May 2, 2021

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

That’s perhaps the most famous opening line of any novel – “A Tale of Two Cities”.

Charles Dickens was talking about London and Paris… but today I’m going to write about a tale of two provinces… B.C. and Alberta… which these days are about as different as those two cities during the French Revolution. It’s interesting though… you read that paragraph, and you might find yourself relating it to present day. It fits.

Here at the 7-day daily new-case averages for the two provinces:

four weeks ago: AB 1,221 / BC 1,122
three weeks ago: AB 1,413 / BC 1,041
two weeks ago: AB 1,573 / BC 942
last week: AB 1,870 / BC 818

You don’t need to graph it to see the pattern, but I’ll describe what it looks like… it’s a big less-than sign (“ < ”) … where AB is going up and BC is going down. As usual, we don’t have weekend numbers here, so tomorrow we’ll get some idea where things are going… but it should be noted we’re entering the period of time where the effects of the latest set of restrictions should start becoming evident. I would expect things to follow this pattern of improvement… or, at least, be no worse. But that’s just here in B.C. There’s no large English-Channel-like body of water between these provinces… there’s barely a border… that you might miss if you’re going too fast and blink at the wrong time. And we’re certainly not at war. We want both sides to win. I hope they figure out and take the steps necessary to control things; it’s a tough spot to be in… and it’s a bumpy ride to the finish. But it’s not as bumpy as the end of that fine book, where the protagonist, Carton, is having some final thoughts as he heads towards the guillotine… “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” That’s a little extreme. Then again, he was about to go get his head cut off. If you wanted to map that closing line to the present day, let’s keep it simple… do, as usual, the right thing… and then get a good night’s sleep.

April 29, 2021

Today’s brief summary requires nothing more than a brief look at the vaccination graph I’ve posted below the usual charts. And if this were being presented as a brief summary in some boardroom somewhere, there would be some hushed whispers. “Hey… what’s the deal with the blue line?”

We’ll get to it.

This is a graph of smoothed-out daily data of the number of people being vaccinated by region, normalized to a number per million.

If you look at the tail-end of the graph, which is from the last day or two, you can see the thick red Canada line somewhere near 7,500… which means, on a daily basis, 7,500 out of a million Canadians are being vaccinated. That number was 4,500 a month ago.

In fact, here’s a look across the country of rough seven-day averages:

BC, a month ago: 4,600. Today: 7,100
AB, a month ago: 3,700. Today: 7,300
SK, a month ago: 3,600. Today: 6,000
MB, a month ago: 3,000. Today: 8,800
ON, a month ago: 4,700. Today: 7,600
QC, a month ago: 5,200. Today: 7,400

Across the board – very good. Vaccination programs across the country gearing up and/or delivering at increasingly-effective rates.

Now, let’s look at that thick blue line… our neighbours to the south. That’s the line that seems to be going in the wrong direction, opposite to all the others.

US, a month ago: 5,300. Today: 3,700

The irony of course is that the U.S. is comparatively drowning in vaccine… but demand is waning. This is the pattern that took them to a 43% vaccination rate, but the next 43%… well, it’ll be beyond difficult. It may actually be impossible.

Forget all of the complicated supply/demand market elasticity theories you may have come across. All of it is irrelevant. If this were a business, the boardroom presentation would be a PowerPoint full of lousy explanations and poor excuses… because the fundamental value proposition is gone. The business model is going to fail, because, as good as the product may be, demand is drying up. R&D department? They did what they were asked and delivered beautifully. Legal? Check. Logistics and distribution? Check. Marketing? Ouch.

It still boggles the mind. This is the part that I and many others simply didn’t see coming. That, after creating, in record time, what’s arguably one of the greatest achievements ever in medical science, an awful lot of people simply don’t want it. A massive failure, arguably due to nothing more than awful, irresponsible, criminally negligent messaging. The marketing department responsible got fired in November and the new team took over in January… but as hard as they’re trying to fix the damage, it may be too late.

