27 November 2020

On the numbers, news, etc.

 So a few friends posted and sent around a report from CTV which claimed that 98.8% of all deaths in Canada from Covid 19 have been people who are in Long Term Care (LTC) facilities, and the total number of deaths outside of LTCs was placed at 166.  I was asked to respond, and I said I would check around, speak to some people whose opinion I respected and who know more than I do about medicine and numbers and statistics before I spoke.

Before I begin, let me say that I am highly skeptical of reports in the news reports.  I've said it before, but I have had the experience, repeatedly, of reading a newspaper, hearing them report on matters about which I know little or nothing, and I took them at face value.  Then I flipped the page and ran into a story about which i do happen to know a little, and I found that they were dead wrong, and the 'facts' they cited were true, but in a fun house mirror sort of way: they were removed or twisted from the context that gave them meaning.  So I dismissed that article as rubbish, and then turned the page to some matter where, again, I know little, and I took it at face value.  After a while I asked myself this: if they were wrong every single time they wrote on a topic of which I had some knowledge, why on earth would I trust them to get it right when I had no knowledge?  And with that, I no longer placed any faith in the news.

And I am not alone in this.  More and more people are skeptical of news, but every now and then the news tells them something and they run with it. As happened here.

The reaction I am getting from my friends is that the claim of only 166 outside of LTCs is bogus.  I had suspected as much.  I have read many instances of people not in such institutions dying: a young child, a young man in his 20's, a couple of doctors working ICUs, and so on.  For the number of deaths in that range to be a mere 166, that would have to mean that the news outlets covered nearly every single non LTC death.  My friends sent me links to other sources of numbers, which place the number of non LTC deaths much higher.

(Note: the overwhelming majority of deaths are still in the LTCs, and that is an abomination that must be addressed.)

The argument is that, with so few deaths outside the LCTs as the CTV report claimed, the new restrictions are not warranted.

But, if I recall correctly, what has been said, consistently from the beginning, is that the restrictions put in place are not about the death rate per se, but about the rate at which people end up in the ICUs and the consequences of our health system being overwhelmed.  As one of the people I heard from put it:

It's true that most fatalities are older. If you conflates (sic) LTC with 70+ you might capture close to 90% of fatalities to date. But that still leaves over a thousand younger dead.
And if you look at cases requiring ICU hospitalization, there is a big fat middle with men 40-49 and 80+ being the shoulders of the distribution.
When ICUs hit capacity, it won't just be old people dying. And the people who do survive are often leaving with long-term sequelae.

I have been told that some of Toronto's ICUs are at or near capacity.  

Now, whether or not this merits shutting down everything, again, is another matter, and I will discuss my thoughts on that another time.  I'll also get around to discussing our Cardinal deciding to dispense with the public celebration of Mass entirely rather than have Mass celebrate with smaller attendance (2-6, depending on the number of celebrants, lectors, singers, caretakers, sacristans, greeters, etc) later.


25 November 2020

Some of the things I will be attempting to sell, second try

Update: Can anyone see the pictures I've posted here?

(Note:  I am trying this again.  Hopefully, this time the photos come up.)


I was preparing to sell stuff for this sale since last January, but my selling strategy was based on inexpensive impulse buys.  That isn't the best strategy for online, or so it seems.  At any rate, here are a few of my things.

I need to take a better picture of this one.

Some angels.




Some birds.

More to come later.

24 November 2020

Appeal to the past.

I ran into this article as about three or four people I know linked to it on their web pages.


"The Courage of Michael Power: crucial for our time."

The gist of the article appeals to Power's famous treatment of the Irish poor and sick who arrived on our shores in the summer and fall of Black '47, and how he selflessly treated them day in and day out in the fever sheds, regardless to the personal cost. 

There are a few problems with appealing to Power, the first being that the only thing most people know about him is how he ended up dying serving the poor as he caught the dreaded Typhus from the sick Irish and died himself from the disease.  What is less well known is his relationship to the government of his time.  To put it simply: he got along with them, and avoided making waves.

