September 20, 2021

Where to start.

Well, it’s election day… if you can, go vote… an awful lot of people in the past gave their lives to offer you the right to vote in a democratic process; something, clearly, that gets taken for granted around here – a fact that becomes very obvious when people start screaming about their rights being taken away from them. To summarize what I wrote about last time… your right to vote is indeed one that, if it were taken away, would be worth complaining about. Your unilateral and thoughtless and stupid decision that’s preventing you from entering your favourite restaurant… isn’t. So, go exercise your actual freedom and right to vote, and if you’d rather not because “they all suck”, keep in mind that not voting is itself a vote – a vote for the status quo. If you want to see some change, go be part of it.

And what exactly has that status quo brought us? Let’s rewind 18 months or so to the start of this pandemic… to the time where we were all freaking out at the single-day case numbers which were really not that high… but we had good reason to freak out. Because in other places around the world – remember Italy and Spain? — things got out of hand very quickly; that’s what happens with exponential growth and when things hit the tipping point.

The horror of what was going on: Hospitals swarmed with cases, packed to capacity. People dying in the corridors. People dying in the parking lot because they couldn’t even make it inside. ER doctors having to make decisions that will haunt them for the rest of their lives: You get to live. You get to die. Come on in; you’re welcome. Sorry… really sorry. Go home. Good luck.

We watched in horror. We hoped whatever the hell our leaders were doing around here, it’d be enough to prevent that from happening locally. Just in case, emergency beds were prepped, among them the 271-bed $2M hospital that was created at the Convention Centre. We hoped it’d never get used (and it never did), but it wasn’t till earlier this year that it was all dismantled for good. So many unknowns.

As time went on and more understanding came to light… the cause, how it spreads, effective treatments and eventually, of course, vaccines, the chances of it spiraling out of control around here diminished. We made it. Phew.

Which is why it’s actually unbelievable what’s going on in Alberta right now. Like, truly. Of all of the possible outcomes, is there any reasonable person who could’ve foreseen this? That 18 months after a few very unlucky places got the crap kicked out of them (and, in hindsight, there was little they could’ve done), that here, in Canada, with first-world medical care, a year and half of history and knowledge, effective treatments and vaccines… we’re at this point? Mind-boggling doesn’t even begin to describe it. I look at the hospitalization / ICU graph below and, honestly, it’s hard to believe. Or is it.

The thing with living day-to-day is that things creep up on you slowly… it’s just one small evolutionary step from yesterday… changes so subtle you don’t notice them and you don’t even think about it… but that sort of short-sighted thinking has no place at any higher level of responsible planning. Pandering to the crowd “today”, for a short-term “gain”, should never be a part of it. At an individual level, every single day, the news has multiple examples of people whose thought process over time went something like this: It’s no big deal, it’s just a flu, I’m young and healthy, I can take care of myself, I don’t trust vaccines, I’m not feeling well, I’m getting checked out just in case, it turns out I have Covid, I’m having trouble breathing, they’re putting me on a ventilator, pray for me. Then a final update from a friend with a GoFundMe link because funerals are expensive, you know, and they left behind a family who’s now pleading to everyone around them to get vaccinated.

But that’s one individual. Actually, unfortunately, many individuals. At ground-level, that’s how it looks.

But from 30,000 feet in the air, looking down at the big picture, to allow a province in Canada to reach this point? It’s not like it crept up on anyone. It’s not like you couldn’t see it coming. It’s not like the world hasn’t been offering numerous, comprehensive examples of exactly how to (and how not to) do things. They didn’t see it coming? Where were they looking?

Perhaps the only thing they saw coming was an election… and that’s relevant because it reminds us all… that we, the innocent people, think that those in charge have our best interests at heart. Don’t get me wrong… in a way, they all do, or at least think they do. But that sentiment is in second place. In first place is a very clear mandate; get elected. Stay elected. Do and say whatever the hell you need to… just get in and stay in.

We have our own little version of Red State / Blue State up here. Alberta, aka Texas of the North, is now facing a potentially catastrophic situation and they have absolutely nobody but themselves to blame.

