Wednesday, May 31, 2023

On Letting Them Fail

In my recent "Kids Today" post, I mentioned the problems with not letting kids fail classes as one of many examples of how we swoop in to rescue them instead of actually supporting their learning and growth as human beings, arguing that their behaviour is being affected by never having to experience consequences for their actions (or inaction). The adamant refusal of some boards to revisit the idea of just letting kids deal with the consequences of excessive absences or lack of attention in class by getting them to repeat the course is because of a study somewhere that shows a correlation between kids who failed a class and kids who dropped out. BUT, correlation doesn't equal causation! I was a kid who failed a class and dropped out, and in this personal, anecdotal bit of evidence, that failure in grade 10 Latin had zero to do with walking away from high school, which had much more to do with the draw of the outside world, including a boyfriend who worked nights.  

However, I'm sure that it is a factor for some kids. The question is: which kids. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Pandemic Historic Ties to Fascism

I'm very concerned with the public largely ignoring Covid despite a growing shift to get kids to replace workers who are lost to Covid deaths or disability after convincing us that everything's back to normal. If it's no longer an emergency, then governments no longer have to do anything, or - more importantly - pay for anything. And they're no longer on the hook for any potential lawsuits. So now a few places, like the CDC, are finally acknowledging the mess we're in, now that there won't be repercussions to the reveal. It's very disconcerting that we're so much on our own to deal with this ongoing pandemic. That didn't work very well in the past.  

A comment onling from x3r0gxx

"It's worth noting here how a lack of government response to pandemic deaths and financial devastation in 1918-onward directly emboldened the Nazi party, and the left failed to organize in response long-term. It's no coincidence that fascist organizing ramped up dramatically in 2020."

That's from an article on this paper, which shows that the less governments spend on their people, the greater the relative population decline due to the pandemic. That just makes sense. And it's terrifying!

Monday, May 29, 2023

Kids Today!

A letter has been circulating and in the news complaining about kids today. Things have changed in the last few years, but I don't think it's as dramatic a shift as is being portrayed yet, and while phones play a role, so does our cowardice in neglecting to set clear boundaries for kids, and so does an economic system that leaves them without attainable future goals.

The letter describes a Mississauga middle school in which students are defecating on bathroom floors, throwing things, stealing, vandalizing, and threatening staff and students. On top of all that, "Students have also called teachers names, have banged on their doors and run away and called the classroom phone and hung up repeatedly when the teacher has answered."

First, Some Perspective: 

I don't believe, as some commenters fear, that it's total anarchy in the schools today. I'm a little wary of any complaints about public schools these days, and hyperbole can be dangerous. We're in a precarious place where a tipping point of parents could enable privatized education to fully take hold. And that would be very bad.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Some Pretty Pictures and a Poem

On my twitter feed, I make sure to temper my covid and climate change posts by re-tweeting incredible physical feats (mainly cycling and gymnastics), beautiful art, hilarious posts, lots of animals, and the occasional profound poem or piece of literature. It's vital, like, absolutely vital, to stay in touch with the beauty in this world. That's what can give us the impetus to actually try to save this dumpster fire!!

I don't do that much here, a place where I mainly just try to sort out whatever's spinning around my head, and most of that other stuff doesn't live inside me. It's all from my admiration of the world outside of myself. But today's my birthday, so here are some pretty pictures and a poem. 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Why Ranked Ballots Make Sense

...and we can't act as if they were ranked after the fact!

I believe that WRDSB has a committee formed to determine the process to appoint two new trustees. I've been actively avoiding following the news on all this, but I do want to respond to the suggesting floating around that an appointment is undemocratic. 

Voting is typically the most democratic method, but a byelection is costly (about half a mill!!), and a July election for just two trustees (or three trustees including one for the WCDSB) will likely be poorly attended. The municipal election last October just provoked about 25% of the voters to the polls. We'd be lucky if we got even half that number for just a trustee election and in the summer. Does 10% of the populace in attendance make for a solid democratic decision?? Is it really much of a democratic system anymore if nobody cares to vote despite being offered the chance? 

The other option the trustees voted down, to just choose the next candidate on the voters list from last fall, doesn't seem remotely democratic to me because it wasn't originally set up as a ranked ballot where people explicitly chose their fourth option (after the three elected). 

