupid or crazy, do your part in intelligently trying to show them why it’s wrong, why it’s propaganda, why it’s false and why it’s dangerous. Certainly, there are people who don’t want to be convinced otherwise. There’s little you can do, other than avoid them in person until there’s a vaccine. But there is a big difference between stupidity and ignorance. One of them is fixable, and there’s no reason not to try. Like herd immunity, if enough people are educated enough to actually know and understand what’s going on — and act accordingly — perhaps we can reach beyond a tipping point of “herd knowledge”. There’s no vaccine for that one either, although it seems many people could use a good dose.

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Mr Mercer – Day 52 – May 7, 2020

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

There is a Canadian alternative rock band from Tsawwassen called 54-40, named after the longitudinal line of 54’40°… where in the 1840s, U.S. President James Polk wanted the border. That whole dispute is a long story on its own, but suffice it to say, “we” won — otherwise, places like Prince Rupert, Terrace, Prince George… and everything south of that — would be American territory. A tiny part — the southern tip of the Alaska Panhandle — is all that’s left of that line.

That 54’40° line is very far north of Tsawwassen, but just south, literally bordering it, is the 49th parallel, the agreed-upon resolution to the aforementioned dispute. Another long story, but the short of it was that west of somewhere, the 49th parallel would define the Canada/U.S. border. It was a lengthy back-and-forth, and pretty-much the last thing settled was the exception of the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Before that, the border sliced right across it, but that didn’t make a lot of sense, and it was the final concession granted. But nobody noticed till after, the tiny (less than 5 square miles) little peninsula that’d been chopped off and isolated… and when they did, they just decided to leave it for another day. Probably the U.S. would just cede it back to Canada, and that would be that, right? Wrong.

And that is why there is a tiny U.S. enclave, completely landlocked by Canada. It has an official border crossing, and while its residents are officially living in the U.S., it’s Canadians who make up the vast majority of visitors, to buy cheap gas and access “Suites” (really, just P.O. Boxes) to take delivery of items that won’t ship to Canada, but will to the U.S. Ironic, of course, is that all of those goods must go through Canada to get there.

Way back when, that border crossing was little more than a formality. Those 54-40 guys rode their bikes in and out of there and barely waved at the border guard. You could go down to the beach, draw a line in the sand, and jump back and forth between countries. Before 9/11, you didn’t need a passport. And while technically, you’re supposed to declare everything you buy down there, apart from liquor and cigarettes, nobody cares. But, on that note, funny story.

At some point in the late 80s, I was flying down to Chile to visit family. My uncle and aunt who lived down there smoked a very unique brand of smokes that was only available in the U.S., so he asked me to bring him “as many as you can”. I told him that it would be way over the limit and the duty on it would be ridiculous, but he said not to worry about it. He’d pay me back everything. And furthermore, if I did it right, I could get those duty payments back when I left the country with the cigarettes.

So a couple of days before my flight, I headed down to Pt. Roberts, went to that one big gas station/store and picked up all of the “Now” brand menthol cigarettes they had. Seven cartons (not packs — cartons) — so 70 packs of cigarettes. I think 1,400 cigarettes is probably over the “out of the country for 20 minutes” limit, but I had no intention of smuggling them — I was going to be paid back, whatever it was.

The look on the guy’s face was pretty good though… anything to declare? Yeah, cigarettes. How many? Seven cartons. That got him to sit up straight. He made me pull over and get out. He looked at my backseat, packed with cartons. He looked at the receipt. He told me to come inside. So I went into his tiny hut. There was a hockey game playing in the background, on a postage-stamp-sized black & white TV. His first question was, “What are you doing?”

I explained the whole thing to him, how I’m happy to pay the duty, how all of those cartons would be leaving the country in 48 hours, how I don’t mind paying, but I want to make sure I can get that money back. Yes… he said, that’s all correct. OK.

He pulled out a huge stack of paper. He let out a big sigh. On TV, Tony Tanti scored a goal. He picked up the pen, put it down, looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you promise me you’re taking all of these out of the country?” “Yes!” “Ok, get out out of here”.

