Thursday, August 31, 2023

On Parental Rights

It's not a thing.

Well, legally it's not. There are no "parental rights" section of the charter to defend. It's a thing as in it's a dogwhistle to see how many are on board with discrimination and preventing kids from growing up to be who they are, in a method just shy of conversion camps. Parents don't actually have the right to override their child's choice of pronouns or name, as is well explained by Cyril Cinder:


uuuugggghhhhh... Really? the day after Capital Pride?

♬ original sound - Cyril Cinder

So far Lecce has just stated his belief that parents should be involved in any change of name or pronoun. I believe that's ideal as well. But it's not a parents right. Parents can't demand to override the rights of their children, which include the rights to privacy. 

Parents can, however, kick their kids out of the house, emotionally abuse them, hit them if they're under 18 (still no anti-spanking laws on the books), and otherwise make their lives miserable if somehow the parents have come to value the views of the new conservative cult over their own child's happiness and well-being. 

So if teachers start outing trans kids to their parents, that's what the result could be. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Mehdi Hasan on Covid Contrarians

Mehdi Hasan did a 26 minute show on Covid misinformation. It's mainly about American "Covid contrarians," but this kind of thing is happening in Canada as well. Good on him for doing this; it's exhausting just looking at the bullshit arguments being foisted on us over and over.

An abridged transcript is below with some bolded bits for your skimming pleasure. 

"Covid has not gone and our kids are still at risk of infection, of re-infection, of long-term harm, and yes of death. Today I want to address this thorny and very emotive issue of kids, schools, and Covid because we have seen a blatant and bad faith rewriting of history on this issue from a lot of people who should know better. What you're about to watch is one of the most important deep dives I've ever done on this show because the myths about children and Covid--that kids aren't really harmed by it, that school closures were a massive and avoidable mistake, that they caused learning loss and mental health issues--those myths, and they are myths, dangerous myths, have endured for so long, become so ingrained so pervasive that they're not just something Fox viewers believe. I'm sure many of you watching at home have sadly come to accept many of these myths as true so we need to reassert what the actual truth of the matter is."

Then he went back through the trajectory of misinformation starting back in March 2020 when many were insisting that, somehow, kids won't be affected by Covid.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

We See What We Want to See

Lots of people still don't quite understand how Covid spreads or how serious it is, causing mass disabilities and continuing to cause significantly more deaths that traffic collisions, although traffic collisions plus drug overdoses and other accidents have edged their way into third place. However, the accuracy of that is questionable as Covid isn't always noted specifically as an underlying cause anymore (like in a 30-year-old who died from a heart attack). 

I have some friends who automatically mask around others, and some who will wear one if asked, and some who are kind enough to try to ignore the mask on my face despite no longer believing they're necessary. I'm very lucky to have no family or friends who deride or belittle me for continuing to take precautions during this ongoing pandemic. I know people who have ended relationships with loved ones, some getting divorced, because the people they care about refuse to take their concerns seriously, or are embarrassed that they still wear a mask in public, or have absolute contempt for people who are trying to avoid this virus. 

It's amazing to see this divisiveness phenomenon right before our eyes! 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Are Safer Schools Possible When it's Not in the Rules?

I've been retired a year. Sometimes it feels like the last three decades were just a fever dream and I've always been a student, particularly since I'm back at the very same uni for another MA. But right now, nearing the start of a school year, I have to remind myself that nothing will be different for me next week, that I'll still have time to read books so I don't have to rush to finish my pile right now, and that I don't have any prep work to do. Last year I was busy campaigning for a trustee role at this time, but this year I'm just sitting, trying to convince myself there's no reason to wake up at 3 a.m. worried because I haven't even gone in yet. 

I really feel for all educators this year. They're getting hit from all sides. Ford and Lecce are numbskulls; who knows what the unions are doing with the contracts as they promote arbitration, and there's been lots of in-fighting online over what actually should be a teacher's responsibility in the classroom when it comes to protecting kids from Covid. To some extent, teachers must feel abandoned by the government and  unions, and, at some level, they must know that their workplace is higher risk than most for the spread of Covid. 

As a trustee, I advised that we should all (board, admin, and educators) encourage masks in class. That provoked some signage in the schools, and that's about the best I could get from my seat at the table. As just a random citizen now, I'm still getting frantic calls from parents about to send their kids to school without any precautions in place, and I still advocate that teachers encourage masks even just by wearing one. Now that masks are becoming increasingly rare, it makes it so much easier for kids to keep theirs on if at least their teacher has a mask on. I know of some teachers who ask students to remove masks, and heard similar stories from parents in the region, and that makes things even harder for parents who hope their kids can keep them on for the whole day. In parts of the US, masks are seen as a trend that must be stopped, and students need a medical note to be allowed to wear one! 

