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March 17, 2022

There’s no way I was going to let today go by without posting something… because today is St. Patrick’s Day, the two-year anniversary of when I started writing about the pandemic.

Facebook is kind enough to remind me of that, so I’m attaching that original post below this one, as well as the one-year anniversary post from last year. It’s funny looking back at these, for two very-different reasons.

The one from two years ago is ridiculously naïve, and, in hindsight, why wouldn’t it be? Nobody back then knew what was going on at all. This was all new to us, and we all quickly got used to seeing graphs with various curves… and our attempts to bend them. This post preceded all of that, but alluded to what the short-term future was all about. “Just three weeks”, etc. Ah, the good old days.

Last year’s post was exactly a year later, and we all had a pretty clear idea of exactly where things were at. But it was also naïve… me talking about how the end of all of this is just around the corner. Well, it felt that way… vaccines in our midst and diminishing numbers. Here comes summer!

So, it’s with trepidation that I try to predict anything this time. Last year, we’d heard of the Delta variant, but nobody seemed too worried about it as the vaccines would handle it just as effectively. Omicron was months away from existing. We were more worried about China than Russia. How things change.

Depending where you are and who you believe, your opinion on the pandemic is bounded by two possibilities: One, it’s over and no longer a big deal… if it ever was one. Or two, it’s very much not over… and we might find ourselves right back at square one if we’re not careful.

If option 1 is zero and option 2 is 100, my personal opinion is that we’re at a 28… and, optimistically, dropping. I think we’re really not going to know until much later in the year. If winter and a new variant once again conspire to arrive at the same time, there will be another wave… and, along with it, a lot of discussion as to whether this wave is part of an endemic future or a pandemic present for, yet again, one more go-around.

I could sit here and speculate some more, but there’s not much point. My brain is elsewhere… specifically, Cancún, as per the attached picture. No graphs, no charts, no numbers. But it does have beauty and serenity and a bit of green to honour the day.

A few minutes after the picture you see was taken, I was in it somewhere… and for what’s left of this trip, I’m trying to keep my brain somewhat disengaged.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Happy Two-Year Anniversary — I raise my green-infused tequila shot to you… served by a mask-wearing waiter, but surrounded by mask-less people partying like there’s no tomorrow. That — in itself — is probably just as good a summary as to where we’re at.

Salúd!

March 10, 2022

It’s been a while since I watched the Dr. Henry update, but I did today, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s going to be the last one… at least as far as scheduled ones are concerned. Two years ago, and for many subsequent months, you’d have found me glued to the screen on a daily basis, watching intently and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. That was my daily question, and the answer always was… “We’ll see.”

Today’s final press conference, close to two years to the day of the first one, came with some announcements that were expected… and will make some people very happy, and others not so much…

One big question people have been wondering about is when do we see the end of vaccine passports, and the answer is – assuming things remain on the path they’re on – April 8th. The provincial requirement for vaccine passports goes away April 8th and, in a perfect world (don’t we wish), stays away forever. We’ll see.

The other biggie is, of course, mask mandates: Also gone, as of midnight tonight… and notwithstanding some minor exceptions (medical settings), places like restaurants and concerts and hockey games will no longer require them. But let’s clarify that… restaurants will no longer be required to require them. I am guessing there will be some places who will be hesitant to just say it’s open season, and that’s likely to cause some problems. Some people will be offended that the person next to them is voluntarily wearing a mask. For others, it’ll be the exact opposite. Some restaurants, for their own reasons, may choose to stick with it… not for the scientific, but for the psychological reasons. We’ll see.

There is a huge, and I do mean… huge… difference between the science and the psychology of where we are today. I realized that recently when walking into my house and subconsciously reaching for my mask. Part of my brain is now on that autopilot; going from outdoors to indoors? Put on a mask.

That sort of autopilot has saved my life, literally… on a few occasions walking the streets of London. Here’s some advice, especially if you’ve never been there: When you’re crossing the street, look both ways. It’s that simple. Don’t try to think about traffic and where it’s coming from and where it’s going and who’s turning to and from where… just look both ways. I once came within inches of getting hit by a bus because I was quickly going to cross the street and there was nothing off to the left. Of course there wasn’t, because that’s not how it works over there.

So how’s it going to work over here? A mask or no mask is unlikely to be a matter of life and death, but the psychology of un-training our brains may take a while. I have a tremendous amount of empathy for people who aren’t automatically young and healthy and fearless. I feel for teachers who are worried about the fact that all students K-12 will no longer require masks after Spring Break.

I feel for them because the fear that’s been around for two years doesn’t go away so easily. Obviously, at some point, the mask mandate has to go away, and it’s the science that’s driving that decision today. But no matter when that was going to be, it was going to result in a lot of issues… and here we are. For a long time, we’ve been told we’re wearing masks for the benefit of others… but long after Covid is gone, there will be people with masks… and in that case, it’s entirely for themselves and their mental well-being. Whether it’s tomorrow or in 6 months or in 2 years, you will see people with masks. To quote our fearless Dr. Henry: “Be kind, be calm.” Perhaps the “Be safe” part of it is not so relevant anymore, at least not for you. But it is, and will remain so, for others.

Speaking of what’s relevant and not… I’ve been wondering for a while how long I’ll be updating these numbers and charts. “Until they’re no longer relevant” is my inward-facing answer to that. Does any of this mean anything anymore?

For a long time, case counts meant everything. Cases turned into hospitalizations and ICUs and deaths, etc. Well… it’s been a while since the daily case numbers have meant much. Testing protocols have changed… and while, for a long time, we knew that reported cases were significantly undercounting reality, we never knew by how much. That’s never been more true, to the extent that the published numbers no longer mean much at all… so much so that many jurisdictions are no longer publishing them on a daily basis, if at all. You’ll see a lot of italics in today’s chart… those are interpolated numbers. If it was 170 last week and it’s 100 today, you’ll see it stepping down by very pretty and consistent and italicized “10” on a daily basis. Does that really mean anything at all? Honestly, not much. But it’s better than blanks and then a big jump. And, to be fair, it’s a relatively fair view of a trend… though, again, the trend isn’t actually as important as simply: Where are we today?