Brutal. Meeting adjourned.

April 27, 2021

Take a map of Canada and tip it to the left… like rotate it about 45 degrees. Now you have British Columbia on the bottom. If you imagine the population being 38 million little specs of dust all over the map, you shake it a bit, and the specs all fall towards B.C. To some extent, this is the understood path of migration of people in this country. Should you choose to move from wherever you are, there’s a good chance you’re heading west. Vancouver is continually voted one of the best cities in the world to live in; choosing to move somewhere around here is pretty sane.

On the flipside, our neighbours to the south do it very much the other way around. First of all, you have to tip the U.S. map 45 degrees to the right. That leaves Florida on the bottom. And then, the little shakeout is not the sane people… quite the opposite. How else can you explain disproportionate insanity that seems to emanate from The Sunshine State.

News headlines from Florida are in a league of their own… things like “Thousands of gun owners in Florida planning to ‘shoot down’ Hurricane Irma”

In fact, whenever you see a news story that starts off with “Florida man…”, you know you can expect the crazy. It’s such a thing that there’s even a Twitter account of exactly that – a collection of Florida Man headlines… with gems like:

Florida Man tries to rob GameStop while wearing transparent bag on his head

Florida Man denies drinking and driving, says he only swigged bourbon at stop signs

Florida Man stabs tourist despite having no arms

Florida Man asks trooper if he can leave the scene of crash to get more meth

Florida Man bursts into ex’s delivery room, fights her new boyfriend as she’s giving birth

Florida Man bored, calls 9-11 to talk about Hitler

Florida Man tries to evade arrest by cartwheeling away from cops

Florida Man trapped in unlocked closet for two days

This is an endless list that grows on a daily basis, and serves as a perfect introduction to the “crazy of the day” – a private school in Miami that’s barring contact between students and vaccinated teachers. Because, somehow, vaccinated teachers may pose a threat.

The school’s position: “Tens of thousands of women all over the world have recently been reporting adverse reproductive issues from being in close proximity with those who have received any one of the COVID-19 injections.”

That’s bullshit. There have been no such reports.

Also, “No one knows exactly what may be causing these irregularities, but it appears that those who have received the injections may be transmitting something from their bodies to those with whom they come in contact.”

Also bullshit… of the spectacular sort.

There is, of course, zero scientific credibility to any of this… and it’d be next to impossible to come up with anything plausible to explain it. Magical evaporation of vaccinated blood somehow making its way to bystanders? Just make up the insane narrative, shove it down peoples’ throats, and hope they swallow it. And many do.

The school’s response to being questioned on this policy: ““We’re doing what we think is in the best interest of the children because children shouldn’t be around teachers who are vaccinated.”

This is amusing at first glance, and then terrifying when you think about it some more. It’s frightening to think what else might be being taught to the kids there. We rhetorically ask… how can there exist people who think this way? The question and the answer are the same. Where do university-educated anti-vaxxers come from? Places like this.

The bigger problem is that this is all part of why the U.S. may actually never get to a vaccination percentage high enough for herd immunity. They have millions of doses available for whoever wants one… but the demand is waning. They’re at 43% of the population having at least one dose, but now some are saying they don’t want the second one… so there’s no real purpose in arguing what’s needed for full herd immunity. 70% 80% 90%… they’re all the same, because the way things are going, none of them will get reached.

It’s not incorrect to label this an issue of ignorance and bad messaging. The previous administration, the demonizing of science, the miseducation of large swaths of people… factors which add up and conspire against critical thinking and common sense. It’s perhaps not a lost cause for those who genuinely don’t know any better, but it’d require a big public-service effort of education. Back to school for everyone. Just… please… not that one in Florida.

