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Day 19 – April 4, 2020

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

When time and good weather allow, you’ll often find me on my bike. I really enjoy it… doing something healthy that gives me the opportunity to get lost in my thoughts without interruption. And since physical distancing doesn’t mean locking yourself in a cabinet, just staying far away from other people, today was a perfect day to do that, and the contents of what you’re reading were generated while cycling around the city, observing people.

And what I saw many of were… masks. A hot topic these days, so just thinking about it as I rode around — here is every argument I could think of, broken down into 4 quadrants of possibilities, and reasons that fit those categories, as wrong or misguided or irrelevant as they may be. A brain white-boarding exercise to see if out of the conflicting arguments, some sort of reasonable course of action can emerge. And many of these reasons aren’t just made up by me, they’re speculative… so put “might” or “could” in front of most of these:

A. Reasons you should wear a mask
– prevents you coughing your potentially infected droplets onto other people and surfaces
– prevents you inhaling other people’s droplets who cough in your vicinity
– shows others you’re taking this seriously

B. Reasons you shouldn’t wear a mask
– there’s a front-line medical worker who needs it more
– increased (false) sense of security
– virus could get caught in it and linger there for a while, increasing your risk of infection
– uncomfortable
– looks silly

C. Reasons everyone else should wear a mask
– when they cough, they’re not shedding virus onto other people or surfaces

D. Reasons everyone else shouldn’t wear a mask
– looks silly
– can traumatize and cause anxiety in other people

There’s this whole “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” thing… but I prefer a slight variation: “don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you” — it’s a subtle difference, but it’s more along the lines of… if what you’re doing isn’t hurting anyone, they shouldn’t care. And, of course, if someone else is doing something that doesn’t hurt you, you shouldn’t care.

That came to mind because I look at A and B, and I suppose you could argue either side. But when you look at it from the other point of view, the answer that emerges is pretty obvious… everyone should be wearing masks, because there’s no good reason NOT to, and there’s the potential benefit to you, if everyone else is wearing one. And therefore, for that to work, everyone should wear one. Not everyone will subscribe to that point of view, which is fine… but the conclusion is, if wearing a mask isn’t hurting anyone and can possibly benefit the greater good, go for it. No one is stopping you.

And when I say mask, I mean anything that blocks you coughing on people and things. Without getting into an N95 discussion — by all means, priority one for those things are the front-line workers — but anything else… surgical masks, cosmetic masks, bandanas, scarves, baggy turtlenecks, whatever. Whereas in the past, reasons under D may actually have been relevant… like, for sure, 6 months ago, someone walking in with a hazmat mask into Whole Foods would have gotten a lot of looks and a wide berth. These days, you could show up wearing a 100-year-old diving suit with those huge metallic helmets that look like an alien — and nobody would bat an eye.

B.C.’s numbers are looking very encouraging. I know I sound like a broken record, but for those who ever had real records, ie vinyl, will recall that the easiest way to break a record was to overplay it. After 10,000 times of listening to Dark Side of the Moon, it began to skip… one particular spot, it’d jump back about 5 seconds. Over and over. Much like the message of physical distancing. I will keep repeating it until we’re all allowed to engage in a 100,000 person group-hug, signifying the end of this thing. Until then, keep at it… it’s making a difference. And, if you need to go out, feel free to cover your face… with anything. It can’t hurt.

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Day 18 – April 3, 2020

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

By now, we’ve all settled into some sort of routine… or, at least, the intention of one. 3pm-5pm is my “Corona time” — not because I sit back to enjoy a refreshing Mexican beer (and my preference would be Guiness anyway), but because I’m trying to give this aspect of my life a limited and structured block of time. I listen to the provincial 3pm update from Dr. Henry and Mr. Dix while digging through articles and messages I’ve received, updating numbers, and writing this… and 10 seconds after posting this, shortly after 5pm, I try to forget all about it for the next 22 hours. Much easier said than done, but distraction helps.

If you’re reading this post on Facebook, then you have at your disposal the technology to distract yourself in isolation forever… with endless books, music, videos, movies… all at your fingertips. Distract yourself to your heart’s content with all of that… or just send memes and pictures of cute cats to your friends; whatever keeps your brain in a happy place.

And, of course, connect socially — not physically. You know, of all the whacked-out conspiracy theories I’ve heard — and I’ve heard many — if I had to believe one, it’d be that this virus was created by the people who are behind the Zoom software.

To Zoom’s credit, they took advantage of this situation very intelligently. Luck = preparation + opportunity, and lucky they were… but also smart. They announced that their software would be unlimited and free for educational purposes. Every school jumped onto it. They also made it free for everyone, sort of. Up to 100 people can communicate for free, for up to 40 minutes. It’s genius, because if you manage to get a large group together for free for a 30-minute meeting… and the meeting invariably drifts toward that 40-minute mark, the hassle of hanging up and starting over is superseded by the simplicity of just signing up. Somebody on that call will sign up. We are all signing up in droves. And above and beyond all of that, they understood where the “friction” was, and removed it. Setting up a conference is easy. Joining one, even if you’ve never done it, is simple. Jump through a couple of hoops and you’re in, and once you’re in, the next time is trivial. The days of tying up the first 15 minutes of any videoconference with “We can’t see you” and “I see you but can’t hear you” and “How do I unmute this” and “It won’t install” and “What’s the admin password” and “I’m getting an error… wait…” and so on… those days are over.

