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Day 51 – May 6, 2020

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

During my first week of university, back in September of 1986, SFU set up a number of booths in the Academic Quadrangle where all sorts of vendors could set-up shop, catering to the wet-behind-the-ears first-year crowd. Student credit cards, cheap dentists, bus passes, discounts on numerous things. One that caught my eye was Cypress Bowl; I was an avid skier back then, and they were offering a heavily-discounted season’s pass for students. $120 for the entire upcoming ski season. The quick math on that indicated it to be a no-brainer. I’d have it paid off in a few weeks, for a ski season that’d hopefully last 6 months.

There was a catch though… it was a restricted pass. Only good for daylight hours, and not on weekends. Monday to Friday, dawn to dusk — and that suited me just fine; my intention was to ski outside of class… before or after (and, as it turned out — on particularly sunny days — during) school. I had Tuesdays off, and only morning classes on Thursdays. And Fridays, done by noon… plenty of time. SFU to Cypress was about 30 minutes.

They took my picture (with a fancy Polaroid that printed two of the same), kept one and created my pass… logo, picture and name, all professionally laminated. And since it was restricted, as per above, the word “RESTRICTED” stamped right across the face of it, in bright red letters.

I wore that thing out. True to my word, I paid it off in weeks — I was up there at least twice a week, usually 3 times. That turned into 4 after I dropped a course that was nowhere near as engaging as flying down the slopes.

Curious thing though… when you’re skiing, and you get to the chairlift, there’s that 10 seconds of time when you’re next, and you shuffle-up to the marker, awaiting the chair to scoop you up. During that time, you usually have a 1 or 2-sentence discussion with the chairlift operator -the “Liftie”.

“Hey, what’s up”
“Have a good one”
“It’s icy, eh”

That sort of thing. Well, that would be typical… but for some reason, with me… I’d always get, “Oh, hello! And how are you doing today? Are you having a good day? Is everything OK?” — some version of that. “Yeah, man, it’s all good…” I’d say… but think to myself… well, that was weird.

One particular day, months into this, I got to the bottom of the hill, and joined the lineup to the chairlift… and noticed, ahead of me, a group of intellectually and physically-disabled individuals, many of them with an accompanying care-aid. And then a few more of them, having made their way down the mountain, drifting in behind me in the line-up. And all of them had the exact same pass I did, “RESTRICTED”, boldly planted on their own, individual, professionally-laminated passes.

Oh…. now I get it. Now that makes sense. I watched ahead of me as these folks made their way onto the chairlift… and then it was my turn. And before I could say a word, there was the Liftie, a very nice older lady… 2 inches away from my face. “Oh, you’re going up all by yourself! Good for you! Have fun, but be safe!”. Well, thank you! I certainly will!

Amusing story, but if the lesson of it hasn’t hit you yet — with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the stomach — it’s this: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.

There’s a lot of book-cover-judging going on these days, and perhaps I’m a little guilty of it. I painted the state of Michigan yesterday with a pretty broad paintbrush, and it’s unfair to do so. The majority of residents of Michigan are not government-defying white-supremacist gun-toting swastika-tatooted Covidiots. They’re just normal people, and if the state were a book, those normal people would be pages 689 or 472 or whatever, any white page with black letters, indistinguishable from all the others. But the cover, that’s what you notice, and that’s what we see when the majority sit back and don’t make their voices heard (or seen). Michigan, in fact, is a good example of that. Back in 2016, that state was a given…. it hadn’t gone Republican since 1988, and Hilary Clinton had it in her “checked-off” list. All polls pointed to a Blue state, and when many voters stayed home and didn’t bother voting, guess what happened. By a margin of 0.23%, the state, and all 16 electoral college votes, went to Trump — a significant piece of the unexpected, complicated and surprising election result.

It’s the bright cover that gets the attention… the squeaky wheel that gets the grease… the tall trees that get the wind… the nail that sticks out that gets pounded down. So many versions of the same thing. In Spanish, “El que no llora, no mama”, with reference to crying babies: “He who does not cry, does not suck.” — that seems to lose some meaning when you translate it. On the other hand, perhaps it gains a different one…

Dr. Bonnie Henry keeps saying the same thing over and over, to the extent it might one day become the provincial motto: “Be kind, be calm, be safe”. It’s working well around here, and it’s probably working well elsewhere, but we never hear about it because the Covidiots take front and centre stage, and that’s what we judge. But they are the cover to a book that has a lot more to it; a book that is far from completion. We are writing the chapters as we live them. One day, we will judge that book — as will history — by its contents. Not its cover.

But if one day I write a novel, the title of the book will be “Stephen King” — in that familiar Stephen King font, Scary Times Roman™ or whatever it’s called. That will be the cover. Actually, let’s make it better… “Stephen King”, in that lettering, “Pandemic,” in a smaller font just below it. And far below that, in the tiniest font allowable, in the most transparent colour possible: “a novel by horatio kemeny”. All of this text overlaid on top of pandemic/apocalypse art: viruses, guns, militia, flags, doctors in masks, burning hospitals in the background. That thing would fly off the bookshelves and be #1 on every best-seller list on the planet… before anyone had a chance to say, “Hey… hey wait… what is this crap!?”.

That book, you’re allowed to judge by its cover. But that’s the only one.

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Day 50 – May 5, 2020

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

As always, on the heels of Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you, if you don’t get it), comes Cinco de Mayo. I guess we’re all getting a little tired of hearing that same old refrain… “It’ll be different this year”. But yeah, indeed it will. As you may recall, around here, the first “celebrated” holiday affected was St. Patrick’s Day… and the decision to pull the plug on pub gatherings was made only a few days, if not hours, before March 17th. My first post of this entire series was on that day, me sitting here in front of the computer with a pint of Guinness, digging into some numbers, trying to figure this out for myself.

Good trivia question… how many countries in North America are called the United States? I obviously wouldn’t be asking this if the answer were obvious… the answer is two, because the official name of the other one is “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” — literally, the United States of Mexico.

Now that you’re back from Googling that, let’s continue…

There are 32 states in Mexico, and most of us haven’t heard of many of them. Looking at this list… the following stand out: Jalisco, Baja California Sur, and Nayarit… because I’ve vacationed there. Chihuahua, Sonora and Sinaloa stand out because they’re continually in the news related to drug cartels and violence (and cute dogs). Mexico City, of course. And Veracruz, but only because my buddy, two-time-Kentucky-Derby-winning-jockey Mario Gutierrez is from there.

