Kicking The Darkness

Kicking The Darkness One Day At A Time

October 25, 2020 - Meet Mason McMillan of Richmond Virginia.  This little guy has overcome more challenges in his young life than most people will experience in a lifetime.  His pregnant mother was shot three times during a home invasion that jeopardized both their lives, and he was born nearly four months premature.


The link below provides you with an excellent video from Jeanne Moos of CNN that chronicles exactly what Mason and his family had to endure and how they never stopped kicking the darkness.  Way to go Mason!


https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/09/18/baby-hearing-aids-hears-mom-first-time-moos-pkg-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/wacky-world-of-jeanne-moos/

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October 12, 2020 -  We are now into the seventh month of Covid-19 in Ontario, and the more things change...the more they stay the same.  The rates of infections are up in certain parts of the province and country...and in many areas of the world. 


It's also the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada and some compatriots might not be in the celebratory mood due to recent events.  All evidence confirms we are in the midst of the second wave and it's already resulted in further restrictions for certain services in some locations around the GTA and Ottawa regions.  Although we haven't handled the extraordinary challenges as well as some other regions have - such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea - we can't lose sight of the many positives. 


First and foremost, our universal healthcare system has not been overwhelmed during the entire pandemic.  It goes without saying that this is the pre-eminent objective of all levels of government.  We do not want to experience the type of situation that affected hospitals in China, Italy, Spain and France during the early days of the first wave.


The other consideration is that there are still other types of illnesses out there that require medical assessments, treatments, and/or hospitalizations.  There was a real concern during the first wave that Covid-19 had displaced all other maladies to the sidelines, with devastating consequences for those who required medical attention for their non-Covid illnesses.


I can attest to the fact that our healthcare system is working at "normal" capacity due to recent experiences that required an overnight stay at a local hospital, followed by a battery of specialized tests at a medical centre.  In many ways, the whole system worked better than it did before the virus arrived because there are a lot fewer people in hospitals or medical clinics due to strict Covid controls.  


And for that, I'm truly thankful.


 



October 3, 2020 - Best wishes to our American neighbours, the President and First Lady.


It is a great understatement to say that we live in extraordinary times.  And the last few days have added to the uncertainty and anxiety for the entire world.  And nowhere else can that be said more, than in the United States of America.


For many Americans, this week's Presidential debate only compounded this uncertainty and anxiety.  And then came the announcement that the President and First Lady tested positive for the virus.


It was inspiring to see many political friends and foes alike send best wishes to President Trump because I would like to believe that petty political differences should be cast aside in times like these.  Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden sent a perfect message that every American can be proud of.  "Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family."


Many of the celebrities and notables who lowered themselves to gloat or cast stones at this time should take a lesson from Mr. Biden and conduct themselves in a dignified matter.  Because the one certainty is that the President has proven to the world that this virus does not discriminate...and it can infect anyone.  


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September 20, 2020 -  Have we already found a way out of this pandemic but haven't realized it yet?


What a difference a bit of time makes in the year 2020.  With the arrival of summer heat in June, it appeared that Canada had figured out a way of successfully managing community infections of Covid-19 during the summer.   But then September arrived and ushered in what might be the oft-predicted second wave, causing universal panic throughout the domestic media.


But one of the most interesting anomalies of this global pandemic is that according to the World Health Organization Global Dashboard, China appears to have succeeded in eradicating the virus.  https://covid19.who.int/region/wpro/country/cn  


While infection and fatality rates continue to be a problem in many regions of the world, that is not the case in the country where community transmission of the virus was first detected. Which begs the million-dollar question, why is this not a topic of interest and discussion?  


What has China done differently than the rest of the world?  Was their three-pronged strategy of testing, tracing, and quarantining done so effectively that they accomplished what no other country was capable of?


The one certainty is that pandemic management is still a work in progress for most of the world.  Perhaps it's time for a serious examination of China's efforts so that their approach can be duplicated elsewhere to minimize the misery of Covid-19.



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School Returns to Ontario


September 8, 2020


Today was the first day that I was awoken by a sound that would previously be received with disdain and annoyance...but this morning was met with joy.  We live around the corner from a school cross-walk, and early this morning I could hear the loud whistle of the crossing guard for the first time in six months.


There is obviously a lot of nervousness and anxiety regarding the reopening of schools in Ontario.  Parents and educators have valid concerns that have been clearly articulated to the Province over the last few weeks, and this has resulted in the significant implementation of strategic protocols to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus.


I am relieved that kids are heading back to school for a number of reasons.  The most important is that there is one consistent narrative regarding the openings which cannot be overstated.  As long as the health and welfare of students and staff is treated with the utmost consideration, this will be a very positive development as we navigate our way through this Pandemic.  All the leading medical and mental health experts, including infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto, have stressed the importance of school to the mental health and well-being of all students.  


