Archive for March, 2021


Plague diaries, Day 381

Wednesday night.

My own personal V-Day grows closer. I went ahead and moved my vaccination appointment from Saturday to Friday after making sure my work won’t miss me. (Good Friday is a holiday in Canada, but not in the US, so it’s a weird business model here in Finance.) I had a minor scare when, right after I cancelled my Saturday vaccination, the one I’d found with an afternoon slot on Friday suddenly disappeared. A few rapid checks of the vaccination portal and voila – it’ll be in Ashland, Ohio. (Sorry it didn’t work out between us, Defiance, OH.)

If you’re reading this in the future, it might seem like sheer lunacy to embark on a 700-mile, 12-hour roadtrip just to get one vaccine shot. The fact that I’ll do that again three weeks later might seem just as bizarre. But if you didn’t live through this, or if you were too young to remember, or if you spent this whole pandemic with your friends and family… As the meme quote goes, “you wouldn’t get it.” It’ll likely take another 2.5-3 months for Ontario to distribute the first vaccine dose to every adult, and it’ll take just as long to get the second shot. After 381 days of this misery, every extra preventable month on top of this is like low-grade torture: not life-threatening but extremely unpleasant nonetheless.

Forty-eight hours from now, give or take, a different version of me will type up an excited recollection of day #383. That future me will have gotten his first shot, and his cells will be hard at work building up formidable defenses against covid. Friday should be fun, eh. If nothing else, I’ll get to catch up on all my podcasts during that long, long drive. I’m definitely not looking forward to getting my brain poked with all the follow-up tests, nor spending two weeks after my return quarantining in my little studio, but hey, that’s the price of admission for taking this crazy cross-border trip.

Tomorrow will be busy with digging out my US passport, the old US credit card I haven’t used since a work trip to Nashville over a year ago, and all my Canadian documents… It’ll be challenging to stock up on food to last me two whole weeks, when all I have is a dorm-sized fridge. Heh.

In covid news, 15 million doses of Johnson&Johnson vaccine got ruined because one of their subcontractors accidentally mixed ingredients of two different vaccines. As the meme goes, you had one job. Now several deadlines are in danger, and whomever was supposed to receive those 15 million doses (US? EU?) will have to wait longer. J&J is a single-dose vaccine – this is the equivalent of 30 million doses of Modern/Pfizer/AstraZeneca. Statistically speaking, at least a few deaths will be caused by this screw-up. How fragile all these systems are… Such massive scale, yet such vulnerable points of failure.

Here in Ontario, it’s official – there’ll be yet another month-long lockdown, this time for the entire province. This most likely means no more patios (takeout only), etc. It’s highly unlikely that the lockdown will begin immediately, right on Good Friday. Politicians love appeasing people’s love of holidays, so this three-day weekend will be a free-for-all – the last chance to get all your dining and partying and hair appointments done for at least a month. If we see a spike in cases about a week from today, it’ll be entirely due to Ford’s incompetence and reluctance to lock things down earlier.

Also in Ontario, there are lots of media reports about vaccination centers staying empty and, well, not vaccinating anyone because the province can’t lure the oldest folks in, while also refusing to use its many, many waiting lists to call other at-risk groups. As a result, appointment slots go unfilled, there are pictures of empty lines at the ripe late hour of 5pm, and there are off-the-record interviews where employees say that yes, they just put the doses back in the fridge. They’re not allowing the same kind of vaccine scavenging that the US had implemented months ago, where anyone in the general vicinity can get those last few doses. The insistence on vaccinating just one high-risk group at a time while flipping off the rest of them will make for an excruciatingly long vaccination campaign… When the land border officially reopens and all Canadians (not just American-Canadians like me) can freely travel, I wonder how many more will follow in my footsteps.

And according to various vaccine trackers, there are over 500,000 doses sitting in fridges and freezers just here in Ontario, waiting to be distributed. That’s the equivalent of about three or four days of vaccines. It really does appear that their vaccination strategy consists of admiring how pretty those vaccines look sitting on that shelf. Ugh. Ugh, I say…

Stay safe, folks.

Plague diaries, Day 380

Tuesday night.

