June 18, 2021

If you grew up in these parts and have been around long enough, you certainly remember Expo 86. The world came to visit, and the city hasn’t been the same since.

One thing that most people who visited the World’s Fair had was an Expo passport. You’d carry it around and get stamps from everywhere you visited at the fair. Somewhere in my basement storage is my well-tattered Expo passport, and it’s full of pretty-much every stamp that existed. Every pavilion, every restaurant, every ride, every kiosk… all had their own unique stamp, and it became my mission to get them all. Even the Expo 86 mascot, Expo Ernie, had one… and if you could find him wandering around, he’d stamp your passport too.

There were a few very rare ones… like, for example, Jimmy Pattison. He had his own stamp, and the story of how I got him to stamp my passport is pretty good. Jimmy P, the well-known legendary-yet-ruthless businessman / epic philanthropist / CEO of Expo 86, at least back then, drove a monster of a car… like one of those 8-gallons-to-the-mile Lincoln Continentals from the early 80s. And maneuvering a big car like that around the tight spaces surrounding the fair wasn’t so easy, I guess… and, on one bright sunny summer day in 1986, he almost ran me over. It wasn’t actually that close, and I wasn’t actually that shaken up… but he stopped and made sure I was ok and asked if I needed anything. Yes, Jimmy, in fact I do… and that is how I got the coveted JP Expo 86 passport stamp.

It’s starting to feel like any sort of vaccine passport will have the look and feel of an Expo passport, where instead of visiting countries and getting their stamp, you’ll visit their vaccines and get those.

What’s starting to become apparent is that there is no such thing as *the* vaccine. That was a concept we all collectively came up with last year; “once *the* vaccine shows up, we’ll all be saved.”

Not so simple now, is it.

All vaccines are not created equal. And even if they were, it seems some vaccines are more equal than others. We’re starting to see some hints of vaccine “protectionism”… like, in the U.S., if you want to go to the Springsteen concert (yeah, how appropriate… Born… In The U.S.A….), you will need an American-made vaccine. Pfizer? Yeah man. Moderna? Sure dude. AstraZeneca? Not so fast, old chap.

This morning, Singapore began offering the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, and clinics were overrun with demand. This, notwithstanding the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have been available there for a long time, and half the population of 5.7 million have already had one or the other. And notwithstanding that Pfizer/Moderna have efficacy rates of around 95% while Sinovac is only 51%.

None of that matters. What matters is… that if you’re a Chinese national who lives in Singapore and wants to travel to mainland China, the only way to avoid quarantine upon arrival is to have the Sinovac vaccine. Oh, you’ve already had two shots of Pfizer and are completely immune? That’s nice, but if you want to visit our country hassle-free, you’ll have to have this one as well.

And so, perhaps, once it’s established that there’s no way to O.D. on vaccine, people will have some decisions to make. If AstraZeneca is going to be treated like a second-class citizen south of the border, what do you do? What does it mean for those who’ve had two doses of AZ and want to cross the border? What if you’ve had one AZ and one Pfizer/Moderna? What if you’ve had AZ, Sinovac, J&J *and* Sputnik? What if you’re so loaded with vaccine that you’re immune till 2027 and serve as your own 5G beacon?

These are not irrelevant questions. The U.S. may consider AZ a 2nd-tier vaccine just like China considers Pfizer/Moderna… but Canada will end up making its own policies as well. And it’s going to get messy, because people will scream discrimination. And, of course, that’s exactly what it is. Little of this has anything to do with actual science or vaccine efficacy or actual practicality. It’s mostly just bullshit politics.

One of the tag lines of Expo 86 was about “Inviting The World”, which we certainly did. And we still do… though, in future… well, bring your well-stamped passport with you.

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.

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.

May 27, 2021

You’ve heard me say, “Start at the finish line and work backwards from there.” It’s a strategy that’s served me well in life, and looking at today’s B.C. graph reminded me of something.

Back in high school, grade 12 — our science teacher wanted us to figure out absolute zero experimentally. This isn’t a complicated experiment; it’s simply based on the assumption that the volume of a gas changes with temperature. The hotter the gas, the more space it wants to occupy… so if you’ve got the gas locked into a fixed-volume chamber, by measuring the pressure at different temperatures, you can learn a lot.

