Canadian Republicanism

Published at 19:18 on 30 November 2021

So, at midnight local time this morning, Barbados became a republic.

If you are in the USA, you are probably unaware of this fact. If you are in Canada, you can’t escape it. The news media are covering this story over and over and over again. It started a few days before the transition, and continues today, on Barbados’ first day as a republic.

This is obviously quite telling, as though there is presently no serious effort to get rid of the monarchy in Canada, the remarkable degree of coverage of what is an aspect of the internal affairs of a tiny island nation shows that many Canadians are obviously thinking about it on some level.

It All Shows How Badly Nationalism Works

Published at 07:36 on 28 November 2021

New variants are precisely what one would expect in a world were many are left unvaccinated.

The Third World is precisely where most unvaccinated people are, thanks the the rich nations being unable to agree that it would be a net win to weaken (not abolish, merely weaken) intellectual property laws to facilitate more widespread manufacturing of (and lower prices for) vaccines.

That the new variant was detected in Botswana and South Africa is no surprise. Those are two of Africa’s most developed countries. The variant could have easily evolved in a neighboring, less-developed nation, and only been detected when it showed up someplace with the public health infrastructure to readily detect it.

As with the initial spread of the virus, border controls proved inadequate in preventing its spread. The variant was, however, nurtured by nationalism-driven greed: European nations (and the EU are the real bad guys in this one, the Biden Administration has been much more open to sharing the vaccines) valued their business elite’s short-term gains more than any longer-term benefits to humanity of sharing their vaccine technology more freely.

The one border control that would have probably helped is stricter and more-comprehensive testing of travelers. I expect countries to realize this, and institute such restrictions. It is for this reason that I do not expect the planned relaxing of testing requirements at the US/Canada border to last. I will consider myself lucky if the border remains open to non-emergency travel at all.

But it will all be a very poor substitute for the sort of sharing and cooperation that is really needed.

Yup, Toothpaste’s out of the Tube

Published at 07:15 on 28 November 2021

Just in the last day, let’s sum up:

  • Now that people are looking for it, the Omicron variant is popping up all over the map.
  • Most but not all of those infected with it recently traveled to southern Africa; this means that community transmission is already happening worldwide.
  • Most of the infected are symptom-free, meaning that they had no reason to suspect they were spreading the infection and therefore were unwittingly doing so.

And remember, this one is more contagious than the old variants (more contagious than even Delta).

The one good bit of news is that the high rate of asymptomatic vaccinated individuals detected means that the vaccinations do seem to offer a significant measure of protection. If the consequences of an infection are so mild that one does not even realize one is infected, the infection is not really a big deal.

The big worry is that it might be serious enough for enough people that it will create another surge in the hospitals as the new variant spreads.

On the personal front, my big worry is that the US/Canada border might slam shut in the next few days, possibly when I’m in the USA loading another batch of my stuff to take north to Vancouver.

Sorry, the B.1.1.529 Toothpaste is out of the Tube

Published at 08:25 on 26 November 2021

The new COVID-19 variant is even more virulent than the Delta variant, which in turn was even more virulent than the original one, which was itself shockingly virulent. Remember, the draconian measures that merely slowed down COVID-19 absolutely crushed seasonal colds and flu.

Add that to how the new variant is popping up all over the place in South Africa, one of Africa’s most developed nations (and hence with one of the largest amounts of air travel to the rest of the world), how COVID-19 has a long incubation period in which people are contagious but symptom-free, and how cases of the new variant have been found not only in neighboring Botswana but in Hong Kong, and there really is only one logical conclusion to be reached.

Hence, my headline choice.

The Awfulness That Is Ikea

Published at 07:50 on 22 November 2021

So, I try and order a bed online at Ikea. The first thing I notice is that there’s a lot of out-of-stock items. That’s not really Ikea’s fault, though, as supply chains are out of whack everywhere. So I persevere.