Well, I can finally reveal the big news I hinted at a few times before: I finally got promoted! I don’t view this as finally getting to a mid-level position (that of a Financial Analyst II) after 11.5 years – I view this as getting my fourth promotion in less than 12 years. Not bad, considering I started as a seasonal warehouse worker, packing boxes for 60 hours a week. Not bad at all, eh.

Between that, and my permanent residence getting approved, and being able to travel across the border to get my long-awaited vaccine shots… Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

An online buddy from the Vaccine Hunters group just described his Ohio experience: he said the vaccination center was huge and ran like a well-oiled machine. There’s no second appointment for three weeks out – they just told him to come on by when the time comes. Absolutely amazing, given how rare and precious these vaccines are here in Canada. He’ll be spending the entire three weeks with his relatives in Ohio. My own approach… I’m debating between doing something really crazy or being a wise and patient adult.

The really crazy approach would involve me crossing the border, driving up to some big city in Ohio (currently trying to get my vaccination a bit closer to the border: Toledo? Cleveland?), getting a same-day test to show at the border, getting my shot, and driving back. Assuming the test is instant (which it isn’t) and there’s no traffic at the border, I could potentially do the whole thing in about 12 hours – and I don’t mind staying awake longer than that. The wildcard here is the body’s reaction after the shot. My new online buddy says he started feeling the effects about five hours later. I’d still be driving when that happens, but I might not want to get too disoriented behind the wheel.

The wiser and more measured approach would be to rent an AirBnB room for that night (seeing as I’ll drive down on Saturday), sweat it out, and then drive back, calmly and leisurely, on Sunday. The only downside is that that would double the number of days I’ll spend in the States. The weird and antiquated US tax code states that the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) works only if you spend 330 or more days per year outside the country. If you spend more than 35 days in the US, you get taxed as if you were still a resident. (That would be bad.) Spending those extra two days in Ohio would seriously cut into my R&R time in Nevada afterwards. After more than a year of isolation and homecooked meals, even two extra days of hedonism would feel like paradise…

Looking at the map, Toledo is only one hour away from the border crossing, whereas Cleveland is three hours out. Well, if I start to develop a sudden and bad reaction while driving, it’ll be on the Canadian side, just off Toledo. YOLO, eh?

New book I’m munching on: Integrated Science, a general knowledge science textbook that covers a bit of everything. It was published in 2005, so it’s probably more than a little out of date in some areas by now. Still, the parts on chemistry or the nature of light should still be good It’s one of the many textbooks I’ve picked up on a whim at thrift stores over the years… It’s such a strange sensation to know that for just $5 you can buy a book containing condensed knowledge that, say, Newton would’ve killed to get his hands on. All that, for less than an hour of minimum wage. How weird is that?

In covid news, despite all the good updates about vaccines (unless you work at AstraZeneca), cases are still rising worldwide. That’s quite a departure from the downward trend in early February… Vaccines alone won’t stop this. The pandemic is still so far from being over. More locally, here in Ontario the numbers are even more alarming. There are more new cases and more hospitalizations now than at the beginning of the previous lockdown, and 67% of all cases are variants. This is so ugly… Premier Ford said he might call for another lockdown, but didn’t say when. He also advised people not to gather for Easter, but he said that just five days prior to the holiday. It’ll be just like Christmas again: waiting until after the holiday to institute new measures, just so people (who happen to be Christians and not, say, Muslims) get to celebrate together and drive another spike in covid cases… If Ford does announce a new lockdown, it’ll probably be early next week, even as his own epidemiologists are sounding the alarm. What a goddamn mess.

Stay safe, y’all.

Plague diaries, Day 379

Monday night.

I know this isn’t the most productive way to spend the following month, but I just can’t stop daydreaming of all the things I’d be able to do once I get both of my vaccine shots… It’ll be tricky: most of Canada will remain unvaccinated until about June, and if new cases pick up again, there’ll be more lockdowns, more restrictions, less things to do. And even without that, I’d need to wear a mask and try to be a responsible member of society, since I’d still be able to spread covid if I were to get it. In other words, no karaoke bars in the foreseeable future.

