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because the news changes almost as fast as I can type… and by the time you’re reading this, it could be largely out of date.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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September 1, 2020

Recently, having just clicked on a YouTube video, I was reading the comments below it. The top comment said something like, “If you’re watching this video, you’re probably procrastinating.”

Very accurate… I was probably eight levels deep, down the “Up next” smorgasbord. I’m not sure what powers the algorithm that fuels the suggestions that populate my curated list of suggestions, but it’s gotten pretty good at knowing me. Good bot.

So I somehow wound up watching videos of “anchor fails”. This is where a ship (the bigger the better!) is trying to drop their anchor, and they make a hot mess out of it.

I’ve learned a lot… I used to have the misconception that it’s the anchor that holds the ship in place, but it’s just as much the weight of the chain, a lot of which lays on the bottom as well. The anchor prevents the chain from moving, and the weight of the chain prevents the ship from moving. It answers the question I never quite understood… if the anchor is “anchored” to the bottom, how do they ever dislodge it when they want to leave?

The answer is… they simply lift it. If you imagine trying to claw wet sand at the beach… dig your hand in, and try to claw along the ground… it’s hard. But lift it straight up, no problem. The anchor doesn’t move laterally very easily, for the same reason… but lifts up no problem.

And… especially on the huge ships, the anchor weighs a lot. As does the chain. The mechanism to unspool it is huge… and is manually operated by some guys who operate the brake. The idea is to let the chain out… slowly, but not so slowly that you’re there forever. And certainly not so quickly that it gets going too fast because, like a runaway nuclear reaction, once it gets out of hand, there’s nothing to do but step back and watch the impending catastrophe… and when the brakes fail or the guys screw up and that chain is unspooling faster and faster… and now there are sparks… and now there is fire, and it’s so deafeningly loud that you can’t even hear the sailors screaming… well, you know what comes next.

There are colour codes on those chains, white markings every 15 fathoms (90 feet). At some point, they turn yellow… the warning shot. You really should be stopping by yellow. And, at the very end, something you should never see, is the red link… the danger shot. It’s also called the bitter end (ahhh, that’s where it comes from) and it’s weak, because it’s meant to break… because either it snaps and you lose the anchor… or you literally rip a hole in the ship as the entire anchor infrastructure makes its way through the hull, on its way down to the bottom of the ocean. Yes… go to YouTube and search for “anchor fails” – you’re welcome.

It got me thinking… somewhere in all of those disasters, there’s that tipping point beyond which now things are not recoverable. It’s impossible to really know. The guy opened the brake just a tiny bit too much… the anchor started dropping just a little too quickly… and suddenly, the whole situation is out of control.

In case you need some help with the symbolism… COVID-19 is the anchor, B.C. is the ship…. and we – you and me – we’re all in charge of the brake. And if we don’t operate it carefully, thoughtfully, kindly, calmly and safely… well, you see what can happen.

I mean it… I’m not just… you know… yanking your chain.

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By |2020-10-08T01:09:10-07:00September 1st, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , |7 Comments

August 18, 2020

Here’s an interesting coincidence… the adult human body has 206 bones; the earth has 206 sovereign nations. If you were to map each bone to a country, what would that look like? For example, I imagine all those little wrist bones might relate to all those little South Pacific Island Nations. Few people really know what’s there or what they’re called or what function they serve… but they’re a very relevant part of the bigger picture.

But let’s worry about what’s more important; the entire human body doesn’t work well without a solid, healthy backbone. You could say the same about the geo-political stability and general health of the entire planet.

There are 33 vertebrae in the human body, so we hopefully have 33 solid countries inhabiting this planet which, to some extent, the rest need to be able to rely upon… because the whole thing falls apart, or, at least, is in great pain… when those 33 are out of alignment.

There is no dispute what 33 bones make up the human backbone, and while there would be discussion as to what countries round out the bottom of the list, the top of that 33 would be pretty straightforward; all of North America, most of Europe, some of South America… the big players in Asia, perhaps a few in Africa… etc.

Indisputably, the U.S. would be near the top. There was a time in the late 1940s where, without a doubt, they were number one. They’re still top 5, probably top 3… but here’s the thing; they’re presently in pain. Like with a fractured vertebra, and the discomfort that causes. A pain we’re all feeling.