To illustrate the problem with taking the next person on the list, let's assume people just voted for one person for simplicity's sake. If 70% of people pick person A, and 5% each choose person B, C, D, E, and then 5.1% choose person F, it's clear that person F isn't really the democratically elected second choice despite getting the second highest percentage of votes. Right? It's one reason why at least all municipal elections should be by ranked ballot.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Modernism, Post and Meta

When I'm not ranting about Covid and climate change, I'm biking, reading, writing, and watching shows and movies. Tons of movies. Right now Monday mornings start with Yellowjackets as an appetizer, then Succession is the main course, followed by Barry for dessert (all on Crave). Next Monday will be the season finale for the latter two, and I'm on tenterhooks!! 

I also love YouTube videos about shows and films, and Thomas Flight is one of my favourites. He recently posted about the change in movies over the decades, and it's staying with me. 

He explains the difference between modernist, post-modernist, and "meta-modernist" films, and how they align with the periods. I've taught the first two concepts before in philosophy, but explaining it through film helps clarify the differences. 

Modernism (1890 to the 1940s or so, depends who you ask) 

This is the time of Levy-Bruhl who classified people and places into two categories somewhat offensively: primitive (mystical, communal, "pre-logical") and modern (objective, scientific, individual). He convinced important people that modern is best, which lent some credibility for taking over inferior areas of the world. Durkheim disagreed with him--cultures have differences but not superiority--but that didn't fit the dominant narrative as well. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Need to Grow

When I taught civics and we discussed Canada's immigration policy, that we typically take in about 250,000 newcomers each year, but over 600,000 apply, many students would suggest we need to take them all. They'd prefer an open door policy that maybe only stops the criminally-minded from entry. My follow up question: To what point? What happens if much of the rest of the world becomes uninhabitable and we get millions wanting to live here? At what point do you close the door, if ever? 

We're about to find out in just a few decades. According to an article in Nature about the specific kind of habitat we need to survive,

"Climate change has already put ~9% of people (> 600 million) outside this niche. By the end-of-century (2080-2100 [about 55 years from now]), current policies leading to around 2.7°C global warming could leave 1/3 (22-39%) of people outside the niche."

When a third of the civilized world becomes inhabitable, we'll all be either migrants or hosts or something far worse. Canada's in a pretty good location to weather this except for all the fires

But, I just watched a film that's free for the next couple days: The Need to Grow. It focuses on food production, but it's all interrelated. It's well put together with three entwined storylines, and it's got a hopefulness to it that can really help these days! It's just $7 to buy a permanent copy of the film along with lots of extras, and that will help them continue their work. 

Michael Smith is a genius inventor who found a way to create nutrient rich soil after learning that we've lost 1/3 of the world's topsoil in the last forty years, taking a matter of days to regenerate what would normally take a few hundred years. Erik Cutter created a vertical agriculture technique that enables far more food growth in a much smaller area and reduces GHGs as well. And Alicia Serratos and her mom, Monica, aimed to take on Girl Guide cookies. 

The bad guys are the fertilizer and pesticide corporations, an $170 billion industry, which could lose substantial profits if these ideas take off. The industries started with the leftover materials from the military without a market, like nerve agents.  

*** SPOILERS ***

The soil creating building burns down (possibly arson); the vertical farm is replaced by a huge skating rink, and the little girl doesn't get an audience with the head of Girl Guides. 

"People don't have the foresight to know what to care about. They don't WANT to know - ignorance is bliss."

BUT, they persisted! Two years later Smith rebuilt and Cutter found new places to start over, and Serratos kept working on food education. 

"You don't get points for doing the right thing. You just have to do it. . . . We can solve these problems. It's not too late. We can do much better."

It helps to know people are still trying to do the right thing even though things look bleak. 

My only criticism of the film is that the music is a bit heavy-handed at times, drowning out the audio, and was reminiscent of being on hold. But I'm old, and it might just not be to my taste!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Strep A Causing Fatalities in the Region

Last December, I wrote a few times (here, here, here, and here) about strep becoming more invasive and deadly if it follows a Covid case--even if it's mild or asymptomatic Covid--after 15 kids across the UK died within a few weeks. Covid does a number on the immune system's ability to fight off other diseases; it kills off the cells that kids' bodies need to fight off infection so they can't fight Strep A.

In Waterloo Region, children are dying of strep and it's barely mentioned in the news. I just got word of it yesterday after a mom came forward to make her grief public after doing everything possible for her daughter, Quin, who succumbed 12 hours after being admitted to hospital:
"In the region, there have been 21 infections between January and the end of April; there were 25 infections in all of 2022. Five of the 21 people diagnosed with invasive Group A strep in 2023 died. . . . For the 2022/2023 flu season, there have been about 900 cases--a spike of 63%." 
So when was public health going to tell us??

