February 9, 2022

It wasn’t so long ago that marijuana was illegal. Back then, smoking up in public could get you arrested. Not to mention possession, distribution, operating a little grow-op, and so on. There was an exception to all of that, though… and it occurred exactly once a year, on April 20th. On that day, 4/20, at precisely 4:20pm, a lot of people (far more than 420) would congregate on the lawn (yes, back when it was, appropriately, grass) of the Vancouver Art Gallery… and get high together.

Not everyone there partook; many were there just to be part of it because they agreed with the message, and/or had some role to play. There were cops, reporters, curious bystanders, merchants peddling their associated wares, confused tourists, and so on. The whole thing seems to have lost its edge once pot became legal, but in its day, there was plenty to celebrate for those who cared.

One thing that never happened was the whole thing getting out of hand, or hijacked for an ulterior motive. Maybe an arrest or two for some drunk idiot, but, for the most part, what else can you expect from a large group of stoners. It’s all mellow; it’s all good man. One big, eclectic group of people, all relatively on the same page. Indeed, you can tell a lot about a group of people by looking at not just them, but those who associate with them.

Which brings us to the events of recent days… events we’re not done with quite yet.

I find it sad – tragically sad – that the incredibly divisive left/right black/white right/wrong paradigm that’s been ripping apart the core of the U.S. since 2016 has managed to jump the 49th.

I’m saddened to see so many people whose opinions have made sense to me for two years have a strange course-correction when it comes to the truckers and protests… falling into that sinkhole where you stuck a toe in, then you went a bit deeper, and now it’s too late to remove yourself… but you’d rather get totally soaked and maybe even drown before you might admit you’re wrong.

So… let’s rewind a bit: A lot of us, and by a lot of us I mean everyone – is sick and tired of this pandemic. We all just want to go back to normal. Let’s not get into why we’re not there yet; let’s just agree we all want that to happen.

So… you hear there’s going to be a protest against what you imagine is the bad guy; sure. Go protest. It’s your privilege to do so. Then, when you get there, you realize perhaps there’s more going on here than you imagined.

Pause button for moment with respect to the makeup of that crowd; many of them are imported and jumping on the bandwagon. There’s no version of “Canada versus the virus” that needs to involve Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism, and yeah, I know also… those people don’t speak for you. I get that too… but here’s a concept for you: If you’re sitting at a table with 9 other people, and then a Nazi sits down… watch to see who gets up. Because if nobody does, now you’re sitting at a table with 11 Nazis. Yeah, yeah, I get it… they don’t speak for you. But here’s a concept for you; by not getting up from the table, you’re speaking for *them*. There was actively one; now there is passively many more.

Why exactly are a bunch of (mostly) unwanted people showing up to what ostensibly should be a peaceful Canadian rally? You’re just there to simply (and loudly) state you’re tired of mandates. So, what’s the big deal?

Let’s answer that question a little differently, for those saying that bandwagon-jumpers don’t count.

Let’s set aside for a moment the people desecrating the tomb of the unknown soldier… what’s the big deal… it’s just a couple of idiots. They don’t speak for us.

Let’s set aside the people draping crap on top of a statue of the greatest Canadian of them all, Terry Fox… what’s the big deal? And anyway, Terry Fox himself would probably be out here dancing with us, as Canadian as he was. Actually, he wouldn’t, because he lived the heroic final days of his life raising money for science – as we all know, scientific research to cure cancer. He embraced medical science till the day he died, and countless lives have been saved with research directly funded by his legacy. But let’s set that aside for a moment.

Let’s set aside the violence, the homophobic signs, and the blocked traffic, the relentless noise. Let’s set aside the intimidation of journalists, hotel managers, medical workers and baristas. Let’s set aside the people stealing from soup kitchens. Let’s set aside the guys who tried to set an apartment building on fire and blocked the exits.

Jeez… we’re excusing an awful lot of deplorable behaviour, eh. Oh well… all in the name of freedom.

Let’s get back to 4/20, and here’s a great question: Do you know what some other people celebrate on 4/20? It’s not just “get high” day… it also happens to be Hitler’s birthday. Countless white supremacist facist assholes love that day. And I’ve always wondered why they never take the opportunity to march to the “lawn” of the Art Gallery and let their presence be known. There’s a captive crowd there, partying it up… they’d fit right in and yell and scream and party alongside everyone else.

Except, of course, they wouldn’t. As stoned as all of those people may be, they’re West-coast easy-going love-your-neighbour type people who are pretty clear what they believe in, and they wouldn’t put up with it. As stoned as they are, they’d beat the ever-living shit out of those skinheads. The stoners would literally stone them.

And all of this is why I’m more than a little disturbed by what’s going on.

