June 11, 2021

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.”

June 2, 2021

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.

May 29, 2021

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…

May 23, 2021

I hope you got your good dose of sunshine in yesterday, because around here, we’re back to “the usual” for a week. The big Vancouver Weather Wheel (VWW) has only three sections… “It’s about to rain”, “It’s raining” and “It just rained.” A recent spin landed in section 2, and that’s where it’ll sit for a while… and actually, that’s ok. The freshest air on the planet exists when things transition from section 2 to section 3.

The other thing going on these days is the transition from the NHL regular season to the NHL playoffs –lots of rain equals Spring equals NHL playoffs… and there’s an interesting correlation… you can sort of map playoff performance with Covid-19 numbers.

Here in B.C., our numbers have recently tanked, which is very good. The Canucks have also tanked… which is good or bad, depending on whether you like to see a strong finish or a better draft pick. Either way, both our pandemic numbers and our team’s performance have crashed down noticeably. Playoffs? LOL.

One province east of us is Alberta, whose pandemic numbers were riding high. Also riding high were the Edmonton Oilers… who seem to have hit a brick wall when they entered the playoffs. And right around the time the Oilers began their journey to falling down two games to zero to the Jets, so did their C19 numbers. That’s an impressive meltdown, their daily new-case numbers… falling like a rock. Much like the Oilers’ chances of getting much further in the playoffs. They might go down 3 games to 0 to the Winnipeg Jets, who are flying high these days.

Unfortunately, so are the C19 numbers in Winnipeg. Manitoba is the one province that isn’t yet headed in the right direction, though perhaps they’re turning the corner too.

As has happened numerous times in the past, the Leafs and Habs are battling it out; that series is tied, similar to the C19 numbers in those two provinces, as far as things getting better… though I’d have to give the “trending advantage” to Quebec… which, in this warped correlation of mine, is good news for Leafs fans.

Two of those four teams will meet in the next round of the playoffs, and only one will make it to the semi-final round… where they’ll run into an American powerhouse team.

I hope at that point, the team is Las Vegas… and I hope that’s there this correlation breaks down. Las Vegas numbers are looking so good these days, the place is almost back to normal. They’ve already thrown the doors open in most places, and will do so entirely in the next couple of weeks; any Las Vegas hockey game will play to a packed house, and that’d be a great way to watch a game… whether live or on TV. I’ve been to games in Las Vegas; usually it’s the Canucks getting beaten up, but it’s always a memorable experience… one I hope to partake in once again, sooner than later. I don’t see myself in that crowd anytime soon… but watching something that real will be a very good indication we’re in the final stretch.

And, for what it’s worth, it rarely rains in Vegas.

May 20, 2021

Not much going on today, so let’s set aside the pandemic for a day… and here’s a PSA of sorts… something to keep in mind.

There are always lots of fun little games floating around on social media… especially on Facebook… where it’ll ask you to figure out your stripper name or thug name or porn-star name… by combining something like your first pet’s name with the street you grew up on. Or maybe your middle name and the first car you owned.

I don’t mind revealing that my stripper name may be Tippy Cypress or my porn name may be Claudio Mustang… but the reason I don’t care is that none of those things are passwords I use anywhere, nor are they answers to security questions….

… and that’s the thing. Many people use exactly those sorts of words for passwords and security questions. Like when you lose your password, it’ll try to verify who you are by asking things like that… most commonly used to be “mother’s maiden name”, but most places now let you choose the questions and supply the answers. People will typically choose the questions with answers they’ll never forget… like the street you grew up on. Like your first car.

And somewhere… some bad guy… intent on stealing identities… now has a bit more to work with. If he already knows your name and email address and home address and phone number… there’s a lot he can do. People who wonder how it’s possible their online accounts were compromised… this is one way. And for bots who hammer away relentlessly trying to crack into accounts, throwing these few words into their mix of “things to try” can be very helpful.

