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 23, 2021

Let’s take a closer look at out neighbours to the south, where the overall single-jab vaccination rate is around 54% and stagnating…

The top-10 most vaccinated states are: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire & New Mexico.

Vermont tops the list with a vaccination percentage of 73.1%, while New Mexico rounds out the top-10 with 60.8%.

The bottom 10 looks like this…

North Dakota, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Louisiana & Mississippi.

The best of those worst-10 is North Dakota at 43.4%. The worst is Mississippi at 36.0%

That’s quite a divide… where the top state more than doubles the worst one.

Here’s another interesting stat about all of those states…

In the last presidential election, of the top-10, all of them voted Democrat.

Of the bottom-10, 9 of them voted Republican. The one that didn’t, Georgia, is so inwardly-horrified at the result that their Republican-controlled government recently disenfranchised more than 100,000 potential voters, striking them from the rolls… and this was after enacting a number of laws that can only be called “Voter Suppression”. Take a guess which voters are most affected.

None of this is much of a surprise, though the blatant starkness of it is a little eye-opening… but what’s the deal? The blue state/red state divisions largely precede the pandemic, so how does it necessarily follow that raving, unrelenting Trump supporters would also be the anti-mask/anti-vax crowd?

The answer is a bit more complicated than “They’re just a bunch of ignorant rednecks”. The answer, in fact, has a lot to do with distrust of the government. When you’re poor and/or uneducated and/or sick and tired of hearing lies about how the government is going to do so much for you (and then doesn’t), you end up jumping ship to the guy you can relate to… he’s one of us, loud, abrasive, calls it like he sees it, etc. He’s not cut from government cloth.

Which makes Trump all the worse. If anybody could’ve convinced that group about masks and vaccines, it would’ve been him. It could’ve and it should’ve been him. Notwithstanding the shitshow it took to get him elected, it’s like the universe said “Hmm… there’s going to be this pandemic, and a lot of Americans will lose their lives. At least, who could we put in power in the U.S. to mitigate that? Someone that people who’d generally ignore government advice actually listen to?”

Without a doubt, his handling of this pandemic will be what history judges him on, and it’ll be appropriately brutal. When all is said and done, countless American deaths that could’ve been prevented… a figure officially set at over 600,000 at the moment, but the real figure is already a two-comma number.

Trump likes to make shit up as he goes along, depending who he’s talking to. We know he quietly got vaccinated while at the same time telling everyone it’s unnecessary. And then, a couple of months ago, this magnificent quote: ““In a certain way, I’m the father of the vaccine because I was the one that pushed it.”

At least we can end this relatively sad commentary with a good laugh.

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?”

April 10, 2021

In old Star Trek episodes (the original series), the starship Enterprise and the crew would often find themselves in battle against some aliens whose technology was compatible with respect to being able to launch weapons at each other. Accordingly, Captain Kirk would sit on his throne on The Bridge and bark orders to Spock and Chekov… and when they were under heavy attack and the ship was in trouble, it would be something like, “Divert all power to the shields!!”

By that time, though, the poor Enterprise had been suffering volleys of alien torpedoes and lasers and whatever version of energy beam was the flavour of the week… it was springing leaks, and major systems were malfunctioning… so, quite often, Kirk was met with a response of… “Unable.”

Captain Kirk always improvised, and things always turned out well. They always managed to survive. In fact, he, Canadian icon William Shatner turned ninety a few weeks ago. That’s the actor. The actual captain won’t be born till March 22nd, 2233… a birthday celebrated every year in Vulcan, Alberta.

But there’s not much to celebrate in Alberta these days, nor here… nor anywhere in Canada… because, like Kirk vs. The Universe, we’re in an epic battle… against an alien we thought we knew, but now some variant aliens are showing up, and it’s a problem… and the ship is perhaps damaged more than we can tolerate.