Oddly, nothing is asked about delivery scheduling through the entire order process. It’s strange enough that I abandon an order and think about it for a day. I decide that of course they will contact me so that a mutually-covenient delivery time can be arranged, and place my order.

Ha, ha. Big mistake. Rule No. 1 about the retail industry in North America: never, and I mean never underestimate how bad customer service is likely to be. Dead silence from Ikea, other than a generic “your order was accepted and entered into the system, here is your order number” response.

That is, until, get this, 4:57 pm yesterday evening, when I get a text message from Ikea saying that my order will be arriving between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm tomorrow (i.e. today).

I mean, really now, Ikea? You don’t know that most adults work for a living during weekdays and might need something more than zero day’s notice to schedule leave time?

Anyhow, I try going online to reschedule the delivery. Although their main web page claims you can do that, when I bring up my order status, there is absolutely no way to reschedule.

So I try calling them. It is now after 5:00 pm (they texted me at 4:57, remember) and their call center has closed for the day.

I figure their call center is probably in Ontario, so I call at 6:00 am this morning, because that’s 9:00 am Eastern time, and they should be open. My suspicion is confirmed. They dump me on hold and announce there’s a “higher than expected call volume,” which probably really means “precisely the call volume we expected, but since we don’t give a shit about our customers, we don’t care if they sit on hold for most of an hour.” Thankfully, they offer to hold my place in the queue and call me back when I’m near the front. I accept and hang up.

7:00 am rolls around, and no call back from Ikea. So I call them back again. Having just learned from experience, I ignore their offer to enqueue me and call me back and remain on the line. Within five minutes my call is answered.

The agent drops the headset and doesn’t actually say anything for at least a minute, despite my repeated cries of “Hello? Hello?” If they treat their call center employees as lousy as they treat their customers, however, that all makes sense. The agent is probably trying to scam a much needed break. So I stay on the line and eventually she answers.

I am told that, get this, if I reschedule, it will basically be the same process all over again: I will be told at very short notice when I must be there for them, and that will be that. Because, obviously, the customer exists to serve the merchant, and not the other way ’round.

So I cancel my order. And I am sure that is not the end of the story, and I will be fighting to get all of my money back, because it is my experience that a company that has bad customer service tends to have it all the way down.

Some Elaboration

Published at 07:25 on 20 November 2021

Since I now have a day job, I don’t have so much time to elaborate on issues during weekdays anymore. So let’s elaborate on the Rittenhouse acquittal today.

Yes, I am aware that self-defense law in Wisconsin makes it easy to acquit people in Rittenhouse’s situation. That in no way refutes anything I wrote in my previous post. It merely helps explain how and why Rittenhouse could be acquitted. The how and why was not what I was discussing. I was discussing the message the acquittal sent, and it sent precisely the message I said it did. If you don’t believe me, listen to the fascists who are so happy about the ruling.

The law that enabled the acquittal helps send the message, in fact. It provides evidence that the acquittal was no fluke, and any fascist in a similar situation to Rittenhouse will probably also be acquitted. The law basically says, “open season on Blacks and the Left, go at it!”

Second, just because the law makes it very easy for a white, right-wing jury to acquit a white, right-wing defendant (in front of what appears to be by all evidence a white, right-wing judge), don’t for a minute think this deference would be extended to a Black or a Leftist who brought a gun to a demonstration and shot someone. If the tables had been turned, if Rittenhouse had been Black, odds are the whole thing wouldn’t have even gone to trial: Rittenhouse would have been pursued by, and shot to death by, the cops in what had been ruled a justified use of force. Literally just about everything in recent US history points to this outcome, and only a fool would deny it.

So yes, it is every bit as bad as I said it was earlier, and none of the standard objections based on Wisconsin self-defense law change that. Sorry.

A Bad Message

Published at 18:08 on 19 November 2021

So, if you are white and right-wing, in today’s USA it is literally legal for you to smuggle a weapon across state lines and shoot people with it in cold blood, as long as they are Black or left-wing. Make no mistake, that is the clear message of today’s verdict.