The Mexican federal government has their hands full fighting this thing, but they have the added headache of the very powerful and ubiquitous drug cartels, who control many areas, especially near the border. It also doesn’t help that these criminals are stepping-up, handing out care packages to locals who happily accept them and who can use any help they can get. Big-time criminals love this sort of stuff — step up for the little guy, do more for the people than the government is doing, etc. Pablo Escobar was good at it. So was Al Capone. Optics.

There hasn’t been much talk of the border wall these days; remember, the big wall Trump was going to build and which Mexico was going to pay for. I think they may have built some parts, or maybe that was just refurbish/remodel. I don’t know. What I do know is that Mexico hasn’t paid a cent for it. Whatever.

The border-wall, or lack thereof, that worries me a lot more, is the virtual one that exists 30km south of here. For the moment, that border is closed, and that suits me just fine. And if our neighbours to the south could follow along with what’s best for the common good, I wouldn’t be against re-opening it. But, at the moment… well, at the moment, let’s look at a different state that borders Canada.

Recall the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer… at some point she called-out President Trump, labelling his federal response to the pandemic as “slow” and “mind-boggling”. Trump’s response was to sit back, reflect and admit he was wrong, and quickly move to provide whatever help he could.

Ha ha! Of course not. As expected, he lashed back, made up a name for her on Twitter ("Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer” — because, I guess, she only does ‘half’ a job? Or because she's a half-wit?) — and proceeded to insult her. By the way, even by Trump’s infantile-nickname standards, that’s pretty lame. I would’ve expected something like “Grumpy Gretchen”. This was the governor that Trump made a point of not calling, and telling us all about it.

In any case, Governor Whitmer was doing the best she could under exceedingly difficult circumstances. As of yesterday, Michigan was in third place for most deaths in any state, and that’s not a good spot to be in when it’s only New York and New Jersey ahead of you. Going with the best advice she could get, from all of the intelligent people she’s surrounded herself with, by evaluating what’s going on elsewhere, by listening to her medical experts… Governor Whitmer renewed the state emergency order a few days ago, extending it from April 30th to May 28th. This led to loud and crowded protests at the state Capitol building. You know the kind, lots of flags, guns and “MAGA” hats. But this time, add to the mix — nooses, Confederate flags and swastikas. With all due respect (which isn’t much), f#@& these people.

President Trump, upon whom the game “How low can he go?” is based, tweeted his support for the protesters, which in a sense validated and empowered their insanity. A man in Flint, Michigan shot and killed a security guard — who’d simply asked him to put on a mask. Also, in Holly, Michigan, a man wiped his nose on a store clerk who told the man he needed to wear a mask.

Michigan has a population of 10 million, exactly double that of British Columbia. But while we’ve had only 2,232 confirmed cases since day one, they’re over 44,000… a clean 20x… which makes it about 10x more than it would be if people were following orders. And while B.C. is at 121 deaths, Michigan is at 4,179… a staggering 35x. They’re not in good shape, and it’s about to get worse. And, of course, Michigan borders Canada. In fact, given the twisted border situation of Windsor and Detroit, parts of both countries are actually inside of each other. All I can say is I much prefer our Washington neighbours to the south, who I suspect wouldn’t be anywhere near as tolerant of the insanity. The Peace Arch border crossing has engraved on it “May these gates never be closed”. Indeed, those gates can’t literally be closed as they’re not hinged; they’re bolted into the stone. But virtually, the border is closed to all non-essential travel, and until things get sorted out and settled to both sides’ satisfaction, it needs to remain that way. We are doing well here, and we don’t need to mess with that. We apparently have bee-murdering hornets now visiting from Washington State. That’s enough for now.

On that note, around here, our single-digit increase (+8) in known cases is the lowest since March 14th, when things were just starting up, and heading in the wrong direction. Dr. Henry thinks we may be down to zero by the middle of June. We are approaching the end of the beginning, but there’s a ways to go. Moving too quickly can mess this up; things will be gradually eased, but it has to be done right. And if we do it right, and stick to the new normal for a while… we’ll be ok.

Wow, look at that sunshine… time to go get some Vitamin D… and after that, time to go crack open a bottle of Corona and find a slice of lime. Salúd.

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Day 49 – May 4, 2020

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

Consider this sentence: Over 20% of people tested positive.
Now consider this one: Only 20% of people tested positive.

Without even knowing what we’re talking about… without even knowing if testing positive is a good thing or a bad thing… like, perhaps we’re talking about infections. Perhaps we’re talking about antibodies. Perhaps we’re talking about random drug testing in your office. Perhaps we’re talking about cyclists and performance-enhancing drugs. Perhaps we’re talking about asking random people on the street what their outlook is for the future.

We don’t yet have a clue what we’re talking about, but the very first word of that sentence is already guiding your thought process. Better stated, the writer of that sentence (that’d be me) knows what he wants you to think, and is subtly suggesting it. I want you to agree with me. Maybe I want you to think that anything under 20% is fine. Or maybe I want you to think that anything over 20% is bad. But wait a minute, what if testing positive is a good thing? Then it’s the other way around.

Let’s take out those first words… what are you left with…. “20% of people tested positive”

OoOoOohhh, now what. What are you supposed to do with that? Think for yourself and decide?! Indeed, the vast majority of content we consume these days is written more towards getting you to think a certain way, or agree with a certain viewpoint — than to simply present the information. And further to that, once the algorithms have figured out what you like to think/read, they’ll spoon-feed you those sorts of stories… mostly because they know you’ll click on them, and that’ll generate ad revenue for them. This has pretty-much nothing do to with conveying news.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I did work for what was, at the time, the largest multi-line BBS west of Ontario. A BBS is an electronic Bulletin Board System, where you could call in with your computer’s modem and read/post public or private messages and play games and download a variety of different things. The vast majority of BBSs were single-line systems operated by hobbyists, but a few managed to take the technological leap to allow more than one person online at a time, no small feat as it required a lot of computing power, complicated software, multiple modems and multiple phone lines. From there arose chat systems and multi-player games.

