Thursday, December 30, 2021

Experimental Data Are Accruing That Omicron Exhibits Decreased Lung Infectivity.


Friday Dec 31/21 - See Update at the bottom of the post

As we noted in our last round-up post, even if the omicron variant really does generate, on average, less severe symptoms than the delta variant, the shear number of infections due to increased transmissibility will cause significant issues for healthcare systems.

Having said that, the experimental data are piling up that, different from the situation in upper airway, omicron does not infect the lining epithelial cells within the lung nearly as well as previous versions of the virus.

Eric Topol has summarized and cited those data which has been generated by multiple reputable groups:

What does this mean? Well, if it translates to the clinical/human realm it could mean significantly reduced COVID pneumonia - the bad acute* outcome of the virus.

Thus, if we can flatten the hospitalization/ICU curve in the short term by decreasing transmission while we get vaccinations amongst kids and boosters up for the vulnerable at the same time, the omicron variant could, ultimately, help us see and move toward the lights at the end of the long term tunnel.

However, again, in the short term we've got to work to decrease transmission to prevent our healthcare systems, and stretched-to-the-breaking-point healthcare workers, from being overwhelmed.

Please note that
I am not a clinician or an epidemiologist...However, I do have some expertise in epithelial cell biology - thus, the key here is how well the experimental data translate to the clinical realm...
*Please also note that, in the case of chronic, long COVID, the clinical situation is not yet clear with respect to omicron for obvious timeframe reasons.
And, just because it continues to bear repeating given that it seems to get lost in the media shuffle...While vaccination does not prevent infection/transmission of the omicron variant it is still doing a great job of decreasing hospitalization...Hugely (scroll down a little).
Update, Fri Dec 31st...And here is an interesting pre-print, with extensive experimental data and solid analysis, from a group in Glasgow. They conclude that the omicron variant has subtly, but importantly, shifted its favourite way to get into cells (from ACE-2/TMPRSS2 cell surface binding/fusion/insertion to endosomal fusion/engulfment)...This could, perhaps, contribute to the upper vs. lower airway infectivity differences of this variant (i.e. the mechanism leading to a change in cellular 'tropism'/preference for infection).


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

What I'm Listening To...


I'm listening to 19 minutes of  Walt 'Clyde' Frazier talking to  'On The Media's' Brooke Gladstone.

Learn how he became a defensive specialist (bad college grades!)....Learn why getting traded to Cleveland from the Knicks was the best thing that ever happened to him (stopped spending money!)...Learn how he got the knickname 'Clyde' (it has both nothing and everything to do with Warren Beatty!)...Learn why he is still, fifty years later, one of the coolest guys on the planet!...


Sam Cooper's Seven Questions...


Sam Cooper, working for Global, has written a fantastic year end summary of all the major issues that have come up during Lotusland's money-laundering inquiry headed by Justice Austin Cullen.

Mr. Cooper also poses seven questions that he believes Mr. Cullen needs to answer in his final report, which will likely come out in the late spring.

They are:
Did former B.C. gaming minister Rich Coleman ignore credible warnings from his subordinates that suspected drug-money laundering was growing exponentially in B.C. casinos?

Did former B.C. premier Christy Clark receive the same alerts as Coleman and other gaming and financial ministers who reported to her?

Did executives at the BC Lottery Corporation allow highly suspicious cash transactions to continue in their casinos because the transactions resulted in higher government revenue and pay bonuses?

Did the private operators of B.C. casinos pressure the Lottery Corp. to refrain from banning high-rolling patrons who were suspected by casino investigators of being drug traffickers?

Were RCMP investigations of casino money laundering in B.C. discouraged by the provincial government or hindered by a lack of federal funding?

Were the alerts, including reports on suspicious transactions at the big five Canadian banks and law firms, from Canada’s anti-money laundering watchdog Fintrac ineffective in triggering regulation and police investigations?

Were casino and real estate loans connected to B.C. gangs and involving B.C. court cases used to facilitate the growth of underground banking from China into Canada?

Personally, I hope that Mr. Cullen answers YES, empatically, to all seven of Mr. Cooper's questions.

More realistically, I reckon that the the early betting line on the over-under is likely closer to 2.5.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Crawling Through The Bloggodome...Christmas Is The Best Time To Escape Edition.


Mostly Lotuslandian...
Ray Tomlin, he of Van Ramblings, has a great description of the best places to see Christmas lights and decorations in Lotusland Central...

The City Duo, after first detailing how they considered packing it in this year  (No! Don't do it!), describe what they are looking forward to covering on the Lotuslandian planning and development fronts in 2022 including the ol' stomping grounds of the current prime minister (i.e. the  Jericho Lands) and the Broadway Plan...

Bob Mackin of the, notes that some BC Liberal 'insiders' are apparently questioning the validity of a big whack of Kevin Falcon's party membership sign-ups in the run-up to the leadership vote in early February...Who'd a thunk it, given the previous membership sign-up shenanigans perpetrated by the leadership campaigns of C. Clark and T. Stone. Coincidentally (or, perhaps not), the good Mr. Stone is a current backer of heavy Kevvy.

Speaking of the BC Liberal leadership race, Paul Ramsey breaks down the numbers to illustrate the party's diversity problem, an issue first raised by former BCL light heavyweight Jas Johal on the Twittmachine.