Apart from the technicality of it being part of the U.S., it may as be Canada. This friendly American enclave is a great place to “live” in Canada but still “live” in the U.S., if you know what I mean. For residency purposes, many Canucks and Grizzlies have lived there.

Back in grade 10, a new band teacher showed up — Mr. Mercer — fun, jolly American guy, who lived in Point Roberts, worked in Vancouver, and proudly announced how he paid taxes in neither. Music was a big part of my life, so I spent a lot of time in the band room, and was having lunch there one day with some friends when a couple of guys in dark suits showed up looking for Mr. Mercer. I guess they eventually found him, because he was never seen nor heard from again. Staff wouldn’t talk about it, except to say he’d had some legal issues and wouldn’t be back. Nice guy — I hope the Club Fed he was thrown into wasn’t too bad. And as an interesting coincidence, to loop things around, a few of those school bands I played in was alongside a guy called Dave Genn… who in 2003 joined 54-40 and has been their lead guitarist ever since.

And speaking of looping things around… way back in the day, we used to go down to Pt. Roberts to a place called The Breakers… it was a happening place in the early 90s — always a fun experience. I was usually the designated driver for such outings, but on this particular night, I’d had a bit too much… so someone else took the wheel. We all piled into the rickety VW van for the trip home, being loud and obnoxious as you might imagine, but as always, getting quiet at the border. We drove up to the border crossing little hut, that night inhabited by a tired-looking near-the-end-of-his-career border guard. The old guy stuck his head in the window and looked back at us, all staring at him.

“You boys been drinking?”, he asked.

“Well — they have, but I haven’t”, replied our driver, pointing his thumb back at us.

“OK, off you go, drive safe.”

And that was that… back to whooping and hollering… but suddenly (queue the Twilight Zone music), things didn’t look right. It’s a straight line from the border to highway 17, cutting straight through Tsawwassen, but that’s not where we were. We were on some winding road in the middle of a forest. What just happened?

We’re all screaming “You idiot!” “Turn around” “What are you doing?” “Where are we?” — but on we go… and suddenly… more Twilight Zone music… up ahead is the same border crossing we’d just crossed 10 minutes earlier. Don’t ask me. I mean, obviously, he’d somehow turned left, then left again, and entered Point Roberts through some back road… and we’d looped back and… here we were.

Now we were terrified. “Stop!” “Don’t stop!” “Pull over!” “Don’t pull over, that looks suspicious!”. Well, we drove straight up to the same little hut, same old guy. And he stuck his head in the window and looked back at our petrified faces.

“You boys been drinking?”, he asked, with the exact same tone as before.

“Well — they have, but I haven’t”, replied our driver, giving the same thumb gesture as before.

“OK, off you go, drive safe.”

The rest of the (careful) ride home was silent.

What’s the deal with Point Roberts these days? Is that border all locked up like the rest of the 49th? There’s no hospital or pharmacy down there, and American citizens are not allowed into Canada except when it’s essential. I couldn’t find much about it, but I have to assume a medical emergency would count as essential. Unless you’re symptomatic, then what? I hope the have it figured out. Especially since 99% of the money spent in Pt. Roberts comes from Canada, and that’s dropped to near zero for now.

Point Roberts is part of Washington State, and there’s not much bad to say about Governor Jay Inslee’s handling of this difficult situation. President Trump told him, “You’re on your own”, and they’re rolling with it. I hope that includes a plan for Point Roberts.

Yes, it occurs to me there’s not much tie-in here with our present pandemic except this: this whole topic of Pt. Roberts came up because of the wonky Detroit/Windsor border, and how different Ontario and Michigan are in handling things. I’ll once again go on the record to state my appreciation for our local neighbours to the south. We, here, have a lot more in common with our American counterparts than they do over in Ontario, something that will become more and more relevant as things open up. B.C. and Washington are in agreement on most things, and on the same page about how phased re-openings should look. Works for me. And them.


