June 12, 2021

Heading into the weekend without anything too exciting to report… other than I ran into a virulent (haha!!) anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic. The way some people reason things out… it’s quite remarkable. I won’t bore you with the details of it… by now we’ve all had those sorts of discussions with someone… but my front brake needed attention halfway through my ride this morning, so I walk into a random bike shop…

“Hi… I’m sorry, I don’t have a mask… I wasn’t planning on…”

(the guy rips his own mask off)

“Yeah, don’t worry about it… these f’n things don’t do anything anyway”

I’ve wondered out loud before how it is that those two things go so well together. Does anybody know anyone who’s anti-mask but pro-vaccine? Or vice-versa? I’d be interested in listening to rational arguments, but have yet to hear one.

And this guy?

“I’d rather die from Covid than from the vaccine. You don’t know what they put in it.”

The human brain… how it functions, and the twisted logic it supplies to some people… it’s a real mystery.

Instead of pursuing the rest of that discussion… speaking of mysteries… here’s a good one for you to rattle around your brain…

A long time ago, there were three friends who went camping. After a few nights, they’d had enough… and decided to head home early, and spend the night in a motel somewhere. They packed up their stuff, hopped in the car, and drove off, planning to stop at the first motel that had room.

Unfortunately, it was a busy time of year and everything was booked. They passed an endless stream of “No Vacancy” signs… but eventually, there was one where the “No” wasn’t lit up. So they pulled in.

The guy at the front desk told them he only had one room left. They asked if it’d be ok for all three of them to share the room. Yeah, sure, no problem… it’ll be $30 for the room. Great, said the three guys… and each dug into his own pocket and pulled out $10. They each handed their $10 to him; he counted out the $30… all good… and then they got their keys and headed to the room.

A few minutes later, the guy at the counter remembered that there was a special deal going on… and that a room for 3 people was actually only $25. Being an honest person, he opened the cash drawer and pulled out five one-dollar bills…and instructed the janitor, who happened to be sweeping up the lobby, to deliver the $5 to the room.

The janitor, however, wasn’t so honest… and as he walked over to the room, thought to himself… how are 3 guys going to split $5 anyway? He decided to just give them three of the bills and keep two for himself.

So… he knocked on the door… one of the three guys answered… and the janitor handed him three of the $1 bills.

Cool, thought the guy… and took the three bills, and handed a dollar to each of his friends.

So… since each guy originally paid $10 and now got $1 back, you could say each guy paid $9 for the room. $9 x 3 = $27. The bellhop kept $2. That makes $29.

What happened to the other dollar?

It’s a mystery! – and if you know the answer, don’t just blurt it out in the comments… let some people scratch their heads a bit.

Hint: the anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic doesn’t have it.

June 10, 2021

The most notable fact that emerged from today’s C19 update was one that was implied by the numbers… but it was nice to hear it stated officially: that the Ro (R nought) of C19 in B.C. is now below one. This is the number that indicates, on average, how many people get newly infected from someone who’s already got it. A number less than one simply states this thing is fading away; if everyone is infecting, on average, less than one other person, we’re very much headed in the right direction.

The Delta variant is likely to affect the velocity with which we ultimately get close to zero, but it doesn’t matter too much. If we keep doing what we’re doing – primarily, keep getting vaccinated – it’s hard to imagine that number bouncing back up. Like I said yesterday, it’ll never go away completely… but it’ll be relegated to just one more other annoying seasonal disease that’s very controllable.

One thing that’s clear with respect to how the PHO handles things; they will be cautious and certain before they pull the plug on any restrictions… for one big reason: once a restriction is lifted, it’s not coming back. It would take a serious derailment for something to be re-imposed after it’s been removed. At least, that’s the idea… which is why even though it looks like today is a good day to take a step forward, it’ll always wait till next week. This comes from watching what’s happened around the world and, unfortunately, will happen again… where people’s impatience, rather than the science, drives the policy. But here, they’ve set conservative but achievable goals… and they’re sticking with them. Accordingly, everything is pointing to moving to the next re-opening phase on June 15th, where outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed, indoor parties of 50 people will be allowed (with C19 provisions in place), provincial travel restrictions will be lifted, liquor will be served till midnight and a number of sport and gym-related restrictions will be eased.