I think we’re all reminded of the story of the squirrel or a beaver or ant or whatever creature it is that mocks everyone in the summer who’s busy squirreling away nuts for the winter (ok, I guess it’s a squirrel). Who has time to worry about it when the sun is out and there’s fun to be had? Then winter rolls around and the squirrel is starving and cold while all the others are warm and happily being fed from their vast supplies.

I don’t remember in the story whether some other squirrel comes to the rescue or whether the short-sighted squirrel is left to die, but I can tell you that around here, there are no spare ICU beds. There are probably enough to cover our local freedom-seeking non-vaccinated Covidiots, but that’s about it.

Next to oil, Alberta may soon be exporting Covid patients, though to where remains to be seen. It’s sad and pathetic, and as fellow Canadians, they deserve a lot better than that.

June 8, 2021

“What could possibly go wrong?” – famous quote, and not words that should be spoken out loud. It’s a rhetorical question, best left to your inner thoughts; when you speak it out loud, you’re daring the universe to answer: “Well… let me show you…”

In the midst of the optimism of re-opening and getting back to normal comes a curveball being thrown at the world… the Delta (formerly “Indian”) variant of C19.

To begin with, it’s undoubtedly more contagious than any predecessor. The original UK variant (now known as Alpha) is 50-100% more contagious than the original strain that dominated 2020. And Delta is 50% more contagious than Alpha. Let’s hope this frat-house-inspired naming convention never gets to Omega.

One positive is that, generally, the more contagious it is, the less harmful it is. That’s not for sure, yet… but quite likely, this strain isn’t going to cause disease any worse than the previous strains. It’s just that it’s much easier to catch. Indeed, all the little spikes we’re seeing in different places – little spikes for now, but we all know what that can grow into – are caused by upticks predominantly of the Delta variant.

So… vaccines… how much protection do they have against it?

To begin with… the vast majority of people who’ve become infected with Delta have had zero vaccinations.

With one dose – you’re not there yet; the one-shot effectiveness of Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneneca on Delta is only about 33%, compared to north of 60% for other variants. It’s the second dose that makes a huge difference in this case.

But, beyond that… in the U.K., only three people who’ve been fully vaccinated have been hospitalized as a result of Delta. Three people out of 40% fully-vaccinated people out of a population 66 million people equals one in 9 million.

So, there’s no guarantee you won’t catch it. You may well catch it and never know it. You may be exposed to it and never know it… or catch some mild symptoms. But the big takeaway: If you’re fully vaccinated, you have a one in 9 million chance of being hospitalized due to the Delta variant. Sure, those numbers will get worse… bit it’s a good starting point. The equivalent of throwing 9 dice onto the floor. As long as they don’t all land on the same number, you’re good.

While two doses of any vaccine will do the trick, we’re talking about the U.K. here… and when we talk about the U.K., we’re talking almost exclusively about AstraZeneca. Over there… whether it’s one or two doses, almost all are AZ.

Which leads me (and anyone who’s had the AstraZeneca vaccine) to one again ponder the dilemma of AZ or Pfizer for the second dose, especially factoring in timing. I had my AZ dose April 22nd. I think I’d be able to get AZ relatively soon; Pfizer, I’m not sure. And so… while I’ve been waiting patiently for Pfizer, now I’m wondering about the alternative. Maybe go right back to that little mom-and-pop pharmacy a few blocks away and get the AZ… and then, that’s it.

My decision will be based on what happens around here in the next week or two. I was always a proponent of “get whatever is offered to you”. I changed my mind, watching the data from the European studies (Spain/UK/Germany) implying mixing AZ with Pfizer yields better results. But I’m not against changing it back if the situation calls for it.

And that’s more than ok. There’s another famous quote… from the father of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono: “If you never change your mind, why have one?”

March 11, 2021

Like many things, it depends how you look at it… and that generally leads to a bit of disagreement.

I happened to be reading a news story about a cassette tape that a girl lost while on vacation in Spain. Twenty years later, she saw it in an art gallery, part of a “Sea of Artifacts” exhibit by an artist who’d been documenting plastic pollution and making art out of it.

The girl contacted the artist, and the tape was sent to a professional audio restorer who managed to extract all of the music from it – an eclectic collection ranging from Shaggy and Bob Marley to a bunch of Disney numbers.