Side-note… I got into an argument once with someone who insisted that it’s possible to have a temperature colder than absolute zero. Given that temperature is really just measuring the speed of molecules, and that absolute zero is the speed at which they stop, I think it’s impossible for anything to be colder that that… in much the same way it’s impossible for your car to be going any slower than “stopped”. If any experts want to tell me how it might be possible, I’m listening. In fact, like the speed of light, I believe you can’t even get to it… you can just get really close… but if you reach it, all sorts of universal rules break down.

Anyway, with this experiment, you measure the pressure of the gas at different temperatures… and then you graph it. You plot the points on a graph; pressure vs. temperature. And since this is a linear relationship, you should be able to find the temperature by finding the line that cuts through all the data points and then eventually hits the graph at zero. This process is called extrapolation… where you take certain data, figure out the rules that apply to it, and make intelligent guesses with data points you haven’t actually measured experimentally. If your car passes a fence post every 10 seconds at 50km/h, can you figure out how fast you’d need to be going if you wanted to pass a fence post every one second? You can measure and graph it at 50, 100 and maybe even 150km/h… and if you plot that, there’s a perfect straight line to show you you’d need to be going 500km/h. Much easier than trying to do it experimentally.

Of course, if you’re relying on the graph to give you the answer, it’s important the measurements be accurate because a couple of dots just a bit off will move the line significantly. An extrapolation of absolute zero that’s +/- 3 degrees of the real answer is a good result.

But I chose to start at the finish line… and found exactly where, on the graph, absolute zero would be (-273.15 C.)… and drew my line from there to my first data point. And then, magically, all of my results landed perfectly onto the line.

When the teacher was handing back the lab books next class, he stopped at my desk.

“Congratulations on your excellent result, Mr. Kemeny.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t you find it extraordinary that, armed with just some rudimentary equipment, you managed to find a result accurate to within a 10th of a degree?”

“It’s quite remarkable, sir.”

“How do you explain it?”

“It must be due to the excellent science instruction I’ve been receiving in this course, sir.”

“Thank you, but I’m not that good. Please keep in mind, Mr. Kemeny, that life rarely offers you shortcuts.”

“I suppose that means that when it does, we should take them?”

He just handed me back the lab book. I got 8/10. Everyone else got 10. I didn’t argue.

Looking at today’s B.C. graph, it’s a linear descent towards zero new cases a day. Like bad data, a couple of bad days can significantly affect the landing point, but until it does, let’s have a bit of fun with the numbers.

You’ll see below three new graphs. The first one is a consolidation of all of the vaccination rate graphs. Yes, we get it, they’re all going up, nobody is getting un-vaccinated, and those graphs are small enough that the nuanced differences between provinces are indistinguishable. So now, they’re all on one graph… if you want to compare apples to apples.

The other two graphs, as per above, are extrapolations… one is Canada and the other is B.C. The thick line is the real data up to today. The dotted line is where we’re headed if nothing changes. This is still very much a work in progress… so, we shall see. I’m no expert… just some guy plotting points and drawing lines.

It’d be nice to be able to work backwards; certainly, it’s what our provincial health ministry has tried to do with our 4-step re-opening plan… but here we’re stuck doing the actual experiment… and, it should be noted… if these numbers and graphs are anywhere close to reality, we will easily achieve the targets of out provincial 4-set plan. I’d certainly give that a well-deserved 10/10.

May 20, 2021

Not much going on today, so let’s set aside the pandemic for a day… and here’s a PSA of sorts… something to keep in mind.

There are always lots of fun little games floating around on social media… especially on Facebook… where it’ll ask you to figure out your stripper name or thug name or porn-star name… by combining something like your first pet’s name with the street you grew up on. Or maybe your middle name and the first car you owned.

I don’t mind revealing that my stripper name may be Tippy Cypress or my porn name may be Claudio Mustang… but the reason I don’t care is that none of those things are passwords I use anywhere, nor are they answers to security questions….

… and that’s the thing. Many people use exactly those sorts of words for passwords and security questions. Like when you lose your password, it’ll try to verify who you are by asking things like that… most commonly used to be “mother’s maiden name”, but most places now let you choose the questions and supply the answers. People will typically choose the questions with answers they’ll never forget… like the street you grew up on. Like your first car.

