October 11, 2020

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stepped onto the ice a couple of weeks go to present the Tampa Bay Lightning with their hard-fought-for Stanley Cup, there was something missing. Well, there was a lot missing, not the least of which were the fans. To its credit, the NHL pulled off an excellent season, given the complexities involved. It all worked out as planned, their whole bubble-infrastructure held together, and even virtual fan experience was so well-executed, you’d forget there weren’t sold-out arenas surrounding the play. The lights, the sounds, the announcers, the crowd noises – as genuine and convincing as possible.

But what was missing were the boos. It’s a well-known tradition… Bettman steps onto the ice, and the fans boo. Loudly. Like the monkeys pulling each other back from reaching the banana, most people might not even know why they’re booing… but everyone else does it, so you do it too. And, for what it’s worth, there are plenty of reasons to boo the guy; pretty-much every team has a reason to, thought it occurs to me that Arizona might be the only exception… and further to that, Arizona might be the only place on the planet that cheers Bettman and boos Wayne Gretzky.

I’m sure the NHL and the broadcasters thought about it. I’m sure they had the recorded boos all queued up ready to play, and left it to a last-minute decision. I’m sure Bettman wouldn’t have cared; he always laughs it off. And/or knows, to a great extent, that he deserves it.

It was a missed opportunity though… just one little bit of normality that could’ve been implemented, but wasn’t… and that’s too bad. I guess the politics and implications of it outweighed the humour and fan appreciation of it… but these days, when all of us are looking for evidence that, as crazy as things are, there’s some normalcy lurking in the background… it would’ve been nice to see.

I hope the next time he’s awarding the Stanley Cup, Bettman is showered with 20,000 real-life boos. I can’t wait. It will long and loud and powerful. I’d love to experience it. And, considering what that implies, I think we'd all love it. Even Bettman himself.

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October 8, 2020

A little follow-up to yesterday’s post… and the words “abject despair” that I used.

In trying to remember a time I felt something like that, what comes to mind is the first time I ever participated in Paintball. If you’re not familiar with paintball, it’s where your shoot other people will fancy weapons that fire out gumball-sized balls of paint.. so that when you hit your target, there’s no doubt you “killed” them.

It was a large outdoor course… trees, flats, hills. Both teams start at either end, perhaps 200 yards apart, in their own little fort… which houses a flag. The idea is to attack the opponent team’s fort (10 people per team), take their flag, and bring it back to your own fort.

We strategized for a few minutes, before the horn sounded to start the game, and came up with a pretty good plan… some of us would launch a blatant attack up the middle, while a couple of other stealthier and faster teammates would try to sneak around the sides and attack from behind. A few others, known to have good aim, would guard our fort and flag.

I was chosen to be one of the “up the middle” attackers… tasked with basically getting as close to the enemy fort as possible, surviving as long as I could, hopefully killing some of them, and distracting them away from the periphery.

The horn sounded, and I began sneaking my way toward the enemy. Hiding behind obstacles where I could (rocks, trees, brush), I impressed myself with how close I’d managed to get.

But just as I was about to continue my journey from behind the rock I was presently hiding behind, a paintball went whizzing by me. Shit… I’d been spotted. And for several minutes, there I was, pinned behind the rock. As soon as any part of me moved, paintballs would fly all around me.

Even though it’s a game… even though you’re not going to really die… the despair of being trapped like that really started getting to me. I’m sure my adrenalin, heartbeat and blood pressure were all off the charts.

At some point, my brain just blew a gasket. Without really understanding what I was doing, I stood up, screaming, and charged up the hill toward their fort.

Had this been a Hollywood war movie, this would’ve all been shown in slow motion… possibly black and white… powerful classical music underscoring the pyrotechnics and explosions all around me… and on me, my chest exploding from the many machine-gun bullets ripping into me, my face a grimace of despair and pain.

In reality, I was cut down by about 10 paintballs within 3 seconds… but, might I add, it was just the distraction one of our guys needed. Right after I was "killed", I saw our guy sprinting down the side, headed back to our home fort – enemy flag in hand. Too bad that in real life I would’ve been dead and not witnessed the contribution I’d made to our victory.

Anyway, the point of all that… I learned something about the human animal that day; we all have our instinct to survive, and we all have our breaking point. That was my moment of abject despair, and I hope I never feel it again. I hope none of you do… and as bad as things might get, like I said yesterday, there’s always somewhere to turn; somewhere nearby, your teammate is in the same predicament.