February 26, 2021

When you bash your finger with a hammer, yelling out “Golly!” doesn’t quite have the same clout, effect and/or relief than some other choice word. Why is that? There’s actually a word that describes it:

Lalochezia: (n.) the emotional relief gained from using abusive or profane language

We grow up attaching “value” to certain words, and that emotional release they offer is the payoff for all the investment over the years… the small outbursts and exclamations load the profanity cannon, ready to blast when needed. And it’s all inward-facing. There’s nothing magical about the words we all use, and if we’d grown up in a household where different words were used as exclamations of the sort, we’d have learned those associations instead… and then, when you’re in the parking lot of the supermarket and slam your finger shut with your car door, whatever you scream out wouldn’t be met with looks of disapproval from nearby mothers with small innocent children who’ve obviously never heard such vile language. Ah, what a great memory.

Interesting though… for those who speak more than one language… can you swear “effectively” in something other than your primary language? Of course you know all the bad words (it’s the first thing you learn in any new language…) but does it have the same effect?

I was out riding my bike today, lost in thought. A beautiful sunny windy day… perfect.

The vast majority of the time, I think in English… but I was composing a business letter in my head, in Spanish, so that’s where my brain was at when someone decided to walk straight onto the bike lane, crossing it without looking. I slammed on my brakes and skidded to a stop; nobody was hurt, but I did instinctively find myself yelling out a profanity… and so, one might wonder… in what language?

The answer is… English. Whatever fight-or-flight reflex that gets triggered… whatever part of the brain gets activated in this situation… it’s separate from the intellectual part, regardless of whatever language in which it was currently engaged. I switched instantly from intellectual, verbose Spanish… to one single well-known English word. And, in doing so, switched my brain entirely back to English, in which the ensuing conversation took place.

For those pedestrians who also enjoy the sunny windy beautiful fresh air, do keep in mind that if it’s a bike lane, the bikes have the right of way. And if you screw up and walk in front of a bike, causing the cyclist to slam on the brakes and instinctively yell something, don’t get all indignant. Just apologize and move on. Nothing got hurt except your fragile ego. You have the right to be pissed off… just not at me.

Speaking of pissed off, there will be a lot of pissed-off anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-intelligent people, who were all ready to invade the BC Ferry service and head to Victoria for Freedom Rally tomorrow. Thanks to high winds, all sailings are cancelled. How unfortunate. Perhaps they can quickly organize something locally. Given the wind situation, might I suggest… to all of them… go fly a kite.

And for everyone else, here it is in eloquent Spanish, now that my brain is back in that mode: Espero que tengan un muy buen fin de semana y que disfruten!

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February 1, 2021

Monday is data catch-up day, when we try to make some sense of where numbers are… and, on the surface… for the moment… not bad. The downward trend is evident everywhere… all across Canada. Here in BC, the first 10 days of the year averaged 539 new cases a day and an average of 364 people hospitalized. The next 20 days saw an average of 493 daily cases and 339 hospitalizations. The last 10 days have shown an average of 445 new cases… and 303 hospitalizations. Today’s numbers show 277 new cases and 289 people hospitalized across the province with C19 (79 in ICU).

If looking at numbers isn’t your thing, just look at the pictures. Great, right?

Sort of. Also, over the weekend… Canada surpassed 20,000 C19 deaths. Quebec alone is approaching 10,000. Nevertheless, the trends are going in the right direction. What could go wrong?

Three big things, with varying degrees of potential impact.

One is that I mentioned, perhaps a little short-sightedly, that the worst is over with respect to large family gatherings. Notwithstanding the ridiculously irresponsible penthouse parties popping up in Yaletown… upcoming, we have the SuperBowl. Then there’s Lunar New Year. After that there’s Family Day. All of that is supposed to look a little different this year, and for most people it will… but not everybody… so, there could be an effect… especially because of number two…

… which are these new C19 variants, which have everyone a little concerned. The concern isn’t that they’re any more deadly, because they’re likely not. As viruses evolve and mutate, their intention is to propagate faster, and killing the host too quickly isn’t part of the plan. Killing the host at all, by the way, isn’t necessarily part of the plan, from the virus’s point of view. It just wants to propagate. The fact it makes us sick is an unfortunate side-effect, one about which, I assure you, the virus couldn’t care less. Because, of course, it can’t care in the first place.