A company that many of us hadn’t even heard of a month ago is now worth close to $40 billion. And for those that know what it means, has its shares trading with a P/E ratio of 1,500. For comparison, Amazon’s P/E is 80. Apple’s is 20.

Whether it’s Zoom or whatever else you many be using, this has radically changed the way we socialize and, to a great extent, I find myself Zooming with people I haven’t seen in ages. Like, there is a particular group of people I’ve been hanging out with, on and off, for over 30 years. Before the internet (as we know it) existed, we were a bunch of geeks who connected via modems… which ran at speeds so comparatively low to what we have today, you’d think we’re kidding. We used to go for burgers and beers every week, but as people grew up and evolved into real lives, those meets got few and far between. But guess what we did last week — got together on Zoom, geeked out discussing technology, asked a lot of “Remember that time when…” questions, watched a bit of Demolition Man together, and watched each other eat burgers and drink beer. It was wonderful. Guess what we’ll be doing every week.

Yeah, it’s not the same, but how lucky we are that we have this technology to stay connected. Let’s milk it for all it’s worth. A virtual hug is nowhere near the same as a real one, but it’ll do, for now. Stay at home and reach out to all your friends and consume the gigabytes of free data being generously offered to us by our internet providers.

Back to today… this post didn’t talk a lot about numbers, because around here… B.C., and Canada in general — we’re in this sort of “hurry up and wait” phase. As optimistic as the B.C. numbers look, it’s exactly not the time to take our foot off the collective gas pedal. Don’t go dancing in the streets. Dance all you want in your living room. And if you’re don’t remember why, read yesterday’s post. Once the weekend numbers have settled down early next week, we’ll see where we’re at, and by then, there will be plenty of trending data to discuss. But don’t worry — even if I have nothing meaningful to say, or what I say seems to be irrelevant… the numbers and charts always have something to say and I’ll keep posting them daily while we’re all here.

And finally, in other news… I visited my car for the first time in a couple of weeks and found a 2-week-old Starbucks Iced Latte there. The mold/fungus/bacteria/whatever-the-hell-it-was growing in there may well have held the cure for COVID-19… but we’ll never know.

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Day 17 – April 2, 2020

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

I added a little table (just above the logarithmic chart) to the spreadsheet yesterday, and today I will explain it. It’s a simple “look-up” table for “Time To Double”, useful if you want to know how a certain percentage maps to a TTD. For example, let’s say you have $1,000 to invest, and you want to double it to $2,000 in 7 years. What interest rate would you need? The answer is 10.5%. If you can wait 10 years, you’d only need a rate of 7.2%. How long to double your investment if you’re being offered 20%? The answer is 3.8 years.

These percentages and their related time periods can measure years… or days, which is the relevant discussion.

Let’s begin with a simple example, where we start with the number 100. And we are adding 20 to it every day. After 5 days, it’s doubled to 200. A TTD of 5. Now we keep adding 20 per day… so it’s going to take another 10 days to go from 200 to 400. And to double from 400 to 800, it’ll require a further 20 days. The only thing doubling here is the TTD itself… and this represents linear, not exponential growth. Certainly, it’s growing… and in this example, that 100 will grow indefinitely… but, as it does, its TTD gets bigger and more distant.

Now let’s imagine an example where on day 1, we’re at 100. But by day 4, we’re are 200. And at day 7, we’re at 400…. and we’re at 800 after only 10 days. So this is clearly a TTD of 3, and if you look at the continuing growth… 800, 1600, etc… it’s not hard to imagine what this would look like on a graph… an ever-increasingly steep curve. With a consistent TTD, there is exponential growth. The steepness of that curve has everything to do with the actual TTD, and that’s important because no matter what the finish line, it’s important how quickly we get there. In this case, we want to get there as slowly as possible.

The big graph on the bottom left shows those curves, overlapped on each other, showing how numbers have evolved for different jurisdictions from similar starting points. The logarithmic graph to its right shows the same data, and when you graph exponential data on a logarithmic scale, consistent exponential growth shows up as a straight line. Those 4 TTD lines of 2, 3, 5 & 10 days are the best example. A logarithmic presentation also helps to show the deviation, positive or negative. As that exponential growth increases or decreases… ie, as the TTD increases or decreases, the lines for each country (or province) will move… and obviously, to the left (into the steepness) is bad, and to the right (flattening out) is good.

Logarithmic graphs can be a little misleading in the way they squish data, and can misrepresent reality. But from the point of view of displaying trends, they’re pretty good. We can look at the encouraging B.C. line. We can look at the Canada line, and at least relate to the fact that we’re on a very different trajectory than what the U.S. is following. As much as the numbers back east have jumped, and as exponential as the growth continues to be, it’s less exponential, ie slower, ie the TTD has gone up, ie… from a trending point of view, not worse than what led up to it.