And yet… The first two things I’ll try would be actual dining at an actual restaurant, with an actual server, and a menu, and a crew of cooks making a meal for me – even if it’s just something as simple as a burger and fries. The second thing: an hour-long massage. Tons of them. Ye gods, that would feel great… It’s tempting to just book travel all over the US (Vegas, baby!) and visit all my family, but not until they get their shots as well. The last thing I’d want is to be a Typhoid Russian-American-Canadian. (It’s a very narrow niche, eh.)

I’m just about done reading A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling – and damn, what an excellent book. I originally found it through the “best of 2020” list on Goodreads: some of those were flops, some were just okay, but this single book redeems them all. The premise is simple: a bunch of libertarians take over the town of Grafton, New Hampshire, and as they deregulate everything, bears move in as well. The author’s carefully skilled narrative, though, goes layers deep, centuries back, and covers everything, starting with remarkably charismatic people on the fringes of the political spectrum and ending with bears themselves. His use of metaphors and carefully crafted phrasing is quite remarkable, and the book is filled with literal LOL moments. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

In covid news, more bad news for AstraZeneca. The NACI (National Advisory Committee on Immunization) folks reviewed more data on blood clots, determined that the risk is actually 1 in 100,000 – and advised not to use the AZ vaccine on people under 55. That leaves a very narrow, and probably increasingly unsettled, window of people between 55-65 who are still able to take this vaccine, should they choose to do so. This is just the latest in the long series of mishaps for AZ… At this point, even the staunch vaccine advocates like myself are highly suspicious of it – and those who weren’t very excited about vaccines to begin with… Well, for them this is just more fuel to light the fires of distrust. It sure would’ve gone better had the NACI not assured everyone AZ was perfectly safe. That shipment of 1.5 million doses from the US might not actually get distributed around Canada, simply due to lack of interest and overabundance of caution. What a mess.

Stay safe, y’all.

Plague diaries, Day 378

Sunday night.

I could bore all y’all with yet another recitation of my zombie game adventures (finally acquired a bicycle!) or the fascinating details of my oil change appointment (they broke a mirror on a dude’s truck), but screw it all, because here is the news I’ve been expecting over a year now: I got my vaccine appointment, y’all!!!

Ohio went above and beyond with launching their online booking portal: it was supposed to go live on March 29th, but it actually happened a bit earlier than that. If not for my new BFFs on the Vaccine Hunters site, I never would’ve known. I’m in an interesting position in that I can’t really take a weekday off at work at this point. Ohio’s major vaccination sites are booking only one day in advance on the very reasonable assumption that people will want their shots ASAP and not, say, six days later.

It took some serious searching (well over an hour) and getting way too intimate with Ohio’s geography than I’d ever thought I’d get, but I I finally booked my vaccine appointment for next weekend! It’s in a tiny town called Wellston, and it’s a 500-mile, 8-hour drive from Toronto, so I’ll have to leave pretty goddamn early for my afternoon appointment. (I’m thinking 4am will be a safe choice. Why take chances?) …and then drive back. And then do it again three weeks later. But it’ll be so worth it, though. So very, very worth it. At this point, I’d walk all the way to Mexico through sleet and hail and desert just to get this all over with.

Here, in Toronto, they’re still trying to convince folks over 80 to get their vaccine shots, while slowly, ever so slowly opening up the appointments for mildly younger (but still over the hill) age groups. It will probably be at least two more months before young people can sign up for their shots here, and there is currently no guarantee that the second shot will come a few weeks later. (Despite the growing opposition, they’re still aiming for a gap of four months between the shots.) Yesterday, East Toronto opened up a sign-up form: if you promised you could get there within 30 minutes, they’d let you know if there were any leftover Pfizer vaccines at the end of the day. Over 60,000 people signed up in less than a day before they took down the form… There’ll be some very impatient drivers zooming through the streets of Toronto every evening from here on out, eh.

I still can’t believe I got my vaccine appointment. Less than a week from now, I’ll have a vaccine coursing through my system, starting the arduous process of building up the immunity against this damn virus. There might be some holdup at the border coming back to Canada, but between my still-valid work permit and my congratulatory permanent residence letter, it should be fine. I’m really – and quite rapidly – running out of fucks to give when it comes to bureaucracy. What are they gonna do, siphon the vaccine back out of me? Heh.