All of you who support these rallies… here’s a question for you: Once all the mandates are lifted and whatever else they purport to be protesting is no longer a fight, then what? What will you say to the ongoing disruption of life caused by a fringe who’s here with their own agenda, one that has absolutely nothing to do with yours?

The problem is that they’re using your well-intentioned cry for normality (and please, do not call it freedom; let’s not go there) – and using it to show themselves and each other and the alt-whatever fringe of society that hey, they all agree with us. They speak for us too. We’re welcome here.

They’re not welcome here; certainly not by me, and, I should hope, not by you either. There’s a very big difference between “We’re tired of the pandemic” and what we’ve seen recently… a shitstorm that’s not going to be going away any time soon.

It’s time to take a big step back and understand what’s actually going on here… and not allow ourselves to get dragged into some post-pandemic/pre-apocalpyptic nightmare of divisiveness that we seem to be imposing on each other… and which has absolutely nothing to do with our actual shared values that make up Canada – the actual and real True North Strong and Free.

November 29, 2021

My first thought upon hearing that there’s a new, far-more contagious variant emerging was, “Great… finally.”

Given the world’s sudden panic with respect to it, I guess I should clarify. I’m not some Evil Overlord awaiting the demise of humanity; quite the opposite. So… here’s what comes to mind…

Let’s rewind to the beginning of the pandemic. But no, not this one… the big one a long time ago. And no, not that one either… I’m not talking about the 1918-1919 Spanish flu. Let’s jump further back… and arrive at the 1889-1890 Russian flu pandemic. That pandemic killed around a million people out of a world population of 1.5 billion… roughly 0.7% of everyone which, if you map it to today’s world population, would be a death toll of over 5 million… a number which, unfortunately, has already been far-exceeded by Covid-19.

That flu epidemic has been studied ever since, and it certainly got a closer look in 1918, when scientists were trying to figure out what they were dealing with. As it turns out, after a century of research, with scientists all-along trying to shoehorn in what sort of flu virus that might have been (because nothing made perfect sense, and nothing really fit), a simpler explanation has recently come to light… and it’s become evident that the Russian flu pandemic wasn’t actually the flu after all. It was… yeah, you guessed it.

This sort of retro-science is obviously much easier in hindsight… indeed, that’s the only way to do it… so when you read about the symptoms of that ancient pandemic these days, and read about the high fever, chest inflammation, respiratory issues, killing predominantly older people, loss of taste and smell… yes, it does all sound somewhat familiar… and it’s not the flu.

As it turns out, the great Russian flu pandemic was actually caused by a coronavirus strain labelled OC43, one that has been found to have jumped into the human population exactly around 1890… and it certainly hit the ground running, infecting and killing countless people.

But here’s an interesting fact, 130 years later… OC43 is one of the leading causes of… the common cold. Has it gotten weaker over the years? Is it now more contagious but less virulent? Are we just more immune to it? Did we acquire some of that immunity from our parents? Are treatments more common and accessible to the extent that it’s no longer a big deal?

Yes – to all of the above. It’s just a common cold. We’ve all been dealing with it all our lives, and it’s generally – the vast majority of the time — not a big deal.

For virus like OC43 to go from killing close to 1% of the population to being no big deal took over a century. These days, we’re not interested in waiting that long. We have nowhere near the attention span. The sort of mindset that demands we be able to binge-watch an entire seven seasons of some show during three days of lockdown is the same mindset that insists everything, including pandemics, be dealt with in a quick and efficient manner.

Nature doesn’t really care what we think, so we simply have to take what we can get… but what we’re getting, as per my opening paragraph is, in my opinion, cautiously optimistic.

Like a common cold, we’re all going to come into contact with it. Everyone scrambling to close their borders? It’s a nice theatrical exercise, but the truth is that the Omicron variant is probably already here. Where’s here? Exactly. Everywhere. Watch for cases to start rising dramatically… everywhere.

And is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Cases will go up, but far-more-importantly, will hospitalizations? ICU admissions? Deaths?

I won’t go out of my way (yet) to say it’s all a good thing, but there’s one potentially very positive version of this: That this is the virus’s end-game. That this is where it gets a lot more contagious and a lot less virulent. Indeed, if we start getting data that this thing spreads like wildfire but causes only mild symptoms, we’re actually well on our way out of this mess… on a global scale. While it’s still too early to say for certain, initial indications imply a milder disease. While Delta cases cause elevated pulse rates, low oxygen levels and the loss of taste and smell, Omicron cases seem to cause different symptoms: Fatigue, head and body aches, and occasional sore throats and coughs.

And if that’s the extent of it – what sounds like nothing more than a common cold – and if it’s so virulent that we all get it and, with that, develop antibodies against the underlying C19… mission accomplished. Problem solved.

It’s interesting that this variant was first identified in South Africa.