So… where, in fact, are we today…

Today, B.C. has around 400 Covid hospital cases. That number was close to 1,000 a month ago. Also today, B.C. has 58 Covid ICU cases. A month ago, it was close to 150. To the extent this has always greatly been about managing the pressures on the health-care system, we’re nowhere near frightening levels, and continue to head in the right direction.

And, on that note, what do these numbers actually mean? Everyone admitted to the hospital these days gets a Covid test. If you go to the E.R. with a broken arm and test positive, you’re on that list. If you have a heart attack and wind up in the ICU, and happen to have tested positive, you’re on that list too. And if you die with Covid, notwithstanding it may have had nothing to do with it, you’ll count there too.

So… look at all the pretty charts, because they won’t be around much longer. I have to be honest and say that I don’t think they’re conveying too much useful information anymore. You can see the hospitalization and ICU and death trends pretty clearly; they’re what you’d expect… and unless there’s some unheard of Omegaplex variant coming down the line, all of those charts should be going downhill (in the good way) forever. Every single graph shows where we are, and every single graph is in a much better place than it was a month ago… by far.

I suppose this is what the end-game of the pandemic is supposed to look like; it’s what it was going to look like all along… a fuzzy finish line at best. Initially, like two years ago, I somehow imagined a V-E day-type ending to all of this… where the announcement is made, the case-counts are near zero, the death counts have been zero ten days in a row and we’re all out dancing in the streets downtown throwing our masks in the air and hugging strangers. Nothing remotely close like that will happen, and the only people jamming downtown are the insane trucker anti-mask anti-vax “freedom” brigade who are on their way to Victoria to protest… to protest what? Nothing left to protest, but that won’t stop them, so we’ll see.

In fact, that’s a good motto going forward… it answers a lot of the rhetorical questions: Do you feel comfortable in a crowded place? We’ll see. Where nobody has a mask? We’ll see. And nobody had to show a vaccine passport? Honestly, speaking for myself, I don’t know.

We’ll see.

February 14, 2022

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The symbol of the day is, of course, hearts. Big, red… and/or fluffy and/or chocolate-filled and/or arrow crossed – hearts. We all know what Valentine’s Day looks like.

Funny thing, symbols… how they come into existence and what they mean to people and how, sometimes, they get co-opeted for nefarious means and ruined forever.

There is an ancient Sanskrit symbol used to convey good wishes and well-being that was very popular until relatively recently. You could find it on Coca-Cola bottles. You could find it on bottles of Carlsberg. Even the Boy Scouts used it, and, in fact, the Girls’ Club of America named their magazine after it. Closer to home, many hockey teams named themselves after it and used it as their logo.

The pictures of those teams, though… are all in black and white because all of the above preceded World War II. At that point, the symbol was seized-upon by the Nazis, and the rest, as well as the symbol itself, is history. In common parlance, the swastika has been “canceled” and, unlike some celebrities who manage to claw their way back from permanent exile – for example, Arnold Schwarzenegger – the swastika Won’t Be Back.

For decades, especially after the aforementioned World War, the Canadian Flag has been a world-wide symbol of awesomeness. If you’ve ever backpacked through Europe, hopping from hostel to hostel, you’ll understand the warmth with which you’re received when they see that flag, especially in places like Holland.

Around here, Canadian flags being waved loudly in the streets has always been in celebration. If you’d told me a few months ago that there’d be huge screaming crowds waving flags and dancing in the streets in early February, I certainly would’ve assumed it was sports-related; perhaps because the Canadian women once again won Olympic gold… and/or the men… and/or our national soccer team qualified for the World Cup… that sort of thing. But then you throw in the swastikas and the violence and the “F🍁ck Trudeau” flags and, suddenly, it looks quite different.

I categorically refuse to allow what’s going on these days to tarnish the meaning of our flag and our Maple Leaf. I recognize that the symbolism and what’s behind it isn’t flawless; I certainly recognize that Canada Day is far from something to celebrate for some populations of Canada, but that’s our internally inward-facing problem to acknowledge and respect and make right. Nobody else’s.

So, back to the question… who exactly has seized upon the moment to tarnish our image, both inward and outward-facing, to suit their own particular agenda?

The big news a few hours go was that there was a data leak; that the spreadsheet of all of the truck convoy donors was stolen. Indeed, that happened… and I’ve managed to get a hold of it (don’t ask).

There’s a lot to learn from all that data, but here are the broad brushstrokes:

– around 90,000 individual donors totaling more than $8 million (USD)

– the majority of donors were American (58.8% US vs. 41.2% CA)

– the top donor, a donation of $90,000, came from an American billionaire who’s well known for backing Republican causes

– there were around 50 American donations of $1,000 or more, as opposed to around 150 Canadian donations of $1,000 or more

– the lower the donation amount, the more the quantity seems to skew towards Americans. Like, of donations over $10, there were 46,700 US vs. 35,100 CA. Of donations less than $10, Americans “outweighed” Canadians 5 to 1. In other words, there’s a relatively small group of Canadians who’ve seized upon this “seriously” and have thrown some bigger money at it. The majority of the rest of it comes from down south.

Who the hell are these thousands of Americans throwing $5 or $10 towards this? The answer is pretty obvious, but for those who don’t get it or don’t want to get it, I’ll spell it out for you… it’s the same mindset as the $90k guy at the top, who are interested in pushing their own agendas that have absolutely nothing to do with the pandemic or freedom or whatever else. If you’ve ever wondered who’d ever come into Canada pushing agendas with respect to more guns, less abortions, even fewer vaccines and no masks – it’s these guys.

I’m well aware there are people reading this thinking hell yeah! That’s what we want!

Well… I’ll tell you what: If that’s what you want, go right ahead and do your part trying to vote it in. After all, this is a democracy… and if that’s what most people want, they’ll eventually vote it in and get it.