Back problems have treatment, but it’s not always straightforward. You can go visit your local friendly physiatrist or chiropractor or rheumatologist or whatever it might take. There’s a specialist out there who’s very familiar with what’s causing your back pain, and she’ll do what she can to fix it.

But, here’s the thing… if you’ve been visiting the same medical specialist for almost 4 years, and your pain not only hasn’t gotten any better, but it’s gotten notably worse… well, perhaps it’s time to move on. Even though you were told by others that this specialist was terrific, tremendous, the best ever… it may be that you need to reach your own conclusions. Your health and well-being depend on it. And, as per above, the whole world’s as well.

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By |2020-10-08T01:09:45-07:00August 18th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , , |9 Comments

July 21, 2020

It was Arthur C. Clarke, notable author, inventor and futurist, who’s quoted as saying, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Very true indeed. We all take for granted technology these days that would baffle even the brightest minds of not-so-long ago. The little phone you carry around (and perhaps with which you’re reading this) is a prime example. We get mad at it when “the stupid thing isn’t working”, but you’d think about it differently if you considered the complexity of the underlying infrastructure that makes it all work. Imagine someone 50 years ago watching you take a picture with your iPhone. OK, fancy tiny camera… very cool. But not impossible. And then they watch you AirDrop™ that picture to the person next to you. That’d be nothing less than magic.

I’ve been around long enough to see true innovative technology arrive, explode onto the scene, and then slowly drift from relevance as newer, more advanced technology took over. For example, CDs. They appeared literally overnight (from a consumer point of view) and took over the world. They were, for a time… magic. And they have since drifted into obscurity.

One interesting thing in the early days of CDs was both the marketing and technology of what was called “oversampling”. There’s more to it than what I’m going to describe, but basically it was this – the laser that’s reading what’s on the surface of the disc has about a zillionth of a second to bounce itself off a particular spot and decide whether it’s a one or a zero. And it’s not always right. Since that’s happening 44,100 times per second, it’s not a huge deal if it gets it wrong once in a while. But, that depends how wrong… your music quality would tend to degrade, and if it’s data, it has to be perfect. Data inherently is stored with what are called “CheckSums” – that verify the integrity of the data. For example, a simple version might be that after every 1,000 bits, it tells you how many zeros there were. And also how many ones. If those two numbers don’t add up to 1,000… there was a problem, so read it again. Credit card numbers also have a built-in sanity check… VISA numbers start with 4, MasterCard with 5… but not just any random string of 15 digits after that will work. In fact, only one in ten.

But music isn’t stored that way… it’s just sample after sample. So what they did is this… they’d get the laser to sample each bit more than once. 2x oversample. 4x oversample. 8x oversample!! If 6 of 8 of those reads say it’s a one, go with that.

If this sounds just like adding more and more blades to your razor, you’re right. At some point, the diminishing returns no longer make sense. How many blades do you need to get a perfect shave? I don’t know, but I know that two blades are better than one. Four is perhaps better than three. But I’m not sure 27 blades on some 6-inch razor are better than 26.

With CDs, I once saw a model boasting 96x oversampling. Come on.

This all comes to mind when reading numerous articles about COVID-19 testing. Rates of false positives. Rates of false negatives. People who’ve tested negative then positive then negative then positive. Good tests, bad tests, expensive tests, cheap tests.

In some cases, it’s a threshold… you could have it, but not in a high enough concentration to test positive. This is exclusively a problem for asymptomatic cases; I have yet to read about a test that reports a false negative for someone with symptoms.

Just thinking out loud… it makes me wonder… what would happen if you treated testing the way those CD players used to it. Do 8 cheap tests on someone all at once… instead of a far more expensive single test whose failure rate is lower, but not zero. Like I said, just thinking out loud… but one path of managing this involves testing; lots of it. And if you form a triangle of “cheap, fast, accurate” and have to pick two at the expense of the third… perhaps “cheap and fast” is the angle to go with. This is just simple statistics… not magic.

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July 14, 2020

You’ve probably heard of the book “1984”, even if you haven’t read it. Same with “Brave New World”. You probably had to (or were supposed to…) read one (or both) in high school. Maybe you went the Coles Notes route…

In any event, the two books are similar in that they talk about a dystopian future.

In the 1984 version, the future is an ugly place because the government controls everything, right down to reading your thoughts. Books are banned, free speech is banned, and society is captive to those that control it and “create” the truth, which they then jam down everyone’s throats.