Although some educators have been vocal in their concerns that the Province simply isn't ready yet and infection rates are going to explode, there is statistical evidence to dispute this.  For one, many areas around the world have kept schools open for the duration of the Pandemic and managed to keep infection rates low by employing strategies that will be present in Ontario.  Additionally, it is a scientific fact that the risk to persons under the age of 20 is very low compared to the rest of the population, as the graph below demonstrates.    https://covid-19.ontario.ca/data

And finally, there have been loud voices that claim the well being of teachers and other staff will be unfairly jeopardized and that they shouldn't be forced to put themselves in such a precarious position.  But in reality, there have been tens of thousands of Ontarians who have been placed in the same situation throughout the Pandemic, including grocery/retail staff, PSWs, and other essential services personnel.


The expectation of most Ontarians is that we all have to do our part to get through this Pandemic by utilizing scientific strategies to minimize infection rates.  There is absolutely no likelihood that we can totally eliminate the risk of infection for anyone, regardless of their profession.  School staff deserve to be heard when they have concerns, and immediate action should be taken to address all deficiencies that put the health and well-being of anyone at risk.  Together, we can navigate our way through this Pandemic one day at a time.

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Utopia meets Mad Max


The longer that we're living through this Pandemic, the more I tend to blame a lot of strange behaviours on Coronavirus.  Now it's important to offer the disclaimer that I'm not an anthropologist, nor do I have impressive letters following my name.  I'm just a 58-year-old guy who interacts with the public on a daily basis and draws conclusions because of that.  


And 2020 is different than any other year during my lifetime, except for way back in 1968 when I was young enough to see the world through the wondrous perspective of childhood.


One of my strange behaviours during the Pandemic is that I love to explore our world through YouTube.  It's easy to draw a reasonable conclusion that this is a direct result of my wings being clipped because I might not be travelling outside Ontario anytime soon.  But that's only part of the equation.


As an eternal optimist, I am always searching for Utopia.  I'm always searching for proof that we human beings are a kind, loving and gentle creature...in spite of the bad rap that history offers to prove otherwise.  And as a child of the 1960s, there's always a part of me that longs for another Utopia, another Woodstock.

Now I must admit that I had heard of the Burning Man years ago when life was much different, and it didn't appeal to me.  A lot of the imagery supported my view that it was a massive drug-fueled rave that was out of control.  And that's not my thing!


But lately, I've seen a number of videos that offer a different view of this massive gathering that is a celebration of whatever you want it to be!  It's a chance for all of the attendees to throw off the cloaks of reality and rejoice in the wonders of life...similar to when we were children.


So in the event that anytime in the future you happen to find out that I've experienced my first Burn, don't fret.  It's not because I want to dance around naked in the desert and embarrass myself in any way.  Lori wouldn't let me do anything silly like that!


Coronavirus has tried to snuff out the joy and exuberance I felt at merely breathing and surviving after I was sure that I was a goner.  And now the rebel in me wants to push back to show the Universe that hope rings eternal...even while living through a Pandemic one day at a time.  Burn baby Burn!

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Take a Bow - Province of Ontario


The coronavirus first caught my attention in early January when initial reports were coming out that a strange respiratory infection was spreading in China.  We were scheduled to go to the Dominican Republic for a week's holiday in the third week of January, so I followed the news closely in the event we would have to change our travel plans.


By the time we arrived back home on January 30th, the virus had already landed in Canada but really wouldn't change our world until the middle of March.  I have to admit that by the time the first fatalities were being recorded here, an argument could be made that Canadians had been poorly served by their elected officials who were ill-prepared when they shouldn't have been.  And the cost of their collective failings was measured in human lives.


But Canada was not alone.  There are only a few regions in the world - Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore - who have really managed to contain the virus without incurring the number of fatalities that most other nations experienced.  And although Ontario was one of the hardest-hit provinces initially, a remarkable turnaround occurred thanks to a combination of effective leadership and the willingness of the public to follow the recommendations of medical experts, even if it meant great personal sacrifice.


The results are impressive when examining provincial numbers for July, August, and September.  It's remarkable that as the Province was gradually opening back up after an extended lockdown, the numbers kept falling.  The graphs below paint a vivid picture of how profound the turnaround was.  The first displays a timeline for the number of deaths, while the second shows the number of hospitalizations and those in Intensive Care Units.  https://covid-19.ontario.ca/data

It will be up to future historians to decide which governments got it right, and those who failed miserably.  But the one certainty is that the citizens of Ontario deserve credit for their willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.  Whether it was locking down, maintaining physical distancing, or wearing face masks, Ontarians have effectively "flattened the curve" to ensure our healthcare system was not overwhelmed.  We have also bought ourselves time by stretching out the infection rate in the general population so that we can attain herd immunity with the least amount of fatalities if a vaccine is available in the near future.


But let us also pause to honour and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  Many were frontline essential staff working in grocery/retail stores or long term care centres who didn't have the appropriate personal protective equipment they should have had.  It's terribly disheartening to recognize that the majority of fatalities were the most vulnerable in our society.  Our greatest show of respect to their memory is to continue to do whatever we can to keep all future numbers as low as possible, along with identifying systemic deficiencies and taking the appropriate action to correct them.  And if we are successful in doing that...we can all take a bow.


