Care to go shopping with her?

Apologies: this blog REALLY needs pictures but sometimes one is too caught up in the activity to make selfies.

Friday was a major storm day. Winds at 30+ gusting to 50…MPH, not Kms/hr. 50 to 80 kms/hr. Our wind turbine was screaming. When the winds exceed 30, the unit has a small centrifugal brake in it that slows the revolutions but it does so by applying gradual friction and that results in what sounds like a dog barking. I awoke to that. Sheesh!

“It’s a howlin’..think the water taxi will run today?”

“Yeah. Forty feet of twin dieseled heavy aluminum cuts through most anything but they won’t go around the Cape. No one will go around the Cape today. They’ll go with the storm, head north and creep back down the back channels. Why?”

“J and I are going up to get the food the taxi is bringing. We are going to help distribute it and then come home. “

I was looking at the whitecaps and feeling the house shake. “It is mayhem out there but, if you go with it, you’ll be fine. Coming back will be a slog. I recommend discretion rather than a shower.”

“Can’t. Jud is coming down from up northways in her little boat….she’s gotta pound into it. And you know her area…..she gets water spouts up there! We should go just to make sure she gets down safely. Still, we may be a bit longer. If it gets crazy, we’ll stay up there somewhere til it calms down.”

They were gone almost three hours. The pick-up point is just two miles away. Getting to the grocery meet was relatively easy but coming back was insane. The waves were at least five feet and, for a 17′ boat, that is a challenge. And they were stacked up so that the space between them was short. Makes the boat leap up and down. One second they are looking down a wave and the next they are thinking they may be blown over backwards. And they are getting soaked.

“We were just off the point when a major gust hit. HOLLEEEEEEEE!!!! The gust was enough to make me stop the boat. I could not see for the spindrift. We were face-washed by waves coming over the bow and we have a good windshield! J was just trying to look out for stray logs so that we didn’t hit one and could barely open her eyes! We were both soaked to the bone. I left the bulk of the groceries at her place. Too much to carry. We can get ’em tomorrow.”

Good boat. Good company. Short distance (two miles). Took three hours. At least one of them was of hard going. Got soaked. She just went to the store for some milk, bread and a few veggies. Grocery shopping is sometimes a bit different out here.

“Wow! Quite the adventure, eh?”

“Nah. Just a little wind and water. We’ve had worse. Piece o’ cake!”

This week

Ordinary, I suppose. OTG ordinary, anyway. We have what we might call ordinary days but, of course, they are extraordinary to our previous lives and so they are still kinda special.

We worked on Sal’s Suzuki until Sal was so good at getting the carb in and out of the ridiculously tight space, it seemed like minutes. She does her work sitting at the back of her little 11′ boat and leaning over the engine – not easy. The first time she did it, it took most of the day. The last time (maybe the sixth?), was all of five minutes. Grease-monkey Sal. Sadly, it was all to no avail. The damn thing just won’t run right so it has to go to grease-monkey-GOD Jay, who somehow seems to be able to fix anything. We hauled the motor off her boat, packed it in my boat and hauled it over Wednesday to Jay’s boat. His boat was at the other-island dock where we then picked up the doctor to deliver him for his monthly clinic.

We also had an old genset down at the lagoon that we were just not using enough to leave it there and so we went to fetch it using muscles, sliding beams, Sal’s boat (paddled), the block and tackle, highline and winch and then various carrying contraptions ’cause it weighed a ton. Interestingly, I had not run that genset for over 18 months. I tried starting it. Third pull, it fired up! Amazing. That genset had to then come up a steep hill about 80-90′ long and then down to the shop for servicing.

I serviced two engines and got them running. The old genset ran but not properly so it is next in line. I also disassembled and modified an electric motor with which I will power a big ol’ winch that was designed for arm-strength only. That winch takes forever so the electric motor will make it all more efficient – when I get it all put together. I am half-way.

We lifted and sorted about twenty logs on one of the days, too That’s just brute labour. Good thing Sal is a brute! Together, we grab the log-carrier and drag 8 foot logs along the ground then stack ’em so they dry. That was a good job. Plus, a tree that had been leaning fell during the last big windstorm and it fell in precisely the right place. Can’t let that good fortune go ignored so we trimmed that tree, cut it into rounds and added them to the woodpile. Kinda on a roll…..

All the batteries needed attending to. So, we unearthed them (usually hidden behind boxes of stores). And topped up the water levels. They were due. It was a good thing. A bit tedious, to be sure, but very critical to this lifestyle.

Put in the new kitchen tap set. NO leaks. All good. Filled up all the gas containers (going through three liters a day) as there is no sun and the solar panels are doing nothing. SO we are running the genset a lot (for us). Three hours a day? Our heat tapes are on in the dark hours and they draw a chunk. Heat tapes are remarkably efficient but still, we have about 150 feet of tape and when they all kick on, they draw juice.

Having a slow-ant invasion. When the temps drop, the critters look for warmth. We have managed to keep anything a quarter the size of a mouse OUT but ants have found access. But usually only about for our five a day and they are moving like slugs so we are doing good. When building a cottage, pay extra, extra special attention to sealing everything you can. Make it ant-proof.