Dr. Henry has taken a lot of crap from people for what they consider her heavy-handed, draconian and excessive policies… but the fact is, these policies have worked really well. In hindsight, all the people telling you “You see, it wasn’t so bad” should be reminded that it was *because of* — not *in spite of* — these policies that we made it through this relatively unscathed, compared to so many other places.

And again, don’t take my word for it. Those other places who are so keen and impatient on reopening ahead of schedule… are places where things are likely to look a lot different.

June 8, 2021

“What could possibly go wrong?” – famous quote, and not words that should be spoken out loud. It’s a rhetorical question, best left to your inner thoughts; when you speak it out loud, you’re daring the universe to answer: “Well… let me show you…”

In the midst of the optimism of re-opening and getting back to normal comes a curveball being thrown at the world… the Delta (formerly “Indian”) variant of C19.

To begin with, it’s undoubtedly more contagious than any predecessor. The original UK variant (now known as Alpha) is 50-100% more contagious than the original strain that dominated 2020. And Delta is 50% more contagious than Alpha. Let’s hope this frat-house-inspired naming convention never gets to Omega.

One positive is that, generally, the more contagious it is, the less harmful it is. That’s not for sure, yet… but quite likely, this strain isn’t going to cause disease any worse than the previous strains. It’s just that it’s much easier to catch. Indeed, all the little spikes we’re seeing in different places – little spikes for now, but we all know what that can grow into – are caused by upticks predominantly of the Delta variant.

So… vaccines… how much protection do they have against it?

To begin with… the vast majority of people who’ve become infected with Delta have had zero vaccinations.

With one dose – you’re not there yet; the one-shot effectiveness of Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneneca on Delta is only about 33%, compared to north of 60% for other variants. It’s the second dose that makes a huge difference in this case.

But, beyond that… in the U.K., only three people who’ve been fully vaccinated have been hospitalized as a result of Delta. Three people out of 40% fully-vaccinated people out of a population 66 million people equals one in 9 million.

So, there’s no guarantee you won’t catch it. You may well catch it and never know it. You may be exposed to it and never know it… or catch some mild symptoms. But the big takeaway: If you’re fully vaccinated, you have a one in 9 million chance of being hospitalized due to the Delta variant. Sure, those numbers will get worse… bit it’s a good starting point. The equivalent of throwing 9 dice onto the floor. As long as they don’t all land on the same number, you’re good.

While two doses of any vaccine will do the trick, we’re talking about the U.K. here… and when we talk about the U.K., we’re talking almost exclusively about AstraZeneca. Over there… whether it’s one or two doses, almost all are AZ.

Which leads me (and anyone who’s had the AstraZeneca vaccine) to one again ponder the dilemma of AZ or Pfizer for the second dose, especially factoring in timing. I had my AZ dose April 22nd. I think I’d be able to get AZ relatively soon; Pfizer, I’m not sure. And so… while I’ve been waiting patiently for Pfizer, now I’m wondering about the alternative. Maybe go right back to that little mom-and-pop pharmacy a few blocks away and get the AZ… and then, that’s it.

My decision will be based on what happens around here in the next week or two. I was always a proponent of “get whatever is offered to you”. I changed my mind, watching the data from the European studies (Spain/UK/Germany) implying mixing AZ with Pfizer yields better results. But I’m not against changing it back if the situation calls for it.

And that’s more than ok. There’s another famous quote… from the father of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono: “If you never change your mind, why have one?”

June 6, 2021

Happy Sunday!

You might think there’s nothing good about B.C. being the only province that doesn’t update C19 numbers over the weekend… but you’re wrong!