However, the last thing anyone around here should be welcoming is meddling from the outside. Americans, in general, are notorious for jumping borders and imposing their will. They’re our closest neighbour and biggest trading partner and ally, I know… but I’ve always been a big fan of the 49th parallel and what it’s managed, both physically and spiritually, to keep in and out. America has plenty to offer, but it should always be up to us what we take… because America is also well-known for, after imposing their will, washing their hands of it, walking away, and leaving a huge mess, having achieved whatever it was that they were after. Most countries for whom that’s happened might not have seen it coming. Here, it’s staring us in the headlights. Can we please not let that happen?

If you’re the sort of American that’s happy to share your Super Bowl commercials and commercialized Valentine’s Day, great! Thank you… those of us who want that will take it. I’ll admit to being a fan of at least one of those things.

But if you’re the sort of American who wants to shove their agenda down our throats for your personal benefit, and to hell with us and our symbols and our flags and whatever else we may hold dear… well, I do say this is the most respectful and polite and Canadian way I can: F🍁ck off.

February 9, 2022

It wasn’t so long ago that marijuana was illegal. Back then, smoking up in public could get you arrested. Not to mention possession, distribution, operating a little grow-op, and so on. There was an exception to all of that, though… and it occurred exactly once a year, on April 20th. On that day, 4/20, at precisely 4:20pm, a lot of people (far more than 420) would congregate on the lawn (yes, back when it was, appropriately, grass) of the Vancouver Art Gallery… and get high together.

Not everyone there partook; many were there just to be part of it because they agreed with the message, and/or had some role to play. There were cops, reporters, curious bystanders, merchants peddling their associated wares, confused tourists, and so on. The whole thing seems to have lost its edge once pot became legal, but in its day, there was plenty to celebrate for those who cared.

One thing that never happened was the whole thing getting out of hand, or hijacked for an ulterior motive. Maybe an arrest or two for some drunk idiot, but, for the most part, what else can you expect from a large group of stoners. It’s all mellow; it’s all good man. One big, eclectic group of people, all relatively on the same page. Indeed, you can tell a lot about a group of people by looking at not just them, but those who associate with them.

Which brings us to the events of recent days… events we’re not done with quite yet.

I find it sad – tragically sad – that the incredibly divisive left/right black/white right/wrong paradigm that’s been ripping apart the core of the U.S. since 2016 has managed to jump the 49th.

I’m saddened to see so many people whose opinions have made sense to me for two years have a strange course-correction when it comes to the truckers and protests… falling into that sinkhole where you stuck a toe in, then you went a bit deeper, and now it’s too late to remove yourself… but you’d rather get totally soaked and maybe even drown before you might admit you’re wrong.

So… let’s rewind a bit: A lot of us, and by a lot of us I mean everyone – is sick and tired of this pandemic. We all just want to go back to normal. Let’s not get into why we’re not there yet; let’s just agree we all want that to happen.

So… you hear there’s going to be a protest against what you imagine is the bad guy; sure. Go protest. It’s your privilege to do so. Then, when you get there, you realize perhaps there’s more going on here than you imagined.

Pause button for moment with respect to the makeup of that crowd; many of them are imported and jumping on the bandwagon. There’s no version of “Canada versus the virus” that needs to involve Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism, and yeah, I know also… those people don’t speak for you. I get that too… but here’s a concept for you: If you’re sitting at a table with 9 other people, and then a Nazi sits down… watch to see who gets up. Because if nobody does, now you’re sitting at a table with 11 Nazis. Yeah, yeah, I get it… they don’t speak for you. But here’s a concept for you; by not getting up from the table, you’re speaking for *them*. There was actively one; now there is passively many more.

Why exactly are a bunch of (mostly) unwanted people showing up to what ostensibly should be a peaceful Canadian rally? You’re just there to simply (and loudly) state you’re tired of mandates. So, what’s the big deal?

Let’s answer that question a little differently, for those saying that bandwagon-jumpers don’t count.

Let’s set aside for a moment the people desecrating the tomb of the unknown soldier… what’s the big deal… it’s just a couple of idiots. They don’t speak for us.

Let’s set aside the people draping crap on top of a statue of the greatest Canadian of them all, Terry Fox… what’s the big deal? And anyway, Terry Fox himself would probably be out here dancing with us, as Canadian as he was. Actually, he wouldn’t, because he lived the heroic final days of his life raising money for science – as we all know, scientific research to cure cancer. He embraced medical science till the day he died, and countless lives have been saved with research directly funded by his legacy. But let’s set that aside for a moment.

Let’s set aside the violence, the homophobic signs, and the blocked traffic, the relentless noise. Let’s set aside the intimidation of journalists, hotel managers, medical workers and baristas. Let’s set aside the people stealing from soup kitchens. Let’s set aside the guys who tried to set an apartment building on fire and blocked the exits.

Jeez… we’re excusing an awful lot of deplorable behaviour, eh. Oh well… all in the name of freedom.

Let’s get back to 4/20, and here’s a great question: Do you know what some other people celebrate on 4/20? It’s not just “get high” day… it also happens to be Hitler’s birthday. Countless white supremacist facist assholes love that day. And I’ve always wondered why they never take the opportunity to march to the “lawn” of the Art Gallery and let their presence be known. There’s a captive crowd there, partying it up… they’d fit right in and yell and scream and party alongside everyone else.

Except, of course, they wouldn’t. As stoned as all of those people may be, they’re West-coast easy-going love-your-neighbour type people who are pretty clear what they believe in, and they wouldn’t put up with it. As stoned as they are, they’d beat the ever-living shit out of those skinheads. The stoners would literally stone them.

And all of this is why I’m more than a little disturbed by what’s going on.

All of you who support these rallies… here’s a question for you: Once all the mandates are lifted and whatever else they purport to be protesting is no longer a fight, then what? What will you say to the ongoing disruption of life caused by a fringe who’s here with their own agenda, one that has absolutely nothing to do with yours?

The problem is that they’re using your well-intentioned cry for normality (and please, do not call it freedom; let’s not go there) – and using it to show themselves and each other and the alt-whatever fringe of society that hey, they all agree with us. They speak for us too. We’re welcome here.

They’re not welcome here; certainly not by me, and, I should hope, not by you either. There’s a very big difference between “We’re tired of the pandemic” and what we’ve seen recently… a shitstorm that’s not going to be going away any time soon.