Even without the graphs, the numbers speak for themselves, and the growth percentages are there, day to day, both for Canada and for B.C. You can plug those numbers in to the little table… from today, from a week ago… and see what TTD would correspond.

That being said, what exactly are we measuring? These TTDs are important to chart the rates of growth, but rates of growths of what? Known cases? Presumed cases? Hospitalizations? Patients in critical condition? Deaths?

The only thing I’ve been dealing with are confirmed cases and their growth. My data deals with the confirmed known spread of the virus…. but all of those other numbers are also important, and will be tackled in due course. Topics for another day.

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Day 16 – April 1, 2020

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

I’m going to talk about antibiotics for a moment.

Important point number one: COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacterial infection. Antibiotics won’t work. Secondary complications that can arise, like pneumonia, are… and those would be treated with antibiotics… but if someone has told you that taking some antibiotic may prevent you from getting this virus, or might help treat it, they’re wrong. And if you’re taking some antibiotic for no reason, stop. Which leads me to point number two…

If you’re supposed to be taking antibiotics, there’s exactly one correct way to do it. When the doctor prescribes them, she will look you in the eye and say “Be sure you complete the entire course, till you’ve taken them all, till the container is empty.” That might be 3 or 4 times a day, and it might be a week or two weeks or 3 months. When you pick up the prescription from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will tell you the same thing.

The reason is simple, and we will use a simple example: War. I have an army of 100,000 and you have an army of 100,000, and we battle it out, and since my army is better than yours, I’m down to 20,000 men, but you are down to 50… and we have all you backed into a deserted building and we’re about to surround you and finish you off. But instead, for some silly reason, we decide we’ve already won and we’ll show some mercy, and we let you go. So off go your 50 men, rebuild their army, and in a few months, you come back with a replenished army of 100,000 and destroy me, because chances are that’s a much tougher group than the original 100,000.

Why? Because those last 50 out of 100,000 men were the toughest of the lot. They’re the real survivors, having made it to the very end. They’re the last people you should let go. They’ll go off and recruit and train equally-tough warriors before returning.

So, if you’ve got some bacterial infection, and let’s say you’re supposed to take a course of antibiotics for a week. To begin with, you’re feeling really awful, and you start taking them and guess what, it’s the perfect antibiotic for what you’ve got, and after the third day, you’re feeling fantastic. It’s all cleared up. Awesome. But ugh, taking these pills is so annoying. And you have to stay up so late or get up so early to take one, etc etc. You’ll just go down to two or three a day, what difference can it make. Maybe you’ll just stop.

What you’re basically doing is letting the strongest of the bacteria live on, re-group, and re-attack. Maybe not you, but someone else. And, worse than that, they might mutate a bit, be a bit more resistant to that particular antibiotic… and then, after that cycle has repeated thousands of times, you’re left with our present-day problem of drug-resistant bacteria that require a whole new suite of antibiotics, many of which have yet to be invented.

The relevant connection is to our present-day plight. The COVID-19 is the bacteria, and you and I are the antibiotic.

We’re on “day 3” of that “7-day” antibiotic course. Our social-distancing seems to be making a difference… but we’re not cured yet, and loosening up the treatment can quickly change the outcome. The fact it’s working is all the reason in the world to keep doing it properly.

I actually had another example… it involves the Canucks and the Bluejackets and allowing 4 goals in the 3rd period. But you know what, YouTube is full of videos… cyclists raising their arms in the air in victory as they approach the finish line, only to be passed at the very last minute. Or football players spiking the ball 3 inches before crossing the goal-line, fumbling the ball instead of scoring a touchdown.

The countless examples all point to the same thing, and by now I’m sure you get it: There is no victory until you actually cross the finish line, the game ends, the enemy is extinguished. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Keep taking the medicine… it’s working, but we’re not cured. And abandoning the treatment now could lead to non-victory, whatever that looks like. I don’t know, and nobody wants to find out around here… and for those that are not from around here, look around at the world at places where physical distancing has been implemented correctly, and its effects. And, even more to the point, look at where it hasn’t.

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Day 15 – March 31, 2020

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

You know that feeling you used to get back in school, when the teacher was handing back tests? The anticipation/dread… moments away from finding out how you did. Maybe you should’ve studied a bit more. Maybe you knew the material, but dammit… you froze, and blew it. Maybe you did ok, but almost certainly you made some stupid mistake.

That 5-second rush of emotion as she calls your name or just drops the marked test onto your desk… just before you flip it over to reveal your grade… that’s the feeling I get every single day when Dr. Bonnie Henry steps up to the mic to begin her update.

I find myself rooting for what I know would be good numbers. I know my charts and I know the math. I know exactly what number indicates the tipping point between this being a green day or a red day… and I find myself thinking the same thing I’d be cheering if I’d just bet zero on a roulette wheel… come on green. Come on.