… because it means… contest time!

I’m not sure how long I can keep doing this, because at some point the numbers get too low… but that’s a good thing. I hope the “It’s not worth running a contest” thing happens sooner than later… but, until it does, we’re doing it again: Take a guess at what the cumulative (Sat/Sun/Mon) new daily cases will be – put your guess in the comments below – and whoever is closest will get (besides *coveted* bragging rights) $100 donated to their charity of choice.

To help you with your integral calculus, statistical analysis, regression… or just good old-fashioned, plain, intuitive guessing… here’s what the last several weekend totals have looked like… and please note the very-encouraging and consistent dwindling towards zero:

Apr 24,25,26: 2,729
May 1,2,3: 2,174
May 8,9,10: 1,759
May 15,16,17: 1,360
May 22,23,24: 974
May 29,30,31: 708

Guesses will be accepted till noon tomorrow. Henry, Dix, Horgan & their associates are banned… but anyone else can play!

Numbers will be released tomorrow at 3pm… and I’ll post the winner at 5pm.

Good luck!

June 5, 2021

There are lots of discussions going on with respect to what exactly happened to the flu this year. It was certainly expected that the social distancing and masking would have an effect, and that numbers would be lower… but nobody really expected it to be virtually zero. The number of pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. this season was exactly one (where it’s normally in the hundreds), and you can be sure that unfortunate kid caught it from a foreign traveller.

How do I know that? Because the flu, like C19, is a virus… and viruses need a breeding population of hosts that they can infect.

Unfortunate side-note for those of you who want to believe in Bigfoot or the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster or the Ogopogo; perhaps the biggest show-stopper in there being a possibility of them existing is that you can’t have just one. You’d need a breeding population, and it’d have to be significant enough to perpetuate the species. They’d take up a lot of space, and there would be ample evidence (droppings, dwellings) to find, even if not the creatures themselves, whether on land or in the water. It’s not like “I saw *the* Ogopogo”; Lake Okanogan would have to have been teeming with them for centuries.

The masking, and sanitizing surfaces every 10 minutes, had a drastic effect. Flu probably arrived in North America on various airplanes, but died out with nowhere to go. No breeding population of hosts. In fact, so drastic was its demise that there are two common flu strains that may well be extinct. Around the world, there were zero cases reported of two particularly common strains; two that are always part of the annual flu-vaccine concoction. That, on its own, doesn’t yet mean they’re gone forever… but if they don’t show up next year or the year after that… well, it’s a virus. Unlike 200 BigFoots (Bigfeet?) that might be hiding in a cave somewhere in Sasquatch Park, there’s no hiding place for a virus. When the last one has no place to go, it’s gone forever.

It’s ironic that a couple of flu strains might be eradicated simply as “collateral damage”… while C19, with its variety of variants, is going to be around for a lot longer.

The bigger irony would be that Bigfoot actually exists… but gets wiped out by C19, because the humans were unable to eradicate it.

June 4, 2021

For old time’s sake, I’ve thrown in the graphs showing the progression of this pandemic from day one. If you look below, you’ll see three rows. The first row is the shape of the entire pandemic, going back to Feb 15th of last year. The next row is the second wave onward, starting Sep 8th of last year. You can easily see where that second wave fits into the graph above it. And the third row is the 3rd wave, as of Mar 10th of this year. You can also see where it fits into the one above.

It’s very interesting to note, looking at the column of the 3 B.C. graphs… that our first wave was relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things; it’s barely a blip in the big picture. That tiny little bump at the bottom left of the top B.C. graph; that’s it. Daily new case counts never broke 100 that entire time… compared to today’s number, +183, which sounds kind of low… and it is. It’s the lowest number since Oct 20th. It’s below what we’re considering the start of the third wave, where, at its worst, we were seeing more than 1,200 new cases a day. The same can be said for hospitalizations and ICU admissions… lowest numbers since November.

