Sunday, December 31, 2023

A Fruitful Exploration of the Core

Maybe there are seeds of potential deep within ourselves, but maybe there's nothing there but a collection of signals. Regardless the outcome, we need to dig in to see what we can find. 


In several classes I took last term, the idea of a core self that's fluid came through discussions of the postmodernist view of the self. But I'm not convinced we're still living the pomo life, and I'm not sure we want to be. 

Taking liberally from Charles Taylor, and others, it appears that we once had some communal ideals, then flipped from seeking answers from God to proving them with science, then realized some pretty major problems with glorifying any kind of authority and renounced all of them, but now, drawing on the types of films being made and the stories told, it feels like we're readjusting back to a place with more solid values and truths. I hope so, anyway.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Questionable Mindblind Theory of Autism

There was a cute social media post recently that asked kindergarten kids what gifts would be best for 30-year-olds. Of course there were lots of hearing aids and hip replacements in the mix. And it struck me that this could be a good exercise to gently raise awareness of our own stereotypes. Considering what give you would suggest for ___  type of person (slotting in an age, race, gender, ability, etc.), might be a way to flush out the tiny prejudices we might harbour about individuals that are part of a group. We always need reminders that we are each individuals despite all the group affiliations we have. This is especially true when we're talking about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who can be dramatically different from one another. This is a super long one with headings to help!

Friday, December 29, 2023

He Had Her

 "I don't take advice from men."

This TicTok is gaining in popularity. Paige Turner explained the missing pieces from the success story of Casey Neistat. (Who? He's a vlogger and started a media company, Beme, which was acquired by CNN.) He told a rags to riches story on Diary of a CEO. It included quitting his job in a kitchen and moving to New York City at 19 and refusing to do any work in a kitchen again, which required being willing to sleep in halfway houses and couch surfing to "do whatever it takes". The part he appears to have left out is that he seemed to have left behind a girlfriend and baby. Paige raises the point that advice from men often leaves out the work done behind the scenes by women. Everything Betty Friedan said in 1963 is still a problem now.   

@sheisapaigeturner I do not often take advice from men, even the most successful of men, because the common thread is usually that they were able to become successful, because there was a woman standing beside them, or behind them, supporting them. Without acknowledging this, the advice means very little because women often don’t have men standing besides them, or behind them to support them. #caseyneistat #diaryofaceo #millennialmom #workingmom #wfhmom #corporatemom #successfulwomen ♬ original sound - Paige

(Not sure why it only embeds periodically, but you can check it out at the link above.)

His journey to NY required sacrifices, but he doesn't mention how he managed to take care of a little one during this time. That piece of the story "wasn't critical because he had her." Women can't do these things once they have a kid, and if they do, they're vilified for putting their career before their kid. Women are still held to a different standard. Absolutely. The right to bodily autonomy being taken away in many states and in many other countries is just another way to keep half of the population subservient. Changing this requires a bigger mindset shift that hasn't quite happened yet. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Boiling Frogs Timeline

Globally, Covid cases rose by over 50% in the past month! 

This article that reported the stats, mistakenly says the WHO "officially declared the end of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide in May 2023." Here's what the WHO actually said last May

"I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency. That does NOT mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat. Last week, Covid-19 claimed a life every three minutes, and that's just the deaths we know about." 

It was no longer emergent, but they were very clear that it's by no means over. At this point, over 7 million people have died of it. These organizations and the media have a lot of responsibility for how horribly things have gone, but we have to acknowledge when we misread their actual words. 

Sometimes they make accurate claims but just look at it in the most positive light, like 7 million deaths is less than a tenth of the number of deaths from WW2! Things could be worse! 

But we are creating an untenable number of people disabled by allowing Long Covid to flourish, perpetuated by disingenuous or outright dishonest media. One honest article reported, 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

On the Fog of Covid

There's nothing normal about our lives right now. Simple precautions could change the rate of illness, disability, or death, but that would mean leaders opening themselves to lawsuits if they admit any error.

The term "fog of war" refers to how much is unknown and unknowable - the uncertainty of things - when planning or executing a battle. In war, predictable norms of behaviours are gone, and people have to walk into a situation without a clear sense of what might be about to unfold, and others have to make decisions to guide their choices on the ground. How do you make proper decisions when everything is topsy-turvy, and there's barely a modicum of possibility that the path you choose is the right one? 

We're living in a scenario of normlessness and absurdity no matter how much effort people put towards the big return to normal. It's chaos, not because we don't know how to stop this virus - we really do - but because officials won't make the hard choices because of uncertainty around the level of vitriol and riots and lawsuits that could be the result of implementing any precautions anywhere. The right path leads to health and safety for the many, but potential trouble for the few who are in charge. We are being led by some of the weakest leaders imaginable. (The darker conspiracy-level concern is it's all an intentional way to reduce the population in order to better cope with the famines we'll have in the throes of climate change.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

What Seems Impossible Can Become Inevitable

George Monbiot talked with journalist Rachel Donald of Planet Critical.