  

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Extraordinary Stories of 2020



There is no doubt that when future generations look back at the year 2020, it will be identified as one of the most challenging years in human history.  But one of the remarkable traits of humanity is dogged perseverance, and the ability to rise above terrible adversity. 


There is no better example than the story of author and activist Lizzie Velasquez, who has spent her entire life kicking the darkness to make the world a kinder and brighter place.

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When The Truth...Isn't 


One striking characteristic of the last few years is that mistrust of the media is at an all-time high.  And for good reason.  It's almost impossible to draw a reasonable conclusion about anything in 2020 based upon the fact that various media outlets push narratives along ideological lines, or merely in the hopes of sensationalizing items for maximum exposure.


I recently watched a movie that should have gotten a lot more attention than it did.  But it doesn't take a genius to understand why that was.  No media entity or organization is going to promote the fact that the news media is more concerned with promoting themselves than they are with promoting the truth. 


My hope is that Clint Eastwood will accomplish what he set out to do...and that the world will know Richard Jewell's name and the truth after watching the film that bears his name.

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Most profound statement of 2020.  Julia Jackson.  Mother of Jacob Blake.


August 26, 2020


No other words are needed.

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What did they do with the CN Tower?  A Tale of Two Cities.


August 23, 2020


Even though the coronavirus is still a part of the reality of our lives in the late summer of 2020, there is no doubt that the Greater Toronto Area is alive once again. Yesterday afternoon, I drove from the eastern outskirts all the way to Mississauga and the traffic was horrendous at times!  But amazingly enough, I wasn't bothered in the least because it was a clear sign that life is carrying on...as it should. Additionally, the one upside to the stop and go of the commute was that it affords you the opportunity to look at things you might ordinarily miss, especially when traveling along the Gardiner Expressway in the downtown core.


The most notable observation that stood out more than all others is that the landmark that stood out more than all others is gradually disappearing. There was a time in recent memory when the C.N. Tower stood tall and proud as the definitive piece of the Toronto skyline. But in the last couple of years, construction activity in the area has been so prevalent that the historical image of the tower standing all alone is forever gone. It is quickly being surrounded by an increasing number of tall buildings that are encroaching upon its domain and dominance.


Although the most recognizable snapshot of the skyline is typically taken from the Toronto Islands, it is the view from the east that has always resonated with me. At the time of the tower’s construction, I lived in the Main and Danforth neighbourhood in the city’s east end. One of my most vivid teenage memories was standing on the Main Street bridge with my dad to watch the final stages of completion.


We had a set of binoculars and a small telescope that we used to witness the historic moments in real-time, as the large Sikorsky helicopter -Olga - carried large pieces of the antenna up to the top. The completion resulted in a remarkable moment for all Toronto residents when the C.N. Tower became the tallest freestanding structure in the world, and almost instantly became THE most recognizable symbol of Canada to the rest of the world.  



But what anyone who wasn't around at that time might not know is this didn’t necessarily go over well with the rest of the country.  Most compatriots were already envious of the centre of the Canadian universe and felt that the city received way too much attention to begin with.  And then things only got worse.  


Other cities around the world had towers - think Space Needle in Seattle - but our Tower was audacious in typical Hogtown fashion.  It was the tallest in the entire world.  It looked absolutely impressive and grand in so many ways that it quickly gained recognition around the world.  So much so, that when most of our American neighbours were asked what the capital of Canada was...I don't have to tell you what they answered.


In the years following the completion, Toronto continued an upward trajectory that saw it replace Montreal as the largest and most influential city in the country.  It wasn't fair to most Canadians that they all knew the names of our mayors...but most Torontonians couldn’t find Saskatoon or Winnipeg on a map. I’ll discuss that complex relationship a bit more in an upcoming entry.  But enough of the history lesson!


As I drove along the Gardiner Expressway on a glorious Saturday afternoon in this year of the coronavirus, the most striking observation was that the Tower is not so obvious anymore.  It’s competing with an array of skyscrapers that aren’t nearly as tall, but definitely have a lot more girth. They effectively conceal the bottom portion of the tower so the only visible parts are the Main Pod that houses the restaurant and observation decks, and the antenna.


I suppose this is to be expected and isn’t specific to Toronto. A number of cities around the world are experiencing construction booms that are driven by the high rise condominium market, which is transforming skylines in the process.   But lately, I can’t help but think of the Rush song The Trees and wonder if that classic tune would sum up the sentiment of the Tower as it gradually gets boxed in, thanks to its rambunctious neighbours.


I love the fact that the Toronto of my youth has grown and transitioned into a world-class city. But my one hope is that planners and developers never lose sight of the fact that the C.N. Tower isn’t just another structure in the burgeoning skyline.  


It should be treated with the respect it deserves so it can continue to impress all who glance upon its wonder, and the 21st century Toronto skyline.

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There's no place like home!  Thank you, Canada.