Today was most certainly a green day, but, as usual, we’re still in this grey zone. Dr. Henry, intelligently, never leans past cautious optimism, and keeps talking about how “we’re two to fours weeks away from knowing”. and “this is a critical juncture”.

There are two parts to that.

Keeping in mind that we’ve been locked-down longer than a week, and that the incubation period is at most 14 days, we’re less than a week away from knowing what that particular impact has looked like. All indications with respect to that are optimistic. There’s no doubt our numbers in this province are trending favourably. For now.

BUT… there are people who will have gotten sick after that cut-off. And the people they’ve infected. And people who’ve arrived since the cut-off, and the people they’ve infected. And the people who are simply not following physical-distancing guidelines, etc. It takes a while for all of that to work its way through.

Along with that comes a serious reality check which is now being brought to light… that if this whole lock-down thing is the right way to do things (and it certainly is), we need to be prepared to do it for quite a while. At least in B.C., there’s zero chance of any of these standing orders being modified before the end of April, but it’s likely to be a lot longer.

Looking at the rest of Canada… there are some possibly-concerning numbers coming out of Quebec, but what’s interesting is that overall, the country’s numbers are doing reasonably well. I’m not close enough to what’s going on in Ontario and Quebec to say anything intelligent about it, other than to point out that Ontario has twice as many cases as B.C.. and Quebec has twice as many as that. Those combined ON/QC numbers are going to strongly influence the national numbers. Kind of like a federal election. Out east, they’re on their own “lock-down period vs. incubation period” countdown, so let’s wait till they’re clear of that before we start making assumptions. There’s green in that column too.

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Day 14 – March 30, 2020

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

In Stephen Hawking’s remarkable book “A Brief History of Time”, he mentions in the introduction that he was advised that each formula he put in the book would halve the sales. Zero formulas, one million sales. One formula, half a million sales. Two formulas, a quarter-million sales. And so on.

By the way, that is exponential growth (well, decay, in that case). Which is what I’m going to talk about, but it’s also why I will try to include as few formulas as possible. Let’s stick to what’s important. Like, driving a car. Gas pedal, go. Brake pedal, stop. Steer where you want to go. That’s basically it, and you don’t need to understand the magic taking place under the hood to make good use of the car.

So, speaking of cars… let’s say you’re in your car, and you want to go from 0 to 100 km/h. My first car did that in about 18 seconds. My current car does it in 2.9. Both of those numbers are insane, but for completely different reasons.

Let’s look at the new chart I’ve added, which is a logarithmic graph of all the same data… and some dotted-dashed lines I’ll explain below.

You car will follow an acceleration curve, which… interestingly, for a supercar like a Ferrari, will look a lot like the Italian line on the logarithmic chart. A more modest car, like a Kia, will look more like the South Korea line.

Ooohhh, wait a minute, we might be onto something here…

All cars eventually hit a top speed where they are no longer accelerating, and when they do, like the Kia/South Korea line almost has, it flattens out to a near-zero slope. That Ferrari/Italy line will flatten out too, eventually, but as we can see, at a much higher level, and it’s not there yet… but trending that way.

The Canada line has been skirting the left side of its attached dotted line, and is now a little on its right. What’s it most looking like? Thankfully, very evidently, not the MegaSupercharged Corvette/US line, whose pedal is still floored and heading to a scary top speed. Whether Canada trends more like South Korea or Italy depends to be seen. Eyeballing it would imply somewhere in between. The math implies something similar. The reality remains to be seen with what happens in the critical next couple of weeks as the incubation window vs. social isolation window overlap winds down.

When I started doing these daily charts, which seems like years ago, but it’s actually only been a couple of weeks, my intention was to provide an apples-to-apples comparison of how we were doing vs. other countries, especially the US. We were roughly 10 days behind them, and they were roughly 10 days behind Italy. And I threw in South Korea so we’d have a good target to aim towards. There were the original little charts showing each country independently, to illustrate what their curves looked like, and the consolidated chart of all of those on top of each other at the same scale. And then I added B.C. because it’s behaving a little differently than the rest of Canada, and most of the people reading this (including me) live there.

I am not going remove any of that, because they’re still interesting to look at, especially if you’ve been following it from the start, but the scale of the numbers and the squashing effect renders the visuals less useful than before. You can zoom in and definitely see the red line detaching from the blue one. You can definitely see the yellow line detaching from the red one. But as time goes on, it’ll just turn into a thick purple line.

Which leads us to the new graph I added today, one you’ve likely seen elsewhere… a logarithmic representation. This one is a little cleaner because it only has my 5 data lines…. and 4 dotted-dash lines, which refer to a topic I brought up yesterday, and have everything to do with the rate of acceleration — the Time To Double. The steepest of those lines, the smallest dots, is a TTD of 2 days. The next one over, that the Canada line is riding and now hopefully falling off of, is a TTD of 3. Below those are TTDs of 5 and 10.

There is no magic number as to what’s good… the bigger the TTD, the better. The more manageable things are. The less the avalanche of cases.