Writing in the Tyee, Jen St. Denis, tells us about the life and times, and the recent passing, of the amazing Ken Lyotier, the binner who made things better for everyone...A fund to support initiatives designed to improve the lives of folks in the DTES has been set up in Mr. Lyotier's name.

Also writing in the Tyee, Kyle Willmott, explains why, after showing many, many receipts, he has concluded that the Canadian Taxpayer' Federation consistently displays a bias against initiatives designed to improve the lives of indigenous peoples, especially when they can label such initiatives 'handouts'...Once I finished reading Mr. Willmott's post, I couldn't help but think of the original turf-based sin that was the Gipper's race-based anti-welfare smear.

Writing for the (not always so) VancouverIsAwesome, Mike Howell fills us in on the process by which the City of Vancouver is hiring its first ever integrity commissioner.

Not-so-secret science and medical guy Orac, writing on his own Respectful Insolence shingle, explains why the COVID antiviral paxlovid, which was recently approved by the US FDA, is not 'Pfizermectin'.... And, just so you know, my post on how this class of drugs works, and why they do not rely on kickstarting the immune system, is coming - promise.

The chief keeper of the Freethought Blog Collective flame, PZ Myers, who lives in near rural Minnesota, wonders what kind of near rural Minnesotans would trash accepting parents who choose to help their kid work things out, judgement-free, when it comes to discovering their own identity and place in the world.

The Reverend Paperboy, who lives in that part of Southern Ontario that is not the Center of the Universe, goes on a very fine rant about wealth inequality in Canada. He also points out that the powers that be only get really upset about the matter when people actually try to do something about it.

Other Huff 'N Puff Stuff...
Writing in the Vancouver Sun, Peter McKnight has an Op-Ed up in which he details why conversion therapy puts people's lives at risk and Dan Fumano reports on how Vancouver city council has made actual moves to boost the development of rental housing stock.

Trevor Melanson has an opinion piece in the National Observer, in which he argues that Canadians need to see, hear and learn about climate change initiatives and policies that are working so as to beget public support for additional initiatives and policies, some of which may be more difficult to implement than others...

Robert Reich, writing at his own Substack, explains why he does not trust the mainstream media while pointing out how he, and us too, can still use same said MSM, together with other media whose bonafides have stress-tested, to keep up to speed on news that actually matters...

Finally, Gillian Brockell uses a passel of Washington Post pixels to to tell us how and why, via the story of Jermain Wesley Loguen's escape from slavery in 1835, it was easiest to successfully hop aboard the Undergraound Railway during the height of the Christmas season....Ms. Brockell also points us toward a most fantastic Letter of Note in which Mr. Loguen righteously replies to a request from his form slaveowner's wife for extortive recompense...Essentially JWL tells the OG Karen to stick her attempt at extortion where the sun doesn't shine for all the right reasons.

What I'm Listening To...
....Cover Me's top 50 cover tunes of 2021...So far I like Widowspeak's take on Mark Knopfler's 'Romeo and Juliet' best...

Image at the top of the pos
t is a portrait of the unabashed abolitionist and bishop JW Loguen after he returned to the United States. Initially, JWL lived and worked in Canada after he first stepped off the underground railroad, a transport network that he later helped run when he set up a major pre-border crossing station/safe house in Syracuse New York.
Previous crawls can be found...Here.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Your Evening Audio...Murder By Mistletoe (Felice Brothers Cover)


It's a travel day for us which, to be perfectly honest, puts me in a murder balladeering kind of a mood as the piles that have be stuffed into the car keep on piling ever upward.


What would Christmas be without all that and a wee bit of lyrical and melodic sleight of hand from young Ian?

This recording
is an example of how I've learned to let go of the original key to decrease the wince factor on playback...
Ian Felice has a book coming out on, fittingly enough I reckon...Valentine's Day.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Why A (Single) Negative Rapid Antigen Test Result Is Not Necessarily A Sure Thing.


There is a whole lot of testing going on these days.

And the gold standard for SARS-CoV-2 sensitivity is still the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

An alternative is the rapid antigen test (RAT) which can also detect viral load, but only at the top half of the curve.

The graph below, from the Ontario Science Table, a group that has been doing a great job of disseminating critical information and making important calls throughout the the entire pandemic, shows the difference in sensitivity between the PCR and RAT tests:

Please note that the Y-axis here is a log10 scale which means that there is a 100 fold difference between the PCR sensitvity threshold of 3 (1,000 viral copies per millilitre) and the Rapid Antigen Test sensitivity threshold of 5 (100,000 viral copies per millilitre).


What does this mean, practically?

Well, if you are worried about exposure before you go to visit an at-risk loved one this holiday season and you test negative just once with the RAT it is possible that you could be infected but under the threshold of detection for that test (and before you become infectious and/or symptomatic).

Thus, if you are using the RAT test alone as a means of knowing if you are good to go it should be used just before you visit that loved one so that know, for sure, over a short period (i.e. a few hours), that you are below the level where you are infectious. 

And if you want to be really sure about your status you should use the RAT sequentially over 2 to 3 days which will ensure that, if you are infected, you will get over the sensitivity bar and the test will find it.