The article assures us that "there are certain characteristics that trained health-care providers are aware of and can help them to think about a potential bacterial infection with Group A streptococcal disease," but in this particular case--as happened in England as well--"No one seemed to pick up on the fact her daughter's symptoms might be something more than a bad cold." 

Doctors were told about the increase in cases and death, but not the general public. No warning until now, after we find ourselves with a disease with almost a 25% fatality rate, now we'll let people know and maybe they'll WEAR A MASK, which wasn't even mentioned in the article despite it being, "passed from person to person through breathing, coughing or sneezing." Instead, Dr. Jeffrey Pernica at McMaster Children's Hospital suggests to go to the hospital for difficulty breathing like always. He said, "I am confident that parents in our region are going to continue to do the same good job they've always done." 

What does that even mean??? It sounds like it's all on the parents, but Quin's mom made all the right phone calls and asked all the right questions and was told it's just a cold until it was too late. 

Strep is more dangerous for young kids and people over 65, but even if it won't cause much harm to you, you can still transmit it to someone else, even before you know you have it, if you don't wear a mask in public places!! We have a cheap and easy solution to prevent illness and death to the young and old and immunocompromised. What will it take for people to actually give a shit? And what will it take for that reporter to just add one more sentence: Wear a mask to reduce your chances of getting or spreading Strep.

Geez, people! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

On Prosocial Cuing

Saving another thread from twitter, this time it's a really short one from Dr. Lisa Iannattone:

"I'm a little confused at the 'making people feel bad about how their choices harm others is bad advocacy' takes. Didn’t we do that with smoking? Wasn’t the 'secondhand smoke kills' education campaign exactly that? Isn’t 'if you drive drunk you could kill someone' exactly that? Since when is it controversial to point out how our choices could harm other people? Some people seem to think advocacy should never make anyone feel uncomfortable… Do they really not realize that they’re out here shaming the oppressed for making their oppressors feel bad? We’ve created a system of structural violence against the immunocompromised, disabled, and clinically vulnerable. One that now extends to healthcare. We deserve to feel ashamed about it and we should always feel uncomfortable with perpetuating structural violence against others. . . . It's worthwhile to make people aware of the harm. Politicians will not enact change if they think it would be unpopular. So it's absolutely necessary to make everyday people want things to change for the better to have any hope of convincing the deciders to budge. 

I've written of the comparison with Covid and drunk driving and/or smoking a few times (list at the end). We'd never insist that getting lung cancer or getting hit by a car is everyone's individual responsibility. We understood collective action then, so why not now? We were able to ban indoor smoking once people understood the science of how second-hand smoke harms other people (and once a restaurant was successfully sued for a waitress's emphysema). You'd think we could all make the minimal adjustment necessary to grasp that exhaling a harmful virus, which we might have right now without any symptoms, is really harmful to other people in the room, so we should all wear a mask just in case. You'd think!

Monday, May 22, 2023

We Don't Have to Help it Fail

 Another thread by Conor Browne, bio-risk consultant specializing in Covid-19 forecasting:

Since January 2020, a substantial part of what I do has, quite simply, been trying to tell the future. That's fundamentally what forecasting is. I have been right far, far more times than I have been wrong. Much as my reputation hangs on accuracy of prediction, I would much rather have been wrong. This is the difference, I think, between people like myself and people who seek to minimise: they want to be right; I want to be wrong. These thoughts often crystallise for me when I write, rather than discuss. 

Today, I was writing a report for a client, and, completely unbidden, a fragment of a quotation from Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels came to my mind. I reached for the book on my bookshelf to read it; indulge me while I share it with you: 

'The vision was brutally clear: he had to wonder at the clarity of it. Few things in a soldier's life were so clear as this, so black-line etched that he could actually see the blue troops for one long bloody moment, going up the long slope to the stony top as if it were already done and a memory already, an odd, set, stony quality to it, as if tomorrow had occurred and there was nothing you could do about it, the way you sometimes feel before a foolish attack, knowing it will fail but you cannot stop it or even run away but must even take part and help it fail'. 

I'm telling you all now - and believe me, I want to be wrong - that if we don't slow transmission of this virus and develop new treatments and second generation vaccines, the damage we are allowing to occur to the health of our global population - not just the elderly, the disabled, the vulnerable - but everyone, well, that damage is unsustainable. And the vast majority of that population don't understand the risk, because they haven't been given the information. 

