By Horatio Kemeny|2022-02-14T23:04:56-08:00February 14th, 2022|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Politics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, Pandemic, Statistics, Canada, Vancouver, COVID19, News, Masks, C19, Money, PM Justin Trudeau, BritishColumbia, Economics, Numbers, Truck Convoy Protests|10 Comments
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.
Heading into the weekend without anything too exciting to report… other than I ran into a virulent (haha!!) anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic. The way some people reason things out… it’s quite remarkable. I won’t bore you with the details of it… by now we’ve all had those sorts of discussions with someone… but my front brake needed attention halfway through my ride this morning, so I walk into a random bike shop…
“Hi… I’m sorry, I don’t have a mask… I wasn’t planning on…”
(the guy rips his own mask off)
“Yeah, don’t worry about it… these f’n things don’t do anything anyway”
I’ve wondered out loud before how it is that those two things go so well together. Does anybody know anyone who’s anti-mask but pro-vaccine? Or vice-versa? I’d be interested in listening to rational arguments, but have yet to hear one.
And this guy?
“I’d rather die from Covid than from the vaccine. You don’t know what they put in it.”
The human brain… how it functions, and the twisted logic it supplies to some people… it’s a real mystery.
Instead of pursuing the rest of that discussion… speaking of mysteries… here’s a good one for you to rattle around your brain…
A long time ago, there were three friends who went camping. After a few nights, they’d had enough… and decided to head home early, and spend the night in a motel somewhere. They packed up their stuff, hopped in the car, and drove off, planning to stop at the first motel that had room.
Unfortunately, it was a busy time of year and everything was booked. They passed an endless stream of “No Vacancy” signs… but eventually, there was one where the “No” wasn’t lit up. So they pulled in.
The guy at the front desk told them he only had one room left. They asked if it’d be ok for all three of them to share the room. Yeah, sure, no problem… it’ll be $30 for the room. Great, said the three guys… and each dug into his own pocket and pulled out $10. They each handed their $10 to him; he counted out the $30… all good… and then they got their keys and headed to the room.
A few minutes later, the guy at the counter remembered that there was a special deal going on… and that a room for 3 people was actually only $25. Being an honest person, he opened the cash drawer and pulled out five one-dollar bills…and instructed the janitor, who happened to be sweeping up the lobby, to deliver the $5 to the room.
The janitor, however, wasn’t so honest… and as he walked over to the room, thought to himself… how are 3 guys going to split $5 anyway? He decided to just give them three of the bills and keep two for himself.
So… he knocked on the door… one of the three guys answered… and the janitor handed him three of the $1 bills.
Cool, thought the guy… and took the three bills, and handed a dollar to each of his friends.
So… since each guy originally paid $10 and now got $1 back, you could say each guy paid $9 for the room. $9 x 3 = $27. The bellhop kept $2. That makes $29.
What happened to the other dollar?
It’s a mystery! – and if you know the answer, don’t just blurt it out in the comments… let some people scratch their heads a bit.
Hint: the anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic doesn’t have it.
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.
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…
What you read here is often thought up while I’m lost in thought, riding my bike… and today, I started by thinking about this crazy anti-vaxxer who decided to drive her car through a vaccination tent set-up in a parking lot in Tennessee. Fortunately, nobody was hurt… but there were plenty of near-misses. I was pondering from which angle to approach that – and there are many – and was specifically thinking about how some people are just assholes, plain and simple… and while having that illuminating thought, the following happened…
I was cycling on the seawall, near English Bay, heading west… somewhere between the Burrard Bridge and Cactus Club… it’s a nice stretch of road between BB and CC these days – a whole street lane dedicated for bikes. As such, there is plenty of room for two-way bike traffic… and what I saw was a guy on a bike, coming towards me. There was also a Canada Goose sitting on the street, right next to the curb. This guy had plenty of room to go by… enough room that he had to make an extra effort to stick out his right leg and kick the bird as he went by. This happened about 20 feet in front of me. The goose wasn’t seriously hurt… it just squawked and fluttered a bit. But I slammed on the brakes and yelled after him… I guess what one would call a declarative sentence – like “Have a nice day!” – except that’s not what I said. He barely slowed down and didn’t look back; just held up one solitary finger as he rode off into the distance. Seriously, what an asshole.
I resumed my ride now trying to figure out where the overlap of assholes might fit into what I have to say; what does a psycho-anti-vaxxer have in common with a guy who kicks an innocent bird for no reason?
The quick conclusion I came to is that I’ve already wasted enough time thinking about these pieces of crap… so we’ll leave it at that.