Of course, the thing about the latter regimen is that, here in Lotusland at least, the only way to do that is to order a batch of them yourself online (and then wait by the front door for them to arrive which is what we're doing in our house right now).

The following video and Twittmachine thread by science communicator and neuroscientist Samantha Yammine, with an assist from Saskatchewan-based virologist (and Seahawks fan) Angie Rasmussen, is really good on all this stuff... 

We want to go see Grandpops, who has had his booster, over on the Island this holiday season...As you might imagine, I''m treating it like an 'overseas' trip, where I am the pain-in-the-behind immigration officer....Thus, we have also shelled out for travel clinic PCR tests...
Just a note about the graph.... It only shows the OG wild type and Delta strains...Now, it is entirely possible, given it's ability to rapidly infect  cells lining the upper portion of the respiratory tract, that the Omicron strain may show a more vertical ramp-up slope...If that does turn out to be the case it could bring the difference in the time to sensitivity between the PCR to RAT closer together.
Of course, an important thing to remember here is that vaccination that, regardless infection status, is still doing a really great job of keeping a large number of folks out of our hospitals.


We're On Our Way To Summer!


I have only two traditions when the winter solstice hits.

Number one is to try and remember to wish my youngest brother, a whippersnapper who is lucky enough to still be in just his sixth decade, happy birthday. This year I also told him to make sure to listen to his guy Uncle Neil talking to Rick Rubin.

Number two is to try and remember to tell our kids that, no matter how dark and dank the Lotuslandian day is, weather-wise, that....

"We're on our way to Summer!"

Actually, I'd forgotten that there is a third solstice tradition...Which is that fantastic paintings like the one at the top of the post appear magically in my inbox courtesy the artist and our good friend Theo Nelson.


Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Craziest Christmas Ratio Imaginable.


Last weekend Naomi Skwarna had a most interesting, if bizarre, freelance (i.e. 'special', paywalled) piece in the Globe and (NoLongerEmpire) Mail about Hallmark Christmas movies.

It was the sheer number of things and where most of them are made that floored me.

First, fourty-one of them will be broadcast this holiday season.

Second, thirty-four of them were made in Canada, many in the valley-most reaches of the Lower Mainland.

And here I thought that, as much as I still love it, three hours of holiday CapraCorn, taken in annually late on Christmas eve evening while the last of wrapping is being frantically done, can be a bit much sometimes.

Personally, it's the community spirit aspect of IAWL that gets me every time, much more so than the Christmas peripherals, especially the part where Miss Davis asks George if she can have $17.50 to get by in  the wake of the run on the bank...


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Your Evening Audio...Christmas Time In The Mountains (Will Oldham Cover)


It's not really a carol.

Instead it's more of a winter song in search of the soul with a wee bit of Christmas wedged in.

Regardless, it's from the mind of Will Oldham and it truly is a little gem of a tune...

Oldham and his musical pal Matt Sweeney talked to Rick Rubin recently on the 'Broken Record' pod.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Best Synthesis Of The Data On Omicron I've Read So Far...


I know I've gone to this well a number of times already but I can't emphasize enough the fantastic job that Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Institute is doing keeping up to date with all the COVID data. 

This is particularly true in the case of the Omicron variant of the virus. 

Topol has written a really great longform piece that lays it all out in straightforward language and his conclusions are all backstopped by data that matter.

The piece I'm referring to is a couple of days old now but still very relevant - you should really read it in its entirety - it will only take you a few minutes.

Here are the take home messages that I have gleaned:

1) Vaccine Effectiveness
Two doses of Pfizer gives reduced protection against symptomatic infection (34%) five months after the second shot while a boost takes it back up to 75% compared to the Delta variant (60%/95). However, it is important to realize that symptomatic infection does not appear to be tracking with disease severity (see #4, below).

2) Transmissibility
Household transmission is approximately three fold higher compared to Delta.

3) Prior SARS-Cov-2 infection
The levels of antibodies in the blood of folks who have been previously infected with the virus that can neutralize (i.e. whack) the Omicron variant are low. This likely explains why the rate of folks reinfected by Omicron that have had prior Covid has been high in both South Africa and the UK.  However 'hybrid' immunity for folks who have been both vaccinated and have had prior infection looks to be solid

4) Milder Severity of Disease
This is a point that was brought up by reader Gordie in response to a previous post.  Clearly, the proportion of hospitalizations to cases is down with Omicron compared to Delta and that's a good thing. However, it is not clear why this is the case and if it is intrinsic to the Omicron variant form of the virus itself or if it's due to the fact that lots of folks now have at least some form of immunity to the virus writ large, especially T-cell immunity which is an additional immunological tool that is separate (but works coordinately with) the antibodies produced by B-cells. Topol points out that we really won't know about this until the sample size gets large enough that we can parse out  folks over 60 who have never been infected and have never been vaccinated. Of course, in most Western countries that number is quite small proportionately. 

5) The Curve Thing, Again.
Even if Omicron is significantly less virulent (say even 10X less so than Delta) it could still lead to truly problematic crunches for health care systems that are already running near or over capacity given its potential to induce an enormous number of infections worldwide in a short period of time.