I’m not even able to process all the implications of becoming fully immune (or as close as it gets) just a few more weeks from now; of being able to enjoy life once again. I guess this blog series won’t reach 500 days after all.

Good night, y’all. I hope your vaccine appointment is just around the corner as well.

Plague diaries, Day 377

Saturday night.

Today, I did a lot of what my fellow Millennials call adulting, though I personally like to think of it as 20th century roleplay. (Engaging in pen&paper bureaucracy that could be done much faster online.) In my best imitation of Kurt Vonnegut, I undertook an urban hike that lasted about 90 minutes, while trying to make the most of it. (I did not wave at any passing fire trucks but I did stop and ogle at a giant construction crane. Heh.) Picked up some document printouts, had my picture taken for my new Canadian PR ID card, and then mailed them both.

Such a strange experience: deliberately taking off my mask in a local grocery store to get my picture taken. (They had a remarkably efficient little setup.) With both the cashier/photographer and other shoppers wearing masks and ever so nonchalantly backing away, it felt borderline obscene. The best way I can describe that is doing a nude photoshoot in a public park at high noon a Saturday. (I know, I know, r/oddlyspecific.) So very, very weird. I wonder if pandemic-induced habits and phobias will persist across decades, the same way the Depression Era generation always stockpiled food…

If the description of my urban hike bored you, try to imagine what life must be like when that’s the single most exciting event to happen in weeks.

My little zombie survivor died again – this time because his impromptu mine collapsed on top of him. I’m not even upset at having lost those 11 hours of progress – I was just extremely amused by that particular bit of randomness. The next two characters I made got eaten by zombie Rottweilers that popped up in the strangest, least expected locations. No lessons were learned today, but it was amusing and helped kill yet another grey day, and that ain’t nothing. (Just in case y’all think I’m an utter degenerate – the game involves a lot of downtime or sheltering in place at night, so I do a fair bit of reading as I play. Not all of that time is wasted.)

More online shopping in pursuit of yet another temporary hobby. At least it’ll be cheaper and more useful than that $150 digital microscope which I’ve successfully talked myself out of buying. This pandemic would’ve been a lot more boring in a world without Amazon or high-speed Internet. (So in the early 90s, I suppose?)

In covid news, Mexico had more than 417,000 excess deaths in 2020 and early 2021. (326,000 in 2020; 91,000 in the first six weeks 2021.) Not all of them were caused directly by covid, That’s even more horrifying when you consider their population is 130 million, or 39% of the US. The 2.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines the US is sending them will help, but it won’t be nearly enough. As more countries sum up their 2020 data, we’ll likely see more reports about the pandemic’s true impact. Here is hoping 2021, at least, will be better than the year we just left behind.

Good night, y’all. Stay safe.

Plague diaries, Day 376

Friday night.

Two years ago today, I crossed the Canadian border after driving for four days straight from Seattle to Toronto. (What can I say, I love roadtrips.) It’s rare to have such clear delineation in one’s life: exactly two years to become a permanent resident, to fulfill my contractual obligation, to pass the immigration purgatory, to become a Canadian. What a strange journey this has been…

I’m finally allowing myself to dream a little. At any given point over the past 731 days (leap year, remember?), some part of my mind was always wondering, “What if?” What if I accidentally crossed someone important and got fired and had to go back to the States? What if my entire job got outsourced overseas? What if, what if, what if? And now… Now I can’t help but wonder. When all is said and done, maybe I’ll go on a sloooow and leisurely roadtrip around Canada, without any tight deadlines or the nagging awareness that I have only so many vacation days remaining. Maybe I’ll spend a whole week doing nothing but studying circuits and electronics all day every day until it finally clicks. Maybe I could walk every single street in Toronto, trying to spot every cool piece of graffiti, every improbably beautiful old building.