In a nutshell, Monbiot has many views in common with Chomsky: People with the money have become the people with the power, and the masses are voting based on "presumed consent," which means we cast a vote before it's clear what they really stand for. Times of equity in the west, were often times of brutality internationally as capitalism is a looting machine. But nation states are a recent introduction that we struggle to see past and assume it has to be like this. Things can change. It's useful to know the people at the top who are commanding or allowing the pilfering to continue, but also be aware that this current structure is the problem. We have made huge sweeping changes in the past, and it can happen again when just a quarter of us recognize that we're in a huge systems crisis. We can all live with sufficiency individually with luxuries once we recognize the benefit of our luxuries being public (everything from healthcare and education to community swimming pools). We're generally good people, but we're a society of altruists governed by psychopaths. Something will change.

Here's the video and a slightly abridged transcript below it. 

Monday, December 25, 2023

On Expectations of the Season

Today is often a difficult day for many people who celebrate Christmas, and it's been made worse with the prospect of walking into a family dinner with Covid in the air. 

Not all of us are surrounded by the people we love today, which can make the day all the more difficult than an ordinary day, when we don't compare ourselves so stringently to this ideal. 

Part of the problem is an old one: the universal issue of going back to the family home and re-experiencing all sorts of old feelings that have laid dormant. That can be hard on its own. But an additional element at Christmas is around gift-giving and expectations. In our consumerist culture, we have entwined gifts with all the images advertisers have given us of that perfect present that magically connects people to the point that we might expect that the right or wrong gift will prove to us that people understand us or at least see us. It's so often fraught with errors that are perceived to hold far more meaning than they necessarily do.  

It can be hard to remember that it's the connection we're after, not the things. 

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Realistic Faith: Strength for Those Who Look

It can be hard to keep working to show people that N95s and cleaning air will actually significantly reduce the number of sick, disabled, and dying in our communities. Here are some words of solace to keep your fires stoked this winter: 

Sue J. from Cleaner Air Collective wrote a lovely, poetic epistle to everyone working hard to keep us all safer. 

"Finding a way to not give up is the ability to hold being realistic and being resilient together in face of huge challenges. It may seem hopeless and too difficult, but if we keep going, we may prevail. If we stop, we can't.

I’ve mentioned before, I spent six months tearing my hair out trying to convince my vulnerable elderly parents to mask, “but no one else does.” Providing masks, modelling, explaining, lecturing, challenging, pointless … til it wasn’t. They’re the only ones masked at church now. 

The other day my young adult, at risk youngest daughter sighed as she put on a mask to attend a crowded outdoor market with me: “I hate wearing a mask outside, but I’ve been making good choices for so long, it’d be stupid to stop and get infected today.” 

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Long Covid Tag

Mentioning Long Covid symptoms to people can set off a series of other stories from people with similar symptoms. It's out there, but we're wary of talking about it.

This is from Nikki S's thread, a founding member of Long Covid Support in the UK:

"I was at a get-together at a friend’s house. Someone asked how my LongCovid was and others started listening. Someone else then said their husband has it. Then another said their sister-in-law hadn’t been right since having Covid, but they’d only just linked it. Then another said their relative had a stroke after having Covid and has never really recovered. 

Someone else’s daughter never recovered from Covid and when I last saw them six months ago she had had no healthcare, so I gave them some general information. She since developed typical symptoms of PoTS. GP referred her to a Long Covid clinic who spoke to her three weeks ago. She is waiting for a TTT, appointment is in three months’ time. BUT she was given no advice by her GP or LC clinic to try to help her symptoms whilst she waits. So I sat with her Dad, directed him to various resources and talked in general about Long Covid. They were so grateful as their daughter had been given no advice by her GP or LC Clinic. The question is why the hell not?! 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Songs for the Season

A few people are re-writing the classics.

Hellscape Neverland (from Deborah Holloway - I added the bridge and re-worked the final verse)

Sirens wail, are you listening?
Family tears, they are glistening
The ERs are crammed 
The wards are all jammed
This is SARS2 hellscape neverland.

Gone away, are the safe days
Here to stay, are the sick days
To cough and to wheeze
SARS2 in the breeze
This is SARS2 hellscape neverland.

In the winter, we can use filtration:
CR boxes, N95s for all
Crack a window, don't forget vaccination
You can keep people safe and still have a ball.

We have the tools to build a safe place
If we care about the human race
We'd clean air and vax
We'd test and we'd mask
And escape the SARS2 hellscape neverland.