Water is bloody cold these days. Showers are just a bit better than luke warm. Sal also went up the creek and re-worked the water pick-up again. That’s running nicely now. I also cleaned up the workshop on one day and two days later, it looked like it always does…a mess….

Chopped kindling, cleaned up the garden, household chores, managed the Home Care program, our neighbour J. brought in the six sheets of plywood we need for a ramp rebuild, tried a bunch of new dinner recipes, Sal’s always-on quilts, snatched up a few logs from the sea that were floating around (high tides right now), wrote blogs, consulted with some clients, watched Netflix at night, drank scotch, read, read, read.

Sometimes I nap now. Must be the Covid, eh?

Rafe said,

“Beware the experts.” Rafe Mair (1931-2017) was a small C provincial conservative and radio broadcaster who moved more and more GREEN as he aged. But, as a lawyer and politician, he was outspoken, sane, a smidge biased towards the status quo but still fair and, at times, more than just a little progressive. Rafe was a free-thinker. Rafe is famous for many things but, to me, it was the phrase quoted above, “Beware the experts!” Rafe inherently understood that the experts were not only NOT always right, but also that ‘expert opinion’ could be bought.

We have relied on the experts to guide us through all sorts of things and, usually, they get us muddled through enough but more and more they are NOT getting the job done (climate change, pandemics, economy, homelessness, policing, drug addiction, the list is endless). Just recently, Trudeau-the-international-political-expert we have chosen to lead us offered to proportionately fund the C-19 virus vaccine research so that Canada could be on the list of first recipients when a vaccine was finally approved. Three of the four leading pharmaceutical labs are American. Trump-the-US-expert said, “No way am I helping that sh***y Trudeau”. So much for smile-power and political expertise Justin…..

Two weeks ago, masks were not mandatory and travel was not restricted. Today, our experts have ‘flipped’. Now masks are mandatory and we are travel restricted. Asia went all-mask-all-the-time from the get go. Some expertise….

But it is more than just that….way more than that……

While it is true that we have chosen to listen to Trump and his experts and Trudeau and his experts despite overwhelming evidence of their incompetence, we have also chosen to listen to Tam and Fauci and Henry despite their sad and tragic lack of success on this virus threat. We have also chosen to delegate most significant social issues to ‘other’ experts who’s primary manifestation of expertise seems to be that they get paid a lot of money and have degrees while attending endless meetings.

Wanna hear some real, deep-seated dumb experts? Go ask the ‘drug experts’ about the right approach to the less visible drug-addiction pandemic. Or homelessness advocates on how to deal with that issue.

And how many experts meet how many times in how many places to further discuss climate change? Duh!

The real problem with trusting the experts is that it eats up great gobs of time and casts us in the role of mindless, do-nothing sheep, the great unwashed and the ultimately madding crowd. We are the herd. Individually, we do not want to take the heavy, socially-defined responsibility (that requires a huge undertaking of degree collecting and politicking) for everyone else and – THIS IS THE CRAZY PART – we are equally as reluctant, hesitant, resistant to even taking responsibility for OURSELVES!!!

And that is the worst part: we have abdicated our own responsibilities to our institutions and so-called experts. In experts we trust – at increasingly greater and greater risk to ourselves.

BEWARE the experts. They are often self-proclaimed, they are biased by ambition and faith, they are motivated by money and they are only a smidge more technically capable in their field than a keen reader and/or Google-searcher. At the same time, they are infamous for having blind spots and insecurities along with a string of caveats to hide behind when their expertise proves wrong. In other words, experts not only do NOT know their always-changing topic all that well, they are so entrenched in the system that they are comfortably sitting atop, they can’t think outside the box they built.

“Who would you trust, then, smarty pants?”

Good point. Even if you choose to take up your own personal responsibility on some matters, you will naturally seek the advice of others and, even if you do your own research, you are still reading the words of ‘experts’. Trusting experts is part of how we learn. Listen to Fauci. Listen to Tam. Listen to Henry. We really should start there.

But it DOES NOT END THERE! LISTENING to the ‘experts’ is only the beginning. One has to go further into a subject – as a rule – just to know the language the experts are speaking. If you go that far, go further…learn something new….then go further….think about those things….then go further, make up your own mind….take some direct actions to satisfy unanswered questions……if you want to hold the experts to account (which rarely happens) then you have to know at least half of what they know (on that topic) and preferably augmented with some new thinking to give yourself a chance.

So, to answer the smarty-pants question….ultimately you have to trust yourself.

Remember, in a crisis, the expert relies heavily on ‘established professional standards and norms’. The expert comes from history, from institutions and professional best-practices. But when the crisis is a new one, without enough precedent, the staid experts are all lacking the means, the ability, the willingness to think creatively. They are mired in the past. They can’t/won’t take that chance – careers are at stake. They are invested in a place that, by definition, is not working but, conflictingly, it is still working for them.

Another great observation: Four star generals are all experts of the previous wars and battles. Enemies are more creative. They fight new wars. The four-star experts on tanks and anti-aircraft guns are anachronyms today. Examples: it seems we are currently at war with ‘computer-based’ enemies (state sponsored and free enterprise). Worse, we are currently also at war with a disease. And all our trusted tools are more than just a little rusty.