Some suggestions… don’t use obvious answers to security questions. Don’t post your stripper name if it contains information that you’re suddenly realizing may be sensitive. Another strategy for security questions is use wrong answers you’ll never forget.

I was amused to hear of one guy who uses the word Buffalo for everything. Favourite city? Buffalo. Nickname you grew up with? Buffalo. Favourite animal? Buffalo.
Last aircraft you flew? Street you grew up on? Favourite style of chicken wings? Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo.

Some of you are now thinking, “Oh shit” and are running off to change some passwords and security questions and answers. Good call… go for it.

And for the rest of you, ok… one bit of pandemic news… I’ll share it because it’s good… today’s number of new cases in B.C (357) is the lowest since mid-February. That’s really good… no question about that.

By |2021-05-20T17:03:26-07:00May 20th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , |3 Comments

May 15, 2021

Let’s do some good news bad news…

The good news is that numbers all across the country are down. The bad news is that here in B.C., we don’t actually know… until Monday.

The good news is that today was spectacularly beautiful. I hope you took advantage of it. The bad news is I did… and went for a wonderful, long bike-ride… and right at the end of it, managed to gash my leg open. I’m now looking at it wondering if I should be headed to the ER for stiches instead of sitting here writing this. Ask me in a few hours…

The good news is that you’re exceedingly unlikely, given everything that’s happened and is now going on…. to die from Covid-19. The bad news is that, unfortunately, for a lot of people, it’s a little too late.

How many people? We’ve talked about it before, but let’s distill it down to the inarguable number: Excess deaths. Neither the concept nor the numbers are hard to grasp; if every year, x% of people typically die, and in one particular year it’s (x+y)%, you need to be able to assign a cause to y. A tsunami that kills 250,000 people is a good example. So is a war. And, of course, if there’s a global pandemic going on and you can’t find any other reasons, it’s a reasonable logical leap to assign y to the pandemic, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated.

How are global deaths looking with respect to excess deaths?

The official death toll of C19 is 3.4 million… but the vast majority of those explicitly documented stats come from first-world countries. We know that unfortunately, 4,000+ people a day are dying in India. But without a doubt, that’s an undercount. Russia’s C19 death count is officially less than 100,000… but for some reason, over 500,000 people have “inexplicably” died. With few exceptions, every country is in a “deficit” – and when you add it all up, the world needs to find a reason to explain somewhere between 7.1 and 12.7 million excess deaths.

That’s bad news, no matter how you look at it.

The good news is, as we can all hope and expect… is that that’s in the past… and that the future looks a lot better.

By |2021-05-15T17:06:35-07:00May 15th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , |9 Comments

May 12, 2021

A few months ago, I was talking about vaccine envy… how all these people around the world had access to vaccines, and we didn’t. The natural consequence of that is to develop “reopening envy”… which is something we’re going to see a lot of in the next few months. Sure, we’re all getting vaccinated at a record pace now… but we’re months away from everyone being vaccinated, and even longer for getting back to normal.

I’ve been hearing from friends around the world, but you don’t need to go far. Wander into any nightclub in L.A. and it’s like 2 years ago… crowds, no masks, party time. “How irresponsible” you might think… except every single person in there has been fully vaccinated, and their second shot was several weeks ago. This is what the world looks like when things go back to normal, so don’t be shocked; it’ll take some getting used to after more than a year of paranoia, but if there’s any silver lining to being effectively last in the first world with getting back to normal, it’s that when we get the all-clear, the world will be waiting for us with open arms… because we will pose zero risk. Vaccination works, and the places who’ve been doing it for a while are now reaping the rewards. The U.K., where daily cases are down 99% and daily deaths can be counted on two hands, is set to significantly ease restrictions in 5 days… and, assuming that goes well, is set to fully re-open June 21st, the first day of summer. And fully reopen means just that. Fully. Full blast. Restaurants, clubs, theatre, concerts, museums, sporting events. No masks. Life as we once knew it.