So that's where we're at this as we start this school year.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Targeted Protection

If we can figure out that most accidents involve, say, red cars, then instead of everybody wearing a seatbelt, we could just get those people who are vulnerable to traffic accidents to wear seatbelts. Then the rest of us can be free to drive unharnessed. Imagine being able to lean forward without restraint! 

Clearly the problem with that is that, even if most people who are seriously harmed in collisions are in red cars, those accidents affect the rest of us. Many of us also get hit (or do the hitting), and the lack of seatbelts on anyone else will increase the number in the hospitals which increases costs of healthcare, increasing wait times, and which comes back to the taxpayer when taxes are increased to pay for it all - or when our corrupt government uses it to convince people that we need to privatize healthcare!

We can't ignore the fact that we're all interconnected. Even if we try to, that reality will come back to bite us in the butt. 

Yet, we're still trying to do that with Covid. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Take a Mask, Leave a Mask

Donate a Mask is an amazing group that helps get masks in people's hands who couldn't otherwise afford them. They're helped immensely when others buy from them to offset the costs or straight up donate.

But this is next level:

If you click their link, and click through to learn more about the mask, DIY kits, and monitor, they're each worth a couple hundred dollars, and educators can have all three! They've already posted to be patient because they've been inundated with requests, so supplies won't last long! 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Sleeker and Even Quieter: PC Case Fan Filtration Box

It's like a Corsi-Rosenthal box, but instead of being a square with a 20" box fan, it can be built with six PC case fans (typically used to cool a computer), so it's just 7" wide! Even more important for classrooms where teachers understandably unplug the HEPA unit because it's SOOOO loud, this unit is super quiet. AND, because it's smaller and quieter, it's easier to sneak into a class if your board won't let you have them!! (In one study, these were quieter (42 vs 52 decibels) and used less energy (10 vs 39 watts) than the original CR box. They both outperformed a HEPA unit.)

Rob Wissmann did a bunch of tests on different configurations and the best bang for your buck is six fans, three on one side and three on the adjacent / perpendicular side. (CADR = clean air delivery rate)

You can buy a kit, but they're over $300, some assembly required, and not the best configuration (five on one side). In Canada, North Box Systems sells a kit without the fans and filters for $179 or fully assembled for 279 (but with only five fans in that bottom configuration).

Or you can build your own for about $180 in total (based on costs found online today). 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

On Student Absences

I've been thinking about the concern with kids not going to school for reasons beyond the rampant illnesses caused by letting a highly-infectious virus run wild. 

The Fortune article suggests that schools are less welcoming now. "Everyone seemed less tolerant, more angry." They mention a host of reasons for absences including poverty, housing instability, transportation issues, and school staff shortages that mean a rotation of supply teachers. But they don't mention that Long Covid that has led many to be chronically disabled: From this article, a 13-year-old explained, "I don't remember a day without pain." H/t Laura Miers, who points out: 
"We're disabling everyone. It will NEVER improve with no mitigation. Kids and adults are at the same risk for Long Covid."
Meanwhile, the Fortune article blames online learning:
"The effects of online learning linger: School relationships have frayed, and after months at home, many parents and students don't see the point of regular attendance."

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Science of Handwashing

I just watched Painkiiller about the Purdue Pharma, Sacklers, oxycontin scandal. It's okay background viewing - less entertaining if you know the whole story already - except the occasional testimonials from the families of real victims was an excellent addition. They absolutely destroyed me. 

An important piece of the puzzle around getting such an addictive drug approved for common use was that a letter to the editor in a highly ranked journal that speculated that oxycontin is believed to have a 1% addiction rate, was enough (plus some shmoozing involving young women) to get the drug cleared by the FDA. The author of the letter was later astounded that his unsubstantiated comment in a letter was enough evidence for the drug to become widely distributed.

That's kinda what's going on with the push around hand washing. 

Here's a great, extensive takedown by Lazarus Long, on the questionable studies being used to suggest that handwashing does anything significant to reduce the rate of Covid transmission. This implicates, by extension, all the doorknob and railing washing by school janitors. 

First, what does work: Covid is airborne - it hangs in the air for hours and is able to cross a room in minutes. Therefore, if we have any hope to reduce transmission through our own personal behaviour, it's with well-fitting N95s or better. Just wear a mask! Other possible personal options include nasal-sprays to prevent inhalation of viruses. Beyond that, we need hospitals and schools and all buildings to improve ventilation (at least 6 ACH or allow open windows), add room filtration (CR boxes), and add in the upper room UVGI. Just doing one of the three is not enough.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

A Bit about Poetry

I've finally completely aged into poetry. 

