April 14, 2022

There was a time, in the increasingly-distant past, where I actually imagined this pandemic ending in the blink of an eye… literally instantly. A simple declaration – Hey, it’s all good! – and that would be the end of it. Imagine Tinkerbell flying around in relative darkness, among the shadows… where everything is some gloomy shade of gray. Then, with a simple tap of her tiny magic wand — and a little puff of pixie dust — it all transforms into beautiful colours… and the sun comes out and the sky is blue and the birds are singing and we all live happily ever after.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a fairy tale… and there’s no little fairy to rescue us like that. Indeed, it’s more like a bigger ferry… like the Queen of Esquimalt, when it’s going to dock in Schwartz Bay and suddenly it starts groaning and slowly turning 180 degrees because the cars are all pointing the wrong way. And everyone on board also starts groaning. Oh no, this is going to take forever! We’re going be late for our Tea At The Empress™!

Somewhere between the fairy and the ferry lies our reality; it’s not instant, and it’s a slow turn… but, eventually, we get there. We’re in the midst of that turn right now, but unfortunately, it’s very foggy and we can’t really see how far we’ve gone… nor how far we have to go.

This sort of reminds me about the whole pot ordeal of recent decades. For a long time, it was totally illegal. Today, it’s totally legal. Do you remember the many years of ambiguity? Hey, that guy is standing in the street smoking a joint. Is that legal? Can he do that? Well, maybe he can if he’s not selling it. Really? Who knows? Who cares?

It’s the “who cares” that’s a bit of an issue these days, because while a lot of people do indeed not care anymore, many still do. Also, there are some loud and credible voices stating in no uncertain terms: Hey, this isn’t over. Far from it…. while, at the same time, there are equally loud voices carrying a message that raises some eyebrows: Yeah, it’s over… if for no other reason than we’ve had enough and we’re not doing this anymore. Anyway, look at the numbers. What’s the big deal? Life goes on.

Who do you believe? Who do you want to believe? Every single day, you can choose what you want to believe and there will be a credible source to back you. Today, a Russian warship sank. The Russians say a fire accidentally broke out and detonated some ammunition. The Ukrainians say they hit it with a missile.

Like “Where are we at?” and like getting reliable news out of Ukraine/Russia, the pandemic analysis has also gotten murkier. Attached are numbers and graphs as best as I can do these days, which isn’t much because reliable data is few and far between. Most of it (what’s in italics) is extrapolated. I’ve done away entirely with the vaccination data because, as important as it as and as transfixed as I was every day watching the vaccination percentages creep upwards… now, the numbers are meaningless. From that aspect, we’ve done all we can. Anyone who wants a shot or two or three can get one almost immediately.

In summary, numbers are up, but just a little up. In BC, hospitalizations are close to where they were a month ago, but they’d dipped two weeks ago. ICU numbers continue to drop. In Ontario and Quebec, they’re in the midst of a sixth wave… and of course, what Toronto and Montreal dictate must apply to the rest of the country… so I guess we are too. But while hospitalizations are up, ICU numbers aren’t growing appreciably; in fact, down slightly. Everything is a lot better than it was at the start of the year, but arguably, headed in the wrong direction.

It’s all ambigious and uneasy and, to some extent, ends up being what you want it to be… which, for the present day, is probably as good as it’s going to get. It takes a while to turn the ferry around because if you don’t do it right… like, too quickly, you end up with a big mess on board and lots of complaints. Do it too slowly and there will also be complaints. Hey man, we have reservations, you know?

Well… I’m pretty sure… that if you’re going to be paying $89 per person for Tea At The Empress™, they’ll hold the reservation for you, even if you’re going to be a bit late. And, don’t worry… the ferry will get turned around, docked, and you’ll get there… eventually. Yes, you wish a little magic wand could get you there instantly. I also wish it could get us all there instantly, too… wherever that ultimate “there” is.

But, again, life isn’t a fairy tale. More like a ferry tale, I guess.

April 26, 2021

I play around a lot with my 3D printer… it’s here, beside me, in my home office, and the little series of sounds it makes while operating is good background noise; it’s not distracting… on the contrary, it helps me focus. And, at the end of it, you end up with some interesting (and sometimes useful) object. I have an endless list of things I and the kids have designed and printed… and I’m fascinated with the technology. This printer is already three years old, and there have been upgrades to it… many of which I’ve printed myself. How’s that for innovation – instead of sending you a part, they just send you a 3d blueprint – then you print the thing yourself. So cool.