An odd, set, stony quality to it.

We don't have to take part and help it fail, but standing against the tide take considerable mental fortitude. Working to stop it by disseminating information that has little effect is exhausting. A few of us are still forging ahead, convincing one person at a time to start wearing an N95 again whenever they leave the house.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Manufactured Taboo around Covid Protections

A twitter thread by spheniscus demersus (African penguin) explains the political/public health comms fiasco and our collective denialism so nicely that I want to save it here. (It's tidied up a bit for readability):

"The whole 'people's eyes glaze over when you mention covid' isn't confirmation bias by the way. I grew up in an abusive home, and I know what unspoken tension feels like. I know how people react to uncomfortable topics. I can't read social cues well because of AuDHD, but I can definitely tell when I've said or done something that is considered conventionally inappropriate, and wearing a mask, mentioning masks, mentioning covid, etc. trigger that kind of social response. The 'uncomfortable silence' and avoidance of the topic when I bring up covid is the same kind of response I get when I have an argument with someone abusive, and they KNOW they're wrong but can't admit it. Their mental models of the world cannot allow for them to acknowledge it. 

Here's my theory/explanation: When someone's perception of reality is challenged, they have to at least think about their whole reality and how this challenge affects that. This requires a lot of cognitive processing. If it shifts their reality, it's even more intense. Most people aren't prepared to think about their perception of reality, much less to shift it. During the stay-home executive orders in 2020, the consciousness of liberal thought/rhetoric was, 'We're going to die if we don't protect each other,' and 'Lockdowns are sacrifices,' Once the propaganda started encouraging liberals to stop staying home and to stop masking--with a LOT of misinformation about vaccines being magical preventions and omicron being mild--it fell into place with the 'not eating out and partying constantly is a tremendous sacrifice.' We thought covid would likely kill us with one infection. No one warned us about long covid; when they did, someone else told us it was rare or mild or that it wouldn't affect us for some other reason. We were told vaccines prevent everything bad. We were told masks and staying at home were great big sacrifices that mean so much and are so terrible. They told us a million lies about covid. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

1.5° in the Next Five Years

I've been to many marches and protests for the environment. Most recently, the call to action was around changing policies enough to cut GHGs in half by 2030 in order to keep us under 1.5°C by 2100. Now we're predicted to hit that marker in the next five years!! The World Meteorological Organization thinks it will just be temporary, but it's the first time in recorded history that we've been here. Oceans are warmer and less oxygenated than ever before.  

We failed to value trees over buildings, cycling/bussing over cars, reduce/reuse over consumption, longterm survival over short term fun, and people over profits. 

We need more commercial real estate despite the discovery that people can be more productive working from home, instead pretending our homes are causing all this illness, because people make scads of money off commercial rents. We're paving over the greenbelt in order to provide luxury entertainment for a small group of people. We keep pushing electric cars instead of offering free bus/rail and making cycling safer. We glorify travel as the ultimate way to enjoy life despite it destroying our habitat in the process. 

And we're still pushing to finish that pipeline.

Friday, May 19, 2023

ME/CFS as a Guide to Long Covid

ME stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a chronic neurological disease affecting the nervous and immune systems of about 17 million people worldwide. It's also known as CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for it's most obvious symptom: confining people to their bed with overwhelming fatigue. Any activity, physical or mental, can make things worse from PEM, post-exertional malaise. But that's not the only symptom. People also experience debilitating pain triggered by exertion as well as any otherwise minor illness. Anyone can get ME, but it primarily hits people between 40 and 65.

Kornelia Paulsen illustrates it like this:

The disorder has been around for decades, but doctors and researchers still don't know how to help, and some regard patients with contempt or give bad advice like, just get some rest or muscle through it or lose some weight or take antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds to help cope with chronic pain. In a nutshell, we're stuck at pull yerself up by yer bootstraps and it's all in yer head. The most damaging advice is the current cure-all: exercise - despite that it so clearly exacerbates symptoms. If exercise is going to be treated as medicine, then it needs to be studied like one and distributed with careful dosing as required, overtly discussing concerns with overdosing and other negative side effects. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Neurodivergent with Hindsight

Maybe because I finally have some time to just exist without anything to plan or prepare, or maybe because I'm back in school as a student, whatever the reason, many childhood scenarios have been resurfacing, playing out in my head, and I'm all, WTF? No trigger warnings necessary - nothing like that. I was just so incredibly daft that it's amazing I've gotten this far relatively unscathed. And it makes me think of the many kids who are confused without direct explicit instruction and reasoning. 