Beware the experts. For God’s sake, beware the experts.

“Dave, why would you go on about that…? Now?

To my mind, we do not think freely enough. We obey our masters too readily. We do not question them. We do not think we know enough to even think about what they are telling us. Oddly, that is NOT the largest part of the problem. The largest part is that we stop there. We continue to believe in them even as the body bags add up. We are going to sink or swim in this together sounds noble but it is also stupid. I am not a lemming. Tests of survival have taught us differently. To survive in the face of a dire and imminent threat requires either 100% total teamwork and cooperation (herd mentality supporting dedicated, intelligent institutions and noble experts) or else one has to get as much information as one can and then MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND. I am inclined to the latter approach.

“Dave! Aren’t you suggesting behaving like a Bubba?”

Yes, to some extent, and most definitely NO. Yes, because the Bubbas are 100% suspicious and cynical and so am I. And they and I have some legitimate cause for that. But NO because the Bubbas have not learned anything factual or discovered new ways of dealing with things. They do not think or do. They are NOT constructive. They just pose with rifles and accuse others. They are just as locked into the system – but locked in as ‘rejecters’ rather than ‘believers’.

I am saying that, by free and focused individualistic thinking, you can improve the situation better and faster taking all the available information, rejecting all the weird conspiracies and propaganda and making some good, life, direct-action choices that make sense to you. If you are wrong (and we will all be wrong to some extent), then change it up, fix it and try again.

Looking ahead

Everyday now, the news is mostly about Covid. And it should be. C-19 ain’t going away anytime soon and, in the meantime, it is still expanding and hurting us all in so many new-found ways.

“But a vaccine is just around the corner and we’ll all be back to normal soon!”

I hope so (although that which was ‘normal’ could be improved on considerably). But I doubt it. Firstly, we are at least six months away from a vaccine and secondly, many people will voluntarily stay back an extra six months simply because this ‘rushed’ vaccine has yet to inspire a lot of public confidence. Thirdly, the virus is mutating. That does NOT mean a vaccine won’t still be effective but it is a possibility. A greater likelihood is that the vaccine is more effective on one strain but still somewhat effective on another and so we will be trying to defeat this virus asymmetrically – some countries will not do as well as others and so the virus will continue. And it will mutate some more. As some professionals are predicting, “We may have to just learn to live with it, to a large degree.”

But there is more. And it is the ‘more’ that most of us do not see. I have a rich friend with a portfolio of commercial property (leveraged but not dangerously so) and he thought he was rich. NOT SO MUCH right now. Today, he’s afraid that his commercial property may just be the millstone around his neck that drowns him. Just having the fears means that he is changing and altering how he operates. He is not alone. Airlines, of course, are faring only a little better than cruise-lines. Very few people are traveling and even fewer are traveling for pleasure. Resorts, restaurants, bars and hotels are only suffering lesser losses because they are generally mom-and-pops and smaller and lesser capitalized. They are going bankrupt even faster.

And we are all ‘in this together’ and linked to God-knows how many others from Guatemalan avocado growers to thespians in the theater, from healthcare workers to kids in school. Who needs a bus driver when no one takes the bus? Everyone is affected to some extent. And the damn virus is still growing!

So, my point is that ‘hoping for a vaccine’ may be the wrong plan A. Plan A should maybe be about adjusting all those ‘normal behaviours’ we practice – and not only for just the next six months or so, maybe forever. If you are a pub frequenter, get a new habit. If you like public events, buy a bigger screen TV and try for some of the action from the safety of your home (if there is any to even watch). This year may be the year we drastically change a lot of personal habits. We have all ‘hunkered down’ for 8 months already and it was not enough. I suspect that we have another year of relative isolation ahead. How ya gonna do? Take up quilting?

It is already happening in some weird and unexpected (for me) ways. E-bikes are taking off in sales. Why? Because urbanites do not want (afford?) a car but sucking public transit air is now more risky. Solution: a bike. Better solution: an e-bike. Investment in E-bikes is a winner.

Puppy mills. As disgusting an industry as it is, puppy mills are expanding as lonely singles and isolated couples seek some instant ‘loving contact’ partners. I am guessing that ‘match-making’ internet sites are going gangbusters, too. Oddly, used car prices are dropping as two-car families now out of work and having to stay home, get rid of the second vehicle. Good ol’ Bubbas down at the levy drinking whiskey and Rye are also spending more time there and less at work. The levy, it seems, needs some extra lead. The Bubbas, it is reported, are buying up tons of ammo. We are now a bit low on some bullet choices – who knew? And so it goes…..

Lettuce has gotten really expensive!!??

Of course, another year of isolation is fine by me. I am alright with it. But not everyone out there in the world is an antisocial old grump who chooses remote and isolated as the better lifestyle. The vast majority need other people with which to trade their wares or share social gatherings. Many people will not adjust well.

Any good news? Yeah, there is some….more and more young people are showing up out here. Some buying, some renting, some hanging out……all having babies…….