But, we can care, and we should… because, as we’ve learned, we’re never too far from a full-on outbreak, and a virus with a higher Rø the potential to cause exactly that. Many people are sick and tired of hearing Dr. Henry’s “Now is not the time to (party/travel/get together)…” and “Now it’s our time to (oh, you know)…” slogans, but they’re true… more than ever.

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January 4, 2021

Imagine a parallel universe… there’s an earth there too, and everything is pretty similar. They’re going through a C19 pandemic as well, but it’s a little different. On that parallel earth, the virus behaves quite differently. There, it’s very, very contagious. So contagious, in fact, that by the time people realized it even existed, everyone already had it. The good news is that as contagious as it was, it seemed relatively harmless. No big deal.

Except, as time went on, it was realized that the longer it lingered in your body, the worse it got. It’d mutate inside of you and, over time, make you sicker and sicker. The fact it mutated so easily made it difficult to formulate a vaccine… but, great news, there was a simple way to purge this thing; the more you associated with other people, the better the outcomes. It seemed that people breathing all over each other and sharing their exhaust would provide others with the anti-virus tools their bodies needed to heal… and, the more variety you got, the better.

The provincial health orders went out; nobody go to work; instead, congregate with as many people as you can. Big, thick crowds, ideally strangers. Pack the gyms, sweat… and breathe all over each other. Tight spaces with little ventilation are ideal. Spread the goodness around. Party on. Spend as much time with as many different people as you can. It’s for the greater good.

The government begins offering people 2 grand a month to not work, but instead… just socialize. Wealthy people rent out entire venues… clubs downtown, Rogers Arena… even BC Place. Come one, come all – free food and drinks (within reason) as long as you promise to stay at least 3 hours and mingle with as many strangers as you can. Tens of thousands of people show up every night; needless to say, this is embraced by a tremendous amount of people. This year becomes the best and most memorable time of their lives.

For others, though… it becomes a nightmare. For the introverts of the world, being forced to party and mingle – with strangers, no less – is as far out of their comfort zone as it gets. Once in a while… maybe. But every single night?

So… these people start looking for ways to duck the orders… what if we don’t go out every night? What if it’s with a few people, not just huge crowds? What if it’s in a private place, not out in public? What if it’s with some people we know, not just all strangers?

“Covidiots!!”, yell the masses, “… stop trying to bend the rules. Stop trying to think you’re special. Get the hell out there, party and mingle and meet as many strangers as you can. It’s for the greater good!”

Crowds of people go door to door, banging on doors, shaming those who’ve chosen to stay home. “Save your books and chess and Netflix for next year!!”, they scream in your face, “It’s your responsibility! It’s your duty! Get the hell out here… come on man, there’s this great Rave going on in this warehouse in Chilliwack… like 5,000 people… it’s on till 6am!! Let’s go!!”

Personally, I am an affirmed introvert. I score 90% in those personality tests where it comes to introvert/extrovert. So, while for me, the isolation part of this pandemic has been no big deal, I’m well aware the mental toll this is taking on others. How would I feel having to go out every day, partying all night with a bunch of strangers? If we flip all of these circumstances around, how would I feel? When I think about what I just described, if I had to live like that… I think I’d be losing my mind. And so, I realize… that for people for whom that’s the norm, this has all been a significantly bigger struggle.

I know people who spend 200 days a year traveling… airports, airplanes and hotels are their norm; their safe space; their comfort zone. Being forced into this present experience is just as jarring as it’d be to me to have to leave this comfort zone of mine and party all day. Actually, it’s probably far more jarring for them; if the entire world is your office, your workspace, your play-zone… having all that disappear, pretty-much overnight… it’s a huge jolt.

I say all this because while I’m firmly on the “follow the rules/get the vaccine/wear a mask in public/this will soon be over” bandwagon, I realize that for a lot of people, it’s far more easily said than done.