In the Brave New World version, the world is a prettier place, and there’s no need for any of that because the world is happy in its ignorance. There is no need to ban books if nobody ever wants to read one. People are happy to be spoon-fed whatever keeps them happy, and do whatever they like to keep themselves entertained… hedonistically documenting their selfies, their incredible lives, their tasty food… while the world crumbles around them.

OK, that last sentence was a little retro-fitted to relate to the present, because as visionary as Aldous Huxley was when he wrote it, he probably couldn’t have conceived of that specific example.

I used to think this was very much a “1984” sort of world. After 9/11, even more so. Government over-reach is nothing new in times of crisis… the issue is getting some of those compromised freedoms back in due course. Twenty years later, the U.S. is still dealing with Homeland Security and TSA and so on. But it seems we’re pretty complacent when allowing the government to impose things on us “temporarily” because, well… it’s temporary, and it’s… well, whatever.

You know what else is temporary? Income tax… here in Canada, it came into existence in 1917 to fund The Great War for a couple of years. To quote Sir Thomas White, the Minister of Finance at the time, “I have placed no time limit upon this measure… a year or two after the war is over, the measure should be reviewed.” Yeah, if you could let us know how that review is going… that would be great.

You know what else is temporary? The power lines that run all the way up and down Boundary St… also put there just during WWII. An eyesore to be sure, but don’t worry – they’ll be gone soon.

This list goes on, and it’s why whenever the government goes for a grab, be weary on getting it back. It’s not so easy.

But that’s not what this is about… because as “1984” as it appeared the world may be heading, it’s entirely shifted course, especially when the temporarily-imposed government directives are killing people.

We’ve very-much been heading in a “Brave New World” direction. Big Brother is watching, and nobody seems to care. Ostensibly through concerns of security, a lot of personal freedoms are gone… but nobody cares enough to change things back. The hedonistic MeMeMe attitudes of people basing decisions purely on short-sighted self-interest have led us to a place of complacency… which works well-enough when times are good, but falters quickly, abruptly and, as we’re now seeing, tragically… when things go downhill.

Brutal to see that as opposite as those two dystopias are, we’ve managed to acquire parts of both of them. But it’s also interesting to see that when people finally start realizing that the great leaders above don’t have their best interests at heart… well, that’s when real change starts happening.

As usual, I’ll close this out by repeating my endless mantra: How lucky we are to be here. As bad as you might imagine things are here (and they’re not, far from it), they’re far worse elsewhere.

Imagine if Dr. Henry suggested one thing, but John Horgan ignored it and made up whatever he wanted… which was also contrary to the wishes of the local mayors… and in the midst of that arguing, Trudeau would parachute in a useless, contradictory directive. And throw into that mix… all local hospitals filled to capacity, and case numbers growing exponentially.

Yes, around here, it could be a lot worse. Let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing, shall we?

Relevant to note… one final thing: Aldous Huxley also said… “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Wise words… that unfortunately go unheard by those who need to hear them the most.

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July 5, 2020

What a beautiful day for a bike ride… so, off I went, on a long one.

Usually, these rides wind up down by the water somewhere… Spanish Banks, Kits, out by Science World, English Bay, Stanley Park. I always manage to wind up at one of them. Today, it was most of them. And certainly, almost always, Vanier Park –- that beautiful, wide-open green space behind the Planetarium. Back in the 90s, when I lived near Granville Island, I was there almost daily. I’d usually walk west from my place… sometimes so lost in thought, I’d suddenly (well, a few hours later) find myself at UBC and have to take a bus back home.

But Vanier Park… there were two reasons I loved that spot. One, my favourite bench (which is still there, overlooking the water) and two… Ray Bethell.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s about to… because if you were ever down there at some point over the last 40 years, you’ll almost certainly remember the guy whose kite flying was so out-of-this-word that it was hard to imagine that what you were seeing was actually real. The guy flying three kites at once; one from each hand, the third tied to his waist, all three synchronized and doing acrobatics that were hard to believe and astonishingly beautiful.

I got to know Ray pretty well back then, and I’d often stop and chat with him. In fact, when he passed away in December of 2018, I wrote a little bit about it… back in the days when I didn’t post much to Facebook, haha. You can read it here:

https://www.facebook.com/kemeny.ca/posts/10156384761247481

And so today, as I was riding around that corner that used to be his turf, I thought about an interesting aspect of his life; he was older than I am today when he picked up his first kite. He then lived another 38 years… where, over time, he simply became the best in the world. As I wrote in that piece, whether you’ve seen him doing his thing or not, go re-live some memories and/or prepare to be astonished. Just Google the name or find him on YouTube. The dark, leathery tan… the wide grin… the unique cap. A lot of tattoos, with a lot of stories to go with them. And, of course, the kites.