Having said all of the above, it is important to keep in mind how far we have come re: tools for mitigation since this time last year. And that includes mitigating against Omicron. As for that new thing in the toolbox, the rapid antigen test, that hasn't been widely rolled out in British Columbia yet?...Well, much more knowledgeable folks than me on this topic are all for getting that wider roll out going, and fast...Mr. Dix said yesterday that an announcement should come early next week... There may be more on this and maybe the booster rollout also, at a health briefing by Mr. Dix and Dr. Henry tomorrow (although it may be focussed on gathering size restrictions).
Sorry about the delay for the promised post on how the antiviral treatments from Pfizer and Merck work...It's coming, just really busy with the end of term rush these days...The punchline - they don't rely on an immune response to work and thus the immune evasive component of the Omicron variant is not a factor.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Family Geek...Who's Zooming Who?


Back in the days when our kids were small and the lab was new, I worked way too much.

But, aside from the 'Lab Olympics' we would hold for birthday parties (pipetting!  tip racking! for prizes!) and one elementary school science fair project where I went overboard and 'helped' Bigger E generate 'p' values from the assembled data, I felt pretty good about not overwhelming them with science geek stuff.

And then, when they hit their teens, I learned how much being forced to tip-toe around on egg shells during grant writing season affected them. 

Still, it wasn't like we were having year end, holiday seminars with power point presentations outlining each family member's projects, accomplishments and future goals.

Not that I know a prominent science geek family where the offspring have followed in their parents' footsteps or anything.


How did I end up taking our now grown-up kids through some the lab's latest data during a Zoom call deep in the darkest days of the pandemic as shown above?

To be honest I really don't know, except to say that, honestly,  I was really excited about the data at the time and just couldn't help myself.

As you can see by the looks on the kids' faces, not so much for them.

The excitement part, I mean.


Interestingly, both my kids and my wife C. are deep into the arts, especially the performing variety.


Now that I think about it, maybe it's they that have influenced me more than the other way around.

I think I can live with that.

If my kid's weren't so into the data, at least the journal that published some of it is...


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

How Bad Is British Columbia's Toxic Drug Problem?

How bad is the problem?

Really, really, really bad.

Moira Wyton, writing in The Tyee drives home the point:
...In the nearly six years since toxic drug deaths were declared a public health emergency, the rate of deaths has doubled to 41.2 per 100,000. More than 8,500 British Columbians have died in that time. Toxic drugs are the leading cause of unnatural deaths in B.C., more than car accidents, homicide and suicide combined...

In other words absolutely nothing is worse than this thing that is killing people at faster and faster rates for no good reason at all.

Which is why we've got to urgently move forward with concrete, on-the-ground steps to mitigate things significantly.

It would seem that a good first (and only first) urgent step would be the one that Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe is calling for:
...Lapointe has called for rapid access to safe, regulated supplies of criminalized substances, known as safe supply, to prevent deaths by separating people from the increasingly toxic drug supply.

“We have not seen a rollout of safe supply on a scale commensurate with the risk to health and safety in our province,” said Lapointe, noting that co-op models, compassion clubs and other solutions need government support to reach as many people as possible.

“There is intent, there is good will, there are plans. To my mind, they’re not urgent enough.”...

To be fair, the province is moving in this direction, but by all accounts it is just not doing it urgently enough.

If you want a good person
to follow on this, I strongly suggest Garth Mullins.


Monday, December 13, 2021

Hey...Our Original Environmentalist, Emily Carr, Is 150 Today.


And, if you happen to be in the City of Gardens today, especially if, say, you are one of our fine readers who dwells in or near the Ledge, you can head on over to her place to celebrate/contemplate.

Historian and digital diver NVG has more...


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Your Evening Audio...People (All) Get Ready (Frames Cover)

For some weird reason this tune (which, to be very clear, is not that other much more famous one by the late, great Curtis Mayfield) popped into my head while I was writing a post about why wealth taxes this morning.

And while you can be sure that the Irish Busker-In-Chief, and leader of The Frames, Glen Hansard, was not thinking about wealth inequality when he wrote the song in question he has said that it is about being 'pissed off'.

Me, I see it as being more of an elegy for what once was and what could be again.

Or some such thing...

Interesting (alleged) fact about the band's name...While he was never really a vacuum repairman, Hansard used to fix bikes in his youth...As a result his backyard was apparently littered with bicycle skeletons, so much so that the neighbourhood kids called his house the place with all 'The Frames'.


Is There One (Non-Existent) Government Policy That Could Unite Us All?


A link that Greg Fingas provided in his latest progressive round-up over at Accidental Deliberations led me to the actual 2022 World Inequality Report authored by some folks you might have heard of including Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez,

Here is one of the charts demonstrating how big a deal wealth inequality has become, worldwide:

And it turns out that, in addition to the gross unfairness, all this private wealth accumulation, much of it untaxed or, at the very least, under-taxed, is happening as public wealth nosedives:

Of course, when public wealth nosedives we can't affford to pay for stuff that we actually need that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with private jets and/or fourth houses in Tuscany.

It also enhances the ability of the usual suspects to get traction when they start screaming austerity which, of course, only makes things worse.


What to do?

Well, what if we were to tax all that accumulated private wealth fairly?

Wouldn't that help everyone out?

Well, it would appear that a growing number of very smart people, including the troublemaking economists cited above, think that would be a good idea.