22 August 2020


I have learned a lot about my country from travels both inside and outside its' borders. And the one thing I know above all else is that Canadians have won the lottery of life simply by being fortunate enough to live in such a remarkable land.


I've had the privilege of stepping foot in every province of this country, as I've journeyed from Cape Spear in the east to Vancouver Island in the west.  My bucket list goal is to eventually step foot in the three territories as well so my domestic travels are truly complete.


My international travels have taken me to half the states in the United States, and also to overseas destinations such as England, Iceland & the Dominican Republic.


When compared to the area I live in Southern Ontario, many of the places I've visited would be considered more scenic and beautiful.  Most of them - except for London & New York - were less congested and had a laid back feel to them.


And the one certainty that no one would argue is that the winter weather in Punta Cana would be the envy of most Canadians who long for beaches and sunshine as our northern land shivers in darkness and cold.


But the one indisputable truth is that there is no better feeling than touching down at Pearson International, no matter where I've been or what I've seen.  I share the sentiments of one of my favourite compatriots who said, "I love this country.  I love my idea of this country."


I'm sure that Gord Downie's travels took him to more of Canada and the world than I have been, but in the end we both came to the same conclusion that we live in a very special place.


And perhaps that is truer today than at any other time in our history.  So much so that compared to other areas of the world, some would conclude that Canada is almost perfect...which is an impossibility.


But the most extraordinary characteristic of this country is that its' citizens will never be satisfied until the day comes when it is!  Which guarantees that no matter what we accomplish as a nation...we are always striving to make it better for all, even while living through a pandemic one day at a time.


 

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You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when...everyone is in more of a hurry during a lockdown.


20 August 2020


It was in the middle of March when things started getting very surreal in Southern Ontario, in relation to the virus.  And what future generations may never really be able to comprehend is that it wasn't because the greater political minds saw what was coming down the chute and decided to prepare the masses for the new reality.


In actuality, it was due to the fact that a number of professional sports leagues began to cancel their seasons due to outbreaks amongst their players.  It was on March 12th to be exact, and I remember that vividly because my phone kept vibrating every couple of minutes as if there was an amber alert.


I was still at work and thought to call my wife to see if she had been following the unfolding events, and we decided that we'd go shopping as soon as I got home.  There had been occasional news reports that some areas - I think it was Hawaii - were already experiencing toilet paper shortages due to panic shopping, and we didn't want any part of that scene.


The thing I remember most was that a heightened sense of panic buying was in full swing at the large grocery store we went to.  People were buying tons of canned goods, and other essentials like bread and milk were being gobbled up in larger than normal quantities.  And of course, there was no toilet paper!  Now that didn't take long.


But the one change I noticed more than any other is that in the subsequent days and weeks that followed, there were more and more drivers who were really aggressive.  It was almost as if they received a memo stating that the police weren't going to enforce speed limits or something.


There were a few bizarre cases that left me scratching my head.  One guy drove his car in circles at Yonge-Dundas square while a crowd of onlookers cheered him on and videotaped the spectacle.  You could tell they were all really surprised when the cruisers showed up within a minute or two and gave chase...eventually catching the guilty party. 


An even more bizarre occurrence happened when three skateboarders traveled down a huge off-ramp of the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto, putting themselves and others at great risk.  They were going incredibly fast and yet they didn't seem to have a care in the world.


But what I noticed every day going to and from work, was that there weren't too many of us.  And that created a lot more space on the roads, which somehow resulted in another memo being sent out to other drivers that they could not only speed but drive erratically and aggressively...due to the pandemic!


I think it's fair to say that most of us speed on occasion, but only the true daredevils will have the gall or carefree attitude of skateboarders to risk their vehicles getting impounded.  And yet every single day, I would witness a number of cars screaming by me as they traveled in excess of 40 kms or more above the speed limit along a Regional road.


And I have to admit that my all-time favourite will always be the driver who does everything in their power to get to where they're going to ahead of everybody else...but through some bizarre universal karma, you keep meeting up with them at subsequent red lights and try with all your might not to snicker or laugh out loud. 


I have no doubt that this too is a result of the virus.  Not everyone deals with stress the same, and to some folks I'm sure it's a bit of a release valve to be able to speed along the nearly empty pandemic roadways as if we were living in some Mad Max kind of world.  But just remember, if we keep catching up to you because you're getting caught by the red lights...we're not laughing at you.  We're laughing with you! 

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You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when...Sputnik makes headlines once again.


18 August 2020


When the coronavirus first arrived in North America back in March, I was shocked at how quickly various pundits were making bold predictions in regards to a potential vaccine. It became even more confusing when their outrageous confidence was occasionally followed with some sobering facts...that they just happened to leave to the very end.


One of the most telling was that there have been no successful vaccines developed for any other coronavirus! Not MERS. Not SARS. Nada.  So a reasonable person might conclude that it doesn’t bode well for this current version either.