So, what’s the story?

Is it about the variety in musical taste of some random 12-year old girl?

Is it about serendipity, synchronicity and the universe?

Is it about the resilience of cassettes? It’s impressive; lost at sea for 20 years, travelling 1,200 miles in rough, salty seas… and it’s still playable. The inventor of the cassette tape died recently (aged 94) – I’m sure he was impressed.

Is it about how plastic is so ridiculously indestructible that we really need to be aware of what we’re dumping into the ocean?

Like usual, it depends who you ask and it depends on their agenda. Today, on the one-year anniversary of the WHO declaring Covid-19 a global pandemic, I’m thinking back to all the news I’ve heard, read and written… the spins I’ve muddled through myself, trying to figure out what’s really going on.

Today, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a bit of relaxation in restrictions… outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are now allowed. Also, today, I should point out that our case numbers and ICU admissions are flat… or, keep going up, though not by rates that anyone would call alarming.

It’s been like this from the beginning; somewhat conflicting information that’s left up to interpretation. If you already know the agenda you’re trying to promote, you’ll be able to extract it from there.

I will keep it simple, and this is, as always, only my opinion… outdoor gatherings are probably fine, totally fine. They have been, for a while. Ten people sounds about right, officially, but what does that even mean… if you take over a football field, why not 100. The issue is don’t get too close to someone, and not for too long. You chances of inhaling a lethal viral dose of C19 are next to zero if you’re outdoors. But rules need to be defined, especially because the numbers are not going down… because as straightforward as the rules are, they’re generally not being followed by a significant number of people, and that plays into the math. If 95% of the people stick to the rules and 5% don’t, what can we expect? What if it’s 80/20? What if it’s 50/50?

Once you factor all of that into it, these haphazard-sounding decisions suddenly don’t feel so random or unexpected; they’re not. Like life, it’s all a calculated risk… and the path that’s evident now is one where the numbers don’t get worse, but stay flat or slide downward toward zero… while at the same time slowly and methodically reducing restrictions. It makes sense, though everyone will grab onto the story from different sides and pull in their direction… “numbers aren’t improving”, “see, why did we ever need restrictions”, “I told you it’s ok to get together outside”, “ICU cases keep rising”.

Here’s a generalized suggestion to every single person: Keep doing what you’re doing; we’re all headed in the right direction collectively… you do you, I’ll do me, and we will all eventually hit the finish line. Nobody knows what that percentage split is, but it doesn’t matter… whatever it is, it’s working for us now. If you’ve been sticking to the rules, keep doing so. If you haven’t, I’m sure you won’t start now. And hopefully, that’s all factored into this and it doesn’t matter.

No matter how you look at it, I’m sure we can agree on that.

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February 25, 2021

Leap years… leap seconds… even, with some calendars, leap months… these tiny (or not-so-tiny) course corrections are necessary because, unfortunately, the earth doesn’t rotate exactly every 24-hours, nor does it orbit the sun exactly every 365 days. At the moment, one rotation is 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.09053 seconds. One year is 365.2422 of those rotations. These are not nice, round numbers to work with… and even if they were, the earth is slowing down, so it’d all have to change eventually. In fact, they change continually.

The people who manage all this keep careful track of it, and often fiddle with it without us even knowing. If you weren’t aware of it, you certainly would’ve missed the extra second that was tagged on to New Year’s Eve in 2016. Approaching midnight, the time went from 11:59:58… to 11:59:59… to 11:59:60 (!) before continuing on to 12:00:00am, January 1st, 2017.

If those little adjustments didn’t take place, the errors would accumulate. The sun would start rising and setting at weird times. It would snow in Spring and get super-hot in late Autumn. And, once in a while, having not kept up with the corrections, some abrupt fixes would need to be implemented.

