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Day 35 April 20, 2020

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

On the evening of March 23, 1989, Captain Joseph Hazelwood retired to his stateroom for the night, leaving his ship, the 987-foot, 240,000-ton Exxon Valdez, in the less-than-capable hands of his (unlicensed) 3rd mate. Shortly after midnight, the oil tanker fetched up on Bligh Reef, cracked open and, over 3 days, spilled almost 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, contaminating more than 1,000 miles of coast line, 200 of it very badly… damage still evident today. Hundreds of thousands of animals — fish, birds, otters — lost their lives, in what must have been viewed from their eyes, their own hellish pandemic. A literal Black Death oozing towards them, like some Stephen King horror swamp creature brought to life.

Captain Hazelwood was crucified in the press and public opinion. Every bad story needs its villain, and he took the hit. Ultimately, the captain is responsible for his ship, period… but for things to go so wrong, there’s usually more to it… and there was, but that didn’t stop the finger pointing, and all of those fingers pointed to him.

More recently, like yesterday at around 4:30pm, The Spirit of Vancouver Island, a B.C. ferry, had a bit of a hard landing in Tsawwassen after its 90-minute journey from Victoria. The ship was slightly damaged, but no oil was spilled and no injuries were reported, and other than the hassle for some people having to wait up to 4 hours to disembark (and completely wrecking the day’s schedule for sailings), that was pretty much it.

I wasn’t on that ferry (and unless you had some urgent business, you shouldn’t have been either), but I can imagine what was going on after that happened. An announcement… “Sorry folks, as I’m sure you realize, blahblahlah, we’ll sort it out”. After that, for the people who were stuck on board, more “sorry” and free juice. At the time it happened, on the bridge, right after that veritable “Oh… shit” moment, someone saying “Sorry… so sorry, my bad”. As the last cars and trucks finally drove off, I’m sure there were more waves from the crew, and “sorry”. After the fact, B.C. Ferries put out at statement saying… yeah, you guessed it.

It is such a Canadian thing; we are known as the kings and queens of sorry, to the extent it may have lost its meaning. You might be standing in the street minding your own business, and some idiot buried in his phone will walk right into you, and you will find yourself saying, “Sorry!” You might be standing in some grocery aisle trying to decide which brand of maple syrup to purchase, and some fool will run his shopping cart into you, causing you to drop your maple-leaf-shaped bottle… but for some reason, you will say “Sorry!” Not too long go, I found myself saying sorry to a door that I’d just bumped. How very Canadian.

But Captain Joseph Hazelwood… he didn’t say sorry. I remember watching an interview when this happened more than 30 years ago, this guy getting grilled by the reporter, and the last question… “Are you sorry?”

You could see it in his eyes, his quivering lip… he desperately wanted to, but couldn’t. Like, of course he was sorry. That’s what he wanted to say… a long, heartfelt apology to the people of Alaska, to his family, to Exxon, to the planet… for screwing up, at least to the extent that he was responsible. But no, because no doubt… some lawyer, before the interview, told him… no matter what… no matter what, Joseph… do not say sorry.

The reason is pretty straightforward… the legal implications. Sorry means: “I know I messed up and therefore it’s my fault and therefore I’m responsible and therefore you may sue me.” This is in the United States, where most certainly, when you screw up and when you’re liable, you will get sued.

Around here, we actually have a law… we needed a law… to allow us to continue to be Canadian, and say sorry, and not incur any liability in doing so. It’s so Canadian, you’d think we’d cover it federally, but we don’t. Each province and territory (except Quebec and the Yukon) have their own version of an Apology Act, which basically lets you say “Sorry!” to anyone and everyone, and not incur the sort of blame that would stand up in court.

South of the border, though… not many apologies and lots of lawsuits. As things continue to go… south… in certain jurisdictions, the finger-pointing will get more aggressive. The blaming will get louder. The alternative-facts will become entrenched and indistinguishable from reality. And there will be lawsuits; many of them. As people die and businesses fail, someone is going to have to take the blame, and it’s always someone else. Cities will blame counties, counties will blame states, states will blame the federal government. But the leader of the executive branch of the federal government is not well known for apologizing or taking blame; indeed, he’s well known for lashing out at anyone who blames him for anything… so where will it lead?

I have no idea, culturally, what “sorry” implies in China. But I do know that a class-action lawsuit (based in the U.S., of course) involving 10,000 claimants from 40 different countries is seeking 6 trillion dollars in damages from China, because the virus is, you know, all their fault. Maybe if that goes through, we can all go after Spain next. With 100 years of interest on top of it.

Six trillion dollars.. I can’t even begin to describe how much money that is, but here’s a visualization. Take a stack of $100 bills… we can all visualize $1,000… just 10 bills. A thousand of those stacks is a million dollars. That stack would be about a metre tall. So a billion dollars would be a stack 1,000 times bigger… a kilometre. And by the way, that’s a pretty good “wow” of just how much bigger a billion is than a million. But a trillion? That’s a stack of bills 1,000km high. That gets you to the International Space Station and back again to the ground and then another 200km back up. Oh, and it’s 6 trillion… a 6,000km stack of $100 bills.

Apologizing went out of style with President Trump, and lawsuits have always been in style… and nobody wants to be the one holding the bag at the end of colossal losses being incurred by a situation that, ironically, perhaps has no nexus of blame. Which means lawsuits, for decades. And no apologies.

For what it’s worth, 20 years later, in 2009 (after all the legal entanglements had been unravelled, and whatever relevant statutes of limitations had expired), Captain Hazelwood did indeed offer a heartfelt apology.

OK, while I’m here… an update on numbers… B.C. is really looking good, on track for some of the mid-May relaxations we’ve been told about if these trends and numbers hold. Let’s wait till 2 weeks after the long weekend to make that judgement. So far, so good… keep at it… that finish line, in whatever form it initially takes… is getting closer.

Finally… like I’ve said before, when I sit down to write this… the intention is to talk about some relevant aspect of the pandemic, but sometimes I’m not really sure where it’s going to wind up. Sometimes it’s current and sometimes it’s thought-provoking and sometimes it’s relevant and sometimes it’s… well, what can I say if it’s none of the above… if you read all that and now wish you had those few minutes of your life back………. sorry!

