Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Our Tuesday Pick...'Ear Hustle' Podcast.


When we were younger C. and I (and a then very tiny Bigger E.) were lucky enough to live in Berkeley, California for a few years.  Back then, one of the things we most liked to do, especially with visitors, was to take a counter-clockwise, three bridge trip around the north end of San Francisco Bay (see above).

Depending on traffic and sightseeing stops it could take one hour or it could take five.

One place we never stopped, but always noticed, was the series of low slung buildings surrounded by walls and expanses of grass that greet you as you come to the east end of bridge #1....

That sight, pictured in the lower left of the image above, is San Quentin prison which, at the time, we knew a little bit about mostly because of Johnny Cash's famous visit in 1969. 

Now, though, folks are really getting to know what goes on in San Quentin because of a fantastic podcast called 'Ear Hustle' and two of the folks involved, Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor.

The following is from a New Yorker piece by Sarah Larson that was published during the podcast's first season in 2017:

“Ear Hustle,” a podcast about life inside San Quentin State Prison produced by two inmates and a volunteer, might be the best new podcast I’ve heard this year. It’s co-hosted by Earlonne Woods, who is serving thirty-one years to life for attempted second-degree robbery, and Nigel Poor, an artist who has volunteered at San Quentin since 2011...


...In prison slang, “ear hustling” is eavesdropping—“bein’ nosy,” Woods says—and the show covers day-to-day life at San Quentin in almost tender detail by interviewing prisoners. It provokes thoughts about mass incarceration, race, justice, regret, violence, and moral complexity through small-bore stories about cellmates, food, sibling rivalry, isolation, and even pets. Many interviews are gently funny; some are devastating in ways that sneak up on you. Poor and Woods record in the media lab and outside in the yard, often catching peripheral sounds of prisoners singing or joking around. “Ear Hustle” is in many ways about the creativity required to live a satisfying life—or even a sane life—in prison, and is itself a product of that creativity...

More recently,  Earlonne was released from San Quentin thanks to a commutation from California governor Jerry Brown.

Last week he stopped by Nigel's house in San Francisco to drop off some new audio equipment.

For me, at least, their curbside conversation was an additional and mostwelcome further expansion  of the theatre of the mind!

 If you haven't already, check out the Ear Hustle podcasts - you won't be disappointed.


Monday, March 30, 2020

You Can Pay Them Now Or You Can Pay Them (Much, Much, Much More) Later (v.2)...



Please see update on my earlier hydroxychloroquine comment at the bottom of the post.

On Saturday we mentioned that folks might want to think twice about diving into 'deferrals' from the financial services industry, particularly those that pertain to mortgages and credit card balances, in these increasingly difficult COVID-19 times.

And then a reader mentioned that another real problem that folks on the edge can get into, even in virus-free times, is getting involved with PayDay lending industry, especially when said involvement happens repeatedly.

It's not something I'm real familiar with, but someone pointed me towards a really excellent OpEd primmer written by anti-poverty advocate Tom Cooper and published in the Hamilton Spectator.

The entire thing is worth reading, but here is the kicker:

...For those unfamiliar with this type of borrowing, payday loans are time-limited advances and often come with swift approvals and no credit checks. These loans can appeal particularly to part-time and precarious workers who fall into a financial emergency and need quick cash to pay a bill or put food on the table. That description pretty much accounts for millions of Canadians this month thanks to coronavirus shutdowns.

For those workers who fear a paycheque may not be coming in the near future and employment insurance benefits may be weeks away, a payday loan may seem like a desperate, but needed, option to purchase groceries or pay the rent.

But payday loans are a very bad idea, especially right now.

Many consumer advocates compare payday lenders to legalized loan sharks.

While the previous (Ontario) provincial government cut the amount that payday lenders can charge from $21 on $100 to $15 on $100, that still equates to annual interest rate of 391 per cent...

Three hundred and ninety-one percent?


How is this kind of usurious egregiousity even legal?