The calendar we’re all familiar with is the Gregorian calendar, which was preceded by the less-accurate Julian calendar… and not everyone switched over at the same time. While the Gregorian calendar was adopted in places line France, Italy and Spain back in 1582, it wasn’t until 1752 that the U.S. and Canada switched over… and since the Julian calendar is less accurate with respect to leap-anythings, it was falling further and further behind. In 1582, it required a 10-day adjustment. When Canada and the U.S. did it, it required 11 days… and when Turkey and Greece finally made the change, less than 100 years ago, they had to drop 13 days from existence. History is full of stories of landlords who tried to charge a full month’s rent during those half-month switches; you can imagine how popular that was…

Indeed, that’s what happens when you keep letting errors pile up; they become more difficult to correct down the road.

All of this is relevant because of the data and charts you see attached to this little blurb… and it has to do with the inconsistency of the data with respect to testing and cases and deaths and vaccinations. Like I wrote about recently, if you have one watch, you know what time it is. If you have more than one, you’re not so sure.

I have managed, I think, to consolidate and normalize all the data so that going forward, it’s not quite so apples-to-oranges. But to get things to align, there’s a bit of a Julian/Gregorian leap-year adjusting to do. In some calendar switchovers, a February 30th was added just to make it work; think of it like that.

Actually, it’s not so bad… but here’s what’s changed, if you’ve been following closely:

The U.S vaccination number has gone down. I’d previously been getting a number that was confusing with respect to its allocation of first and second doses. The number now is up-to-date, and certainly only first doses. It’s also dropped the vaccinated population percentage from 20% down to less than 14%.

While it’s important to know how many doses have been dished out, it’s more important to know how many individuals have had at least one. Now, for all the data, … U.S., Canada and all the provinces, those numbers should be accurate and far-more up-to-date than before for “at least one dose” – as well as the vaccinated population percentages that go along with it. Note how Quebec seems to be way ahead of other provinces; in a way, they are… that’s an accurate representation of first doses they’ve injected. Along with that goes the not-so-irrelevant-fact that they still have yet to dish out a single second dose.

The other number that changed radically is Ontario. They had 1,138 new cases today, and that’s what I wrote down… even though the case counts grew by 5,000. Why? Because the new data source is a bit more ahead of the game; they tap into the individual health departments instead of reporting the single province-wide number that’s relayed daily. Ahead or behind the curve isn’t as important as it being the correct curve, and that representation hasn’t changed. Now that everything is newly-aligned, it should work just fine going forward… but looking at today’s data feels a bit like those lost 10 or 11 days… like things don’t add up. But they do.

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January 31, 2021

Several years ago, I visited the U.S. for about 30 minutes with a process that’s called “Flag poling” – where you in essence cross the border, touch the American flagpole, and hop back into Canada. The reason was to take my nephew who had to re-enter Canada to validate his student visa… which requires entering through some specific port of entry. You can’t do it from within Canada.

The idea was to just drive down, do a U-turn, and come back and do the paperwork. It’s all on the Canadian side; the U.S. doesn’t care at all. Or, shouldn’t.

When we got to Peace Arch, there was a long lineup (this was a Saturday morning) – more than a 90-minute wait… backed up well-past the Duty Free on the right. Which got me to thinking… let’s just walk. Walk into the U.S. enough that we can turn around and walk back into Canada with a little piece of paper proving where we were.

We parked the car in the Duty Free parking lot and set off on foot. It’s not a long walk… and, it’s kinda cool. We did the “haha you’re in Canada and I’m in the States” nonsense and took some pictures. Then, we kept walking, and, as we approached the U.S. border control from the “wrong” side, there was border guard, with a big gun, standing with his back to us. He was staring to the south and couldn’t hear us coming, but the last thing I wanted to do was “surprise” this guy, so… while still walking towards him, when we were about 20 meters away, I coughed loudly. He spun around quickly, both hands on his automatic weapon… which, fortunately, he didn’t point right in our face.

“What are you doing!!”, he screamed at us. I explained.

“You’re doing it wrong!!”, he screamed. Yikes. Welcome to America. OK, noted for future reference… there’s a right way — and a wrong way — to walk into the U.S…

Our wrong way took us not just past the actual Peace Arch but, of course… if you’re there already, you walk through it.

The Peace Arch itself is exactly that, a monument to peace between these two great nations, celebrating the longest unprotected border in the world. Attached to the Peace Arch are some iron gates, and several inscriptions:

“Children of a common mother”

“Brethren dwelling together in unity”

And, of course, the famous “May these gates never be closed”.