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Day 34 – April 19, 2020

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

There’s this old joke where a mathematician, a physicist and a statistician go hunting. They’re crawling around for a while, but suddenly see a deer, way off in the distance. “I got this.”, says the mathematician, and he carefully takes aim and pulls the trigger… but misses about 5 feet to the left. The physicist says, “Not bad… but I got it”. He aims his rifle and fires…and misses, 5 feet to the right. The statistician jumps up excitedly… “We got him!”

This game of analyzing numbers can get very convoluted, because there are always different ways of looking at things, and according to something I briefly mentioned yesterday (confirmation bias), we’re often looking to find and interpret data to fit what we believe… or want to believe.

There’s a big part of me that wants to believe this virus is far more prevalent than has been reported. The implications of that pretty straightforward. At the moment, in Canada, we have around 35,000 confirmed cases. We all know the real number is higher than that, but how much higher, and what does it matter? If the number were 100x, we’d be approaching 10% of the population. If it were 1,000x, we’d be way past the point of herd immunity… the implication would be that we’ve all had it and can pretty much get back to normal, just being extra careful to isolate those who are still at risk, at least until they get it… in whatever form it shows up… knowing full-well the medical system can handle it. We will, in the near future, know exactly what number to attach to that x. Here in B.C., somewhere between 5 and 10 is my guess… which, combined with our effective efforts at flattening the curve, imply we can start along the path of getting back to normal… and the initial easing of restrictions, tentatively scheduled for mid-May, is step one.

There’s a study coming out of Stanford that implies that number may be between 50 and 85. I am suspicious of that number for a few reasons, but we will let the experts sort it out. The sample size and who comprised the test group and a few other things… leads me to think there are a lot of asterisks next to a lot of the findings. I haven’t read the report, but as per above, I hope it’s even a little bit true; the implication that this has been around longer and wider than we think.

That being said, there is no version of reality where this is just like any other seasonal flu. A “bad flu season”, and we’ve had many, does not overrun the medical system like this one has. There is no version of this where “just let it run its course” would make sense. There is a lot of screaming from some people about how we’re destroying our economy and people’s livelihoods for nothing. Well, there will be plenty to learn from all over the world, since there are (unfortunately) jurisdictions that have decided to follow different, less strict routes… some through design (U.K.), some through incompetence (U.S.), and some through sticking their heads in the sand (Sweden). There is a technical/scientific term for when one suddenly realizes the present course of action may not be ideal, and that a drastic course-correction may need to be implanted. It’s called the “Oh… shit” moment.

Two of those jurisdictions have already had their moment. The third is well on its way, and it requires a somewhat different way of thinking about things.

Let’s begin with a bad example of trying to compare apples to apples. What country has the highest confirmed infection rate? Well, it’s the Vatican City… they have a population of 800, and have recorded 8 infections. But 8 out of 800 is the same as 1 out of 100. Which is the same as 10,000 out of a million… which is very, very, high. The U.S. comparative number is 2,300. Canada’s is 922. In fact, given the demographic breakdown of the Vatican population (I’m assuming a disproportionate number of older men)… and the fact that it’s surrounded entirely by Rome, the largest city in Italy (whose comparable number is 3,000), that’s pretty good. To add to the list of interesting but useless numbers, the Vatican has 2.27 Popes per square km.

Part of the challenge of analyzing numbers is being sure you’re comparing apples to apples, and the more I’ve been at this, the more I realize it’s not even apples to oranges… more like apples to bicycles.

Sweden, with a population of 10.2 million, has 14,385 known cases… which equals 879 cases per million… pretty close to Canada. So far so good. Their number of 1,540 confirmed deaths isn’t so great… more than double the U.S, and approaching Italy numbers as a percentage of total population. But not an outlier with respect to other countries. Where things differentiate greatly is the “Resolved” column, and that one is pretty-much apples to apples around the world. No matter how widespread or deficient the testing strategy in any particular jurisdiction, there is a measurable number of test-positive cases, and those cases will resolve: recovered or deceased. This doesn’t have anything to do with assumed cases or Stanford studies. It’s far simpler… at some point, you were tested… and you either recovered or you died. These are the survival rates of identified cases:

Canada: 88.4% (B.C. 92.4%)
United States: 63.6%
South Korea: 97.2%
Spain: 78.4%
Sweden: 26.7%

So what exactly is going on in Sweden? If you look at the distribution of test-positive cases, it’s a pretty standard bell curve. If you look at the distribution of deaths, it’s heavily weighted to older people…. 89% of those deaths are people aged 70 or over. That’s comparable to Canada as well. I think the vast difference may be that a lot of these cases aren’t being identified until they’ve passed away. I’m not sure these cases are entering the system till “after”, and it goes straight into the two stats: positive test plus death. Their medical system is not overwhelmed. It’s a first-world country when it comes to treatment, and they have capacity. So the implication is that the virus is running rampant through the elderly population… and given their strategy, no masks nor gloves nor social distancing (unless you have symptoms) and keeping everything open… this will eventually reach everyone over a certain age. That’s roughly 20% of Sweden’s population, and with a roughly 10% mortality rate for that demographic, that’s more than 200,000 people. That is their trade-off for keeping the economy open.

In Canada, 4 million people are aged 70 or over. So if we did the same here, we’d be looking at roughly 400,000 deaths in that age group alone.

Those are the worst-case scenarios, mitigated by potential treatments, vaccines and changes in policy… but here’s at least one version of an answer to that rhetorical question that’s often getting asked: “What is the trade-off for shutting down our economy?” The answer is… many, many lives.

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Day 33 – April 18, 2020

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

Did you know that the bubonic plague is still around? That pesky little bug that killed up to 200 million people in the Middle Ages still pops up from time to time. A boy in Idaho got it a couple of years ago, I kid you not.

“Hey Jimmy, what’d you do all Summer?”
“Actually, I was sick for most of it with bubonic plague”

It’s almost worth getting, just so you can bring it up in Show’n’Tell. So much better than “Visited the grandparents in Wichita and miked some cows”.

Jimmy (probably not his real name) is fine… completely cured with a routine course of modern antibiotics. Jimmy is lucky he wasn’t born 500 years ago, because his pocket full of posies would have done nothing for his ring around the rosie.