I explain that in my response to the article:

"What Power would have done is a tough question. On the one hand, as you point out, Power did spend much of his days in the summer and fall of '47 in the fever sheds (which were on the grounds of the Hospital, where the Bell Lightbox now stands). However, his relationship with government was complex. When he took the newly formed diocese, he travelled to London before he came to Toronto in order to get the British government on board with recognizing the new diocese. This was a bit of a problem because the Anglicans had not formed a diocese around Toronto yet, which meant Power would outrank the local Anglican prelate. Power, however, was a Anglophile who believed the British Empire could be a force for good in the world- once it was properly converted, of course. He managed to convince the British that having a Catholic bishop in Toronto would be a good idea in part by arguing that a bishop would be better able to keep an eye on the flock and perhaps prevent Catholics from taking part in a rebellion again, as they had in large numbers in 1837. (He argued this despite the fact that the Rebellion of 1837 in Lower Canada erupted in his parish, under his nose, and he knew nothing of it.) So when he came to Toronto, he had no intention of causing waves, and he every intention of keeping his flock in line. He was respected by the Protestant leaders in Toronto, to the point that two of them- Edgerton Ryerson and John Strachan- chose Power to be the first chair of the first board of education in Ontario. Power tried to create Catholic schools within that system, not form his own system. That was done by his successor, Charbonnel.

"So, if you want to argue that Power would have acted courageously in the face of this crisis- yes, he most likely would have. If you want to suggest that he would have gone against the government and encouraged his flock to have done the same- that is unlikely."

As I said, he would have acted courageously.  What form that courage would have taken, though, is impossible to say.  If one wishes to argue that he would have gone against the government mandate (which the article does not say), that seems unlikely. 

22 November 2020

And back into quarantine we go.

Today is the last day I am able to physically attend Mass for the next four weeks, unless I'm asked to help with the livestream.  

The details are simple enough: numbers of covid in my city have risen, and therefore the provincial government has announced a modified lockdown in my city for twenty eight days starting Monday,  which includes a ban on religious services with more than ten people- celebrants and volunteers included. So at Mass today we had a priest, a thurifer, a lector, the sacristan, the caretaker, a person at the door who checks the names of people against those who signed up on line to attend, and to make sure we do not go over our numbers, (the sacristan and the caretaker doubled down on their duties and directed people to appropriate seats and made sure spacing regulations were observed) plus organist and cantor- so eight people involved in the celebration.  That would leave space for two in the congregation.  Or we could ditch the lector, possibly the organist as well, and get rid of the sacristan or the caretaker, and have the remaining one do double duty, plus the job of the person minding the door, who could then also be ditched, and keep possibly the cantor.  That would allow for a congregation to increase to three times the size, to six. That would mean my family, plus one other person.  Some families I know would have to leave some at home. And this would be across the city, with parishes whose numbers range from hundreds to thousands. Despite the miniscule numbers involved,  the church would have to be cleaned and disinfected after every Mass, same as it is now.

Our Cardinal decided instead to cancel the public celebration of Mass for the duration of this lockdown, which will include almost the entirety of Advent. Certainly every Sunday of it.  If the numbers remain high, we may lose Christmas Mass in person as well, even as we lost Easter.

It's a sign of how lucky we are, that this is a burden upon us.  In many places, not being able to attend Mass for weeks at a time is the norm, not the exception.  Even in Canada, there are many such places.  My wife and I have considered moving to other provinces, but in several of the places we have looked, the website for the local church often lists Mass as taking place every second Sunday of the month, and sometimes only that during the summer months.  Otherwise, nothing.  It is my hope, though not my expectation, that many of my fellow Catholics will feel a renewed love for the Mass and for their spiritual home, and that those who go through these months will learn to never again take the Mass for granted.