But human beings are an industrious and creative bunch who don’t give up that easily. Vaccine optimists were quick to point out that the other two just magically disappeared, so a vaccine wasn’t even necessary.  But explanations like these came across as a feeble attempt at blaming the previous outbreaks because they didn’t play fair.  Surely vaccines would have been successfully developed if the darn virus would have given us just a bit more time.


Unfortunately for the entire world, this version of coronavirus has proven to be a lot more resilient and infectious than the earlier incarnations.  And because of this, many “experts” state with absolute authority that there is only one way out of this pandemic, and it rests on the development and quick implementation of a vaccine.  Enter Vladimir Putin.


The earth-shattering announcement coming out of Russia is that thanks to the controversial and iconic modern Tsar and his amazing scientists...we may be on our way to the promised land!  And although there are a few skeptics out there, Vlad has already heard from loyal supporter President Duterte of the Philippines who has offered accolades...and something even more remarkable.  His subjects will step up to the plate and “be the first they can experiment on.” Wow! Talk about trusting relationships!


But not everyone is buying it!  In actuality, most of the worldwide reaction was the exact opposite of Duterte's and could be described as either totally unbelieving or somewhat cynical. This really isn’t surprising when you consider we’ve all heard the chorus of experts who’ve stated that vaccine development takes a minimum of 15 years or more.


In fact, some notable experts will have you believe that it will take nothing short of a miracle for a vaccine to be successfully developed at all.  But for those who are old enough to remember, or have studied 20th Century history...the Russians have done some pretty remarkable things. Does anyone recall the Battle of Stalingrad, which marked THE critical turning point in World War II when the Nazi's suffered their first major defeat? Or how about another miraculous achievement that occurred in October 1957 when they successfully launched the first Sputnik.


That monumental feat not only caught the entire world by surprise, but could very well be defined as one of THE pivotal accomplishments in human history.  But very similar to today, there wasn’t much celebratory goings on in the Western world.  It was unbelievable to most people because of the sobering prospect that we had been outdone by an adversary - and a communist one at that!


But here we are over six decades later, and the entire world is facing an adversary that doesn’t recognize nations or ideology.   It has only one committed objective, which is to cause widespread devastation and death. So I’m not hesitant to admit that I’m rooting for the Russians! I hope they’re going to shock and fundamentally change the world for a second time in 63 years, for all of our sakes.


In all seriousness, the universal expectations for a safe and well-tested vaccine are more than reasonable and should never be dismissed. However, millions of people have already been infected and hundreds of thousands have perished around the world... so there is a palpable sense of urgency in the world today.


If the Russians have struck lightning once again, then maybe it will prove a fitting time for the entire world to come together as one and cheer the ascendancy of Sputnik V.


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You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when...even the truth isn't unmasked.


17 August 2020


When future generations looked back at the details of the Spanish flu, one of the most striking points was how the truth would be manipulated or totally hidden for "strategic" purposes.  


Let's start with the name!  By now, we've all heard that one of the most lethal pandemics in world history is actually one of the biggest misnomers in world history...  because the flu didn't even start in Spain!


During World War I, combatant governments strictly controlled their media to ensure "morale" wasn't jeopardized or negatively impacted. Admitting that thousands of your brave young men and women at the frontlines were dying as a result of an epidemic ran contrary to the end goal of Victory.


But Spain was neutral, so their media had no such restrictions and could report when their King was infected and fell gravely ill,  which subsequently generated worldwide attention and the link to that country.  Although most experts still don't know exactly where it started, most agree that it wasn't in Spain.


Which begs the question...can an entire country sue the rest of the world for libel?  Or at the very least, petition the U.N. or the World Court for a name change?  


So, here we are a hundred plus years later, and we find ourselves embroiled in a similar situation where the hardest thing to find anywhere...is the truth.  The plain and simple truth.


And one of the most telling examples is the controversy regarding the wearing of face masks.  In the simplest of terms, many disease specialists believe that masks reduce the likelihood of transmission.  But other notables around the world, including Anders Tegnell of Sweden, feel the "hype" is overstated.


And in fairness to the average person, there has been so much mixed messaging regarding the wearing of face masks that many are distrustful and see it as another attempt at eroding civil liberties.  Others have a certifiable reason why they cannot wear a mask.


My personal view has always been that I'll do anything to reduce the likelihood that I'll infect another person, in the event I happen to catch the virus.  If wearing a mask accomplishes that, then I'm all in.


But I also recognize that this Pandemic has brought about a primitive instinct of fear, that is sometimes exaggerated or unfounded.  There is no better example of this then when two things happened in Canada during our glorious Spring.


The first was when the top medical official in British Columbia actually urged people to go outside and enjoy the sunshine...and that was back in April.  Dr. Bonnie Henry also balanced that with the sound advice of maintaining physical distancing and reducing social situations outside of an intimate group. 


She humanely and eloquently suggested a couple of things to her fellow residents that was beautiful and poignant. "Right now, we need to be very cautious. We need to be kind to each other," she said.


"Please, go outside. Go outside with your family, but stay away, keep your distance. Smile, talk to your neighbour, wave to them, be supportive of each other, but do it in a way that maintains that distance."