The bacteria that causes bubonic plague has been quietly around for at least 6,000 years, but every once in a while, it makes a big splash. The Black Death, which peaked in the mid-14th century, was the biggest known pandemic of that particular bug, but there have been many outbreaks over the centuries… and while they’ll never achieve the magnitude of what happened in the Middle Ages, two breakouts is 2014 and 2017 in Madagascar killed around 200 people. And it’ll keep showing up, because it’s bacteria and it’s alive.

Unlike bacteria, viruses aren’t alive in the sense that they can just procreate on their own. They need a host, and in the current case, that host is a human… and in particular, human noses and airways. That’s a relevant point, which differs, for example, from SARS, also a coronavirus… which appeared and died-off in 2003. It incubated deep in people’s lungs. There are many other differences as well. SARS was far deadlier (~10%) but also less contagious. And the biggest difference is that while COVID-19 is still around, SARS-CoV is gone… extinguished from existence, except deeply-buried is research laboratories. Extinguished because of the way it was managed; the same gameplay of testing and isolating until every known host was known, and then kept away from infecting others. No host to jump to means it dies off, and that’s that. As has been widely quoted… if we could 100% isolate everyone on the planet for 14 days (probably a little longer, but not much) and keep completely isolated those who develop symptoms in that time — this thing would be squashed out of existence. That’s impossible to achieve, so the next best thing is a vaccine, which can, in due course, achieve the same thing. Has that ever actually been done?

Yes — and it’s one of the greatest achievements of medicine. Smallpox is gone, entirely, as of 1980, after a concerted effort that took decades. Smallpox was a horrible disease, with awful symptoms and a mortality rate of 30%, and you could catch it from someone coughing or sneezing on you, or touching contaminated surfaces… the usual that we are all familiar with these days.

But back in the day, medieval epidemiologists (heh) did not have a lot at their disposal, and it’s hard to blame them. Germ theory was centuries away from being figured out. Plague doctors wore those famous plague masks with the long noses, full of good-smelling herbs… which, if they didn’t help keep them safe, at least helped mitigate the stench of dying people all around them. In fact, back then, it was thought that illness was transmitted through miasma… bad-smelling air. A kind of chicken-and-egg causality where you assume the bad smell in the air is cause of all this illness… not the result. The name “malaria” literally means “bad air” in latin. But at least to some extent they’d figured out that keeping away from sick people was a good idea; the first versions of social distancing. Those Venetian masks with the long noses? It’s hard to cough/sneeze on someone when you can’t get too close. They understood at least that: stay away. I have this image of a medieval Dr. Henry, standing at the top of the Rialto Bridge, yelling down to the gondoliers on the Grand Canal… “Hey you down there! You shouldn’t be oot and aboot! Go home!” She wouldn’t be yelling, of course… more like softly but strongly suggesting.

Germ theory eventually sorted it out, but there was an interesting little overlap of time where smallpox “vaccines” from the Far East arrived in Europe, and worked… but nobody understood why. That didn’t fit with any known medical knowledge of the time, but it seemed that taking powdered smallpox scabs and inhaling them… would lead you to develop a mild form of the disease, from which you would recover. Well, most of you. There was a 2% mortality rate with that treatment… which is still a lot better than 30% if you get it. Game-theorists of the day could have tried to figure out what gave them better odds… a certain 2% chance of death vs. a N% chance of contracting something with a 30% chance of death. Here, I’ll do the math… if you thought your chances of contracting smallpox were greater than 7% (one in 14), go for the scab inhalation. I’ve bet on enough 14-1 shots in my life to know that I should take my chances with the scabs.

I say all this because the people back then, flying blind as they were, made the best of what they had and what they knew. We are way ahead these days… but as we’re all experiencing, there’s always plenty more to learn… and I think it’s going to really heat up in the next few weeks. We have a perfect storm overlapping of emerging antibody tests, conflicting studies from around the world regarding how widespread this is, data from jurisdictions that are doing things very differently and so on. And much of this is saddled with a conformity bias that makes it very difficult to navigate. When you start with a conclusion you’re hoping to reach, it’s not difficult to find the data to support it. It’s all out there. We will navigate it as best we can.

Speaking of we — we around here, and in Canada in general, saw a good day of numbers… a line of green… everything trending nicely… for now. This week we’ll start seeing the effects, if any (and hopefully, none)… of the long weekend.

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Day 32 – April 17, 2020

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

Today marks one month since I posted my first little chart, with an accompanying short little paragraph explaining it. What’s the date today? March 58th? Seems that way.

Since then, everything has grown… the numbers have grown, the lines on the graphs have grown, and the volume of my little paragraph has as well. It seems to be dealing with a lot more than just numbers, doesn’t it… so… on that note…

Today’s update at 11am from Dr. Henry and Mr. Dix was a thorough presentation explaining where we’re at and where we’re going. The slides of that presentation are available on the BCCDC website, but I’ll give you the summary — we’re doing really well around here, well enough that we can stop comparing the Italy track… we’re not following it… and, looking at the numbers and charts below, haven’t been for a while. And recognizing that we may be seeing a plateau, on its way to a decline — cautious optimism — of many key numbers. New infections, hospitalizations, ICU cases… everything trending in the right direction. We are seeing lower numbers for new infections, even with enhanced testing. For now. We will see next week if the long weekend changed anything.

And it’s key to note that this success has largely been a result of the measures put in place, the timing of those measures, and our compliance with them. And now is not the time to stop. “It’s working” is a lot different than “It worked”. We are still a work in process, and those social/physical-distancing ways-of-life will be around for a while.

Capacity to handle patients is below 50%, and it’d be ideal to keep it there. The absolute certain end to this is a vaccine, and things will be different until then, but it doesn’t mean we’re stuck in our homes forever. The plan for opening things up with a methodical, well-thought-out strategy is in the works, but the last thing we want to do is open things up too quickly. That can drastically change things, and it can happen quickly. One interesting slide, #34, showed the results of dynamic modelling, testing different outcomes given the degree of compliance of social/physical distancing. Short answer — if we keep doing what we’re doing, very good. If we don’t, there are varying degrees of what would happen. Worst case scenario: we all take to the streets today…. In about 10 days, the near vertical growth in cases would quickly overrun our medical infrastructure. That model also implies that a little loosening wouldn’t have a drastically bad effect… but to what extent and how… again, as you can see on that slide, if you hit a tipping point, it’s hard to come back from it. And speaking of that scenario…

There was a story on CNN yesterday with a headline that read “The social-distancing deniers have arrived”. Before clicking on the story, I imagined the picture that’d accompany it… it would be a group of people protesting. I imagined bushy beards, hunting caps, guns, American flags, Trump signs and no masks. I was a little wrong about the masks… a couple of guys had them; the rest, bang on. Oh, and not just guns… assault rifles.