Technically, those gates will indeed never be closed; they can’t be, because they’re not hinged… and, they’re solidly bolted onto The Peace Arch. It’s purely symbolic. But the spirit of it is well-understood… and, of course, since last March, they’ve been very-much closed. For how long? Every month, that closure gets extended… currently, till at least Feb 21st… but it’ll be a lot longer than that. On that note, there’s an interesting anniversary coming up in September… when The Peace Arch will turn 100 years old; it was in September of 1921 that it was dedicated. There should be a good party on that lawn that day… weather-permitting. And pandemic-permitting. But for now, it’s as closed as it’s ever been… including, as of today, even more-so to travellers from Mexico and the Caribbean.

As exciting as walking into another country can be, there’s one better… on my to-do list one day is to cross from Spain into Portugal via… zip-line! Yes… from a little hill in Portugal, you can zip-line over the Guadiana river, straight into Spain… a 720-meter ride that takes less than a minute, at speeds up to 80km/h. You even get to cross a time zone. Maybe not for everyone, but it’s better than being yelled at by an American border guard.

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By |2021-01-31T17:04:32-08:00January 31st, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |5 Comments

January 30, 2021

If, off the top of your head, you had to guess which three countries in the world had the most cases per 1M of population, you would think about it, come up with three countries, and be completely wrong. It wouldn’t make sense not to include places like U.S, India, Russia, Brazil, U.K, Spain, Italy… etc… on that list of guesses… but again, with exception of the U.S. (which lands in 8th place), none of the others even make the top 10. In fact, with only Spain at number 18, none of the others make the top 20.

The list of the top three countries with the highest case counts on a per-capita basis are: Andorra, Gibraltar and Montenegro.

Wait, you say, those places are barely populated and that skews the numbers. That is correct. Andorra, top of the list, scores 128,000 per million of population who’ve tested positive. Close to 13% of the population. That’d be like Canada having close to 5 million cases (we’re at less than a million). But, of course, Andorra only has a population of 77,000. Only 100 people there have died of C19. Gibraltar has a population of 34,000. Same idea… and, for what it’s worth, both of them share a border with Spain, where, no doubt, all of their cases came from.

So what, you may be asking….

If you look at Europe as a sort of big country, and each individual country as a province, then some issues relevant to Canada come to light.

Like, with respect to vaccinations, guess where in this country we have the highest per-capita vaccination rates. Now you know it’s a bit of a trick question, so perhaps it’s harder to fool you… so if your guesses included places like the three northern territories, you’re correct. By far.

Vaccination rates for a few key provinces…

B.C.: 2.5%
Ontario: 2.2%
Quebec: 2.8%

Vaccination rates for the territories:
Northwest: 21.0%
Nunavut: 13.5%
Yukon: 15.4%

Some say that’s fair. Some say they should be distributing it more evenly. Some say more should be directed to the hotspots. And everyone is a little perturbed with last week’s news… at the start of the week, we heard how we were not getting what we were expecting from Pfizer… and at the end of the week, we heard how we were not getting what we were expecting from Moderna. Too bad. C’est dommage.

At what point could we conceivably start counting on ourselves for some vaccine? Some homegrown, domestically produced vaccine where we would be first in line?

The only viable possibility would indeed be home-“grown”, and that is Quebec-based Medicago’s tobacco-plant-based vaccine which recently wrapped up phase-2 clinical trials and is about to enter phase 3, involving 30,000 people in 11 countries. For what it’s worth, it’s off to a great start… 100% of people who received the vaccine developed significant antibody responses with no severe side effects. Like Moderna and Pfizer, this one also targets the spike protein, so there’s no real actual virus involved and therefore zero chance on getting sick with C19 from the vaccine. Side-effects – nothing bad so far, and we shall see what phase 3 reveals.

Unfortunately, the earliest we could hope to see this vaccine available to the public would be the second half of the year… but, certainly the government’s order of 76 million doses (and all the money that came with it) is helping push things along. But also, unfortunately, although they’ve been trying to get funding for years, we still don’t have the manufacturing capabilities in place. Medicago reps met with government officials no less than 24 times from 2017 to 2020 trying to find a way to fund the construction of just such a facility. The funding finally came through… in March of last year, when the “Oh shit” moment arrived. At least we’ll be all set for the next pandemic.