The Twelve days of Covid Christmas from Tern

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
12 drummers drumming (up support for herd immunity by mass infection)
11 pipers piping (infected air into your lungs)
10 lords a leaping (to say that the pandemic is over)
9 ladies dancing (on the graves of covid victims)
8 maids a milking (sympathy for having to wear those bothersome masks)
7 swans a swimming (through rivers filled with wastewater laden with SARS-CoV-2)
6 geese a laying (it on thick about how mild their last bout was)
5 bold lies
4 waning herds
3 wretched wens
2 red lines
And a variant that gave me D&V

And for those of us in Ontario, from Theo Moudakis:

Covid Defences Matching Game

Match statements from friends, family, colleagues, bosses, and/or random strangers with "opinions," to defence mechanism! 

Dr. Mike Hoerger, a clinical health psychologist in the US, noted several psychological defence mechanisms being used to downplay the risk of Covid. This is his entire thread, well worth saving here for future reference. Each definition is followed by slew of examples to help the matching process and then a bits of textbook explanation for further clarification.

1. Denial - Pretending a problem does not exist to provide artificial relief from anxiety. 

Examples: "During Covid" or "During the pandemic" (past tense); "The pandemic is over"; "Covid is mild"; "It's gotten milder"; "Covid is not like a cold or the flu"; "Masks don't work anyway"; "Covid is NOT airborne"; "Pandemic of the unvaccinated"; "Schools are safe"; "Children don't transmit Covid"; "Covid is mild in young people"; "Summer flu"; "I'm sick, but it's not Covid"; Taking a rapid test only once; Using self-reported case estimates (25x underestimate) rather than wastewater-derived case estimation; Using hospitalization capacity estimates to enact public health precautions (lagging indicator); Citing mortality estimates rather than excess mortality estimates or citing excess mortality without adjusting for survivorship bias.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Pirola's Dominating - Cool, Cool, Cool, Cool, Cool

Does everyone else picture Andy Samberg when they read about Pirola too?? Isn't everyone reading about the hot new variant, Pirola (BA.2.86/JN.1), these days??


The concern with Pirola is that it's so different from the other strains that it could be unrecognizable to our immune system, and it's as if we've never been vaccinated. I wrote about Pirola last September when it was first identified as a variant of concern. Here's the deal: If you recently got vaccinated, good for you, that should protect you from severe symptoms of the XBB lineage. But vaccines are always chasing the latest mutation and, by the time they're developed and in arms, a new dominate variant is often on the scene. That's why we still have to wear N95s everywhere!! Masks are so effective because they work on all the variants - and on RVS, influenza, and flippin' monkeypox, which is now nearby. You can see how far the XBB variants are (which vaccines targeted) from the JN.1 variant in the image above (from Eric Topol)! 

A kidney doctor online says he's baffled that anyone would care about this new variant because if you think Covid isn't over, then you'll continue masking. And if you think that it's all a hoax, you'll just ignore it and end up in hospital. But he's forgetting about the huge group in the middle. There are many people who vax and relax, and they need to know that the vaccine barely touches this new variant because it's so different from previous strains. And there are many others with a mix of pro/anti-mask attitudes in their home or extended family, and this provides one more reason to rely on N95s as well as (or instead of if necessary) vaccines. People need to be informed about changing risk as it changes!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Canadian Excess Deaths Report

Tara Moriarty wrote a compelling thread a couple weeks ago. I've never teared up from reading stats before.

For anyone who doesn't know her, Moriarty's an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, and she and a small team of experts voluntarily create Covid stats each fortnight, posted at Canadian Covid-19 Hazard Indexand she also offers a Covid conversation place every Tuesday and Thursday nights. Below, this is all from Tara's thread. It's long, but I wanted to include it all. She beautifully captures what it feels like to keep looking at it all:

"The percentage excess mortality for Canada from 2020-2022 for SPECIFIC CAUSES OF DEATH is now up on our excess mortality tracker. Thanks to StatCan_eng for the data. I'll do a brief summary thread here. You can view/download the analysis on p. 21 of tracker. We calculate age-specific mortality rates for each cause of death from 2015-2022, then compare each of 2020, 2021 and 2022 to the 2015-2019 mean. Our page reports only on specific causes of death in 2020-2022 greater than the 2015-2019 mean +95%CI. The report also excludes some specific causes of death that account for less than 0.1% of total excess mortality over the 2020-2022 period. We're trying to focus on the biggest sources of excess mortality, although there are significant increases across age groups in deaths from diseases like syphilis and TB where the overall numbers of deaths are quite small (rightfully and thankfully). Finally, we can ONLY meaningfully interpret INCREASES in specific causes of death compared to 2015-2019. Why? Because of 89,248 excess deaths in Canada from 2020-2022, specific causes of death are still not available for 29% of excess deaths. It's more than 36% for 2022, 17% for 2020... Finally, excess mortality for all years is still nudging up, but is still increasing significantly for 2022 with each month of reporting from StatsCan. StatsCan carefully checks annual specific cause of death numbers they release. We have to wait till late 2024 for next issue. 

You Had One Job! On IPACs Refusal to Prevent or Control Infection

The Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) of Canada is a registered charity making some questionable decisions recently.

