October 12, 2020

Food, water, oxygen. Those three things have something in common… which is, none of them are a big deal… until you don’t have access to them. Then, depending on how much time has elapsed, they all become a big deal. That is how it is with things we take for granted.

In the case of these three things, roughly speaking, three minutes without oxygen will kill you. Three days without water might too… and the same goes for three weeks without food.

These things we take for granted… we should think about more often than once a year… certainly, on the tail-end of this three-day (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend, pandemic notwithstanding, we really have a lot for which to be grateful.

Most people reading this are living in a country that is most certainly (as it is ranked, year after year) in the top-three in the world with respect to quality of life. And of the cities in this great country, let’s agree Vancouver easily hits that top-three list as well.

There’s no deep political message today; I guess I could write about the original Thanksgiving, and its ultimate implications. Certainly, the associated Columbus Day (which is today in the U.S.) requires a deep look and an intensive re-write, a process already in the works.

But let’s keep it simple… the sentiment of being grateful for what you have; that’s word-wide and eternal. If you’re sitting around a table doing the turkey thing tonight, or did it yesterday, or even if you don’t do it at all, it’s at least a good day to ask someone (and yourself) – name three things for which you’re grateful.

I always have a tough time answering that question. Not because I can’t think of anything, but because I have too many things I’d equally rank and can’t decide what to prioritize. It’s a dilemma I identify as “a good problem to have”. And if you’re reading this, you automatically share in that part of the same problem/dilemma. As bad as things may seem these days, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

We have plenty to appreciate. We have plenty to acknowledge. And we have plenty to celebrate. With that in mind, I think I’ll go have a slice of pumpkin pie. Maybe two. Actually, given all of the above… yes… three it is. However you choose to celebrate it — Happy Thanksgiving!

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October 10, 2020

No new local numbers today or tomorrow (or Monday), so while we wait in limbo to collectively answer the question, “How are we doing?”, here’s a different sort of thing to do with numbers. I thought I’d mention this because it’s a good one to have when you’re bored or have nothing to do.

Actually, wait… there’s a big difference between being bored and having nothing to do… actually, it’s more like we all, always, have something to do – something we should be doing, something that’s been on the backburner for a while… something left to do for a rainy day or long weekend. Whether we actually feel like doing it is a different story, and sometimes we want (ie. need) something relatively mindless.

A few months ago, my friend Elaan pointed me towards such a thing… and I both thanked her and cursed her for it… because it was interesting, immersive, and I wasted hours – many hours – on it.

It’s very simple… there’s this website with a button that says [Make paperclip]. Click the button… your inventory of paperclips just went from 0 to 1. Bang on it a bit… each click produces one more. And you’ll notice there’s public demand for your paperclips, and by [lower] or [raise] the price, you can manage the inventory… perhaps find a good balance between price and demand. All along, keep clicking and making paperclips.

When you’ve saved up enough money, you can buy an autoclipper. Now you can worry about other things (the price, buying more wire… marketing upgrades which boost demand)… anyway, by virtue of a few clicks that create paperclips, you’re soon running a business.

How big can you grow it? Keep at it, though I’m warning you… you may end up wasting a lot more time on it than you intended.

That being said, I’m not sure it’s wasted time… you’ll engage your brain, you’ll learn a lot… and those 100 things that need doing… they all waited this long; they can wait a bit more. This is, after all, Thanksgiving Weekend… let’s not forget to thank ourselves too. We’ve earned it, and if that means a little bit of time put towards growing a virtual paperclip empire, so be it. And if you waste all weekend doing so, don’t blame me… it’s not entirely my fault. But do let us all know how far you got… and how long you kept at it…

Here you go:

https://www.decisionproblem.com/

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October 9, 2020

If there were any doubts about there being a second wave here in Canada, that question seems to have been answered. We’re no doubt in it, and the question that remains is how bad might it get.

This is a big country… from here in Vancouver, St. John’s is not much closer than Tokyo. That’s a lot of space, in which the 38,000,000 of us are all navigating this journey differently.