Looking at those towering subsequent second and third waves should remind us that, while things are certainly trending in the right direction, it’s not quite over yet. Those flare-ups happened for a number of reasons; reasons which haven’t gone away.

But, of course, one big thing has changed, and it’s not going away… and that is vaccines. And that’s what’s made the biggest difference of all.

On that note, I got my second-dose email today… the one asking what I want to do… get a second AZ shot, or wait a bit longer and get Pfizer or Moderna. Given the results I’ve been observing from what’s been published so far, for me, mixing it up with Pfizer might be the way to go.

There’s obviously a lot of discussion going around asking what’s the right move, and the answers differ. The original adage of “get whatever is offered to you” will never be wrong, especially for first doses. Get the one being offered to you. But what about second doses for those who had AstraZeneca for round one?

It’s up to you.

“ASAP” is never wrong.
“The same as the first dose” is not wrong.
“Recent reports imply Pfizer for round two is a good idea” is also not wrong.

Some people are making noise that this goes against the manufacturer’s recommendations and, indeed, NACI’s original recommendation was also against it; stick to what you got.

But, guess what… originally in this pandemic, we were told we wouldn’t need masks. Suddenly, we were told we do. Why? Because it’s all a scam and a sham and fraudulent and Bill Gates and Fauci and 5G and…. No… it’s not that. It’s because *science*. That’s how it works; you learn something new and you course-correct. Nobody was “wrong” at the time; they made their suggestions as best they could; with incomplete information. And as information rolled in, better decisions could be made.

Here’s a decision I hope most people agree with; no matter what flavour it is… get that second dose. It gets us all one step closer, and looking at the pretty graphs and numbers, there’s no doubt we’re going in the right direction.

June 3, 2021

Do you remember learning about convex vs. concave? Which is which? If you have trouble remembering, and are frustrated, go punch a piece of sheet metal… see that indentation? How the sheet is now “CAVEd” in? There you go… conCAVE when it goes in, conVEX when it comes out… like the VEXed expression on the face of the guy on the other side of that sheet, wondering why you did that.

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s look at this new colourful graph I’ve thrown in today… the one on the bottomright. You’ll notice it has three convex lines, a thicker blue one that’s a bit of both, and only one concave one – the thick red Canada line.

Much like the Canada line that runs from downtown to the airport, this one also took a while… and was expensive in its own way… but well worth it in the long run.

This particular Canada line tells a few interesting stories. The first thing that pops out is how ridiculously steep it is in recent months, compared to the others. That’s what happens with a lot of pent-up demand; in fact, you have to wonder if the fact it took so long to hit 5th-gear with our rollout is now contributing to its continuing momentum. Would we have wanted it so badly if it were so easy to get…? Brilliant psychological trick, if that’s what they pulled on us. Either way, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The best thing it indicates – exactly what the others don’t – is that we’ve not yet reached the end of the “low-hanging fruit”. We’re still injecting as much of the stuff as is made available, but let’s not fool ourselves; we’re going to plateau at some point, and we will start to look like that thick blue American line… concave to start as demand outweighed supply… followed by that flattening… which is also evident in the three other countries I threw in there; Israel, the UK and Chile. Those three were the world leaders in vaccinations… but once the fanfare wore off and the low-hanging fruit was picked… now it gets more difficult. In the last two months, we’ve gone from 14% to 59%. Israel has gone from 61% to 63%. It’s not difficult to see where the momentum is. Those three countries have entered the post-low-hanging-fruit phase and are entering the vaccine-hesitant phase.

To be clear, nobody is getting to 100%… even here. There’s a solid 10% to 15% of ardent anti-vaxxers in Canada who’d rather get Covid-19 than admit they’re wrong, and nothing will change their mind… so forget about them. That number is higher in other places, and inter-mingles with the vaccine hesitant crowd. Looking at that graph, you’d have to assume a global number of around 65% “yes for sure” vs a sliding scale of 35% that ranges from “yeah, soon, eventually, I will probably…” to “never”.