I'm still not able to stomach country music, my friend's marker of getting up in years, ready for a rocking chair and blanket on the front porch, but I was more metal than she was to begin with.

But I used to hate poems unless they were funny limericks. What's the point?? They're all just fancy words that sometimes stop mid-sentence for a new line and are often ridiculously unclear. Just tell me what you mean, already!! Get to the point. 

"nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands" 


Monday, August 21, 2023

Menakem's Somatic Therapy Approach to Anti-Racism Work

Resmaa Menakem's My Grandmother's Hands came highly recommended. The title refers to the effect that being enslaved had on his grandmother, and Menakem traces the violence of racism through the specific perspectives of people on either end of racial conflicts. Beyond just explaining how racism affects all of us in variable ways, he provides specific exercises for overcoming our past. The book contains some excellent and unique ideas about healing from trauma and responding to pain within the context of ongoing racial oppression, but it takes some liberties with explanations of neuroscience and might be better approached as philosophy.

Psychotherapy in General

I've previously written about healing advice from Gabor Maté focusing on trauma as the cause of all our ills, Viktor Frankl finding a purpose for himself in order to cope in a concentration camp and advocating for the courage to have an authentic experience of the self and world, Mark Solms reworking Freud to better understand the process of tracing emotional experiences to the past, and the use of Buddhism to stop seeking something outside ourselves in order to find slivers of peace between our thoughts. All of them, more or less, aim to get to something akin to this point:

"Once we can find the spaces between the cacophony of thought, in that tiny gap between trigger and reaction, we can reclaim our agency to decide how to act. When we focus on the nothingness instead of following our personal thoughts and feelings, then we’re no longer dragged along by the drama in our lives."

Menakem's book is no different in that respect. This quest has been repeated for thousands of years in various ways and shows up over and over because there's something to it. It works.

In current psychodynamic terms, we've developed maladaptive behaviour patterns that were established to meet some need at a time when we were too young or too overwhelmed to act otherwise. Now we need to become aware of behaviours that don't work for us, go back to find our error, and reintegrate it all. Menakem goes further than just our personal experiences to look at generational experiences, explaining that,

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Over 90,000 Canadian Deaths and Counting

A JAMA article called out 52 medical health professionals who knowingly posted misinformation on social media. About a third of them are primary care physicians. It doesn't name any names, but the funny bit is that some of them have outed themselves on Twitter as they complain about the post. 

The really compelling bit, though, is the one comment on that journal article from a retired physician, Michael Holloway, PhD: 

"One of the more disturbing common characteristics across pseudoscience topics and campaigns is the reluctance of academics and institutions to speak out against even the most harmful and egregious falsehoods for fear of political backlash and spending significant time on work for which they are not supported. These authors are right: it is the job of medical and academic institutions to take strong and effective action against pseudoscience campaigns that are actively killing people. No single individual should have to be sticking their head up despite a few principled individuals doing so. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Pan-Variant Vaccines on the Horizon

 Epidemiologist prof Raywat Deonandan said,

"Whenever I encourage people to mask in crowded indoor settings, I get the same pushback: 

'Do we have to do this for the rest of our lives?'

The answer is no. Because mucosal, pan-variant, transmission-slowing Covid vaccines are on their way. Until then, try to avoid infection."

This is so important. Not just the new type of vaccine, but also the message. We need something to look forward to and some kind of end-goal for it all to keep up our stamina. It's hard when the current vaccines are only viable for a few months. Of course I still get them, but it's worse that we have to wait the full six months between doses now.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Can We Make it Three More Years?

So Mike Roman was just indicted for his involvement in trying to overthrow the 2020 election in the US. What's that got to do with us? He worked directly with Stephen Harper as Assistant Chairman of the International Democratic Union. He also head up an intelligence gathering operation for the Koch brothers. I learned all that from a flippin' Tiktok (the amazing Frank Domenic)! Who needs a subscription to The Star anymore?? So now there's a pretty clear dotted line between at least one member of the conservative party in Canada and the January 6th uprising in the states.

And videos are circulating of Ford complaining in 2018 about the politicians making secret deals behind closed doors, and then we find out he's using his personal phone so messages can't be seen by a FOI. He had a stag and doe and got tons of cash from developers, which he insisted were his friends, only to jump up and down claiming they're not his friends now that they stand to make billions by being first in line to buy Greenbelt land, after he promised not to open up the Greenbelt (but only after getting caught promising TO open it up) years ago. And then, from Colin D'Mello, he said he didn't know about "the Greenbelt extraction land selection" until after "they were already picked by a political staffer," and of course there's proof that he absolutely did. The Narwhal has a detailed timeline of it all.