But it's not just the egg heads, because...


The great majority of all Canadians of every single political stripe according to a recent Abacus poll (see image at the top of the post) also think it is a very good idea, indeed.

Which begs the question...

Why isn't a wealth tax that everyone wants, and that will make things better for (just about) everyone, a slam dunk?

I would argue that the answer is staring us right in the face in the form of those two graphs from Pinketty and Saez, et al.,  above.



Saturday, December 11, 2021

An Up-To-Date Summary... What We Know About The Omicron Variant.


From the ever vigilant Eric Topol...

Dr. Topol has also started going longform at his Substack.

It's good.


Friday, December 10, 2021

Crawling Through The Bloggodome (v2)


Mostly Lotuslandianish...
Crawford Kilian, who seems to have unleashed himself on the Twittmachine lately, has an interesting piece up in the Tyee about how things would change if we went all in on true multiparty democracy...I'm not sure I completely agree with him but it's an interesting thought experiment.

Norm Farrell is on fire this week...He has three posts up on issues with carbon accounting, our provincial government's continuing fossil fuel promotion and the reasons why we have avoided dealing with flood risk management in concrete ways around here...I'm sure there are many Dipperians who are distressed by Norm's work. I feel differently as I see him doing the heavy lifting required to help us (i.e. the citizenry and the folks that elected them) force the current government to do the right thing in that (mythical?) old FDR way of harnessing the base...

In their latest, the City Duo folks do the work that no proMedia outlet is doing around here and explain why, by taking us through a recent public hearing, getting new rental housing stock approved and built is so difficult in Lotusland Central...I also really dig their 'Backlash Expectation' segments for individual development projects around town that they embed in their posts...These folks really know their stuff and I learn something every time I check in with them.

Stephen Rees, who is often doing other things these days, rambles off in all directions in a blog post that includes passages on sewage discharge into rivers, water privatization, the seeping of Hayek's brain into the center and even, gasp!, the center left's policies in this country and province, the recent federal throne speech, and why he came to Canada in the first place...Not a word on local transit issues but a very interesting read, nonetheless

The Mound of Sound, backed with a GStraight piece from Charlie Smith, has a short, biting post up on why carbon capture as a way to deal even with current (as opposed to future) emissions is a fantasy that even wee Willy VZ couldn't have imagined back in the days he and his were doing their full tilting at windmills boogie.

Speaking of Hayekian thinking...Dan Fumano had a piece in the VSun not long ago about how the usual suspects, with help from a Texas lobbying company that boasts it specializes in 'liberating our clients of the burden of being overtaxed', are pushing to give businesses voting rights in upcoming local elections....Seriously.

Local Lotuslandian legend Raymond Tomlin has the blow-by-blow on how CoV council came up with their vote on the new 6.35% property tax increase...Earlier in the week the always eclectic RT had a most useful post up (for those of us looking for holiday season viewing options) on best picture Oscar contenders.

If I haven't blathered on too much on the subject already...I can't emphasize enough how much some of the new local media Co's like the Fraser Valley Current and the Capital Daily are doing to cover local issues that matter, often with considerable depth and context...Local CBC numbers guy Justin McElroy also has his MediaMatters newsletter firing on all pollable cylinders.

What I'm Listening To...
It's a little softballish but I do enjoy listening to David Eby and Katrina Chen talk like normal humans on their semi-regular podcast 'The Dash'....Why?...Well, it seems that I might actually be learning something about what the issues  each of them thinks are important, pretty much unfiltered...I'd be very interested to think what reader EG thinks about it (and whether I'm off base in my conclusion)...

Image at the top of the post is a proposed development at 5590 Victoria Drive with low backlash potential according to the City Duo (scroll down)...It has six floors of rental, 30% below market, which, in my opinion, is a good thing.


Wednesday, December 08, 2021

A Modest Proposal To Decrease Demonstrable Falsehoods Published On Social Media Platforms.


A few weeks ago I noticed that a couple of websites that I, myself, had linked to awhile back had started to post what I considered to be objectionable material that showed up, in real time, on the 'Blog Crawl' that used to be over on the left sidebar.

I was concerned enough by this that I tried to remove the websites concerned.

Unfortunately, the archaic 'Blogger' service that I still use to host this site no longer allows one to edit the 'Blog Crawl' widget.

As a result, I removed the widget altogether.


Because I am responsible for the material that is posted on this blog.

In other words, I consider myself to the 'publisher' of the thing, and all that shows up on it, as small as those potatoes may be.



It would appear that the folks that run the biggest of the biggliest social media sites do not feel the same way as I do.

Essentially, they consider themselves to be passive platforms rather than publishers and thus conclude that they are not responsible for what shows up on their subscriber's sites.

I can go along with that argument when it comes to the material generated by individual subscribers themselves.

However, I completely disagree when it comes to any and all material that is recommended to/foisted on those same subscribers, much of it based on promotional algorithms designed to keep said subscribers engaged and/or enraged for as long as possible.

Why does the latter point matter?

Because if they were designated publishers it would force the bigly platforms to take ownership of all the 'third party' stuff that they promote which void them from the protections such as those afforded by that Wild Wild West provision of the US Internet Code that is 'Section 230'.

And, as such, they should be subject to all the rules, regulations and libel laws that any publisher is.