It just goes to show, sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks. Ray himself had a most interesting life, an eclectic collection of jobs. It was after he retired that he took up kites… which led to sponsorships and world travel and a whole 2ⁿᵈ act of his life.

Especially for those from whom this pandemic has been a life pause/reset/restart… or, at least, has led to some sort of introspection that further leads to thinking “what next” -– there you go. It’s never too late to do something else… and to eventually be doing it far better than you ever imagined.

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Day 99 – June 23, 2020

I’ve written before about how sometimes, new words are needed…. to capture an essence that’s only describable by a lengthy paragraph. It’s great to see that such words often already exist.

Here are a few:

Vemödalen: (noun) The frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist.

On the surface, this comes to mind when you’re at the Leaning Tower of Pisa or Niagara Falls or any other world-class tourist trap… I suppose these days it doesn’t matter; digital pictures cost nothing. But for those of us who’ve been around long enough to remember that pictures came in expensive packs of 24 or 36, it’s a different story. You used to put a lot of thought before pressing the shutter button. And once those pictures were taken, it was several days before you could see the results. As you might imagine, taking pictures of your food wasn’t really a thing. Neither was taking 150 selfies to get the perfect one. Photography is a totally different experience these days, one we take for granted. But there’s more depth to that definition, and it touches on the entire experience that ends up being encapsulated in that photograph. Especially in an aforementioned tourist trap… where we’re trying to capture something we’d hope is unique to us, but deep down you know you’re just one of the insignificant many trying to capture the same thing so many others have tried. It’s an interesting duality, trying to be unique in a sea of similarity.

Occhiolism: (noun) The awareness of the smallness of your perspective.

I’m a good example… I’m here, happy to share my thoughts, but I’m aware I have a unique point of view; it makes sense for me, and I can defend it to the death, but there are those who’ll disagree and have their own points. I can probably argue their sides too, because I often understand them; I just vehemently disagree with them. But I’m well-aware it’s my unique perspective… one that’s the result of my own life experiences… and if I were able to visualize that, perhaps snap a picture of it, no doubt I’d feel a bit of vemödalen… because there’s nothing so special about it.

Liberosis: (noun) The desire to care less about things.

Everyone has their list of what’s important and what isn’t. The tops and bottoms of those lists are easy to define, or at least… should be. Your close family, top of the list. The idiot who cut you off and caused your blood pressure to blow up and caused you to yell a profanity… near the bottom. It’s the stuff in the middle, the stuff that could go either way, that often confounds us. Maybe we end up worrying too much or wasting a lot of time on something that ultimately isn’t so important. I try to apply a rule… don’t spend more than N minutes right now on something that won’t matter in N months. Easier said than done, perhaps due to my occhiolism — and the inability to be truly objective.

Combining all three of those is a good summary of my thinking these days, as I watch the world in what could only be described as a bad movie script. The sort where the writer walks into the meeting with a potential producer, and is laughed out of the office, being told to either write something that’s truly real, or pure science-fiction/fantasy. You can’t have both. A president too narcissistic to see or care that he’s destroying the fabric of his country? A global pandemic that many people aren’t taking seriously? Come on man… why not throw in some out-of-control wildfires in Australia, a near nuclear war with Iran and, for a bit of extra seasoning and comic relief, murder hornets. Get real.

So here we are… I think like many of you, I shake my head at what I’m seeing around me and am frustrated that the people who are supposed to be responsible and in charge and making such a mess of it. It’s not a movie I’d like to see, let alone be a part of. This whole thing is certainly not playing out like a Hollywood movie; maybe one of those dark foreign films, with a lot of black-and-white cut scenes of the past, hallucinogenic, colourful dream sequences, and, of course, lots of fancy, obscure words. The whole thing sometimes adds up to a worthwhile experience. In this case though, when we’ve come to the conclusion that the movie sucks, we can’t just walk out.

One last word:

Énouement: (noun) The bittersweetness of having arrived in the future, seeing how things turn out, but not being able to tell your past self.

