February 14, 2022

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 9, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 21, 2021

First things first… the contest! Congratulations to Shahar Ben Halevi! – whose guess of 231 was only two off the actual total of 229. Shoutout to Theresa Christina who guessed a few minutes later and was also only 2 off, but in the other direction, with her guess of 227. Shahar, let me know where you’d like it donated!

** EDIT ** Oops… ignore most of that last paragraph. Garry Saitz, congrats… 228 is closer to 229 than anything else. Shahar, I’m not going to pull a Steve Harvey here… we have two winners. Shahar, let me know. Garry… you too!

Secondly, to put to rest my decision-making with respect to dose two: My research, as I’ve written, has led me to think that, given the option, an mRNA vaccine for the second dose would be the way to go… if it was literally a choice, right at that moment. As it turns out, I wasn’t given the choice… I would’ve expected the pharmacy who gave me the AZ on Apr 22nd to have reached out by now, but they haven’t. The provincial system, however… the one I registered with ages ago – they did. And last week, booked me for an appointment for today. So… today I went, received my 2nd shot (Moderna) and, as far as I’m concerned, at least for now… that’s that. Almost exactly 15 months ago, I was writing pieces about how I expected vaccines would be available in 12 to 18 months. In hindsight, given my penchant for little contests, we could’ve held a pool where people guess, to the day, how long it would’ve been till vaccines show up. That would’ve been fun, and we could’ve raised a lot of money for charity. Oh well, a missed opportunity. Maybe next pandemic.

Finally… today, June 21st… often the longest day (ie most sunlight) of the year… the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer… has held, for the last 5 years, a more profound meaning. June 21st, 2016, was the day my dad passed away… and so now, every year, this particular day has a lot more meaning. It sometimes, appropriately, lands right on Father’s Day as well.

I wrote a lot about him five years ago… and, if you missed it the first time around, here you go:

Happy Summer everyone – it’s going to be a good one.

June 1, 2021

We’ll get back to vaccines and pandemics and all of the related issues… tomorrow.

But tonight… the idea is to try to win $70 million in Lotto Max.

Figuring out lottery odds is pretty simple. Using factorial notation (where 4! = 4 x 3 x 2 x 1), when there are 49 numbers to choose from and you have to hit exactly the right 6 (like Lotto 6/49), the formula is ( 49! / (49-6)! x 6! ) – which is just under 14,000,000 to 1. When you add a 7th number in there, like for Lotto Max, the odds shoot up to over 80,000,000 to 1. So, they go from impossible to… impossible.

That being said, let’s take a crack at it; here’s what I did…

I wrote a little program that does a number of things:

– It reads in all of the historical draws (~4,000)

– It figures out how often every number (1-49) has come up in the last 10, 40, 100 and all-time draws

– It figures out, for each number, what other numbers are likeliest to come up together… based on those historical draws.

– It generates, and then scores, all 86,000,000 possible draws

That last step is a doozy… it generates every single potential draw of 7 numbers… from 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 to 43,44,45,46,47,48,49… and then, based on the history, assigns a “likelihood” score to it.

If anyone is interested in the source code or results of any of this, feel free to ask. For all the geeks out there, I’m especially proud of my function that generates all of those draws… it’s a recursive function that’s only 7 lines long.

Anyway, I think I’ve sunk enough time into this… now I’m going to sink some money into it and, like last time, I’m happy to share $5 million of my jackpot winnings with all of you. If you want a piece of it, just like this post.

Apologies ahead of time if we don’t win and, either way, back to normal tomorrow.

Unless we win. Then… things will be far from normal.

By |2021-06-01T17:05:50-07:00June 1st, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , |20 Comments

May 29, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 1, 2021

Today is the Kentucky Derby, so while horse racing is on my mind, let me tell you about a certain match race.

A match race is quite simply a race between exactly two horses. Always very exciting, because they’re relatively rare. There’s usually between 5 and 20 horses in a race, not 2.

Mike Smith is a very-well-known hall-of-fame jockey. A tough, ragged and talented guy who’s ridden some of the best horses in the last 30 years.

Chantal Sutherland is a Canadian model, TV personality… and jockey. She’s been in in Sports Illustrated, Vogue, and has been one of People magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People”.

Those two dated for a while. Then they broke up… and then someone decided they should do a match race – a Battle of The Exes. A winner-take-all sort of thing.

This was ten years ago, so who cares… except that it was one of our horses that was chosen to race. The track that hosted the event, Del Mar, picked two relatively-evenly-matched horses… got the OK from the owners/trainers (that was a very interesting phone call with our trainer, Carla Gaines…) and once the horses were picked, a coin was flipped to decide which jockey got which horse. Or vice-versa, I suppose.