Later this month, January 28th, will be the tenth anniversary of the “Bell’s Let’s Talk” campaign, which aims to raise awareness around mental illness. It’s very clear what this year’s topic of discussion will be, because long after the virus is physically gone from our lives, the mental impact will linger.

For the moment, it helps us all to put ourselves in other people’s shoes… because talk is cheap, but actions speak louder than those words… and while it’s very easy for people to preach to others “Stay home!”, that’s a difficult ask for many, and we need to understand that.

“What’s the big deal – just stay home” – it works for me, but it might not work for you…and I sympathise. And hopefully one day, sooner than later, you can all be throwing your big parties. Feel free to invite me; I’ll probably show up for a bit, say hi… and then stand by the wall for a while… and sneak out when no one’s looking.

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December 7, 2020

Numbers day here in B.C., which brings everything up to date… and not surprisingly, there are no big surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the weekend numbers added up to… 2020.

Everything is proceeding with clockwork consistency… which means, around here, a continual case growth of 1.9% — a rate at which cases would double in about 37 days, which would be January 13th… which coincidentally is about two weeks after New Year’s, and three weeks after Christmas. Also not surprising is that Dr. Henry extended all present orders until January 8th… because, the fact is, they’re helping.

The collision course of this latest effort – these recent orders, which are making a difference — will run straight into the holiday season, and your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen. As we’ve learned, this virus doesn’t usually transmit from 10 people giving it to 10 others. It’s more like one person giving it to 20. That’s why the usual family holiday gatherings can be so risky. One contagious person ends up being patient zero of their own, exponential outbreak.

The vaccine news is good, but requires a reality check. The good news is that the first 250,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be arriving in Canada next week. Since it’s a two-shot vaccine, that’ll be good for 125,000 people. The vaccine will be distributed on a pro-rata basis, which should mean B.C. will get around 34,000 doses… good enough for 17,000 people. Obviously, that’s not enough to change anything; it’ll be months before enough people have had it where it could make a tangible difference.

In fact, if you were to get the vaccine tomorrow, what would change in your life? If you’re following the orders, your chances of getting the virus were slim, and now they would go down to pretty-much nil. But gatherings are still banned, things are still closed/postponed/cancelled, and you would still be wearing a mask.

We’re nearing the end, but we’re still at the beginning of the end. At least it’s in sight; remember, not so long ago, the hardest part of this was not knowing how long it could possibly go on… I likened it to preferring a prison sentence of known length; lock me up for 5 years, with a definite date when I get to walk free. I’d prefer that to being locked up, and having someone every day tell me either it’s time to go home… or not. There’s great comfort in certainty, and with certainty I can tell you – as fuzzy as it is presently – that’s a finish line on the horizon.

Also, with respect to the finish line of former Canucks anthem singer Mark Donnelly’s career… shoutout to Mark Donnelly, the sportswriter from Northern England who covers Sunderland AFC and who knew little about hockey or Vancouver… until his phone blew up over the weekend, over which he received over 1,000 messages on Twitter, both public and private, both praising him and insulting him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know our anthem and can’t sing (or skate), so he won’t be filling-in any time soon… but he does wear a mask, and advocates for their use. Cheers, mate.

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December 5, 2020

Coincidentally, I wrote yesterday about the great leadership in the Vancouver Canucks’ past. Today, I’ll briefly write about the great leadership of the present. And I’m not (just) talking about present captain Bo Horvat.

In the last 24 hours, here’s what’s happened: Today, there will be an anti-mask rally. This one is being called the “B.C. Christmas Freedom Rally 2020”, and will take place, as usual, in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery… the usual anti-mask, anti-vaxx, covid-is-a-hoax crowd. The guy who has been singing the national anthems at Canucks games for 20 years, Mark Donnelly, announced that he’s not only going to attend the event, but also perform there as well… and not just the national anthem.