Yeah, let’s all learn that one… you think it’s relevant now… just wait a few years. Or maybe weeks.

 

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Day 97 – June 21, 2020

Many years ago, well before my ownership of horses entitled me to free parking, I found a great place to park when going to Hastings Park or the PNE.

All of the PNE lands are bordered to the north by McGill Street, and to the north of McGill street is New Brighton Park. And whereas parking at the PNE was $10, parking at New Brighton was only $2. There was a guy there, orange vest and little pad of paper, wad of cash for change if needed… he’d take your two bucks and let you in. It was a bit of a hike, because you had to walk up, and all the way around.. but no big deal; it saved a significant amount of money, especially if you added it up over time… and this went on for years.

One day, the PNE called up the City of Vancouver and said to them, hey… your guy at New Brighton… he should be charging more. And the City of Vancouver replied… what guy? And so unravelled what can only be labelled as an excellent example of opportunistic creative entrepreneurship… or simply, a scam.

Scammers come in all sorts of shapes a sizes… an infinite array of criminal opportunists. A very common one these days involves scam emails. Nigerian princes with fortunes to hide, Powerball winners with millions to give away, ex-army officials with bricks of gold to launder… an endless list of creative criminals.

I have an email address — fake name, fake address… that I use exclusively for mailing lists and subscriptions where I want to read content, but not interact. They don’t need to know who I am. As you might imagine, this email address has become polluted with spam…. and scam emails. At least one a week… some version of “I have millions of dollars to send you; please send me some small amount of money so we can process it”. I sometimes reply with one sentence, and it turns into a conversation until they eventually figure out I’m just wasting their time. But two relevant stories… one was years ago… here’s what happened:

The guy (in Nigeria) wanted to send me a gift card with $200,000 on it… but needed me to send him $50 to pay for shipping it to me. That there are people who would fall for this baffles me. But anyway, I said to him… sure… I sent you the money… here’s the Western Union MTCN number… and made up a string of digits. He wrote back and told me he went to WU and tried to cash it in… but the number I’d sent was no good. It was only 9 digits, and the MTCN should be 10. Oh… I’m sorry, you’re right, I missed a digit. Here’s the correct number… and I just added an extra digit in the middle of it.

He wrote back two days later, angry that he’d once again gone to WU, and been rejected. I told him I’m so sorry… looking at it now, I think I said 4 to one of the digits, but it’s probably a 9. Bad handwriting from the WU clerk.

Two days later he wrote back… very angry. He’d gone again, been rejected of course, and been told that if he shows up again trying to scam WU, he’d be arrested. Then he gave me a whole sob story… how he’s an old man, he has to take a bus 90 minutes into Abuja to get to Western Union, he doesn’t time for this and so on. Oh… I felt bad. Poor scammer.

So I got an official WU form and filled it out with great precision. Even the handwritten MTCN number, with a digit that could be either a 4 or a 9. I made it look official, put some official time stamps and everything on it. It was a real work of art. Then I sent him an angry email, with a scan of my masterpiece… saying… listen you idiot, I’m not sure if you or the Western Union people are the brainless ones. Here’s the official paperwork I got when I sent the money. Take this to WU… and go get your money and send me my giftcard. Jeez.

Well… I never heard from him again. And there are a few possible scenarios, one of which is he’s in jail. I hope so. One less scammer preying on gullible people.

The second story is happening right now, and I’m not sure what to do. I recently answered one of these scammers with a sort of “I already sent you the money” email. Note… this is an excellent way to engage… because if they fall for it, they’ll think they’ve got “a live one” on the hook. I sent that message, and it turned into a back-and-forth, but what happened recently was this… I told her I’d send the money again, and she said great… and sent me all of her banking info. Real name, real home address and bank account info. Huh… now what. Call the cops? FBI? Ship her a glitter-bomb? Blackmail her? So many possibilities!

The vast majority of the time, the scams are all about money. Follow the money, and you will find the scammer. But once in a while, it’s about something totally different.

Such was the case last week and yesterday, with a bunch of teenagers using TikTok and other social media, and totally scamming the Trump presidential campaign. It fooled everyone, including me. I thought there would be hundreds of thousands of people crowding downtown Tulsa, because we were told how much interest there was in that rally. They had expected to fill 22,000 seats inside, and an extra overflow of 40,000 outside. In the end, the inside had a little over 6,000 people. The outside was cancelled.