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  • October 19. 2020

October 19, 2020

By |October 19th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Business & Economics, Science of COVID-19, Life in Vancouver|0 Comments

Right around the time the distinguished Dr. Anthony Fauci was being awarded the National Academy of Medicine’s first-ever Presidential Citation for Exemplary Leadership, the president himself was quoted as saying, “People are tired of Covid. I have these huge rallies. People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”

There are indeed idiots in our midst, but Dr. Fauci is not one of them. However, if you want a good sampling of idiots, look no further than this weekend’s “B.C. Freedom Mega Rally” – 1,000 Covidiots, standing unmasked, shoulder-to-shoulder, at the usual rallying-spot… the Art Gallery plaza.

In no particular order, they were protesting censorship, lockdowns, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, quarantines, travel bans, social distancing, contact tracing and government orders.  Also… claiming it’s all a hoax, and supporting wild conspiracies, anti-vaxxers, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Oops… well… that escalated quickly.

To be clear, not all Covidiots are anti-vaxxer, white-supremacist nazis. I suppose you can be anti-mask or anti-vaccine or anti-quarantine without being a racist freak. But, interestingly, all anti-vaxxer/white-supremacists/nazis are very much against masks and vaccines and quarantines. We don’t see any white supremacists supporting social distancing. We don’t see any neo-nazis with swastika masks.

That should tell you something. Birds of a feather, etc.

In the meantime, the world-wide case number went over 40 million. Over a million have died. Canada just went over 200,000 cases. More than 4,000 people here in B.C. are in quarantine. This is far from over, and it will get worse before it gets better.

Dr. Henry added a fourth word to her mantra today… Be calm, be kind, be safe… and, be brave.

Yes… seeing what’s going on all around us, it’s certainly going to take some bravery to get through this.

October 19. 2020

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October 18, 2020

By |October 18th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19|0 Comments

No new numbers till tomorrow, but here’s something older that you may remember, especially if you’ve been reading these updates since the beginning. Today’s graphs aren’t the usual up-to-date provincial and national tallies. Rather, these are what those original Time-To-Double (TTD) graphs look like today.

Early in the pandemic, when things were spiraling out of control, the TTDs were being measured in handfuls of days… 2, 3, 5… that’s what we were witnessing in places like Italy and Spain and, for a little while, severely-affected pockets of the U.S. That’s what we were hoping Canada would avoid.

While things are still growing exponentially, the TTDs are way down. The recent second wave is certainly visible, especially in the left-most (non-logarithmic) graph, but the TTD line on which Canada sits is 20.

The middle graph is the same as the one on the left, except represented with a logarithmic Y-axis… which straightens out the curves of those dotted exponential TTD lines, and serves to represent the rate of exponential growth (or lack thereof) compared to the beginning.

The graph on the right is what Canada looks like compared to the U.S… and since the Y-axis is “compressed”, it makes things look a lot closer than they actually are. Rather than scaling up evenly, every Y-axis grid line on those two right-most graphs represents 10-times the growth. The red line is just below 200,000. The blue line is above 8,000,000.

All that being said, the Canadian graphs’ hockey-sticking up-to-the-right is quite evident, both nationally and provincially. What we’d obviously like to see is for them all to flatten out again… which one day they will.. but, hopefully, sooner than later. We know what we need to do to make that happen…

October 18, 2020


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  • October 17, 2020

October 17, 2020

By |October 17th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|0 Comments

We are exactly one week away from the election… no, not *that* election – that one is 17 days away and approaching quickly… but I’m talking about our local Provincial election… and all I have to say about it is… vote. Just go out and vote. You don’t have to wait 10 hours in line, like in some attempted-voter-suppression ridings in the U.S.

Around here, if you haven’t (safely and conveniently) already mailed it in, you can vote in person. It takes 2 minutes, especially if you vote early and don’t wait until next Saturday. Advanced polls are already open, will be open throughout the weekend, and are around until Wednesday. They are virtually empty most of the time.