This particular BBS, Mind Link, grew from 4 to 8 to 16 to around 40 phone lines by 1994, at which time it was acquired in the first wave of consolidation leading to what is today, the Internet. Indeed, Mind Link was one of the first in all of Canada to be able to offer an on-ramp onto that emerging information superhighway. It was all text-based back then, and it took about 10 finicky steps of loading unstable software in just the right sequence, just to get online. It was a virtual building of a delicate house of cards, every time. One wrong move and it would all lock up. In fact, it often locked-up for no reason at all.

I loved that job, for numerous reasons. First of all, the staff, all wonderful people, all intelligent and bright and some as tech-geeky as myself. And, I got to play with the coolest technology around; I was there the day we switched on the pipe to the internet — four Telebit Trailblazer modems working in sync, achieving a combined bandwidth of about 75 Kbps. Your internet connection today is somewhere between 20,000 and 1,000,000 Kbps. But back then, state of the art. Leading edge. Bleeding edge.

Part of my job was keeping it all going, a jack of all trades fixing whatever problem came up, known or obscure. And part of what I kept going were the news feeds. Back then, Mind Link contracted to receive news from a guy called Brad Templeton. His company was called ClariNet, and it was possibly the very first dot com to ever exist, because before that, commercial use of the internet was prohibited. Brad was a cool guy, and I spoke to him on a few occasions… and one time, the discussion drifted to the commercialization of the Internet, something most of its users (me included) did not want. What the heck is a dot com? There were dot org (non-profit organizations), dot edu (educational), dot gov (government) — but dot com? Commercial enterprise? Forget that. “It’s coming”, he said, “Prepare yourself. There’s opportunity here.” And I remember telling him, “Forget it. We won’t let that happen.” I told that quote to a few friends at the time, and they still won’t stop teasing me about it.

ClariNet dot com was allowed to exist because Brad cleverly convinced the powers that be that news is indeed an educational resource, and it would make sense to distribute it with the existing infrastructure. That he was doing it for profit was a secondary point, because what Brad was doing was very useful… he was consolidating news feeds straight off the wire… from UPI (United Press International), AP (Associated Press) and Reuters. These are the wire services where all news outlets get their news (or should, at least). Here was an unfiltered, raw source of news, straight from the ground. No editor, no opinion, just the facts. Twenty precent tested positive. No “Over”. No “Only”.

Part of what I did was make sure that the ClariNet feed was working properly, and that Mind Link was properly taking the news from those three sources and parsing and indexing everything into the right newsgroups. So, yes — I ended up reading an awful lot of news, and it led to a great appreciation of those particular three sources. I still look to them today for raw news, unfiltered by bias or opinion.

upi dot com
reuters dot com
ap dot org

In my opinion, far better than much of what’s out there.

So, on that note… acting as a news wire today, I will pass along four items of relatively unfiltered news, all of them interesting in their own way.

First… South Korea today is now reporting that those 263 patients who initially had been thought to have been re-infected — weren’t. Those people had re-tested positive after having been cleared of the virus, and it had been thought they may have become re-infected. However, none of those people developed symptoms again, and they’re now saying what many others around the world were saying… it must be a testing issue. Yes… the tests were picking up dead remnant virus fragments, not new infections. It might take months for the body to clear itself of dead virus fragments, but as of yet, there has not been a single case where those fragments have sprung back to life, nor is there any evidence of anyone who’s ever had the virus catching it a second time.

Second… an interesting story developing out of France. Something like 25% of French people smoke… but of the almost 500 COVID-19 patients admitted to a certain Paris hospital, only 5% were smokers. That is statistically significant, implying smokers are less likely to catch this disease. This is so counter-intuitive, it begs a closer look… and what’s emerging from the research is this: There is a cell-membrane protein called ACE2 which the COVID-19 virus attaches to, in order to infiltrate a healthy cell. But nicotine also binds to ACE2, leaving less of an opportunity for the virus to do so. And nicotine is also known to decrease inflammation. I would strongly urge you… do not take up smoking to protect yourself from this disease… but if you’re a recovering smoker and presently on nicotine patches or gum — that might be doing you more good than you think. France is preparing a trial of providing nicotine patches to patients, front-line workers and ordinary citizens. We shall see.

Third… an as-of-yet-not-peer-reviewed-but-still-interesting study… in a small sample group of ICU patients suffering from serious complications of this disease, in a group of patients aged less than 75… 100% — yes, all of them — were found to be Vitamin D deficient. That’s also eyebrow-raising, and it’s one you can very easily manage. Vitamin D supplements are available everywhere, and they’re cheap… and, it’s pretty difficult to OD on Vitamin D. There does exist such a thing as Vitamin toxicity, but you have to go way overboard to get there. Recommended doses range between 500 and 5,000 IU a day. I take 2,000. Apparently, you can go up to 10,000 a day for long periods of time and not suffer any consequences, but one might add that perhaps an optimal range is what’s desired; too much may also be harmful and it should be noted that Vitamin D, unlike Vitamin C, is not water-soluble. It’s fat-soluble, so your body will store it. But then again, you really have to go insane to over-do it… like 40,000 to 100,000 IU daily for months, before it becomes toxic. And/or, of course, just listen to Dr. Henry — go outside to the glorious wonderful sunshine for 30 minutes a day… it’s good for you in more ways than you might imagine.

Finally… green numbers all across Canada today. TTD numbers approaching 4 weeks or more… everywhere.

Extra extra, read all about it… good news all around.

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Day 48 – May 3, 2020

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

In 2012, I was in L.A. to visit a movie set. The hotel was in a nice part of town; the set, perhaps not so much. I ordered an Uber, and a black SUV showed up. The destination (call it “Z”) was already entered into the app, so off we went. It was interesting to note that this driver had his car set up with at least four different phones or devices dangling from the windshield and dashboard. Uber, Nav, Music, actual phone… I don’t know.

But at one point, one of them went out of sync… and he asked, “I thought we’re going to Z”
“That’s right”, I replied.
“Well… this says we’re going somewhere else”

Odd.. some glitch… one of his devices was pointing to some location maybe 20 blocks away from Z. Call it X.

“No… not sure why. It’s Z”
“OK, because I can’t take you to X”
“No worries”

Curious though… so I asked…. “Just wondering, why can’t you take me to X?”
“Sir, I can’t take you to X”
“I understand, and we’re not going to X… I am just wondering what’s the big deal with X and if I wanted to, why you wouldn’t you take me there?”
“Sir, I told you, I will not take you to X”
“I don’t want to go to X. I want to go to Z. I am just curious… if I wanted to go to X, why wouldn’t you take me?”