On top of being autistic, I've also had many concussions from falling out of trees or off the top of our rickety wooden fence or from falling out of my stroller or wiping out on my bike before the days of helmets. When I was taking Neuroscience courses, every discussion of a different part of the brain brought to mind a different time I smashed my head just about there. I seemed to have zero sense of self-preservation. I remember my mom walking me out to the front lawn to actually teach me to put my arms out in front of my face whenever I felt like I was falling. She had to get me to actually practice tripping and protecting my face because somehow I didn't have that reaction instinctively. I would just fall straight forward, arms rendered useless dangling at my sides. 

And I remember arguing with my many older siblings about whether to put the shower curtain on the inside or outside of the tub. This was after I was old enough to have showers on my own, so I was likely school aged, but I still couldn't figure out which would better keep the floor from getting soaked, and even argued that the puddle on the tiles definitely wasn't my doing. My mom had to take me to the end of the tub furthest the taps and get me to peek in with the water running to show me how the water stays in the tub when the curtain's on the inside and gets on the floor when it's on the outside. Seriously, why couldn't a simple explanation suffice? That's never really changed for me. I need to see things with my own eyes to really understand them. It's likely why I love science labs so much. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

"Back to Normal" Ignores the Millions with Long Covid


Balloux is well credentialed, but, as you might imagine, I lean towards the critics of this position:

From The Underground Academic who lives with Long Covid:

"Apart from every other way this is wrong, how do you think the millions of people whose lives are a shadow of what they were due to LC would feel reading this?"

And that thread continues with biologist Arijit Chakravarty's analysis:

He is wrong. A pandemic is not a feeling. If you vaccinate once a year and take no other precautions, you will get covid 1-2x/year. Each infection brings a 10-20% chance of long covid, and massive increases in the risk of other bad outcomes (heart attacks, stroke, embolisms) in the one year following each infection (remember, the average person will get it 1-2x/yr going forward). So yeah, life has not gone back to normal. This was not normal. 
People have just chosen to drop precautions for now. They will figure out soon enough that it’s not a sustainable course of action. Of course, some people will refuse to change their behavior no matter what. That’s to be expected- it’s called Darwinian evolution ;> 
Eradication is a straw man in this whole argument. It’s true of pretty much every single disease known to man that (a) eradication is impossible, and (b) we don’t accept unlimited disease spread. I’ve never heard anyone say - ever - “You can’t eradicate rabies, so we should just let it spread freely,” or “We should learn to live with polio,” or “How much longer can we keep taking precautions against syphilis?”. Have you
The current choice of pushing for rampant covid spread will be economically ruinous for individuals and businesses alike. There are many things that can be done to reduce covid spread - both in the short and medium terms. Governments worldwide have fallen far, far short of a good-faith attempt to bring covid to heel. The U.K. - advised so poorly by the likes of Balloux - was one of the worst. More honest messaging around the risks of covid, greater access to vaccines and other mechanisms of reducing risk of infection (for those who want it) and investing in indoor air quality, antiviral prophylaxis and better vaccine - these are all relatively cheap things that could have been done years ago. We have done none of them. 
“We tried this one stupid thing that you said wouldn’t work, and it didn’t work, so let’s just accept widespread disease”- this is the position of public health worldwide today Lockdowns were always meant to be a stopgap solution until the real strategy for controlling covid was put in place. The strategy that was put in place (vaccine-only) was a pile of steaming dog-sh*t that we and others predicted in writing (as early as fall ‘20) would fail. Doing nothing and simultaneously advocating for acceptance of mass infection is the position of many of these public health “experts” like Balloux today. The world would have been a better place today if they had kept their mouths shut.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Covid Info-Graphics

Scott Squires posted a list of excellent graphics he's made/collected, openly shared on a google drive, in order to encourage education around Covid protections. Here are just a few:

Monday, May 15, 2023

On Late-Stage Capitalism's Slide into Authoritarianism

 A bit from former American journalist Nate Bear:

The almost universal desire to return to normal in a pandemic, despite normal being bad for most people, is one of the best examples of the hegemonic collusion of class interest as you will ever see. Brexit was another. Late stage capitalism is the most dangerous stage because at this stage class consciousness has been largely dissolved (as a deliberate strategy to fuel capital accumulation), leaving society open for opposing class interests to fuse in the search for safety as conditions deteriorate. But this fusing can only spur further deterioration of conditions. And this action-reaction dance between capital owners and workers becomes a spiral that, in the 20th century, ended in fascism and war. 
The institutions and economic settlements born from 20th century horror have both been broken, leaving us ripe for a new cycle. Right now, it looks like this new cycle will have one major element in common with the 20th century cycle: the acceptance of mass death as necessary for the maintenance of the security and safety of an imagined normal. Whether virus death or climate death, we are being primed to accept mass death as the cost of doing business, the only business, the business that, in the end, is best for everyone, regardless of the cost. We're running head first into ruling class fascism.