It wasn’t that long ago that more than half the people reading this post wouldn’t have been allowed to vote… due to race or gender or some other discriminatory reason. But a lot of people went through a lot of trouble to grant you the right… so the least you can do is exercise it.

And if you’re so out of tune that you’re not even sure what’s going on nor who to vote for, simply Google “BC election cheat sheet” and read that article… it’s as good a starting point as any, and you can walk into that polling booth armed with some real knowledge and ownership that you’re putting you vote toward ideals in which you believe.

October 17, 2020

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  • October 16, 2020

October 16, 2020

By |October 16th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Life in Vancouver, Travel Stories, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature, History|0 Comments

This is pretty long… not only because I couldn’t make it any shorter without leaving out something I consider important, but because I have a busy weekend ahead and might not get a chance to post much. No new local numbers till Monday anyway, so here’s most of the weekend’s updates in one convenient place… and we’ll start on the opposite end of the country.

About 25km off-shore from Newfoundland, you’ll find a collection of 8 little islands. They’re not very big. Collectively, they’re about 1/10th the size of Metro Vancouver. They’re known by the name of the two biggest islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon. Not relevant, but in case you’re curious… their population of 6,000 has had 16 cases of C19, 12 of which have fully recovered and 4 of which are still ongoing.

That entire population lives on those two islands, where they do a lot of fishing and play a lot of hockey. No big deal, except if you’ve never heard of them, you’ll be quite surprised to learn that they’re not part of Canada. Even though they’re closer to Newfoundland than Vancouver Island is to the mainland, they’re 100% French. Not like Québec French. Like French French.

How they got to that point is a long and interesting story… Indigenous people, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, American, Canadian… all have laid claim to the islands at some point over the centuries… but, as it often goes with land grabs/invasions/conquests, whoever had it last… gets to keep it.

And that was France, who, despite opposition from Canada, Britain and the U.S., seized the islands during WWII… seized by that troublemaker Charles de Gaulle… the same one whose “Vive le Québec libre” 20 years later started a shitstorm that will never go away.

But since then, these little independent French islands have been happily doing their thing, and for the most part have a very close and functional relationship with their Canadian neighbours. A little border dispute or fishing-rights argument pops up occasionally, but it’s never a big deal. It always gets worked out.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Trudeau suddenly went nuts and invaded those islands? It would be a very weird situation for us, but also for our allies, especially the U.S. and the U.K…. both of which are always … [Continue Reading]


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October 15, 2020

By |October 15th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|0 Comments

There has to be something inherently wrong with a political system that can so brazenly show everyone the middle finger, with zero care or concern, and face zero repercussions.

The Republicans are blatantly trying to give themselves every possible advantage, legal or illegal, that they can in this election, and while it seems the media does what it can to report on it, the people pulling it off just laugh, don’t care… and just carry on. The shenanigans are blunt and transparent.

The most blatant of all has to do with the infrastructure that’s going to decide the election. Trump himself has made a lot of noise about mail-in ballots and absentee ballots… which for some reason are patriotic and acceptable and honourably welcomed in Republican states, but vilified and fraudulent in Democratic states.

And now, ballot-drop boxes in Republican states are being limited to one per county… but in California, a Democratic state, the GOP themselves are putting up theur own (illegal) ballot-collection boxes. They have been handed a cease-and-desist order… but have chosen to simply… not cease-and-desist.

Can you do that? The last time I checked, laws and court orders exist to uphold some semblance of civilised society. You don’t get to pick and choose which laws apply to you and which don’t; that’s a fundamental point of democracy.

But no… the Republicans, empowered by their “anything goes” and “make it up as we go along” leader, are doing their part. “What will help us win this election?”, they ask… and the answer is pretty simple, depending on where you are; either they will help you cast your vote, or they will help to suppress it. Every vote counts. We are all equal. Until we decide what counts and what’s equal.

To whom are these illegalities accountable? Remember Orwell… everyone is equal. But some people are more equal than others. What does that mean? Well, you’re seeing it play out with your own eyes.

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