Ironic of course, that the rally was to pay homage to the biggest scammer of all. And interestingly — perhaps appropriately — this rally might actually end up being the beginning of the end. There’s only so much people can take, and every time Trump goes off-script, all bets are off. He’s said many stupid things “off the cuff”, when he switches from the teleprompter to his brain, and usually the damage control can take care of it. But this time? Even his own people had nothing. They served up the lamest of the lame excuses, the one that works ok in grade 1… when you don’t quite get it… when you’re still refining your sense of humour. When Jimmy has dipped Cindy’s ponytail into paste, thinking it’s funny. But it’s not, and she’s crying… so Jimmy serves up the good old “I was just kidding”.

Well… what are they going to say, to remove the Trumpian foot out of his mouth? There’s nothing to say. “I was just kidding” isn’t going to fly; not because it’s not funny, but simply because he wasn’t kidding.

What Trump said basically was… “My reelection is so much more important than all of you, that I really don’t care if you all die… well, ha ha, not all of you… but let’s not go crazy testing you all… because we will see numbers that will make me look bad. So let’s just slow down this testing, and pretend things are not as bad as they are.”

That’s a heavy dose of reality for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. The guy you’ve been defending for more than four years, telling you, in your face, literally… it’s ok if we don’t know you’re all sick. That’s not as important as my re-election.

Maybe, just maybe… some people will wake up and see… that they’re being scammed, by the greatest scammer of them all.

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Day 94 – June 18, 2020

Everyone has heard of Schrödinger’s Cat, but there’s a subtlety to that famous experiment that needs to be clarified… which is… it’s not that when you look into the box, only then do you know whether the cat is alive or not. It’s that until you look into the box, the cat is both dead AND alive. If that has you scratching your head, it’s because of course it’s a non-sensical scenario.

The issue has to do with mapping behaviour in the quantum world… to our visible, relatable world. And I’m not talking about the pseudo-scientific vibration energy healing quantum whatever… I’m talking about actual quantum physics, where things work differently at the subatomic level… and one of those things is that some particles, which can exist in one of two states, seem to exist in both… until you observe them, at which point they pick a side. For example, an electron… it has two levels, spin-up or spin-down. When you observe the electron, you can tell which state it’s in. But until you look at it, it’s spinning both ways. Or the polarization of a single photon… vertical or horizontal. And until you observe it, both. In simpler terms, imagine a coin. You flip it, and it falls to the ground. Now try to imagine that until you look at it, it’s both heads and tails… but the moment you look at it, it’ll pick one or the other. Bizarre.

There are problems with this sort of interpretation, and it’s one of many… but the thing is, this behaviour does exist, and it’s the foundation of the science that takes advantage of quantum mechanics. In a typical computer, data is stored in bits… and each bit is a one or zero. In a quantum computer, you have a Qbit… which can be a one, a zero… or both, simultaneously. A simple example, in a normal computer, a Byte is 8 bits, which can represent 2⁸ different numbers (from 0 to 255). But if that is a QByte (8 Qbits), you could theoretically evaluate all 256 versions at once, which on the surface implies a computer 256 times faster. And now imagine there isn’t just one QByte… but many.

Schrödinger had a problem with that, and came up with his famous thought experiment… which led to years of arguments with the greatest minds of the day, like Einstein, Planck, Bohr and Heisenberg (the theoretical physicist, not the meth cook).

At the end of the day though, what’s clear is that while these are all interesting theoretical discussions, and quantum effects can be exploited down at that level, as baffling as the experiments are (and there are trivially simple experiments you can do to actually see quantum effects)… the real world just doesn’t work this way. The “alternative facts” model of reality doesn’t allow for two things to be true at once, as much as some people would hope. The world’s issues aren’t waiting around for us to observe them before they tip in one or the other direction.

At present, depending how you wish to observe it, you might interpret this pandemic to be over. Or, of course, you realize it’s still very much going… and we need to be cognizant of that and respect it. You can’t have it both ways, but this seems to be what’s going on, depending to whom you listen. Schrödinger’s virus.

"If you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It's dying out.” — said Donald Trump, this morning. “No, it’s not”, says everyone else.