The Canucks didn’t like that at all, and issued a statement distancing themselves from the event, from Donnelly, from the whole sordid mess. Shortly after that, they officially announced that Donnelly is no longer affiliated with the team. And shortly after that, Francesco Aquilini, the managing partner of the Canucks ownership group, confirmed it… and Tweeted out a message to the Vancouver Sun, asking them to modify their headline, and to now refer to the anthem singer as “former”.

This isn’t the first time Mark Donnelly has tripped up. First of all, there was that time, back in 2014, where he literally tripped up; trying to sing the anthem while skating, he tripped over the red carpet and went flying. You can find it on YouTube, with millions of views. It’s worth seeing. But… more to the point… Donnelly showed up on the Art Gallery steps in 2012, singing the anthem at an anti-abortion rally.

If you’re wondering why that’s any different, and why that didn’t cost him his job, it’s very simple… and goes to the heart of this misunderstood thing called “freedom”. That poor word has been badly mangled, especially due to the American takeover of it and what it’s supposed to mean.

To be clear, being asked to wear a mask is not an infringement on your human rights. And facing consequences for you what you do and/or say is not a violation of your rights with respect to freedom of speech. You won’t get thrown in jail for criticizing the government, but actions have consequences, and if your actions affect other people, you can expect to be held responsible. Donnelly showing up at an anti-abortion rally? It tells you something about the man, but freedom of religion is a right, and if that’s how you think, as vehemently as anyone may disagree with you (including your employer), there’s nothing offside about it. But… aligning yourself with people promoting behaviour that puts everyone at risk?

As you can imagine, the reply thread to Aquilini’s Tweet is a complete shitshow… ranging from strong support to total outrage. “I’ve been a Canucks fan for 30 years, but now I’m cancelling my season tickets and will never watch another game!!1!!!!1!!!”… LOL.

It’s a smart move by Aquilini… there is no doubt this is the first time the vast majority of Canucks fans have agreed with him. But beyond that, the messaging. If you’re a public figure and/or your reach is into the hundreds of thousands, you actually have a responsibility… because the message you put out there gets listened to by a lot of people. It applies to the Canucks and it applies to Mark Donnelly. Because, for the 10 millionth time, this is a pandemic, and people spread it from one to another, and masks prevent that from happening.

Donnelly canceled himself. The Canucks… yes, I understand the business aspect of it… the Canucks want to be able to fill that building as soon as possible. They want to sell you tickets. They want to sell you beer and hotdogs and nachos and bottled water and 50/50 tickets and parking and swag. They want to sell you the whole live experience, because that’s how they make money. They also want things back to normal. And, the Canucks understand that when those seats get filled, they don’t want to see 18,910 people booing the anthem singer. Time to move on, and there’s already a strong movement to hand the role to Marie Hui, a very logical and deserving successor.

Or… this will sound a little self-serving, but I have a bit of a connection to the anthem singing at Rogers Arena… because over the last 20 years, I’ve made many efforts to get local talent onto the ice to do it. It’s worked out a few times, but it’s an uphill process, if for no other reason than the countless number of people who’d love the opportunity. There’s a lot of talent in this town… why not have 45 different anthem singers every season? Let’s mix it up a bit. Maybe it’s one more tiny little positive change that can emerge from this pandemic… sounds good to me.

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November 30, 2020

B.C. got its updated numbers today… sort of. More data correction with respect to Fraser Health, and 277 previously unaccounted-for cases that should’ve been counted between Nov 18th and 26th. It’s a fun challenge trying to incorporate that without wrecking the integrity of the data.

Of course, what’s really important is what’s going on now, not what happened a week or two ago… but it’d be nice to consider all of this data reliably, and I doubt we’ve seen the end of these corrections.

Corrections or not, what happened two weeks ago is more important than it sounds, because it’s those new cases back then that today unfortunately translate to hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths.

Looking at today’s big picture, here’s what it looks like: The lifestyle changes imposed upon us might be making a difference, as far as new cases is concerned. The last three days were surprisingly not as drastic as a pessimist might have expected… and maybe we can hope it’s the start of a trend.