As it turns out, Chantal got our horse “Parable” and Mike Smith got the other one, “Joker Face”… which added an extra layer of competition… American owner/jockey vs. Canadian owner/jockey

That was a fun weekend… we flew down for the race, participated in all the pomp and circumstance, had a great time… and, as you might expect when Canada goes up against the U.S., finished second.

In the race, Mike Smith controlled the pace beautifully. Forgetting how evenly the horses may have been matched, he really out-jockeyed Chantal. He went out in front, stayed exactly where he needed, kept her exactly where he wanted, and, as they say, had plenty of horse left to win easy.

But let’s talk about another match race that we’re all involved in…

When it comes to vaccinations, the U.S. got off to a terrific start… just like Mike on Joker Face, exactly where you’d expect them to be. Except… if this were a horse race, you’d now say they’re running out of horse. They’re fading. And here comes Canada, flying on the outside.

If you look at the two larger graphs below, you can see what I mean… the one on the left is a graph of what percentage of the population is being vaccinated every day. There was a time where it hit above 0.60% in the U.S., but they’re down to around 0.35% these days… and that number keeps dropping. In Canada, we’ve slowly been rising… and are pretty-much doubling our southern neighbours. We’re in the 0.70% neighbourhood, and have been out-performing the U.S. since around April 8th.

The graph on the right shows how the gap in vaccinated population is narrowing, and assuming things continue at this pace, the Canada horse will blow by the U.S. around May 26th… and will never look back. This extrapolation is relatively consistent with what the government is telling us… that 75% of adults will have had their first jab by mid-June. It looks like 80% by July 1st, according to how things are trending. And if this holds, the U.S. may have trouble breaking 60%… though this is all speculation and just numbers.

It’s speculation and numbers that just lost me a few bucks on the Kentucky Derby… but this other horse race is far more important… and I know where my money is.

March 27, 2021

We hear a lot about “They”. Who are “They”? Or, maybe… better yet, what is “They”? … as in,

“They’re trying to ruin our lives”
“They’re trying to control us”
“They’re trying to get rid of us”

Different versions of the same old idea that “They” imposed C19 upon us so “They” could get us all used to being controlled so that eventually we’re all just some drone army of zombies doing whatever “They” want so they can make lots of money and then… whatever.

If there is a controlling “They”, there are actually 200+ versions around the world, all of them getting some parts of this right and some parts of it wrong. You’ll have a hard time convincing me that there’s a “They” above that, because that “They” would be suffering greatly these days.

But on the note of enslaving everyone, some 3,500 years ago, there *was* a “They”. It was the Egyptians, and it was the Israelites who were enslaved, and it took Moses to appeal to the Pharaoh to let his people go. If you’re not familiar with the story, I hear you can read all about it in some Chapter of some Book. But if you’re not into reading The Bible, and whatever is found in the book of Exodus doesn’t excite you, do what you did in high school: watch the movie. There are various to choose from, but here are the top 3:

1. The Ten Commandments – a three-hour epic of biblical proportions starring Charlton Heston. The movie is 65 years old so the CGI might not be what you’re used to, but it’s good… and if you’ve ever taken the Universal Tour and seen the waters part so that your tour buggy could drive through (3,500 years ago, it was the Israelites crossing the Red Sea), you’ll be able to relate.

2. The Prince of Egypt – a more accessible animated version that tells some, but not all, of the story… DreamWorks, award-winning music, etc.

3. When Do We Eat? – this is a shameless plug, because I produced this fantastic little movie… but if you want an R-rated mix of religious observance with a whole bunch of craziness, this is the one for you. If you’re Jewish and haven’t seen this already… why the hell not? For all the older people, Quincy (Jack Klugman) is in it! For all the younger people, Zoey 101/iCarly (Victoria Justice) is briefly in it. Even Oscar from “The Office” is in it! Whether you’ve seen it or not, tonight is the perfect time to watch it! Conveniently available on Amazon Prime.

Indeed, tonight… because tonight is the first night of Passover, where Jews from all over the world will be sitting down to a ceremonial meal called a Seder, something they’ve been doing for thousands of years. Because when you’ve been enslaved for 400 years and the bad guy finally says, “OK, get out of here” – it’s something to celebrate.

Last year, Passover happened very close to the start of the pandemic. It was in fact the reason I signed up for a Pro Zoom account… because nobody is getting through the ceremonial part of any Seder in under 40 minutes (“When Do We Eat?!?!”). That’s how we got the friends and family together last year, and this is how we’re doing it this year. And, the old silver lining to this big cloud… you can fit a lot more people around a Zoom Seder table than you can in real life.

To some extent, we’ve all be enslaved by C19. It hasn’t been 400 years, but it’s sure felt that way some days. Who or what is the Moses of the day, leading us out of it? Some specific people? Some policies? Science? Vaccines? Discuss amongst yourselves.