Heading into the weekend… yesterday, B.C. crossed that “10,000 cases” line. Alberta will have crossed their 20,000 line by the time you read this. Comparatively speaking, Quebec has seen 10,000 new cases in only the last 10 days. Ontario will see its 3,000th death tomorrow.

As we head into this rainy weekend, I don’t have much more to add for today, but one thing… we won’t get updated local stats till Monday, and while I used to do some fancy math to extrapolate/guess what might be in store, I think I’ll back off from that. This isn’t a math exercise; each stat is a real person somewhere, just like you and me.

And wishing every one of those people a good start to this Thanksgiving weekend.

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October 7, 2020

After the NTSB investigation into US Airways flight 1549 – the one that was so rudely interrupted by a flock of Canada Geese, and plunged into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 – the pilots were asked if they would’ve done anything differently. Notwithstanding the whole episode was one of heroic achievement (“The Miracle on the Hudson”)… nobody died, the movie (Tom Hanks) was made, and so on… still, it’s a question worth asking. First Officer Jeff Skiles had an answer: “I would’ve done it in July.”

Sure, if you’re going to plunge a plane into a river, the warmer summer waters are preferable to the icy winter alternative. Unfortunately, they didn’t have that choice.

Similarly, nobody chose the starting date for this pandemic… but if we’d had to have made that choice, chances are, around here, we would’ve picked almost exactly what we got; right at the start of spring, as the weather gets better, the air is warmer and the skies are bluer. We would’ve chosen that, because, at least, it’s a more gradual descent into the sort of unpleasantness that now awaits us.

There was never any chance of this going away by the end of the year; the “12 to 18 months” thing was an ambitious take, already factoring in the corner-cutting and fast-tracking that would otherwise take years… but, six-plus months into it, those estimates are looking pretty good. The unfortunate part of this is that it’s not going to go away “suddenly”. It’s not like the virus will one day sign a surrender to the allies and we’ll all be dancing in the streets. But, after all this time, much has been learned about treatment. In the coming new year, eventually, we’ll all have immunity. There will be vaccines… probably numerous ones, all landing at the same time. A few will get the big OK from Health Canada and over time we’ll all have access to them, and, slowly… things will head back to normal.

The point of all that is a crucial one – and one we all need to keep in mind, especially since we haven’t managed to get rid of daylight savings time yet – that soon, it will be dark and cold and depressing, and this holiday season, already a stressful time for anyone that’s not a kid, will be worse than usual. It’s easy to say, “Hang in there”; it’s harder to actually hang in there, and the mental health toll of this pandemic is becoming evident. But the crucial point is this – as hard as it is to believe it sometimes – and that is… that there *is* a finish line… that there *is* a normal world on the other side of it… and we *will* eventually get there.

Dr. Henry has etched into us a slogan that we’ll never forget… but there’s more to “be kind, be calm and be safe” than just being polite to the stressed-but-socially-distanced crowd at the supermarket; it’s just as much an inward-facing mantra that you deserve to hear and you deserve to live: Be kind to yourself. Stay calm. Do what you can to remain safe. That is all very much the starting point to coming out of this is one peace, because it’s not just a matter of healthy lungs. A healthy brain is part of it too. And remember, the way you’re feeling – some days ok, some days abject despair… you’re not alone. Someone nearby, someone you know… is feeling the same way.

Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to them. They’ll be happy to hear from you, and happy to share with you the same things you’re feeling. These are the people with whom one day you’ll be sitting in a crowded restaurant, laughing and rolling your eyes, and every sentence will begin with, “Remember when…” or “Remember how…”

Hang in there. We’ll get there.

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October 4, 2020

The messaging coming out of the White House is so contradictory, it’s not even worth trying to figure it out. There’s internal disagreement with what they’re trying to say (forget the truth; that’s irrelevant – this is just about the picture they’re trying to paint). Doctored videos, pictures supposedly taken throughout the day but actually taken 10 minutes apart…. Trump hard at work… signing blank pieces of paper. He’s going home soon; he’s staying in the hospital for a while. Enough already; this isn’t news… just failed propaganda.