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October 3, 2020

Sometimes, I write these posts in the morning… sometimes, at the last minute… a few times, the day before. I get the impression I’m going to have to back off trying to be too current, because the news changes almost as fast as I can type… and by the time you’re reading this, it could be largely out of date. In any event, I’m writing this earlier in the day and it might be longer than usual to make up for the fact that I won’t have much time tomorrow… so let’s pack two day’s worth of thoughts into one…

First thing… on this side of the 49th… Ontario increased its C19 death numbers significantly… 111 deaths in two days… but no, it’s not so dire. The vast majority of those were re-classifications from deaths earlier in the year.

South of the border… in the news, and changing by the minute, is the remarkable irony of the White House event which was intended to be the grand introduction of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee… but could turn out to be the very reason why Judge Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t ascend to the Supreme Court… that being that there may not be sufficient votes in person to achieve confirmation… because too many Republican senators will be sick and/or quarantining.

I’ve never been to a White House event, but I can only imagine it’s the sort of get-together that involves exotic teas and tiered platters with egg and cucumber sandwiches (no crust, of course), yummy pastries, scones, whipped butter, jam… you get the idea. The poshest of the posh. Side-note, that really made me hungry – any recommendations for local fancy tea places?

Anyway, that particular event will not go down in history for the fine food that was served, nor for the fine China upon which it was presented. Instead, it will be forever known as the Covid-19 Super-Spreader event that changed the course of American history.

It’s only been a few days, but now we’re getting a very accurate account of how fast this virus spreads when it’s in our midst and not taken seriously. Those Republicans, scoffing at the notion of wearing a mask — lest they be ridiculed by their Fearless Leader – may have screwed themselves out of contention. Their reckless, holier-than-thou attitude was evidenced at the “debate” where the entire Trump entourage, having entered the seating area all wearing masks as required, dramatically and contemptuously removed them in unison, with appropriate contemptible smirks to go along with their heroic acts of independence and freedom.

At the White House ceremony, same thing… most guests arrived in masks, but many removed them. There are hundreds of pictures and videos showing what went on. If you zoom up really, really close, like 150,000,000x, you can see the C19 virus balls flying all around, out of this mouth, into that nostril, and so on.

At this very moment, around noon, here’s the known infection roster:

Hope Hicks
Donald Trump
Melania Trump
Senator Mike Lee
Senator Thom Tillis
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel
Advisor Kellyanne Conway
Advisor Chris Christie
Campaign manager Bill Stepien
Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins
3 White House reporters
Conflicting numbers re White House staffers… one or more

Another senator that wasn’t there, Ron Johnson, has also tested positive.

AG William Barr, who was there too — and was recorded having a long, close conversation with Kellyanne Conway — hasn’t tested positive and is refusing to quarantine. By the time he tests positive, we’ll have a good idea who he’s likely infected as well.

And, for what it’s worth, NBC correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted this: “Tillis and Lee are both on Judiciary. I stuck my head into their hearing midweek and basically none of the senators were masked. The staffers around the edge of the large conference room were.”

Obviously, all of the senators in that meeting should be isolating for two weeks… but we all know that’s not happening. Add to that… Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is demanding all senators show up by Monday, Oct. 19th so things can move along. He needs them in person to have the required quorum.

Good luck, Mitch… and, might I add… I remember very well a different Monday, Oct. 19th… back in 1987. That was Black Monday, when the stock market crashed and burned and sent the financial world into a tailspin.

The only thing that might crash and burn this Oct. 19th is Mitch McConnell’s dream of installing a new Supreme Court Justice. As you may recall, Mitch McConnell was the one responsible for blocking Obama from installing a new Justice seven months before the end of his term, saying, at the time, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'" Notwithstanding the remarkable and blatant hypocrisy with respect to what’s going on now, you know what… Karma’s a bitch, Mitch.

Finally, on top of all of that, there are conflicting messages coming out of the White House and Walter Reed hospital… Trump is good, Trump is not so good, Trump is breathing fine, Trump is on oxygen, he’ll be going home soon, the next 48 hours are critical, he’s responding well, we’re not sure how well he’s responding. You can throw this paragraph away, because it’s entirely meaningless, other than to punctuate with some clarity one of two possibilities… nobody really knows what’s going on… or they don’t really want us to know.

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October 1, 2020

I just got back from the track a few minutes ago (it’s closing day of a very memorably-odd 25-day season… but it was great to see some familiar faces), where I watched my horse “Blueprint” run 2nd in one of the most prestigious races of the year… so that’s good. But that “2” is about the only good number around.

Canada, today, saw its 160,000th C19 case… and recorded 22 deaths, the largest 24-hour total since July. When you look at the chart below, at the Canadian growth numbers, you’ll see them all above 1% over the last 5 days. And if you look further back, you’ll see them all below 1%… going all the way back to May. We slowed it down from the end of May onward, and now it’s crawled back… and, if you look at the corresponding graph, it’s crawling rather steeply.