To continue with the metaphor, if the Enterprise is the world, we here in Canada are presently the shields. We need more power diverted to us. But… the entire ship is under attack and everyone needs energy, and perhaps there’s nowhere to pull it from. The heroic crew member that’s in the engine room where the Warp Core is about to breach… that guy is asking for help. Send power… we need to vaccinate the anti-matter containment field. Scotty needs to vaccinate the shields. Deck 8 needs to vaccinate the hole in the hull that’s already ejected a few unfortunate red-shirts into deep space. Dr. McCoy needs more power to Sick-Bay so that he can… well, perhaps, actually vaccinate people.

When the shields were low and the Enterprise would take a direct hit, everyone would be bumped hard… left or right, for some reason… never up or down. I guess the gravity system didn’t need a lot of power to keep operating.

The next couple of months are going to feel like that… we’re going to get bumped around. And the present inability to have badly-needed energy/vaccines directed to us will be a good topic of discussion once the ship is docked at Starfleet for repairs. Once the pandemic is over.

But, for now, we just need to get there. Beam me up, Scotty… quickly, before a travel ban is imposed.

March 11, 2021

Like many things, it depends how you look at it… and that generally leads to a bit of disagreement.

I happened to be reading a news story about a cassette tape that a girl lost while on vacation in Spain. Twenty years later, she saw it in an art gallery, part of a “Sea of Artifacts” exhibit by an artist who’d been documenting plastic pollution and making art out of it.

The girl contacted the artist, and the tape was sent to a professional audio restorer who managed to extract all of the music from it – an eclectic collection ranging from Shaggy and Bob Marley to a bunch of Disney numbers.

So, what’s the story?

Is it about the variety in musical taste of some random 12-year old girl?

Is it about serendipity, synchronicity and the universe?

Is it about the resilience of cassettes? It’s impressive; lost at sea for 20 years, travelling 1,200 miles in rough, salty seas… and it’s still playable. The inventor of the cassette tape died recently (aged 94) – I’m sure he was impressed.

Is it about how plastic is so ridiculously indestructible that we really need to be aware of what we’re dumping into the ocean?

Like usual, it depends who you ask and it depends on their agenda. Today, on the one-year anniversary of the WHO declaring Covid-19 a global pandemic, I’m thinking back to all the news I’ve heard, read and written… the spins I’ve muddled through myself, trying to figure out what’s really going on.

Today, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a bit of relaxation in restrictions… outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are now allowed. Also, today, I should point out that our case numbers and ICU admissions are flat… or, keep going up, though not by rates that anyone would call alarming.

It’s been like this from the beginning; somewhat conflicting information that’s left up to interpretation. If you already know the agenda you’re trying to promote, you’ll be able to extract it from there.

I will keep it simple, and this is, as always, only my opinion… outdoor gatherings are probably fine, totally fine. They have been, for a while. Ten people sounds about right, officially, but what does that even mean… if you take over a football field, why not 100. The issue is don’t get too close to someone, and not for too long. You chances of inhaling a lethal viral dose of C19 are next to zero if you’re outdoors. But rules need to be defined, especially because the numbers are not going down… because as straightforward as the rules are, they’re generally not being followed by a significant number of people, and that plays into the math. If 95% of the people stick to the rules and 5% don’t, what can we expect? What if it’s 80/20? What if it’s 50/50?

Once you factor all of that into it, these haphazard-sounding decisions suddenly don’t feel so random or unexpected; they’re not. Like life, it’s all a calculated risk… and the path that’s evident now is one where the numbers don’t get worse, but stay flat or slide downward toward zero… while at the same time slowly and methodically reducing restrictions. It makes sense, though everyone will grab onto the story from different sides and pull in their direction… “numbers aren’t improving”, “see, why did we ever need restrictions”, “I told you it’s ok to get together outside”, “ICU cases keep rising”.