They promote themselves as, "Focussing on infection prevention and control in the community and in healthcare facilities." Their mission is "to advance infection prevention and control by advocating for our members and providing access to evidence-based resources, education and networking opportunities," and their vision is "a world without preventable infections." Their goal is, "Not one preventable infection. Ever." In their promotional video they say, "IPAC Canada members are dedicated to supporting efforts in eliminating preventable infections."

Dr. Lisa Iannattone noted the power they have:

Monday, December 18, 2023

On Lookers and Thinkers

Can we teach how to think and problem solve our way out of a total collapse?

I'm curious why some people are facing it all head on, reading the news and studies and watching the clips about Covid, climate and so many conflicts. I wonder if I'm one of the few who look because I was raised by much older parents who were born in the 20s and had lived during the depression and WWII and had first-hand information and attitudes to share about what to do during emergencies. Many people are too far removed from imminent life-threatening survival needs. 

I wrote more about that last July, referring to so many as part of "undarkened" generations without the skills and know-how to survive a collective tragedy, and how my own children are part of it because they were one generation removed from my parents, getting all their stories second hand and watered down while being surrounded by so many things that distract their mind, and my own sheltering of them keeping them from considering the possibility of it all being lost!

And I wonder if it's more or less useful to look at it all! Ignorance sounds pretty blissful right about now. They might end up struggling more later, but we'll be there to help as much as we can. That appears to be our lot in life, of those who look.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

On Hearing Others

Louis Cozolino's beautifully written book on neuroscience has an explanation near the end about our necessary interconnectedness. 

Communication from one body part to anther happens when messages throughout our body are transmitted by neurons, but the transmission doesn't happen inside the neurons but between them, in the synaptic gap that separates the dendrites of one neuron from the axon terminal of the other. 

Then there's this bit that I love from Cozolino's book: It doesn't stop at our epidermis. The communication continues outside of our individual bag of bones into others nearby. The space between us, you and I, is a synaptic gap. The transmission of messages is continuous, not just inside our bodies but between them. So, maybe it's silly to think of ourselves as separate beings. We're one giant blob of a being, but some of the transmission circuits are damaged. Inside the body, damaged circuits manifest in a variety of ways, like Alzheimers' and Parkinson's. Between bodies, it feels to me like our systems are struggling to function from the lack of dendrites able to receive our signals. 

Cozolino says,

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Mini-Study on ND vs NT Use of Masks

Abstract: 

An online survey was conducted to compare the rate of masks wearing behaviour between neurotypical and neurodiverse populations. A greater number of neurodiverse participants reported always wearing a mask.

Introduction:

The impetus for this study came from a post by Lucy (2023) who asked why "neuro atypical" people are so over represented in the Covid conscious community. I responded that it could be likely for the same reason that a higher percentage of Autistic people are 2SLGBTQIA+: "Autistic individuals may conform less to societal norms compared to non-autistic individuals" (Warrier et al, 2020). Lucy suggested a similar study be conducted on mask use. I set up a study to compare the neurotypical (NT) and neurodiverse (ND) self-reported mask-wearing behaviours.

Friday, December 15, 2023

There's Money in Prevention

The insurance companies and finance mags are still openly discussing the problems with ongoing Covid, even if schools and hospitals aren't. Illness affects the bottom line!

Don't be surprised if you try to get insurance and they ask a lot of questions about whether you've had Covid, how many times, how recently, how much exposure you typically get in your workplace, and whether you have any lasting damage that requires treatment. And don't be surprised if your insurance is denied if you live or work in a way that significantly exposes you to getting Covid - like, maybe, you're a grade school teacher trying to get life insurance in case you die, leaving your partner to care for your children alone. 

Having Covid is a pre-existing condition that leads to many other conditions. 

They don't ask about your experiences with colds or flus because they don't lead to all sorts of illness down the road. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Priest, the Consultant, the Journalist, and the Epidemiologist

How do we proceed when we still don't really understand Covid?


Researchers have found over 200 symptoms associated with Covid, and no organ untouched by it. A recent review article stated the problem, 

"The mechanisms of Long Covid are unclear. Leading hypotheses include alteration of the immune system, the persistence of residual viral components driving chronic inflammation, endothelial dysfunciton or activation, microembolization, mitochondrial dysfunciton, abnormal metabolites, reactivation of pre-existing chronic viral infection, dysbiosis of microbiota, and unrepaired tissue damage. These hypotheses intersect and overlap."

It's a bugger! The World Health Network is working on a Consensus Statement to help clinicians navigate working with the disease. In the past few days, a few people have written about the conundrum of not being able to really get our heads around how this very serious disease works while trying to work with it. 

An explanation from an epidemiologist:

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

A Disaster Groundhog Day

A few decades ago I watched a video in a class about a Black female musician answering the question how to stop all the racism and sexism in songs at a time when Eminem was using the "N" word liberally. 