It’s time to take a big step back and understand what’s actually going on here… and not allow ourselves to get dragged into some post-pandemic/pre-apocalpyptic nightmare of divisiveness that we seem to be imposing on each other… and which has absolutely nothing to do with our actual shared values that make up Canada – the actual and real True North Strong and Free.

November 5, 2021

When I was a kid, I thought the little piggy that went to market was going shopping. I imagined the pig, walking upright, dressed nicely, wearing a little hat and pushing a shopping cart in the produce section, judiciously picking out the best cobs of corn. I also imagined that the little piggy that stayed home just didn’t want go shopping. Then there was the little piggy who was eating roast beef, so why would he want to go anywhere… and then the other little piggy who wasn’t hungry. And finally, the little piggy who cried “wee wee wee” all the way home; that didn’t quite add up, because I thought all of them (except the one that went shopping) were already home. But whatever.

Years later, I learned a pig “going to market” means something quite different, and when you read the innocent little nursery rhyme in that context, it all takes on a completely different meaning. The first little piggy is going to slaughter. The second little piggy isn’t quite ready to go to slaughter. The third little piggy needs to be fattened up a bit before it’s his turn. The fourth little piggy needs no more fattening up, and so we all know where he’ll be heading soon.

Distinguished literary scholars have (I suppose), for centuries (the original nursery rhyme is from 1760), been discussing the fifth little piggy. Did he escape from the market and run home, squealing with delight all the way home? Was he taken to market, not purchased, and is now squealing with relief that he gets to go back home, back to his friends… at least temporarily? Or perhaps he was purchased after all, and is now squealing in terror as he’s being taken to his new “home”. We may never know. The questions may linger for another few centuries, but it really doesn’t matter… because that’s totally not the point.

The point is… we learn something initially one way, and sometimes, in due course, as we learn more and new facts emerge, our understanding of what we originally thought gets completely transformed. It took me more than 40 years to understand what’s happening to those five little piggies… and now it’s something you yourself will think about when you’re counting and wiggling the toes of some nearby baby.

Similarly, as this pandemic has progressed, a lot of what we innocently thought we knew has changed dramatically as time has gone by. It bothers me greatly to see conclusions of scientific method and research turned right around… presented as evidence that those conducting the research don’t know what they’re doing. If science and understanding didn’t evolve, then there would be something to complain about, but the reality of the world is the exact opposite. We learn from new facts. We learn when we make mistakes. Nobody has ever been right “all along”.

Starting at the beginning of the pandemic, we were told that with handwashing and social distancing, we’d be ok. No need for masks. Dr. Henry said so. Dr. Fauci said so. They all said so… until the moment science realized that this is an airborne disease after all, and then… a very quick 180 on masks. Yes, indeed, after all… having now studied the matter more and seen more data… masks do make a difference. A big difference. Enclosed spaces? They weren’t talked about much, at least initially. They certainly are now. As the science, data and knowledge have evolved, so have the directives. It’s to be expected. Does this mean they didn’t know what they were talking about? Does it meant they don’t know what they’re talking about now? Of course not.

But sometimes, the science, data and knowledge evolve… and nothing changes, because the initial assumptions were perfectly correct in the first place… and such is the case with vaccinations.

While we’re in the midst of fine-tuning vaccinations… the length of time between doses, the benefits of mixing and matching, the necessity for a booster… this is all just rearranging the furniture and painting the walls… of a solidly-built brick house. The big bad Covid wolf may have been able to blow down the initial straw house and the subsequent house made of sticks, but here we have a rock-solid infrastructure… one in which we can all feel safe. Covid can huff and puff all it likes, but is it likely to kill us? Not by the hair on our chinny chin chins.

Yeah, I know… those three little pigs are very different from the five little ones on your toes, but here’s something worth mentioning: All three pigs in the latter story survive.

The first one, a wolf-denier, built a flimsy house out of straw. The second one was wolf-hesitant and made a bit more of an effort, but sticks aren’t good enough protection. The third little pig understood the big picture and what was at stake, and built his brick fortress… and when the big bad evil Covid wolf came around huffing and puffing and ultimately blowing down those first two houses, its occupants ran screaming to that brick house – whose pig welcomed them with open arms. Finally… a fairy tale with a happy ending, because the good guys survived… even though, initially, they weren’t really deserving. It’s very rare that life, circumstance (and/or fairy tales) reward the “wrong” ones. The whole idea is to learn a lesson. Shouldn’t those first two pigs have been eaten by the wolf? The five little piggies didn’t have a choice… they were all destined for slaughter.

But the three little pigs… they made choices, and the two that made poor choices almost paid with their lives. Yet… sometimes, real-life echoes the fairy tale. Guess what; it’s not too late. If you’re reading this and realizing you’re metaphorically and presently inhabiting a flimsy house, it’s an easy fix; while building a brick house takes effort, choosing to inhabit one doesn’t… it’s as easy as booking a vaccine appointment.

It’s unfortunately looking a lot like the big bad wolf is going to be around for a while, and you never know when or where he’s going to make an appearance with his huffing and puffing. In which house do you want to be when he shows up?

October 13, 2021

The Great Divide; it keeps getting wider… and every day is happy to provide examples to suit whatever argument you wish to agree with. If we were ever all together in the same boat, drifting in the same direction… well, that’s over. The river forked, and some went this way and others went that way. Depends who you ask. And yes, geologists, sit down… I know, rivers don’t do that… but you know what I’m trying to say… just trying to symbolize the ever-increasing gap in people’s opinions.

Like… It’s almost over! The U.S. border will be open soon! The Canucks are playing their first regular season game in over 18 months in front of a sell-out crowd!

Or… todays Covid deaths… 38 in Alberta and 11 in Saskatchewan… are more than we’ve seen since January. There are so many critically-ill patients in Saskatchewan that they’ll be sending them to Ontario hospitals. Yeah, here we go again.

OK, so what’s the deal? Where the hell exactly are we? Is it heading towards being over? Is it heading for a fifth wave? Will it ever end? We had such High Hopes.