We get to watch from the sidelines because we’re behind, but… rest assured, we’re very much heading in the right direction. Locally, more than 40% of B.C.’s population has been vaccinated… and that’s counting everybody. If you count only those who are currently eligible (18+), the number is over 50%… and we start approaching the lower levels of assumed herd immunity at round 70%.

Also, if you look below… I’ve thrown my two vaccination graphs. The one of the left shows the comparison between us and the U.S. with respect to daily vaccinations… what percent of people got a shot today? Less than 0.2% there, More than 0.7% here… and that trend is widening, and we are days away from, per-capita, having a more vaccinated population than our neighbours to the south… even though they’ve been drowning in surplus vaccine for a long time. Yo, once again… if you’re not using it, send it up here… we have lots, and we’re plugging through it, but we could certainly use more.

So… in a nutshell… there’s bad news in the past, there’s good news in the future… and there’s a bit of frustration that it’s going to take longer than we’d hoped to go from one to the other. But… rest assured; we’re getting there, and, rather than being envious, perhaps it’s comforting to see other places that already have. That’ll be us.

May 9, 2021

Yesterday’s post was fun… I will do that more often. Congrats to Alexandria McQueen… whose guess of “Maldives” is good enough to with the $100. The rocket didn’t actually hit the islands — whose entire size is tiny; about the same as Vancouver/Burnaby combined — but it’s possible a tiny fragment did. Good enough – good call, worthy of the prize. Win Win.

In the meantime, locally, what a beautiful day… spectacular weather, perfect for celebrating Mother’s Day (Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!!)… though any day with weather like this around here is worth celebrating, eh… ain’t that the truth.

Speaking of truth… Правда – aka Pravda – aka *the* Russian newspaper for over 100 years.

Throughout the history of the Soviet Union, and especially during the heights of The Cold War, it was the only official source of information for the Soviet people. It’s the one that would be tacked up on the streets and in Red Square for people to read. It’s ironic that “Pravda” means “Truth” – and the paper was anything but. It was, as you’d expect, the carefully crafted narrative that the Soviet leadership wanted out there. The Evil West, the awesome Soviet Union, etc.

It’s the paper that, in early 1984, announced that the leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, had a bit of a cold and would be hospitalized for observation. Two days later, he was dead. As it turns out, there was far more to it than a cold, but that wasn’t learned till much later. For more than a year, he’d been suffering with multiple organ failure… and had been in hospital for months leading to his death. Interstitial nephritis, nephrosclerosis, residual hypertension, diabetes & chronic kidney deficiency. Hey, don’t worry, it’s just a mild cold. That was the story until he died, and then it became hard to hide… but at least they managed to push the “Pravda” as far as they could.

His successor, Konstantin Chernenko, started smoking at the age of 9 and was a heavy smoker all his life… leading to emphysema, right-sided heart failure, bronchitis, pleurisy and pneumonia. But he, too, died suddenly and unexpectedly from a mild cold. He’d actually been hospitalized for months.

I don’t know what the Russian word for bullshit is (ok, I just looked it up.. it’s “бред сивой кобылы” – that’s a lot of letters for a simple concept…) but that’s also too long a name for a newspaper… so let’s just call it “Truth”. Ha ha.

I’m sure a lot of quiet, whispered discussions back then centered around “What do you think is actually going on?!” – and that is not a question that we, around here, are used to asking when reading or listening to news or leaders who’ve been hell-bent on providing what they call “transparency” since day one.

And this is why this news of B.C. health info being withheld and now being leaked is bothering so many people so much.

The Soviet people deserved to know their leaders were on their deathbeds. When it comes to news about health, people want to know… even if it’s not their own. If it might affect them, they deserve to know. And the leaked B.C. news affects every single one of us.