I have a great idea. Get Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi to hold a press conference. Throw Bernie in there too. And there, they announce in angry, loud, unified voices… that social distancing is a terrible idea. That this lockdown is ridiculous. “President Trump!”, they should demand, while dramatically ripping their masks off their faces, “End this nonsense! Open every business! Get everyone out on the streets! Now! We demand you open this country, fully… RIGHT NOW!”

It might actually work.

Democrats say Zig, Republicans say Zag. Republicans say Ding, Democrats say Dong. It doesn’t even matter what Zig/Zag or Ding/Dong mean… nobody knows. Nobody cares. We are right, they are wrong. You are with us or you are against us.

Around here, we’ve pretty-much forgotten who’s in power. Premier John Horgan (NDP, if you need reminding) is not around much. I may not agree with everything he has to say, but he and I have something in common; an understanding of what leads to success… a concept that has served me tremendously well all of my life: Surround yourself with excellent people, keep them around, and let them do their thing. Two of those people these days are, of course, Adrian Dix (NDP) and Dr. Bonnie Henry (who knows and who cares). Political affiliations are pretty irrelevant at the moment.

Actually, John Horgan hasn’t been completely M.I.A… he holds a press conference once a week or so and answers questions. There are other issues facing the province, and while I’m unclear what he does all day, some of it has to do with dealing with other provincial issues, and of course, there are many. They haven’t gone away. And some of it is planning how to open up this province (beyond private liquor store hours), hopefully sooner than later, in a way that works and isn’t at odds with the big picture being laid out by Adrian Dix and Dr. Henry. Indeed, he’s letting them run the most important issue of the day, and he’s staying out of the way. It’s working really well, something even the most ardent NDP bashers would grudgingly have to admit. There will be a time and place for partisan politics, and I look forward to it because it’ll mean that things are back to normal.

In fact, the closest thing to partisan politics we’ve had recently was about all of this… Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson serving up a little softball… “Hey, John Horgan, where are you?” The premier probably could’ve swung at that and hit it over the fence, but he let it go by and watched it dribble to the backstop. Andrew Wilkinson’s question was actually a little more pointed… like, shouldn’t the premier of the province be out in front of the cameras, telling us what’s going on, giving us updates and hope and encouragement, like a real leader… etc. And the answer is simply… no… he shouldn’t. The British Columbian leadership and response to this pandemic has a face (two of them), and it doesn’t need a third.

But behind closed doors, I have no doubt that if one of those two gentlemen needed something from the other — personally, publicly, privately, politically… they’d be listening to each other and talking and working together. If there was ever a time for political partisanship to take a back seat, it’s now. Everyone… from the top on down, needs to be pulling in the same direction. We, around here, are very fortunate.

But just a little south of here… well, that pulling looks like this: it’s a tug-of-war… one side of the rope is 500 trillion little virus balls, all pulling together. The other side is a mixed bag of people… men, women… some are wearing red shirts, some are wearing blue shirts. Some are pulling in the right direction. Some are pretending to pull but are barely holding the rope. Some are pulling sideways. Others are pushing the rope into the ground. One guy is twisting the rope… clockwise… while someone else is twisting it the other way. A couple of people have little hacksaws and are quietly trying to cut the rope without anyone noticing.

It is so incredibly sad and frustrating to watch this slow but inevitable trainwreck. You can’t look away, and wish you could do something… because solutions to the dysfunction exist… but they seem to be well-beyond the reach of the very people tasked to manage it. It shouldn’t be this convoluted. The reasonable voices do exist, of course, but they are drowned out in a sea of irrational, national insanity.

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Day 31 – April 16, 2020

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

The B.C. number was published minutes after I posted this at 5pm, so I’ve just updated it… and it’s a good one, only 14 new cases. Great to see after yesterday’s spike… and although one day doesn’t make or break anything, that’s the direction we love to see.

Ontario’s growth continues to remain consistent, around 6% — which is a TTD of 12 days. Quebec is probably in a similar range, maybe less (ie better) — but is more volatile. They had a bit of a jump in today’s new cases, but that could be for many reasons. I’ll have a lot more to say about B.C. tomorrow after the modelling presentation… which you should watch, if you can… at 11am.

A couple of shoutouts while I’m here — to the staff and residents at the South Granville Park Lodge… my grandfather, who passed away many years ago… lived his last few years at that residence, and it was a peaceful and happy time, after a 94-year life full of extreme highs and lows. The staff was exemplary, and they unfortunately now find themselves a cluster of COVID-19 cases. I wish them all well.

And… a family friend in Montreal — who I’ve known my entire life… in fact, our families go back close to 80 years of knowing each other… 4 generations now… had been struggling in the ICU with COVID-19, on a ventilator for two weeks with a high fever that would come and go but never go away… well, as of this morning, I’m incredibly happy to report… no more fever and no more ventilator. He’s going to be ok, after a hellish 2-week nightmare. He is my age, my demographic, and at least as healthy as me. That struck very close to home… this thing is serious and this thing can hit anyone. But in this particular case, I probably can’t find the right words to express my relief. Whatever else, it’s been a great day.

And to radically shift gears, the rest of this post will serve as a bit of a public service announcement… these days, scammers, who may also be locked up in isolation, also need to make a living and are trying all sorts of new things, one of which is scary enough that a few people have reached out to me to ask if it’s for real.

You may have received an email where the subject line contains your password… and when I say your password, I mean some password you used somewhere, at some point in the past. And if it happens to be your current online banking password, that can indeed be really scary. I really hope that it’s not a password you use everywhere, because while things aren’t as scary as you think, you do have a bit of a hassle on your hands. But let’s break this down into little bits, and solve each piece of it.

  • how did they get my password and/or name and/or email address?
    – what else do they have?
    – how real is the threat?
    – what do I do?
    – what do I not do?First thing, relax. No matter how bad you think it is, it’s not.