Here’s a generalized suggestion to every single person: Keep doing what you’re doing; we’re all headed in the right direction collectively… you do you, I’ll do me, and we will all eventually hit the finish line. Nobody knows what that percentage split is, but it doesn’t matter… whatever it is, it’s working for us now. If you’ve been sticking to the rules, keep doing so. If you haven’t, I’m sure you won’t start now. And hopefully, that’s all factored into this and it doesn’t matter.

No matter how you look at it, I’m sure we can agree on that.

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February 2, 2021

Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! – and if that little repeat doesn’t make sense to you, it’s time for you to emerge from your own gopher hole, and forget about shadows… just go see the movie… and, also, if you haven’t seen the movie, you might not want to read all of this because it’ll spoil it for you. And if you’re thinking “Who cares, I’m never going to see the movie”… that’s a bad way to look at it… because it’s a good movie. A great movie. In fact, so great… that it’s been selected by the U.S. Library of Congress to be included for permanent preservation in the National Film Registry.

The film isn’t really about Groundhog Day; it just so happens that its repeated events take place on this particular day. It could have been any other holiday… or just some regular Tuesday. And, like most worthwhile films, it touches on many different things; some obvious and some subtle.

Many days of this pandemic have felt exactly like what Phil Connors (Bill Murray in the movie) went through… the same repetitive pattern, day after day after day. Certainly, initially, in the movie, Phil embraced the novelty of having day after day to pursue whatever he wanted… with no consequences. He did more than make crafts and bake sourdough and watch Tiger King, but same idea… and, no matter what, back to 6am the next day. The same next day.

Eventually, he got sick and tired and depressed of it all… but even killing himself didn’t work. Back to a perpetual cycle of day after day… but let’s be clear… this wasn’t a few weeks or months into it… it was years; possibly decades.

Eventually, after all of that, he emerged with some clarity… that if he’s stuck in the same day forever, why not make the best of it for other people, if not himself. He fixes a flat tire. He saves a guy choking to death. He catches a kid falling out of a tree. He lights someone’s cigarette without being asked. On a touching note, he continually and persistently tries to save a man’s life, yet no matter what he tries, it’s to no avail. And that’s just touching the surface of it. There’s a lot of discussion regarding exactly how long Phil replayed that day. Some estimates are in the range of 34 years… more than 12,000 times. No matter what. No matter where. No way out of that town, and no way out of that day… no matter what he tried.

It was eventually living through a “perfect” day that gets him out of his loop. From a spiritual point of view, in Judaism, there’s a concept of “repairing the world”, and that by doing a good deed (a “Mitzvah”) you release a spark of holy energy to the universe… and if everyone went around doing good deeds all the time, we’d all benefit. Certainly, on that particular day, Phil lit a forest fire of reparation.

Like the movie, there’s an end to the pandemic… and like the end of the movie, when we eventually get there, it’ll be happy… but we can all sympathize with Phil. If we didn’t quite get it the first time we ever watched the movie, we certainly do now. I recall watching an interview after Schindler’s List came out… and one of the Schindler Jews who survived The Holocaust was in the audience. She was asked after if she thought the movie was too long. “The real thing was longer”, she replied. Yep. Understood.

And back to today… in a very pandemically-themed ceremony (Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil was wearing a mask), the official little guy came out and saw his shadow… so, as far as Pennsylvania is concerned… six more weeks of winter. On the other hand, Ontario’s Wiarton Willie saw no shadow, so it’s an early spring for them. Here in B.C., I’m not sure we have an official groundhog to make the call, so I’ll do it – and it’s very easy, because unless we hit one of our annual 20 days of sunshine (which obviously today we didn’t), it’ll be cloudy and gray, which means no shadow, which means an early Spring. Great! I can’t wait to go… nowhere.

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October 9, 2020

If there were any doubts about there being a second wave here in Canada, that question seems to have been answered. We’re no doubt in it, and the question that remains is how bad might it get.

This is a big country… from here in Vancouver, St. John’s is not much closer than Tokyo. That’s a lot of space, in which the 38,000,000 of us are all navigating this journey differently.