While it’s impossible to know exactly who any of these lines will eventually shape out, there’s no doubt that Canada will go crashing into first place if current trends continue. Assuming the vast majority of people who get that first does eventually get the second one as well, while it took us a while to get there, we may end up in better shape than anyone else. Doesn’t matter through which sort of lens you use to look at that – convex/concave… whatever… it’s looking good.

June 2, 2021

Shocking news to report… we didn’t win the Lotto Max. And… nobody else did, either. I’ll spend a bit of time analyzing whether what I predicted was in any way statistically significant. Of the top 10 tickets generated, 5 of the 7 numbers picked were on them. Never more than 2 together though. I’m not sure if a monkey throwing darts would’ve done better, worse, or simply the same.

In the meantime, other numbers… my vaccination numbers and graphs differ from the official ones because I’ve never used “eligible people” as a denominator; I’ve always simply used everyone. That two-month-old baby? One day he’ll get a C19 vaccine – not sure when… but as far as vaccinated/not-vaccinated, I’m counting him.

As such, here’s something interesting; in Canada, at this moment, B.C. has taken the lead with respect to vaccinated population. We’ve vaccinated 61.3% of everybody (at least one jab). Now in second place is Quebec (61.0%). The country overall is at over 58.4% with at least one dose (which is really good), and 6% fully vaccinated (that certainly has a ways to go).

The next big issue will be vaccine passports or immunity certificates or green passes or whatever you want to call them. Many countries and even some provinces are starting to talk about how it’ll look, how it’ll be implemented and how it will affect things. The “Freedumb!!” crowd will start screaming, etc… perhaps without realizing that vaccine passports in some fashion have been around for centuries, and many places have always required them… for your protection as well as theirs. Of course, the vast majority of people complaining are not those who typically travel to malaria-infested river basins or parts of the world known for Dengue Fever outbreaks.

Just remember, the couple dining next to you in the restaurant has rights too. They have to the right to know they’re in a safe environment. And the restaurant itself has rights too… to do whatever they want to provide that.

May 29, 2021

OK… the bad news is we didn’t win 65 million dollars. The good news is that nobody else did either, so we get to take another crack at it… this time, with a few more days to grind through the numbers and some new ideas… which might lower the chances from one in 33 million to something a little more reasonable. To put that in context, your chances of getting a blood clot from a C19 vaccine are about 100x greater… and those chances are exceedingly remote already… to the extent that your chances of getting hit by lightning in your lifetime are 200x greater than a C19-vaccine blood clot. Yeah, you read that right. Still worried?

For those assuring me there’s no rational way to predict the lottery, you’re almost certainly right, but I don’t mind telling you what I’m trying to do here… which is to find some tangible edge, if it exists.

For example… let’s briefly talk about Roulette; the casino game where there’s a wheel, with the numbers 1 to 36 on it, as well as a zero, and often (in the American version), a double-zero. Except for the zeroes, half the numbers are red, the other half black. Half are even, half are odd. Half are 1-18, half are 19-36. If you bet a dollar on any of those, you’ll double your money if you’re right. But if you want to win the real money, you have to bet on numbers straight up… where a 37-1 chance pays 35-1.

Here’s an unusual talent of mine; if you give me any number on an American roulette wheel, I can instantly give you the three numbers to either side of it. Like, 32…? 5 7 11 17 20 22 32… and I can bet them all straight-up in about two seconds. I realize this is less impressive in writing; when this is all over, let’s head to the casino and I’ll show you how to win at roulette… maybe.

The maybe has to do with whether the wheel, at that moment, is truly random or not… and usually it is. But, once in a while, especially near the end of a long day, it may be a bit off. A bit of humidity is slowing down part of it, or maybe there’s some dust that’s accumulated on a particular spot, causing the ball to “bite”, right at that point. Whatever the reason, it may temporarily be not so random.