    The email has your actual password, which is certainly enough to get your attention… and it then goes on to say that they’ve seized control of your computer and camera, have a complete log of you sitting in front of your computer doing whatever you do there, and a list of all the sites you’ve visited and all of your contacts. And unless you send them some amount of Bitcoin, they will send that video and list of websites to all of your contacts.

    Rest assured, nobody has taken control of your computer or your camera or your contacts or anything else. There is no video. It’s all complete bullshit. The scary aspect of your password sitting on the subject line means that somewhere, some site where you used that password got compromised… and if you use that password anywhere else, you really should change it… though I will point out that if it’s your “junk” password, it barely matters. I can assure you, some Bulgarian hacker has no interest in fiddling with your subscription preferences to “Turnip Harvester Weekly”. That being said, it’s always suggested you have unique passwords for everything, specifically for this reason — if some database gets hacked (which unfortunately happens more often than it should), that’s the only site and password-reset you have to worry about.

    Huge lists (with millions of names) exist for purchase on the DarkWeb where your name, email address and that associated hacked password are available. These lists sell for cheap, and anyone with some time and a bit of knowledge on how to merge a database with an email template can put together an email like the one you got, and send it to a million people. It is like casting a million little fishing lines into the ocean, and seeing what bites. Usually the email address it came from isn’t even valid, and the email will say — don’t bother trying to contact me. Or reply for proof that I have your contact lists. On that note, if it is valid, do not reply… because that might actually get you onto a list of “live ones”, which only means you’ll now be getting 10x the number of those scam emails in the future. And if you replied and if they did have a list of your contacts, again… relax… it didn’t come from your computer. At the end of all that, the scammer wants you to send some Bitcoin, and if you do, he’ll delete the video and leave you alone forever.

    So… they got your password from a hacked site. If you use that password anywhere important, go change it now. If they sent you a list of contacts to prove they know who you know… they probably got it from Facebook, which has an option that lets people find you via your email address. This is a security hole that everyone should adjust, because if they can find you on Facebook with your email address, and you have your friends list open to the world… then that’s how they know all these people you know. Fix that now… go to Facebook, under Settings, under Privacy… there is a section called “How People Find and Contact You” — settings for who can find you via your email and who can see your friends list and who can look you up via phone number. None of those should be set to “Everyone”. At worst, “Friends of Friends”. Just “Friends” is better. “Only me” might be best. That’s up to you, but lock it up so that random strangers can’t find you or your friends.

    The scammer wants you to send Bitcoin because it’s anonymous. Incidentally, if you need any further proof that this is all nonsense, consider that he’s sending the same Bitcoin wallet address to everyone. If you send him money, he actually has no way of knowing the money came from you. He’s hoping some of those one million little fishing lines will bite, and the Bitcoin wallet will just magically fill up from victims around the world.

    It’s always occurred to me that anyone who’s intelligent enough to be able to figure out how to purchase Bitcoin and then send it — probably wouldn’t fall for this in the first place. But that password thing is a little scary… so maybe it got you thinking in that direction. No worries.

    Summary of action items:
    – if you use that password anywhere, change it
    – review your Facebook settings as per above and adjust as needed
    – google your email address and see if that pops up any information you wouldn’t want out there
    – delete the email

… and stop worrying.

 

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Day 30 – April 15, 2020

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

The textbook definition of the word “optics” has to to do with light, and its interaction with the physical world. The most familiar adaptations we’re familiar with have to do with light interacting with our own eyes… optician, optometrist, ophthalmologist.

If you’re a professional photographer, this extends to different lenses and fields of vision and lighting and focal lengths and so on.

When it comes to business or politics, “the optics” refers to how it looks… to the general public. “What are the optics?” is the buzzword-question asked of advisors and consultants and marketers and branding experts and spokespeople and press secretaries — by the people behind the scenes who’ll care about the answer. How will the public take it?

Over this last long weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to join his family, who’ve been living in the Harrington Lake cottage for the last few weeks, for Easter. The cottage is in Gatineau Park, which is in Quebec.

That visit violated the social distancing orders that the federal government and every provincial government has imposed on its residents — the same ones Trudeau himself repeats every time he’s at the podium. That visit also violated the order with respect to crossing the provincial border which at the moment is supposed to be open only to essential travel.

And just to shove it a bit more in all of our collective faces — us, most of whom who stayed home all weekend, many of us who have cabins and cottages and places to where we’d love to have gone to get away from it all… and if not, especially in this beautiful weather, just pack up the SUV and go camping somewhere — he posted a selfie of himself and his family.

The picture shows a beautiful, smiling family of five, clear blue skies with a few light, scattered clouds in the background. Everyone dressed appropriately for the crisp, fresh air. A few wispy trees. The lake itself in the distant background. From a photographical optics point-of-view, excellent. From a political optics point-of-view, awful. Just awful.

Forced to explain himself, the PM gave a somewhat meandering and deflective comment. Within his statement was the sentence, “We continue to follow all the instructions of the authorities.” You’re supposed to be the top of that authority, Mr. PM.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, not to be outdone, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer stepped onto a government jet in Regina with his entire family, completely destroying any semblance of social distancing a 9-seater plane may have been able to offer its present two occupants. Why would his family, who one would think should be isolating at home in Regina, need to be heading to Ottawa. In a normal world, that last sentence would have a question mark after it, but these rhetorical questions don’t need them because the answers are self-evident.

We seem to have been dealt a fortunate hand here in B.C. — our provincial leaders convey a calm, consistent message with logic and transparency. They walk the walk, not just talk it. The plan is collective; you hear the word “we” a lot, and that “we” includes them. One wonders what that might look like at a national level. Like, how would it look if there were an entire country being guided by the calm, clear plan and intelligent reassurance we hear almost daily from Dr. Henry? What would it look like if B.C. were its own country and had control of its borders and could independently navigate this entire ordeal?

That particular rhetorical question actually has an answer: New Zealand… which coincidentally has a very similar population of around 5 million people. But the similarities don’t end there.

Their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has a lot in common with our own Dr. Henry. She stands up in front of her people, she speaks calmly and intelligently and pulls no punches when expressing the seriousness of the situation… but at the same time, is reassuring and inclusive and transparent. She is very much one of them, and she knows how to talk to them, and they listen.