Heading into the weekend… yesterday, B.C. crossed that “10,000 cases” line. Alberta will have crossed their 20,000 line by the time you read this. Comparatively speaking, Quebec has seen 10,000 new cases in only the last 10 days. Ontario will see its 3,000th death tomorrow.

As we head into this rainy weekend, I don’t have much more to add for today, but one thing… we won’t get updated local stats till Monday, and while I used to do some fancy math to extrapolate/guess what might be in store, I think I’ll back off from that. This isn’t a math exercise; each stat is a real person somewhere, just like you and me.

And wishing every one of those people a good start to this Thanksgiving weekend.

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September 24, 2020

When I was around 13, my mom’s cousin came to visit – from way far away; he and his family live in an industrial town in Slovakia. It was just him that came to visit, and he spent a week with us. I recall he arrived on Saturday morning, and we spent the weekend taking him around town, hitting a bunch of tourist sites. The beauty of Vancouver made a big impact on him; it was all very different from his typical surroundings.

On Monday morning, we all had breakfast together, and then it was time to go… my sister and I to school, my parents to work. They offered to take him downtown or drop him somewhere to look around, but no… he just wanted to chill at home. No worries. When we all left, he was sitting outside, on the deck, overlooking the backyard… with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in his hand.

Fast forward about 10 hours… I got home before anyone, and there he was, still sitting on the deck… the cup of coffee had transformed into a beer, and the ashtray was now overflowing with cigarette butts.

“Have you been sitting here all day?”

“Absolutely.”

OK… whatever melts your butter, I guess… but at the time, I do remember thinking how insanely boring that must have been. I thought about everything I’d done that day (a lot) and compared it with what he’d done (nothing).

The next day, it was the same thing… a full-on 10-hour chill. A few cups of coffee, a few beers, a pack of smokes… and call it a day. And that was pretty much it for the rest of the week. Every single day, all he did was sit outside and stare into the garden.

The world’s most boring man, I thought, at the time.

I told him, at one point,

“I really can’t understand how you can just sit here all day.”

“One day, you will.”

Over the years, every time I think about it, I have a more profound appreciation for it. This guy flew 8,000km to disconnect from his day-to-day reality, and he did it right. Back home, he was a hard worker with tons of responsibility and stress. And here, well before the era of perpetual connectedness, he’d found his oasis and he milked it for all it was worth.

These days, it’s an inward-facing question I ask myself… when I find myself spending time on something I’d rather not: Would I rather be here, or sitting on a deck, staring off into a garden or ocean or space or whatever…

You don’t need me to tell you that we’re living in a crazy world… and that it’s probably going to get a fair bit crazier before it gets better… which means, more than ever, scheduling those “deck moments” ahead of time. Scheduling an entire week of them is a lofty goal we can only aspire towards, but every little bit helps. As the weather gets worse and the days get shorter and the stresses mount and the case-counts and hospitalizations and ICU admission numbers all rise… find your deck – and visit it as often as you can.

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September 19, 2020

For a while, I was putting in guesses for the weekend numbers… since neither B.C. nor Alberta publish anything until Monday. I was further extrapolating that to give a good guess for Canada overall.

I’ve stopped doing that, because as good as my guesses were (sometimes), it’s effectively false advertising and could lead to false assumptions, so what’s the point. Let’s wait 2 days; no big deal.

Unfortunately, false advertising is all around us. I actually fell for it… something popped up on my Facebook… a radio-controlled near-indestructible plane. Surprisingly inexpensive. Cool, that’ll be fun to play with over the summer. For my son, of course, not me…

What arrived was nothing like what was promised. A tiny, very cheap single-layer Styrofoam cut-out stencil of a plane… that barely flew. No radio control of course. Nothing at all like the pictures or video. And, for the price-point, not worth pursuing, not worth sending back, not worth complaining. They know; just enough to grab your money and run. Not enough for any consumer silly enough to fall for it… to care. Had I done the tiniest bit of research, like read the comments below the item, I’d have seen plenty of entries like “Don’t fall for it!!” and “This is a scam!!”. Oh well, lesson learned.