The second occurred a few weeks later when thousands of people in Toronto did just that.  They gathered at Trinity Bellwoods Park and enjoyed the sunshine and the socializing after many weeks of total lockdown.  And the result of that was instantaneous!


The media predicted an impending infection surge that would overwhelm our health system.  Elected officials responded by publicly shaming the attendees and also ensured there wouldn't be a repeat of such reckless abandon.  John Tory had the works department paint white circles in the park so that the message was clear.  Behave citizenry!


And then the collective society waited anxiously for the hordes of fools to show up at the city's hospitals with the dreaded virus, begging for mercy and forgiveness!  But it never happened.


You see, Dr. Henry is an expert.  She is an actual doctor and scientist with years of practical experience - like battling the SARS epidemic in Toronto in 2003 - under her belt.  She thinks about what she says before she makes a public statement that she knows may be contentious.  It all gets down to being responsible.


That can't be said for most of the media.  From the very beginning, they are too quick to state their opinions which aren't necessarily based on scientific knowledge but simply the desire to sensationalize something for a bigger bang.


There was no better example than the High Park Cherry Tree incident in early May.  The city had fenced off a large area of the downtown park in the hopes of deterring crowds who would gather and infect one another...overwhelming our health services yet again!


A local 24 hours news station actually had one of my favourite news personalities report from the location on a daily basis to "warn" residents to stay away!  But in reality, it almost appeared to be a poorly concealed attempt at taunting!  


Most of these newscasts followed a similar narrative that was something along the lines of..."As you can see, the Cherry Trees are absolutely gorgeous.  They may be the most beautiful thing in the entire Universe!  But don't come down to see them.  Watch them online, but I repeat, don't come down to High Park.  Don't even think about it!"


Now, it doesn't take a genius to know that when you taunt a city of a few million people...there's going to be a couple of characters who will do exactly what you told them NOT to do!


And after one too many beers, a couple of wiseguys decided to not only scale the imposing 5-foot fence, but also climb and hang from Cherry Trees...in full view of the 24 hr Bloom Cam that was set up to satisfy the insatiable appetite of a locked-down society to enjoy nature's profound beauty!


Oh, the humanity!  And to think that Brandon Gonez tried so hard to implore his loyal viewers to behave.


The moral of this story is that I will continue to listen to credible experts who have a bunch of letters following their names, have actual experience in their chosen field, and are consistent day in and day out.  


You've probably seen a couple of them on TV - Dr. Henry, Dr. Isaac Bogoch - and know that they don't invoke fear or sensationalism when they speak.  They just provide truthful, honest scientific logic so that we will all survive this dreaded Pandemic...one day at a time.


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You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when...the Swedes become public enemy #1.

14 August 2020


Now that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there's no doubt that those pesky Swedes have earned the wrath of a great majority of the rest of the world.  While most other countries followed the lead of China, Italy and Spain and shut down parts or all of their countries, the Swedes tried a different approach. 


They actually questioned the wisdom of such a drastic move and decided that the unique relationship between their citizenry and the government warranted a plan that was built primarily upon trust.  This social contract would see medical officials provide direction to the population, and the citizens would respond in a responsible manner.  What a concept!


And in what can only be described as strangely bizarre, the top epidemiologist who has managed their controversial pandemic response has not only earned the overwhelming affection and respect of most of his compatriots.   Anders Tegnell has also been elevated to the status of a rock star with some adoring worshippers even resorting to having images of his face tattooed on their bodies. Wow!  That defines popularity in a whole different way.


What initially caught my attention to the Swedish approach was the reaction of most of the world's media.  At first, there was a sense of disbelief and confusion...which was quickly followed with widespread derision and disgust!  How dare you choose a path that contradicts the universal opinion that comprehensive lockdowns are the only way of successfully managing the spread of the virus!


And in the early stages of the Pandemic, it wasn't easy for Anders.  There was unabashed contentment that bordered on outright glee amongst some media types when the fatality numbers appeared to confirm that the Swedish approach was resulting in a higher death rate than what their Nordic neighbours were experiencing.


And I have to admit that Mr. Tegnell earned my respect more for what he did at that moment than at any other.  He could have cowered and avoided media types that were unfriendly or even hostile, but he didn't.  And in an amazing display of professional vulnerability, he took full responsibility for the approach that was now being maligned throughout the world.  


But the one statement he made over and over, mirrored what our dear friend Michael Osterholm has stated.  We are still in the early stages of this Pandemic! 

 

It is now August of 2020 and coronavirus infection rates are spiking all over the world.  Even countries such as South Korea, New Zealand and parts of Australia are struggling to contain the virus.  The United States has effectively thrown its' arms in the air and given up any semblance of a co-ordinated approach as coronavirus fires burn throughout all regions of the nation.


But one of the notable exceptions to these spikes...is Sweden.  Both their infection and fatality rates have bottomed out and are showing no signs of surging.  And yet, our Swedish friends are not claiming victory and smugly declaring that their way was the right way.