Reality check on aisle 4

Sal and I built this house almost 16 years ago. We built it to the thirty-year rule. It was supposed to last until I was 86 and would likely no longer care about appearances and such. The problem was we were beginner-builders and inanimate objects do not always obey the rules. A few things need ‘improving’, a few things need replacing and more and more things are in need of repairing. Some of the house, it seems, thinks it was built to the 15 year rule.

There is another problem with being neophyte builders. Even tho we did alright (we even done good, sometimes), we usually did everything only three times and all at the same time. We’d screw up the first effort, get it almost right the second attempt and, if it was critical, improve it to an acceptable standard by the third time. Three times with two of them wrong, does not make you good at it and – since it was now working – we’d move on to the next thing. Repeat neophyte-ing our way through the next job. In other words, sixteen years later, I have forgotten what was ‘the best and right way’ and so repairs and improvements are almost NEW to me again.

It does not help that manufacturers change their products over 16 years. Nor does it help that I, too, am 16 years older.

Example: Our kitchen sink tap started leaking. So, I took it out, found the leak, repaired it and put it back. A week later, it was leaking three times more (a split in the cartridge) . Time to order a new tap. It came a few days ago by mail plane and, by then, we were going through a half dozen leak-towels a day keeping the water flowing but under semi control. “I’ll need your help, Sal. I cannot fit in under the sink. I think this should be a quick re and re that should only take about one hour, but let’s plan on two. You know Murphy!”

Four and one half hours later, I was collecting up all the tools and parts and cleaning up. Sal was putting the clutter back under the sink. We got ‘er done. “They do not pay plumbers enough!” said Sal.

Problem #1, 2 and 3. The new tap fit the sink differently. The water lines are all deeply buried in the under-floor insulation. The new tap also sported different ‘fittings’ for the water lines and fitting the tap meant altering the pipes.

Solution: cobble a different system together from various parts and other materials. Cut pipes and add lengths. Add a diverter/stop for a temporarily closed line. Do it all in time for dinner (so as to do the dishes).

“So what do you guys really do all day out there anyway? Watch TV?”

“Yeah. We sit around all day as a rule drinking mint juleps and watching the birds. But all that leisure time is coming to an end soon. We have some repairs to do. Things are getting old and needing attention.”

“Ha ha! YOU are getting old and needing attention!”

“Right. That is problem #4.”

Back?

Am I back…….well, kinda.

The last few months I have been a bit odd. I know that. I took a month off from blog-writing and that was mostly due to Trump Fatigue, mild depression and accumulated isolationist syndrome or ASS for short. I was out of sorts. I still am to some degree but it is mostly just pure ASSedness now. It turns out that all men are usually pigs but, once in a while they are also ASSes.

Such is life, woe is me, and basically it was all much ado about nothing. We are settling in again. We are ‘back in the groove’, doing OTG things. This past week was an example of the ‘life’. But first – another part of the life:

…….I was ill for awhile. I eventually figured it out and confirmed it with my doctor. I had Giardiasis. Giardiasis is better known simply as Giardia or Beaver Fever. It is a parasite that one can get from drinking water in which bears or beavers have pooped. Sort of a northern exposure kinda thing. OTG with parasites. Altered gut. It’s a simple disorder and rare even out here. More than a bit draining, though. First time in 15 years for me (our drinking water is filtered at the sink but the household water is straight from the stream). I guess the odds caught up with me and I was out-of-sorts for awhile. I can confirm beyond a doubt that bears do, indeed, poop in the woods.

But then….I fixed it with anti-biotics and I am fine. But, at the same time as I got ‘fixed’, I was scheduled for dental surgery in Victoria so off we went. That was a fun trip. But we got to see our grandchildren, Sal’s mom (92), and some friends as well. THAT PART REALLY WAS A DELIGHT! And we shopped for crap (very much non-delightful). And we ran around doing chores and six days later came home too late to brave the weather so stayed in Campbell River for the night and really started to go home the next day from an easier starting point. No big deal, really. Just travel, Tylenol, logistics, lifting, packing, socializing and the constantly doing of chores while hemorrhaging money …..not unusual on an extended ‘town week’. .

And then we got home. Of course I knew the car was full…but….it is always full. And I knew that the large steel second-hand Craigslist-find, sand-blasting cabinet strapped to the roof kinda added to the ‘fullness’ but….well….I often have to strap stuff to the roof. When you consider that I aspire to never leave the island, then when I do, it only stands to reason that I come back full to the brim and then some.

We got up at 8:00 am and did some more local chores. We arrived at the end of the road about 2:00 pm. Sal went off with a neighbour to get the boat from our place. I started to unload. And then unload some more. And then I finally unloaded the last of it. I had two full boatloads on the dock when Sal got back with our good-ship Pumpkin. The wind was picking up. So we double-filled the boat. What that means in reality is that we were overloaded in the boat but still afloat and a ‘boatload’ is really a term we use to describe a funicular deck-full of stuff in actuality. We were not 100% sure the weather would hold for two trips.