Fun fact… do you remember in school, where some of you hated math, and argued with the teacher that you’d never in a million years need this in the real world… well, haha, guess what, what we’ve been talking about here is differential calculus, and the acceleration we’re looking at is the first-order derivative of these graphs and their data. And the rate of change of that acceleration is the second-order derivative.

Hey, sit down — I promised, no formulas. There’s no test. But… now you have some understanding at what it is the experts are looking at closely, and, in many cases… worryingly… the rate of change of the acceleration. And its implications with respect to time to double, and the planning and contingencies that needs to be in place for those different scenarios. When they talk about flattening the curve, this is the graph to which they’re referring. And in a perfect world, all of those lines start flattening-out to the right. I’d much rather be writing about rates of deceleration.

One day…. hopefully sooner than later.

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Day 13 – March 29, 2020

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

Today’s update will be brief… because B.C. doesn’t update numbers on Sunday, so anything I post is incomplete and/or speculative. Just for fun, I’ll do just that… we do have numbers for Ontario and Quebec (as well as a few, much smaller numbers from other provinces), so I am going to make an educated guess about how many new cases B.C. had today, fill it in with all sorts of warnings that this is pure speculation based on math, and we will retrofit and adjust things tomorrow when the official numbers are announced.

Given recent trends, I’m going to assume 105 new cases today, bringing B.C.’s total to 989, and adjusting that to the national total, 6,385 total cases in Canada. Which, might I add, if accurate, would make it a pretty good day all around. But I won’t comment on any of it until we have some real numbers; more on that below.

But while I’m here, let’s talk about recent numbers and recent trends. Not counting today’s guesswork.

The “how often is it doubling” question is being thrown around a lot, in many different contexts. Let’s call it Time To Double (ttd). Since I am dealing primarily with new cases, I will focus on that.

The higher the exponential growth, the quicker the ttd. I’ve included a little chart below the graphs that shows the ttd with relation to the percentage growth. The cells highlighted in yellow show the crossover point where the number has doubled. In this example, how long does it take to double a 10 to a 20?

For 10%, it doubles somewhere between the 8th and 9th day.
For 25%, somewhere between the 4th and 5th day.
For 40%, it’s somewhere between day 2 and day 3.

[I've edited this post and removed some numbers — I'm not comfortable making projections based on guesses. Real numbers come out on Monday and I will provide more (accurate) detail.]

As I keep saying, we’re in the middle of this grey zone where the social isolation number hasn’t caught up to the incubation period number. Provincially and nationally. Every day we don’t see a huge spike is one day closer the bottom of the big rollercoaster drop I mentioned yesterday. But without real numbers, I think we’ll leave it at that for now… suffice it so say, we’re at a critical point here in Canada. It could go either way. Stay tuned. And stay home. I’ll have more to say about ttd and its implications in the coming days.

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Day 12 – March 28, 2020

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

There’s that feeling you get when you sit down in a rollercoaster… first of all, what the hell am I doing, do I really need to be doing this… but once the thing starts moving, there’s no way out, so the impending dread as you start going up that first big hill… click-click-click as the chain underneath pulls the train slowly… wow, this thing is going a lot higher than I thought… click-click-click… this was such a stupid idea… click-click-click… ugh, this is a lot steeper than it looked… click- ohh.. no more clicks. We all know that means…

… and as the train gains momentum and sends you flying down that first huge drop, two things will come to mind… one, this part of it will thankfully be over soon and two, now you have a clear idea just how steep it was. Which serves to illustrate where we are today with respect to the numbers coming our way in the next little bit… there is a finish line to them, a week to ten days… and we once we hit that bottom, we will know exactly how steep things were.

Given where we are today and as per what I wrote yesterday, I don’t think we need to close our eyes and scream and hope for the best. It’s looking better than that. At least, on paper and at least, for now.

In B.C., although we had the largest one-day increase in cases yet, it’s perfectly in-line with our linear growth. Dr. Henry, for now, would like to see that number consistent at 12% which is roughly where it’s been. The average of the last 10 days is actually 11.1%. Today’s number was 11.6%. Yesterday was 9.2%. Nice solid straight yellow line, right in the sweet spot. And might I add, I am tracking total cases as they accumulate, not factoring in recoveries and deaths. The outcomes of these cases is a whole separate topic. But on that note, while we saw an increase of 92 new cases, we also saw 121 cases moved to the “recovered” column. As far as these numbers are concerned, today in B.C., there are less active cases than yesterday.

Canada’s number is bigger, but also consistent and also, slowly, hopefully, for now… going down day by day. Yes, of course the number of cases is increasing, but that rate of increase is itself decreasing. See that column… 4 out 5 days of green numbers. The rate of growth is slowing. For now. Are we still following the U.S. trajectory? Visually, and numerically, we’re not. Not so long ago, and you can still see it on the chart, Canada’s data was almost exactly perfectly 8 days behind the U.S: Feb 29, Mar 1, Mar 2… the U.S. had 68, 75 and 100 cases. 8 days later, Mar 8,9,10 — Canada had 66, 77, 94 cases. Perfect lockstep. And if you eyeball those numbers as you slowly go down the two columns, you see them in lockstep… and then they slowly start drifting apart.