In the meantime, before watching WDWE for the 15th year in a row after our Seder tonight, we’ll say the traditional last line of the ceremony… “Next Year in Jerusalem!” …but I’m happy to be a lot less ambitious. How about, just, “Next Year in Person!”

I’d love that. So would They.

March 25, 2021

On the flipside of the virulent anti-vaxxers comes the crowd who’ll do anything to jump the line and get their shot. Our most famous local exhibit are those two “hotel workers” who flew to that remote village in the Yukon, happily joining the queue with the Indigenous elders of the area. Pathetic, and grossly unethical.

… and, as it turns out, far from uncommon. Given the haphazard rollouts at provincial and state levels, there are plenty of opportunities appearing. It’s come to light that any of us could hop on a plane, fly to an American city… and easily get jabbed. Different places have different requirements, but here’s a good example: Any smoker in Illinois is instantly eligible. People have been lying and getting shots all over the place… and if your ethics allow for it, why not fly to Chicago for $300, walk into a pharmacy, buy a pack of smokes and say, “Hey… while I’m here…”

Were it not for the 3-day, $2,000 mandatory hotel visit on the way back, I suspect this might be a more popular thing to do.

But, you don’t have to go so far… and, this changes daily. And, it’s completely ethical:

In four days, any adult in Ohio will be able to get the vaccine. A couple of days later, anyone in Utah. A few days after that, Michigan and Connecticut. Washington State is a bit behind, but they’ll likely have that in place by May. And that’s for *everyone*.

Eventually, places reach the point where the supply outpaces the demand, and the doors can fly open. Come and get it. And, until things get to that point, still… with a pre-existing eligible condition, just wander into the CVS and walk out vaccinated… as easily as getting a flu shot around here.

The three most common words that you’ll overhear at a racetrack are “Woulda”, “Coulda”, and “Shoulda”; you hear them a lot when the horses cross the finish line and frustrated horseplayers crumple their losing tickets and toss them angrily onto the floor.

“I coulda bet the Daily Double!”
“I shoulda put the 4 in my Trifecta!”
“I woulda bet the 7 if I had more money!”

One day, when this is all over, and the people in charge are trying to figure out why Canada, a first-world nation with every possible resource at its disposal, managed to fall so far behind the eight-ball on their vaccine rollout, these words will heard a lot. They coulda done this, they shoulda done that. No doubt lessons will have been learned… but it’s just as likely that by the time the next pandemic of this sort shows up – which, hopefully, is many many years from now, it’ll all be forgotten. The only lines people will be familiar with jumping will be for the SkyTrain… or for rides at Playland on crowded Labour Day PNE weekends.

Highly recommended, by the way… the rides, the food, the animals, that building full of hucksters shilling Ginsu knives and stuff to magically polish your car… and, while you’re there, check out the horses at Hastings Park. Pick a horse and bet on it… watch it finish fourth… and then, repeat after me – including you, Mr. Trudeau — woulda, coulda, shoulda.

March 23, 2021

It’s a good thing AstraZeneca makes a good vaccine… and perhaps that’s where all their money goes… because their PR/marketing/outreach/spin-control department certainly isn’t as world-class.

First, the whole blood-clot non-issue that spun out of control. It’s since spun back, but not before permanently eroding confidence in that vaccine among many people; irreparable damage.

Hours after that was all cleared up, another scandal, this one to do with reporting efficacy data… AZ reporting 79%, but then being accused of cherry-picking data, and that the number is probably closer to 69%. Their questionable data and the questionable inclusion/exclusion will all be sorted out in the next 48 hours, but, once again, “irrefutable” ammo for the anti-vax camp. “See, they’re lying to us.”

One number that isn’t in dispute is a number that agrees with the other relevant (to us) vaccines… AZ, Moderna and Pfizer… and all of the regulators who scrutinize their results, collectively, will tell you that 2 weeks after receiving a single jab of any of those three, your chances of getting seriously ill go down to zero. Zero is a bold claim, but there has yet to be a case of a hospitalization from someone who’s had one shot and given it a chance to kick-in. And no, it’s not zero if you count the guy who went home to celebrate, got drunk, fell over, hit his head and wound up back at the E.R…. but I do mean that nobody has developed serious C19 symptoms.

It’s so unfortunate that this recent messaging will most certainly cause hesitancy among those still on the fence, especially because aside from what I just said with respect to it preventing serious illness, at the end of the day, a 69% chance of getting a mild cold is not a lot different than a 79% chance. On top of that, when the “real” results are published, it may end up being what they originally claimed. Or higher. It certainly won’t be lower.

Last year, when the concept of vaccines for C19 was still being discussed, when the question of “Can we even develop a vaccine for this?” was being asked, efficacies of 60% would’ve been considered a great success. 70%? Awesome.