She said she doesn't waste her efforts on stopping others: "I just make sure to put something else out there in the airwaves." That quote is from memory and likely pretty accurate. I can't find that specific interview, but I was able to coax out the details from my brain with google's help: the band is Sweet Honey in the Rock, and the woman in the video was Bernice Johnson Reagon. I was looking for the "Messages of Hate" portion of Bill Moyer's interview with her, but it costs $100 to access on a page titled "The Songs are Free"! Oh, the irony!

The course was with Dr. Carol Duncan, in her first year teaching there, and it's one of those courses that has stayed with me forever. It was also where I learned about The History of Mary Prince, and tried to use it as a reading in my history class but was dissuaded from talking about the Black experience as a white woman. So it went untaught by anybody.

As I was leaving her classroom after watching that powerful video, another professor in the program stopped to chat with me. He motioned to Dr. Duncan, a Black woman, and said, "Too bad she wasn't in a wheelchair or we'd get a three for one!"

Unbelievable. 

Recent to this time, in 1995, the Employment Equity Act had just been amended and strengthened. That type of comment was the pushback. 

The racist and sexist messaging is everywhere. And we can't chase it all down. We have to just keep putting something else out there. It's pretty much what Tolstoy was on about. 

I can't fight all the messaging that says climate change is going to benefit us or that Covid is mild or just a cold. There is no end to that nonsense. It would use up all my energy to try to combat it, and it would also have very little effect. So instead, I just keep trying to put something else out there. And I find and highlight the good stuff that other people are putting out there too, like these: 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The One with the Apocalypse

I recently watched a few things, back to back, to distract me from the news.

One was openly apocalyptical, as so much is these days. Is it a trend, or is the output the same, but I just never gravitated to it so much?? I've also noticed a rise in interest in mushrooms, mosses, bones, and decay and all things dank and symbolically death-related. The trajectory feels like we moved from flower power in the 60s to a neon wave in the 80s, then all things plastic and shiny in 2000, and now we're into dark, wet rot. 

The end times movie was Leave the World Behind. Some people on twitter thought it amazing and watched it a few times over, but I wasn't as impressed. I wasn't invested in whether or not any of the characters lived or died, but it was okay fare for a cold rainy afternoon. 

***Spoiler Alert***

Monday, December 11, 2023

Art to Guide the Masses

Can sitcoms save the day?

Back in the 80s, there was a very funny show about a detective agency, Moonlighting. It was a take on the classic enemies-to-lovers trope with a very prim and efficient Maddie Hayes up against the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants David Addison. Of course the two fall in love. In one episode, before having sex - I think for the first time - they have a brief conversation about condoms!!! It was unheard of! We had been taught to use safer sex and were all told to use condoms. It was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, but other STIs were also pretty common. Yet nobody had shown us what it looked like to actually talk about condoms without killing the mood. If these two very beautiful people can make it sexy, then maybe we could too. 

Imagine if sitcom characters wore a mask whenever leaving the house? 

I mean, we know that the film industry is one of the most Covid-conscious industries out there, often with everyone on the set masked to protect the stars. They know the value of their well-paid employees who are essentially irreplaceable. The problem with so many other industries is that they see their staff (and clients and patients and students) as entirely replaceable. 


Imagine the madcap antics that could happen with characters trying to date. Maybe a funny female lead falls in love with a guy who, once unmasked, has horrible teeth. Fleabag did something similar but with a newspaper hiding a buck-toothed smile instead of a mask. Or imagine two people going on a date - to a movie with no popcorn - and then an awkward hug at the end of the night because neither are quite sure if they want to bring the other into their inner circle of unmasked people! It's really complicated out there for the Covid-conscious, and that could spur lots of funny scenarios. The older sickly grandma who doesn't believe all the Covid malarky and keeps getting sick could be the new stand-in for the shockingly racist grandma of the past. 

Sitcoms are full of tropes that we can relate to, but they get less and less relatable when they're all living like it's still 2018. It's nice to watch a fantasy world from time to time, but we look to the arts to see how to live with our current situation. Since political leaders have deserted us, we need more writers guiding us through this mess! 

It's a tragedy we're living through, definitely but that often makes for some of the best comedy, and we either have to laugh or cry at the state of things today.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Daycare Years

Many of our ideas of virus transmission haven't changed in decades, for better and worse.  

Almost 30 years ago, I ran a daycare out of my home for a little over three years. I wanted to have more time with my kids while they were small, but I also financially needed to stay home since the cost of daycare for two kids was almost my entire take-home salary ($300 vs $400/week) even though I'm a teacher, assumed to be rolling in piles and piles of money. I'm so pleased we have subsidized daycare now. 

Saturday, December 9, 2023

It's Still Not a Cold

 Stats Canada just posted a report on Long Covid

They highlight that the risk of long term symptoms is cumulative, increasing with the number of Covid infections. By three or more infections, 38% of people - more than a third of people - report long term symptoms. They also report that "Black Canadians were most likely to report multiple infections." About half of people with Long Covid report they haven't had any improvement in symptoms over time. Among people working or in school, 20% had to miss work or school, absent an average of five weeks. Almost half the people reported difficulties accessing healthcare services. 11% of people - one in nine - report having Long Covid, and most of them have been sick for over six months so far.