The hope is that we wouldn’t follow them down the hellhole-course they’re presently on, and, for now, we’re not. We’re at 5,655 nationwide cases. 8 days ago, the U.S. was at 24,218. Had we “kept up”, today’s number would be 4x what it actually is. We’re now more than 11 days behind them.

So what does it all mean…

I’d like to address some of the comments that question the usefulness of these numbers in general, how the testing is inadequate, this isn’t reality, this is a useless exercise because the numbers are all bullshit. That the real case numbers are anywhere from 10x to 50x and it’s anyone’s guess. And therefore, blahblahbblah.

So, first of all, the way to solve big problems is to break them in half. Solve each half independently, and once you do, the big problem is solved. And if one or both of those halves is too complicated to solve, break it in half again and solve that. Keep breaking it in half until you have manageable pieces to solve.

The enormity of our present situation requires breaking it into hundreds of pieces, but here are some of the big ones, each of which needs to be broken down into many smaller pieces:
– the actual number of cases out there, factoring in recoveries
– the actual number of cases that require hospitalization
– why are some demographics hit so differently than others
– the testing infrastructure, and the strategy and adequacy of it
– the ability of our medical infrastructure to handle the cases
– the actual number of people dying from this
– the economic implications of allowing this to go on too long
– the herd immunity thing
– the treatment options, effectiveness of therapies, and timelines
– when and where is the vaccine

Without tackling all of that, notwithstanding each of those topics is its own book, and that’s only a small snippet of topics that need addressing, where we’re at right now is trying to solve chunks of a problem with incomplete information. One thing we have to our great advantage is learning from what others have or haven’t done ahead of us. Like one big change that was implemented today here is that the number of patients on ventilators doubled. Because suddenly a lot more people got a lot more sick? No. Because we learned from data elsewhere that putting people on ventilators sooner has a huge impact on positive outcomes. We didn’t know that two days ago, and now we do, and now we use it to our advantage.

Just because we don’t know something is no reason to throw our hands in the air — “these numbers are all crap anyway” — but to tackle this particular aspect…

Knowing the actual number of cases out there would have a profound effect on many aspects… first of all, how many actual new cases are there each day… how many of them will the person never even know, how many will they get sick but not too sick, how many will need a hospital, how many will die. If we could snap our fingers and know all that, it’d be great. One school of thinking that might kick in is that if actually the number is not 10x or 50x but actually 500x, and many of us have had it and never even knew it, and now we’re immune and will be for several months and even if we’re not, who cares, clearly I can fight this thing off so let me get a little sick and impose my herd immunity and get back to work since the actual mortality rate is only 0.2% etc.

Don’t think everyone has their heads stuck in the sand thinking the published numbers are the extent of this. One day, in hindsight, we’ll know those numbers. It’s possible that one day, we will have instant, cheap and available tiny-traces antibody testing. You’ll be able to wander into Starbucks, and along with your chai latte, spit into some throw-away little thing that’ll turn red if you’ve had it, stay blue if you haven’t. But until we get to that point, to a great extent, all we’re doing is buying time. Flattening the curve to suppress the load on our medical infrastructure. Isolating ourselves so we don’t infect others, especially those who are much likelier to get lethally ill. Keeping this thing controlled and contained until we’re certain we can manage it. It’ll likely never go away, and the waves of it appearing in the future will hopefully wind up in the “no big deal” pile.

But for now, the published numbers, the important numbers… the ones that are putting load on our medical system… the 884 confirmed, the thousands of others likely presumed but not confirmed… don’t think they don’t know about it. Don’t think when they tell you to stay home for 14 days, pay attention to your symptoms but don’t come in — that they’re not tracking you. You, who may well have it who think you don’t count — trust me, you do. Not in my numbers, not in their published active-cases numbers, but you’re out there somewhere, included in all of the projections of what might happen and how they’re going to take care of you if you get really sick. Some of you think you have it, but don’t. Some of you have it and don’t know it. Neither of you got tested, so hey what the hell they don’t know what they’re doing this is bullshit… yeah, no. Not at all. They’re not going to waste a test to confirm a mild test. There’s an N% chance you have it, depending on your age and other risk factors. Take care of yourself with the provided guidelines, and you’ll most likely be ok. And if you’re not, critical care awaits you with open arms. As opposed to everyone who thinks they might have it coming in and overwhelming a system that, certainly at the moment, is not prepared to test 2 million people overnight. If you’ve had it, one day you’ll know.

The fact that our hospitals are not overrun… the fact that we’re prepared at present to handle anything but the absolutely worst-case scenario… the fact that were are notably flattening our curve, both provincially and nationally… and the fact that we’re doing that with incomplete information, tackling big, multi-faceted problems… don’t worry too much about absolute numbers and how you feel they don’t reflect reality. They’re serving us well.