Does anyone remember the Soviet leaders that came after Brezhnev (and before Gorbachev)? First there was Yuri Andropov. One day he was fine; the next day, the Kremlin reported he had a bit of a cold. The next day he was dead. Following him came Konstantin Chernenko… fine one day, caught a little cold, died the next day.

We can excuse all that because that was the former Soviet Union, where there was no semblance of free press, and the only source of news came from the government… it wasn’t a question of truth. The “truth” that was rammed down everyone’s throat and expected to be accepted.

That’s not so easy to pull off these days, and it’s making the White House look ridiculous… and questioning the credibility of a number of people, including Trump’s own doctor.

No useful information emerging from there, and nothing too useful around here either since it’s the weekend. Tomorrow, we’ll get an informative over-the-weekend update – for Canada. For the U.S… don’t hold your breath.

The numbers and charts, as incomplete as they will be for today, will be posted shortly… for now, you get a picture of my dog… who also looks like he’s worried about what the heck is going on…


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By |2020-10-08T01:08:37-07:00October 4th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Our Dog|Tags: , , , , , |19 Comments

September 30, 2020

I should take a step back writing about Donald Trump. I’d been planning to watch the debate and then comment on it, but of course, there was no debate. There was a schoolyard bully, flailing around aimlessly, aggressively, disgustingly and frighteningly. I know the majority of people reading this were as horrified as I was, watching that shitshow… and for those who think otherwise… well, there’s really nothing I can tell you. In talking about Trump, I’m either preaching to the choir or talking to a brick wall. Either way, to a great extent, I’m wasting my time discussing it. All I can say is that if you still support that deplorable, awful excuse of a president, there’s nothing anyone can say that will change your mind. Therefore, I will leave it at that, with one final point:

I’ve said before I don’t watch a lot of TV – not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have time. I’d binge watch 12 hours a day for a few weeks, given the opportunity. My “to watch” list grows a lot faster than I can get through it.
As a result, at the moment, I’m a few years behind… and watching the second season of the excellent adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

It’s very good… and very relevant. It deals with a dystopian future, where the first season’s episodes flash forwards and backwards – dystopian future/normal past… but, unlike most SciFi of that genre, the dystopia is not in the distant future; rather, it’s probably no more than 5 years apart… and it all takes place “now”… it could be 2005 to 2010 or it could be 2018 to 2023.

A lot has changed in those 5 years, and the differences are made clear in the first season. But now, in the second season, it’s starting to fill in the blanks… how exactly do we go from a normal society, to a messed-up fascist military occupation based on religious zealotry?

It doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t take long. It’s frightening to see the fiction of the show and compare it to the realities of the U.S. today. While it might sound a little alarmist, if things really derail, it will be impossible for anyone to actually say, “Jeez… didn’t see that coming.” All of the signs are there… signs that history has seen time and time again.

Let me assure you, when the president is doing the wink-wink-nudge-nudge to a group of neo-nazi white supremacists who’ve waited all their lives to unleash their violent hatred… well, unfortunately, anything is possible. And he’s so arrogant, so flagrant, so unapologetically offensive – because he knows he can get away with it. Because it empowers him. Because that’s the kind of person he is, and because it’s what his unshakable core of people want to hear.

The real question looming on the horizon for that potentially-soon-to-be-formerly-great country is pretty simple, and it will be answered on election day… just exactly how many people out there want to see it all crash and burn? Hopefully, the quieter majority (who most definitely do not)… will finally stand up and do something about it.

For the moment, the U.S. is still a democracy, one that many people lost their lives creating and defending. To see it slip away, especially like this, would be unforgivable.

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September 24, 2020

When I was around 13, my mom’s cousin came to visit – from way far away; he and his family live in an industrial town in Slovakia. It was just him that came to visit, and he spent a week with us. I recall he arrived on Saturday morning, and we spent the weekend taking him around town, hitting a bunch of tourist sites. The beauty of Vancouver made a big impact on him; it was all very different from his typical surroundings.