He pulled the car over.
“I can’t take you to X. I can drop you here and you can find another Uber”
“I don’t think you understand. I don’t want go to X. I’ve never heard of X. I don’t know where or what it is. I am simply wondering what’s so bad with X that you wouldn’t drive me there”
“Sir, you’ll have to get another Uber”

We sat there for a moment, me trying to figure this out. This wasn’t a language issue; he spoke English perfectly. This was just a guy that couldn’t wrap his head around a hypothetical situation. Those two words, which are my favourite when put together… the two words that have led to all of the innovation that’s ever happened in history, when posed by somebody…”What if…” — this guy couldn’t process it; there seemed to be no version of “What if” in his world. I sat there imagining what it might be like to be playing chess against this guy. He moves a piece, you take it. “Oh, darn”. He moves another, and you take it too. “Oh, hmm, you’re good at this”. Well, I’m ok, but it sure helps that I can think ahead more than zero moves. Like I can propose a hypothetical situation in my mind, evaluate it, do that several times and come up with something useful.

But this guy… he just didn’t get it. And maybe he couldn’t.

“Yeah, ok, forget X. Let’s just go to Z”.

And off we went. But there was no more conversation after that, and as much as I really wanted to, I didn’t ask him the same question for the 10th time when we finally arrived. What was the point? He wouldn’t get it. And further to that, I guess the conversation bothered him, because my Uber rating dropped from a perfect 5 stars down to 4.92 after that.

I remember another time a friend sent around an email, asking us to answer a few simple math questions, and explain how we did them in our head. His son was having trouble with math at school, and he was looking for different ways of explaining things. Like, what’s 9+9. I was so surprised to see some answers that came back. Like, for me, it’s just 18. I just know that. But some people were saying… add 1 to each 9, that makes 20, then subtract 2. In their head, they were doing (9+1)+(9+1) – 2. Or 15+8, which for me is just 23, was somehow turned into (15+5)+3 for one person, and (15+10)-2 for another.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with thinking differently. Whatever works for you. But what happens when it doesn’t work?

This was brought to light (and it reminded me of these two examples) by a friend who commented on a recent post of mine, the one about Covidiots. That maybe calling them that was a little harsh; that maybe they not only don’t know any better, but perhaps they *can’t” know any better. Like it’s actually beyond them. There’s possibly some truth to that, and since I’m the biggest proponent of letting people live their lives with freedom and their own particular pursuit of happiness, what’s the big deal… the usual golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is actually a bit better if you change it slightly: “don’t do unto others as you wouldn’t have them do unto you.” It’s better because instead of imposing on others what you think is right, this un-imposes anything on anyone, as long as it’s not hurting you.

But that’s the thing. A bunch of people ignoring intelligent, well-thought-out and proven directives… has the potential to affect us all — drastically, and we’re no doubt going to see the results of it in different places.

The state of Oklahoma is opening up; they think they’re in a position to handle things, and reading their planned phase re-opening, I guess it might look good on paper. Oklahoma has a population of 4 million, compared to B.C.’s 5 million. They also have twice as many confirmed cases and twice as many deaths. They’ve already opened up hair salons, barbershops, spas, nail salons. Two days ago… restaurants, movie theatres, entertainment venues, gyms, spotting venues… the list goes on.

In trying to balance out the greater good of business vs. public health, the officials in Oklahoma made it mandatory for clients of the aforementioned businesses to wear masks. As we know, wearing a mask protects others more than it protects you, and it would make sense for the benefit of the workers of all these places that people wear masks. If they’re going to be subjected to hundreds of people, their safety needs to be taken into account.

That mandate lasted about 3 hours before it had to be lifted… as threats, violence and guns all made appearances… as a lot of people who perhaps aren’t quite clear on exactly what the constitution of their country actually says, protested that their rights were being violated. What’s becoming abundantly clear is that there is a group of people incapable of understanding. Their preconceived notions and/or brainwashing seems to preclude any sort of rational thinking. And it’s also clear that there will never be a way to convince them. And that, unfortunately, is putting everyone around them in danger. So let’s leave it at that… you’re free to do whatever you want, but if your ridiculous actions have the possibility of affecting me, then you’re a Covidiot.

A brief note about today’s numbers — there was a huge spike in Quebec’s numbers, apparently due to a computer error that had neglected to count 1,317 cases from the past. Not counting those, their 892 actual new cases for the day looks a lot better… but that jump obviously affects our national numbers as well. And, it’s quiet day in B.C. — I will correct my guess with tomorrow’s real data.

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Day 47 – May 2, 2020

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

The first Saturday in May… The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport… The Run for the Roses… even if you know nothing whatsoever about horse racing, you’ve heard of it. And if you’ve ever been flipping channels on some random first Saturday in May and stumbled upon it on NBC, perhaps you stopped and took it all in. The Kentucky Derby — up to 20 horses, all of them among the best 3-year-olds in the world.

Since 1875, every single year… through two world wars, through the great depression… without interruption… until today.

The pomp, the pageantry, the intrigue, the expectations, the finely-tailored suits, the elegant dresses, the big fancy hats, the mint juleps, the magnificent horses, the colourful jockeys, the call to the post, the singing of “My Own Kentucky Home”, the post parade and… of course… the race itself. For the first time since… ever… Churchill Downs is empty today. Louisville, Kentucky, home of the derby (and Muhammad Ali and KFC) is a relative ghost town. All of it postponed until the first Saturday… in September.

NBC, who has held the broadcasting rights to the race since 2001 and who blocked-off the usual 3 hours of coverage, managed to fill it with some excellent content… jumping between past and present day. The only word to describe the opening shots… haunting. The show opened to several pans of Churchill Downs, completely empty. Not a soul in sight. If you’d told me 6 months ago that that’s what we’d be looking at, I’m not sure I could’ve come up with a scenario to explain it, short of World War III — but even then, the previous two didn’t stop it.

There were lots of present-day isolated interviews, a re-run of the 2015 Kentucky Derby, and all of the storylines leading up to its winner (and eventual Triple Crown winner) American Pharoah. And then, the coolest part of it, especially being a tech-guy… they ran a simulated race with the best 13 of the historical winners — all 13 triple-crown winners battling each other. Their lifetime past-performances, meticulously and professionally put together by the folks at The Daily Racing Form, thrown into a simulation and rendered beautifully. I must admit, it was exciting to watch.