Speaking of serving us well, please take a moment to step outside at 7pm tonight (and every night) to cheer the heroes of this nightmare — hope you never need their help, but the army of medical workers of this province and this country, and indeed, around the world… deserve to (loudly) hear our gratitude and appreciation.

None of us like this. They don’t. You don’t. I don’t. But let’s remember… as hellish as it may be, the rollercoaster ride eventually ends.

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September 15, 2020

By |September 15th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Business & Economics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|15 Comments

A bit of an interruption to pandemic news and personal anecdotes… because I wanted to touch on a story that’s a big deal around here.

The first thing I thought, when I heard that Mountain Equipment Co-op was being bought out by Kingswood Capital… was, wow, great, awesome… terrific and unexpected news… that the legendary Joe Segal and his crew would be taking it over… finally, it’ll be in good hands.

Joe Segal is indeed nothing short of a legend in this town… businessman, builder, community leader, philanthropist. A well-deserving recipient of both the Order of B.C. and the Order of Canada. And, to be honest, his business ingenuity might have been what could’ve saved MEC… but, unfortunately, it’s not Joe Segal’s Kingswood Capital that’s taking over… it’s a different one, an American private investment firm… and that’s not great news. Say it ain’t so, Joe.

At best, they will simply strip the company down to a form that makes money, and what might have been left (not much) at the heart and soul of MEC will be gone, and it will now just become another big-box retailer. And, at worst, they’ll just shut it all down and redevelop the significant real-estate assets they’ve now acquired. They’re promising to keep at least 17 stores open and 75% of the workforce. We shall see. Sounds good on paper, and those are good quotes to fall back on next year when they shut it all down anyway and say “We tried, but couldn’t survive the effects of the pandemic…” or whatever other excuse.

MEC will become a SFU Segal School of Business case-study on how to run a gloriously successful business into the ground, through awful mismanagement. There’s far too much to get into here, but it’s a long list of bad decisions, and it’s no surprise to anyone who’s been following MEC’s (mis)fortunes over the years. There has been a grassroots movement to remove the presiding board, for years.

Now that they’ve screwed it up completely, this is really the only course of action. They sold because they’re bleeding money and out of options. When he was young, Joe Segal lost his entire life’s saved-up fortune of $3,000 in one night of poker. He managed to dig himself out of that hole… but the close to … [Continue Reading]

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September 14, 2020

By |September 14th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Life in Vancouver, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature|10 Comments

There we lots of red ballcaps, American flags, Trump signs, anti-lockdown signs… even a little girl, with a multi-colored sign that said, “Forcing me to wear a mask is child abuse.” It was loud, abrasive… and depending how you look at it, truly frightening, for many reasons. No masks, of course. No social distancing.

But this time, no guns to be seen… wait, how is that possible? There are always some yahoos wandering around with semi-automatic weapons, just to show that their freedom entitles them to do so. Why not this time?

Because this didn’t take place anywhere in the U.S… this was right here at home, yesterday afternoon, outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, at around 3pm. Five hours later, the New Westminster pier was in flames, and much of the historic dock has been destroyed. Eight hours after that, some asshole (once again) cut the cable of the Sea to Sky Gondola, sending the cars crashing to the ground. And all of this going on the midst of an apocalyptic haze, enveloping everything.

We’ve seen better days.

And… we could potentially see even worse ones. Because, you know, I haven’t even mentioned the pandemic yet… but I’m about to, with exhibit A: Israel.

Israel is a country at the forefront of innovative technology, with many tools at its disposal to battle C19, and they’ve done a valiant and impressive effort. Through lockdowns and contact tracing and masks and social distancing, they were a poster child of stamping out and controlling this thing. And then there was a collective sigh of relief, and many things went back to normal and they lived happily ever after.

Or did they.

No… at the end of this week begins their new year. It also begins a mandatory and heavily-enforced three-week lockdown…. because, as per the tipping point I’ve talked about, they hit it… and now it’s a quick descent. At the time of this writing, at least one hospital is turning away C19 patients… because they’re beyond full.

Some quick numbers: after a frightening March and a swiftly-responded-to April, they were down to less than 20 cases a day. Today, they had 4,700… and that’s a country with a population of 9,200,000. Extrapolating the population, it’d be like us here in Canada having 20,000 new cases today (we had 817). … [Continue Reading]

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September 13, 2020

By |September 13th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Life in Vancouver, Sports & Gaming|6 Comments

Everyone needs a little escape from reality these days… because as if it weren’t already enough, parts of it are literally burning. Vancouver, presently with some of the worst air quality on the planet? Sure, why not. It’s 2020.

My escape on sunny weekends is to get on my bike for a couple of hours and do my 50 km loop… but, for now, that’s also off the table. Now what.

Well… let’s head to the indoor escapes. For many people, the escape (even if only for a few hours) from the present-day world… is professional sports… and the insanity of this year has led to an interesting occurrence… which was that this last Thursday, every single continent-wide professional league was active. Hockey playoffs are going on, even though the Canucks are out. Basketball playoffs are going on, even though the Raptors are out. Baseball is going, Soccer is going… and now, American Football is starting up. Indeed, just one relevant league isn’t going… having cancelled the entire season, and that is the Canadian Football League.