In case you were wondering...The permissible annual  'rate' in British Columbia is also 391%.
Speaking of COVID-19... I have not been commenting on this stuff from a scientific point of view because it is not my field....However, regarding the two early 'clinical' trials for hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin  from the same French group that many folks are talking about, it is hard to argue with Derek Lowe and David Gorski that a significant issue is the very basic fact that both studies lack a control group.
Update, April 1st....A new, not yet peer-reviewed study reporting on a small scale trial in China suggests some efficacy for hydroxychloroquine when given to patients with mild symptoms..Importantly, at first glance, this one does have a control group...Here's the NYT report...Here is the study itself.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Our Sunday Pick... Casey And Finnegan!

That is all.

And if you are on the Twittmachine and are not following J McElroy, the MoCo's Lotulandian municipal listicle guy, you are really missing out....And then there are his up-to-date, clear and helpful BC-centric covid-19 charts....Here.


The Salad, It Words Her.

It would be easy to laugh while we toss this rancid lettuce dressed with scurrilous syntax into the compost bin if only our public broadcaster would stop giving this very fine former public(ity seeking) servant a megaphone.

Would have been most happy to provide a link if hadn't been disappeared without, apparently, comment.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

You Can Pay Them Now Or You Can Pay Them (Even More) Later...


If you're thinking of taking a COVID-19-related mortgage deferral. some experts are suggesting that you only do it if you really have to.

Aaron Saltzman of the MoCo has the story:

...(Mortgage) "Deferrals actually meant that interest accrued from each deferred payment was being added back into the principal balance of the mortgage," said the source (from RBC).

"Technically clients would then be [charged] interest on top of interest for those payments [that were] deferred," they said.

In effect, it's as though the bank is loaning you the amount that you would have paid in interest during the deferral period and then charging you interest on that loan as well.

"They're going to make more money because they've just loaned you more," said Peter Gorham, an actuary with JDM Actuarial Expert Services...

Oh, and just in case you were wondering,  the story is pretty much the same for credit card deferrals.

The key to understand here, according the very fine finance folks involved at least, is that a 'deferral' is not 'relief'.


Tip O' The Toque to Greg Fingas and his excellent, detailed and regular links round-up feature over at 'Accidental Deliberations'...


Our Saturday Pick....The Magliozzi Brothers.


Back in the days when we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, C. and I listened religiously to 'Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers' every Saturday morning on the local NPR affiliate, KQED.

More specifically, we tuned in to hear the real life Magliozzi brothers, Tom and Ray, kibbutz hilariously and insightfully with each other and the folks who called them up to ask for advice about their cars (allegedly).

The show ran in some form for more than 30 years until 2012 when elder brother Tom got sick. At that time it was on 660 stations and pulled in more than 3 million listeners per week.


Luckily, we (and you, too, if you so choose) can still listen to old 'repurposed' Tom and Ray shows in podcast form.

Personally, I can't think of a better way to spend an hour or so once a week, preferably on Saturday mornings...

The image at the top of the post is actually their office in the 'Puzzler Tower' located on the 'Car Talk Plaza' of their 'Fair City, Cambridge Mass'....They were actually MIT-educated former academics who turned to running first a utopianco-op garage and later a more conventional car shop that stood behind its work...As for the 'Dewey Cheetham and How' logo on the window?...Well, they were punmeisters too (just add a question mark to the logo and you'll get it)...If you listen to the show right through to the end you will get an hilarious bushel full of them...Puns, I mean.


Friday, March 27, 2020

We Miss You Already!


I realize that it is a very small thing in the grand scheme of all that is going on all around us, but...

We were really looking forward to the big show we had planned for tomorrow night.

First, Bigger E and her musical friends were going to regale folks with all that she does. Think Bob Dylan/Beyonce/Diana Ross mashups (for a start).

And then the geezers were going to play, often backing E. on the harder stuff spanning from Hendrix to Winehouse.

All that and a really cool venue too.

Luckily, the fine folks at Andina are willing to let us reschedule.

I'll keep you all posted.

E. and I are also planning to do some virtual meeting/live streaming kind of musical deal before we all shall be released (from our domiciles)....Stay tuned.


Our Friday Pick...Vonnegut, Adapted.