Secretariat won this virtual race, really to nobody’s surprise. He was voted “Horse of the Century” for a reason and, again — if you know nothing about horse racing, at least go to YouTube and pull up his Belmont Stakes win in 1973 — that’s all you need to see.

Secretariat was the betting favourite in all but one race he ever ran, and he was the betting favourite today. And… interesting stat, if you look at any racetrack in the world, from any period of time… the rate at which favourites win is remarkably consistent… between 32% and
36%.

An interesting thing about that… odds are not set by a bookie; they’re set by you and me. These days, odds in racing fluctuate as people bet on different horses, and so the horse on which most money is bet… is the favourite. That means, roughly one third of the time, the crowd consensus is right. Which means the majority of the time, like 2 out of 3 times, everyone is wrong. Not totally wrong, because, after all, it’s a horse race, and anything can happen.

Which really summarizes where we all are today. Nobody is at Churchill Downs sipping mint juleps (the provider of mint to the track is stuck with two tons of it). Nobody is anywhere, really… but we’re slowly emerging. So let’s pretend we’re all racehorses, all of us with our individual styles, all of us trying to win. Some of us like to sprint to the front and hope we hang on. Some of us like to sit mid-pack and make a late move. Some of us like to sit far back, let everyone else get tired, and then take a huge run at the end.

There are a few issues that can arise. Like if you are the type that likes to run out in front of everyone, but you had a bad start and after a few steps, everyone is ahead of you. Or you like to come from way behind, but nobody is running that fast and nobody is getting tired enough for you to have a chance to make up ground. Or you’re sitting happily in the middle of the pack, but unfortunately can’t find any room to make a move when it’s time because you’re blocked on all sides, by the rail or other horses. It was a great plan… but now it’s time to course-correct.

Some of us want to sprint back to work, or at least want others to do so. Some of us want to hang back until we feel we’re comfortable making a move. Some of us will just go with the pack and see where it takes us. And some of us, like two thirds of us, if you stick to this metaphor… will probably wind up going about things differently than we’d planned. And, of course, this is a humungous racetrack that’s thousands of miles all around, with 7 billion horses and staggered starts and a lot of conflicting bets and misaligned interests… so yes, the metaphor falls apart, but the general idea of it is the same… we’re all running in the same direction trying to reach a common goal. The biggest difference is that this race can have lots of winners, not just one… and the strategy that we run with (or is imposed upon us) can make a huge difference. It will make a big difference — all the difference.

Let’s all run an intelligent race, and get to that finish line safely.

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Day 46 – May 1, 2020

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

One Saturday morning in the Summer of 1982, I hopped on a couple of buses and made my way to the Robson Square Media Centre, which at the time was the city’s busiest (and perhaps only) place where conventions were held, located around the perimeter of the skating rink, now part of UBC.

I was there because there was a computer convention going on… one of these pioneer computer shows, long before the rise (and fall) of Comdex.

I went around checking out the cool technology of the day, and gravitated towards a few booths with familiar names. One of them was Microsoft, and I got to chatting with a guy who didn’t look too much older than me, some geeky skinny teenager with whom a I had a great chat about the newly-released Microsoft Flight Simulator… a game which I was a huge fan of, and continue to be. I’m sure if the hours spent on MS FlightSim counted towards real pilot hours, I’d be qualified to fly a 747 by now. I had no idea about that company’s corporate structure or who this guy might be; I just appreciated that somebody “official” with the company found time to chat with this pesky little kid, and listen to his thousand questions and suggestions. Nice guy, whoever he was (his name-tag said “Bill”). A year or two later, I realized who that had been.

Sixteen years later, I was sitting at a $1/$2 limit hold’em table in The Mirage poker room in Las Vegas when the PA system paged “Bill for one-two, Bill for one-two”. And shortly after that, Bill Gates sat down a few seats away from me with a few hundred dollars in chips, just like any other regular Joe. And for the most part, he was treated as such; just one more person trying to play his game. I said “nice hand” to him at some point, after he outplayed me and took some of my money. But that was the extent of my interaction with him, and that was the last time I saw him in person.

My definition of knowing someone might be: When you bump into them on the street (6 feet apart these days!) and you both know each other. There are problems with that definition, because sometimes one person knows the other, but not the other way around. More than once, somebody has come up to me like they’ve known me all their lives with a huge hello, how are you, what’s new, how’s work, etc etc. And I have no idea who they are. They look familiar, sort of… maybe? Awkward. More awkward is when both of you know that you should know each other — and probably you do, from somewhere… but neither is sure…. “Oh yeah, hey… how are you? …how’s… uhhh… the family, yeah the kids, how are the kids, gosh they must be getting so big by now, how old are they? Oh yeah wow, how time flies, hey we should get together and have lunch or something… yeah, for sure, have your people call my people and set something up, haha. Yeah, cool, seeya”….. ok, who the hell was that… Super Awkward.

And actually, I guess that two very famous people who’ve never met could bump into each other on the street and know exactly who the other is, but they don’t actually know each other.

Anyway, by any definition, I don’t know Bill Gates… but I’ve been following what he’s been up to for most of my life… he’s gone from the guy who co-founded Microsoft to the guy who ran Microsoft to the guy who stepped back from running Microsoft to the guy who retired entirely from Microsoft, to pursue other things. And one of the things he’s pursued is the foundation he set up, along with his wife.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is involved in sorts of things, many of them hugely ambitious — the sort of thing that requires teams of supremely qualified people, and billions of dollars. Thanks to his life’s work and success, he’s able to provide both… and seeks to tackle things on a global scale: education, health, poverty, access to information and technology. For everyone.

Among his epic pursuits: he seeks to eradicate polio, he pours money into HIV research and treatment and he provides vaccinations for poverty-stricken countries. Thanks to him, deaths from measles in Africa are down 90% in the last 20 years.