The fun-deck is 4’6″ x 100″ or basically the size of a sheet of plywood. Sal lowers the fun-deck into the sea and I sidle up with the boat, tie up, and unload the boat until the deck is full. And that was what I did but the winds were increasing and the boat was leaping like a lord (7 lords-a-leaping?). Sal had managed to leap/climb to the lowered fun deck from the beach and that allowed us to efficiently fill the deck from side to side, front to beck. Then I took the boat and ‘stood off’ (bobbing like a cork) while she brought the first load back up to the deck and unloaded it. When that was done, she lowered the fun-deck again and we put on even more crap the second time. By the time I was sidling up the boat to the fun deck the second time there were whitecaps and Sal and I had to yell to each other over the howling wind. The boat leaped, I tipped and tripped around the boat as I offloaded stuff and Sal stood like a surfer-dudette on the fun-deck efficiently placing the crap around and then, she clambered back over it all to make the leap back to the beach for the second haul-out.

What with engines, bags of blast-sand, fluids, tools, metal cabinets, cases of wine and many containers of Costco bulk, I figured we had over 1000 pounds of crap to get home. And getting home did NOT just mean getting to the fun-deck nor the deck to which it arrived. That 1000 pounds had to be transferred to the second funicular that took the load up the last 100 feet from the lower deck to the house.

Sal transferred the first load to the second funicular while I took the boat around to the neighbour’s dock. It was blowing a gale by then. I tied up, scooted back to our house and Sal and I then spent the next two to three hours getting the stuff up the hill and put away. That took two trips of the upper section, too. We sat down to a thawed out left-over stew dinner around 7:00 pm.

“Hmm….I think we are running out of shelf space.”

“I know. That was why I was talking about building another shed……..”

“PULEEZ…no more sheds! Let’s just jam the stuff in nooks and crannies and call it a day. We have a years supply of most stuff now.”

“OK. But we only have about three months of scotch and maybe the same in wine….?”

“Well, since you put it that way, maybe a small shed, then….?”

Ta da!

A hiatus, a vacation, a pause-to-reflect usually results in one gaining some needed clarity, some new perspective, some kind of shift in thinking. The act of stepping back is done for the sake of understanding the chaos in confusion experienced when one is caught up in the midst of something big. A disaster happens and we are all shocked dumb – sometimes to the point of being gobsmacked! To step back and take a deep breath is a common act of sanity. It is necessary sometimes.

Sadly, it did not work for me this time. I am still confused.

I was mentally immersed, emotionally over-invested in the hurricane that is Trump and the GOP. I was (and maybe still am) absolutely mesmerized and obsessed by what I was seeing down south and I was horrified by the evil and madness of it all – especially as to how it will eventually impact Sal and me and our families and friends. How is it possible that millions of people can support such ruinous and destructive leadership? How can millions of otherwise normal people do such horrible things? Act so badly? How can ‘Mericans be so mind-numbingly stupid?

And I have no answers for any of that despite the last month off. In fact, I am starting to lose interest in it. Isn’t THAT weird? But, think about it.….nothing is being said anymore that is new or educational. Nothing is changing except the anxiety levels. I am not hearing any answers. There is just more hate and polarization – not less. The train wreck is still underway! It is all crazy and disturbing, of course, but crazy and disturbing is now the new normal. We are, as they say, living in interesting times.

Oddly, that is the emerging opinion of health officials regarding the sub-topic of Covid 19, too. They are beginning to normalize the abnormal. They, too, are tired of using logic and science on anti-vaxxers and Luddites who prefer to spread the disease rather than curb it. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer: “It may be time for us to accept that we are just going to have to live with this virus from now on.” That is just another way of saying, “We give up. We are doing our best and no one is even listening. Education is futile. We may as well surrender to the vast ignorance that is prevailing and accept that we have all chosen this flawed path on purpose.”

I am hearing them ‘giving up’, anyway. Look at Fauci’s face! That is now the face of surrender. Not only are they giving up but so are some sane people. I read that 65% of Canadians do NOT want to be amongst the first to take the inevitable vaccine. Sanity, it seems, is vulnerable to fear, too. ‘Geez, they are rushing this vaccine. That is not good. The vaccine is slow in coming and the virus is getting faster at morphing and changing. My nutty cousin is convinced Bill Gates is trying to take over the world with a mind-controlling chip planted in us all by the coming vaccinations. I think I will wait, too.’ My guess: the vaccine will come and only a portion of people will take it. Not everyone. There will be no rush. The vaccine will come and the disease will remain.

I do not want to be amongst the first, either.

We are in the very difficult process of accepting major upheaval and change. There is a revolution of sorts happening on Earth and at a very large scale. Some of it is being initiated by the fascist right but some of it is being inflicted on us by a virus while still more chaos is coming by way of climate change. This untargeted revolution is apparently well underway but it does not have a sentient component. No leader. No philosophy. This revolution is dumb. This revolution is based on some weird primal, lizard-brain stuff. This revolution is massive and being waged on various fronts all hitting us all at once. We are being overwhelmed by change and we are not responding well at this point in time.

“So, Dave! I waited a month for that!?”