And somewhere… some bad guy… intent on stealing identities… now has a bit more to work with. If he already knows your name and email address and home address and phone number… there’s a lot he can do. People who wonder how it’s possible their online accounts were compromised… this is one way. And for bots who hammer away relentlessly trying to crack into accounts, throwing these few words into their mix of “things to try” can be very helpful.

Some suggestions… don’t use obvious answers to security questions. Don’t post your stripper name if it contains information that you’re suddenly realizing may be sensitive. Another strategy for security questions is use wrong answers you’ll never forget.

I was amused to hear of one guy who uses the word Buffalo for everything. Favourite city? Buffalo. Nickname you grew up with? Buffalo. Favourite animal? Buffalo.
Last aircraft you flew? Street you grew up on? Favourite style of chicken wings? Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo.

Some of you are now thinking, “Oh shit” and are running off to change some passwords and security questions and answers. Good call… go for it.

And for the rest of you, ok… one bit of pandemic news… I’ll share it because it’s good… today’s number of new cases in B.C (357) is the lowest since mid-February. That’s really good… no question about that.

By |2021-05-20T17:03:26-07:00May 20th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , |3 Comments

May 6, 2021

Starting today, the RCMP will be throwing up the roadblocks. They’ve announced the following:

Highway 1 in the Boston Bar area
Highway 3 in the Manning Park area
Highway 5 in the Old Toll Booth area
Highway 99 in the Lillooet area

In reading their press release from yesterday, here are my thoughts…

The only one of those that’s remotely relevant to people in the lower mainland would be the last one… and that’s only if you decide to not only boot it up to Whistler… but decide to continue the road-trip up, past Pemberton… and in doing so, I guess eventually you’ll run into the cops, who’ll ask you… what are you doing here?

And it’s a good question… what *are* you doing here? That’s clearly the sort of travel they’re trying to discourage.

That being said… I’m not a lawyer, and I’m happy to hear them chime in on this… but my opinion is that none of this is actually ok… to the extent that, if challenged, it’d be swiftly thrown out of court.

Ostensibly, drivers can be fined $600 if their travel is deemed to be outside the bounds of “essential”… but by who and how that’s to be determined is a big question mark. While the police can pull you over and check for a valid DL and insurance, it’s generally none of their business where you’re going or why you’re going or anything else… and without probable cause, demanding answers about it is arguably infringing on your Charter rights. Another fundamental right you have when being questioned by the cops is a very straightforward one, especially when it has the potential to incriminate you: You have the right to remain silent.

I think it’s important to understand the bigger-picture intent of all of this, because from that point of view, it works quite well.

When the cops tell you that there will be a DUI checkpoint on all major roads in and out of downtown this Saturday night, it’s 100% supposed to be a deterrent. They don’t want to be cleaning up horrible car accidents. They’d prefer it if there were no accidents to begin with.

When they want to collect some speeding-ticket revenue, they quietly and stealthily set up shop on the side of the road. If they really wanted people to not be speeding, it’d be just as effective to announce it very loudly – speed traps will be set at the following locations during the following times… and when they realize how effective that is, they’d set up cardboard cut-outs with cops holding up radar/laser guns. Cheap and effective, and that’s what happens on highways where actual dangerous speeding takes place; they don’t want to deal with serious accidents, so they find ways to deter them.

But in this case, the truth is… the cops don’t want to set-up travel roadblocks. They don’t want any part of this, but are being mandated to do so… because the bigger picture, for the moment, requires it.

What they really want… and which is what the PHO also wants… is for this virus to go away, and one step in doing so is to prevent the spread from region to region. They can threaten to throw the law at it, but this is Canada… and as much as some people scream about it, our rights aren’t actually being trampled.

In a perfect world, none of these threats would even need to be made; we could just rely on everyone’s good, common sense. Unfortunately, as we’ve learned over the course of a year… common sense is not so common.

April 22, 2021

What a beautiful day… to get vaccinated. Though, technically, any day you manage to get vaccinated is a beautiful one.

So… finally. It was my turn.

At the start of this thing, I optimistically agreed with the 12-18 month guesses, as opposed to the 2-3 year pessimists… and I landed right at 13 months.