On a somewhat related noted, it’s interesting to note that for the most part, the entire continent of Africa bypassed conventional telephone lines. It just wasn’t worth it to wire the entire country. They missed out on decades of the benefits of telephones in every household… but they’re making up for it now. Cellular infrastructure has arrived and, with it, internet and apps and everything that comes with it. They missed telephony the first time around, but thanks to leapfrogging technology, are pretty-much caught up. They’re exactly where you and I are with mobile phones, and, given how much we pay for cell service around here, probably a bit ahead. They leapfrogged into the cellular age… and they may end up leapfrogging vaccines.

The pathetic vaccination rates in Africa (not because they don’t want it, but because it just hasn’t been made available) might quickly become as irrelevant as an old Bell telephone (you know, the old ones… the ones where you could deliciously slam down the receiver in frustration) – because the prevalence of a mild and very-contagious version of this virus might finally be the thing to slam it out of existence. Africa may immunize themselves out of the pandemic by simply infecting each other with a much milder strain. And if that turns out to be the case, it won’t just be Africa; it’ll be everywhere.

I sincerely hope I’m not completely wrong. It’ll take a bit of time to confirm (or shoot down) some of these assumptions.., but I think it’s fair to put out there that there’s a version of this doom and gloom that’s not so gloomy and doomy. Far from it. The news that initially sent the world into a panic and markets tumbling and airports shutting down flights… might turn out to be a significant positive turning point.

November 5, 2021

When I was a kid, I thought the little piggy that went to market was going shopping. I imagined the pig, walking upright, dressed nicely, wearing a little hat and pushing a shopping cart in the produce section, judiciously picking out the best cobs of corn. I also imagined that the little piggy that stayed home just didn’t want go shopping. Then there was the little piggy who was eating roast beef, so why would he want to go anywhere… and then the other little piggy who wasn’t hungry. And finally, the little piggy who cried “wee wee wee” all the way home; that didn’t quite add up, because I thought all of them (except the one that went shopping) were already home. But whatever.

Years later, I learned a pig “going to market” means something quite different, and when you read the innocent little nursery rhyme in that context, it all takes on a completely different meaning. The first little piggy is going to slaughter. The second little piggy isn’t quite ready to go to slaughter. The third little piggy needs to be fattened up a bit before it’s his turn. The fourth little piggy needs no more fattening up, and so we all know where he’ll be heading soon.

Distinguished literary scholars have (I suppose), for centuries (the original nursery rhyme is from 1760), been discussing the fifth little piggy. Did he escape from the market and run home, squealing with delight all the way home? Was he taken to market, not purchased, and is now squealing with relief that he gets to go back home, back to his friends… at least temporarily? Or perhaps he was purchased after all, and is now squealing in terror as he’s being taken to his new “home”. We may never know. The questions may linger for another few centuries, but it really doesn’t matter… because that’s totally not the point.

The point is… we learn something initially one way, and sometimes, in due course, as we learn more and new facts emerge, our understanding of what we originally thought gets completely transformed. It took me more than 40 years to understand what’s happening to those five little piggies… and now it’s something you yourself will think about when you’re counting and wiggling the toes of some nearby baby.

Similarly, as this pandemic has progressed, a lot of what we innocently thought we knew has changed dramatically as time has gone by. It bothers me greatly to see conclusions of scientific method and research turned right around… presented as evidence that those conducting the research don’t know what they’re doing. If science and understanding didn’t evolve, then there would be something to complain about, but the reality of the world is the exact opposite. We learn from new facts. We learn when we make mistakes. Nobody has ever been right “all along”.

Starting at the beginning of the pandemic, we were told that with handwashing and social distancing, we’d be ok. No need for masks. Dr. Henry said so. Dr. Fauci said so. They all said so… until the moment science realized that this is an airborne disease after all, and then… a very quick 180 on masks. Yes, indeed, after all… having now studied the matter more and seen more data… masks do make a difference. A big difference. Enclosed spaces? They weren’t talked about much, at least initially. They certainly are now. As the science, data and knowledge have evolved, so have the directives. It’s to be expected. Does this mean they didn’t know what they were talking about? Does it meant they don’t know what they’re talking about now? Of course not.

But sometimes, the science, data and knowledge evolve… and nothing changes, because the initial assumptions were perfectly correct in the first place… and such is the case with vaccinations.

While we’re in the midst of fine-tuning vaccinations… the length of time between doses, the benefits of mixing and matching, the necessity for a booster… this is all just rearranging the furniture and painting the walls… of a solidly-built brick house. The big bad Covid wolf may have been able to blow down the initial straw house and the subsequent house made of sticks, but here we have a rock-solid infrastructure… one in which we can all feel safe. Covid can huff and puff all it likes, but is it likely to kill us? Not by the hair on our chinny chin chins.

Yeah, I know… those three little pigs are very different from the five little ones on your toes, but here’s something worth mentioning: All three pigs in the latter story survive.