When I was a (much, much) younger man I worked at a summer camp in the Sooke Hills on Vancouver Island.

And, despite my total lack of qualifications, not to mention my somewhat under-developed social skills, after a couple of years I got the hang of it.

A big key, maybe the biggest, to getting all the kids in the cabin on your side, at least for a few minutes a day, is bed time.

And for that, I had two go-to's.

My closer was JD Salinger's 'The Laughing Man' which I would always recite orally, with the lights out, because then I could bend it into pretty much anything until every single kid fell asleep. It's a long short story and with the starts and stops, not to mention the back-ups to catch up the early fall-asleepers, I could easily stretch it out over the entire ten nights of their stay.

As for my bedtime openers?


For these the lights would alway be on as the kids did their final fiddling while I  read one of the twenty-five stories in Kurt Vonnegut's anthology 'Welcome To The Monkey House'. As I was most often dealing with 11 year old boys there was none of the racy stuff from stories, like, say, the title track. Instead, it was the adventure/weird sci-fi stuff like 'Harrison Bergeron' that they ate up and, truth be told, I always loved to read given its well-planned multilevel stratification strategy.

Anyway, one Monkey House story I never read to those kids was 'Long Walk To Forever' because it was straight-up sappy, the story of a young guy who comes home from the war and does his best to get his childhood semi-sweetheart to choose him over her fiancee.

Essentially, it was the short story version of a pretty big event in a then young Mr. Vonnegut's own real post-war Indiana life.

And a few years ago it was made into a very fine short film version....

Tip O' The Toque to the fine folks at 'Open Culture' for this one....
You can find lots more great KV stuff at his museum/library...
Multi-level stratification strategy?....It's when a story has all kinds of facets, some of them semi-hidden, such that everyone can find something different in it...When your kids are little you are always looking for this kind of stuff...Think 'The Princess Bride', for example...


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Our Thursday Pick....Hockey! Hockey! Hockey!


Back in the days before he headed east in his early 20's, to both form and perpetually play in punk rock bands,  I don't think my youngest brother C. even had an interest in hockey.

But he did know a little bit about the restaurant business.

And so he and his friend D. opened up the little place you see pictured, above, on Queen Street west of Bathhurst in Toronto back in the days when that part of twon was still little bohemia.

'La Hacienda' finally closed its doors last fall after more than 30 years, for mostly good reasons. Ben Rayner, the Star's music critic, wrote a hell of an obituary. Here are a just a couple of bits:

Another day, another vital piece of Toronto’s proud musical past on the “soon to be extinct” list. And this one’s not even a live venue.

La Hacienda, the endearingly crusty resto-bar at 640 Queen St. W. that has served up reliably good-valued Tex-Mex meals and scowling punk-rock attitude in equally generous measure for more than three decades, will shut its doors for good when its lease comes up at the end of September...


...For those who move in musical circles in this town, to lose La Hacienda isn’t simply to lose another tether to Queen West’s grittier good, ol’ days, when the local artist class could still find affordable rents on the strip and it didn’t quite so much resemble a streetside shopping mall. The place has served as a stable place of employment — if not an actual place to live, officially or unofficially — for dozens of indie musicians since it was opened in the late 1980s by a pair of punk rockers from the West Coast, future Chemical Sound studio operator Daryl Smith and Chris Roskelley...

When I got back to Canada in the mid-90's I started to visit T.O. semi-regularly for work and I would always try to stop by the restaurant. As a junior science geek, still in training, I really didn't fit in but the gang always made me feel welcome, regardless. And, most importantly, I was amazed how they had all taken in (and were taking care of) my formerly misfitting and sometimes slightly disillusioned brother. It was a truly wondrous thing to see.


Given the music-crazed underground crowd he was hanging out with, I still don't know where C.'s  obsession with the post-Ballard 1990's Maple Leafs came from.

But come it did. And it has never, to this day died.


Even if it will be enjoyed entirely by an audience of one, our pick today is the 1994 Conference quarter-final play-off series between  the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here is Game 1....

Game 2 is here.
Game 3 is here.
Sorry, couldn't find Game 4.
Game 5 is here.
Game 6 is here.