How does it feel? Perfectly fine for the moment. Not even a sore arm… but if my reaction to the Shingrix vaccine is any indication, I may be in for a rough couple of days.

But that’s not the correct “How does it feel?” answer.

The correct one talks about profound gratitude… to the countless people, brains, hard work and perseverance that led to this. What’s the big deal, a little shot in the arm… the whole event taking less than 2 minutes?

The big deal, of course, is everything that led up to that moment… and the bigger deal is the implications for me and for everyone around me that lead from it. My chances of getting really sick or dying from C19 are near zero. My chances of getting sick at all, even a mild case, have gone down dramatically. And if I do catch a mild case, so what. Most people don’t care about catching a cold; you expect it every year. A few days of discomfort, and that’s it. And that’s how it’ll be with this… the next time I have the sniffles, it might be C19. Probably the rest of my life, every time I catch a mild cold, I’ll wonder. But won’t really care.

For now… relief. Every moment of every day is the beginning of the rest of your life… but we all have those moments where the impact hits hard; the day of your high-school graduation when you’re handed your diploma on stage. Or the day you hear “You’re hired.” Or the day you bring your kid home from the hospital, and there he or she is, a few days old, still strapped into the car-seat… staring at you, with a look in their eyes: “Now what?”

Yeah, now what… well, here’s what. For me, the beginning of the end of worrying about getting seriously ill from this thing. It’s actually a pretty wonderful feeling, though tempered by the fact that the kids who stared at me from that car seat so many years ago are themselves not yet vaccinated. But we’re getting there… every day is one day closer to the end of this thing for all of us… and that day, which will also be a beautiful day, can’t come soon enough.

April 19, 2021

The “Presidency” of Augusto Pinochet in Chile lasted until early 1990. But you can’t really call him a President, because the Republic of Chile never actually democratically elected him into power.

So… in other words, when I was living there in 1987/1988, life under a military dictatorship was in full swing. It meant that a lot of the civil liberties we take for granted here in Canada simply didn’t exist. But other things, that we do take for granted *not* to exist… did. Such as… checkpoints.

Whenever you run into a checkpoint here… 99.9% of the time it’s to sniff out DUIs. The checkpoints are strategically placed so that if you find yourself heading into one, there’s no escape. Just over the hill on the Granville St. bridge, southbound – heading out of downtown on a Saturday night – is a good example.

And as you approach it, you will feel one of two things. If you’ve been drinking, dread. Fear. A complete freakout. And now you get to pay the steep price for making the poor decisions that put you in this situation.

Or, you haven’t been drinking, and you feel a mix of relief and indignation. Relief that you get to have a brief and friendly chat with the cop before you’re on your merry way… and a bit of indignation. How *dare* they stomp on my civil rights. Who do they think they are. I should be free to drive wherever I want. This is a free country. I should be able to do whatever I want.

We’ve been hearing a lot of those sentences recently, in a very different context… but these two different contexts will be merging a bit on the near future, much to the horror of civil libertarians.

Living under a military dictatorship kept you on edge. Every single time I went through one of those checkpoints… and, might I add, they not only popped-up unexpectedly, but many were semi-permanent. Imagine a checkpoint in the middle of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. In both directions… License and registration and insurance, please. Why isn’t this car in your name. Why are you going downtown. Who do you know on the north shore. How often do you travel this route.

That would be a permanent checkpoint… a little hut in the middle of the bridge, manned by a solider 24/7. Except it wasn’t 24/7… just to mess with you, sometimes the hut was empty and you could just go through. Just to mess you with and keep you on edge.

But usually, it was manned… so, you’d jump through the hoops; you let them execute their little power trip, you acquiesce to their bullshit. And unless you’re actually up to no good, you’re unlikely to have a problem. I was asked a lot of stupid questions… “Where’d you get that car radio?” “Canada? Is that one of those little states way up north?” but it was never more than a few questions before “Have a nice day”.

I’ve been back to Chile many times post-1990, and all of those checkpoints are gone… but the little huts are still there. And I drive by them now and think… what was the point of that. Seriously, what was the point.

Well, the point was that they wanted to keep you in fear. They wanted to constantly remind you… don’t forget who’s in charge. We control you. Don’t, for a minute, think you’re free.