Unfortunately, the trailing pattern to cases is, as per above, hospitalizations… and deaths, which seem to trail new cases by a period of about 10-14 days. That makes sense; for those whose course through this disease is a difficult one, it generally doesn’t happen all at once.

What we’re seeing now is the end-result of the spike in cases that led to those new orders being imposed and then being tightened a few days later. Those in charge understand well the implications, and that’s with a medical system that isn’t yet busting at the seams. So, what have we seen recently?

Almost 100 people have died of C19 in B.C. in the last eight days. Before that, it took 48 days for the previous 100 deaths to add up. And before that, it was 140 days. To summarize, in British Columbia:

May 19th to Oct 5th: 101 deaths (140 days)

Oct 6th to Nov 22nd: 101 deaths (48 days)

Nov 23rd to Nov 30th: 98 deaths (8 days)

That’s not a great trend… because if it were to keep up at that pace, we’d have over 300 new deaths by the weekend. Fortunately, that’s not going to happen, but this is a little taste of what it looks like when things go from bad to worse to downright scary.

It’s a little bit promising that the new case counts are starting to drop, but we are far from being able to say we’ve turned any sort of corner. Just take a deep breath and stick with doing the right thing… and we’ll see what this week brings.

November_30_2020

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November 26, 2020

So at some point in the not-too-distant future, a person says to their robot… “Please go to the grocery store and get two steaks. And if they have eggs, get a dozen.” And the robot goes to the store, and comes back with… a dozen steaks.

This is a popular joke among computer programmers, because they’re the ones who get it right away. Indeed, computers are only as good as what you put into them, and the programming error that would lead to the twelve steaks is a common one. With computers, you need to be specific. You can’t make assumptions. If told to get steaks, it will get steaks. Computers aren’t smart enough to read into the obvious subtext that the human brain picks up instantly… and this is why the errors in the B.C. data that came to light yesterday can only be blamed on human error. Officially labelled “an IT error”, it’s more colloquially known as a “B.C.K. error” – Between Chair and Keyboard. Another common computer saying: Garbage In, Garbage Out. I’m thinking there may be someone looking for a job.

We don’t need to single out the health authority that messed up… but if you’re curious, their name sort of rhymes with “laser stealth”. Or “blazer wealth”. Given that it’s actually the provincial health region with the most cases, screw-ups there could make a difference to where we think things are at. Did it?

The ultimate changes are reflected in today’s numbers; all corrections have been applied, and I’m assuming with today’s data, we’re back on track. If you want to compare, you can flip back to yesterday’s post and see what changed. Side-note, if you’re looking at yesterday’s post, feel free to have a look at the comments, especially near the bottom…

Anyway, after it all shakes out, the end result isn’t too different. The provincial case count is 271 more than had previously been thought, a discrepancy of less than one percent. The interesting thing is how it got there… undercounts *and* overcounts. I could understand if there was data missing every day… or, double-counted, so bigger-than-expected numbers here and there. But both? That’s just… really bad.

The 271 isn’t a big deal, but what might have made a difference would’ve been the “shape” of the numbers. We’d all thought we had this massive day of 941 new cases. That never happened. That day only had 706. The “big” day was Nov 21st, with 835. Except, of course, this is changing by the day… and you can ignore all of that, because, unfortunately, the B.C. record for number of new cases was set… today, at 887. And don’t expect it to last too long.
What as I was saying about the “shape” of cases was simply this: Let’s say there were 5,000 new cases over the last 5 days. There’s a big difference… if those 5 days looked like 300, 489, 797, 1299, 2115… vs. 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000. Or, of course, 2115, 1299, 797, 489, 300. Those are three very different stories being told.

As it turns out, if anything, the corrected numbers served to “flatten” the look a bit. But again, not materially relevant.

At the end of the day, these graphs, charts, and ultimate analysis are only as good as what goes into it. As per above, Garbage In, Garbage Out.

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