Instead, Anders and his compatriots acknowledge that this is a terrible situation that has cost too many lives...in Sweden, China, Italy, Spain, France, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, India, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Canada and on and on.


The entire world is dealing with a Novel Coronavirus Pandemic in which substantial lessons are learned at the expense of human life.  Mistakes have been made and will continue to be made because we are all learning through this diabolical period.


But we should never forget that all sovereign nations have the right to do what they feel is in the best interests of their citizenry, and they shouldn't be maligned or ridiculed for doing so. 


 However, even with saying all of that.  Tattooing the images of top medical officials on parts of your body is strictly optional! 




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You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when...you're contemplating the likelihood of herd immunity.

13 August 2020


Before the Pandemic arrived and shook up the foundations of the world, there were certain terms that never entered my consciousness...but are now part of my daily thoughts.


There's no better example than herd immunity.  My first reaction upon hearing that bizarre expression was to think the person on TV messed up because that would only apply to cows or other animals that typically hang out together in herds.  


But the more I read and watched, the more I realized that buddy didn't flub.  We human folk are known to hang out in herds on occasion and we're closer in behaviour to our animal friends than we sometimes think.


Lately, I've been watching some animal videos on YouTube that may be described as educational by some (myself) or completely bizarre by others (my wife Lori).


I have to admit I've grown a fascination with a very large and funny looking creature that shocks me more and more as I discover how remarkably similar they are to human beings.


Today's entry is actually going to be a test for readers.  I am going to provide a few tidbits of characteristics of this animal, and I'll keep you in suspense for a day or two...and then announce the identity!


The first clue is that they are very moody and temperamental.  Some days they're cute and cuddly, and other days they're absolute terrors that scare the heck out of every other critter that gets even remotely close to them.


The second clue is they're super territorial.  Most creatures have this imaginary line that no one is supposed to cross...but these guys are over the top!  If they see you on the other side of a river, you've gotten too close and they will let you know it immediately.


The third clue is they're sensitive to the sun, very much like human beings.  Most of their lives are spent trying not to get sunburnt.


The fourth clue is they're loving and protective parents and will destroy anything that threatens their offspring.


And the final clue is that although they won't eat you, that doesn't prevent them from having the distinction of being one of the top apex terminators on the entire planet.


Although KickingTheDarkness operates on the honour system and would never doubt the honesty and sincerity of its' readers, please feel free to email me your answer if you are so inclined.  I can't promise you riches, but you'll get an email response thanking you for your time and acknowledging your utter brillance!


But getting back to the human concept of herd immunity...I'll be writing a few things in the following days which sum up what a wacky and convoluted world we are all living in where we're inundated with mixed-messaging, inaccuracies, and narratives that have no factual basis whatsoever.


Further confirmation that 2020 is an extraordinary year that will go down in history with an * beside it so that future herds...I mean generations...will have a better understanding of what we did to cope as we lived through a Pandemic one day at a time!

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You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when...one of the most fortunate countries in the world is depressed!

12 August 2020

I woke up this morning and followed my typical routine of tuning into the 24hrs news channel that provides me with tidbits of local and world events. And I have to admit I was taken aback by one of the first "headlines" that scrolled along the bottom of the screen.


50% of all Canadians feel that 2020 is the worst year of their lives!


As I was reading that, I shook my head in disbelief and chuckled slightly with the notion that my fellow compatriots are either way too sensitive or lack insight into what's going on in the greater world.


Now I'm not disputing the fact that 2020 has had its share of challenges! But the year isn't even over yet! Maybe we all have to take a time-out and give our heads a shake and look at how fortunate we are to live in a country where:


1. Covid-19 infection rates have been managed extraordinarily well.

2. Fatalities are low compared to many other countries.

3. The feds will pay you dearly if you've lost your job due to the Pandemic.

4. We have universal healthcare.

5. You live in a country that people around the world would give ANYTHING to live in.


Just imagine if you were a citizen of Beirut last week. The Pandemic had devastating effects on Lebanon for months...and we all know what happened then! It got worse. Much worse. And because of that horrific explosion, many people died. Thousands lost their homes, businesses, and any semblance of hope for the future.


We don't even have to look half-way around the world for comparisons of how lucky and fortunate we are. Just imagine living in parts of the United States right now!


The city of Portland has the remarkable distinction of making Baghdad look tranquil! The Gold Coast in Chicago was literally pillaged by hordes of looters the other day at great cost to businesses and that city's world standing. I have to admit that as a person who unashamedly admires and respects the United States of America...I'm getting really worried. And I don't even live there!


And one final thought for my fellow Canadians that should never, ever be overlooked! The most esteemed medical experts in the world have stated repeatedly that...we are in the early stages of this Pandemic!  

You see the picture of the gentleman above. His name is Michael Osterholm. Most infectious disease experts consider him the Wayne Gretzky of infectious disease experts. All Canadians will instantly know how kick-ass this guy is now!