That being said, it’s still an evolving technology. Some of these prints take several hours… and sometimes, halfway through them, just when you think it’s all going well, one little thing goes wrong and the entire thing is ruined. We’re all familiar with that concept these days.

I’m looking forward, as the technology progresses, to being able to print things with better consistency, and with more and more detail… and with a greater variety of materials. This one only does plastic, but this is the same technology that’s printing metal. And food. And houses. And human organs… one day.

Soon, these things will be printing with the finest detail possible… atom by atom. What would I print with that?

The first thing I would print is the tiniest violin imaginable… suitable for playing the sympathetic music due to the likes of the soon-to-be-former owner of the Corduroy restaurant on Cornwall, Rebecca Matthews… and Alaska Republican state Senator Lora Reinbold.

These two have misunderstood something, and they’re beginning to pay the price for it. What they don’t understand is that nobody gives a crap about them, and long after the issues of the day have become non-issues, they will be left holding the bag for the misguided messages they were propagating.

After Rebecca Matthews loses her business license, liquor license and whatever court case the City of Vancouver throws at her, she’ll be wondering where all of her supporters have gone. Where are the people that were chanting “Get out!” to provincial health officials when she was illegally operating her restaurant? Where is the crowd that was chanting outside her restaurant yesterday, reminding everyone that social distancing and masks and vaccines are all useless? Where’s Mark Donnelly?

Restaurants in Vancouver are a fickle business. 70% of restaurants fail in the first year. 90% are gone by year 3. Where’d everyone go? To the next one… the new one… the latest and greatest. That’s where all those people will have gone, and her GoFundMe will be puzzlingly disappointing. But that’s what you get for being the voice of unreason.

Similarly, Senator Reinbold is one of these freedom-fighting anti-maskers who doesn’t want to wear a mask in an airport or on a plane. Accordingly, Alaska Airlines has banned her indefinitely… a significant issue when Alaska Airlines is the only airline that services her hometown of Juneau. As a result, what would have been a routine one-hour flight getting home for her turned into a 14-hour road-and-ferry adventure. And, for the foreseeable future, she’s somewhat stuck if she needs to get anywhere in a hurry. Now she’s whining about the monopoly of air transport to/from Juneau… an issue that, of course, was non-existent a few days ago. I actually hope she resolves that “issue”…. so that United and American and Delta and JetBlue and Southwest… can also all ban her.

One thing that’ll never be 3D printed is intelligence, and the ability to think big-picture. And that’s too bad… because, as per above, there are at least two people who’d benefit greatly from it.

February 26, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 31, 2020

I keep threatening to write very little sometimes… but this time I mean it. I’m on South Pender Island for the long weekend, and while I’ll endeavour to post numbers and charts at 5pm, the usual content will be lacking.

Neat thing about these Gulf Islands… their history is quite unique. Between 1964 and 1977, as many as 125,00 Vietnam War draft-dodgers made their way to Canada… and many of them, having quietly slipped away in the middle of the night, literally under the radar, made their way to Salt Spring, Mayne, Galiano and Pender islands.

Jimmy Carter pardoned them all in 1977, but half of them chose to stay, having established lives here. It makes for an interesting crowd. After 1977, they could once again appear on the radar, but the simple island living was too good to give up. Sitting here right now, soaking it all in… the view, the nature, the trees, the water… I totally get it.

And… not great numbers across the country today. If we continue to have days like this… 50 new cases in B.C… I may just stay here.

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Day 25 – April 10, 2020

There’s an interesting experiment going on, on the other side of the planet. Our furniture-making, meatball-eating, hockey-dazzling friends in Sweden’s approach to managing this crisis is a lot different than what’s going on around here. We’ve seen a few examples around the world how not to do things. How a few days here and there can have a drastic effect. How not taking it seriously can have big implications. The Globe & Mail wrote about Sweden last week. CNN picked up on it yesterday. Sweden, not a culture that I would associate with recklessness, is taking a huge gamble. If I were a betting man (and I assure you, by any definition of that expression, I am), even I wouldn’t rolling the dice the way they’re doing it.

