On the last day of second-year university, I wrote my last exam on a Friday afternoon. That was the last thing after a tumultuous few weeks of final papers, projects and exams. I finished writing it, barely remember driving home, told everyone not to wake me… I’m exhausted, I already ate, leave me alone. I fell asleep around 6pm and woke up the next morning at 11am. That’s 17 hours of glorious, blissful sleep… and I remember it well because it’s, by far, the longest continuous sleep I’ve ever had.
And when I woke up the next day, I suddenly felt like I was in a vacuum. “Now what?!” What paper or project do I work on? What exam do I study for? There were no answers of course, but as the saying goes… when you stare into the abyss, it stares right back at you. Now what?
The government 3pm briefings were something I’d gotten used to. If you were here watching with me, you might have heard me screaming at the screen… not at Dr. Henry or Minister Dix… but rather, at the reporters serving up the softball questions. “Ask him this!” or “Ask her that!” I’d (very ineffectively) yell… and usually, nobody thought to ask what I’d desperately wanted answered. I took to Tweeting certain reporters, and a couple of times, by coincidence or because they listened, my specific questions got asked and answered… but now… this vacuum of silence. This abyss of zero information.
This is, of course, good. No news is good news. Usually. We can all hope we never see Dr. Henry on TV again, except when she’s receiving her well-deserved Order of B.C. and Order of Canada. But perhaps there’s a bit of Stockholm Syndrome as well. This pandemic has held us all hostage for more than a year, and even if it’s letting us go, there’s visible reluctance all around. I’m not saying we’re going to miss it, but certainly parts of it. I’m not saying I need to see the Henry/Dix 3pm gathering every day for the rest of my life, but there’s no doubt it held great importance for many people… and, truthfully, I will miss it. And while we’ve all become very used to masks and distancing, and the mental stranglehold of that – even if Henry/Dix are telling us don’t worry, take them off, gather, whatever – it’s going to take some time. You don’t jump into the abyss… you lower yourself in slowly.
Yes, I do think Dr. Henry will receive (and deserves) those honours. As much as she received criticism and death threats and all the rest of it, in the decades to come, when this whole experience is looked back upon and textbooks are written as to the proper way of dealing with pandemics, British Columbia will be near (if not sitting on) the top of the list. Pandemics incur a lot of collateral damage… lives, businesses, jobs. Mitigating that properly, navigating the subtleties, juggling thirteen flaming chainsaws without getting hurt; it’s no small feat. Look around at the rest of the world for comparison. We, around here, have been very lucky indeed.
I’m going to try to sleep seventeen hours tonight… though I will fail miserably. But one thing that’s changed… I used to go to sleep on Fridays with a bit of dread, not knowing what to expect after the weekend media blackout. That’s now gone, and I certainly won’t miss that.
The eclectic collection of friends and people and organizations I associate with has never been made more apparent than sifting through today’s emails. It’s officially Canada Day, of course, and I’m wishing you all a very happy holiday… in whatever way you wish to celebrate and/or recognize it – and of course, for many people, it’s no celebration at all… right up there with Columbus Day and all of its implications, as we all well-know from the emerging dreadful news that’s nowhere near subsiding.
I have emails yelling “Don’t let them take Canada Day away from us!!” and I have emails calmly explaining things, in great detail, from the point of view of many Indigenous Peoples from across the country, eloquently stating why there’s nothing at all to cheer.
The rest are somewhere in between – as am I.
But before I talk about Canada, let’s talk about Chile a bit – a country many of you possibly barely knew even existed nor cared about… but if you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve seen that name pop up several times. And while I still have my little soap-box to stand upon for a few more days, here’s one last crack at it.
Here is a brief summary of Chile, the country where I was born and where I still have plenty of friends, family and business associates… a place that was one of the very few in the world accepting Jewish refugees during and after WWII. The boat that sailed west with the few members of my family who had enough foresight to get the hell out of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (among them my maternal grandparents) crossed the Atlantic Ocean and attempted to dock in numerous places, among them Halifax. This was during the reign of Canada’s 10th PM, William Lyon Mackenzie King… who, when asked how many Jewish refugees he thought Canada should admit, replied “None is too many”. The ship sailed south, but the U.S. wasn’t open to it either. The ship then crossed the Panama Canal and kept sailing south, now on the Pacific side… until finally Ecuador allowed everyone off the boat… provided they didn’t stay.