Pink Floyd has a song called High Hopes… from their 1994 album “The Division Bell.”
The song contains lyrics like “The grass was greener” and “The light was brighter” and “The taste was sweeter”. How things were. And where we hope we’re once again headed… soon.

An interesting thing about that song… the eponymous (“relating to the person or thing for which something is named”) Division Bell itself plays a prominent role. You can hear it on every 4th beat of most of the song. One-two-three-DING one-two-three-DING… and I don’t mean some little “next, please” chime or a little sleigh bell… I mean an actual gigantic bell, the sort you see in a belltower of a mediaeval church. The song starts with lots of bells, but then just settles on this one… keeping that 4th beat. Then comes the wall of sound… the drums, the bass, the guitars, the keyboards, David Gilmour’s voice… but, by the end of the song, all of that has faded away and we’re left with nothing but… yes, you guessed it. When I purchased tickets for that concert, I was hoping they’d have an actual bell on stage.

Sidenote… I stood in line all night for tickets to that concert… and bought the maximum 6 tickets when it was finally my turn. I think 4 of the 5 friends who came to that show with me back in 1994 might be reading this.

Anyway, I was not disappointed. Prominently occupying the back of center-stage was a gigantic bell, and it well-served its purpose for the final song of the night; there was a solitary percussionist whose only job was to hammer it every 4 beats.

The persistence of it… they symbolism isn’t difficult to grasp. It’s not subtle… it hits you like… well, like being clanged by a bell-hammer every four beats: It doesn’t matter what’s happening now; it’s temporary. It’ll fade. But what came before and what’ll come again; that’s permanence. You can almost hear the bell ringing from a thousand years ago and ringing a thousand years into the future. But here we are for the moment and, as per above, where are we?

Before we answer that, it’s worth answering “Where should we be?” All things being equal, this pandemic should be over.

Let’s remind ourselves about R-naught (“Rø”)… a number which, at the start of this pandemic meant everything. Rø measures the “spreadability” of a disease by calculating how many people, on average, an infected person is themselves infecting. An Rø of less than one means the disease is on its way out. An Rø of greater than one means it’ll continue spreading.

The original C19 had an Rø of between 1.4 and 3.9. The Alpha variant doubled that. And then the Delta variant came along and doubled it again, to somewhere between 5 and 9. For comparison, a seasonal flu has an Rø of 0.9 to 2.1. Measles has an Rø of 12 to 18. We are closer to measles territory than a conventional flu.

If we had vaccines and treatments and no variants, this might all be over. There is a direct correlation with respect to herd immunity and Rø… and it’s exactly what you’d expect; the more infectious the disease, the more people need to be immune to it to prevent it from spreading. The originally-thought herd immunity level for beating this thing was around 70%, and with an Rø of 3, that’s about right. But now, unfortunately, it’s far from being the case. With the Delta variant, we need to be approaching 90%.

Originally, good hand washing and masks and social distancing and restrictions were thought to be the key… and they were. Without vaccines, all of those things help tremendously in stopping the spread, effectively bashing down the Rø because they prevent the virus from spreading unchecked. The world provided some examples as to what happens when you let that native Rø run its course, and it wasn’t pretty.

So… instead of a quick end, what we got is a far more contagious variant… and far more vaccine hesitancy/denial/insanity than anyone could’ve predicted. Those two things very-effectively have served to extend this… and, in essence, convert it from a pandemic to what’ll ultimately be an endemic disease that’ll be with us forever.

OR…

Well, here’s a funny thing. Much like a broken clock is right twice a day, when the fanatical anti-vaxxers scream that the scientists don’t understand this thing at all, there’s one particular aspect where they’re right… and it has to do with the mysterious 2-month cycle of Covid-19. One example of nailing the broken clock is this:

It seems, with some regularity, that when there’s a surge in cases, they seem to plateau after about two months and then drop off. Indeed, look at the numbers and pretty pictures and they all tell the same story. There’s a definite plateau off of the two-month surge, and in the U.S., who started down the path before us, a notable decline in new cases… 35% since September 1st. Indeed, worldwide, cases have dropped 30% since late August and when cases drop, so do hospitalizations and ICU admissions and deaths. The surge in ICU cases and deaths in Alberta and Saskatchewan today are due to the new case surges of two weeks (and longer) ago… but today’s new-case numbers are all, at worst flat, and, at best, a lot lower (more than 50%) from the recent past. Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: in a month, things in those two provinces (and Canada in general) will be looking a lot better.

Why is this happening? Nobody is too sure, because all of the variables have been written out of the equation. It’s warm, it’s cold, masks on, masks off, social distancing, easing of restrictions, vaccines. Whereas all of those things are treated very differently around the world, there’s a very evident pattern: Generally speaking, cases rose from February to late April, fell until late June, rose to highs in late August and have been falling ever since. In Canada, we were a little late to the party, so add a month to all of that. But the pattern is there. And so, Canada numbers will continue to go down, the border will open and Canucks fans will flood to Seattle for games and we will all be back to normal.

No, not quite… but given vaccinations and the pattern above, there’s reason to be optimistic. Those two things imply that the worst is over. And yes, it could change again. Pick an as-of-yet unused Greek letter, attach “variant” to it, and a frightening Rø, and you can throw the optimism out the window. There’s the other broken clock. We simply don’t know what we don’t know… and that’s why the bell keeps ringing, and will do so till the end of time.

Like the song ends, and like we might all be feeling, drifting with the current, destination time and place unknown…

With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river
Forever and ever

Ding… ding… ding…

October 13, 2021

September 10, 2021

Hey… it’s been a while! So… sit back and relax, because this is going to be a long one. We have plenty to cover.

I’ll start by glossing over a bit of the current situation, because we’re all familiar with it, and although the numbers continue to provide a glaringly obvious message, there are those who refuse to look at them.

Depending where you look, you’ll find variations on the same theme… and they all say things like your chances with vaccines are not 20% or 60% better… it’s more like 2,000%… or 6,000%. Every single person in BC today in the ICU that’s under the age of 50 is unvaccinated. The vast majority of people in hospital are unvaccinated. We can talk about BC, Alberta, Ontario, Canada, California, Nebraska, Florida, whatever… it’s all the same everywhere; just a different multiplier, often based on vaccination rates. The numbers all range from quite significant to truly significant. There are no exceptions anywhere; the vaccinated population is way, way better off.