And then from UK journalist and author George Monbiot:

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Frankl's Phases of Life in the Camps

My lovely friend and former colleague recently passed away unexpectedly. The kindest people go far too soon. We also went to teacher's college together over 30 years ago, and his quips and just the calm and jovial way about him helped make the ridiculous assignments there far more tolerable. Sitting next to me as a trustee, he and I often chatted about the benefits of meditation; he and his wife actually saw Thich Nhat Hanh in person

He was a wealth of knowledge, and one of his recommended reads for me was Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, which I gobbled up in no time, but it was too late to talk to him about it. That's destroying me a bit these days, so I'll write it all here instead. 

Frankl survived several concentration camps, the near starvation and typhus that took many others, and explains how he coped and designed a form of psychotherapy in the process. The book is Nietzsche's "He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How," which he quotes a few times throughout. He kept his mind on the future, imagining better days after the war, back with his wife again and lecturing about his experiences. I've read it trying to use his words to better tolerate the less acute, more chronic threat of Covid. It might seem trite or contrived to make such a comparison, but consider that more people have succumbed to Covid than Jewish prisoners in the camps and it continues because we are living blindly to it, unthinking. Some estimates suggests Covid has cost us over 30 million lives in just three years. 

The book is in two parts. In the first, originally published in 1946, he describes his experiences living in a death camp and the three phases of survival in camp life. He wrote it after being released and returning to Vienna to learn that his pregnant wife, parents, and brother had all died in the camps. In the second half he explains how to cope with it all, but I'll save that for another day. Page numbers throughout are from the 2006 edition.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

CDC's Revised Guidelines

Something important to get our heads around is why the CDC suddenly announced specifically what we need to do to prevent the spread of Covid. Like, where were they before?? And what a coincidence that it happened right after the WHO said we're no longer in a state of emergency!!

Maybe it's because the WHO declared the emergency over that they could finally speak the truth.

If we're in a state of emergency, and the CDC said children can be adversely affected (dying at over 5 times the rate of death of the flu), and we must all wear masks to protect one another, then the government would be obliged to provide these necessary protections, and workplace standards would be revised, and employers could be held liable. So it's not like the CDC just finally found out about it all. I think it more likely that they knew, but were keeping quiet so as not to upset the apple cart.

It's all about insurance. Seriously, the insurance industry pretty much rules the world. 

So, now that it's "safe" to actually say it, here are the CDC's recommendations -- that we don't have to do because we're not in a state of emergency, but it would be a really good idea to do them to actually save lives. Keep in mind the CDC is American, but their recommendations tend to bubble up to affect us too.

Advice for children:

"During the school year, kids tend to get sick more often--and spread germs to their friends and classmates. Covid-19 can cause serious health problems, so it's more important than ever to protect your child's health. . . . Masks also help to prevent children from spreading Covid-19 to other people around them. Make sure the mask covers your child's nose and mouth."

Advice for schools:

"Schools with students at risk for getting very sick with Covid-19 must make reasonable modifications or accommodations when necessary to ensure that all students, including those with disabilities, are able to access in-person learning."

All public buildings need to improve ventilation

  • at least 5 air changes each hour 
  • upgrade to MERV13 filters
  • keep the HVAC system on "ON" at all times, not "auto:
  • add in more fresh air by opening windows, even just a crack
  • use air cleaners (CR boxes or HEPA) that fit the size of the room and are well placed
  • install upper room UV treatments
  • use portable CO2 monitors to let the public know if over 800 ppm
BUT, according to ASHRAE standards, schools need to have more than 8 air changes/hour! This is three times current standards. 

We ALL need to wear masks

"Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator consistently and correctly reduces the risk of spreading the virus that causes Covid-19. At a high Covid-19 hospital admission level, universal indoor masking in schools and ECE programs is recommended, as it is in the community at large. . . .  Anyone who chooses to wear a mask or respirator should be supported in their decision to do so at any Covid-19 hospital admission level."