Indeed… as a result of falling for it, my FB feed is now flooded with offers. Some are, I must say, really cool. Most, if not all, are scams. I fell for it once, and FB has decided I’m a sucker and, accordingly, tries to sucker me in one more time. The latest one that almost got me was a self-solving Rubik’s Cube for $12.99. Wow, cool… except, upon reading the comments, I learned it was a useless, cheap knock-off cube that did nothing special… least of all, solve itself.

Somewhere along the line, slim credibility went to zero… probably right around the time accountability did the same thing. With zero repercussions to just “making shit up”, here we are. Advertisers, politicians, whatever. Say whatever you want… to sell whatever you’re dishing out.

"Caveat Emptor" — it's been around so long that "Buyer Beware" originated in Latin, back in the Roman era. You remember, that great Republic of centuries past, that indestructible centre-of-the-universe Empire that would last forever.

What's the relevancy of all this? Ask me in a few weeks.

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August 19, 2020

When I was a little kid, we took a family trip to Britannia Beach and did the tour of the mine… which I highly recommend. Every aspect of that Britannia Mine is impressive. These days the museum has been re-done (they did extensive upgrades just before the 2010 Olympics)… and there is plenty to see and do.

One thing you could do back then (and still can today) is pan for gold.

They had a little fake river set up, and you’d take your pan and sift through the sand, and maybe find something. Indeed, you’d always find something because it was a tourist trap and they wanted you to leave happy… so for $5, you’d probably walk away with 50 cents worth of gold flakes that they’d salted the sand with.

For what it’s worth, panning for gold is a very Zen thing to do. Whenever I find myself on the banks of a river, I wish I had a pan with me. I really should throw one in the car, just in case. I’m unlikely to ever actually find anything, but… you know, it’s the journey, not the destination.

So… those many years ago, once I’d finished panning, the guy in charge fished out the few specks of gold I’d found and put them in a little clear plastic vial… full of water, and my little gold.

My father – the mining engineer – always had with him a couple of little gold nuggets that he had taped inside his wallet. Just something cool to carry around. One of them was perhaps half the size of a penny, and he took it out and put it in the vial. “There, that looks better”, he said.

The guy running the panning station was pretty amused, and they had a good laugh and talked gold for a bit… and, as they were talking, a busload of Japanese tourists showed up. They began looking around, and one came over to see what we were up to. The guy explained the whole panning-for-gold thing… and then my dad showed him the vial.

This tourist looked at the vial with great astonishment, and yelled out something in Japanese… which brought over more people, all of them looking at the vial with excitement. And then… they all wanted to pan for gold. There was only space (and pans) for maybe 10 people, but now there was a whole line up. My dad (and, for sure, the guy running it) were greatly amused.

So many metaphors and sayings you could attach to this little story. Certainly, the first one that comes to mind is… not everything that glitters is gold. The irony, of course, is that in this case, it literally was gold… but still, not the gold you’d expect. Pay attention to where the gold comes from. Pay attention to what you’re being shown. Be careful what you believe. I’m pretty sure none of those Japanese tourists walked away with anything close to what I had in my little vial. I wonder how many of them felt hoodwinked.

Yes, it’s election season down south, and there will be a lot of glittery golden messages being thrown around. They’ll look and sound so big and shiny and impressive. My American friends… and I realize the vast majority of people reading this are actually Canadian, but to those it reaches… like those Japanese tourists who probably didn’t go back to try a second time…don’t get hoodwinked. Once was enough.

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By |2020-10-08T01:09:45-07:00August 19th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Sports & Gaming, Space & Astronomy|Tags: , , , , |12 Comments
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