So when Bill Gates starts talking about a potential vaccine, it’s worth listening, and he’s had a lot to say. Some of the highlights include his explanation on how a process that can typically take 5 years could be compressed into just 18 months, by overlapping parts of the process that typically would be done sequentially. For example, instead of waiting for a confirmed, tested and approved vaccine before mass-manufacturing, why not scale up the production of it while tests are still ongoing? At worst, it’s not good, and you just throw all that away… but if it works out, you’ve saved months or even years. There’s a cost to that, of course — throwing money at a problem sometimes means throwing the money away, but sometimes money can buy time, and this is one time where we all agree it’s worth it. And where would that money come from? Bill’s foundation is throwing $100 million at it — that’s a good start. Others are joining in as well. There are more than 100 vaccine-seeking research teams hard at work around the world, and probably 10% of them are onto something potentially viable. Human trials have already begun — something way ahead of the usual time-line. All of this, and much more, is worth reading on his blog.

And by the way, it bothers me greatly to hear the stupid nonsense being said about Bill Gates by the conspiracy-fuelled Covidiots whose version of reality somehow involves an evil Bill at the top of a convoluted mess of theories that make no sense at all. They’re not worth repeating, but feel free to “research” it if you want a good head-shake and laugh.

I know some people reading this know Bill Gates personally… a couple from my tech world; fellow geeks who’ve been working closely with Microsoft for decades. And from my horse world; Bill & Melinda’s daughter Jennifer is an accomplished show jumper, and the equestrian world is a small one…. so if any one of you see Bill any time soon, please tell him I say hello, and thank him for what’s he’s doing — from all of us. Of course he’ll have no idea who I am, but that’s ok — truth is, I’d like to “meet” him for a 3rd time in my life. Have his people call my people and set up a lunch, or something.

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Day 45 – April 30, 2020

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

On my list of lifetime achievements, there’s one I’m particularly proud of… because it’s one that many people have attempted, but very few have succeeded… and it’s this: I fought a speeding ticket in court, and won. Not because the cop didn’t show up; he did, and we had a nice chat before we went in to the courtroom. I outlined exactly what I was going to say to the judge, and the cop listened thoughtfully to everything I said… and then unilaterally decided to drop the case. We walked into the court, he announced that that crown had chosen not to proceed on these charges, and aside from a rather curious look from the judge (I guess this doesn’t happen that often), that was it. Case dismissed, and I walked out of there 3 points and $138 wealthier than when I walked in.

I had a lot of arguments that I threw at the cop, but I think the one that resonated most was this… that while I was indeed speeding as measured against the number painted on the sign at the side of the road, so was everyone else. In fact, when he stopped me, I asked him… why me? Everyone is going the same speed here. And he agreed; he even said so… “I could’ve pulled over any one of you”.

If you assume, for the most part, that the majority of people aren’t idiots, then you can rightfully assume that, for the most part, people, when acting in their own self-interest, might be mirroring what’s in the best self-interest of the greater good. Yes, I do understand the other point of view… because I often feel it while driving… that guy who’s driving slower than you: idiot. That guy that speeds past you: maniac. Those are the two types of drivers that exist, besides you, who’s the only one doing it properly. But the reality is that at any given point, we’re someone else’s idiot or maniac… and when you average it all out, most of us are in the same boat.

If the speed limit is 50 — well, actually, forget the posted limit for a moment. Granville St. on a quiet sunny Sunday morning at 7am in the middle of Summer… vs. Granville St. at 6pm on Friday in the Winter when it’s dark, maybe icy and cold and rainy and everyone is trying to rush to get home but traffic is a mess. In the first case, mostly open road, it might not feel out of place to be driving 80. In the second case, it’s hard to be going faster than 30, and possibly not safe to do so. In both cases, the posted limit is still 50, but it’s possible in neither case for that to be the appropriate speed at which to be driving.

Indeed, back to the initial crucial point. At any given point on Granville St, measure the average speed that everyone is going over a period of 10 minutes. That’s probably the safest speed. Set that as the speed limit, for the moment, and ticket everyone exceeding it by 20km/h or more. And also, ticket everyone going more than 20km/h slower than that. In my opinion, someone who’s going 30 on Granville and causing an angry back-up of traffic is far more dangerous than one guy who speeds by. Speed differential is the key thing… not just measuring it against an arbitrary number that someone came up with, and which coincidentally is the same speed limit as a tiny side-street a block away. Yeah, the speed limit one block east or west of Granville is 50km/h. Granville is 6 lanes, but a side-street is two at most, with parked cars and oncoming traffic having to wait for you to go by. Try driving 50 there… see how safe that feels; it doesn’t, so people don’t.

And so it is with 3 territories, 10 provinces, 50 states and 200 countries all giving conflicting directives as to how to behave. Many people in places with questionable directives have taken it upon themselves to govern themselves according to what makes sense to them. The state says it’s ok to go to gyms and bowling alleys and nightclubs? Nice, but I think I’ll stay away. The country says going to pubs and restaurants and church is no big deal? Sure, but maybe we’ll keep a social distance and not take grandma with us.

There’s still a lot of emerging data and opinion as to what’s safe and what isn’t. The “better safe than sorry” playbook, now shifting to “cautious optimism” has been very successful here in B.C., and our reward is an emerging opening-up — one we’ve earned, and will get to enjoy as long as we follow the rules we have in place which, at least around here — fortunately — make a lot of sense.

I’ll drive 30 when it makes sense, and I’ll drive 70 when it makes sense… not because I’m happy to go about breaking laws, but because it’s what reasonably makes sense to me at that time, and I’m happy to explain my reasons, and I’m happy that there are people around here who’ll listen to reason and go along with it. And if all 5 million people in B.C. and 38 million people in Canada think that way, we’ll be ok. And to be clear, I’m not suggesting you go speeding everywhere. But if everyone around you is “speeding” and if everyone is choosing to not gather in large groups or go to gyms — if you’re not sure how it’s supposed to work, look around. Most of us are OK drivers. And most of us understand what we need to do these days. Just go with that.

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Day 44 – April 29, 2020

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

It’s an interesting thing, this North American attitude… often found in sports. The great American pastime, baseball… there are no ties. The game can go into extra innings, which in turn can end up going on longer than the original game itself. In playoff hockey, same thing… full 20-minute periods until someone scores. Recall the famous Canucks/Stars playoff game that went into a 4th overtime — more OT than the 3 periods that preceded it. And hockey is a good example; there used to be ties in the regular season. And then… no, let’s decide this… they added overtime… and for a while, if the game ended in a tie after overtime, it remained a tie. But that wasn’t good enough… so, shootout. There will never be a tie again. There must be a winner. The most American of all games… the NFL actually allows ties, but there’s OT, with rules that make it almost certain one team will win. The only reason it can’t go on forever is that after more than 4 quarters of football, injuries are far more likely. There’s maybe one tie a year in the NFL; It’s rare, and nobody likes it when it happens. And NBA basketball? They will play overtime forever until there’s a winner.