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October 30, 2020

You’ll notice below that I’ve added Saskatchewan to the numbers and graphs. While their absolute numbers aren’t looking too bad, their trend isn’t great… and, unfortunately, they’ll soon be a relevant part of the national picture. But what’s worse is that they’re sandwiched between Alberta and Manitoba, and looking at how things are going in those two places, it’s starting to turn that corner from concerning to frightening.

Let’s recap a bit, starting with the fact that a Covid-19 infection takes up to two weeks to kick in, and that Thanksgiving in Canada was a couple of weeks ago. What effect was there from everyone who somehow thinks they’re above getting sick or being infectious or “having their freedom taken away”? To hell with this hoax, it’s just a flu, it’s just the government trying to control us, etc etc. Let’s get together and celebrate; it’s no big deal.

Listen… I don’t mind being that guy, the one that you consider to be nagging or preaching or whatever. Standing on my little soapbox, inciting panic by spewing the government lies. Telling you what to do like I’m holier than thou. Maybe that’s the way you see it.

I really don’t care how you view this message… but, to be clear, I’m no different than you – I can get just as sick and infectious as anyone else. I’m trying hard to avoid becoming either of those things, but, evidently, many of you are not trying as hard. Here it is again, in the plainest English possible: if you don’t wear a mask when you should, and if you don’t socially distance, and if you don’t wash your hands and sanitize and do everything you’ve heard 1,000 times from everyone around you that understands the implications of not doing so, this thing will spread. And it will spread exponentially. And we will *all* suffer as a result.

Last three days in Alberta: +410, +477, +622
Last three days in Manitoba: +169, +193, +480

Winnipeg will soon be starting a full-on lockdown; shutting it all down till this can once again be brought under control. The tipping point is unfortunately near, with ICUs at over 90%. When you spill past 100%, that’s where you have patients in hallways, in lobbies and out in the street, dying. Listen to first-hand accounts from ER doctors… pleas of despair from places like Italy, Spain and New York, when that’s what happened. And that was in the spring… let’s not try to imagine what this looks like when it’s 25 below zero… as it’ll be in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg in the not-too-distant future. Yes, in the past, this was far away… the other side of the Pacific, then the other side of the Atlantic, then south of the border. It is now knocking on the door… “it” being the point of no return.

Sure, call me alarmist. Feel free to point fingers back at me and laugh in a few months when the world didn’t fall apart. Don’t worry, I can take it. And, if in any small way, getting this message out actually helped prevent that emerging disaster, great. I guess we’ll never know; I don’t care. I’ll happily join in your mask-burning bonfires, happily admitting I was wrong… even if perhaps I wasn’t. But that’s not the point… the point is, we can’t afford to be wrong in the other direction.

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October 18, 2020

No new numbers till tomorrow, but here’s something older that you may remember, especially if you’ve been reading these updates since the beginning. Today’s graphs aren’t the usual up-to-date provincial and national tallies. Rather, these are what those original Time-To-Double (TTD) graphs look like today.

Early in the pandemic, when things were spiraling out of control, the TTDs were being measured in handfuls of days… 2, 3, 5… that’s what we were witnessing in places like Italy and Spain and, for a little while, severely-affected pockets of the U.S. That’s what we were hoping Canada would avoid.

While things are still growing exponentially, the TTDs are way down. The recent second wave is certainly visible, especially in the left-most (non-logarithmic) graph, but the TTD line on which Canada sits is 20.

The middle graph is the same as the one on the left, except represented with a logarithmic Y-axis… which straightens out the curves of those dotted exponential TTD lines, and serves to represent the rate of exponential growth (or lack thereof) compared to the beginning.

The graph on the right is what Canada looks like compared to the U.S… and since the Y-axis is “compressed”, it makes things look a lot closer than they actually are. Rather than scaling up evenly, every Y-axis grid line on those two right-most graphs represents 10-times the growth. The red line is just below 200,000. The blue line is above 8,000,000.