On Monday morning, we all had breakfast together, and then it was time to go… my sister and I to school, my parents to work. They offered to take him downtown or drop him somewhere to look around, but no… he just wanted to chill at home. No worries. When we all left, he was sitting outside, on the deck, overlooking the backyard… with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in his hand.

Fast forward about 10 hours… I got home before anyone, and there he was, still sitting on the deck… the cup of coffee had transformed into a beer, and the ashtray was now overflowing with cigarette butts.

“Have you been sitting here all day?”

“Absolutely.”

OK… whatever melts your butter, I guess… but at the time, I do remember thinking how insanely boring that must have been. I thought about everything I’d done that day (a lot) and compared it with what he’d done (nothing).

The next day, it was the same thing… a full-on 10-hour chill. A few cups of coffee, a few beers, a pack of smokes… and call it a day. And that was pretty much it for the rest of the week. Every single day, all he did was sit outside and stare into the garden.

The world’s most boring man, I thought, at the time.

I told him, at one point,

“I really can’t understand how you can just sit here all day.”

“One day, you will.”

Over the years, every time I think about it, I have a more profound appreciation for it. This guy flew 8,000km to disconnect from his day-to-day reality, and he did it right. Back home, he was a hard worker with tons of responsibility and stress. And here, well before the era of perpetual connectedness, he’d found his oasis and he milked it for all it was worth.

These days, it’s an inward-facing question I ask myself… when I find myself spending time on something I’d rather not: Would I rather be here, or sitting on a deck, staring off into a garden or ocean or space or whatever…

You don’t need me to tell you that we’re living in a crazy world… and that it’s probably going to get a fair bit crazier before it gets better… which means, more than ever, scheduling those “deck moments” ahead of time. Scheduling an entire week of them is a lofty goal we can only aspire towards, but every little bit helps. As the weather gets worse and the days get shorter and the stresses mount and the case-counts and hospitalizations and ICU admission numbers all rise… find your deck – and visit it as often as you can.

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September 23, 2020

I spent a wonderful, relaxing day yesterday (once again, thank you for all the good wishes) – soaking in the good weather, and feeling deeply appreciative of many things. Certainly, a big part of that is having the privilege to ride out this pandemic here in Canada. The colossal difference that thin line running along the 49th parallel makes; it has never been more evident.

I am, in all sincerity, hoping The United States of America can hold it together. So much has already been written about the GOP’s hypocrisy with respect to the Supreme Court; how they’ve done a clean (actually, couldn’t be dirtier) 180 with respect to filling a vacancy during an election year. They denied Obama the opportunity in 2016, but they will jam down everyone’s throat their candidate in a matter of months. And all of it, both 4 years ago and today, beautifully described and justified in a gleaming, shiny steaming coat of bullshit.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a card-carrying Marxist or a fanatic right-wing fascist. Most people are neither, and find themselves in the moderate in-between. But all of you should be horrified at how your country, you know – the one with life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness – is being ripped away from you… a process that started years ago but really caught its footing in the last four. It began to quickly accelerate right around the time the president figured out he could just make it all up as he goes along, jam “truth” down people’s throats, and make them swallow it, either by persistently sticking to it, or by just ignoring the backlash and moving on to the next thing… all the while being cheered by his adoring crowd.

Accountability is at an all-time low, scraping along the bottom of credibility. If anyone is deserving of a dying wish – after all she did, to benefit the greater good – it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And her dying wish was to not be replaced before the next election. It’s more than unfortunate that she won’t be granted that. On the flipside, voter registration surged after her passing. Perhaps enough people are realizing that unless they do something, it’ll get done to them… and it won’t be pretty. But to flip it back again, Donald Trump has made it very clear he won’t accept the election result if he loses. He’s vowed to fight it to the Supreme Court. You know, the one whose balance of power he’ll have installed a few days earlier. The answer to the question, “Could it get any uglier?” is no. No, it couldn’t.

