We Have the Right

To Remove ‘Do Not Remove’ Stickers

Thanks to Tim Allen (on Twitter) for featuring this poster from iFixit.

iFixit is a site that wants to help people repair things. They are building a free repair manual for every device – a monumental undertaking, but they are making great progress. They rate how easy it is to repair smart phones, tablets and laptops – and they also have sections on appliances, cameras, vehicles and many more.

Our stuff used to be made to last. Now it’s made to last only a couple of years. Repair is green. It keeps the stuff you love in service, and out of a landfill.
Products that can be repaired, should be repaired. Refurbished cell phones can be sold to someone new. Repaired computers bridge the digital divide. Even better, repair jobs are local. They won’t ever be shipped overseas.

Alberta and COVID-19 – Facts Amid the Fears (‘Rona #25)

Mass and Social Media have done a good job of making people highly fearful of COVID-19. However, as we learn more about the virus, statistics and studies support a less fearful scenario.

The media dwells on case counts but it is becoming obvious that confirmed cases are mostly mild and don’t, in fact, represent the number of actual cases. Many cases may have gone undetected because people didn’t have symptoms or didn’t seek testing. (If officials don’t know how many cases there actually are, how can they say what the COVID death or survival rate is?)

Here are the statistics in Alberta that I think are more important and less fearful:

1. The most significant metric of Covid is how many people died. Covid deaths to date are a very small percentage of both the population and of Alberta deaths per year. Covid deaths are less than 2 times greater than the flu season of 2017-2018, which was a high severity flu season.
– Deaths from all causes in Alberta in 2019: 26,972
– Covid-19 deaths to August 9, 2020: 213 (.0036% of Alberta’s Population of 4,428,247)
– Lab Confirmed flu deaths in the 2017-2018 flu season: 92

2. Another important metric is the number of hospitalizations. The 2017-2018 flu season (high severity) had significantly more hospitalizations than Covid. Covid Hospitalizations peaked in late April and have not reached a level anywhere near the capacity of Alberta’s health-care system.
– Covid Hospitalizations: 598 (.0091% of the population)
– Hospitalizations in the 2017-2018 flu season: 3047

3. The vast majority of Covid deaths were Seniors over the age of 80. The Average age at death was 83. Ninety one percent of the deaths were people over 70 years of age.
– Deaths 80+ years and older: 148
– Deaths 70-79 years of age: 46
– Deaths 70+ years and older: 194 ( 91% of the deaths)

4. Ninety percent of the people who died had 2 or more comorbidities. Officials have not said whether there is a distinction between death caused by Covid and death caused by the comorbidity but Covid was present.
– Deaths with 2 or more comorbidities: 179 (90% of the deaths)
Comorbidities include: Diabetes, Hypertension, COPD, Cancer, Dementia, Stroke, Liver cirrhosis, Cardiovascular diseases (including IHD and Congestive heart failure), Chronic kidney disease, and Immuno-deficiency.

5. Data and studies point to new assumptions that differ from those held at the beginning of the  Covid-19 pandemic:

– The perceived risk of transmission from contaminated surfaces is lower than it was earlier in the pandemic when not much was known about the coronavirus. (Linsey Marr, expert in the transmission of viruses, Virginia Tech, studies of the survival of COVID-19 on surfaces)

– The vast majority of transmission seems to be through close contact with an infected individual, primarily in an indoor setting. (Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease physician, Toronto General Hospital.)

Wearing gloves for extended stretches while touching various objects can lead to cross-contamination the longer you’re wearing them which winds up being less helpful than just washing or sanitizing your bare hands regularly. (Infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, associate professor, McMaster University in Hamilton.)

Playgrounds are probably one of the safer places for kids to congregate, if they have to congregate. And the reason why is that sunlight kills off the virus pretty effectively(Linsey Marr, expert in the transmission of viruses, Virginia Tech, studies of the survival of COVID-19 on surfaces)

– Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. (New England Journal of Medicine, Universal Masking in Hospitals)

– The absolute risk of infection from an exposed individual was 12.8% at 1 m and 2.6% at 2 m. (From a Study of observational papers, published in The Lancet, June 1, 2020)

– We therefore strongly support the calls of public health agencies for all people to wear masks when circumstances compel them to be within 6 ft of others for sustained periods. (New England Journal of Medicine, Universal Masking in Hospitals)

– Recent data suggests that the human body reacts no differently to this virus than to other respiratory viruses: it mounts immunity, and once achieved, the virus gets cleared and there is protection from future infection. (Dr. Neil Rau infectious diseases specialist, medical microbiologist, Oakville, Ont.)

– Increased infections, as long as they do not involve the elderly or medically vulnerable, are an unavoidable path to herd immunity. Our “flattening of the curve” has once again proven the axiom: “You can pay me now or pay me later.” Holding out for a vaccine is impractical and likely naive, in light of previous vaccine failures with other coronaviruses. (George Delgado, MD, Covid Planning Tools)

Increase Your Chances of Being Right

In “post-fact culture”, where rationality seems to vanish in the storms of lies and conspiracy theories, beliefs about the future are crucial.
– Gapminder Data System –

Are you smarter than a chimp? Watch this funny, entertaining and encouraging video to see how your knowledge compares to the chimps at the zoo.