The first one, a wolf-denier, built a flimsy house out of straw. The second one was wolf-hesitant and made a bit more of an effort, but sticks aren’t good enough protection. The third little pig understood the big picture and what was at stake, and built his brick fortress… and when the big bad evil Covid wolf came around huffing and puffing and ultimately blowing down those first two houses, its occupants ran screaming to that brick house – whose pig welcomed them with open arms. Finally… a fairy tale with a happy ending, because the good guys survived… even though, initially, they weren’t really deserving. It’s very rare that life, circumstance (and/or fairy tales) reward the “wrong” ones. The whole idea is to learn a lesson. Shouldn’t those first two pigs have been eaten by the wolf? The five little piggies didn’t have a choice… they were all destined for slaughter.

But the three little pigs… they made choices, and the two that made poor choices almost paid with their lives. Yet… sometimes, real-life echoes the fairy tale. Guess what; it’s not too late. If you’re reading this and realizing you’re metaphorically and presently inhabiting a flimsy house, it’s an easy fix; while building a brick house takes effort, choosing to inhabit one doesn’t… it’s as easy as booking a vaccine appointment.

It’s unfortunately looking a lot like the big bad wolf is going to be around for a while, and you never know when or where he’s going to make an appearance with his huffing and puffing. In which house do you want to be when he shows up?

September 10, 2021

Hey… it’s been a while! So… sit back and relax, because this is going to be a long one. We have plenty to cover.

I’ll start by glossing over a bit of the current situation, because we’re all familiar with it, and although the numbers continue to provide a glaringly obvious message, there are those who refuse to look at them.

Depending where you look, you’ll find variations on the same theme… and they all say things like your chances with vaccines are not 20% or 60% better… it’s more like 2,000%… or 6,000%. Every single person in BC today in the ICU that’s under the age of 50 is unvaccinated. The vast majority of people in hospital are unvaccinated. We can talk about BC, Alberta, Ontario, Canada, California, Nebraska, Florida, whatever… it’s all the same everywhere; just a different multiplier, often based on vaccination rates. The numbers all range from quite significant to truly significant. There are no exceptions anywhere; the vaccinated population is way, way better off.

I’ve included the usual three rows of graphs, though the top one – the graphs of daily new cases – once, the most important graphs imaginable… are becoming somewhat irrelevant. Much more relevant is who got infected (Vaccinated? Unvaccinated?) and how it’s affecting them. The real numbers to look at (and the graphs that go with it) are hospitalizations and ICU admissions; the bottom row of graphs. There’s certainly a kick upwards, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, who are seeing levels comparable to back in May… but for the rest of us, it looks pretty reasonable and no reason to panic. Especially if you’re vaccinated.

In the last three days, the average daily number of C19 deaths in Canada is 34. Since the American population is about 9x ours, you might expect a death rate 9 x 34, which is around 300. But instead, it’s close to 2,500. And needless to say, largely due to overwhelmed hospitals way beyond capacity in jurisdictions with low vaccination rates. No matter how you slice the data, it all points to the same thing.

On that note, the daily vaccination rates show a significant slowdown. That’s the middle row of graphs. It hasn’t totally died out, but we’re nowhere near the rates of early July… though it’s picking up a bit again, and I have something to say about that.

There are a lot of people who’ve recently gotten vaccinated because of the “vaccine passport” that’s coming alive in 72 hours.

Side-note with respect to the rollout; I am an IT/tech/computer guy and I can be as critical as they come, especially when talking about deploying systems to massive amounts of people who’ll all use it simultaneously. I have a lot of experience in that, and I know it’s complicated, so I know what you have to plan for, etc… and so I have to say, Kudos to those involved with this thing. It certainly wasn’t without some initial little hiccups, but that’s to be expected when unprecedented numbers of people suddenly flood to it. In fact, if it hadn’t bent a little under the load, I’d be complaining they spent too much on it. It’s like building a 16-lane Lions Gate Bridge, 8 lanes each way… when it’s only needed for New Year’s Eve. Sure, you’ll never have traffic problems on the bridge itself, but just imagine Georgia St. or Taylor Way. What a mess it’d be without addressing them too.

And this thing has to not only be its own infrastructure, it has to communicate with varying other older systems and not flood them with too many connections and requests. The queuing system seems to have worked well; I jumped on it the moment I saw the url and found myself in a 17-minute line-up. That queue grew to over an hour at some point, and indeed, some people got 503 errors and gateway timeouts and whatever else. So what. Moments later, it worked. I have yet to hear about anyone who got past the queue and then had a problem, and that implies excellent design. Everything past the choke-point, that single point of failure… so far has been flawless. And, after all of that… at this moment, the wait time is zero and it’s likely to remain that way, even with the flood of people on Monday rushing to get it.