If anyone is inclined to comment on the situation, even to say you disagree with the Cardinal's decision, feel free. However, if the only way you express your displeasure with the Cardinal is by calling him names and throwing out insults, your comments will be deleted.  Name calling makes no point, furthers no argument, and deserves no respect.  It shall be given none here.

17 November 2020

Different times, different manners.

I decided to go outside my comfort zone for a bit. With the covid situation there are no in person bazaars or craft shows happening in the city right now, and a lot of charities that raised money through said shows are being forced to improvise. The long and the short is that I've signed up for one virtual show, I've never sold my stuff on line before like this, and they've never run a show like this before, so this could be sub optimal. The first thing I need to do now is photograph all my work.
On the upside, they informed me that if I could get my application in before Friday they would waive the usual application fee, which just leaves them taking ten percent of my sales revenue. So now I must jack up all my prices considerably, as they want to tell would be customers that shipping and handling is free, (I hope that's just for within Ontario.) I should be doing this anyway, as I am a chronic undercharger. I believe I inherited it from my mother. She practically apologized when she told people the cost of her paintings, and would often mumble that the cost of paint went up, etc.
This is not something I am terribly comfortable with, but this is what I have to work with, so... here we go.

11 November 2020

Remembrance Day


My mother's favourite cousin died in July of 1942. He was killed in a training accident in England. Among my mother's things are two boxes of letters he wrote to her from his time in training, including the one he wrote days before his death, when he mentioned how proud he was to be part of his crew.
He was a navigator in a Stirling bomber. The family was told the crash was due to the plane being lost in a fog. That is at odds with other reports of the crash. I believe the family was told it was due to fog to spare their feelings.
The crash began with the plane itself. The Stirling was the first of the British four engine heavy bombers. it was originally designed with a 120 foot wingspan, but they had no hangars that could fit a plane that size, so thirty feet were chopped off the wings, which cut back on the amount of lift the plane had, reducing its ceiling (many Stirlings were lost because they were hit by bombs dropped by the higher flying Lancasters and Halifaxes) and gave it a terribly slow rate of climb.
At the time of the crash, the crew had an observer on board. Shortly before the crash, the plane was seen to fly over the the observers village. This lead the board of inquiry to conclude that the crew had probably decided to give the observer a treat and show him his home from the air. He probably even said 'I can see my house from here!' They passed low to give him a good view.
After buzzing the village, the plane found itself in a valley which ended in a large hill. Witnesses said they saw the crew throwing equipment out of the plane. This would have been in an attempt to lighten the plane, to enable it to climb a little faster to clear the hill. It didn't.
Only the tail gunner survived the crash, and not for long.
Though he never saw combat, my mother's cousin and the crew of that bomber too were casualties of war, and are to be remembered on this day.

2 November 2020

All Souls' Day, anniversary, and my next virtual history walk...

Today is the Feast of All Souls.  Remember the dead in your prayers, and, if you can, visit a cemetery and pray for the dead there, especially for those who are no longer remembered and have none to pray for them.  There are several indulgences available for today.  

As well, if you could in your charity, please remember my mother in your prayers.  Today is the anniversary of her death.

Lastly, my next virtual walk is coming up Tuesday, November 10th, and will be on the subject of Remembrance, in honour of Remembrance Day.  (I tried to come up with something for saints for All Saints' Day- it would be about the less than saintly lives many saints lead before turning to the Lord and called 'Sain't Misbehavin''- but I just didn't have the time to put it together) My goal is not to go over the battles or the generals or the heroes, but to try and look more into the life of the average soldier, mainly in the first world war, (although I have been going through a bunch of letters my mother kept from her favourite cousin who died training for the Second, and I could mine that for some interesting insights.  Maybe next year) with a little from the second.  As it stands at the moment, I will be drawing heavily though not exclusively from a source not typically used by most historians: comic strips.  

Anyone interested, let me know.