I will summarize the articles, add a few comments… and something they left out.

To summarize, their schools are open, their pubs are open and there’s no lockdown. Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, but everything else is left up to the honour system. Trust that others will do the right thing. Recommendations, not orders. Their PM calls it a “common sense” approach. Their chief epidemiologist is saying that it’s working “reasonably well” so far, and that they’ve had “not very much” spread into elderly homes and “almost no” spread into hospitals. In other words, it is, at best, working ok, but it’s in the elderly homes and it’s in hospitals. So basically, it’s everywhere.

Not everyone has bought into the plan… a letter from 2,000 doctors and public-health experts went out, urging the government to get a reality check. But for now… many Swedes get it, and are isolating and maintaining social/physical distancing. But also, many are hosting big family Easter celebrations this weekend. How will it all play out? The articles suggest we’ll know “next month”. I think we’ll know a lot sooner.

A quick look at numbers shows a sharp increase yesterday… like, double the number of new cases from the previous day… a 12% increase, implying a TTD of 6 days… so if that rate remains constant, their 9,000 cases will be 18,000 next week and 36,000 the following week. I will say that the growth rates before that were lower, and as I said yesterday, one day doesn’t make a trend. But the whole thing makes me very uneasy.

Some other numbers that are troubling and not mentioned… once you become infected and are verified by a test, you become a statistic. Your statistic will get modified as time goes on… symptoms or no symptoms, hospitalization or not, ICU or not and so on. The final statistic you will have attached to you is in the “Resolved” category, and it can go one of two ways: Recovered or Deceased. To be clear, this doesn’t include anyone who may presently have it, symptoms or no symptoms… this is exclusively those who definitely had it, and now definitely don’t. At last tally, Sweden had 1,251 resolved cases.

Here are the numbers, for comparison… for all known resolved cases, these are the percentages of those who fully recovered:

South Korea: 97.2%
Canada: 91.3%
Italy: 61.8%
USA: 59.5%

And while we’re here… BC: 94.1% — and that number would be higher were it not for the type of clusters (like long-term care homes) that we’ve experienced here.

And Sweden…? 30.5%.

Out of 10 people in Sweden who’ve had this thing and it’s run it course, 7 have died. Which seriously brings to question how deeply they have their heads buried in the sand. That is a staggering number for a first-world country that claims to have things under control. I hope they come to their senses soon.

Closer to home…

There seems to be some confusion when it comes to physical distancing. Stay home or go out in the sun but don’t get together with others and jog, but away from other people and bike, but not where others do, so bike lanes are sort of not ok, so what’s the deal…

Here’s the deal. You can go out if you pretend the following… pretend that you’re carrying this virus… you’re very fortunate that you have no symptoms, but you’re very infectious… and, if you give this to someone else, the moment you do, a lightning bolt will shoot out of the sky and strike you dead, instantly. Just like that.

So… what do you need do to avoid that? A mask or mouth covering helps… a lot. It doesn’t help you as much as it helps others, but like that parable where everyone’s arms are frozen straight out and everyone fears they’ll starve to death because they can’t feed themselves… well, duh, just feed each other. Everyone wins when you do your part.

When you cough or sneeze, you eject particles into the air…. little droplets within which the virus is carried… and those droplets can hang around, suspended in the air. Not for hours, but for several seconds. While the virus itself is small enough to penetrate most fabrics, water droplets are comparatively much bigger… so wearing a mask is like coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a handkerchief.

Assuming no masks, if you’re walking single file outside with other people (Arbutus corridor, seawall, sidewalks…), maintain a distance of 4 to 5 meters. If the guy in front of you coughs or sneezes, it’s unlikely to reach you. If you’re jogging or slow biking, 10 meters. And normal biking, 20 meters. And if you’re heading towards each other — well, you’re in the wrong place. As much as I enjoy cycling, not there, not now. Someone else just breathing hard, let alone coughing/sneezing — within 20 meters of us approaching each other — I would be breathing his exhaust. I don’t want to do that.

The numbers across the country look good. Flat, or lower… let’s keep at it… and hope that the people who decided to ignore what Dr. Henry and Mr. Dix said about 100 times this week…. “This is not the time to…”, and jammed up the ferry line-ups this morning, and swarmed Victoria and the Gulf Islands — don’t wreck things for all of us.

 

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