But let’s talk about those people who, today, would get a “No Record Found” if they tried to fetch their card.

For the last two years, there have been those people… well all know a bunch… masks are useless, vaccines are useless, conspiracies and so on. Now, perhaps having done some actual research and listened to some actual reliable sources, maybe they’ve come to the conclusion that getting vaccinated would be the intelligent thing to do. But how can they, without totally losing face? Admitting they’re wrong now would mean admitting they’ve been wrong all along, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. Some people’s egos just can’t take the hit.

Well… now they have the perfect out. They can proudly and loudly announce how they still feel vaccines are useless… but… they just want to live their life in peace and do things they want… so, they just got vaccinated and there’s their little blue vaccine card, and soon, after their second dose, it’ll be green. Yay!

And if you’re one of those people or know someone… yes, do it. Tell them to do it. Go for it. All of your friends and family who’ve been pleading to you to get vaccinated couldn’t care less about your justification, whether it’s the inward-facing or the outward-facing version, however different they may be. Just go get it done. Go right ahead and blame it on anything and everything else. It doesn’t matter. All of those aforementioned people will welcome your decision with open arms.

Looking back at where a lot of this anti-everything came from, and removing Donald Trump’s catastrophic contribution to the public sentiment, in hindsight, there may have been two things that might have “spun” better. Better “optics”. It’s not like pandemics have a PR department, but if they did…

For one thing, naming this a novel coronavirus initially convinced people that this is something new, unseen and a complete mystery. If instead they’d labelled it originally what it really is… a new version of something old, perhaps there’d have been a lot less hesitancy when the vaccines appeared. Everyone understands sequels. Remember SARS from years ago? Well, here’s “SARS 2: The Killer Returns”. And everything we’ve learned from the original SARS we can now put to use. This is not a new story; it’s a continuation of an old one. So instead of a brand new vaccine technology being quickly developed against a pathogen the likes of like we’ve never seen before, people might understand that it’s just a new version of a virus that’s been around for decades, being fought by R&D technology that’s also been around for decades. In Hollywood terms, that story certainly would’ve “tested better.’

That didn’t happen, and that lesson didn’t get learned, and then that skeptical crowd was met with “Vaccine Passports”. Once again, something new, untested and worthy of rebellion.

Calling it was it is – an immunization record – would also have “tested better”. We all already have an immunization record… with words like smallpox and measles and diphtheria and mumps and whatever else in it. We all have it and many of us have needed it. Some employers demand it. Some schools demand it. Some travel destinations demand it. All doggy daycares demand it too. There’s nothing new with immunization records… but you throw the word “passport” in there, and the implications of not having one, and the “Freedom And Rights!!1!1!!!1!!!” crowd shows up.

And on that note… if you think I’m going to voice my disgust at people who picket and protest outside of hospitals, insulting healthcare workers and blocking access for actual patients… I am, but that’s only part of it.

The other part of it is the symbolism associated with it. I happened to see among the pictures of the protesters a person wearing a little yellow star with “Not Vaccinated” written on it, where conventionally you’d expect to see the word “Jude’”.

Cultures these days are up in arms about appropriation. Here’s a cheap dreamcatcher for $5.99, available in the local tourist shop. It’ll look so cute in the window! Here’s a bundle of sage; take it home and light it and wave it around. That’s called smudging. Isn’t that cute? And Woke? We’re *so* Culturally Lit!!

Yeah, one can see how offensive that would be to people who understand the depth and significance of what those things really are. Their history. What they symbolize. What it meant to the people for whom it was intended.

So, let’s talk about that little yellow star. First of all, and this part of it isn’t so well known, that wasn’t the only Nazi-imposed oppressive symbol of The Holocaust. Red triangle? Communist. Brown triangle? Gypsy. Purple triangle? Jehovah’s Witness. Pink inverted triangle? Homosexual.

And for a brief moment, imagine the outrage from the LGBTQ community if that pink triangle were appropriated for this purpose. Idiots screaming about freedom, comparing it to the struggles of a community that’s been marginalized for centuries.

But they’ve chosen that little yellow star to complain about their lack of freedom, so let’s go with that. That little yellow star is indeed a striking symbol of lack of freedom. For those who had to wear it, it meant a loss of freedom, and depending on what year, it meant something different. From 1933 to 1945, at differing times, it meant the loss of freedom to travel. To go to school. To own a business. To operate a business. To own property. To have your own home. To own anything. And finally, to live… slowly and surely, those rights were eroded until there was nothing left. But really, at no point, did it have anything to do with being able to book a table at that sushi place in Yaletown where they make those awesome cube-like nigiri that they roast with a blowtorch. No… the Jews of the Holocaust weren’t worrying too much about stuff like that and, further, if the solution to their problems could’ve been solved by a disease-preventing inoculation, I can think of at least 6 million people who gladly would’ve taken advantage of it.