No. Apologies. I was basically just ‘reporting in’ on my current mental state…..reporting the results of having taken an intentional ‘step-back’……sharing where I am at……

So, bottom line: Catastrophic change is the new normal. And it has really just got started. And, so far, we are not adjusting well. Poorly, in fact. It is not just politics or viruses or climate change, it is all of that and, even more to the point, much, much more than that and it will all differ to some extent with each region and each person. Dumb Bubbas will shoot their guns and coal-roll Teslas while denouncing socialism while they get unemployment cheques, many innocents will get ill and some will die despite an available vaccine, the climate will continue to shock and awe us and yet we will continue to use oil as an indicator of economic health. We will continue to pollute the oceans. Trumpism will morph into Deep Trumpism. Upheavals will continue to happen in all walks of life.

Those BIG THREE forces will ricochet off other things and we will have lesser changes that will affect us each somewhat differently depending on where and who we are. Drug overdoes go up. The economy changes. Markets change. Relationships change. The three largest forces of change (Fascism, climate and Covid) are really the catalysts for dozens of smaller forces of change. We could be destined for a dark age.

“A DARK AGE!!??”

Well, economists are already stating what has been obvious for some time – the economy will continue to flatten. Low growth. Low interest rates. Recessions. Depressions. Civil unrest. High unemployment. Homelessness. Suicides, bankruptcies and drug overdoses. If it is NOT a truly historical dark age looming, it will definitely NOT be a bright and sunny booming age with wonderful advancements and healthy optimism in the air. We are in for some major challenges for the foreseeable future.

Moi? How am I doin’?

Oddly, I am OK. Thanks. If the month off gave me any perspective at all, it is that my tiny world is still alright, Jack. I am doing good. I am going to re-focus on some good ol’ OTG stuff. The BIG UGLIES are just too depressing. I am going to write less but still write regularly (spleen venting the little uglies I am afflicted with). I am putting myself in what I have referred to in the past as my holding pattern…it means that I am not fully in control of my own destiny right now and so I cannot make something happen…. but I know that some opportunity, some prompt, some inspiration will happen and I will be ready to respond when it does. Only then can I move on constructively. That has been my pattern most of my life and that is where I am at now.

Hiatus

It is a time for me to NOT write. Time to take a break.

It is not so much that I do not have a never-ending amount of crap to spew so much as it is my current understanding, timing and focus on said crap. The timing/focus is off. The timing/focus is weird. The timing/focus is so damn weird that writing about anything right now is a bit like ‘spitting into the wind’ or yelling at an inanimate object or trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. It just feels pointless and weirdly misdirected. It is like the timing/focus is so off, the stars won’t align, the rhythms are off, I do not know what I am looking at anymore. I am getting bad or at least confusing vibes about ‘now’. I can’t seem to find ‘now’. My thinking process can’t get no, no, no, no traction (to be read to the tune of the Stones’ Can’t Get No Satisfaction)

Put another way: I write from what I am immediately feeling/thinking/experiencing and, to be blunt, that immediacy gives me focus and topic. But right now, there is no sense of focus, no sense of ‘what’s happening’. I gots no ‘now’. Immediacy is gone and confusion has stepped in. It all feels way more confusing than ever before by a huge margin. If I am honest and write what I am feeling, I have to now write about being confused.

I.e. Governments are applying ‘stimulus’ as if they have nothing but money to throw at problems. How is that possible – they cry ‘no money’ 99% of the time? Black Lives Matters protests have been categorized as riots – they are not – the riots are a separate group and it is painfully obvious but never reported. The president gets Covid. Russia is shipping vaccines. China is using vaccines. Canada is going the way of a second wave of pandemic. Britain is being crushed by the virus. The Arctic had forest fires. California now burns every year. South America is coming undone. Our otherwise sane provincial government called an election during the pandemic unnecessarily. Schools keep opening. Schools keep closing. Businesses are doing the same flip flop. The White Supremacists /Proud Boys are on a recruitment kick and it is proving successful. The cost of living is rising and yet the government says it is not (that is not new, tho). People are happier NOT going to work except for small business owners who want everything ‘opened up’.

Nothing on that short-list is news. I admit that. But – taken together with other manifestations of madness – it is confusing, disconnected, uncoordinated and it has to be a sign of gross mismanagement – but everywhere? At the very least, it is a lot more stuff than we normally have to process at any one time. In the year 2020, when little got done, so many people feel overwhelmed. Cognitive dissonance meets a world gone mad.

“Dave, you are always opinionated, if nothing else!”

I know. I know. But when I cannot get dogmatic and rant for 750 words on a blog because I have no focus, it is time to step back and try to get some perspective. Normally, I would run to the front of the stage and yell instructions/opinions/directions (if Sal said it was OK) but, right now, I just want to leave the area and go home and wait it out (and you know how far away I am already!). It is as if I am feeling a ‘winter’ coming on. My strongest feeling right now is ‘back off’ and ‘wait it out’.

Irony of confusion – am I waiting for the US election? Or a normal or different winter to set in? Am I waiting for Covid to sort out? Or my engine parts to arrive? Am I waiting to make plans or are plans pointless right now? I feel as if I am waiting for good to triumph over evil but that also seems like a weird thing to wait for.