On March 14th, when there were only 8 confirmed cases in the entire country of New Zealand (B.C. was at 73, Canada at 252), PM Ardern clamped down hard and implemented all sorts of measures that have now become familiar to all of us; 14-day isolation upon returning from out of the country, canceling cruise ships, cancelling big events and festivals. She went on TV and said a lot of things, many of which will sound familiar… “We will get through this together”. “Be strong”. “Be kind”.

Eight cases might sound early, but the results have been better than anywhere else on the planet. She saw what was happening around the world, she realized that time was of the essence and that even the slightest variation of the initial conditions (see yesterday’s post) can make a big difference. If she erred, it was to the side of caution, which these days might be the only right way to be wrong.

One of the sound bites of that TV address was her plea: “We must go hard and we must go early”. It has been said that this is the same sort of rallying cry that the coach of the New Zealand All Blacks might give his players before a game. My personal experience playing a rugby team from NZ would agree. They proceeded to go hard and go early and destroy us. Great bunch — this was in high school, so there were no after-match drinks, just handshakes, but I would’ve enjoyed a pint with those guys. Their game was disciplined, cohesive and well-executed. It was all business, from start to finish.… much like New Zealand’s response has been so far. And that’s why they’re winning; they can all relate, and there is tremendous trust in their leadership and the plan. It looks and sounds good, and it’s working. Good Optics.

Justin… Andrew… come on guys, you can do better, and the country deserves better. We need better. You’re both “one of us” too. Lead by example. Don’t just tell us what to do; do it yourself as well. Lead by example, because mixed signals and a “the rules don’t apply to us” attitude — Bad Optics.

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Day 29 – April 14, 2020

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

In simple terms, there are three initial conditions to consider if you’re going to fire a cannon: the weight of the cannonball, how much gunpowder you load into the cannon, and the angle of the cannon when you fire it.

If you’re trying to figure out what effect changing those variables can have, the right way to do it is to fix two of them and then see what happens as you vary the third.

For example, set the cannon at a 30-degree angle, and use the same weight of cannonball for 5 shots. Pack each of those 5 shots with increasing amounts of gunpowder… like 10, 20, 30 pounds and so on.

After you’ve fired those five cannonballs, measure the different distances and graph them. And draw a line through those 5 points… and extend it, beyond the last one, following the shape of that line. It might be perfectly straight. It might curve a bit. This is called extrapolation, and lets you make a pretty good guess as to what would happen if you had kept adding more gunpowder.

Now, do the same… this time, use the same amount of gunpowder, but use different weights of cannonballs. Graph and extrapolate that too.

Finally, pick one of those cannonball weights and a fixed amount of gunpowder, and fire them all, changing the cannon’s angle by 5 degrees each time. Graph and extrapolate.

Given those three graphs and their extrapolated lines, you now have a pretty good idea of how to fire this cannon, depending on what you desire. There may be many ways of hitting a target 500 yards away, but one uses more gunpowder. Or maybe you want to hit it with a bigger cannonball. Maybe there are trees in the way, so you’ll need a steeper angle.

One thing that’s certain; the only control you have with this cannonball is what you set with these initial conditions. Once you light that fuse and the cannoball blasts its way out of there, there is nothing you can do about its trajectory. Hopefully you got it right.

It occurs to me that a more modern and relevant example would be golf. When you’re trying to hit a golfball into a hole 150 yards away, there are many variables to consider, and usually, too many for most people, all at once. Pick the right club, but after that… the wind, your tight grip (but not too tight), feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, lean forward, keep your waist straight, look at the ball… etc etc. There are many more, and very few people are able to maintain all of those, all at once. And one initial condition out of place affects the whole thing. And again, like the cannonball, once you hit the ball, all you can do is watch.

When you look at the graphs in this picture, it’s not hard to visualize where these lines might be going, given the trajectories shown. If you look at the TTD chart for the world, the one on the far right, you can see the red Canada line in between the black South Korea line and the green Italy line. For a long time, we were hearing thing about which trajectory Canada might be following, using those two countries as examples… ideally, South Korea… but, worryingly, looking like Italy.

Ideally, our red line would’ve bent harder and right, sooner. It didn’t, but it also didn’t follow Italy, though the shape is the same, and using extrapolation, all things being equal, we can tell where we might wind up with respect to cases, if nothing changes.

Except all things are not equal. Unlike cannonballs and golfballs, the big difference here is that we can course-correct, and we have. Our red line and the American blue line were on top of each other for a while… until around March 26th, where things diverged rapidly. Implementing changes makes a difference, and the timing of it is key. A few days sooner or later makes a big difference.

It’s important to note that there were many initial conditions, both here and around the world, that affected things greatly. A big crowd at a soccer game. A large church gathering. Staggered Spring Break dates. The Canucks were away for almost two weeks after Feb 22nd. An endless list of endless jurisdictions where at the right place/right time, some situation that may have brought together a lot of people from lots of different places — did or didn’t happen, for whatever reason.

We will be shown some modelling later this week, and some “what if” scenarios. The biggest “what if” around has to do with properly implementing the measures that have been imposed in many places (including here), and the effects they’ve had. There is some guesswork and some assumptions, but they’re intelligent guesses based on what’s been experienced elsewhere. Extrapolated graphs are part of it. And every indication is that what we’re doing has made — and continues to make — a big difference.

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Day 28 – April 13, 2020

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

Once in a while, we have a movie night here at home…. who are we kidding, every night is movie night these days… and recently (well, before Tiger King), we saw a movie that could best be described as a combination of Groundhog Day and… Alien? Predator? War of the Worlds? If you’re not familiar with Groundhog Day — you should see it. To some extent, it feels like we’re living it these days… but to summarize (spoiler alert), in the movie, a normal guy (well, Bill Murray) is caught in a time loop where he lives the same day over and over until he’s finally lived it perfectly and then his life can go on.

Those SciFi movies I listed all have in common the good-guy-humans vs. the bad-guy-aliens. In all cases, the good-guy humans prevail, with varying degrees of importance… saving themselves, saving the world, saving the universe.