Of course, others have thought hard about this already....The point is that if this change were made it would actually incentivize fine folks like Mr. Zee of FaceHarbour to actually reign in their  algorithms for real and, perhaps even more importantly, permanently.
Image at the top of the post...Carol Burnett after she won a libel suit against the tabloidiest publisher way back in 1981 as reported by the UPI.


Sunday, December 05, 2021

Your Evening Audio....Helpless (N. Young Cover)


It's either about Omemee or it's not about Omemee in North Ontario.

But one thing is for sure. 

Uncle Neil originally recorded it with Crazy Horse before he became a hired gun for those other guys.

Here's my key-shifted version...

at the top of the post?....This.


Wednesday, December 01, 2021

What Do Mel Brooks And The Very Best Gradual Students Have In Common?


One of the things I've learned over my considerable number of years in the science geek business is that the very best gradual students*, those who have already looked at an hypothesis from every conceivable angle, will often listen patiently to my suggestions about what will make a good next experiment and say something like 'Yes, sure, we can try that.'  

Then, of course, they will immediately head back to the lab bench and do the exact experiment that they wanted to do in the first place.


It turns out that that is precisely how Mel Brooks dealt with meddling movie studio executives back in the day.

Here's the story according to Mr. Brooks, as told to Michael Schulman of the New Yorker recently:
...I’d learned one very simple trick: say yes. Simply say yes. Like Joseph E. Levine, on “The Producers,” said, “The curly-haired guy—he’s funny looking. Fire him.” He wanted me to fire Gene Wilder. And I said, “Yes, he’s gone. I’m firing him.” I never did.

After the screening of “Blazing Saddles,” the head of Warner Bros. threw me into the manager’s office, gave me a legal pad and a pencil, and gave me maybe twenty notes. He would have changed “Blazing Saddles” from a daring, funny, crazy picture to a stultified, dull, dusty old Western...


...He said, “You can’t punch a horse.” I said, “You’ll never see it again.” I kept saying, “You’re absolutely right. It’s out!” Then, when he left, I crumpled up all his notes, and I tossed it in the wastepaper basket...

Imagine that!

*A gradual student is a young whipper snapper chasing a PhD who keeps doing experiments until they gradually decide it's time to stop and move on to become a post-doctoral fellow, the next rung on the sci-geek ladder.


Friday, November 26, 2021

Crawling Through The Bloggodome...



Tyler Olsen, Fraser Valley Current guy, has produced an excellent series on what's really been driving the flooding in the Fraser Valley...One of his insightful pieces explains the (easily predicted) hows and whys of the Sumas dike failure....Postmedia's Dean of the Legislative Press Gallery, Mr. Palmer of VSun Harbour, has come out of hibernation and produced a solid historical treatise on who's responsible for what and what needs to be done both north and south of the border to mitigate future Fraser Valley flooding.

Bob Mackin, FOIA man about town, has been digging into what the heckfire is going on out in Surrey re: the putative police force's PR push and the pushback attempts by some of the citizenry.

The fine folks at City Duo, who really do a spectacular job at following the development planning process in Lotusland Central, report on what's (potentially) in the works for the Jericho lands.

Data modelling and visualization guy Jens von Bergman crunches the numbers and critiques the graphs on three years of (available) speculation and vacancy tax data.

Andrew McLeod, reporting in the Tyee, explains the politics (of the possible?) behind the provincial Dippers' five day paid sick leave plan that starts on New Year's day.....Also in the Tyee, Katie Hyslop reports on First Call's latest report on local child poverty and concludes that the income gap between parents is growing, which of course filters directly down to kids.

Alexandra Morton explains why, after showing receipts, she has concluded that the BC Salmon Farmers' Ass'n is attempting to discredit her research. 

Norm! (Farrell) asks if we can prevent capitalism from destroying the world we live in and suggests that pro-journos can help us do just that by heeding the words of Albert Camus.

Other Stuffing...

David Climenhaga wonders if Alberta taxpayers will be on the hook for Mr. Kenney's legal costs in the wake of his alleged (look, Ma, no air qoutes!) defamation of eight Canadian environmental groups.

Digby wonders if Mr. Trump even knows that Bernie Kerik is not his lawyer given that the good Mr. Kerik is not, you know, an actual lawyer.....Also over at Ms. Parton's 'Hullabaloo', Dennis Hartley runs down his top 10 foodie films for USian Thanksgiving weekend eye gorging...Diner is #4! (I think)...

Josh Marshall, writing at TPM, explains why he has concluded that some of the biggest of the big Tech Bros are maximum force neo-reactionaries.

Emptywheel explains how the uber alleish folks at Project Veritas are trying to Special Master their way out of revealing what was found by an FBI search of the home of PV founder man James O'Keefe.

Pharma guy Derek Lowe, who has proven his bonafides around here many times over, gives us his take on the latest experimental (in mice) Alzheimer's vaccine research and concludes that it is reasonable to cautiously proceed to clinical trials on two fronts.... I'm not so sure given the antigens/targets involved.

Musical Musings...

The folks over at Cover Me list all of their favourite covers of of songs from Uncle Neil's 'Harvest'...Me, I'm a sucker for Motorjesus' build-to-a-crescendo power metal ballad version of 'Old Man'.