Conveniently, these days, there’s an electronic board showing you the last 20 numbers that have come up. It often looks like a completely random jumble of numbers; like, true randomness. But… if you know what you’re looking at… let’s say you see 22 11 32 7 5 17 as the last 6 numbers. As per above, you’d instantly know those numbers are all in a tight, specific section of the wheel… and so you sit down and you hammer that area of the weel — straight up. Often, it’s not so obvious… but if five of the last ten numbers are all on the same pie-slice of the wheel, it’s a big opportunity.

That is how I play Roulette, and that is how I’m trying to approach the lottery.

There are 49 ping-pong balls of equal weight that bounce around randomly, and then 7 are chosen. All things being equal, it’s totally random. But what if some of those balls are slightly heavier or lighter? What if, by the design of the way the balls are dropped in the tumbler, some generally stay closer to the hopper?

I’m sure everything is checked often, but let’s say recently a few balls picked up some dust… making them likelier (or less likely) to come up. Or some calibration is a little out of whack.

I really don’t know the mechanics of it, but I’m studying the frequency of numbers that have come up recently… and comparing it to, historically, whether these sorts of patterns emerge from time to time. It’s interesting to note that numbers that end in 1 seem to come up more often. A 31 on its own is one thing, but 1, 11, 21 and especially 31… have a degree of consistency that others don’t. Not sure how significant that is, and 4,000 draws out of a potential 33 million doesn’t make much of a dent in “the big picture”. But anyway, that’s what I’m doing… trying to figure out what numbers are likeliest to come up these days… and then coupling that with, historically, what numbers are likeliest to come up together with those likelier numbers… like, if I think 31 is going to come up, what else is likeliest to show up? With that, I’m generating sets of numbers… and that’s what I’ll… uhh… “invest”. Stay tuned…

May 28, 2021

What you read here is often thought up while I’m lost in thought, riding my bike… and today, I started by thinking about this crazy anti-vaxxer who decided to drive her car through a vaccination tent set-up in a parking lot in Tennessee. Fortunately, nobody was hurt… but there were plenty of near-misses. I was pondering from which angle to approach that – and there are many – and was specifically thinking about how some people are just assholes, plain and simple… and while having that illuminating thought, the following happened…

I was cycling on the seawall, near English Bay, heading west… somewhere between the Burrard Bridge and Cactus Club… it’s a nice stretch of road between BB and CC these days – a whole street lane dedicated for bikes. As such, there is plenty of room for two-way bike traffic… and what I saw was a guy on a bike, coming towards me. There was also a Canada Goose sitting on the street, right next to the curb. This guy had plenty of room to go by… enough room that he had to make an extra effort to stick out his right leg and kick the bird as he went by. This happened about 20 feet in front of me. The goose wasn’t seriously hurt… it just squawked and fluttered a bit. But I slammed on the brakes and yelled after him… I guess what one would call a declarative sentence – like “Have a nice day!” – except that’s not what I said. He barely slowed down and didn’t look back; just held up one solitary finger as he rode off into the distance. Seriously, what an asshole.

I resumed my ride now trying to figure out where the overlap of assholes might fit into what I have to say; what does a psycho-anti-vaxxer have in common with a guy who kicks an innocent bird for no reason?

The quick conclusion I came to is that I’ve already wasted enough time thinking about these pieces of crap… so we’ll leave it at that.

Moments later, I saw a sign that announced that tonight’s Lotto Max is up to $65 million… so I started thinking about how I might analyze previous draws, and try to use that to predict future ones. Turns out there’s 4,000 draws of historical data to analyze, and that’s what I’m doing right now… potentially far more rewarding than writing about assholes. With some intelligent analysis, I might reduce the odds of winning from a gazillion to one to just one in a zillion.

So… on that note… I’m going to get back to it now… still a few hours before the draw… wish me luck… and if you’ve read this far, tell you what… if I win $65 million dollars, I’ll take $5m of it and split it with everyone who likes this post.

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