So many choices. This feels so good…

In more mundane and down-to-earth news, this week has been pretty entertaining. A gigantic freighter lost power when maneuvering the Suez Canal, and it got stuck in the worst possible way. It’s been blocking the whole canal for days now. About 10% of global trade can’t move because of that. There are viral memes, parody Twitter accounts, jokes (“at least your mistakes can’t be seen from space”), and hilarious commentary on a single bulldozer trying to excavate enough sand from the freighter’s bow to hopefully nudge it just a little. Years and decades from now, this single event will be an anchor in our cultural memory, and we’ll look back and laugh and laugh and laugh. This also highlights once again how fragile our world is. Granted, you’d have to have ridiculous resources to intentionally sabotage the Suez Canal, but still – the fact that the entire world commerce can be decimated so relatively easily… Heh. Between this, and the fact that an entire jet can go missing without a trace (MH370), and a virus like covid19 shutting down the entire world, I hope more people will become if not cynics then at least skeptics. This world is far more fragile than it appears.

In covid news, the US has set yet another daily vaccine record (3.4 million doses in one day) while Brazil sets a dark record of its own, with 3,650 recorded deaths in 24 hours. (And those are just the official figures.) Such strange and terrible discrepancies…

Have yourselves a safe weekend, eh.

Plague diaries, Day 376

Woooooo! Woooooo, I say! And just to reiterate for those in the back: WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

After almost eight months of waiting, after almost two years of staying in Canada at the mercy of my employer, I have finally become Canada’s newest permanent resident. This feels amazing, eh. If you already know what it’s like to live somewhere only on your work permit, you understand what I mean. If you don’t know… Imagine not being able to quit your job. Imagine that not only are you banned from applying to all the other similar (or better) jobs, but if anything were to happen to your job here and now, you’d have to leave town entirely. No second chances, no excuses – just get the hell out. Imagine playing the long game – not weeks, not months, not quarters, but years – trying to succeed at this intricate balancing act of pleasing your boss, and your boss’s boss, and your boss’s boss’s boss. (By the time things get to your boss’s boss’s boss’s level, they my as well be a leviathan: a hint of a giant murky creature swimming deep below you, powerful enough to swallow you whole without even trying.)

It’s over. It’s finally, finally over.

That’s not to say I hate my job: it’s fine, but 11 years and four months and two days is a very long time to be together…

My incredibly ambitious five-year-plan is just about complete. On Saturday, I’ll go and take a final official picture for my PR card. I’ll send it off along with my official printout and a check for my 2020 US taxes. I’ll get an oil change, because it’s been a while and the road ahead is a long one. And then… Based on what little googling I’ve done while celebrating and grinning like a fool, I’m guaranteed to be able to return to Canada as a PR holder, even if the card is still in the mail. That means hello, Ohio. That means freedom. That means a very big “sorry, eh” to my vaccine trial: tomorrow’s visit will likely be my last. That means that, hypothetically, if everything goes just right, I might be fully immunized within a month. Hope everlasting…

I well and truly hope that when they take my blood tomorrow morning, they won’t test for alcohol content. Heh. (Before you judge me – what the hell am I supposed to do? Go to a karaoke bar and potentially start a whole new supercluster? My rendition of “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen is sufficiently traumatizing to unsuspecting civilians as it is.) I see champagne in my future this weekend.

Talked to my mom today: she’s experiencing some side effects from the second Pfizer shot she got yesterday. She feels cold, and none of her blankets help… The sole silver lining is that this surely means the vaccine is working, right?.. Intellectually, abstractly, I know she’ll be okay – but still…

In covid news, Biden has decided to double down. The new goal is to get 200 million shots during his first 100 days in office. He hit the first 100 million on the 58th day, so it’s pretty much guaranteed he’ll reach 200 million by the 100th day. That is some grade-A showmanship. Normally, I’d say that no one likes a show-off, but I can’t help admiring the logistical triumph of it all. Well done, eh.

Good night, y’al. I hope your day was at least half as happy and exciting as mine.

Plague diaries, Day 375

Wednesday evening.

I’ll start out with great news: my mom just got her second shot of Pfizer! She’s 67 and lives in the suburbs of Seattle – not exactly the hotspot like Florida is, but not exactly Hawaii, either. It’s such a relief to know she’s safe, to know that she’s protected from hospitalization or worse. That alone was well worth waiting for.