But Chile said, yeah… come on down… and welcomed numerous Jewish refugees with open arms. And these are not the sort of war-torn starving desert-dwelling-type refugees you imagine from TV and movies… these were well-educated doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, engineers, etc… whose subsequent involvement in the country helped grow it to be the leading economy of Latin America.
But, times change. Politics evolve. Moods swing. Demographics shift. A recent article voted Santiago, Chile as the number-one antisemitic city in the world… a city with close to 500,000 Palestinians… close to 10% of the population… compared with less than 20,000 Jews (0.4%). And… a very leftist antisemitic presidential candidate – who, if polls are correct – could easily win the election later this year.
This candidate has brought out all of the usual antisemitic rhetoric and has promised to rid the country of Jews. Needless to say, the Jews are becoming increasingly worried. Public displays of antisemitism, violence and vandalism are being seen in record numbers. And if he wins – as the old adage goes – when you lose the support of the government… Run.
If the shit really hits the fan, where will they go?
Well, one very logical place is Canada… among one of the very best places in the world to be Jewish these days. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world to be *anything* these days.
Indeed, especially for those who are young and haven’t experienced the world outside the bubble that is Canada, it’s hard to relate to how it feels and looks when a country completely derails. We almost got a first-hand look at it on January 6th… and from the sounds of it, things might look very different right now down south if those armed protesters had simply zigged instead of zagged… and wound up face to face with Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. And it hasn’t happened (yet) in Chile. But it could. It could happen anywhere.
But, these days, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon in Canada. We read with horror at the emerging evidence of our past, but here’s the thing; this is a great country. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any country, great or not, that doesn’t have a significant stain in its history. Chile was good for Jews for a while; that may change. Chile has never been good to its Indigenous population. The Spanish showed up a few hundred years ago, conquered them… and they have remained conquered ever since. Yes, they are screaming for their rights, land, restitution and acknowledgment… but they, like many other Indigenous populations around the world, face a steep uphill. Unlike in Canada, where there are still lots of big problems… in the past and in the future… but they are being acknowledged and they will hopefully be dealt with adequately… sooner than later.
Canada, for the moment, is also a great place for Jews. Antisemitism is on the rise, but still… there is full government support. I don’t judge Canada on the words or actions of William Lyon Mackenzie King. I judge it on what it is today… Canada, which, for the moment, faces a historical trauma that’s been known for decades but rarely spoken about till now… a history that needs to be heard, acknowledged and made right. Great countries deal with it. And that’s what we’re doing.
So yeah, the celebration may be understandably muted this year, but let’s not forget that there’s also a future, not just a past. And if we can learn from the past (and there’s plenty to learn) and use it for a better future for all of us – Indigenous, White, Black, Jewish and whoever else… remember… you’re very fortunate to be Canadian… which in itself is certainly something to celebrate.
I’m overwhelmed by all of the messages I’ve received… thank you. I realize I said my last post is on Tuesday… and some took it to mean yesterday… but I meant next Tuesday – July 6th – the day the official State of Emergency is lifted. That being said, everyone in the news is saying the SoE ends tonight. What’s certainly true is that Phase 3 starts tomorrow… but that’s not necessarily tied to the SoE, which, according to the official government EmergencyInfoBC site… still says July 6th.
… so, guess what… one more week of my ramblings, because I think I have about another 6 days of “wrap-up” to provide… of the “broad brushstrokes” sort… and we can’t end all of this without one final “guess the numbers” contest over the weekend…
So, with that… a final word about vaccines and their effectiveness:
There’s an interesting sort of Darwinism that’s emerging from this pandemic… of the “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it” sort. To follow up on that well-known saying, I’ve added a corollary (n. a proposition that follows from (and is often appended to) one already proved) – which is, “you can take that horse’s head and jam it into the water and hold it there… but there are some stubborn old horses that’d rather drown than take a drink.”
I would hope nobody’s tried this experiment, and I should note… I’ve met a lot of horses in my time. Some are very smart. Some are as dumb as a mule… but, to be honest, perhaps all of them would be smart enough to take a drink if that’s what it’d take to not die. But humans, on the other hand… the sort that’d never admit they were wrong… that’s another story.
The data that has emerged is pretty straightforward.
In the U.S., there were 18,000 C19 deaths in May. Of those, around 150 (0.8%) were in fully vaccinated people. I don’t have the age or breakdown of those people, but I’m assuming age and compromised immune systems are part of it for some, if not most.