But remember in 2011 when Rob Ford had a BBQ for Harper, who talked about the political dynasty they have with the Fords, and said (h/t Cheryl), 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The System of Ableism Can Be Weaponized Against Anyone

Imani Barbarin is a wealth of information and so funny! If you're new new to TikTok, and you think it's all just dumb trends like eating Tide pods, Crutches & Spice is a great starting place to remove that bias against the younger forms of social media. Like any social media, it's only as good as the people you choose to follow!

Recently she tweeted this t-shirt worthy quote:

"Remember kids: It's not an inspirational story; it's a systemic failure that's being talked about through the lens of an individual good."

This could be about so many things, but she's been talking about the "adoption" (conservatorship) of Michael Oher as featured in the film The Blind Side. He's currently suing this family.

First, listen here about why she centers ableism first among prejudice against any other group (2SLGBTQLIA+, women, racism...):

"If you are a marginalized person in any other way, you're the most likely to get a disability. You're the most likely to feel the impacts of systemic and structural ableism. . . . That is the entire point of ableism in this country because ableism is the greatest weapon in their arsenal. Not only is the system designed for this, but even people within these groups will agree that disabled people deserve to be discarded. That's the point of ableism."

And this bit of history:

"We can't ignore that the Great Depression in the 1930s happened because of the 1918 flu pandemic, and the economic pressures of the Great Depression LED to the rise of fascism and eugenics whose greatest indicators initially was obsession with fitness and the perfect body, which gave way to phrenology and race science. You know that canthal tilt filter? Mmm. All that culminates in genocide. We are on a fast track towards genocide because of what is currently going on with the pandemic, and disabled and immunocompromised people are the people who are going to be impacted the most, particularly those who are Black and Brown as well. But then it'll get into the people what were disabled from Covid. You know that 20% of people who are permanently disabled from Covid, whether they were symptomatic or asymptomatic? Lots of bad things are gonna happen to them very very quickly. Happening right now. But I need y'all to start asking yourselves, What happens next?"

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Minimize Disease to Maximize Trade Throughout History

We know lots of official agencies and many governments are currently promoting hand washing but not masks, or they put wear a mask if you choose to at the very bottom of a list of options despite a well-fitting mask being the best way that individuals can protect themselves in public. Many are downplaying the risks caused by the upswing in cases because vaccines help us survive the illness, a bit, for a couple months each time we're allowed one. They're not letting the public know the important stuff: Covid is still here, still widely transmissible through people who appear to be perfectly healthy, still causing Long Covid (PCC) in 1 in 5 Covid cases, and we're about to resume hot-boxing classrooms with this brain-invasive virus. 

Unfortunately, all too many really trust that, if it were a problem, surely our elected officials would tell us.

But it's not like it's a new tactic for governments to minimize the threat of disease in a population. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The Problem with Asymptomatic Cases

"The World Health Organization (WHO) weekly update on the global Covid-19 pandemic found that in the last four weeks, there was an 80% rise in infections."

This article, published yesterday, also points out that the numbers being tracked are likely quite a bit lower than reality - as much as 8 times lower - as many countries stopped reporting cases or hospitalizations or deaths as attributable to Covid. Lots of places, including my city, have stopped wastewater tracking, so we just have excess deaths - relative to 2018 - as a more accurate measure. But that gets complicated now with climate change adding to the death toll. We just don't really know for sure anymore. 

I think it likely that I will wear a mask forever when I'm in public buildings.

Lots of people are walking around, appearing perfectly healthy, but have an asymptomatic case that's capable of making others sick. It's the healthy person next to you that's a concern, not just people actively coughing.

Since most cases are asymptomatic, then why would we worry about Covid at all anymore?? 

Here's the thing: I'm not worried about an acute case of Covid, which are often relatively mild if you're even aware you have it at all. I'm worried about the Long Covid that hits as many as 20% of people who had Covid - even if they had just an asymptomatic case. Once it's in your system, it hunkers down in the blood stream, able to travel everywhere, and finds weak spots to attack and destroy, leaving you profoundly disabled. We're not tracking Covid-induced disabilities at all.  

Monday, August 14, 2023

Cultural Differences of ASD

I was once introduced to a new colleague who made very direct, sustained eye contact, and I thought to myself as I spoke with him: he's on track to be in admin. He just seemed the type to make connections and get ahead and would likely end up at the board office. But then, after talking to him a few more times and seeing him in moments of awkwardness, I thought, "Oh, he's autistic." That didn't change my reaction to him at all, of course, but it did help me figure something out.