Mix the two together, and what you get is humans vs. aliens, but with an interesting twist. Typically, our hero goes from battle to battle, close call to close call… until finally, he prevails. But in this movie, our hero keeps dying… because these aliens are seriously powerful. He doesn’t last more than a few minutes the first time. But as time goes on, he gets a little further along in his quest to kill the aliens — before he’s killed, and then wakes up the next day, and starts all over again. It’s a Hollywood movie (Edge of Tomorrow) with a Hollywood A-lister (Tom Cruise), so (spoiler alert) you can guess the ending… but here’s the takeaway of the whole thing… when he finally gets it right, when he finally — after brutally and painfully dying hundreds of times — is able to extinguish the aliens and life can go on and humanity is saved… nobody knows. It’s like nothing ever happened. It’s like the aliens never even showed up. All of humanity benefitted from the suffering this guy endured, but no one will ever know.

As we starting emerging from lockdown and navigate the complicated plan of getting back to normal, more and more of the crazies will emerge. There was a protest over the weekend where some people with “Fake News” and “CON-VID-19” signs showed up. Apparently, this is all a big conspiracy to… to… well, to what? These guys typically bundle-up all of the current conspiracies, so it’s difficult to unravel a logical narrative that might even make sense. The Chinese created it and activate it with 5G and have the vaccine but won’t give it to us but killed thousands of their own people to show it’s real but Deep State and Illuminati and government power-grab and… and… well, even if that mess of insanity were true, how exactly does Canada figure into it?

Locally, Kennedy Stewart, mayor of Vancouver, is getting increasingly worried that this city is reaching insolvency… and it’s a serious concern. As this goes on, fewer and fewer people will easily be able to pay the their mortgages or rents; where and when they can, they will. That’s the priority. Property taxes, which greatly fund this city, are lower on the list, and the many people who will throw their hands in the air and say, “What exactly do you want me to do? You know I haven’t worked in 3 months” have a good point. These taxes may be deferred and eventually will probably get paid (“deferred” is very different than “forgiven”) but the city needs money now. So they asked the provincial government for $200 million. And Victoria isn’t themselves rolling in cash these days either, so they will have to ring up Ottawa with a similar request. This then gets into a more complicated discussion at the federal level regarding literally printing money vs. inflation vs. stimulus vs. many other things, none of which are great for this country in the long run… which begs the question — to what end? To what end might the Canadian (or provincial or municipal) government be involved in some giant conspiracy? Not that you can ever intelligently argue with these people, but I’d love to hear that particular answer. We have created a big massive hoax which hurts everyone… across the board, everyone is suffering, including every single one of those government workers and officials… it will take years for us all to recover… because WHY?

I’ve made the mistake of answering a few of those sorts of messages privately, and my well-reasoned arguments are simply answered with “You just don’t get it.” On that, we can certainly agree. No, I don’t get it and I never will… but what I will point out is that all of those idiots will end up benefiting from the sacrifices we’ve all made, and it sounds like they won’t even be able to recognize it. We are all Tom Cruise.

And when the pandemic doesn’t get out of hand here, because of all of the intelligent and necessary measures that were put in place and that were followed by most of us, these are the idiots that will proudly be announcing to everyone, “See? There was nothing to worry about. This was never a concern, never a problem, and all of you bought into it. Sheeple!!”

That’s ok. You, like Tom Cruise at the end of that movie, can just sort of chuckle to yourself. You, me, we all took the hit for the greater good, and it was an expensive one… but we will recover.

And when and how exactly do we start that recovery? I’ll be happy to offer my completely-non-expert opinion in the coming days, and there are some encouraging signs to guide that. One is that the numbers really do look good. If you scan down the columns labelled “Cases Increase”, they tell an optimistic story, and not just in B.C.

Also… here in B.C., serological antibody tests are just around the corner… within the next couple weeks. This is the test that can tell you whether you’ve ever had the virus, symptoms or not. I don’t know what the rollout looks like… in a perfect world, we’d all get one instantly and we’d know our own status and that would obviously guide a lot. That’s not how the world works, but whatever way gathers the most information quickly and efficiently — that’s what we’ll see.

Until then… it’s working. Keep doing it. That light at the end of the tunnel is not a train screaming towards us.

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October 4, 2020

By |October 4th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Our Dog|19 Comments

The messaging coming out of the White House is so contradictory, it’s not even worth trying to figure it out. There’s internal disagreement with what they’re trying to say (forget the truth; that’s irrelevant – this is just about the picture they’re trying to paint). Doctored videos, pictures supposedly taken throughout the day but actually taken 10 minutes apart…. Trump hard at work… signing blank pieces of paper. He’s going home soon; he’s staying in the hospital for a while. Enough already; this isn’t news… just failed propaganda.

Does anyone remember the Soviet leaders that came after Brezhnev (and before Gorbachev)? First there was Yuri Andropov. One day he was fine; the next day, the Kremlin reported he had a bit of a cold. The next day he was dead. Following him came Konstantin Chernenko… fine one day, caught a little cold, died the next day.

We can excuse all that because that was the former Soviet Union, where there was no semblance of free press, and the only source of news came from the government… it wasn’t a question of truth. The “truth” that was rammed down everyone’s throat and expected to be accepted.

That’s not so easy to pull off these days, and it’s making the White House look ridiculous… and questioning the credibility of a number of people, including Trump’s own doctor.

No useful information emerging from there, and nothing too useful around here either since it’s the weekend. Tomorrow, we’ll get an informative over-the-weekend update – for Canada. For the U.S… don’t hold your breath.

The numbers and charts, as incomplete as they will be for today, will be posted shortly… for now, you get a picture of my dog… who also looks like he’s worried about what the heck is going on…


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October 3, 2020

By |October 3rd, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|0 Comments

Sometimes, I write these posts in the morning… sometimes, at the last minute… a few times, the day before. I get the impression I’m going to have to back off trying to be too current, because the news changes almost as fast as I can type… and by the time you’re reading this, it could be largely out of date. In any event, I’m writing this earlier in the day and it might be longer than usual to make up for the fact that I won’t have much time tomorrow… so let’s pack two day’s worth of thoughts into one…

First thing… on this side of the 49th… Ontario increased its C19 death numbers significantly… 111 deaths in two days… but no, it’s not so dire. The vast majority of those were re-classifications from deaths earlier in the year.

South of the border… in the news, and changing by the minute, is the remarkable irony of the White House event which was intended to be the grand introduction of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee… but could turn out to be the very reason why Judge Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t ascend to the Supreme Court… that being that there may not be sufficient votes in person to achieve confirmation… because too many Republican senators will be sick and/or quarantining.