Also in May, in the U.S., there were 853,000 C19 hospitalizations. Of those, fewer than 1,200 (0.1%) were people who were fully vaccinated.
The U.S. is down to a few hundred deaths a day these days, and virtually all of them are people who are unvaccinated.
In English: Ninety-nine percent of people dying from Covid-19 are unvaccinated. Virtually all of those deaths are preventable.
In mid-January, 4,000 people a day were dying. The significant decrease began exactly at the time the vaccination campaigns began in earnest.
I’m really not entirely sure what more persuasive evidence someone would need. To me, and fortunately, many others… it’s all startlingly obvious.
What can you do…? You can lead a person to a vaccination clinic. But you can’t make them take it.
You know… it’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok to change your mind. As long as your fragile ego can take a hit, and as long as you have the capacity to do some critical thinking, if you haven’t gotten sick… it’s never too late. The overwhelming data coming from every trustable scientific source agrees. The guy in the basement with the red tinfoil hat disagrees.
Horses don’t always have choices, but humans do… and sometimes, they make the right choice. And sometimes, they let Darwin make it for them.
C’est la vie… or, in some unfortunate future cases… lack thereof.
On a completely different topic… man, it’s hot as Hell out there… and speaking of Hell – here’s a good segue… you know who belongs in hell? Paul Bernardo… who was briefly in the news a few days ago, and will be again in the future.
Paul Bernardo is brutally psychotic rapist and murderer who was put away decades ago, but as long as he’s alive, we’ll keep hearing his name every few years.
Here is the Paul Bernardo news cycle from now on:
Not sure how many cycles there will be, but you get the idea. It ends when he finally arrives in Hell.
When Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, they instituted the “faint hope” clause… which, after fifteen years of a life sentence, allowed the convict a chance to ask for a parole hearing… a long-shot chance to get out… one that would never apply to monsters like Bernardo, but the hoops need to be jumped through… and it’s problematic, because it requires testimony, often from the families of the victims… tearing open wounds from the past – every 2 or 3 years.
The idea behind all of this was that if the convict thought he’d have a small chance… effectively, a small chance in hell… perhaps he’d behave better and make better efforts to better himself, etc. Most of those dangerous offenders are beyond rehabilitation, so the whole thing is a pretty big and expensive and stressful waste of time.
Accordingly, the whole faint hope thing was abandoned in 2011, but everyone whose crimes occurred before that were “grandfathered”, so they still get to play the game… a game that will die off along with these remaining prisoners. Then, they can all hang out in Hell together.
You’d think I that’s all I have to say on this particular topic, but I’ll tell you a interesting story related to all of this… some other time. Right now, I’m going to go cool off… because, do you know how hot it is? Exactly.
It’s too bad Dr. Bonny Henry wasn’t around to do the usual Monday afternoon press conference where they announce the weekend numbers. As it turns out, there was no afternoon press conference at all… because there was one in the morning, talking about the restart plan… attended by herself, Dix, Horgan, etc… and that was enough for the day.
And the reason it’s too bad is because they were truly great numbers, and she would’ve deserved to deliver them in person. Instead, it was left to the little “Breaking News” ticker to announce the lowest numbers in… a very long time. The +68 from the last 24 hours is truly optimistic… and that, Delta variant notwithstanding, things are still trending down as hoped. And it’s not just the case numbers; hospitalizations and ICU admissions are at levels not seen since early November.
It may be a bit of a bumpy approach and there may be a crosswind to content with, but, for the moment, it looks like this big plane is going to land as scheduled. No Delta-inspired go-around in sight.
So… all the being said, the vast majority of you guessed high… way high. The big Congratulations!! goes to Jeff Waltenburgh, whose guess of 278 was only one-off the actual total of 277… a guess out of only a few that started with a 2. Most were in the 300s, 400s… and even a few 500s. I’m glad you were all mostly wrong, because even though the numbers predicted and even I said we’re getting close to double digits, it’s quite another thing to see it actually happening. Jeff – way to go — please let me know your charity of choice.
For the rest of us, the big re-opening for July 1st is certainly on-track if these trends continue, and, if so, we can look forward to what Dr. Bonny stated so eloquently: This will be our Summer of Hope and Healing…”
We could all use a bit of that.
What does life look like post-pandemic? It’s pretty straightforward; it looks like it used to before, but with the back-of-the-mind consideration that Covid is still around. Having a clear understanding of what’s risky and what’s not — you keep it in mind — and life goes on. If this were a movie being told in flashbacks, we’re at the point where the past and the present start to converge… you know, those great movie scripts that weave all the timelines into something seamless.