How much do you know about the world? Hans Rosling, with his famous charts of global population, health and income data (and an extra-extra-long pointer), demonstrates that you have a high statistical chance of being quite wrong about what you think you know. Play along with his audience quiz — then, from Hans’ son Ola, learn 4 ways to quickly get less ignorant.
– TED Talk by the Gapminder Founders

What facts surprised you or made you think more positively about the future of the world?

Hawaii – Over the Top Writing Makes me do Just the Opposite

You’ve probably seen some of these ‘over the top’ words in Post Titles on the internet. They are supposed to be so enticing that you will click through to read the story. Here are some of the most common superlatives:

Utterly Strangest
Groundbreaking Truth
Incredible Bombshell
Awesomely Stunning
Unbelievable (or You Won’t Believe Your Eyes)
Insanely Gorgeous
Absolutely Unbeatable
You’ll Never Guess
or Jaw Dropping

for stories, that will

Blow you away
Be to Die For
Take Your Breath Away
Change Your World
Freak You Out


well, OMG – This is Genius!!!

This style of writing has just the opposite effect on me – I simply refuse to click through to read it.

Just this once, though, I’m going to use words from the list above to describe my photos for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge (which is Opposites.) These photos were taken on a trip to the Hawaiian Islands.
ocean rocks trees

OMG! The scenery was to die for! My jaw dropped as I watched the waves crash onto the rocks. Bombshell – that soft looking water can crush the hard looking rock into sand!

cooled flow plants

I was freaked out by how this once hot flowing magma could become, like, just the opposite – cold and hard! Unbelievable!

The Quippery
That ends my attempt at this writing ‘style’ – would you add any words or phrases to the list above?

Self Control and the Marshmallow Test

A Blogger by the name of Retired Syd recently talked about Marshmallows. She discussed some interesting research that was done  by Stanford University on Delayed Gratification. A  review of this was done by The New Yorker in an article titled Don’t! The Secret of Self Control. The meat (or mallow) of the research was that young children who are able to delay gratification (by not eating one marshmallow now in order to get two marshmallows later) exhibit a trait called self-control. This trait is considered to be highly advantageous because it improves a persons ability to learn.

Fast forward through life to adults planning for retirement. The Car Guy’s Dad always said that if a person saved (and carefully invested) 10% of their earnings from the day they started working to the day they quit working, they would have enough money to live on in retirement. While we didn’t follow his advice completely, we tried to:

-Never use a credit card unless we could pay it off at the end of each month.
-Aggressively pay off our mortgage.
-Never borrow money to buy goods.
-Live on one income only – bank the other.

The Car Guy took an early retirement 7 years ago, well before he reached the age of 60. We believe that delayed gratification helped us to achieve that goal. Finishing school, choosing a career, advancement in the work place, raising a family, lifestyle choices – they were all tied to the ability to think about what we wanted now and the impact that would have on where we wanted to be in the future.

The simple Marshmallow is a good example, I think, of Delayed Gratification. At least, the way we cook them is. I’m thinking of marshmallows and campfires. A bag of marshmallows can sit in my cupboard for a whole winter without seeing the light of day, but take the bag outside to a campfire in the summertime, and they are sure to disappear. But it isn’t an instant process, like whipping the paper off a candy bar, or downing a handful of nuts. There is a slow ritual involved in preparing a marshmallow.

The ideal stick has to be found, and then whittled to the exact right point. Someone has to build a fire – probably a number of someones – the paper bringers, the match finders, the log splitters, the kindling scroungers. Then there is the discussion of how best to stack the paper, wood and kindling.

Once the fire is off and running, the ritual of telling stories, adding more wood, and poking the fire with a big stick, has to take place. When the coals are just right, the marshmallow is skewered and slowly browned until it is golden on the ouside, and drippy goo on the inside. Alternately, the marshmallow can be burned to a crisp in just a few seconds.

Regardless of method, Marshmallows are still a simple and cheap way to demonstrate the value of Delayed Gratification, yes?

Religion – What if You Don’t Believe in God?

I found a blogger last week who made the most remarkable announcement. I suspect she has been thinking about this for quite a long time, and was reluctant to put her thoughts into words. When she finally found the courage, she chose the beginning of a New Year to make her thoughts public. She wrote, “I do not believe in God.”

What a brave thing to say! Believing in God isn’t normally a concept you inherit as a child, test as you grow, and discard when you are almost a rebellious teen. A child can believe in Santa Claus, and then question the belief when they discover Wal-Mart stickers on the Santa presents. A child’s faith in the Easter Bunny can be shaken for similar reasons. The Tooth Fairy can be easily forgotten after all the baby teeth have fallen out and been paid for. The Monster that lives under the bed is vanquished the first time the child safely reaches the bedroom door in the middle of the night.