My quest to fight bureaucracy continues. (I feel like that’s going to be the theme for this whole year with me.) My former boss and I both moved from the US to Canada at roughly the same time, and we both got invited to apply for permanent residence simultaneously. Neither of us has received our papers yet, but one of his coworkers, who had the exact same situation, just got his – and he’d applied just a month before we did. So maybe, just maybe, the first step toward freedom (and vaccines, and all the other good stuff) is just a few weeks away? Hope everlasting…

My new attempt at a zombie game character last night got eaten alive by a zombie Rottweiler. (Seriously, where is animal control when you need them?) Lessons learned: I need to pay more attention to things around me: I’d completely disregarded an empty dog bowl in the backyard of a house I was exploring – and, well…. Zombie dog chow, c’est moi. Ahh, lockdown entertainment.

In covid news, a few days ago the CDC updated its guidance for social distancing within schools. The new recommendation is to keep 3′ apart instead of the usual 6′. They based that on this study published in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases. The study was conducted on 251 school districts in Massachusetts. The study’s authors claim they didn’t find significant differences between the spread of covid in 3′-apart and 6′-apart school districts. At the same time, however, they acknowledge multiple unknowns: there was no extensive testing on students (it was mighty hard to get a test for a kid, even if you wanted to), there’s no way to confirm if the 3′-apart schools actually practiced larger distances, etc. Nonetheless, the CDC has updated its nationwide guidelines: 3′ apart is fine, as long as everyone is wearing masks. Frankly, after the way the CDC whored itself out last year (no offense to any sex workers reading this), I can’t help wondering if they’re sincere in their desire to help, or if they’re working for yet another set of politicians… Their reputation is gutted now. It’ll also give even more ammo to the anti-mask crowd who will crow that the 6′ distancing rule was a lie after all.

The US teacher unions share my skepticism, it seems. The CDC’s recommendation does not come with any baseline mitigation strategies. Not all schools are created equal, and it there are insufficient resources and/or bad ventilation in an underfunded school, must it follow the same guidelines as a fancy state-of-the-art modern school? It seems to me that the death of even a single teacher would make for a powerful counterargument – and there have been many, many teachers who caught covid while teaching in person… Not for the first time, and likely not the last one – what a mess.

Stay safe, folks.

Plague diaries, Day 374

Tuesday night.

I took a long and scenic walking route to get some cider (it’s been a dry couple of weeks) and pick up one last thing from an Amazon locker. (It was a boring weekend, okay?) Along the way, I saw some people dining at outdoor patios… Pedestrians seemed evenly split: those still wearing masks, like myself, and those who looked like they were from another era: enjoying themselves with their faces unburdened by cloth. The risk of outdoor transmission is pretty low, especially if you’re not face-to-face with someone, but still. It was sweater weather again: so strange to see so many people all at once, not wearing coats, showing off their unique styles. The coming months will be weird as we still stay under various lockdowns and remain mostly unvaccinated.

Speaking of which… Apparently, if I drive out of Canada to get my shots in, say, Ohio, it’s unclear whether they’ll allow me back in, seeing as I’m still not a permanent resident. I contribute to the Canadian economy and pay my taxes, but their rules are strict: only permanent residents and citizens get to enjoy safe passage. (After which they’re supposed to quarantine.) Work permit holders such as myself may or may not get turned around at the border. Chances are, they’d let me back in, but if there’s even a 1% chance of failure, of losing everything I worked on over the last two years, I might as well wait. Once I get my PR, or once the border restrictions get looser, a lot of good things will happen in rapid succession. Until then, though… Blargh. Blargh, I say. It could take weeks or likely months.

Back to playing 7 Days to Die, I suppose. I know it’s not a productive way to spend time, but hey, it makes me happy. It’s also interesting to analyze myself from afar, to see which recurring mistakes I keep making. Last night, I could’ve built a quick ladder and climbed to safety instead of making a foolhardy last stand. The night before that, I almost starved to death while climbing a skyscraper: I finally found some leftover food, but there was a good chance that expedition would’ve been a one-way trip. It’s possible that I’m just trying to justify my bad habit to myself, but hey – there might be some value in seeing what I can learn. That, and I truly enjoy the “from rags to riches” aspect of the game, seeing as you start it by literally waking up naked on the side of the road.