Alright, alright, alright!....For you Canuckleheads fans, here is the penultimate Game Six of the Riot Series from the same year...


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday Pick...Western Chauvinism.


Following up on yesterday's pick...

Just how does one switch from teaching hipsters how to dress to teaching the alt right to troll?

Well, all you have to do is find a bunch of young fellows who say things like:

"We were drinking, we did cocaine, we got tatoos..."

Then you give them a few silly rituals that amount to an initiation and tell them that they are now over the whole race thing and are also pro-gun, libertarian (except on immigration) and pro-dude.

Oh, and throw in a thing called 'no wanks' together with a funnel full of faux persecution complexes and, bingo, bango, bongo, you've got yourself a movement of very fine fellows of paleolithic pridefulness.

What could possibly go wrong?

'This American Life' explains and illuminates.

Tip O' The Toque to Bigger E on this one...
And, by all means, please feel free to throw in your own daily pick suggestions in the comments to keep me/us away from the  omnipresent binge button cavalcade as much as is possible....


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday Pick....Cool Mules.


Ostensibly, it's a podcast about how ambitious young kids can't say no when they are paid in coolness instead of dollars.

Even if what they agree to is international cocaine smuggling.

And then there's this...

"...The same guy who taught hipsters how to dress also taught the Alt-Right how to troll..."

Oh, and....

It's also a Canadian story.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Monday Pick... The William Faulkner of Songwriting.


Eric Taylor, who wrote a lot of great songs for other people, has died.

Here he is performing his ode to the legend that Keruoac, Ginsberg and Kesey built:

You can read Mr. Taylor's excellent obit by Bill Friscics-Warren in the NYT here.

You can listen to an entire set by him from a while back, which also features his distinct finger-picking style, here.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Pick....William Gibson v. Stanley Kubrick.


My favourite USian independent political podcasters and longtime single-shingle bloggers extraordinare, Driftglass and Bluegal, have a (relatively) new offshoot, spin-off non-poli pod.

It's called 'Science Fiction University' wherein they pair a different SciFi book and movie based each episode based on a theme.

This week it's William Gibson's 'Neuromancer' and Stanley Kubrick's (and Arthur C. Clark's kinda/sorta) 2001'.

Dig it!

Can you guess the theme that binds?....I couldn't either, except to wonder if maybe they were going to have Keir Dullea  morph into an old man version of Mr. Gibson's Case...But I was totally wrong about that.
Speaking of Mr. Dullea...I re-watched Paperback Hero not long ago and it actually almost held-up...Tube skates and all.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Pick...Fifty-Five Minutes With Reina Del Cid.


Do you need something really fantastic to listen to and/or watch this fine, if slightly claustrophobic, Saturday?

If yes, check out this fantastic live stream by two young musical partners, Rachel and Toni, who make up the backbone of my favourite post-first wave YouTube bandeleroistas.

Seriously - just hit the little arrow in the center of the image below and you will not be sorry.

Their secret?...Well, they are both hip/nerd DIYists who are really, really good and fantastically creative...And, surprise!, they have captured the olds who pay them actual money to see them perform, either online or live and in person...As a result of all of those things it looks like they are  making a go of thing truly on their own (with all kinds of help, both little and big, from their friends)...If you like, you can support them...Here.


Friday, March 20, 2020

What Part Of Flattening The Curve Do You Not Understand?


This just in from one of the Fox News most famous (former) SARS-CoV-2- hoaxtologists:


Perhaps someone should tell the good Ms. Ingraham that the longer it lasts the fewer people will actually, you know, die:


The real point here....Get the garbage about this situation off the TeeVee and the Interwebz everywhere (including here)....It is only making a matter of literal life and death literally worse.
You want to know how the folks in charge, everywhere, should all be thinking?....Take a few minutes to listen to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo talk to the NYT's 'The Daily'.... Locally, in my opinion, Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix have demonstrated that they have the same mindset as Cuomo...However, they are proceeding calmly with clear directives to ensure that people do not panic, which is another key to getting through this thing...
Back with a musical interlude later....