So, there you have it. I am ‘off-line’ for awhile. At least a week. Maybe til November 4. Who knows?

The Social Dilemma is loneliness vs exploitation

We watched the uber alarming Netflix documentary, the Social Dilemma last night.  It was frightening in it’s revelations, it was threatening in it’s implications, it was damning of the social media giants and it was somewhat dooming of our future as ‘being connected’.  The social side of the digital medium has been corrupted beyond redemption and is moving ever-faster in the wrong direction.  Social media is now patently NOT good for your health.

Suggestion: Get out!  GET OUT NOW!

I won’t bore you with what you either already know (because you watched the doc) or because you intuited as much just being a user.  What I will point out is that, with advancing artificial intelligence, it is going to get worse.

Even if you just READ social and corporate newsfeeds, you are being manipulated.  They already have your/their profile of you in their data files in so many ways that even the news is ‘adjusted’ for you and folks like you.  The truth has been altered to please the reader’s established biases.  In other words, not only is Trump reading what Trump wants to hear, so am I.  We are both being sorted and divided by our own news feeds.

Why did this all happen?  Is Zukerberg and his ilk evil?  I am thinking: Yes, they are. If they are not evil, then easily corrupted.  Greedy.  But Facebook didn’t start that way.  Facebook likely started from a much more benign place – a nice interpretation?: Zukerberg thought he was creating community.

Face it, healthy community in an urban environment is difficult at best (even amongst the rich who have to first buy the status symbols or meet their so-called friends at the ‘discriminating’ country club or insanely expensive restaurants) and it is almost impossible most of the time (especially amongst the poor who have children, illnesses, handicaps, poverty and low-income jobs).  It simply costs money to make and keep ‘friends’ in the city.  If it does not cost money directly, it costs money indirectly in that you are NOT earning bucks when you are out making friends.

And ‘giving’ of your time for strangers?   Volunteering?  Donating?  In these times!  Are you mad!?  Helping keep your neighbourhood healthy and safe?  Well, we pay others to do that so we can earn more or watch TV.  We are too tired from commuting, living and working to go help our neighbours.

Urban community doesn’t really exist but with few exceptions.  It seems that in England, they have called the lonely elderly an epidemic and, of course, they are referring to those who do not use social media.  Without Facebook, many of the elderly have no community whatsoever.

Fact:  Social media-based community is so much easier and, additionally, it takes a lot of the time and distance out of any community building effort.  One can keep an old friend who moved away without even having to travel or call.  A ‘like’ is supposed to suffice for a hug or touch.  It’s all kind of pathetic because the digital community is not very deep.  It is not very personal. It is not intimate or close.  It is a facsimile at best.  And it is being invaded all the time by others NOT interested in you except as a ‘digit’ or ‘subscriber’ or ‘follower’ that can add to the monetization program they have implemented legally or illegally.

“But, if FB provides even that admittedly pathetic community link, isn’t that a good thing?” 

It may have been originally but, you see, Facebook is data mining writ large.  Data mining is information.  Information can be sold.  Zukerberg wanted the money.  So, he sold out the community he helped create.  He sold you.  And he sells your friends.  Capitalism entered the picture and took control.  Zuckerberg is worth $90 Billion.

Information is also just a tool and a tool can be misused and abused.  So, there are bad actors who bought the information for nefarious purposes and then sold their ‘work’ again as dirty tricks and manipulations.  Lies and manipulations sell – they call it marketing.  Selling you shoes you do not need is not as profitable as selling you lies about politics or even vaccinations and conspiracy theories.  Bad guys can be creative, too.  Some of them brought you Trump.  Others brought you Q-Anon.  Marketers are still important even in the digital age and they know that lies travel six times faster than truths (the effect of sensationalism, outrage, strong feelings).

So, what is the answer?  Simple.  Get out.  Get out now.  But, here’s the weird part: people won’t.  They will stay.  They will not quit. They can’t leave.  They are now ‘hooked’ because they needed and wanted a semblance of community and before social media there was a huge and growing social gap of loneliness.  But now the user has ‘friends’.  They get ‘likes’.  They get two and three word confirmations of their existence.  And that  is what suffices for community nowadays. 

Zuckerberg monatized loneliness.

 

 

 

Winning and losing Eastside style

I was about 15, a bit soft and pudgy (those were my thin days) and I was a new kid (again) in another bad neighbourhood.  I was walking down a street on my way to a new school-friend’s house when a guy came running up behind me and hit me hard on the head.  I fell down.  In fact, I fell down on to the lawn in front of my friend’s house so my arrival to his house was off by maybe 30 seconds.  Those 30 seconds would result in my getting the crap kicked out of me.  And they would change my life forever.

Barry (I found out who it was later) was a year or two older than I was, a few inches taller and ‘mature’ in the sense that he shaved, had muscles and looked butt-ugly.  I did not shave and was still pretty damn cute with cheek-fuzz and lingering baby-fat. Barry was one of the school bullies and I was getting familiarized with my new role as a local victim.  It was an inauspicious introduction to Vancouver’s eastside.