Getting the newest vaccine will help keep you out of the hospital and somewhat prevents Long Covid, but the best thing people can do now is to wear a well-fitting N95 whenever they're inside a public place (hospitals, schools, busses, etc.).

Seriously, do everything you possibly can to avoid getting infected over and over!! 

The neoliberal governments are taking advantage of this crisis to privatize the shit out of healthcare. A recent NY Times video explains that, in the UK, the destruction of the NHS started with Thatcher. Our version of that was Mulroney, but Doug Ford had gone to town with the plan: "We're at risk of abandoning the idea of universal healthcare itself, and, if we do, we'll all lose the world's most famous example of an ideal: that healthcare is a human right and a public responsibility."


ETA: Dr. Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor to the Government of Canada posted that Stats Can data too. Her comment:
"Even mild cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection are at risk of becoming Long Covid and these results suggest the threat increases with multiple infections.  Overcoming it once doesn't necessarily protect you from subsequent cases that are worse. Best to avoid it altogether. These results are corroborated by scientific studies, including this one by Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly and team." 

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Living in a Nightmare

"Many describe living in a sort of waking, powerless nightmare where an obvious catastrophe is unfolding but society just blithely ignores it."

That's from this Guardian article from May 2022 that could have been written today, and possibly needs to be written every day to wake us up: 

"People have described it as like they are at a funeral but everyone else is treating it as a party. People are still going to college, planning for retirement, doing all theh things as if the future will look just like the past when we know that's not true. There's a delusion of normalcy. . . . Carbon emissions leapt globally last year . . . Wildfires are now a year-round menace to the US west. On Friday, it hit 51C in Pakistan, while India has baked in such extreme, record heat that dozens of people have died and birds are falling from the sky"

You'd think climate change and Covid happening right in front of our eyes would affect our behaviour more, wouldn't you! Denial is a powerful drug.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Danger Posed by Covid is Indeed Being Underestimated

Covid updates from Ontario and Germany were in the news yesterday. 

But first, check out this graphic of tips for staying healthy over the holidays from the Canadian Covid-19 Hazard Index, one of the most amazing grassroots organizations we've got in Canada that actually tracks and reports on current levels of risk regularly

Test before gatherings; mask when not eating; open windows; run a HEPA or CR box in each room, and get vaccinated. It's so simple and effective to use all the tools we have! 

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer, Kieran Moore, told CP24, in a few very long sentences full of numbers, that he's taking a vax and hand washing approach, leaving the significantly more useful tools locked in the toolbox:

Just Safe Stories

Will re-branding Covid help people start acting to protect themselves from it? 

Maybe we need an ad campaign to kick-start public health. Outside of judicial rulings and before marketing, we had religious leaders to remind us to the best ways to survive, and before that we had stories passed down for generations to help keep children safe from harm by altering their behaviour, like this one

"Our parents told us that if we went out without a hat, the northern lights are going to take your head off and use it as a soccer ball. We used to be so scared!"

Unfortunately, those types of stories are unlikely to work on media-savvy kids today. They also seem immune to stories about going out without a mask, and being cautioned that the invisible microbes are going to infect your brain and body until you can't get out of bed anymore. They're not scared at all.

Except that one is true.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Questionable Wisdom of Institutions of Higher Learning

Trying to convince universities to allow remote learning in maskless in-person classes and maybe to allow mini-HEPAs on the desk during exams appears to be futile despite the current risk level. Higher learning, my eye!

Why Universities Should Lead the Way

Last July, two grad students from the University of Waterloo wrote an article explaining how "Universities can lead the clean indoor air revolution."

Click the image to read the article, but I'll highlight a few pieces:

Saturday, December 2, 2023

It's not the Lockdowns. It's the Covid!

For people, like Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO, who think immunity debt or the immunity gap or whatever new name they give for it is the problem, this one's for you! 

Dr. Lisa Iannattone posted an excellent thread debunking the notion that keeping us all at home for a few months a few years ago has robbed us of ability to fight off illness. This is entirely from her thread:

We’re in our 3rd post-lockdown viral respiratory season and admissions for viral respratory  illness + pneumonia are 6 standard deviations above the historical average. I do not understand how so many reasonable people haven’t figured out that the “immunity debt” scapegoat is disinformation. 

It’s not the lockdowns; it’s the covid. Covid damages immune systems. Catching covid makes people more susceptible to catching other infections. Immunity theft, not immunity debt. A thread of evidence:

This study found that the risk of RSV infection needing medical attention was 40% higher in kids that had covid vs those that didn’t. Both in 2021 and 2022. Yes they checked twice. This study shows that the terrible 2022 RSV epidemic was not as simple as a “catch up” year. RSV was already back in 2021. The 2022 surge was driven by more severe cases. What happened between 2021 and 2022? Mass infection of children with omicron. And subsequent immune damage.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Are the Covid Inquiries Just for Show?