All that being said, the Canadian graphs’ hockey-sticking up-to-the-right is quite evident, both nationally and provincially. What we’d obviously like to see is for them all to flatten out again… which one day they will.. but, hopefully, sooner than later. We know what we need to do to make that happen…

October 18, 2020

By |2020-10-26T19:36:05-07:00October 18th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19|Tags: , , , , , , |0 Comments

October 16, 2020

This is pretty long… not only because I couldn’t make it any shorter without leaving out something I consider important, but because I have a busy weekend ahead and might not get a chance to post much. No new local numbers till Monday anyway, so here’s most of the weekend’s updates in one convenient place… and we’ll start on the opposite end of the country.

About 25km off-shore from Newfoundland, you’ll find a collection of 8 little islands. They’re not very big. Collectively, they’re about 1/10th the size of Metro Vancouver. They’re known by the name of the two biggest islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon. Not relevant, but in case you’re curious… their population of 6,000 has had 16 cases of C19, 12 of which have fully recovered and 4 of which are still ongoing.

That entire population lives on those two islands, where they do a lot of fishing and play a lot of hockey. No big deal, except if you’ve never heard of them, you’ll be quite surprised to learn that they’re not part of Canada. Even though they’re closer to Newfoundland than Vancouver Island is to the mainland, they’re 100% French. Not like Québec French. Like French French.

How they got to that point is a long and interesting story… Indigenous people, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, American, Canadian… all have laid claim to the islands at some point over the centuries… but, as it often goes with land grabs/invasions/conquests, whoever had it last… gets to keep it.

And that was France, who, despite opposition from Canada, Britain and the U.S., seized the islands during WWII… seized by that troublemaker Charles de Gaulle… the same one whose “Vive le Québec libre” 20 years later started a shitstorm that will never go away.

But since then, these little independent French islands have been happily doing their thing, and for the most part have a very close and functional relationship with their Canadian neighbours. A little border dispute or fishing-rights argument pops up occasionally, but it’s never a big deal. It always gets worked out.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Trudeau suddenly went nuts and invaded those islands? It would be a very weird situation for us, but also for our allies, especially the U.S. and the U.K…. both of which are always on our side, but both of which also completely (and justifiably) would respect the sovereignty of France.

Interestingly, there’s a comparable example.

On April 2nd, 1982, General Leopoldo Galtieri, the leader of Argentina (and last of their military dictators) invaded the Falkland Islands.

Lots of similarities… Search-and-Replace: Trudeau becomes Galtieri, Canada becomes Argentina. France becomes England. St.P & M. become the Falkland Islands, which have been under British Rule since 1833. Interestingly, the U.S. becomes Chile; we’ll get to that.

A brief history of Argentina… leading up to Galtieri, there had been a few other military dictators, the first of which had overthrown the democratic government of Isabel Perón… widow of Juan Perón – whose second wife was the famous Evita (Madonna… “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina…”). Those military dictators slowly eroded the country into a compete mess of economic crisis and civil unrest and violence against those who opposed them. Galtieri, who was disliked by the people more and more as each day went by, decided he needed to show everyone who’s boss, how he was a powerful leader, how he’s got things well-under control. A conquest of those islands… and he’d be a national hero forever.

So… he invaded the Falkland Islands, claiming them “back” for Argentina. As an interesting side-note, similar to how when the Democrats say Zig, the Republicans will say Zag, or pretty-much anywhere where you have strong, opposing political parties ready to criticize anything… when Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing government instantly protested the invasion and began arming the response, the left-wing opposition party in England was a bit torn… between their ideology of being against war… coupled with their distaste for Margaret Thatcher… as opposed to simple patriotism. They stammered incoherently for a few days, going back and forth.

You know, when your country gets invaded, you defend yourself… political ideologies aside. If you don’t like war, it means you don’t throw the first punch. But if punches are going to fly, be sure you’re prepared to throw the last one. Anyway, that led to that memorable headline, “British Left Waffles on Falklands.”