(FYI - Grand River Hospital is currently experiencing an outbreak.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

So Close!

I spent the better part of yesterday morning in the waiting room at a dental surgeon's office while my daughter got her wisdom teeth removed. They said it would take 40 minutes, but it was more than 90 before I could see her. She's fine.

I was pleased to discover that the office takes Covid very seriously, particularly since hospitals have dropped all mitigations. But they didn't get it quite right. 

There was a HEPA in reception, but it felt very stuffy in the waiting room, and I can't believe I didn't bring my CO2 monitor to check the air quality. Patients were buzzed into the building only after answering screening questions and ensuring they wore a mask or else one would be provided and required, which is amazing, but it meant I couldn't just wait on the grass right outside the door and have them call me or even just knock on the big window when she's done. I had to choose to be in the waiting room until she's in recovery or not at all - not allowed back in to sit with her in recovery. I opted for the former. They said they couldn't possibly let people in and out all the time, and I accepted that explanation, except they seem to just manage 2-3 patients at a time. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023


I've officially resigned as a school board trustee. As with almost all endings and beginnings, it comes with mixed feelings. As soon as I hit send on the email, I felt like, okay now I've finally retired. But I feel horrible for disappointing people who helped me win and for leaving people in the lurch, and at the same time I'm hopeful that someone much better will come along to take up the slack. I didn't leave much slack to take up! 

After my initial motion to encourage masks was painstakingly crafted and passed, I feel like I just tagged along during board meetings, which is an uncomfortable place to be for someone with tons of energy and a strong work ethic. I did push to change the CO2 monitor wording. It was passed with a line about waiting for pre-Covid ventilation levels before starting, which might never happen. I pointed that out but was told I shouldn't be the one to put the motion forward, so I was the seconder. On the Special Education committee, I helped revamp their info on the website. I also, through emails, balanced the terms in the secondary calendar for next year. They had one at 42 days and another at 46, and I explained how to fix it, which also changed midterm exam days to Thurs/Fri instead of Wed/Thurs, so they attach to the weekend instead of making everyone show up for a stray Friday in which not much gets done. I'm a behind the scenes type of worker.

I announced my resignation in the middle of April, and was told to think about it, then here's the email I sent to the chair on May 1st, but then it was still all kept confidential for another week:

I believe that I've done all I can with respect to keeping kids safer at school regarding Covid, which is the issue I campaigned on. While I value the experience of working with so many lovely people, all of whom clearly care about children despite different views and approaches, I find the bureaucratic system more difficult to navigate than I expected. I've also discovered my own limitations, that I'm personally not the best fit for a position that regulates how we speak and how much we can say. I've been raised to never complain without a solution to offer, but many solutions are considered operational and therefore not my place to propose. Finally, I feel regretful at the many events and conferences I've declined due to health concerns now that Covid mitigations have been removed. I sincerely hoped to be of greater service and am frustrated by how little I feel I'm able to do in this role. I wish you all the best in your continued work to improve the educational experiences for the next generation.

I sent that with the expectation that it would be shared with others, but then it wasn't, and I was asked to craft something to share, and I said that was it, so obvious it wasn't right, but I have no idea what is right, and that's the whole problem with me being in this role. I haven't been able to figure out how to tell the right thing to say or do! Once again, I'm missing something that everyone else seems to have. 

The board release from the comms department parred it down to this,  

"'It has been an honour to represent Waterloo-Wilmot. I wish the trustees and staff the best in their continued work to improve the education experiences for the next generation.' An inability to fully participate due to health concerns was cited as her reason for resigning." 

which caused many friends and family members to call asking if I'm okay! The release used some of the same words I said, but the context changed significantly.

That pretty much says it all, and yet, of course, I'm going to continue rambling on and on about it! 

Friday, May 5, 2023

On Grief and the WHO and Culpability

I wonder to what extent the desire, or even the ability, to kill one another has been affected by being surrounded by leaders who are looking the other way while so many have died or are disabled by a virus that we're told we just have to live with. It makes me think of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, when he tried to connect a school shooting - back when they were rare and shocking - to something, to try to make sense of the senseless, and he seems to conclude it might have something to do with weapons manufacturing being the town's main industry and the fact that the president dropped tons of bombs on Kosovo that day. There's a greater sense now, coming from the top down, that individual lives don't really matter - especially certain types of lives. As soon as the first person said the words, "but they had a preexisting condition" or "it's only hitting the elderly" or anything similar, without a massive and sustained backlash big enough to shut down that rhetoric, we set ourselves down a path of the possibility that some lives don't matter. So clearly it's fine to kill some people. I mean, we've been on this path for a while, but now it's all more overt -- they're saying the quiet part out loud over and over -- like back in the day before all the protests and activism provoked anti-discrimination laws. 