It took a radical change in government to get rid of that but, rest assured, the right-wing military junta of Augusto Pinochet had zero in common with today’s NDP government of John Horgan… something to remember when people start screaming about today’s announcements… that for several weeks, travel restrictions… where you simply shouldn’t leave your local area. And you may run into a checkpoint. It’s temporary and it makes sense, but, oh boy… here comes the screaming and yelling from the freedom/liberty crowd.

I don’t expect to get pulled over at any checkpoint because I don’t expect to be transiting from home any time soon… but in a warped way, I’d look forward to it… because I wouldn’t be able to not compare it to my experiences from 30 years ago… the difference between slowly pulling up to a young, potentially itchy-trigger-fingered solider armed with a loaded semi-automatic weapon… and some VPD or RCMP cop whose only job in this context is to try to keep people safe. I’d look at today’s checkpoint and realize that the cop is on my side, that this is temporary, that this is necessary… and resign myself to the fact that we put ourselves in this situation.

It’s more serious than many people realize, but that’s counteracted by the measures already in place which *are* having a positive effect… and warmer weather, and vaccines. The outcome of this collision course is approaching… do we go the Israel route or the Ontario route in the near future?

Well, let’s look at the Chile route. Way ahead on vaccinations, and fully locked up… because they took that freedom and abused the hell out of it and things went from being under control to totally messed up. That’s what can happen. That’s what might happen here if strict and sudden measures weren’t put in place. So ironic that checkpoints in Chile might have prevented their full-on lockdown.

Around here… may I say… temporary. Can I repeat… temporary. As in – what we need to do today, so that we don’t all have to be doing this forever. I’m pretty sure we can do this for just a few short weeks.

I sure hope so. Otherwise, it won’t be short and it won’t be weeks.

April 16, 2021

Perhaps the biggest misconception I had with all of this is evident in the thoughts I was posting around this time last year… basically, “We’re all in this together and we’ll get through it together if we all stick together and do what we need to do, together.”

Haha… how ridiculously naïve.

This thing will end one day, but it certainly won’t be like I pictured it. No VE Day with people dancing in the streets and randomly hugging and kissing each other. No… just a lot of disparate groups, all of them grumbling about something different.

We will never hear the end from the naysayers… the anti-vaxx, anti-mask crowd. The ridiculously short-sighted people who want to question everything, as if that’s the right way to critically think. Question everything. Doctors, politicians, specialists, scientists… all of them are wrong. It’s difficult to piece together logical arguments where you can make it all fit together, because most of those people don’t agree with each other to begin with… but people try… and that’s where you get the real wing-nut opinions. They will grumble about it forever.

The crowd that’s been doing the right thing from day one… and finds themselves exactly where we were last year, if not a little worse… waiting for their vaccine, being careful, and watching reckless behaviour all around them. Their grumbling is more quiet, but evident.

The crowd that’s been vaccinated and now feels invincible and is screaming to open things up. What’s the delay? What’s the problem? I’m willing to take the risk! Let me in! Very loud grumbling.

The crowd that, for actual health reasons, can’t be vaccinated and is counting on herd immunity to keep them safe “in the wild”, now realizing that it may take years… or if it’ll ever even happen. They’re more quiet, but justifiably pissed off.

The heroes of the equation; not just the scientists who developed the vaccines, nor the countless researchers who, over decades, contributed placing pieces to the puzzle that was finally solved. Them too, but I mean the front-line workers who, for a year, have been putting themselves at risk to benefit the greater good; everyone mentioned in this paragraph has faced backlash from those in the paragraphs above; they could’ve done it better, sooner… or, shouldn’t have done it at all. Many are feeling underappreciated… and grumbling about it

The politicians, the leaders, elected or not… who certainly didn’t choose this, and who’ve been making the best decisions they can, faced with difficult choices that are bound to upset someone. Love them or hate them, let’s all appreciate that they’re in no-win situations. For every person that considers Dr. Henry a reluctant-but-capable hero, there’s someone issuing death threats. At some point, all of them have made a specific decision that someone found completely wrong. People grumble at that. The politicians grumble behind closed doors.