What’s not so seamless is the return to normality, and differing opinions as to what’s ok and what isn’t. For example… there is both a huge outcry – and also a lot of “whatever” shrugging – with respect to the fact that the first cruise ship to embark in this soon-to-be post-pandemic era had a couple of people test positive. Was that to be expected? The ship’s captain – perhaps Captain Obvious – probably thinks so.
The most effective vaccines claim efficacy rates of no higher than 95%, and there’s a big difference between 100% and anything below it. That certainly doesn’t mean that 5% of people who are fully vaccinated will get C19. But it certainly does mean that there will be “breakthrough” infections, and until this virus is eradicated from existence, that’ll continue to happen.
If you’re fully vaccinated, your chances of getting infected are small. Your chances of getting infected and having symptoms are tiny. Your chances of getting infected and having serious symptoms, requiring hospitalization… are tiny squared – to the point of “don’t even worry about it.”
Out of the thousands of people on that cruise ship, the majority of whom were fully vaccinated and tested 72 hours prior to boarding, two (who were sharing a cabin) subsequently tested positive. Not surprising. They were completely asymptomatic; also not surprising. They don’t seem to have infected anyone else; still not surprising. They’re in isolation, but life aboard the Celebrity Millennium continues unabated. Nothing cancelled. No masks. The cruise company is sticking to its protocols and nothing is changing.
This is a very different scenario than the Diamond Princess… the cruise ship that set sail from Yokohama on January 20th of last year, with one infected passenger… and subsequently turned into a floating petri dish that at one point accounted for half of all of the world’s known cases. It wasn’t until March that they managed to get everyone off that ship… and there will be books and movies and documentaries made for years about what went on, at every level, during those 6 weeks. At least they didn’t scuttle the ship with everyone on board; you know some psycho in some board room must have come up with that idea at some point.
Back to today, and those two passengers. If they’d never been tested, they’d never have known. They had no cough and they had no sniffles and they had no problems breathing. For a few years at least, if not decades… if not forever… this virus will be in our midst. But at some point, a point we’re quickly approaching, we’ll all have done everything we can. And, at that point, the exact right thing will be to get on with your life as you know it.
Many of us are still in freak-out mode, and that’ll take a while to dissipate… the PTSD of C19 paranoia… which is why many of the reactions to this news story we were of the “I can’t believe anyone would be so stupid as to get on a cruise ship today!!1!1!!!!” sort.
While I recognize that it’s an uncomfortable idea to many, I can also totally understand the mindset of the people on that cruise. Eventually, we’ll all get to a level of comfort where we can lead our lives based on the best quote of the best script of the best movie ever made: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Shocking news to report… we didn’t win the Lotto Max. And… nobody else did, either. I’ll spend a bit of time analyzing whether what I predicted was in any way statistically significant. Of the top 10 tickets generated, 5 of the 7 numbers picked were on them. Never more than 2 together though. I’m not sure if a monkey throwing darts would’ve done better, worse, or simply the same.
In the meantime, other numbers… my vaccination numbers and graphs differ from the official ones because I’ve never used “eligible people” as a denominator; I’ve always simply used everyone. That two-month-old baby? One day he’ll get a C19 vaccine – not sure when… but as far as vaccinated/not-vaccinated, I’m counting him.
As such, here’s something interesting; in Canada, at this moment, B.C. has taken the lead with respect to vaccinated population. We’ve vaccinated 61.3% of everybody (at least one jab). Now in second place is Quebec (61.0%). The country overall is at over 58.4% with at least one dose (which is really good), and 6% fully vaccinated (that certainly has a ways to go).
The next big issue will be vaccine passports or immunity certificates or green passes or whatever you want to call them. Many countries and even some provinces are starting to talk about how it’ll look, how it’ll be implemented and how it will affect things. The “Freedumb!!” crowd will start screaming, etc… perhaps without realizing that vaccine passports in some fashion have been around for centuries, and many places have always required them… for your protection as well as theirs. Of course, the vast majority of people complaining are not those who typically travel to malaria-infested river basins or parts of the world known for Dengue Fever outbreaks.
Just remember, the couple dining next to you in the restaurant has rights too. They have to the right to know they’re in a safe environment. And the restaurant itself has rights too… to do whatever they want to provide that.
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…