If you want to complain about freedoms being ripped away from you, talk to the women of Afghanistan. Hell, you don’t even need to go that far. Talk to the women in Texas… both groups of women who until recently had rights which were ruthlessly and unexpectedly ripped away from them.

So… I look at these despicable people marching with their ignorant, illiterate signs and their tasteless and inappropriate symbols… and here’s what comes to mind: Many years ago, I took a few law courses at VCC… a sort of evening-adult-education thing. It was more about getting familiar with some business law issues, but we covered a bit of criminal law as well. Interesting stuff. One thing I remember is the difference between assault and battery. Those two terms are commonly used somewhat interchangeably, but there is a difference… and the word assault is sometimes used incorrectly. Hitting someone isn’t an assault; that’s the actual battery. There doesn’t need to be any physical contact for there to be an assault… just inducing fear or threats or intimidation; that’s an assault. Of course, it’s hard to hit someone without there having been some element of those three things beforehand, so it’s often assault and battery combined.

Why do I mention this? I mention it only because, in my case, it’ll undoubtedly be both that I’ll be charged with if I see anyone wearing one of these little yellow stars… because I will walk up right up to them and rip the fucking thing right off their shirt or jacket while simultaneously punching them in the face. A very quick one-two.

My thinking is that it’d be so quick that there technically might not be time for it to be an assault. Just battery… for sure. Anyway, nitpicking… but I think everyone who knows me well would be surprised… that the guy who goes out of his way to shoo a fly or bee or even spider out of the house, instead of so-easily squashing them… would be the guy arrested for punching a protester in the face. Truthfully, I haven’t been in an actual fistfight since I was 10 years old. But I’m telling you right now – perhaps somewhat blowing my potential “moment of rage, no pre-meditated intent” defence: If I run into one of these people, they will need to visit the hospital to which moments earlier they’d been blocking access.

Well! You’ll either hear about me in the news… or I’ll be back here in due course with more to say; this has already gotten a bit long. Enough for now. Have a great weekend… till next time!

July 3, 2021

Death and taxes aren’t actually the only certainties in life, of course… there are a few more… among them:

1. Have you ever had a cold?
2. Have you ever had the flu?
3. Are you presently alive?

The answer is 100% for all three, for everyone reading this… but if you want to argue it’s not, that it’s probably 99.999 something percent, then ok, I’ll mention that not everyone pays taxes either… exhibit A would be the former president of the U.S. and his entire organization… who are about to find out the hard way that you don’t mess with The Tax Man. Al Capone got away with racketeering and bootlegging and murder… for decades. But he couldn’t defend himself against the charges of tax evasion, and that’s what sent him to prison for the rest of his life.

But this article is neither about Trump nor his ill-fated organization. Rather, it’s a discussion about certainties, and what they look like going forward.

Colds are around. The flu is around. Measles and Mumps and Rubella are all around too, but we rarely worry about them… for good reason. They’ve been vaxxed out of our “worry zone”.

There are some important things to note going forward… and that is, that cases of C19 will come and go. Pockets of cases will flare up here and there, like that group of insane anti-vax moms in California responsible for a measles outbreak. Up next, the glorious state of Arkansas with its deplorable vaccination rates; bring on the completely preventable next wave of C19.

Actually, to clarify, we may see flare-ups of cases here too. Should we be concerned? At some point (and we’re at it, of very close to it…), the thing to watch is no longer cases. They become irrelevant. What becomes important are hospitalizations, ICU cases and deaths… numbers which have plummeted, and there’s every expectation they’ll remain low… because, again… you know… vaccinations.

This pandemic turns into an “endemic” in different places at different times. We’re pretty-much there now around here… because once you’ve done everything you can, and the support infrastructure is in place, there’s really not much else. As odd as it sounds, does it actually matter if you catch C19? If you catch it, but you’re asymptomatic and/or non-infectious to others? I’d never really thought of it before all this, but how many times have I had a cold or flu and not even known? Their presentation can also be so mild as to be asymptomatic.

So… with certainty: It’ll be around for a while, but if you’re fully vaxxed and/or fully immune for other reasons, you have little to worry about. The new seasonal cold will likely hit you harder, because for that one, you have no antibodies.

The one group that needs mentioning here are those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and/or whose immune systems aren’t up to the task of reacting adequately to the vaccine… a group all of us become part of as we get older… which is why research into this will continue forever… or, until it’s eradicated from existence. We did it with smallpox… and we can certainly do it here too.

June 28, 2021

It really is too hot to sit here any type too much; I hope you’re reading this in whatever version of “Ahhhh… nice and cool…” you’ve managed to find for yourself.

So… as I said… we’re down to incredibly low and optimistic numbers… to the extent the correct number was exactly guessed, and four other people were off by 1. Way to go Denise, Esther, Carey & Sharon… almost!