On the flipside, the most popular sport outside of North America — soccer (fútbol!) — allows ties. What’s the difference in attitude?

I used to think it was attention span. Soccer holds your attention, sometimes for several minutes, between whistles. Hockey, same thing, which is perhaps why it’s not as popular as some of the others (especially in the U.S.). But football, baseball and basketball… endless time between action; time to discuss what just happened. Time to analyze it. Time to replay it, in slow motion, from different angles. That’s what I used to think, but no. What it simply is…. is that we just like to have a winner. After the big battle, a tie is just too unsatisfying.

It’s going to turn out that this virus is not as lethal as we initially thought… but, also…. it’s nowhere near as safe as a common cold or flu. The typical flu kills 0.1% of those it infects. COVID-19 seems to be somewhere between 0.4% and 3.4%. Let’s call it 2% for the moment. That makes it 20 times worse than a common flu. But also, nowhere near as bad as SARS (15% mortality) or Ebola (50% mortality).

The end result, somewhere in the middle, is the worst case scenario for the “I told you so!!!” crowds, because it means everyone can think they were right, and everyone else was wrong. It’s a sort of a tie that nobody likes, and both sides have plenty of ammunition to throw at each other.

In places that evidently haven’t been hit hard (B.C., prime example) the screaming about how we’ve wrecked our economy for nothing. Lockdown/shutdown — why? Look…for 100 dead people, most of them old or unhealthy to begin with? All of this suffering? For what?

On the flipside, places like Northern Italy and Spain and New York, who didn’t or couldn’t do enough to prevent the wave of catastrophic exponential growth in serious cases that led to a complete overwhelming of the medical system. And lots of deaths… multiples of excess deaths over the typical expected numbers.

Let’s look at some real numbers, implied by the general assumptions we think we know about this virus. The chart below shows ranges of age, and next to them, the mortality rate associated to that age group. Next to that, last year’s numbers for Canada’s population, followed by extending that mortality rate to our population. Knowing what we know today, if we were all infected and untreated, 750,000 of us would die, most of those being elderly. 750,000 people out of 37,500,000 = … 2%.

Age Mortality Canada Deaths
80+ 14.80% 1,614,000 238,872
70-79 8.00% 2,870,000 229,600
60-69 3.60% 4,607,000 165,852
50-59 1.30% 5,251,000 68,263
40-49 0.40% 4,817,000 19,268
30-39 0.20% 5,183,000 10,366
20-29 0.20% 5,101,000 10,202
10-19 0.18% 4,145,000 7,461
0-9 0.00% 3,982,000 0

TOTAL 2 .00% 37,570,000 749,884

That would never happen here, yells one side. That’s exactly what would’ve happened, yells the other.

On Friday, we will hear two things from Dr. Henry — one, that we have done our part and should continue to do so, and given what we’ve achieved, here are the first steps in the plan of re-opening our lives. And two, keep at it — an integral part of the new normal, at least until a vaccine shows up, will be maintaining the very things that have led to this success in the first place. That’s the side I’m on… and I’d like to think my side has done so well, that, by now, there’s probably enough hospital capacity to house the covidiots marching and protesting on Beach Ave. I’d like to think a small handful of morons isn’t enough to blow this for all of us… but time will tell.

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October 14, 2020

By |October 14th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19, Philosophy, Art & Literature|4 Comments

Blood is in the news… for a couple of reasons. The first reason is a recently-published Canadian study (which followed-up on earlier studies) that analyzed different blood types and how they relate to C19. In a nutshell, it’s slightly better to be type O and slightly worse to be type A… as far as likelihood and severity of C19. In no way should it alter anyone’s behaviour, because it’s not *that* statistically significant.

I happen to be one of these type-O people… O-negative, in fact, which makes me a universal donor. If any of you ever need some blood, hit me up – I’ve got lots, and can always make some more. Being O-neg, as many of my fellow O-neg people will tell you, means a phone call from the Red Cross every 56 days to go donate blood. I don’t go every 56 days, and I’ll admit I haven’t gone in quite a while… but I do go, and I enjoy my well-earned orange juice and chocolate-chip (not oatmeal-raisin!) cookie for doing so.

Here in Canada, apart from the cookies and juice, we don’t get paid to donate blood. I was interested to learn that in many parts of the world, you do. It’s not a lot, like around $30 per donation, but for some people that can make a difference, and there are people who depend on it. It’s a strange sort of welfare system.

Which brings us to the curious second reason; a plea from a university in the U.S. to its students… to not purposefully contract C19, with the intent of creating antibodies and then selling their plasma.

Convalescent plasma therapy (one of the treatments Trump received) involves taking the blood plasma of a person who’s had C19 and has recovered… but still has the antibodies floating around their blood. Injecting a C19-infected patient with that plasma should give said person’s immune system a good kick in the right direction. Indeed, early trials show a 35% better chance of survival when this is used in “optimal patients”.

It goes without saying that contracting C19 on purpose — any purpose — is not a great idea. That a university has to threaten its students with suspension or expulsion seems to speak to numerous larger issues: young people … [Continue Reading]

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October 13, 2020

By |October 13th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Business & Economics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|2 Comments

In today’s news, we got lots of new numbers… see for yourself. It’s pretty-much what’s to be expected… a little better, if anything. Nothing drastically bad, at least.

What might be turning drastically bad… ok, not drastically, but just to point out… that in elections of the somewhat distant past, there have been some wild accusations thrown around… like the opposing candidate is a well-known to be an extrovert! His sister-in-law is a thespian! He’s engaged in nepotism with his sister in law! Not only that… but, before he was married, he practiced celibacy! And… when in college, he matriculated! Scandalous!

The voters of yester-year we suitably horrified and of course would never vote for such an awful person. You can almost see them crowded outside the balcony with torches and pitchforks, and the poor guy stammering, “But… but…”, but being drowned out by the crowd all chanting “Scoundrel! Scoundrel!”

Indeed, like that not-so-old joke says, waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay sounds like a lot of fun… unless you know what those two things actually are.

The problem with those amusing election allegations is that they’re all true, but of course, nowhere near as scandalous as they sound. Candidates have been hurling insults at each other forever, but I suppose it’s a bit of an art to do it powerfully, yet truthfully.