That interaction was a lightbulb moment that helped me understand the many many times someone gloms on to me as if somehow I'm the most interesting person in the room, then, after a few conversations in which nothing appears to go wrong, they completely ghost me. They thought, because of my sustained eye contact boring into them, that I must be someone important, an alpha even. Then they figured out their error and shunned me, embarrassed by their own mistake. I'm fine with someone changing their mind about hanging out because that happens to the best of us, but the absolute worst part of it, worse that literally being pointed and laughed at by other adults, is when they suddenly understand that I'm on the spectrum and start talking to me like I'm a flippin' space cadet

So, just last month you wanted to take me to lunch at some fancy place, and now you've concluded that I'm practically brain dead. Curious. It's always startling how abrupt that transition is for people. And how reliable.

Then mix that in with "you can only do that because you're autistic" like writing every day, which is a thing that writers do, but if you can't motivate yourself to do it, then the reason I can do it despite clearly being inferior to you must be my hidden superpower of being autistic. So things I can't easily do are laughed at openly and the things I can do are discounted. Lovely.

It's not tragic, but it is trying. These little things can eat away at people. Surely we know it's not right to behave this way with others, though, right?? 

A few studies show that people notice something different about people with autism in the first few seconds of an encounter (h/t Callum Stephen). In one study (Sasson et al, 2017), they filmed a variety of people, some with ASD (level 1) and some neurotypical (NT), in a 60 second mock audition. The study participants were assigned to one of five groups to watch the videos and assess each candidate on likability, intelligence, attractiveness, trustworthiness, etc.: audio only, visual only, audio-visual, static image, and transcript. Only in the transcript option were people with ASD rated as highly as NT interviews. Even the still image set them apart. (Is that why there are no good photos of me: Internalized ableism??) The study concluded,

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Eris, Fornax, and a Hopeful Petition

There's a Canadian petition circulating that acknowledges that vaccinations don't completely eliminate the danger of Covid, and Covid continues to put a unsustainable strain on health care, so they're asking for enforced air quality standards for all public buildings, two weeks of universal paid sick leave, and mask mandates in all indoor public spaces among other things. 

I signed it, but I imagine it won't go far. It's a start to get a discussion going, at least, but I'm not clear how well the federal government can override healthcare issues provincially.

I like the idea of masks everywhere again, but nobody's going to mandate them in places people typically eat or drink. It might be an idea to suggest masks only in buildings people have to enter, like hospitals and schools, but workers have to enter the bars and restaurants they work at, so that gets complicated.

Without question, we need to immediately mandate masks in all healthcare settings, absolutely, and - what the hell - how about we make that permanent. Some doctors and nurses online are talking about areas of hospitals like the NICU full of preemies, and the oncology wards, where all staff used to wear masks all the time, and now nobody does (typically with the exception of the OP). Dentists offices as well - many used to mask regularly and now everyone just stopped as if they've forgotten that it was standard practice for decades prior to 2020. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Open Letter from OSS

Ontario School Safety crafted an open letter to the government to aim to improve air quality in schools. Here it is in full:

Ontario School Safety
6D-7398 Yonge S
Thornhill, ON
 L4J 8J2

August 10th, 2023

To: The Provincial Government of Ontario
℅ Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health
Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
Sylvia Jones, Minister of Health
Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour
Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure
Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation

Dear government officials,

The start of the school year is just around the corner and we at Ontario School Safety (OSS) are again asking you to make sure we have a safe September — with safe and healthy school buildings and buses.

Ventilation and filtration in school buildings and buses are our first lines of defence against air pollution and infectious diseases. If students are required to attend school under the Ontario Education Act, then the Ontario government is responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment — including clean air. We’re having a terrible wildfire season in Canada, which occurs every year between April and October. Our wildfire seasons are only getting longer due to the ongoing climate crisis. This is having a disastrous effect on outdoor air quality — and ventilation systems brought that polluted air into school buildings province-wide this past June.

Friday, August 11, 2023

What if We All Masked Just for One Month??

A virus needs a host in order to exist for more than a couple hours. It needs us in order to grow and mutate. If we stop hosting this unwanted guest worldwide by some UN decree, it could disappear.

Since it can incubate quietly in people for up to 14 days, we just need everyone to be masked for about a month, in N95s or better, whenever leaving home, absolutely no exceptions. That means only take out food, no dining in. It also means no eating indoors in schools, which is tricky, and there's no month where there's no school worldwide. But I did outdoor supervision once kids were allowed to eat outdoors, in the middle of winter in Canada, and tons of them took advantage of it, so it's possible. It would not be a lockdown, just mandatory masking. It would significantly affect only a few businesses, bars and swimming lessons come to mind, but wouldn't it be worth it??