He wrote a book a few years back and pretty well predicted EVERYTHING we are going through now. For the life of me, I haven't been able to figure out why he hasn't been elevated to a position of power and influence where his name is as recognizable as Wayne Gretzky's.


But let me leave you with one very important and notable quote from Mr. Osterholm, which was widely reported many months ago when Corona arrived in North America. It went something along the lines of "this is a nine-inning game, and we're only in the first or second inning." For those who don't follow baseball or sports...it essentially means that we are in a marathon and not a sprint.

So my fellow Canadians...pick up your shoulders. Lift your heads in determination. And turn that frown upside down! And never forget that some of our compatriots have been infected with this terrible virus. If you're not one of them, it's a great year! Thousands have died. If you're not one of them, it's a great year! I could go on and on with the references, but I'm sure you get the point I'm making.


As a nation, we are indisputably one of the most fortunate in the entire world. Never lose sight of that fact! The only Canadians who have a right to feel that 2020 is the worst year of their lives...are the die-hard fans of the Blue and White.


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You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when...the news is more confusing than fiction!!!

 11 August 2020

I've always considered myself a well-informed person due to the fact that I follow a number of divergent news sources to discover what's going on in the world. I came to the conclusion many years ago that simply having one perspective limits a person's ability to come to a fair and reasonable conclusion about anything.


But in the age of Covid-19...reading or watching the news can sometimes be detrimental to your health! A quick example is that just as the infection numbers were peaking in New York City, I watched my favourite American news program and was mortified to discover an apocalyptic-like prediction of imminent mayhem.


A very large naval vessel was headed to the city, and authorities transitioned a couple of large convention centers into medical units that would accommodate the onslaught of critically infected persons that were sure to converge on them at any moment. I was actually shaking by the end of the newscast!


But an interesting thing happened over the next few days. As I continued to watch my favorite news show the following week...they weren't mentioning the obvious mayhem that they had predicted!


At first, I couldn't understand it. Why weren't they talking about one of the biggest events in recent history that affected tens of thousands of innocent souls? And over the course of a few days and subsequent weeks...I figured it out.


Most, if not all, of the media doesn't understand Covid-19. But they do understand sensationalism. They would rather scare the heck out of everybody to ensure they've got our attention, then to sit back and report the news in an objective and professional manner. And by professional...I mean ACCURATE!


Many people died in New York City. That cannot be denied. But the media rushed to make a prediction that was simply exaggerated and wrong. They did the same in regards to predictions about London as well. Remember the models in March or April that predicted hundreds of thousands of deaths one week...and then the experts made a correction later because they hadn't factored in certain information. No wonder most of the public is suffering with Covid exhaustion!




One of the takeaways from 2020 for me personally is that I don't trust any media source anymore. They are collectively similar to those celebrity rags that splash fake photos on the covers to grab perspective readers attention...so that they think about buying said rag.


So instead, I glance over twenty different online sources and scour YouTube daily to form as much of an objective opinion as I can. And even after doing that, there are days when I'm just as confused as I was the moment I woke up that morning.


The one thing I don't allow the news media to do is to scare me anymore. You see...I forgot to mention one little detail regarding that monumental night when I was shaking after watching the nightly news.


Those cruel and soulless deviants saved the scariest and most upsetting topic for the very end of the evening...when they warned us about the oncoming hordes of...



MURDER HORNETS!


Well done media!  

You know we're living in a topsy turvy world when... billionaires feel they are in a position to lecture on entitlement and privilege. Thanks Oprah!!!

  9 August 2020

I can remember having a feeling of optimism in January 2020 that was profound. I had finished my memoir Kicking The Darkness in late 2019 and had already received printed copies of the book in December. What a feeling that was, I tell you!


Just in case you're wondering...it was similar to the birth of a child. And just like when my kids were born, I frantically flipped through the copies to make sure all the fingers and toes...I mean chapters and photos...were where they were supposed to be.


I reveled in the fact that this would be a year like no other. The book launch would be in the middle of February, and my wife Lori and I were amazed at the positive response we were receiving for this event. Which really was kind of fitting because it was beginning to feel like all the pieces were coming together nicely. Not to sound corny or anything, but it was almost like it was magical or pre-ordained in a lot of ways. But let me digress a bit to put everything in perspective.


The Coles Notes version is that I wrote the book for one reason, and one reason only. I suffered a massive heart attack in March 2017 and as I lay in the emergency department contemplating my entire life...and possibly impending death...I only had one real regret. That's pretty awesome considering I was 55-years-old at the time and that's a lot of years to fail miserably at a lot of things.


But no. I only had one. And thinking of that regret made me feel sad and incredibly ashamed. But most of all, it made me feel selfish!


Kicking The Darkness would vindicate me and restore my standing in the Universe. Well at least in my own little Universe.


But as some of you might have already guessed by now, this hasn't been a great year to release a book. In fact, an argument could be made that this hasn't been a great year for ANYONE!


But anyone who feels that way is wrong. And I'm going to try to convince you of that every few days as I chronicle how incredible it is to live in the year 2020...and hopefully put a smile upon your face