I’ve included the usual three rows of graphs, though the top one – the graphs of daily new cases – once, the most important graphs imaginable… are becoming somewhat irrelevant. Much more relevant is who got infected (Vaccinated? Unvaccinated?) and how it’s affecting them. The real numbers to look at (and the graphs that go with it) are hospitalizations and ICU admissions; the bottom row of graphs. There’s certainly a kick upwards, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, who are seeing levels comparable to back in May… but for the rest of us, it looks pretty reasonable and no reason to panic. Especially if you’re vaccinated.

In the last three days, the average daily number of C19 deaths in Canada is 34. Since the American population is about 9x ours, you might expect a death rate 9 x 34, which is around 300. But instead, it’s close to 2,500. And needless to say, largely due to overwhelmed hospitals way beyond capacity in jurisdictions with low vaccination rates. No matter how you slice the data, it all points to the same thing.

On that note, the daily vaccination rates show a significant slowdown. That’s the middle row of graphs. It hasn’t totally died out, but we’re nowhere near the rates of early July… though it’s picking up a bit again, and I have something to say about that.

There are a lot of people who’ve recently gotten vaccinated because of the “vaccine passport” that’s coming alive in 72 hours.

Side-note with respect to the rollout; I am an IT/tech/computer guy and I can be as critical as they come, especially when talking about deploying systems to massive amounts of people who’ll all use it simultaneously. I have a lot of experience in that, and I know it’s complicated, so I know what you have to plan for, etc… and so I have to say, Kudos to those involved with this thing. It certainly wasn’t without some initial little hiccups, but that’s to be expected when unprecedented numbers of people suddenly flood to it. In fact, if it hadn’t bent a little under the load, I’d be complaining they spent too much on it. It’s like building a 16-lane Lions Gate Bridge, 8 lanes each way… when it’s only needed for New Year’s Eve. Sure, you’ll never have traffic problems on the bridge itself, but just imagine Georgia St. or Taylor Way. What a mess it’d be without addressing them too.

And this thing has to not only be its own infrastructure, it has to communicate with varying other older systems and not flood them with too many connections and requests. The queuing system seems to have worked well; I jumped on it the moment I saw the url and found myself in a 17-minute line-up. That queue grew to over an hour at some point, and indeed, some people got 503 errors and gateway timeouts and whatever else. So what. Moments later, it worked. I have yet to hear about anyone who got past the queue and then had a problem, and that implies excellent design. Everything past the choke-point, that single point of failure… so far has been flawless. And, after all of that… at this moment, the wait time is zero and it’s likely to remain that way, even with the flood of people on Monday rushing to get it.

But let’s talk about those people who, today, would get a “No Record Found” if they tried to fetch their card.

For the last two years, there have been those people… well all know a bunch… masks are useless, vaccines are useless, conspiracies and so on. Now, perhaps having done some actual research and listened to some actual reliable sources, maybe they’ve come to the conclusion that getting vaccinated would be the intelligent thing to do. But how can they, without totally losing face? Admitting they’re wrong now would mean admitting they’ve been wrong all along, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. Some people’s egos just can’t take the hit.

Well… now they have the perfect out. They can proudly and loudly announce how they still feel vaccines are useless… but… they just want to live their life in peace and do things they want… so, they just got vaccinated and there’s their little blue vaccine card, and soon, after their second dose, it’ll be green. Yay!

And if you’re one of those people or know someone… yes, do it. Tell them to do it. Go for it. All of your friends and family who’ve been pleading to you to get vaccinated couldn’t care less about your justification, whether it’s the inward-facing or the outward-facing version, however different they may be. Just go get it done. Go right ahead and blame it on anything and everything else. It doesn’t matter. All of those aforementioned people will welcome your decision with open arms.

Looking back at where a lot of this anti-everything came from, and removing Donald Trump’s catastrophic contribution to the public sentiment, in hindsight, there may have been two things that might have “spun” better. Better “optics”. It’s not like pandemics have a PR department, but if they did…

For one thing, naming this a novel coronavirus initially convinced people that this is something new, unseen and a complete mystery. If instead they’d labelled it originally what it really is… a new version of something old, perhaps there’d have been a lot less hesitancy when the vaccines appeared. Everyone understands sequels. Remember SARS from years ago? Well, here’s “SARS 2: The Killer Returns”. And everything we’ve learned from the original SARS we can now put to use. This is not a new story; it’s a continuation of an old one. So instead of a brand new vaccine technology being quickly developed against a pathogen the likes of like we’ve never seen before, people might understand that it’s just a new version of a virus that’s been around for decades, being fought by R&D technology that’s also been around for decades. In Hollywood terms, that story certainly would’ve “tested better.’

That didn’t happen, and that lesson didn’t get learned, and then that skeptical crowd was met with “Vaccine Passports”. Once again, something new, untested and worthy of rebellion.

Calling it was it is – an immunization record – would also have “tested better”. We all already have an immunization record… with words like smallpox and measles and diphtheria and mumps and whatever else in it. We all have it and many of us have needed it. Some employers demand it. Some schools demand it. Some travel destinations demand it. All doggy daycares demand it too. There’s nothing new with immunization records… but you throw the word “passport” in there, and the implications of not having one, and the “Freedom And Rights!!1!1!!!1!!!” crowd shows up.

And on that note… if you think I’m going to voice my disgust at people who picket and protest outside of hospitals, insulting healthcare workers and blocking access for actual patients… I am, but that’s only part of it.

The other part of it is the symbolism associated with it. I happened to see among the pictures of the protesters a person wearing a little yellow star with “Not Vaccinated” written on it, where conventionally you’d expect to see the word “Jude’”.

Cultures these days are up in arms about appropriation. Here’s a cheap dreamcatcher for $5.99, available in the local tourist shop. It’ll look so cute in the window! Here’s a bundle of sage; take it home and light it and wave it around. That’s called smudging. Isn’t that cute? And Woke? We’re *so* Culturally Lit!!