Moments later, I saw a sign that announced that tonight’s Lotto Max is up to $65 million… so I started thinking about how I might analyze previous draws, and try to use that to predict future ones. Turns out there’s 4,000 draws of historical data to analyze, and that’s what I’m doing right now… potentially far more rewarding than writing about assholes. With some intelligent analysis, I might reduce the odds of winning from a gazillion to one to just one in a zillion.
So… on that note… I’m going to get back to it now… still a few hours before the draw… wish me luck… and if you’ve read this far, tell you what… if I win $65 million dollars, I’ll take $5m of it and split it with everyone who likes this post.
The concept of social engineering usually has a sinister implication… like when someone calls you up and cleverly extracts your banking password. Less sinister is a charity calling you up and guilting you into donating… by craftily knowing which heartstrings to pluck. There’s a whole spectrum of social engineering, and anyone who’s ever parented a kid has engaged in it, possibly without even knowing it.
Getting a toddler to eat food they don’t want? Make it fun… the train going into the station, the plane going into the hangar… whatever. Weeeee zoom…. munch munch.
When the kid gets older, convince them it’s food they like. Eat along with them… ohhhh so yummy!! MmmMmMMm!!!
When they’re older than that, bribe them… ice cream after dinner if you finish your vegetables. Or blackmail; eat your vegetables or you’re grounded this weekend.
To the extent it’s getting someone to do something they otherwise might not want to… but end up doing so – and it’s their decision – that’s a successful implementation of social engineering.
On a separate note, if you’ve been reading what I’ve been writing for a while, then you’ve heard me talk about planning… and you’ve heard me talk about the strategy of starting at the finish line… and working backwards from there. Rather than defining a starting point, simply start at the end… as far away as it might be and as impossible as it may seem. Then plan the baby steps that aim in that direction.
And… perhaps you’ve also heard me say… that if a problem is too big to solve, break it in half. Solve the halves separately, and once you’ve done that… problem solved. And if the halves are too big to solve on their own, break them in half again. Break it down till you have a small piece you can solve.
So… putting all of that together… one finish line that’d be nice to reach (though likely impossible) is: everyone socially distances, everyone wears masks, everyone gets vaccinated.
That’s a big problem, and is easily broken into three distinct pieces… so, how do you solve them individually?
The answer might involve some social engineering, but… sometimes, incredibly, some problems solve themselves.
The anti-vaxx/anti-mask crowd has put the word out that vaccines are dangerous. They’re dangerous because people who’ve been vaccinated are “shedding certain proteins” onto the unvaccinated, and that can cause the defenceless unvaccinated people some serious health problems. Let’s be clear: they’re saying that it’s dangerous for an unvaccinated person to be near someone who’s vaccinated.
I’ve written about this baseless nonsense before, and destroyed the logic behind it into the tiny pieces of crap of which it consists. This is beyond stupid, and anyone who believes it should just… oh… wait a sec…
The anti-vaxx/anti-mask/anti-social-distance/anti-intelligence/anti-science crowd also says… the only way to protect yourself from these dangerous vaccine proteins is… socially distance and wear a mask.
Yes, you read that correctly… the anti-everything crowd… they’re not afraid of a virus that’s affected 160,000,000 people worldwide, killed between 3 and 10 million of them, and has caused tens of millions more some serious lingering or permanent health issues… no, that’s not the problem. The problem is the vaccines to neutralize all that. But the solution? Masks and social distance. Huh.
I guess perhaps if you ride the crazy train long enough, you end up at the same station where everyone else has already arrived.
You know what… great. Wonderful. All that social engineering? Not needed. Whatever works.
See that guy over there, respectfully standing a few metres away and wearing a mask? He might be a level-headed intelligent, informed person such as yourself. Or… he may be a stark, raving lunatic. Does it matter? Hell no. Welcome aboard, crazy-guy. We’re all in this together… and you just keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. We’ll both be ok. And, with that… two thirds of the problem is solved.
The final third… how do you get that guy to get vaccinated? That’s more difficult.
One of the simpler social-engineering tactics is already being thrown at it: Bribery. It works for some little kids and food… perhaps it works for some adults and vaccines.
Locally, homeless residents of the DTES have been offered $5 gift-cards… but that pales in comparison to the U.S… where you can get beer, pizza, train tickets, scholarships and, starting this week in Ohio… $1 million dollars. Yes, a random name will be pulled once a week for the next 5 weeks… and if the name pulled is someone who’s been vaccinated, they’ll receive one million dollars. Expensive… but, one would have to assume, effective.