Long story short, Galtieri led his country into a disastrous, unwinnable war by invading those islands… a war which cost the lives of hundreds of young Argentinian men, barely trained and barely armed. It took the British a few days to show up, but they showed up angry and ready to take back what was theirs. And take it back they did. They also suffered some losses, but not as bad as the Argentinians. Understandably, everyone on the planet disagreed with the Argentinian position, including their neighbour Chile… who allied themselves with Britain and cooperated fully, allowing their airports and military bases to be used as staging and refueling areas. Chile turned out to be an integral part of helping the Brits end the invasion quickly. The strange parallel would be the U.S. aligning themselves with France, helping them take back the islands from Canada. I wonder how many minutes that war would last.

From a personal point of view, the whole Falklands thing was strange – it was the first time I had a completely relatable view of a big conflict… very clearly from both, opposing sides.

On one hand, I was in grade 8, at a very British school, where many of the teachers were British themselves. They were adamantly opposed to this ridiculous invasion, and made their views known. Everybody (including me) was in agreement. What a useless, stupid war. Hopefully, it’d be over quickly.

On the flipside, my older cousins in Chile were of the age where if they’d been in neighbouring Argentina, they and their friends might have been drafted to go and fight. I knew a lot of people down there in that age group. It would have been like the grade 12s in my school going off to fight for one side… and, on the other side, it could’ve been my cousins and their friends, or at least guys whose personas and attitudes and everything else – I could easily relate to. Happy-go-lucky Latin Americans guys… suddenly thrown into a war because their leader needed some quick wins; some better approval ratings; some better numbers. No time for debates or town-hall meetings… let’s make a real statement.

The whole ugly episode wrapped up in about 10 weeks, but there were (and still are) some ridiculously short-sighted Argentinean patriots who think it was the right move. The vast majority would disagree with that… and if there was any Argentinian positive out of all of it, it’s that it not only took down Galtieri… but it took down the whole right-wing fascist military-dictatorship infrastructure that had supported him and his predecessors. From the failed war emerged democracy. And a final footnote… in 1994, Argentina adopted a new constitution. In it, they declared the Falkland Islands an Argentine Province. Some people just can’t let it go. The official British response was, “LOL”.

What may be relatable about the whole thing is this; there was a leader who was nearing the end of his tenure… something that doesn’t necessarily happen with military dictatorships. Many of those guys hang in there for decades, because their iron-fisted rule keeps them there. As long as the country is doing ok, it works.
But when it’s all going downhill, and people are calling for your head… well, what do you expect from a military leader… fight or flight? Galtieri knew the implications of leaving power, and they all came to pass. He knew what he’d done. He knew his track record leading up that last gasp. He knew that if he had to one day face the music, it wouldn’t go well for him… and, indeed… the rest of his life was no bed of roses. Arrests, prison, disgrace, legal fights, stripped of everything.

That is what faces Donald Trump, so it should come as no surprise that he’ll do anything to prevent it… and/or at least try everything he can to punt the ball 4 years down the field. The U.S. won’t be invading anyone as a distraction anytime soon, fortunately, but what’s going on is its own version of “last gasp”… an effort that started years ago, and will hopefully end on January 20th… 2021, not 2025.

October 16, 2020

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September 16, 2020

Today’s brief update will simply be about some simple numbers and some simple math.

Let’s say 100 people catch Covid-19… and struggle through it, till they’re either cured or dead… if 93 survived and 7 died, let’s write it down as 93/7. Looking around the world, here’s a brief sample of how that looks in different places:

United States: 95/5
China: 95/5
Canada: 93/7
Mexico: 87/13
Italy: 86/14

It’s annoying that some places have stopped publishing their recovery numbers. I’d be interested in throwing Sweden, U.K. and Spain into that mix to see how they compare.

The best ratios out there seem to come out, at best, 97/3.

If we just add up the entire planet — there have been almost exactly 30,000,000 cases – and the global ratio is 96/4.

The implication of that is that the true potential extent of this virus, should everyone on the planet get it, would mean a little over 300,000,000 deaths; simply 4% of the world’s 7.8 billion people.

Fortunately, there’s every reason to believe… through social practices and herd immunity (one way or the other), that nothing close to that will end up transpiring. But it’s always worthwhile to look at all the scenarios, and as far as the worst-case goes – there you have it.

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