And, what do you know.... Irglova and Hansard are going out on tour in the spring...They won't come anywhere near Lotusland but, at the very least, their will be a whole lot of footage on the down the Tubez I reckon.

What I'm Listening To...

A fantastic podcast called Fun City Cinema about movies made in and/or about New York City...If you like depth and research and both familiar and surprising stuff you will like this - It's also really well done...My favourite episode so far is about the No Wave Women scene that sprang from the Lower Eastside in the mid/late '70's (and we're not just talking about the film makers that we're making it happen in $350 per month, 2500 sq. foot loft spaces at the time - all the usual musical suspects and more were part of the mix). 

Image at the top of the post is from Susan Seidelman's 1982 seminal No Wave film 'Smithereens'...


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Hybrid Life


Late last week I was getting ready to deliver a lecture that I hoped would be a multi-media masterpiece in which the glycosaminoglycan hyaluronic acid (HA) would be at the center.

HA is the goopy snot of the extracellular matrix that all cells are either surrounded by or grab on to. It is also critical in many tissues because it contributes to hydration, fills space, and helps steer migrating cells, including immune cells, to their destination.

HA is also the principal component of the first, new provisional matrix in many wound situations and thus has lots of medical uses.


Once I had last week's lecture all set up and was ready to start discussing things with the students in front of me, each of us behind our masks, I fired up the Zoom machine so that the young folks from far away and/or those that might have been ill that day, and/or didn't have enough gas to fill their tanks, etc., could participate as well. 

These hybrid teaching days I run the Zoom presentation through my box and use my phone to monitor the chat - even kids present in the class use that and I've actually found that this facilitates discussion, especially in large enrolment undergraduate classes where it can be intimidating to ask a question out loud. 

Anyway, with all that going on I forgot to hit the 'Record' button so that the lecture could be downloaded afterward from the cloud and archived on the course website.

Which meant that, when I got back to my office,  I had to shut the door and do the darned thing all over again.

So, to make sure that my absent-mindedness would not lead to such a (mini-minor) calamity again in the future, I asked my young colleague, the course teaching assistant, to take control of the Zoom as she is one of the most tech-savvy people I know.

Unfortunately, today something went wrong and the transfer from the cloud back to the course website and we lost yet another lecture recording.

As a result, I had to skip my current, assigned task in the lab later in the day, which is to cull the no-longer needed cell stocks in the liquid nitrogen tanks (because the kids in the lab don't want me getting in the way of their actual experiments), so that I could repeat record yet another lecture.


Image at the top of the post is the core disaccharide (double sugar)  that gets repeated over and over and over and over again in HA.


Monday, November 22, 2021

The Freelon Unit


In my opinion, there is no public intellectual who gets things wrong more often, based apparently on conversations he has with cabbies, than NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman*.

Perhaps Mr. Friedman's most notorious codswallop was his repeated insistence that the successful end of the Bush Administration's misadventure in Iraq was just around the corner, in six months, tops.

This led to the birth of the 'Friedman Unit':
The Friedman (Unit) is approximately six months, specifically six months in the future, and named after columnist Thomas Friedman who repeatedly used the span in reference to when a determination of Iraq's future could be surmised...


It would appear that, in his column last week on how to deal with climate change under the headline "Want to Save the Earth? We Need a Lot More Elon Musks", Mr. Friedman may have come up with a brand new unit to once again call his kinda/sorta own:
If I am brutally honest, there is only one motto I would give to the movement to stem climate change after the Glasgow summit: “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.”...


...We will get there only when Father Profit and risk-taking entrepreneurs produce transformative technologies that enable ordinary people to have extraordinary impacts on our climate without sacrificing much — by just being good consumers of these new technologies.

In short: we need a few more Greta Thunbergs and a lot more Elon Musks. That is, more risk-taking innovators converting basic science into tools yet to be imagined to protect the planet for a generation yet to be born...

Because, of course, rocket boosters and (gasp!) massive subsidies.

Not to mention Theranos, Pied Piper Hubs and/or Bigheads Galore. 


Those Silicon Valley uber-drivers must really salivate, hard, every time they see Mr. Friedman coming...

*Unless, as Driftglass would tell you, it is the Moustache's stable mate, David  F. Brooks.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

This Is The End...Of The 'Blog Crawl'


Today, as much as I know it is going to upset some regular readers, I decided to pull the plug on the 'Blog Crawl' that used to run over on the left sidebar. 

The crawl was a widget in the Blogger toolbox that pulled up and posted the latest from a list of self-curated blog sites in a running, daily tally.

Personally, it's what I used to look at first when I would log on to this site in the morning. Then  I would go through a cycle of pro/media news before finishing up at my own private Idaho of Twittmachine feeds.


Why end the Blog Crawl then?

Well, recently, I've been worried about two aspects of the thing.

First, Google/Blogger has wrecked/disabled (either on purpose or through neglect) the ability to edit the Crawl widget which means that you can't add new sites, correct sites that have changed their feed addresses, or remove sites you decide you no longer want to promote.

And it's that's last bit that led to my second, and biggest reason, for removing the Crawl.

Which is that, unlike, say, the Book of Faces, met or un-met(a), I do not consider this site to be just a platform. Instead, I consider myself, in my own very small way, to be an algorithmic decider and, therefore, a publisher.