I’m not a big fan of withholding information, and I don’t at all subscribe to the point of view that putting that much info out there is a bad thing. Sure, people may misinterpret it, but that’s why there are also people out there who *do* know how to interpret it, and they’ll be happy to share their views. The key is, they need the info to do so properly; if the real info isn’t out there, it leads to more wild speculation and even more misinformation. What does hiding it and then providing one single, linear narrative remind us of? See above. The truth is… regionally speaking, a lot of this pandemic could’ve been handled differently. In perhaps an effort to not offend, the blanket orders affected us all equally, and that wasn’t necessarily the right way to do it for the greater good.

There’s less than 24 hours till Monday’s PHO update, but rest assured that the Henrys and Dixs and Horgans of the world are not having a quiet, relaxing weekend. With these few days for the reporters to inform themselves and line up the questions… it won’t be the usual group-hug; this could be a bit of a melee, and I hope the reporters who get the opportunity to do so ask some tough questions. We, the people who are most affected by this… deserve some Правда.

May 8, 2021

We interrupt this regularly scheduled column to bring you a little contest!

As you may know, a nice big unwelcome piece of a Chinese rocket is about to fall out of orbit and potentially hit the earth somewhere.

I will donate, in your name, $100 to the charity of your choice… to the person who picks the country onto which this thing falls.

Chances are, it’ll fall in the middle of nowhere… probably the ocean, in fact.

But in case it actually hits the ground and does some damage… let’s have a little bit of good come out of it.

I like being wrong, so I will start… Canada.

Type your guess in the comments below… we’ll have it all figured out by tomorrow. The contest cut-off is when the news of the impact’s where and when is announced… which should be in the next 24 hours.

By |2021-05-08T17:03:00-07:00May 8th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , |29 Comments

May 4, 2021

Facebook is kind enough to remind me every single day of what I wrote last year… on this exact day. A rolling one-year reminder of what I posted.

It’s interesting… to see where my mind was at, and what may have changed. Some of it is still very relevant. Some of it is so incredibly out of date; who knew.

In any event, it’s also convenient… on days like this, where I didn’t have any time to actually sit down and write something… so I will simply plagiarize myself a bit… and if some of this sounds familiar as you read it, thanks… it means you’ve been here almost as long as I have. In light of the conflicting vaccine news we’re getting these days, it’s as relevant as it was last year.

Consider this sentence: Over 20% of people tested positive.

Now consider this one: Only 20% of people tested positive.

Without even knowing what we’re talking about… without even knowing if testing positive is a good thing or a bad thing… like, perhaps we’re talking about infections. Perhaps we’re talking about antibodies. Perhaps we’re talking about random drug testing in your office. Perhaps we’re talking about cyclists and performance-enhancing drugs. Perhaps we’re talking about asking random people on the street what their outlook is for the future.

We don’t yet have a clue what we’re talking about, but the very first word of that sentence is already guiding your thought process. Better stated, the writer of that sentence (that’d be me) knows what he wants you to think, and is subtly suggesting it. I want you to agree with me. Maybe I want you to think that anything under 20% is fine. Or maybe I want you to think that anything over 20% is bad. But wait a minute, what if testing positive is a good thing? Then it’s the other way around.
Let’s take out those first words… what are you left with…. “20% of people tested positive”

Yeah… now what. What are you supposed to do with that? Think for yourself and decide? Indeed, the vast majority of content we consume these days is written more towards getting you to think a certain way, or agree with a certain viewpoint — than to simply present the information. And further to that, once the algorithms have figured out what you like to think/read, they’ll spoon-feed you those sorts of stories… mostly because they know you’ll click on them, and that’ll generate ad revenue for them. This has pretty-much nothing do to with conveying news.

“Shockingly, close to 1 in 100,000 people who’ve taken the AZ vaccine will develop blood clots!!!”

“An insignificant number – less than 1 in 100,000 AZ vaccinations — will lead to blood clots.”

Happy Stars Wars Day… May The 4th be with you… and may it empower you with The Force of critical thinking.

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