And look at all the other pathogens that mask stop as well:

Then why didn't the original lockdown work to end it?

Because it never was a true lockdown. We still went to the grocery store and other stores regularly, anywhere that sold anything resembling essentials, wearing just a cloth mask because we had to save N95s for healthcare staff. Or sometimes people wore no mask at all because we were so misinformed, and it was such a shitshow to correct it and finally say out loud that it's definitely airborne. When I went in to my school to help out in June 2020, admin and many staff members were wearing gloves but NO masks. And then when school started, we were all in baggy blue masks or cloth masks, and students HAD to eat indoors. They weren't allowed to leave the building during nutrition break while all students unmasked at once. Those first six months were our chance to stop it in its tracks, and we totally blew it.

But we could try again.

It's disheartening that it could work, but it won't because nobody will do it. No government will mandate it, and no organizations will want to enforce it, and there will be crowds of people fighting against it. We could slow it down dramatically with just 80% masking, and we can definitely keep trying to do that with obsessive word of mouth to give people the necessary knowledge to protect themselves, but we could eliminate it if 100% of people would be willing to endure being inconvenienced for a month.

But what about the animals?? 

Yup. You got me. So we could have eliminated it. Since it's already spreading in deer and mink and other animals, it might no longer be possible for a month long moratorium on any human spread to stop it cold.

But it might.

FYI: We've know about the benefits of masks since 1850:

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Get Vaccinated this Fall!!

According to T. Ryan Gregory (the guy who named the Kraken variant), we should all get the new vaccination this fall.

"Yes, the updated Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax monovalent boosters that target Kraken (XBB.1.5) are expected to be effective against Eris (EG.5.1 = XBB. in protecting against severe acute illness and in reducing (not eliminating) transmission and risk of long COVID. So, get boosted when the updated vaccines become available. But at least as importantly, cut down transmission by using variant-proof mitigations: good masks (respirators) worn correctly, avoiding indoor crowds, clean indoor air (ventilation, filtration, UV)." 

In Ontario, wastewater signal is heading back up, and Eris (EG.5.1) is already dominant. Masks prevent infection with all of the variants, so that's your first line of defence, but I get that wearing a mask is like being vegan now: It's definitely the responsible thing to do, but everyone hates you for it because it reminds them of the irresponsible choices they're making! Remind them anyway.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

A Return to Social Cohesion

 Bill McKibben wrote about being asked Where Should I Live to avoid the climate change issues. He outlined the problems with many places that might seem ideal, and concluded that we're best off staying where we are if possible, but working on building social cohesion:

"Get to work building that kind of social trust in as many places as possible, because we’re going to need it. We’ve come through 75 years where having neighbors was essentially optional: if you had a credit card, you could get everything you needed to survive dropped off at your front door. But the next 75 years aren’t going to be like that; we’re going to need to return to the basic human experience of relying on the people around you. We’re going to need to rediscover that we’re a social species, which for Americans will be hard—at least since Reagan we’ve been told to think of ourselves first and foremost (it was his pal Margaret Thatcher who insisted ‘there is no such thing as society, only individual men and women.”) And in the Musk/Trump age we’re constantly instructed to distrust everyone and everything, a corrosion that erodes the social fabric as surely as a rampaging river erodes a highway.

But it’s not impossible to change that. Joe Biden has been frustratingly dunderheaded about approving new pipelines and oil wells, and hydrocarbon production has been soaring on his watch. He has been much better about trying to restore some sense of national unity—he has been trying to scale down national division by rebuilding left-behind economies, and also by appealing to our better angels. And those angels exist: the most hopeful book for our time remains Rebecca Solnit’s Paradise Built in Hell, which recounts how communities, whenever natural disaster strikes, pull together, just like Vermont this summer. It happens in cities as easily as in rural areas—maybe more easily, since cities are places where the gregarious gather.

An appeal to social trust is not an appeal to some airy idea of universal brotherhood. Vermont Digger, our local news service, had a reporter in a neighboring town yesterday, as it began to dig its way out of the flood. At a washed-out road crossing he encountered a pair of what I think you could only call hippies, trying to join a “Rainbow Family gathering” at a national forest campground nearby."

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

On Barbie

I saw Barbie, and it was fun, particularly for those of us who love a good choreographed dance number, life-size Barbie decor, and tons of costume changes and hairstyles. The details were amazing - how she moves and how she fits in her house and opens her closet. It's very fun for those bits, and there are lots of silly jokes along the way.

It's also nice to fantasize about an ideal simple life for a while without any air pollution or illness.