With no Canadian numbers to report (full update tomorrow) and with no B.C. Lions to watch, I’ve unapologetically spent the entire day watching NFL football… and will continue to do so in about 10 minutes… so for now, I leave you with the most relevant (and most Canadian) joke I know:

It’s Grey Cup weekend, and the big game is being played here, in Vancouver, at B.C. Place. Fans from all around the country are flying in for it, and Level Two – Domestic Arrivals at YVR is a zoo of activity. The luggage carousels are all surrounded by rowdy, excited fans.

An American couple – two tourists, who just happen to be in town, are there as well, clueless as to what’s going on, and they’re amazed at what they’re seeing. In particular, there’s a group of Roughrider fans, already all decked out, dressed and painted proudly in their green and white jerseys, their faces also painted green and white, large horns on their heads, cowbells… the whole schtick.

“What’s up with that? Where are they from?”, wonders the guy out loud.

“Who knows?”, replies his wife, “Why don’t you go ask them?”

“Yeah, ok.”

The guy wanders over to the group of fans… and says to one of them, “Hey there… … [Continue Reading]

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September 12, 2020

By |September 12th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Business & Economics, Travel Stories|5 Comments

September 11th has been a relevant date in my life for a lot longer than 19 years… a sentiment you’ll hear from every Chilean.

Yesterday, you heard my 2001 version… and I was just a little kid, but here’s the 1973 version… events which have some relevance to today.

A bit of history…

In 1964, Eduardo Frei was elected president of Chile. He was the head of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP), pretty comparable to today’s Canadian Liberals. He held power until the 1970 election, where it was expected that the CDP, who’d been running South America’s best economy, would be re-elected. Unfortunately for them… well, recall our provincial election of 1996 where Glen Clark and the NDP, with only 30-something percent of the popular vote, won the election — because the Reform Party managed to snag enough votes away from the Liberals to tilt things in that direction — the same thing happened in Chile, a split of the centrist/right-wing vote… except the beneficiary and winner of all that wasn’t a moderate/leftist NDP… it was a full-on Marxist socialist by the name of Salvador Allende.

Economically speaking, things for Chile did not go so well under Allende, and on 9/11, 1973, a CIA-backed coup, supported by the Chilean army, navy and police force… took over the country. Allende committed suicide in the midst of the presidential palace being bombed and overrun by the military. The constitution was suspended. The Republic of Chile, formerly a model democracy, was instantly transformed into a military dictatorship.

All of this was initially supported by the CDP, who expected once things settled down – perhaps a few months — there’d be a general election and things would get back to normal, right? Wrong.

One of military leaders, General Augusto Pinochet, decided he liked the view from the throne. Suddenly, he wasn’t General Pinochet… he was President Pinochet, and there he remained until 1990… and left only after he agreed to hold a plebiscite to let the people decide whether he should be allowed to stick around or not. They voted him out, but not before he embedded all sorts of immunity clauses into the new constitution to prevent new governments from coming after him for his numerous crimes, accumulated over his 17-year reign of terror. What’s the relevance here?

It’s a … [Continue Reading]

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September 11, 2020

By |September 11th, 2020|COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Business & Economics, Travel Stories, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature|3 Comments

Monday, September 10th, 2001 had been a late night… Monday Night Football combined with Monday Night Poker. It was a good night for me… I won money at the tables, and I won money on the game, having bet on the Denver Broncos. I am always a big fan of betting Denver at home, because they live and breathe and play at more than 5,300 feet above sea level, and visiting teams are rarely conditioned for the thin air. Nearing the end of the game, the other teams are often tired and struggling. In my opinion, it’s a big reason why John Elway was always able to orchestrate his 4th-quarter heroics. In this case, it was the New York Giants (who live, train and play in East Rutherford, New Jersey, elevation… 3 feet above sea level). Accordingly, Denver won the game… a successful evening all around. I staggered home in the wee hours of the morning and collapsed in bed.

Of course, none of that matters at all, especially in light of what happened next. I was awakened just before 7am by a phone call from a friend.

“Turn on your TV.”
“What channel.”
“Any channel.”

Like so many with a similar story, I spent the day watching CNN, barely able to comprehend what I was seeing while frantically trying unsuccessfully to contact anyone and everyone I knew in New York. Eventually, everyone I knew was confirmed to be ok, but I found out years later that I had one friend caught in the middle of it… he was one of those guys who survived, but staggered out of there coated in white powder, debris directly from one of the falling towers, looking like a zombie from The Walking Dead. And he was, of course, one of the very lucky ones.

In hindsight, it’s easy to reflect on just how much changed that day. At the time, it felt like an enormous catastrophe, which it certainly was… but one from which everything would emerge and return to normal. It didn’t. It hasn’t.

Out of the endless things to learn from that day, near the top of the list, is this: Don’t ever acquiesce power to the government that you’re not willing to give away – forever. A lot of things got thrown into … [Continue Reading]

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