I guess it’s a good thing we’re not all subatomic particles, waiting to tip one way or the other. It’s good that while we understand there are indeed two (or more) sides to every issue, many of those sides don’t actually exist on top of each other. There’s some certainty to the fact that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and there’s no version of political/pseudo-scientific hand-waving that’s going to change that… and we’ll see that in rising numbers as things open back up. Today, Canada went over 100,000 known cases. Let’s hope we’ve all learned something and stick with it… the idea was to get it under control, which, around here, we’ve done. The important thing is to keep it that way. Or we’ll have bigger problems than trying to figure out if some theoretical cat is dead or alive.

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Day 86 – June 10, 2020

Back in 1992, I went to a rock concert — Metallica, at the Pacific Coliseum… the Black Album tour, arguably their best. A very memorable concert, but before the show… something just as memorable…

Back in those days, like today, you stood in line to get checked by security before going in. Back then, they weren’t looking for guns or knives, though of course those would be confiscated… they didn’t even care about drugs. But alcohol, and the bottles that would house it — that was the big no-no. My friend and I were good little boys, so no concerns. We waited more than 15 minutes for the line to slowly snake its way to the doors, but we finally got there… and then this happened: My friend went in first, and the security guy frisked him…. and frowned. “What’s this?”, he asked…. “Huh?”, says my friend…. “Oh… oh shit… uh… oh boy….” and reaches into some lower hidden pocket of his relatively thick winter jacket and pulls out… a grenade.

Not a live grenade, of course… just a $5 army-surplus “hey, that’s pretty cool” sort of grenade. I imagine if this were today, some undertrained overzealous security fill-in would scream out “GRENADE!!” and there would be pandemonium. But back then…

“Yeah, I’m afraid you can’t take that in with you.”

“No… no, of course not. I’m so sorry. I…”

“You’ll have to check it.”

“… check it?”

“Yeah, coat check… go in, turn left… far wall, there’s a coat check… leave it there.”

“…”

“…”

“…. Ok.”

So in we go, turn left, go to the far wall to the coat check… he puts the grenade down on the counter. Coat check older lady doesn’t bat an eye… she picks it up, tapes a number to it, gives him the corresponding number, and puts the grenade on the shelf behind her. He hands her $1. Surreal.

After the epic concert, we’re herded out along with the rest of the unruly mob… and we’re far from the coat check, on the other side of the building. “What about your grenade?”, I asked him, as we approached the exit. His response strongly implied he wasn’t too interested in retrieving it.

Every time I see a grenade (which isn’t too often, notwithstanding the Bruno Mars’s song 10 years ago), I think about that grenade. I wonder what became of it? Did it sit on that shelf for a while? Did it make its way down to the Lost-and-Found? Is it still in some “Forgotten stuff people have left behind” pile in some basement storage room? It probably made its way into someone’s home, and when that person is asked where it came from, I wonder what they say.

This is the sort of story that wouldn’t happen today. Even here in Canada, where we’re a lot more chill than south of the border, but still. At one point, I suppose it was ok. These days, no way.

While I’ve been around, Vancouver has gone through three growth spurts, timed with three relevant events… Expo’86, the late 90’s handoff of Hong Kong back to China… and, more recently, the 2010 Winter Olympics. All of them brought lots of people to the city… and many of those people liked what they saw, and decided to stick around.

Those three events shifted the identity of this city… growth, diversity… some degree of “world-class”ness… creating different versions of time and place. Context. A grenade today on a U.S. city street during a protest? Serious problem. 30 years ago at a concert in Vancouver? Not so much.

It’s interesting how I always manage to tie-in some distant historical curiosity of my life and make it relevant to this present-day pandemic. And, more recently, tie it into the societal changes that are occurring. There’s no magic in my writing… it’s just the simple fact that history repeats itself, more often than we think. In concrete terms, pandemics have been reappearing for as long as man has been around. So have protests. And concerts. Same old stuff, dressed-up to be relevant as the flavour of the day. And whenever these days, you’re finding yourself thinking, wow… this is unimaginable. This impossible. This can’t be happening.

Yes, it’s imaginable, possible and it’s happening… again. Because it’s happened before. And it’ll happen yet again. It might look different… H34N87. COVID-68. Civil unrest because the [X] people are sick and tired of the [Y]’s people treatment of them.

We are living in interesting times, but let’s be clear… we’re not that special. Most people have lived through their generation’s versions of the same things. The key aspect is… did they learn anything from it? Have we learned from what they’ve learned, or are we doomed to make the same mistakes?

Yup… some rhetorical questions answer themselves.

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