Yeah, one can see how offensive that would be to people who understand the depth and significance of what those things really are. Their history. What they symbolize. What it meant to the people for whom it was intended.

So, let’s talk about that little yellow star. First of all, and this part of it isn’t so well known, that wasn’t the only Nazi-imposed oppressive symbol of The Holocaust. Red triangle? Communist. Brown triangle? Gypsy. Purple triangle? Jehovah’s Witness. Pink inverted triangle? Homosexual.

And for a brief moment, imagine the outrage from the LGBTQ community if that pink triangle were appropriated for this purpose. Idiots screaming about freedom, comparing it to the struggles of a community that’s been marginalized for centuries.

But they’ve chosen that little yellow star to complain about their lack of freedom, so let’s go with that. That little yellow star is indeed a striking symbol of lack of freedom. For those who had to wear it, it meant a loss of freedom, and depending on what year, it meant something different. From 1933 to 1945, at differing times, it meant the loss of freedom to travel. To go to school. To own a business. To operate a business. To own property. To have your own home. To own anything. And finally, to live… slowly and surely, those rights were eroded until there was nothing left. But really, at no point, did it have anything to do with being able to book a table at that sushi place in Yaletown where they make those awesome cube-like nigiri that they roast with a blowtorch. No… the Jews of the Holocaust weren’t worrying too much about stuff like that and, further, if the solution to their problems could’ve been solved by a disease-preventing inoculation, I can think of at least 6 million people who gladly would’ve taken advantage of it.

If you want to complain about freedoms being ripped away from you, talk to the women of Afghanistan. Hell, you don’t even need to go that far. Talk to the women in Texas… both groups of women who until recently had rights which were ruthlessly and unexpectedly ripped away from them.

So… I look at these despicable people marching with their ignorant, illiterate signs and their tasteless and inappropriate symbols… and here’s what comes to mind: Many years ago, I took a few law courses at VCC… a sort of evening-adult-education thing. It was more about getting familiar with some business law issues, but we covered a bit of criminal law as well. Interesting stuff. One thing I remember is the difference between assault and battery. Those two terms are commonly used somewhat interchangeably, but there is a difference… and the word assault is sometimes used incorrectly. Hitting someone isn’t an assault; that’s the actual battery. There doesn’t need to be any physical contact for there to be an assault… just inducing fear or threats or intimidation; that’s an assault. Of course, it’s hard to hit someone without there having been some element of those three things beforehand, so it’s often assault and battery combined.

Why do I mention this? I mention it only because, in my case, it’ll undoubtedly be both that I’ll be charged with if I see anyone wearing one of these little yellow stars… because I will walk up right up to them and rip the fucking thing right off their shirt or jacket while simultaneously punching them in the face. A very quick one-two.

My thinking is that it’d be so quick that there technically might not be time for it to be an assault. Just battery… for sure. Anyway, nitpicking… but I think everyone who knows me well would be surprised… that the guy who goes out of his way to shoo a fly or bee or even spider out of the house, instead of so-easily squashing them… would be the guy arrested for punching a protester in the face. Truthfully, I haven’t been in an actual fistfight since I was 10 years old. But I’m telling you right now – perhaps somewhat blowing my potential “moment of rage, no pre-meditated intent” defence: If I run into one of these people, they will need to visit the hospital to which moments earlier they’d been blocking access.

Well! You’ll either hear about me in the news… or I’ll be back here in due course with more to say; this has already gotten a bit long. Enough for now. Have a great weekend… till next time!

The Last (Daily) Post – July 6, 2021

The Last Post.

That’s the piece of music you’ll hear on Remembrance Day, November 11th at 11am, commemorating the end of The Great War.

At my school, there was a Remembrance Day service every year, and the lead trumpet player of the school had the honour of getting up in front of everyone and playing it. In my grade 12 year, that was me… but instead of standing in front of everyone, I did it from the gym next door… where the acoustics allowed me to harmonize with my own notes. As it’s typically played on a bugle (on a trumpet, you simply play it without pressing any valves… it’s all lips and air pressure), there are only three notes to work with… C E and G (in three different octaves)… and, as any musician will tell you, any combination of those notes (including all three) go together very well. Accordingly, my rendition of notes blending and harmonizing with each other was really-well received. A very successful gig – notwithstanding the somber occasion — and the largest crowd I’d ever played to. A few months later, at Expo 86, my Dixieland band played in front of 3,000 people at the Kodak Bowl. My largest and — with the exception of my sister’s wedding — last public appearance as a musician because, the truth is, I’m not a big fan of being on stage.

Which brings us to this particular Last Post.

People have asked me how many people actually read these posts. The answer varies… from a minimum of a few hundred for the lame ones… to thousands for the good ones, and, on a couple of occasions, the number well-exceeded 10,000. The first one of those big ones got close to 500 shares in the first 24 hours, a piece comparing B.C.’s response to that of Louisiana. That was back in April of 2020, when the glaring differences in responses between countries, states and provinces were becoming very apparent, and I didn’t have a lot of great things to say about what they were doing down there.

It was really the first time I realized I was reaching an awful lot more people than I imagined… a few scattered people from some very far-away places, sure… but also large pockets of people in places like Texas, Arizona and Kentucky who… to put it delicately… didn’t really see eye-to-eye with my opinions with respect to American politics and, anyway, what the hell is some Canadian yahoo doing commenting on things he knows nothing about; go build an igloo or race your huskies or whatever, EH.

Still, I prefer this version of being on stage; when you blow a wrong note, there’s always the backspace key; not so in front of a live audience.

I used that key a lot… because, when I started this back on March 17th, 2020, like everyone else, I knew very little about pandemics. And today, we all know much more than we’d ever imagined… knowledge I hope for everyone reading this simply fades away in the future because you won’t need it. One hundred years between these sorts of pandemics seems about right; we all just got a lifetime’s worth of experience and I don’t think any of us have any strong desire to ever re-visit it. Here’s how to properly wash your hands. Here’s how to properly wear a mask. Here’s a safe distance from which you… yeah, yeah… we get it.