I was laying on the ground covering up my face while Barry waled on me.  He punched, kicked and generally inflicted as much pain as possible but, as it continued, I guess he got a bit fatigued and so he then sat on me, straddled me, and continued the beating from the seated position.  It seemed to me that he was saying, ‘I am settling in for the long haul.’

It was looking grim to say the least.

But, there is a God.  Seems Barry had hay fever or was asthmatic.  Or something.  I don’t really know.  I was busy thinking  about other things at the time.  But I heard him wheezing a bit and then I sensed that his blows were getting weaker.  Pretty soon Barry was wheezing quite heavily, gasping for breath and then he rolled off of me in an attempt to recover.  He was vulnerable.  I was saved.

My first instinct was to run for the front door and get truly safe but, well, as I slowly stood up while Barry was still on the ground, wreaking a little revenge proved too tempting and so I jumped on him and proceeded to balance the books the best I could.  I was not much of a fighter and I did little damage but, in the dynamics of the situation, I found some small empowerment.  It turned out that I felt much better hitting the bad guy than I did being hit by the bad guy.  It was a small revelation and a huge satisfaction all at the same time.

Mind you, it was a somewhat short-lived and only a partial victory.  The more I struck Barry, the less he wheezed.  The less he wheezed, the angrier he got.  And it became clear to me that soon my retaliation time would be over and I would very likely end up back on the ground in my prior situation.  I started to think of an escape plan.

Fortunately by then, Mrs. new-school friend came out of her front door and started screaming at us.  She would have none of it!  We were rotten boys and she was calling the police.  RIGHT NOW!  That was enough for Barry.  He took off.  I stood there, covered in blood and my school chum told his mother who I was and they took me in and cleaned me up.  It was during that time that I learned about the local ‘bad’ boys and the two or three ‘baddest’ to avoid at all costs.  Barry, it seems, was amongst the baddest.

That did not bode well for my future.  But I put it out of my mind as best I could.  It was not easy.  Barry was everywhere and, when he could, he would cast angry glances and make threatening gestures.  It was intimidating and there seemed an inevitability to it all.  Barry intended to beat me up again sometime soon.

But Freddy Fuller (smaller than Barry or me) was at our school and he was the Golden Gloves champ for his age and weight group in all of Canada.  The boxing club worked out at the local Boy’s Club. His father was the club’s boxing coach.   I enrolled there to play chess and floor hockey but got to know Fred and we became friends.  After awhile, I took up boxing.  

I was also feeling keenness of teen testosterone and found myself entranced by teenage girls.  I wanted ’em.  But pudgy is NOT the way to winning a young girl’s heart and so I added weight training and Rugby and football to the hockey and boxing program and, as it turned out, my new part-time, after school job was loading furniture trucks for their next day deliveries.  The furniture store was a couple of miles away from my school and so I ran that distance every day.

By the time I had been there a year, I was much fitter (although I always look like a bar of soap), Fred was using me as his sparring partner because I was 165 pounds and his fighting weight was 136.  I was much like a live, always moving heavy bag for him and he did NOT pull his punches.  But I had a lot more strength and I was getting much more confidence from all of that.  Plus I had a very intimate girlfriend and there is nothing better than having a loving girlfriend when you are 16.  Finally, there was a reason to live.

I was in the ring one day, shadow-boxing.  It was before the session with the coach.  I was alone.  Barry and two friends came in and watched for a minute and then began to heap abuse.  I replied with an invitation.  “Why not join me in the ring, Barry?”

“I don’t have gloves.”

“You don’t need to wear ’em.  I will wear them, though.  Don’t want to hurt you too much.  But you can wear whatever you like.  I don’t care.  Are you chicken, Barry?”

Barry climbed in the ring and gave it his best shot including trying to wrestle and kick.  A few minutes later, his friends were helping him get off the floor and out of the ring.  This time it was his face that was the worse for wear.  I hadn’t even worked up much of a sweat.  It was one of the best days of my life back then.  It was the beginning of real confidence.

You’d think that would be the end of it but it was just the beginning.  Barry and I engaged each other at least four or five more times before the end of high school but each of those times was just a quick flurry of fury and it was over.  I think I came out better than he did but his eagerness to try again a few months later belied any sense of defeat.  Barry was relentless.

There is a weird twist to all this.  Even though we were never friends nor even ‘on speaking terms’, Barry and I played on several teams together.  Rugby, Football and Floor-hockey.  Twice during ugly floor hockey games the opposing team’s thug/enforcer would single me out for some punishment (I scored often) and I usually responded with some retaliatory force.  A fight would then ensue and I was always the littler guy fighting the other team’s bully.  If I fared alright, then it all ended quickly but, if I looked like I might lose, Barry would be the first to leap in to rescue me.  One time, he came to my aid with two other guys.  It took three of them to restrain that one brute and I remember distinctly hearing Barry yell, “Get out!  Run!  We’ll bring your stuff later.”

I took the advice.

Why tell you all that?  Only because I alluded to street fights earlier and Barry was the first.  Barry initiated me.  I still hate the bastard but I am glad for the learning experience.  It was needed and it proved useful many, many times later on.  .