Which means that I hold myself responsible for the choices I make about what shows up here, including the writings on a couple of sites on the Crawl that became increasingly reactionary over the last year or so (you can probably guess which ones).

Thus, because I can't control it, I've shut the thing down.

I've also culled and updated the 'Bloggodome' blog list.

In doing so, I've brought two sites up the top of the list - Accidental Deliberations (more Canuckistanian) and Mike the Mad Biologist (more American), both of which do an excellent job of providing interesting, newsworthy and reliable links pretty much daily.

And on that 'link' worthy note...
Norm Farrell explains how big money is (still) killing democracy around here...Here.

Laila Yuile demonstrates that the Ministry of Transport knew that one really big rain, coupled with a rapid snowmelt, would spell trouble for the Lotuslandian highway system...Here.

And, our old friend and rabble rouser, the Reverend Paperboy is back blogging - this time about how the Moe government in Saskatchewan is doing its darndest to damage the citizenry in that fair province...Here.

The revised 'Bloggodome' list still contains some 'dead' sites in the bottom half...I've kept these for historical and/or personal reasons...


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

What I'm Listening To....Jay Rosen (Not) Talking To Ezra Klein.


Jay Rosen is an American academic and media critic who has a fantastic blog called 'Press Think'.

Recently, Rosen was on Ezra Klein's legacy media-motored podcast to talk about why the said media, writ large, has lost it's mojo when it comes to reporting and commenting on US politics.

And, in addition to the wise words from Mr. Rosen, another great thing about this particular episode is that you won't have to listen to Mr. Klein's sartorially savvy mushification of those same wise words.

And that's because the guest host, media historian Nicole Hemmer, is excellent.


A direct, legacy media - (mostly) free, link to the podcast is....Here. 

Tip 'O The Toque to Mr. Glass of Drift Harbour who makes a fantastic weekly podcast of his own, totally legacy media-free, with the indomitable Bluegal.


Can The Latest European Resurgence Of COVID Cases Be Explained?


Covid cases are surging in Europe again.

And that includes Western Europe where vaccination numbers, over all, have been strong.


Can this latest European surge this be explained?

Eric Topol of the Scripps Institute, who has demonstrated his bonafides around here before, thinks that there is (at least) a three part explanation which he wrote about in a recent piece for The Guardian.

Number one is the issue of vaccination rates:
...(T)here (is still) a large proportion of unvaccinated individuals (including children and teenagers) in each country, and only countries such as Spain at 80% and Portugal at 88% that fully vaccinated their total populations have set a high bar and have thus far withstood the continental trend of rise in cases. Noteworthy is Belgium with 74% fully vaccinated and one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, now at 79/100,000, currently 10th highest caseload globally. That alone tells us 74% isn’t enough, and that prior Covid (without vaccination, what some refer to as “natural immunity”) is unreliable for representing a solid immunity wall against the Delta variant. In fact, it has been projected for Delta that any country needs to achieve 90-95% of its total population fully vaccinated (or with recent Covid) in order to have population-level immunity that covers, providing relative protection, for the others...

Number two is the issue of waning immunity, post vaccination (and why in BC that switch to mix and match post AZ vaccine dose #1 was likely a very good thing, population-wise). Topol also makes the case that boosters should roll out for everyone based on the Israeli data that we have discussed here before (this is also the plan in BC):
...(T)here is evidence of waning of immunity on top of the hyper-contagious Delta strain. Even though much of Europe got a later start in vaccination, a recent study showed that with the Astra Zeneca vaccine the decline in anti-spike antibody occurred quite early and there was a clear relationship between antibody levels and breakthrough infections. Decline below the anti-spike antibody threshold of 500 U/ml was reached at 96 days for AstraZeneca’s vaccine compared with 257 days for Pfizer’s. The impact of waning, and the opportunity to restore very high (~95%) effectiveness of mRNA vaccines (specifically Pfizer/BioNtech) with booster (third) shots has been unequivocally proven from the Israeli data. Yet the adoption of boosters, even in the highest-risk groups such as age 60 plus, has been very slow...

Number three is the issue the issue of the relaxation of mitigation measures (and it is here that I worry about most in both present, full house event BC as well as in future,  household small gathering BC):
... (T)here has been relaxation or abandonment of mitigation measures. Countries such as Denmark and Norway completely reopened and have seen resurgence of cases since that occurred. Throughout the world, the profound pandemic fatigue has led to the irresistible notion that the pandemic end is nigh, that masks, distancing, and other measures have run their course, essentially that enough is enough. It is hard to imagine fighting a foe as formidable as Delta that a vaccine-only strategy can be effective. We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in Japan, with full return to baseline after their worst outbreak, by the combination of high level of vaccination and the continued use of masks and mitigation measures...

The other thing that Topol points out is how we in (North) America previously ignored or, at the very least, reacted slowly to what happened in Europe when the first big viral outbreaks occurred in March of 2020, the alpha variant emerged in late 2020, and the delta variant emerged in the summer of 2021.


Will we ignore/react slowly to what is happening in Europe this time as well?

Dr. Topol is, in my opinion, the best Twittmachine follow when it comes to COVID public health and research updates.