But how does a person come to the conclusion they don’t believe in any God? After all, there are so many of them to choose from. According to David Barrett et al, the editors of the “World Christian Encyclopedia“, there are 19 major religions in the world, subdivided into 10,000 distinct religions. These groups teach the existence of thousands of Gods and Goddesses.

But what if, faced with the realization that the world can’t agree on one supreme God, you decide it is just as likely there is no God at all?

Stephen Roberts, a strong Atheist, talking to a theist about the thousands of gods and goddesses worshiped by humans: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
– Source: Religious Tolerance.org –


There is not much chance there will ever be one World God. Most religious groups contend that their beliefs and practices are the only true ones, and all other faiths contain errors. Many religions are so sure of this, that they actively try to convert other people to their religion, or they try to destroy those who dissent. Religious oppression, discrimination and war are the result of the intolerance unleashed in the name of a God.

Imagine the results if more people accepted their religion as the best faith for them, but at the same time recognized that there are other religions which teach about other deities, other systems of morality, other religious practices, etc.
– Source: Religious Tolerance.org –

These are the major World religions and estimates of the number of adherents:
Christians: 2,100,000,000
Muslims: 1,500,000,000
Of no religion: 1,100,000,000
Hindus: 900,000,000
Chinese folk religionists: 400,000,000
Primal religionists: 400,000,000
Buddhists: 375,000,000 adherents
Sikhs: 24,000,000
Jews: 14,500,000
Baha’is: 7,400,000
Jains: 4,300,000
Shintoists: 4,000,000
Taoism: 2,700,000

Very, very rough estimates suggest that, in the US, about 25 percent of the population are actively involved with their religion. About 50 percent claim to belong to a particular religion, but they do not actively participate. The last 25 percent either don’t believe in a God, don’t believe there is any proof that any of the Deities exist or don’t really know how they feel about God. This last category isn’t a comfortable one to belong to if a person admits to being an Atheist. Many North Americans believe that Atheists are Communists, or that they are unable to lead a moral life because they don’t fear punishment in Hell.

Some people prefer to say the are Agnostic – they hold the view that any reality such as a God is unknown and probably unknowable. Other people profess to be Agnostic Atheists. This term means they don’t believe in the existence of any deity, but admit not knowing for sure that a deity might exist.

Which brings us back to our brave blogger. I hope ALL of her family and friends will let her choose the beliefs that work best for her.

NOTE: Regardless of your beliefs, I suggest you visit Religious Tolerance.org, a very remarkable website that tries to present a balanced view of  Religion. It is written by an Atheist, an Agnostic, a Christian, a Wiccan and a Zen Buddhist.

Value of the Stay-at-Home Workforce

Cartoon © Phillip Martin

My lifelong career has been a “Stay-at-Home Mom”. This came about for two reasons. The first was that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. The second was that my spousal unit and I decided that one of us would be home for the children. He had a better idea of what he was going to be, and what the potential was for his earning power. So he got to be the “Go-to-Work Dad”.

Staying at home would have been an easier choice if I had been living in my moms generation. But my generation was convinced that the road to liberation didn’t stop in a bungalow in suburbia. My generation wanted to be in the workforce. Many of them weren’t all that complimentary to the few of us who stayed “behind”. I was often asked by women what my career was. When I told them, their response was usually, “Oh, you don’t work.”

If I didn’t work, then what was I doing all day? Caring, cooking, cleaning, driving, advising, managing… well the list goes on and on. If I had been doing this work for someone else, I would have had  a job and I would have been paid. But because I worked for my family, I didn’t work.

If I wasn’t working, was I playing? By definition, work is a trade, profession, or other means of livelihood. Play is an activity that exists only for its own sake. It is absorbing, voluntary, and pleasurable. It does not have goals or compulsions. No, I wasn’t playing all day long. Perhaps what I was doing was a Hobby. A Hobby is an activity done in spare time for pleasure and relaxation. A hobby can have goals and compulsions. No, I wasn’t doing hobbies all the time either. In reality, it was a combination of all three things, done in small blocks of time, in no predictable order. I didn’t always realize how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to have such a flexible definition of what was work, play and hobby.

My husbands career was a mobile one. We have moved 15 times and lived in 4 countries. I unpacked our belongings all 15 times. Some people hire someone to unpack their stuff, and someone else to put it where it looks best. When I unpacked, it was like a big game of hide and seek. Then it became an interesting exercise to put things where they would work to the best of their abilities in a house that was nothing like the one it had been bought for.  Turning a house into a home… and then a patch of dirt into my yard – it was hard work, but not always work, if you know what I mean.

Apparently someone keeps track of what a stay-at-home mom would earn for her work, if she got paid for it. MSN reports that Salary.com calculated that in 2007, mom would have earned $138,095 for doing the typical tasks that a mom might do in a day:  housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist. (Feel free to substitute stay-at-home dad here, because more and more men are taking on this role.)

I’m glad no one has figured out a way to actually pay stay-at-home moms what they are worth.  The federal government would just figure out a way to tax it…