But, the patriarchy-storyline didn't sit well with me. I watched writer/director Greta Gerwig in a few interviews explaining her choices, which helped understand it all a bit, but not entirely.

Gerwig said

"It's a humanist film. The humanity around Barbie and Ken is what's paramount. Ken has no status in the world, it's a reversed world, and the person without status is in an untenable place. . . . The existence of the film is pretty incredible. It's amazing that its made the way it is. . . . It's feminist in a way that includes everyone.. . . Barbie is an icon. She exists in the both/and, not either/or, diving into complexity and not running away from it, looking into thorniness and stepping into it, negotiating what women need to be. . . . The human character of Gloria articulates what the negotiation is: allowing things to fit as one and not cutting something out because it doesn't fit."

So many thoughts on this! I know I'm way overthinking this, but here it is.

First, about it being so amazing that they were able to do this movie in this way makes it seem that she's never heard of Betty Friedan's The Feminist Mystique, in which it was made clear, back in 1963, how women feel being stuck at home, powerless, and how the gender dichotomy power structure is self-reinforced. Or maybe it just makes it feel like Friedan's work has been erased, as if she never existed. It could just be that we need a reminder, but this doesn't really do it justice.

The alternative is that things have gotten so much worse since the 1960s, so it's amazing we can say these things out loud. I don't think that's the case in our age of Handmaid's TaleShe Said, Tar, Women Talking and so many others making the gender power dynamic overt. So, as an homage to a doll that many kids loved to play with, it's great. As an homage to feminism, it falls short. 


Monday, August 7, 2023

Unspent Billions Exacerbating our Healthcare Crisis

From MPP Catherine Fife: "Ontario's Budget Officer has found that the Ford government failed to spend $7.2 billion of its budget last year, including $1.7 billion unspent on health as ERs are closing and surgery waitlists are growing."

Meanwhile, in just one specific case, three teens who were stabbed at a party in Clinton, Ontario, went to the ER, but it was closed. We have the funds to keep ERs open, but just don't want to spend it. 

More and more I'm concerned with a very conspiracy-type idea that those in power, not just politicians, but also CEOs and all the very wealthy who don't really have a title besides being the son or daughter of a business magnate, are wittingly de-populating the country and disabling the survivors in order to better manage the food shortages likely coming from climate change. I wrote a bit about that last month.

I know how crazy that sounds, but I really can't understand why else Ford would sit on billions of dollars and shut down hospital emergency services for people at a time of greater need. If it's just about privatizing health services, then you'd think he'd have pay-for-service outlets set up for people to use instead of driving to the next town. But he doesn't.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Hope or Doom: Can't it be Both?

There's a new type of minimizer article out about climate change: concern with it indicates a mental health disorder! It's the same tactic people use to get the public to ignore the ongoing Covid virus. 

Check out Monbiot's comments on this article.

And then there's the learn to live with it claim that we need to get used to the heat despite people in Arizona are getting third-degree burns from touching pavement and others dying from heat. They obviously didn't learn to prepare their body for the heat. 

Either did the cacti:

Climate activist and NASA scientist Peter Kalmus and author Rebecca Solnit both wrote about climate in The Guardian in back to back pieces with very different messages. 

Kalmus, who once chained himself to the JP Morgan Chase building in L.A., takes the more urgent tone,

"We've passed into a ferocious new phase of global heating with much worse to come. Biden must declare a climate emergency. I'm terrified by what's being done to our planet. I'm also fighting to stop it. You, too, should be afraid while also taking the strongest action you can take. . . . So long as we burn fossil fuels, far, far worse is on the way; and I take zero satisfaction in knowing that this will be proven right. . . . Fossil fuels are causing this damage. Therefore, the only way out of this heat nightmare is to end them. No amount of tree planting, recycling, carbon offsetting, or wishful carbon-capture thinking will ever change this. . . . Every speck of fossil fuel sold and burnt combusts into carbon dioxide, forcing the planet to heat. . . . 

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Cleaning Air

When the air quality was particularly bad from the smoke from so many fires, my son decided it would be a great time to fry up some burgers on the stove top. I don't have a BBQ because I mainly don't eat meat, so we fry burgers. But he heated the oil too hot and the kitchen filled with smoke, so we opened the windows even though we were in the red for particulate levels!! Opened windows made it all worse.

So we all threw on N95s, and I remembered our Corsi-Rosenthal box can do double duty of cleaning the air of particulate matter, not just viruses. My CO2 monitor tracks particulates in the air as well as CO2, so we could watch, in real time, as the levels decreased enough to close the windows, and then get right down to single digits so we could take off our masks. 