Also make no mistake: the fascists heard that message. They heard it loud and clear. And they will soon start acting on it.

Good News, but Likely Too Late

Published at 08:07 on 15 November 2021

Mind you, this is very good news. Whatever I go on to say later, it had to happen, and although it happened late, better late then never.

However, the clock is running out and time is not on the side of the pro-democracy forces. The results in Virginia and New Jersey proved that yes, there are enough stupid and apathetic people that, added to the rough third of the USA that harbors decidedly fascist sentiments, there are plenty enough votes out there to let the fascists back into power.

And once that happens, there will be decisive fascist majorities in Congress and the select committee, as weak and ineffectual as it has been, will be no more. Donald Trump will be Speaker of the House (there is no requirement that the Speaker be an actual member of the House; this is mere tradition), and soon enough, president once more.

This is, of course, not a 100% certainty. It is still theoretically possible for the Democrats to start taking this existential threat to an open society seriously, but odds strongly disfavor it. As I have written before, it is at this stage likely that the whole damn system, both the government and the political culture it exists within, must first burn to the ground before there can be any significant hope of something better emerging.

The Scramble for Housing Is Over

Published at 16:25 on 13 November 2021

Just signed a lease on a place in Kensington this afternoon, so the biggest hurdle to getting settled is now over. Location is neither great nor terrible, neither my first choice nor my last one. Landlord seems like a nice enough guy; he plays in the Vancouver Symphony and keeps his rental in good condition. That’s more than can be said for the landlord for the place I looked at in Strathcona (which would have been a dream neighbourhood to move to).

Best thing about it is that it’s what is called a laneway house, which means no common walls with anyone, windows in all four directions, and a location in a quiet residential neighbourhood. There is frequent bus service a few blocks away, and a good natural foods market about ½ mile (or since this is Canada I should say just under a kilometre) away. It’s also a fairly easy bike ride to the Commecial Drive area, where some of my friends are.

Laneway houses are one of the advantages of Vancouver. Unlike Seattle, one doesn’t have to choose between a (very expensive) detached single-family dwelling on a quiet street, an apartment on a busy street, or scrambling like mad for one of the very few apartments on a quiet street. (Mind you, a lot about the housing situation here is definitely an effed-up mess, it’s just that the tyranny of extensive single-family zoning is mostly a thing of the past here, and that has really beneficial effects.)

Returning to the City

Published at 18:04 on 4 November 2021

So I bicycled all over Vancouver today running various errands related to getting settled in here. And it came to me how much I really do like living in a big, older urban core. It’s so nice to have a more human (as opposed to automobile-centric) scale to things, and it’s also a big plus to have a wide variety of stores and services within easy reach. (Such as, for example, an electronic parts supply house, where I could procure a few parts to fabricate a replacement for the fused power cord that I forgot to bring up with me.)

I left Seattle not because I lacked appreciation for the benefits of a large city, but because Seattle forced me to give up access to wild nature in order to get those benefits. In fact, the vast majority of large North American cities have this problem. That Portland did not have it is one of the reasons I clung so tightly to that place, despite it massively not working well for me in either the employment or allergy departments.

Vancouver has that access to nature in spades. Not only is there Stanley Park, which is absolutely huge and contains large wild tracts, there is the North Shore, a quick ferry ride away, where suburbia (a lot of which is old-school, walkable, ferry-and-streetcar suburbia) gives way quite quickly to all-out wilderness. My temporary rental is in fact on the North Shore, and my host talked about bears prowling the neighborhood.

I just assumed that it would be too hard after fifty to convince Canada to let me in. Persuaded by a good friend, who thought otherwise, I decided to conduct a little experiment, and well, here I am.

Now we get to see how long it lasts. If there is one constant in my life, it is that work and living arrangements never last long, so it is not reasonable to expect this one to last long, either. It is reasonable to expect it might last two or three years, which would be long enough to secure permanent residency in Canada. If that happens, I will consider the little experiment a big success.