But congratulations Mark Johnson, who nailed the three-day total of 145 right on the nose… after changing his guess, having realized someone ahead of him had guessed the same. See? Good research pays off! Mark, please let me know where you’d like me to direct the $100 donation.

The last 24 hours saw 38 new cases… the lowest number since last August. And, looking over last August, that was probably also the last time the temperature exceeded the case count. That’d be a nice trend to start today… and especially heading into the fall; any day from now on where the temperature exceeds the case count will be a good one.

And given what the rest of the week looks like, that shouldn’t be too tough to achieve.

OK, back to the shade…

June 21, 2021

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.

June 17, 2021

Well, my fellow Gen-X AstraZeneca peeps… our time has come. We’re in the midst of the rolling 8-week follow-ups, and, with a ton of vaccine making its way here (including a bonus one million doses of Moderna that was just announced), we’re in great shape. On top of the endless stream of Pfizer we’re getting these days, we’ll have gotten 7 million doses of Moderna in June. Fourteen million doses of something will have shown up between now and July 1st.

There’s a sort of “the world is your oyster” feeling you get sometimes… like, if you’re skiing, and you time it just right, and you get to the top of the run just as it opens… and nobody has skied on it yet, and it’s all fresh, pristine snow from the night before; an endless ocean of powder… all yours. Or, on a much simpler level, the feeling you get when you open a box from Amazon, and whatever is in there is packed in bubble wrap… and not the cheap, tiny half-popped useless ones that have been endlessly recycled; I mean a sheet of fresh, un-popped big-bubbles… and there’s no one around, so you can take your sweet time popping every single one of them. Aaaahhhhh……

Anyway, that is the feeling I got this morning when I received my vaccine second-dose invitation. As we all know, the right move at this point is to pick up the phone and call; that is the usual way to get the soonest appointment possible, because the people on the other end of the phone have access to a schedule view that we don’t. We have to go location by location.

But… before I called, I thought I’d check online… on the day I wanted (Monday) at the location I wanted (nearby community center) hoping maybe with some luck, there’s something. Anything.

Instead, I was flooded with options. Every single timeslot at that location had availability, from early morning to late at night. A pristine ski run. A big long sheet of huge unpopped bubbles. And this… oh, how beautiful it was.

For what it’s worth, I’m booked for an mRNA vaccine; whether it’s Pfizer or Moderna, they’re interchangeable with respect to today’s NACI recommendation of following-up an AstraZeneca jab with either version of an mRNA vaccine.

As I’ve said before, I’d “probably” already decided on a Pfizer/Moderna follow-up because of the emerging research; research which was meant to show up right around the time I would’ve been needing to make a decision. As it turns out, both things landed within hours of each other… but I’ll say it again, the “take whatever is given to you” is by far not the worst strategy. If my decision were AstraZeneca tomorrow or Pfizer/Moderna in two weeks, I wouldn’t be waiting. It’d be AZ tomorrow.

Indeed – there’s no wrong answer; some studies seem to imply that two doses of AstraZeneca offers a stronger cellular immune response than the mRNA alternatives. Choose whatever works for you. “The sooner the better” might be the only decision that really needs consideration… but as long as you get it, it was the right choice.

You’ll eventually reach the bottom of the ski hill. You’ll eventually have popped every bubble on the sheet. And eventually, with a notable shout-out to this smorgasbord of vaccines, we’ll have put this pandemic behind us.

May 26, 2021

Just to briefly touch upon a big question mark… that’s slowly being answered as research emerges… what’s the deal with the delayed second doses? Why are we playing with the science, etc…

To rewind a bit, let’s remember that the timeline for these vaccines to be released into the wild was compressed – things happened much faster than usual. This doesn’t mean the science was skipped or compromised; it was the bureaucracy around it.

That being said, in an effort to get the thing out the door as quickly as possible, a different sort of question was asked; not one that’s typically asked of vaccines.

The question was: What’s the shortest period of time where a two-shot regimen would be effective? It was known that one dose of an mRNA vaccine wouldn’t generate enough of a response… and the answer to the question of spacing doses has two answers, because there are two different questions. One is how soon can it be to be effective? And two is… what’s ideal?

The former question was chosen to be answered in the same way that many of life’s problems get solved – decide what’s most important. “Good enough” far outweighs “Ideal” in this case, and that’s what we got. This is not to say that people who got the shots 3 weeks apart got anything bad; on the contrary… that’s what was tested, verified safe, and verified effective with a 95% efficacy.

So, what’s the problem? There is no problem… but now we have enough time and data to answer question two, and it’s what most experts expected… because it’s what’s typically seen with these sorts of vaccines.