It’s interesting to look at the trends of the other charts, too. Notably, B.C., which briefly looked like it was going to spiral out of control… hasn’t. Things have tailed off recently. That meteoric rise has slowed and backed off. Maybe Dr. Henry managed to scare us back into order.

Alberta is fighting to keep its growth flat, and while things could be better, they could also be worse. They’re fighting to keep their spread in schools under control, and it’s not looking great; let’s hope for the best.

So what’s driving this national growth? The usual, of course… Ontario and Quebec… who both, at some point, were looking to have things well under control. Not anymore. The numbers, the graphs, the deaths; none of it is good. Everything sliding in the wrong direction.

My horse “Blueprint”, to be honest, is probably not destined for greatness. He really stepped it up today and I’m proud of him… especially because there’s only so much you can do. Our very excellent trainer Dino does what he can to prepare the horse, but once the starting gate springs open, anything can happen.

Similarly, the national blueprint for handling a pandemic requires the involvement of everyone. The trainer does what he can; the jockey does what he can. But it’s ultimately up to the horse… and horses, like people… they can be stubborn.

You can lead a horse to water… you can even jam his face into it and hold it down… but if he’s stubborn enough, he’ll drown before he’ll drink any. It doesn’t make any sense. But neither does not sticking with a blueprint that’s been shown to work.

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September 26, 2020

No numbers till Monday… though it’s worth sadly noting that by this time tomorrow, the world will have seen its one millionth C19 death. We have a long way to go with fixing things.

You know… “Fixing things” used to mean something positive… like, you have something, it broke, you fixed it… and now it’s good again.

The word’s more sinister implications… well, you have disgraced and disbarred former attorney Michael Cohen… Trump’s “fixer”… who fixed things like campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. Evidently, like cheap scotch tape, his illegal fixes were temporary, and fell apart when put to the test.

I have a particularly fond memory playing poker. A friend went to the washroom, and in the 60 seconds he was gone, we “fixed” the deck. By the end of the hand, he’d put every penny he had into the pot, and lost it all on the last card. He couldn’t believe it, and we couldn’t stop laughing at the emotional rollercoaster we put him through. All in good fun; he was incredibly relieved to hear it was all a set-up, and he hadn’t actually lost his entire net worth. I suspect most fixed poker hands don’t end so well.

When it comes to elections, history has seen plenty of fixes… and some are so blatant, they’re ridiculous.

The Liberian general election of 1927 is a good example. There were 15,000 registered voters. One candidate received 9,000 votes – pretty reasonable. The other candidate received 243,000 (that’s not a typo).

It’s interesting to note that until relatively recently, like the mid-19th century, when you voted, you made your vote public. The British colony of Victoria, ie Australia, adopted a secret voting system in 1856… where a generic paper ballot was produced by an independent third party. Before that, each campaign would produce their own ballot, on a piece of paper with their own colour. To vote, you’d drop your selected coloured ballot… into a glass bowl. Surrounding those glass bowls would be party operatives or even the candidates themselves… persuading, bribing and even threatening the voters. It took guts to vote because, as you might expect, it was frequently a violent undertaking.

Fortunately, neither the American nor Canadian upcoming elections will be people publicly dropping red of blue pieces of paper into large glass bowls, for all to see. That would be crazy.

Unfortunately, what will ultimately happen may be another sort of crazy. I’m not too worried about up here; we haven’t had a disputed election ever, and the closest thing to a scandal was that Conservative robo-call nonsense orchestrated by some junior staffer in 2011.

But south of the border… fasten your seatbelt. I don’t think any of us, in person, have ever seen what’s about to happen… and it’s already started. The president is already calling it crooked, and has made it clear he won’t accept the result if he loses.

Disputing the security of mail-in ballots, watching the USPS dismantle the infrastructure needed for a fair election, seeing how a top official in Philadelphia explained that up to 100,000 mail-in ballots might be invalidated due to a technicality (Pennsylvania is one of those key states that could, on its own, decide the election)… it’s all just beginning.

Just like a slow-moving train-wreck, it seems everyone is watching with morbid curiousity, unable to do anything to stop it. No matter what, it’ll be a big mess to clean up. Let’s just hope we can one day… fix it.

 

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September 22, 2020

Thank you all for the kind birthday wishes; certainly a most memorable one. Not being much of a party animal, I have very little memory of my last 5 birthdays… but this one will certainly never be forgotten. I hope by next birthday we’ll all be back to a much more mundane and forgettable – ie familiar ie normal —sort of party schedule, whatever that means for you. ????