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Damn Hipsters...


Damn those hipsters and their artisanal distilleries!

Oh, wait...

"....After a nationwide run emptied the shelves of hand sanitizer, several distilleries realized they had the equipment and the alcohol to make their own. As long as they weren’t making health claims or selling it, they could help. “Ultimately, I’m part of the community. I want my friends and neighbors to be happy and healthy,” said Jon Poteet, of Shine Distillery and Grill in Portland, Oregon. “I want to be in a healthy community, and it feels good to be able to give back.” So Poteet is bottling and giving away hand sanitizer to customers, as is a distillery in Indianapolis, among others. “This is a time for all of us to come together and combine our focused efforts to get COVID-19 under control,” said Travis Barnes, of Indiana’s Hotel Tango Distillery..."

Now, before anyone gets their dander up, hand sanitizer has its place, particularly if you're stuck somewhere for awhile without soap and hot water.

But the latter really, really works because it dissolves away ultrathin p'lipid coat of viruses.

So, as my Mom used do say...

'Go wash your hands!'

Although I'm pretty sure she never said anything about social distancing - but do that too!



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

When Mr. Picard Speaks, I Listen.


Andre Picard, the Globe and (no longer Empire) Mail's health columnist, is most definitely not a reactionary hot taker.

In fact, as I've said before, Mr. Picard is one of the few mainstream media science journalists I read who, even when he writes about my own field, tells me something I didn't already know.

This means that he is a rare breed, indeed. And he gets this type of respect from all quarters because he really is thoughtful, measured and careful.

Which makes today's column all the more important. Here is his lede (and a wee bit more because, again, it's important):

The single most powerful weapon we have in the escalating war with the coronavirus is information – giving people facts and advice so they can take measures to protect themselves and their loved ones.

If we want Canadians to act in a socially responsible manner – to embrace social distancing, self-isolation and whatever other measures are to come – they need to trust the message and the messenger.

That’s why it’s essential that public health officials and politicians speak with a unified voice and adopt consistent, coherent policies.

Enough of this nonsense of every jurisdiction – Ottawa, 10 provinces, three territories, hundreds of regional health units and countless cities and municipalities – having different messages. Enough of the pussyfooting around in the name of provincial autonomy and constitutional division of powers.

If the coronavirus is an emergency – and it is – then it has to be an emergency from coast to coast to coast, not just in Ontario or Calgary.

If we’re going to close educational institutions, then we need to shut down every one of them – daycares, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, regardless of where they are located.

If we’re going to ban large gatherings, then let’s ban them. Don’t make it groups of 50 in one province and 250 in another province; don’t make it mandatory in one jurisdiction and a simple request in another.

The self-isolation rules need to be identical for every single traveller.

Same goes with testing guidelines: they need to be the same in every single part of the country, not a confusing mess that leaves people frustrated and perplexed...

Hard to argue with that, no?

And, lest you think
our leaders don't pay attention to what he has to say, it's hard not to conclude that last week's column by Mr. Picard didn't help get the all rolling on our increasingly robust, if still somewhat piecemeal, response to the pandemic...
Having said all this, if you want something to soothe you because it's interesting and because it makes it clear that this is not the end of everything, take a listen to Jesse Brown's recent interview with AP.


Rock Around The Lab...


Given that microscopic bits of phospholipid 'n protein wrapped around wee chunks of RNA have forced me to send everyone home, I've decided to send in our best robot amplifiers keep things running as smoothly as possible.

All snarkileptitudinal silliness aside...

Keep those hands clean everyone, and carry on as best you and yours can.

(and make sure to give anybody who needs it a socially distanced hand, especially your elderly neighbours, friends and influential aunts and uncles).

Please take note of the super-duper top secret notes and calculations on the bits of brown wood fiber on the bench under the micropipettor on the left side of the bench...And just so you know, I wrote half of my PhD thesis on paper towels...Drove my supervisor crazy, she used to force me to scotch tape them into my lab notebooks before they were lost forever to the round file...
Hey!....Speaking of robots....Checkout Dan Mangan's 'Quarantunes' session.