Add to that volatile mix this morning’s announcement with respect to Breonna Taylor. After 6 months of wondering what would happen to the three police officers who shot an innocent woman to death while she slept, we have an answer. For two of them, nothing. For one of them, two charges for negligently discharging a weapon. And, to be specific, discharging it into a neighbouring apartment. With respect to what happened in Breonna Taylor’s apartment, nothing. Zero accountability. I’m sure by the time I post this, the rioting will already have begun. There’s only so much gleaming, shiny steaming bullshit people can take.

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September 18, 2020

Looking at today’s B.C. number is sort of stressful. Although 40 of today’s 179 are “retrofitted” cases… ie cases that should’ve been counted earlier but weren’t… it’s a lot, no matter what.

There’s a well-known test, the 43-question Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (you can find it online) which adds up different things going on in your life, and lets you know how at-risk you are to get sick, as a result. If you’re presently dealing with that particular issue, you simply add the associated points to your total.

It’s interesting to note that while the majority of points are assigned for negative things, such as:

Death of a spouse – 100
Divorce – 73
Jail term – 63

… many positive things (or, at least, that should be positive) also cause stress:

Marriage – 50
Outstanding personal achievement – 28
Vacation – 13

There’s no broad 5th category that you could label “Pandemic”, but I’ve taken the liberty of filling this out for all of us; we’re all going through some similar things, and here’s how they add up:

Revision of personal habits – 24
Change in work hours or conditions – 20
Change in recreation – 19
Change in social activities – 18
Change in number of family get-togethers – 15
Change in eating habits – 15

All of that adds up to 111, which is, on its own, ok. Anything below 150 puts you in the “only low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future”.

Unfortunately, that was painted with pretty broad brushstrokes, and many people are, as a result of the pandemic, also dealing with things like:

Change in health of family member – 44
Change in financial state – 38
Change in number of arguments with spouse – 35
Change in church activities – 19

And the list goes on.

Between what we all have in common, and 150, there isn’t much wiggle room; just 39 points to cram in all your other stresses, because north of 150 is categorized as “moderate to high chance of becoming ill in the near future”.

Something not on that list is “Heading a national strategy for combating a global pandemic”… but if I had to assign a score to it, I’d give it a 185… and I totally understand the resignation of the president of the Canadian Public Health Agency, whose outgoing letter could be distilled down to three words: “I’m burnt out.” We get it… and, as per above, so are most of us.

What can we do? Hang in there, and keep doing the right things… and do your part in avoiding adding this to your life… or to anyone else’s:

Personal injury or illness – 53

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By |2020-10-08T01:08:44-07:00September 18th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics|Tags: , , , , , |5 Comments

September 17, 2020

Not a great day for numbers… our one-day new test-positives total is the largest one to date: 165 new cases. To compare, Ontario had 146. And Quebec, once looking to have had things under control… saw 499 new cases. More than 1,000 new cases in Canada, for the first time since late May. We’re going to run out of chances to say, “last chance”.

Also, for those around here… most of didn’t know much about pandemics until March of this year, but we’ve learned a lot. Similarly, few of us knew much about of smoke and haze and bad air, but here’s 2020 to educate us all.

The one question everyone is asking… when will the smoke clear? I must say, I was disappointed when it recently rained (pretty heavily) and nothing much changed. Historically, isn’t that the deal in Vancouver? Some things are implied trade-offs… like, you go to a movie… they get to charge you $5 for 10 cents worth of popcorn. Correspondingly, you get to leave it spilled all over the floor and not feel guilty about it.

Similarly, ok, rain on us… but crisp, fresh, clean air is (supposed to be) part of the deal. As it turns out, it’s not so simple.

The short answer to the question is… complicated. Rain, wind, time, high/low pressure… potential new smoke… it all contributes in some fashion, but the consensus seems to be that by the middle of next week, things should clear noticeably. But as far as the weekend is concerned, not much is likely to change.

There’s an app called “Shit! I Smoke” which translates the air quality number to equivalent number of cigarettes. If you were out and about earlier in the week, you “smoked” the equivalent of more than 8 cigarettes a day. Ugh… as if you need one more reason to wear a mask…

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