But for now, I’ve spent the day enjoying some free time, playing hooky from everything… and it’s been great… and I’m about to continue to do so.

See you tomorrow.????????

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By |2020-10-08T01:08:42-07:00September 22nd, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: |32 Comments

September 14, 2020

There we lots of red ballcaps, American flags, Trump signs, anti-lockdown signs… even a little girl, with a multi-colored sign that said, “Forcing me to wear a mask is child abuse.” It was loud, abrasive… and depending how you look at it, truly frightening, for many reasons. No masks, of course. No social distancing.

But this time, no guns to be seen… wait, how is that possible? There are always some yahoos wandering around with semi-automatic weapons, just to show that their freedom entitles them to do so. Why not this time?

Because this didn’t take place anywhere in the U.S… this was right here at home, yesterday afternoon, outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, at around 3pm. Five hours later, the New Westminster pier was in flames, and much of the historic dock has been destroyed. Eight hours after that, some asshole (once again) cut the cable of the Sea to Sky Gondola, sending the cars crashing to the ground. And all of this going on the midst of an apocalyptic haze, enveloping everything.

We’ve seen better days.

And… we could potentially see even worse ones. Because, you know, I haven’t even mentioned the pandemic yet… but I’m about to, with exhibit A: Israel.

Israel is a country at the forefront of innovative technology, with many tools at its disposal to battle C19, and they’ve done a valiant and impressive effort. Through lockdowns and contact tracing and masks and social distancing, they were a poster child of stamping out and controlling this thing. And then there was a collective sigh of relief, and many things went back to normal and they lived happily ever after.

Or did they.

No… at the end of this week begins their new year. It also begins a mandatory and heavily-enforced three-week lockdown…. because, as per the tipping point I’ve talked about, they hit it… and now it’s a quick descent. At the time of this writing, at least one hospital is turning away C19 patients… because they’re beyond full.

Some quick numbers: after a frightening March and a swiftly-responded-to April, they were down to less than 20 cases a day. Today, they had 4,700… and that’s a country with a population of 9,200,000. Extrapolating the population, it’d be like us here in Canada having 20,000 new cases today (we had 817). It’d be like the U.S. having 170,000.

This is what happens when you ease up. This is what happens when you say it’s no big deal.

Even to the most ardent deniers of this thing, I sincerely hope you don’t get it. As has become very evident… if you catch this bug, its effects may well be with you forever. It may not take your life, but it can significantly affect it. With a common cold or flu, once you fight it off, it’s gone. Covid-19, not necessarily. Given all of that, what possible logical argument can you possibly make against masks and social distancing and being responsible? Seriously.

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September 7, 2020

Greetings from Whistler… actually, the drive back from Whistler… which will end up taking twice as long as usual. Maybe an accident ahead… there was a serious one a few days ago that sent 6 people to hospital, involving a Lamborghini. Yesterday, a Ferrari was impounded for going 189 km/h in an 80 zone on the same stretch of road.

Indeed, Whistler was flooded with luxury cars this weekend, as part of a charity luxury supercar weekend. No problem with that, but you Ferrari/Lambo/McLaren people might want to keep the speeds down to where you’re not likely to kill yourself, and take others with you.

The other thing Whistler was flooded with was… tourists. From all over the place… and I do mean, everywhere. Every continent, nation, ethnicity and language was well-represented, just like any other year’s final weekend of summer.

Yeah, I thought the border was supposed to be closed too. It certainly is, to most road traffic. It certainly isn’t, to airplanes. There’s never been a better indication that this will only really be over once there’s a vaccine. There’s no version of “here’s the right thing to do” that will get through to enough people. No social distancing, no masks, crowds in enclosed spaces.

The best we can hope for is that the message is getting through to enough people… so that things are manageable if they get bad. Given the nonchalance and self-centeredness and lack of regard for others I just witnessed, we might be in for a long homestretch.

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By |2020-10-08T01:09:07-07:00September 7th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19, Sports & Gaming|Tags: , , , |13 Comments

September 6, 2020

There’s a virtual triangle that applies to many things in life… especially when it comes to actually creating or building something. Any project, really… and it’s a basic triangle where the three sides are labelled: Time, Quality and Cost.

Typically, you can pick any angle… and that’s what you’ll get; what those two sides offer – at the expense of the opposite side.

Want it quickly and cheaply? No problem, but don’t expect quality.
Want quality and want it soon? Sure, but be prepared to pay for it.
Want quality without spending too much? It can be done, but you’ll have to be patient.