How many inquiries do we need before Public Health kicks into gear again?? 

Wastewater in my area is hitting the tippy top of the graph, and that's after the y-axis was doubled from 2 to 4 standardized concentration of SARS-CoV-2 gene copies. But we're still carrying on as if everything's normal. Tra-la-la. Soon university students will sit in very crowded rooms to write exams with nothing allowed on their desks but a pen or pencil: no mini-HEPA, no far UV tech, absolutely nothing. We care more about the possibility of kids cheating than we care about their health and well-being.

From Rebecca Owen, who's finishing a PhD in physiology:

"As we hear evidence at the Covid Inquiry UK about how the emerging pandemic was handled, it is important that the words of those who were affected are also shared. Our article, "Acute Covid-19, the lived experience, and lessons to learn for future pandemics" captured those voice. 

Trigger warning: This study and thread shares experiences from teh early pandemic with references to death. The trauma of being extremely unwell in the early stages of Covid-19 and not receiving the appropriate support is also discussed.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The System Isn't the Problem

See Lecce's announcement on a mandatory anti-communism curriculum coming to schools:


But then also check out Frank Domenic's take on it and how similar our current provincial government is to enacting some atrocities typically blamed on communism. We should be teaching about the problem with leaders who harm their citizens. Absolutely! 
@frankdomenic Lecce and Ford have stated we will start teaching about the evils of Communism in Ontario schools. I think he's got a point. Let's look at some historical examples of abusive governments #ontario #onpoli #dougford #stephenlecce #onted #ontpoli #ontarioschools #ontarioeducation #ontarioschool #ontarioteacher #ontarioteachers #OSSTF #OECTA #ETFO #frankdomenic­čŹü #canpoliTT ♬ original sound - FrankDomenic

"A system can't be evil; the people using the system can."

 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

New Covid: It's the Real Thing

 This might be just the rebranding we need to change the script. 


An Australian publication briefly had this headline: Why you don't want to catch new Covid:


Which was unceremoniously changed to: "Covid linked to deadly diseases, Parkinsons, Alzheimers, bowel disease," They explain that "alarming new research suggests catching the virus could have long-term health implications."

But the change wasn't fast enough to avoid scrutiny on the interwebs:
"How do you pivot from a minimiser narrative to 'COVID linked to deadly disease' without looking culpable? Simple. W'ere talking about new COVID, not the old one we've been encouraging you to catch."
Some suggest they hope people don't fall for it, but I really, really hope they do. At this point, I don't care if anyone ever gets in trouble for hiding the reality of how Covid spreads and what this virus can do in the body long term. Lots of people got into politics unaware that a pandemic would change the very nature and urgency of their job, and they made a lot of huge mistakes that cost millions of lives. Absolutely. 

But I don't want vengeance. I want change. 

Let's let them get away with it. We'll agree to stop digging in their emails and pointing out what they knew and when they knew it, and get on board with the message that this version of Covid is COMPLETELY NEW, and we actually have BRAND NEW evidence that it causes long term harm. 

It's bullshit, of course. We've know for years that Covid hibernates in cells all over the body and can destroy immunity like AIDS, and destroy the brain like Alzheimer's, and destroy the ability to just sit up for any length of time like ME/CFS. Covid is unique in that it binds to ACE2 receptors, so it can set up camp anywhere in the body. It should be treated as the formidable opponant it is. If pretending that we're just this minute finding this out will change the way we deal with it, I'm in!    

Let's not share Covid; Covid ends life. Save some lives with N95s! Mask and relax with a well-fitting respirator, today!!




Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Fracking Hell!

Sunday was the busiest day ever for air travel in the U.S. Almost 3 million people were screened at airports across the country. 

Meanwhile, Gianluca Grimalda lost his job doing climate-change fieldwork because he refused to take a plane back to the office, choosing a much longer journey home that took weeks instead of hours. Time is money, Gianluca: tick tock. 

He wrote, 

"Aviation is the biggest contributor to climate change of all forms of transport. . . . A trip by plane from Papua New Guinea to Germany produces 5.3 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. Slow travel produces approximately 12 times less (420kg). In the current state of climate emergency, wasting 4.9 tonnes of CO2 - about how much the average person in teh world emits in one year - to expedite my return to Europe is not morally acceptable to me. . . . I hope my case might put a little crack into the wall of 'selfishness, greed, and apathy', which, in the words of climate lawyer Gus Speth, is the main hindrance to stopping runaway climate change. . . . It is, in my opinion, insane to continue with 'business as usual', when science tells us that we are either dangerously close to or past the point of collapse for major ecosystems. . . . I would like to invite people to shift the boundaries of what is considered normal within their own sphere of action. . . . Individual action, even if obviously ineffective in dramatically reducing carbon emissions, has been shown to have significant amplifying effects, as the individual's 'good example' is replicated and further propagated by peopel on their social networks."