Anyone who’s ever had a vaccine booster barely remembers the timing of what’s being boosted. It’s often measured in years… or, at best, months. Never weeks. My recent Shingrix vaccine against Shingles had a follow-up booster that was to be taken within two to six months after the first dose. But what’s optimal? 2? 4? 6? I couldn’t find anything to support a more specific number, but the answer to all of them was “good enough”.

The answer to the optimal spacing of C19 mRNA vaccines… as it turns out, while 3 weeks is certainly good enough, it seems waiting a little longer is “better”. It should be noted that “better” in this context is similar to how, for the purposes of putting out a candle, a firehose is “better” than a garden hose.

Specifically, for Pfizer… people who received their booster 11 to 12 weeks after their first dose were found to have 3.5 times higher peak-antibody levels.

It’s quite likely this is the same for Moderna. And it’s certainly turned out to be the case for AstraZeneca… just ask the U.K.

The whole point of this isn’t really to say what’s “better” – it’s more to point out what’s “not worse”… and the answer is… all of it. All of it is “not worse”. If you’re getting a second jab, you’re good… no matter when. And yes, of course… if the second jab is 5 years from now, it’s a different story. But it won’t be; given supply and demand… everyone is falling into that range… from “good enough” to “more than good enough”.

This big question mark has been shrinking consistently as more and more results emerge, and I expect it’ll vanish by the time any of us need a 3rd booster. In fact, by then, it’s possible we’ll have learned that all that’s needed from now on is a once-a-year boost – one that could easily be combined with the annual flu shot. Either way, one big question mark extinguished.

April 7, 2021

History speaks of many examples of products that were designed for a specific purpose, but were ultimately repurposed for something entirely different. For example, bubble wrap… it was originally designed to be cool, textured wallpaper. That market didn’t catch on – especially in households with little kids, I’m guessing – but the inventors, sitting on tons of unused inventory, trying to figure out what to do with it, came upon the bright idea that it’d he useful for transporting fragile goods. They contacted IBM, who they figured would be interested in having a way of safely shipping their delicate electronics, and they were right; that caught on, and we’ve all had the pleasure of popping those little things ever since… the extra bonus when anything fragile gets shipped to us.

Speaking of wallpaper, Play-Doh was originally designed as wallpaper cleaner. I’m not sure how good it is at that, having never actually needed to clean any wallpaper… but as a toy, very successful; there are very few kids who at some point haven’t gotten their grubby little paws on some.

Speaking of toys… there’s the Slinky, originally designed as a spring used on ships to stabilize devices on choppy seas. Until one day, when a slinky was accidentally knocked off a table… and it walked itself over to a guy who had a light-bulb moment; Richard James, the “inventor” of the Slinky. Even he admits he didn’t invent anything; just clued-in to an excellent alternative use for an already existing product.

Speaking of alternative uses for already existing products… toothpaste. Like, for example, white Colgate. Terrific for keeping your teeth bright and healthy, of course… but you know what else? If you have a scratched CD or DVD that’s unplayable, coating it with toothpaste to “fill in” the scratches and then rinsing off the excess… works wonders. I’ve resurrected many dead Discs in my day.

Speaking of health products that have alternative uses… Coca Cola was originally designed to be an alternative to morphine addiction, and to treat headaches and anxiety. The guy who invented it, John Pemberton, was a veteran of the civil war, and a morphine addict. He wanted a sweet, alcoholic drink with some coca leaves thrown in for good measure, so that’s what he invented: Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. Over time, the recipe was tweaked and carbonated… and the rest is history.

Speaking of ubiquitous products that began their existence as something medicinal with a specific purpose, history may end up grouping Covid-19 vaccines into the mix, because the careful research that led to their initial approvals was based on science that described their intended two-dose use, with the spacing of those doses a few weeks apart. I’m not sure those tiny vials have instructions written on them… and if they do, they’re in an unreadably-small font… but anyway, if you take your magnifying glass and read it, you’d find that we, here in Canada, are not following those simple instructions. In fact, that goes doubly-so for us here in B.C… where we are the lowest percentage of fully-vaccinated people in all of North America (!) – but, that’s by design… and I’m totally ok with it because, as we’re finding, and as I wrote about yesterday, if you shift the goalposts a bit… from “not getting sick” to “not getting seriously sick”, the product can indeed be used differently than designed… and very successfully.

Speaking of not following simple instructions… yesterday marked the 3-year anniversary of the devastating Humboldt Broncos bus crash… caused by a driver ignoring a very simple instruction: Stop. Of course, there was far more to it than that, but it’s a good example of how a seemingly tiny rule violation by a single person can have drastic, far-reaching effects… like how Alberta’s outbreak of the P.1 variant can be traced to a single out-of-province traveller. One guy who broke the rules, and here we all are.

Speaking of there being far more to it than that…

Well, there’s always far more to it than that. Enough for now. Speak to you later.

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