Is this where we want to be? 

Instead of acknowledging the deaths and disabilities and ongoing illnesses around us and providing space to grieve them, we're cajoled into making light of it all and stuffing that grief and discombobulation deep down where it will fester. Tra-la-la. The number dying isn't nearly as high as in the Spanish flu, so stop being so grumpy about it! Stiff upper lip! We're getting more mental health "toolkits" in schools which will help identify regular stress from anxiety and help kids be resilient or have grit or just pull themselves up by the bootstraps (and hush about it already) instead of openly reeling at the state of the world.  

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Back to Basics: A Reminder of How It All Works

What Covid is and how it spreads:

It's a virus that mutates very quickly inside "host" bodies (that's us if we get it). It can seem respiratory, but it's actual vascular, causing micro-clots in the bloodstream that stick around and cause issues in many organs. Because it mutates so quickly, we can get it over and over again. It's airborne and can hang around in the air for hours after people leave a room, like cigarette smoke. You can smell smoke in the room even when it's been empty for hours, right? Unfortunately, Covid can't be seen or smelled, so it could be anywhere. 

Some estimate that up to 50% of cases are asymptomatic, and the symptoms change with each variant, sometimes presenting like allergies, so you really can't know for sure that you don't have it unless you've been isolating for the past two weeks! 

How prevalent it is:

We don't have big waves of cases anymore, but a high continuous level of hospitalizations that is less newsworthy yet unsustainable. There's evidence that over 70% of Canadians have had a case. It's causing ten times the fatalities as auto collisions, so if you still wear a seatbelt, consider also continuing to wear a mask. It can provoke Long Covid which can be permanently disabling (like, can't get to a bathroom without help, and can't sit up for more than a few minutes at a time for months or years, not just a foggy brain). The more infections a person gets, the higher the risks of Long Covid complications. In one study of people with Long Covid, 1/3 of people couldn't work after two years.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

There is No Cure for Covid Except Maybe MAiD

Dr. Rae Duncan is a cardiologist who, pre-pandemic, mainly saw people aged 55-80. Now most of her clients are 16-40. They were previously healthy, but Long Covid affected their heart. Most are housebound, some cannot walk. Some are in bed for over 20 hours per day, and can only sit up for 15 minutes at a time. Here's the video, but I've summarized it with some quotations further down:

"I don't see how this is sustainable in the longterm. I am seeing the devastating impact of this virus on young lives that have been damaged on a massive scale. . . . It makes me angry because some of this could be prevented . . . There's a need for public health to be extra vigilant on the new variants to reduce re-infection rates from this virus. We already know from published data that re-infection increases the risk of Long Covid and vascular complications. And there needs to be a plan for the level of health care provision we're going to need in the future moving forward. If we don't look, we can't see. . . . We know now that Covid is causing endothelial damage . . . that means the virus is responsible for causing inflammation of the inner lining of the blood vessels. . . involved in the pre-cursor to Long Covid. . . . There are papers from multiple continents looking at millions of patients all showing the same thing, that there is a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular complications, not just in those with Long Covid, but anyone infected with Covid."

Monday, May 1, 2023

Why Take the Risk?

 If you read my blog and still don't take Covid precautions, why not? 

Justin Lee posted a list of his guesses of what people might be feeling when he asks them to take precautions (test, mask, maybe open a window) before in-person meetings. His list is slightly tidied up and numbering fixed - his had two number 6s - below. He adds he's not trying to impose any of these ill-will feelings, but merely trying to increase protections in order to have high-confidence gatherings:

  1. They feel attacked. I must be implying that what they are doing now, choices, conduct, are inadequate. I must be implying a better than thou mentality. It's like a put down.
  2. They feel threatened. For a brief moment they contemplate they could be at risk, as I must be implying they are at risk to ask them to take additional steps or change behaviors, and I've labeled them a threat to me. 
  3. They feel inconvenienced. They're busy doing their thing, and the lifestyle adjustments I'm requesting are going to cramp their style. It's not often they go out of their way; they're not about to start.  
  4. They feel controlled. As a grown adult, they decide what they want to do, when, and for what reason, and who am I to suddenly think I'm going to dictate their choices. Maybe I should go pound sand.