There are still lots of things individuals can do to make a difference: fly less, drive less, eat less meat, shop way less, and de-fossilize your investments. It's hard to do the right thing when everyone else appears to be doing the wrong thing, but that's how movements start! 

Check out this great one-minute ad about pension funds investing in fossil fuel from the UK organization, Make My Money Matter:

Monday, November 27, 2023

How to Know

We need to fight back on the idea that there's nothing we can really know. 

When I taught, more and more I'd run up against the claim that there's nothing we can know in the world. I believe that it's a dangerous situation if we think science is on par with random assertions making the rounds on the internet as if there's nothing we can do but shrug. 

Here's Rachel Maddow explaining that concern in one minute 

@msnbc

Rachel Maddow joined Chris Hayes for a live taping of his podcast "Why Is This Happening?", to talk about how authoritarianism has succeeded in the past and how the same tactics are used today. According to Maddow, sowing distrust in institutions "is part of the authoritarian project, and it always has been."

♬ original sound - MSNBC

I taught how to figure out what we can know, what's credible and valid in both my senior classes:

In my social science classes, I gave them an exercise to compare two sides on a controversial issue. 

I start by getting them to find any article about a study in the news or on social media, then dig for the original research article in a journal and look at if the news article and/or headline skewed the actual results or even completely misrepresented the results. I usually have a list of news articles on hand for people who need help with googling for information (something many students still need a lot of help with). Spoiler alert: lots of media outlets sensationalize pretty mundane research.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

These Masks are Made for Walking...Pneumonia

Mycoplasma pneumonia infections are on the rise in children in parts of the world, but the typically mild illness is sending them to the hospital.

Forbes reports,

"Typically, mycoplasma pneumonia doesn't require hospitalization. However, young children with a nascent immune system may be at greater risk of developing more serious disease. . . . 80% of new patients are children under the age of five. . . . Bacterial infections . . . are usually opportunistic, in that they take advantage of an immune system that has been weakened by a virus."

Then they take a bit of a both sides stance explaining that the WHO points to immunity gap, but Forbes clarifies that "experts have long expressed skepticism about whether there is a generalized immunity debt." It's frustrating that's even discussed as a possibility anymore. But at least they finish strong:

"Measures such as masking, ventilating, washing hand, avoiding close contact with others and staying home when sick are recommended to prevent the spread of mycoplasma, but also the viruses that can lead to mycoplasma."  

Financial Times did a better job at pointing out that,

"'Immunity debt' is a misguided and dangerous concept . . . mistakenly suggests 'that immunity is something we need to invest in, and that by protecting ourselves from infection we are building up a deficit that has ultimately to be repaid. This would not be a good message for public health: we would still have open sewers and be drinking from water contaminated with cholera if this idea were followed to its logical conclusion." 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

It's a Ruse!

We have to acknowledge how far we've gone down the rabbit hole of lies to be able to ignore this Covid wave that's almost reaching the highest peak of hospitalizations.


It's the third leading cause of death and children are the fastest growing population affected by it, but people still balk at masks. 

Forbes made it clear that ditching masks is all about saving money:

"As an industrial hygienist, Seminario was extremely critical that there were no experts in respiratory protection on the committee. . . . She believes that the HICPAC committee members are likely so opposed to respirators 'because once you are into recommending respiratory protection, with that comes a full respiratory protection program from OSHA', with penalties for violations."

Our current wave actually made a mainstream paper: yesterday's Toronto Star: 

"Ontario Covid Wastewater signal hits one-year peak: Your chance of being exposed is very high. . . . Health-care professionals are recommending the public undertake a familiar suite of measures to protect themselves . . . wear a high-quality mask in crowded indoor settings like public transit, and stay home from work or school if you are under the weather."

Friday, November 24, 2023

A Brief History of Letting it Rip

Something, at some time, eventually, will be the last straw that finally gets people everywhere to change their behaviour around Covid.

This is where I live, and I rarely see another person in a mask! 

This is save-worthy post on Twitter. Long Covid advocate Laura Miers wrote a timeline of threads to show how intensely we're ignoring reality. I didn't link all the threads inside the threads, but I tried to link all the news outlets for the initial quotation in each sub-thread for a while until it started taking too long. 

"What’s happening in China has been quietly happening in western countries since we Let It Rip in 2021. Below, you will find a thread of history we are choosing to forget. 
In the US, we started off with Covid coinfections in 2021. Kids were testing positive for like 6 viruses simultaneously, and this was shocking and novel. (massive thread:) 
'I was on call in the pediatric ER a couple of weeks ago, treating a child with respiratory distress, when I looked up at the census board and saw 'RSV+COVID.' This was the first time I'd seen this combination of Covid-19 and respiratory syncytial virus.' (CNN, August 2021)