You might think this is all leading to a little Trump-bashing, but it’s not… other to mention that curious statement he served up recently… where, asked why he hadn’t implemented a nation-wide mandatory mask mandate, he accused Joe Biden of not doing it. It was puzzling to hear, because, of course, the only person who could mandate that is the president himself. But Trump knows what he’s doing, and loves it. He makes it up as he goes along, and his crowd doesn’t care. It doesn’t make sense to accuse Biden with something he couldn’t have done to begin with, but the Trump crowd couldn’t care less. It’s irrelevant. Trump good. Biden bad. Facts – whatever. It’s a bit of a contrast to the past, where as awful as the (non)-insults were, they sounded like they could destroy a career.

Ironically, Trump himself is an extrovert… and a thespian… and he’s been engaged in nepotism with most of his … [Continue Reading]

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October 12, 2020

By |October 12th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Life in Vancouver, Philosophy, Art & Literature|3 Comments

Food, water, oxygen. Those three things have something in common… which is, none of them are a big deal… until you don’t have access to them. Then, depending on how much time has elapsed, they all become a big deal. That is how it is with things we take for granted.

In the case of these three things, roughly speaking, three minutes without oxygen will kill you. Three days without water might too… and the same goes for three weeks without food.

These things we take for granted… we should think about more often than once a year… certainly, on the tail-end of this three-day (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend, pandemic notwithstanding, we really have a lot for which to be grateful.

Most people reading this are living in a country that is most certainly (as it is ranked, year after year) in the top-three in the world with respect to quality of life. And of the cities in this great country, let’s agree Vancouver easily hits that top-three list as well.

There’s no deep political message today; I guess I could write about the original Thanksgiving, and its ultimate implications. Certainly, the associated Columbus Day (which is today in the U.S.) requires a deep look and an intensive re-write, a process already in the works.

But let’s keep it simple… the sentiment of being grateful for what you have; that’s word-wide and eternal. If you’re sitting around a table doing the turkey thing tonight, or did it yesterday, or even if you don’t do it at all, it’s at least a good day to ask someone (and yourself) – name three things for which you’re grateful.

I always have a tough time answering that question. Not because I can’t think of anything, but because I have too many things I’d equally rank and can’t decide what to prioritize. It’s a dilemma I identify as “a good problem to have”. And if you’re reading this, you automatically share in that part of the same problem/dilemma. As bad as things may seem these days, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

We have plenty to appreciate. We have plenty to acknowledge. And we have plenty to celebrate. With that in mind, I think I’ll go have a slice of pumpkin pie. Maybe two. … [Continue Reading]

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October 11, 2020

By |October 11th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Humour, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature|1 Comment

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stepped onto the ice a couple of weeks go to present the Tampa Bay Lightning with their hard-fought-for Stanley Cup, there was something missing. Well, there was a lot missing, not the least of which were the fans. To its credit, the NHL pulled off an excellent season, given the complexities involved. It all worked out as planned, their whole bubble-infrastructure held together, and even virtual fan experience was so well-executed, you’d forget there weren’t sold-out arenas surrounding the play. The lights, the sounds, the announcers, the crowd noises – as genuine and convincing as possible.

But what was missing were the boos. It’s a well-known tradition… Bettman steps onto the ice, and the fans boo. Loudly. Like the monkeys pulling each other back from reaching the banana, most people might not even know why they’re booing… but everyone else does it, so you do it too. And, for what it’s worth, there are plenty of reasons to boo the guy; pretty-much every team has a reason to, thought it occurs to me that Arizona might be the only exception… and further to that, Arizona might be the only place on the planet that cheers Bettman and boos Wayne Gretzky.

I’m sure the NHL and the broadcasters thought about it. I’m sure they had the recorded boos all queued up ready to play, and left it to a last-minute decision. I’m sure Bettman wouldn’t have cared; he always laughs it off. And/or knows, to a great extent, that he deserves it.

It was a missed opportunity though… just one little bit of normality that could’ve been implemented, but wasn’t… and that’s too bad. I guess the politics and implications of it outweighed the humour and fan appreciation of it… but these days, when all of us are looking for evidence that, as crazy as things are, there’s some normalcy lurking in the background… it would’ve been nice to see.

I hope the next time he’s awarding the Stanley Cup, Bettman is showered with 20,000 real-life boos. I can’t wait. It will long and loud and powerful. I’d love to experience it. And, considering what that implies, I think we'd all love it. Even Bettman himself.

… [Continue Reading]

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October 10, 2020

By |October 10th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Business & Economics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|3 Comments

No new local numbers today or tomorrow (or Monday), so while we wait in limbo to collectively answer the question, “How are we doing?”, here’s a different sort of thing to do with numbers. I thought I’d mention this because it’s a good one to have when you’re bored or have nothing to do.

Actually, wait… there’s a big difference between being bored and having nothing to do… actually, it’s more like we all, always, have something to do – something we should be doing, something that’s been on the backburner for a while… something left to do for a rainy day or long weekend. Whether we actually feel like doing it is a different story, and sometimes we want (ie. need) something relatively mindless.

A few months ago, my friend Elaan pointed me towards such a thing… and I both thanked her and cursed her for it… because it was interesting, immersive, and I wasted hours – many hours – on it.

It’s very simple… there’s this website with a button that says [Make paperclip]. Click the button… your inventory of paperclips just went from 0 to 1. Bang on it a bit… each click produces one more. And you’ll notice there’s public demand for your paperclips, and by [lower] or [raise] the price, you can manage the inventory… perhaps find a good balance between price and demand. All along, keep clicking and making paperclips.

When you’ve saved up enough money, you can buy an autoclipper. Now you can worry about other things (the price, buying more wire… marketing upgrades which boost demand)… anyway, by virtue of a few clicks that create paperclips, you’re soon running a business.

How big can you grow it? Keep at it, though I’m warning you… you may end up wasting a lot more time on it than you intended.

That being said, I’m not sure it’s wasted time… you’ll engage your brain, you’ll learn a lot… and those 100 things that need doing… they all waited this long; they can wait a bit more. This is, after all, Thanksgiving Weekend… let’s not forget to thank ourselves too. We’ve earned it, and if that means a little bit of time put towards growing a virtual paperclip empire, so be it. And if you waste … [Continue Reading]

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