Or… for the truly crazy… who’ll believe anything, and like propagating nonsensical conspiracies… how about this…
Put it out there that they’ve created a vaccine that prevents your skin from absorbing the evil C19-vaccine-shedded proteins! It’s really hard to get; they don’t want you knowing about it… but… I know a guy… and, hey… totally coincidental and ironic how that new secret vaccine comes in little vials that are identical to what you get from Pfizer or Moderna… and the side-effects are similar too… but no no no… it’s totally different. See the label? Totally different.
It’s worth a shot.
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.
A tiny glimpse of visibility with respect to how our federal government presently operates – and why we happen to find ourselves behind the 8-ball with respect to vaccines – is evident in the mandate letter sent to Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on January 15th.
But, let’s go back a little further… actually, a lot further.
At a gala held at the National Arts Centre on April 14, 1972, when Trudeau was only a year old, visiting U.S. president Richard Nixon famously raised his glass: “I’d like to toast the future prime minister of Canada, to Justin Pierre Trudeau!”, he proclaimed. Nixon was also later caught on his White House tapes, famously deriding that three-day trip: “… wasting three days up there. That trip we needed like a hole in the head.”
Two little take-aways from that… one is that if the person presently holding the office of Prime Minister had a last name like Smith or Jones, he probably wouldn’t be PM. He has a unique last name and the genetics to go with it, and they’ve taken him right to the top. Perhaps it was assumed that what he lacked in qualifications might be made up magically, with that last name… or, with experience, having been immersed in that life as a child, right from day one.
There might be an element of truth to that; if Justin hung around daddy enough back then and asked lots of questions, he’d certainly have had a very privileged viewpoint as to how things work. The problem is that Pierre Elliot Trudeau, love or hate the guy, was a true statesman. Whether he destroyed the country or helped shape it to what it is today – let’s set that argument aside. Either way, he was a true leader… and I suspect if he were in power today, we’d have lots of vaccine at our disposal.
But that aspect of leadership is not learned; it’s a personality type that requires a level of understanding and big-picture thinking that either you have or you don’t.
Which leads to the second little take-away… that a lot of government bullshit is a complete waste of time, but it’s necessary for the optics. Nixon called it for what it was… three wasted days of fluff. A gala? Pat Nixon delivering a stuffed Snoopy to Pierre and Margaret’s little boy? All while Nixon was facing some serious problems back at home. Like, you know, a war he was losing on the other side of the world.
Back to present day, this letter, publicly available of course… and, its optics. It’s a real work of art… and reading it, the first thing that comes to mind is that whoever wrote it knew that this document was going to live forever, and therefore, every single word needs to be perfect. Every single word, well-thought-out. Nothing is missing. It mentions every political issue imaginable, many of them irrelevant to the pressing issue at hand.
Emissions reduction targets, Gender-based Analysis, intersectional lens, Indigenous people, Métis, Inuit, LGBTQ2, persons with disabilities, reconciliation, self-determination, Yes, of course they’re all important issues… but instead of 3 pages on tangential issues, all of which are affected by the pandemic, how about one sentence: “Every Canadian deserves equal access to vaccines, and your job is to get it.”
Completely lacking in that document are actual targets. Zero deliverables. That part of it is difficult to figure out, but that’s the important part of it… not just inclusive (and vague) hand-waving. If I’d had a shot at it, my letter would’ve been a lot shorter:
“Anita, please go find as much vaccine as you can, as quickly as possible. Don’t be ok with signed documents and promises unless those documents have some clout to them; we need hard numbers with respect to delivery schedules, and they should agree to severe repercussions and/or reparations if they fail to live up to their end of it. Don’t be afraid to overpay to secure that – we can afford it. Don’t hesitate to leverage whatever we may have to offer. Trees, water, electricity, whatever. Don’t be afraid to charter some planes and waste some fuel. We can handle the political fallout from dumping excess carbon emissions into the atmosphere. For now, at this moment, this is more important. Getting these vaccines quickly and reliably is all that matters. We are scaling up a national vaccine program like no one has ever seen, and we need the product to fill the pipeline. Vaccine inventory can not be allowed to be the weak link in this chain. We don’t need 10 doses per Canadian next year. We need one dose… now.”
But, no… instead, we get a nice big fluffy document with zero teeth. It, literally, looks good on paper. So does cheque for a million dollars… until you try to cash it, and it bounces.
That’s the thing; it can’t just look good. It needs to actually work. And that’s perhaps the destiny of that mandate letter. It’ll be printed off on a huge sheet of fancy parchment and signed with a big feather and framed for all posterity… so that all of the grandkids of Canadians who survived the great pandemic of 2019-2022 can one day tour the great halls of Parliament Hill and look at it. And, as they slowly walk by it, say something… like… “Huh.”