I’ve never been to a White House event, but I can only imagine it’s the sort of get-together that involves exotic teas and tiered platters with egg and cucumber sandwiches (no crust, of course), yummy pastries, scones, whipped butter, jam… you get the idea. The poshest of the posh. Side-note, that really made me hungry – any recommendations for local fancy tea places?

Anyway, that particular event will not go down in history for the fine food that was served, nor for the fine China upon which it was presented. Instead, it will be forever known as the Covid-19 Super-Spreader event that changed the course of American history.

It’s only been a few days, but now we’re getting a very accurate account of how fast this virus spreads when it’s in our midst and not taken seriously. Those Republicans, scoffing at the notion of wearing a mask — lest they be ridiculed by their Fearless Leader – may have screwed themselves out of contention. Their reckless, holier-than-thou attitude … [Continue Reading]

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October 2, 2020

By |October 2nd, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|0 Comments

Given the way he conducts himself in public, it’s surprising it took this long for Donald Trump to test positive. It should’ve happened months ago, but rumour has it that when no one’s looking, he’s a lot more careful. There are those quotes from Bob Woodward that would lead one to believe Trump clearly understood the severity and risks of C19 long ago. Of course, it’s not his outward-facing message… even recently mocking Joe Biden and his big mask… but behind closed doors, he’s been terrified of getting it… as well he should be, since he’s in that high-risk category, for a few reasons, not the least of which are his age, obesity and heart disease.

His people would like you to think he has a 0.0002% chance of dying from it, but the truth is not so favourable. Given the demographic within which he falls, mitigated by the fact that he’s got the most sophisticated medical care at his disposal… and given what’s been learned with respect to treatment… his resolved-case survival rate is probably around 95%, which means a 1 in 20 chance of dying from this. Also concerning is how many important and influential people he’s been around, with his usual wanton recklessness. More than 20 for sure, so within the next couple of weeks, don’t be too surprised at the news of a concerning hospitalization or two.

For now, we wait and see… there are of course a lot of obvious questions… but it’s not really worth wandering down the paths of speculation. What if Biden also got it? What if Trump dies a week before the election? A week after? What if he’s alive but incapacitated but lucid enough to refuse to transfer power? What if he’s really sick and then Pence gets sick? What if this, what if that. There are actually answers to all of the way-out-there possibilities, but all of them would be challenged… in the courts and on the streets.

In any event, it’s a volatile situation that can change by the minute. As I’m writing this, the president is being rushed to the Walter Reed Medical Centre… a trip he’d usually make via a 30-minute drive… but today, it’s a 4-minute helicopter ride.

Up to this moment, nobody is saying much… he was … [Continue Reading]

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October 1, 2020

By |October 1st, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Sports & Gaming|3 Comments

I just got back from the track a few minutes ago (it’s closing day of a very memorably-odd 25-day season… but it was great to see some familiar faces), where I watched my horse “Blueprint” run 2nd in one of the most prestigious races of the year… so that’s good. But that “2” is about the only good number around.

Canada, today, saw its 160,000th C19 case… and recorded 22 deaths, the largest 24-hour total since July. When you look at the chart below, at the Canadian growth numbers, you’ll see them all above 1% over the last 5 days. And if you look further back, you’ll see them all below 1%… going all the way back to May. We slowed it down from the end of May onward, and now it’s crawled back… and, if you look at the corresponding graph, it’s crawling rather steeply.

It’s interesting to look at the trends of the other charts, too. Notably, B.C., which briefly looked like it was going to spiral out of control… hasn’t. Things have tailed off recently. That meteoric rise has slowed and backed off. Maybe Dr. Henry managed to scare us back into order.

Alberta is fighting to keep its growth flat, and while things could be better, they could also be worse. They’re fighting to keep their spread in schools under control, and it’s not looking great; let’s hope for the best.

So what’s driving this national growth? The usual, of course… Ontario and Quebec… who both, at some point, were looking to have things well under control. Not anymore. The numbers, the graphs, the deaths; none of it is good. Everything sliding in the wrong direction.

My horse “Blueprint”, to be honest, is probably not destined for greatness. He really stepped it up today and I’m proud of him… especially because there’s only so much you can do. Our very excellent trainer Dino does what he can to prepare the horse, but once the starting gate springs open, anything can happen.

Similarly, the national blueprint for handling a pandemic requires the involvement of everyone. The trainer does what he can; the jockey does what he can. But it’s ultimately up to the horse… and horses, like people… they can be stubborn.

You can lead a horse to water… you can … [Continue Reading]

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September 30, 2020

By |September 30th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|14 Comments

I should take a step back writing about Donald Trump. I’d been planning to watch the debate and then comment on it, but of course, there was no debate. There was a schoolyard bully, flailing around aimlessly, aggressively, disgustingly and frighteningly. I know the majority of people reading this were as horrified as I was, watching that shitshow… and for those who think otherwise… well, there’s really nothing I can tell you. In talking about Trump, I’m either preaching to the choir or talking to a brick wall. Either way, to a great extent, I’m wasting my time discussing it. All I can say is that if you still support that deplorable, awful excuse of a president, there’s nothing anyone can say that will change your mind. Therefore, I will leave it at that, with one final point:

I’ve said before I don’t watch a lot of TV – not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have time. I’d binge watch 12 hours a day for a few weeks, given the opportunity. My “to watch” list grows a lot faster than I can get through it.
As a result, at the moment, I’m a few years behind… and watching the second season of the excellent adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

It’s very good… and very relevant. It deals with a dystopian future, where the first season’s episodes flash forwards and backwards – dystopian future/normal past… but, unlike most SciFi of that genre, the dystopia is not in the distant future; rather, it’s probably no more than 5 years apart… and it all takes place “now”… it could be 2005 to 2010 or it could be 2018 to 2023.

A lot has changed in those 5 years, and the differences are made clear in the first season. But now, in the second season, it’s starting to fill in the blanks… how exactly do we go from a normal society, to a messed-up fascist military occupation based on religious zealotry?

It doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t take long. It’s frightening to see the fiction of the show and compare it to the realities of the U.S. today. While it might sound a little alarmist, if things really derail, it will be impossible for anyone to actually say, “Jeez… … [Continue Reading]

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