It’s interesting trying to map this to the development of a vaccine. Everyone is throwing lots of money at it, so the only thing that’s sliding around is quality versus time.

On the one hand, you have a conglomerate of responsible companies who’ve signed a pledge not to rush anything to market until it’s ready, which means every step of a rigorous scientific process. Many of those are currently in phase 3… which is one step before early or limited approval.

On the other hand, you have President Trump promising a vaccine any day now, completely contradicting the head of Operation Warp Speed… and you also have a few places who’ve rushed a vaccine and knowingly are throwing it out there, having side-stepped phase 3, and/or doing it in unison. It’s also relevant that those places are Russian and China, where political statements and optics often outshine what’s in the best interests of the greater population. It’s pretty much the message that Trump is trying to shove down the throats of anyone who’ll listen, but it’s heartening to see scientists banding together in solidarity rebuking it.
The scientific world is well-aware what it takes to properly develop a safe vaccine. It’s a process. Like making a baby… that’s also a process. That one takes a man, a woman and nine months. You can’t throw nine men at it and hope to have the baby in a month. You can’t throw money at it. If you want to do it, there’s exactly one way to do it right, no matter what the president says.

And, fortunately, in the U.S. and Canada and many other places around the world, that’s what’s happening… there are presently 24 vaccine candidates in phase one, 14 in phase two and 9 in phase three. Many of them will probably hit the finish line around the same time. Getting them out there to everyone is a different issue, but first things first.

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September 2, 2020

If you’ve been around long enough and/or know something about hockey and/or Olympic history, you’re probably familiar with “The Miracle on Ice”. It happened back in 1980, at the Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games, where the Americans won the gold medal.

It all took place in the midst of the Cold War. The Soviet Union showed up with a veteran team of experienced superstars, who’d been crushing their opposition for years. They’d won the last 4 Olympic gold medals, and hadn’t lost an Olympic match in that entire time.

The Americans, on the other hand, showed up with a group of very young (average age 21) college players with zero NHL experience. A bunch of excellent amateur players… but way out of their league.

To make a long story short, in one of the most epic David vs. Goliath moments ever, the Americans defeated the Soviets and won the gold medal… but if you’re not too familiar with it all, you may not realize that when the U.S. beat the U.S.S.R., that wasn’t the game that won them the medal. They still had one more game to go, against Finland… and the winner of that game would win it all.

U.S. coach Herb Brooks (played by Karl Malden in the made-for-TV movie) was well-known as an excellent motivator, but he had his work cut out for him. After the mental and physical exhaustion from beating the Soviets, they had to dig down and find it all again, one final time.

Needless to say, Finland was no pushover. They were playing for the gold too, and it was Finland that had the lead, 2-1, going into the final period. The entirety of what Herb Brooks told his players during that 2nd-intermission break isn’t known… but the last thing he said to them was this:

“If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your f#@%ing graves.”

Then, he stormed out of the locker room… but, not quite. He stopped at the door, paused, turned around… and solemnly said, “Your f#@%ing graves.” Then he walked out.

Perhaps that was the differentiator. Who knows. Great coaches, great techniques, great ideas, great execution. The Americans scored 3 goals in the 3rd period, and the rest is history.

On a more recent but less important similar event, the Canucks, last night – facing playoff elimination and playing with a playoff-rookie goaltender… managed to get it done. A gutsy and well-earned victory. Who knows what head coach Travis Green said to them… and/or how relevant it was… but it worked out well. A very good team with a very good leader.

On the flipside of all that… the L.A. Kings, two weeks before the end of a disappointing 2015 season (having won 2 of the last 3 Stanley Cups, but now about to miss the playoffs…) locked their coach out of the dressing room. They’d had enough of Darryl Sutter… and by the time Darryl had managed to find a rink attendant to open the door, he was greeted by three garbage cans and an empty room. It wasn’t too long before he was fired.

On a much, much larger scale… like, a national scale… what happens when the team loses confidence in their leader? Usually, they vote him out. Unlike hockey, there’s no General Manager or President of Operations or Ownership Group to pull the trigger. In a democracy, it’s assumed that when the majority tells you it’s time to go, you go.

If you’re actually doing a great job, a tremendous job, a beautiful job, people tell you it’s the greatest job being done that they’ve ever seen… well then, they’ll simply vote to keep you around. And if they tell you they’ve had enough… it’s time to go.

I’ve never heard of a hockey coach refusing to leave after being fired. On the flipside, history is unfortunately full of elected leaders who weren’t happy being defeated and decided it was time for a “different approach” to stay in power. There are different versions of what that can look like, and none of them are pretty. And I sure hope I’m speaking purely hypothetically with respect to the near future.

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