So… I picked a good day for this Last Post. Today:

– The Provincial State of Emergency officially ends at midnight

– B.C.’s one-jab percentage went over 70% for the entire population, not just those presently eligible. That’s a magic number in many people’s eyes when it comes to herd immunity

– I’m officially two weeks past my 2nd vaccination (AZ / Moderna)

By those… and a few other different measures… around here, it’s over. And for me, four hundred and seventy-seven straight days of writing about this pandemic – is also over. But, of course, what ostensibly (that’s my niece’s favourite word!) was meant to be a simple little blog about the pandemic and current numbers… morphed into much more.

For me, it was a discipline, a brain dump, a sanity check and a way to make sure I was current with whatever might be important… and a self-imposed 5pm deadline to update the numbers and write something to go along with it. I woke up every morning with my brain rumbling around some ideas… what’s current, what’s important, what’s engaging… and how might some previous experience of mine help explain it. I never knew what I was going to write about, but I never worried about it either. I never approached 5pm panicking, and out of 477 posts, I think only three weren’t within 10 minutes of 5pm… one was a vet emergency, one was getting stuck behind an accident that turned a 15-minute drive into more than an hour, and one was believing my computer when it told me that this little OSX update would only take a few minutes.

And for you?

If putting some complex ideas in a form that made it easier for you to understand… good… I was happy to do it. I’ve certainly found that, for myself, talking through complicated topics in simpler terms helps me understand them as well.

If displaying colourful numbers and pictures provided you with a centralized place to view the info that, at a glance, you most needed… great. What you saw is what I considered the best way to convey what was most important in the clearest manner possible… an exercise that changed a lot over 16 months. I started with simple charts and graphs for a few different countries… then added Time To Double (TTD) lines to everything when it looked like they might be spiraling out of control… and ultimately got rid of them when things settled down. Then I got rid of the other countries when we needed to worry more about ourselves… and then added other provinces so we could have a holistic view of all of Canada… and, finally, of course… the vaccinations. I loved adding those columns, formulas and graphs… and then watching them – initially with a lot of frustration at how slowly those percentages were going up… but ultimately with joy as those numbers accelerated upwards. I’ve added a fourth row of graphs today; what the pandemic looked like for the U.S., Canada and the provinces… from day 1. It’s incredible to look at the tiny little bump at the far left – the beginning – of the B.C. graph. That tiny little bump is when we were all really, really worried.

And… indeed … if I had any part in holding your hand through this pandemic, and if my posts gave you some comfort and some optimism… I’m really happy to hear it. I’ll be honest; I was scared too. I also looked everywhere for the reassurances we all sought. I had to be the one to talk to my kids and have answers to their questions. When they asked, the first question was always, “How were the numbers?”

Sometimes, those numbers weren’t so good… and that’s where you need to look ahead, to think big-picture, to skate to where the puck is going to be… whatever metaphor you choose; I always felt we’d come out of this ok… but conveying that message wasn’t always so easy… yet I, myself, was comforted by everything I’d learned, and I sincerely hoped I could pass along those feelings. How many times and in how many ways did I say the same thing: There’s a finish line, and we’re all going to get there.

And here we are. If you’re reading this, it’s because I made it… and so did you.

It’s somewhat ironic that The Great War ended largely as a result of the pandemic that began in 1918. The War ended, the pandemic began… because while different countries were all trying to figure out effective ways of killing each other, along came an invisible enemy with an answer for everyone. It’s also somewhat ironic that this particular Last Post is the other way around… that the pandemic might be over in this neck of the woods, but the war rages on in others. A World War of a different sort.

So yeah… around here, no more Provincial State of Emergency… and no more daily posts. But, exactly like Covid-19, I’m not going away entirely… and I’ll pop-up unexpectedly from time to time. I’ve found that this habit of needing to voice my opinion is a tough one to break… so don’t unfollow me quite yet; if you think I’ll have something to say in the future, you’re absolutely right. Just not every day. And especially not in the next week or two, because life is returning to normal… and I am diving head-first into it.

And so… with that – it is I, your humble, faithful and consistent pandemic blogger signing off… and wishing you all the happiest and healthiest and Covid-freest-imaginable — rest of your lives.

Cheers.

July 4, 2021

Alrighty… one last kick at the can. One final shot at fame, fortune and glory. One last grab at all the marbles. Yes indeed… it’s the last ever (please, let’s hope…) “Guess the Weekend Totals!” contest.

For those new to it, it’s pretty simple: In the comments below, write your guess as to what B.C.’s three-day new-cases total will be; the winner will be the person who guesses closest first, and I am almost certain someone will nail it bang-on because, while it’s a lot more difficult when we’re getting 500 cases a day, it becomes a lot easier when we’re below 50.

Indeed, the new-case numbers for the last three days were 43, 49 and 35… which averages to a number very familiar to Douglas Adams fans: 42.

Wow… in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide..”, it took the Deep Thought supercomputer 7.5. million years to come up with that number… and I just did it in my head!

Well… since this is the last one, I’m going to play too. I will take that number, the literal “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything”, multiply it by 3, and guess 126.

Now it’s your turn… enter your guess in the comments below, and, as usual, for the final time, it’s not just the bragging rights and glory, but also $100 to the charity of your choice.

Good luck!

June 27, 2021

The only thing hotter than the infernal weather is… the anticipation for this week’s contest!

Yes, indeed… it’s that time again… and, perhaps, for the last time… because given how the numbers are looking, pretty soon we’ll be at the point where there are 3x as many people guessing as there are reasonable guesses. This is, of course, a great thing. Here are the daily new case averages for recent weeks:

Today: +74
Last week: +104
Two weeks ago: +161
Three weeks ago: +210
A month ago: +315

Beautiful trend… so what’s our three-day total going to look like? Guess way… the contest is open from now till noon tomorrow – and, as usual, apart from the coveted bragging rights, $100 to the charity of choice to whoever is first in guessing closest to the actual total.

If you were to base it on recent averages, 3 x 74 = 222… a number that would’ve counted, on its own, as a good day a month ago. Exponential growth? Now we’re dealing with exponential decay. Beautiful.

Guess away, good luck… and with respect to these numbers dropping drastically, let’s hope the outside temperatures also follow suit…

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