The 95% that Moderna and Pfizer came up with is off the charts, but here’s the thing… imagine you’re stepping up to bat at Fenway Park in Boston. Off to your left, 310 feet away and 37 feet tall is “The Green Monster” – that wall so famously targeted by all right-handed hitters whose only desire it to sail a ball over it. So you step up and uncork a “Moderna” — 395-foot crushing home run. Or maybe a “Pfizer” – a 394-foot homer.

Or… a lesser “AstraZeneca” – only 369 feet in the air. But guess what, it counts – exactly the same as the other two… and when you cross home plate, having just won the World Series with that hit, nobody is bringing out the tape-measure to see how far it went.

Perhaps not the most applicable metaphor, but it’s true in the sense that if all we had was the AZ vaccine and we were all taking it at the same pace as the other two, the further development and eventual end of this pandemic would likely look very similar. Nobody is adding up the length of the home-runs that were hit. It’s the final score that counts, and that’s what gets reported. Even by AZ, who even though is not so good at messaging, at least can hit a ball/develop a great vaccine.

March 13, 2021

There’s a lot to be said with meeting someone in person, looking them in the eye, giving them a firm handshake and knowing that you’re not leaving the room till you get what you want. Obviously, a lot more can be achieved in person than online.

As introverted as I may be, I miss those in-person meetings… in the same way I miss being able to properly hang up a phone. A real phone. At the end of an unpleasant conversation, there was nothing more satisfying than slamming the receiver down onto the cradle. Those Bell phones were made of nuclear-war-resilient plastic. Unbreakable. My uncle in Chile a few times lost his temper on whatever was on the other side of the call and flung his phone out of a second-story office window. The cord ripped away, but the phones always survived. Clicking the [Leave Meeting] on Zoom angrily is a far cry indeed.

Speaking of Chile and doing business, specifically the sort of business that has them pretty close to the top of the list of vaccinations… perhaps my post a few days ago seemed to allude to the fact that perhaps there was some sort of funny business that may have occurred when those Chileans flew out for those in-person meetings and got those vaccine agreements. A little nudge, a little bribe, a little kick-back. I didn’t mean to imply that; I meant to state it unequivocally. Of course that’s what happened. I don’t have any proof of it, of course, and what does it matter… it’s just my opinion. But I also understand what greases the wheels… what gets slow-moving government bureaucracy going in a hurry. What jumps the queue. What gets it done.

My first experience with government corruption occurred when I was quite young… 12 or 13. I had a friend who lived nearby, and his dad put up a basketball hoop in the back lane, hung up over the garage door. The lane was flat and paved… and it was great. We were out there for hours the first week… playing one-on-one and every variation of P-I-G and H-O-R-S-E you can imagine. One day, the neighbour’s wife came out to see what was causing all this racket. The next day, her husband came out to have a look… watched us play a bit… didn’t say much, just went back inside. Oh, did I mention that guy was an Alderman for the city of Vancouver?

Two days later, when we got there after school, there were two freshly-laid speed bumps in the lane, perfectly placed and wide enough to completely destroy our basketball court. It still smelled of freshly-poured tar. Not a single other speed bump in any back lane for 10 blocks around. And not like there were ever any speeding cars there to begin with. What the hell. Is this how things work?

Needless to say, we weren’t happy. Our version of petty revenge lasted years. That guy ran in two subsequent elections, and every time an election sign (with his name, of course) popped up in front of his house, we’d replace it with three different ones from various opposition parties. We’d have to venture deep into East Van in the middle of the night to collect all of the colourful alternatives. Totally worth it.

Ok, where was I… yeah, governments. I think it’s no big surprise to learn that there’s corruption at every level. Screwing up a couple of kids’ fun just because you don’t like the sound of a basketball is a small example. Bribing officials, peddling influence, making big promises, forgiving crimes, throwing huge money at certain people and, ultimately, lying… were things Abraham Lincoln did to push through his Emancipation Proclamation and ban slavery in the U.S.

Ah, didn’t see that coming, did you… yes, indeed… sometimes, that corruption is for the greater good… and for those crimes that today would’ve gotten Lincoln jailed for life, he’s instead considered the greatest president in history. Quite a fine line, isn’t it. I don’t know what those Chileans did, and I don’t care, and certainly, the well-vaccinated populace of Chile doesn’t care either.

If you want to argue that Canada should be above that sort of thing, name me a Prime Minister and we can discuss his corruption scandal. Chretien’s helicopters, Mulroney’s Airbuses, Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin. Closer to home, Glen Clark’s deck/casino, Harcourt’s BingoGate and Vander Zalm’s Fantasy Gardens.

Government corruption has been around forever, and it’s never going away. At the very least, they could put it to use for the greater good… not just individual gain.

Lincoln? Awesome. Chile? Same. The rest of my examples? Brutal.

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