In covid news, my sister in Los Angeles got her first shot of Pfizer. She’s 41, so it’s open for pretty much anyone. Her second shot will be three weeks away. I’m a bit jealous but mostly just happy for her. Things aren’t looking so good for AstraZeneca: US health officials said the data from their US trial might have included outdated information. AZ claimed 79% efficacy, but it appears that they cherry-picked the most favourable data, while in reality the results ranged from 64%-79%. That’s still fairly good, but they chose to lie. On top of everything else AZ did earlier – not testing on old people, messing up their dose regimens, etc, this is only the latest in a series of epic fails.

This makes their FDA approval less likely. This also raises some tensions here in Canada: we approved AZ weeks ago, and in light of this new and shady information, folks are asking questions. (Mostly along the lines of “WTF, eh?”) There’ll be even more distrust now, even as the top officials are saying no one should be concerned. What a goddamn mess. To be clear, I’d still take all the shots of AZ they’d care to offer, but I wouldn’t end my “plague diaries” chronicle until and unless I also got a shot of Johnson&Johnson or two shots (three weeks apart, please and thank you) of Pfizer or Moderna. This may take a while…

Stay safe, y’all.

Plague diaries, Day 373

Monday night.

Earlier today, I took a little urban hike to an Amazon locker in the nearby Whole Foods to pick up some online shopping. (The weather was nice, for once.) On Twitter, someone made a poignant observation that online shopping during a lockdown is like zoo animals getting new toys thrown into their enclosure. Heh.

I’m trying, really trying to come with something interesting or original that would differentiate this Monday from so many others before it, but nope. I’ve got nothing. A perfect groundhog day.

…I got a little overconfident with my zombie-fighting office-drone character: he fell off a roof during a Sunday-night standoff and, despite putting on a damn good fight, eventually got torn to pieces by hungry hungry zombies. (Damn those little leaping dudes. From beneath you, it devours.) That was a fine waste of 31 hours of waking time. I have got to find a different mindless hobby…

In covid news, the UK and the EU are about to do something very stupid. The UK’s contract with AstraZeneca stipulates that there can be no exports until the UK is fully served. The EU is rather unhappy about that, as well as about the lack of reciprocity: the EU has exported 10 million doses to the UK but received none in return. Now there’s a distinct possibility that the EU will ban exports of the AZ vaccine made in the Netherlands. The funny thing is that Europeans themselves are prejudiced against the AZ vaccine, and there’s no guarantee people will eagerly line up for it. Vaccine diplomacy is a fragile thing, and we might see just how fragile it really is.

If there is such a thing as a procurement textbook, it’ll likely feature the events of 2020: the EU has utterly screwed up its procurement process, while Canada, by all accounts, didn’t expect that vaccines would be ready before April, which explains a lot about the shoddy and slow rollout here up north. There’ll also be at least a mention of powerful countries blocking private companies from exporting their vaccines despite existing contracts. (So the US, Pfizer, and Canada love triangle, basically.)

Months ago, I predicted that maybe, somehow, the shortage of medical workers will get so bad that average people would get recruited to help out with the most basic medical tasks. Like candy stripers but on a grand scale. Looks like Hungary is taking that approach. Their covid numbers are at record-high levels: the volunteers would get a four-hour class (so a fraction of the time it takes to get CPR/first aid training here in Canada), and would be sent to assist in understaffed, overcrowded hospitals. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban is trying to put a positive spin on this, but he doesn’t sound at all convincing.

And here in Canada, some proactive Reddit user has set up the VaccineHunters.ca portal to, well, help hunt down those pesky vaccines. Right now, the site consists mostly of links to their Discord chatroom and their Twitter page – but who knows, it might expand with time. Folks online are brainstorming whether it’d make sense to travel to Ohio: that state has just announced that vaccines will be available to everyone 16 and older, assuming they can find an appointment. People are contemplating flying there. It would take just under five hours to drive there… Ohio’s official site is very specific that vaccinations would be open to everyone, regardless of their resident status. (That’s most likely aimed at undocumented immigrants and not desperate Canadians but hey – a win is a win.) It is so very, very tempting: Ohio is, after all, much closer than Alaska. The really big question here is whether I’d be able to a) cross the border into the US, with my passport and all, and b) get back into Canada, since I’m neither a citizen nor a permanent resident, but just a schmuck with a work permit. Decisions, decisions…

Stay safe, y’all.