It's really too bad the monitors don't track the level of viruses in the air (although something like that might become a reality). That would be a game changer!! Watching the levels reduce as the smoke cleared in my kitchen made it crystal clear that CR boxes work. We often need to see it to believe it. It's hard to do that with microscopic viruses. 

CO2 levels in a room are just an indication of how much we're breathing one another's exhalations, not how much Covid is present.

Some school boards are talking about removing HEPA units as they improve mechanical ventilation in each classroom, but that misses the different tasks of ventilation and filtration. Although excellent ventilation can help us breath less lung backwash from one another, when there are many Covid cases (or RSV or flippin' leprosy!) in the room, or too many particulates from wildfire smoke blowing our way, then we need some air filtration units in the room to clean it. 

They really work.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Bill 98: Better Schools and Student Outcomes?

 Bill 98 got Royal Assent a couple months ago, on June 8. At the time ETFO commented, 

"The level of authority that Bill 98 grants the government, with regard to the new provincial priorities framework, is unprecedented and could all but eliminate the ability of school boards to respond to the specific needs of the communities they serve. The potential abuse of this power alone should concern everyone."

We've seen some of it come into play already. There's this piece:

"The Minister may make regulations governing the provision of equivalent apprenticeship learning, including regulations prescribing criteria for the purposes of the definition of 'equivalent apprenticeship learning. . . . A person shall be considered to be attending school when he or she is participating in equivalent apprenticeship learning," 

which can be seen enacted in this article: "Ontario plan to lets students enter full-time apprenticeships after Grade 10 hurts learning, group warns."

Ford's government says we're short workers in the construction sector, so he's hoping students can fill the places. Part of the need is from the developing he's doing, much of it unwanted (Ontario Place, and on 3,000 hectares of the Greenbelt), but part of the need may be from the number of people no longer able to work from Covid cases. He's fixing the problem from the wrong direction.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Back to Basics - Again

Leece's new and improved education system that he's flogging all over the place is keen on "Back to Basics" rhetoric, despite it being an archaic mantra. Conservatives love that old-school shit. Besides maybe a few people for whom it's a dog whistle indicating their anti-CRT side is winning, people have myriad ways of hating it:

  • It implies that teachers are currently not teaching any reading or math, offending all the teachers and many parents who support them.
  • It suggests removing "extras" like art, music, and phys ed. 
  • It could mean some way of taking out any form of critical thinking or questioning of authority or any education around discrimination, implicit bias, or sex education so we create a society of automatons who will do as they're told instead of provoking thinking, caring adults.
  • It's a way to get parents rooting for this alpha display of control just before they see how diminished educational funding really affects schools come fall.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The Origin of Climate Goals

Professor Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and author, wrote an educational post about climate goals back in 2019, but it's currently useful information to understand the news (since climate change is finally in the news):

"When it comes to what climate goals we should be aiming for, there are a lot of 'magic numbers' floating around: 2 degrees, 12 years, 350ppm, net zero emissions, and more. Here's a short thread explaining the scientific basis--or lack thereof--for each.

The very first (and still relevant) goal was expressed in the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. It was drafted at the Earth Summit in Rio and adopted in May 1992. It calls for 'stabilizing atmospheric CO2 in ppm to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.'  Here is the full text: 

Since then, there have been 24 'Conferences of Parties to the UNFCCC' or COP meetings. The most recent was in Katowice, Poland. The next [2019] is in Santiago, Chile. COPs are not scientific meetings; they are primarily attended by formal delegations from each nation that's a party to the UNFCCC. (I say this because it's a frequent misconception that COPs are just an excuse for all the climate scientists in the world to regularly gather for expensive and very carbon-intensive parties - haha! In fact, I've only been to one, to provide tech support.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Covid on the Brain

Listen to me try to say all these big words in an 8 minute recording:

It's curious how many are completely unaware that Covid is a brain-invasive disease. It's the biggest reason I have to continue keeping the virus out of my body. It's not like a cold or flu that you catch and then recover from. It has staying power. 

I first read about Covid's affect on the brain in National Geographic back in December 2021, when they wrote about how it affects personality, and I wrote about it the following January. One person was "confused, hesitant, nearly catatonic," another "developed impulsive or irrational behaviour," and others "arrived at the hospital with severe depression, hallucinations, or paranoia." The article reports, 

"Now, almost two years into the pandemic, it's become clear that neurological problems from Covid-19 can linger or intensify. After recovering from the virus, an alarming number of patients remain shrouded in brain fog, suffering from anxiety or depression, unable to think straight or hold on to memories, and fumbling for words. . . . A study of 395 people who were hospitalized with Covid-19 found that 91% had cognitive issues, fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, or struggled with routine activities six months after they returned home."

Remember, that was in 2021.