I guess there are two ways to finish a marathon. We’re all familiar with the guy who’s never run one, trains his heart out, struggles… but makes it, and falls into the arms of his wife and kids at the finish line, tears of joy for all of them at the accomplishment. Yeah, that’s great, we’ve all seen that movie.

But there’s also the guy who trained really hard, as he does every year, trying to beat his personal best… he almost broke 4 hours that one year, and this time he knows he can do it. He pours his heart into it, but struggles nonetheless… and barely breaks 5 hours. He crosses the finish line, pissed off and upset, scoffs at the flowers and “Way to go dad!!” sign that his family is holding up.

“Let’s just get the hell out of here”, he says to them as he shepherds them into the car. To hell with this, he thinks. To hell with all of it and everyone involved.

I might sound like I’m grumbling myself… but I think that’s pretty much going to be it.

March 30, 2021

Here are a couple of dictionary definitions:

Mitigate (v): to make less severe, serious or painful

Alleviate (v): to make (suffering, deficiency, or a problem) less severe

Almost the same definition, but there’s an important subtle difference that’s crept into how those words are used… with one, you’re taking corrective action to correct a problem; with the other, you’re taking steps before the problem happens in hope it never becomes one.

A distant example was when I got my first car, and my dad telling me… no matter what, change the oil. Every 3,000km or every 6 months, whatever comes first… change the oil. Even if you don’t want to worry about spark plugs and fan belts and brake pads and everything else… change the oil. Mitigating that risk cost me $23 at Mr. Lube every 6 months. Alleviating the problem of a seized engine that ran dry of oil, or gummed up the motor because it was old and dirty… would’ve cost far more. I put close to 300,000km on that car and never had a serious issue with it. It was a rusty pile of junk when I sold it for $400… $200 cash, $200 in cheques that ultimately bounced… but the oil was pristine.

A far-more recent example… as told to me by my friend Henry, who designs boats… including tug boats, for the local company, Robert Allan Naval Architects. Six RANA tugboats were instrumental in freeing the Ever Given from the clutches of the Suez Canal yesterday. Not too long ago, RANA provided the Suez Canal a proposal advocating for escort tugs for all ships transiting the canal. This would be mitigation, and it would have a cost… but I suspect that cost would’ve turned out to be a lot less than the week-long alleviation that was necessary.

Getting sick with C19 requires alleviation… and I have no doubt for people knocked down by it, they wonder if they could’ve mitigated the risk of catching it. If they were wearing masks and distancing and not attending crowded events and they still caught it, that’s most unfortunate. It’s also possible that my car develops an oil leak and the engine light fails and one day I’m driving around… and the engine melts on me. It’s also possible that high winds or whatever it was that caused the Ever Given to ground itself might have been so strong that tugboats would’ve been helpless.

Sure… you can mitigate all you want, but it’s inherent in the definition of the word. It makes things better, not perfect. A vaccine that’s 95% effective says, in the same breath, that for 1 in 20 people, it won’t help in preventing infection. Unbelievably, that’s the reason some people give for not wanting the vaccine: “If I get the vaccine, I can still get sick… so why bother?”. There are actually two answers to that question. One is that a 19 out of 20 chance of not getting sick makes it worthwhile. And the other is that, with the vaccine, even if you do get sick, it won’t be so bad. It’ll just be a mild case.

If you don’t like the math of that, then I would ask you a simple question: Why aren’t you buying lottery tickets every week, and if you are, why aren’t you already filthy rich? After all, if you buy a ticket, either you win or you don’t. What’s the difference?

Eastern medicine has always been about mitigating; some Chinese doctors don’t charge you when you’re sick… they’re there for fix you. But they do charge you when you’re healthy, because their job is to keep you from getting sick in the first place. That’s mitigation, versus the western method of alleviation of going to the doctor when you’re already sick. Mitigation is the answer to a question we used to ask… why is that perfectly-healthy Asian person walking around with a mask?

We all have the knowledge and tools to mitigate the risk of C19… for ourselves and for others. Many of us do whatever we can, and it certainly helps… but it’s not full-proof. But it’s still worth doing, because, having spoken to people who’ve survived this thing, the cost of alleviation (which in some cases goes on forever) is far higher… and I don’t mean monetarily. That’s the least of it.

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