Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Tlaamin Elder’s Beautiful Digital Gift

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In today’s Tyee is an article that I want to quote

“Paul declined to be interviewed for this article, simply because she felt she had already said enough. That’s hard to argue with given how filled the book is with her knowledge. And the wisdom of an Elder is something to be respected, too. Knowing when to start talking and when to stop is a teaching a lot of us could use.”

I had hoped that I had learned that. In so far as this blog is concerned, there is much less new being added as I feel that I have covered the ground I originally intended adequately already. The “Paul” who declined to be interviewed is the author of As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder, is Elsie Paul, – which is a book I got from Vancouver Public Library in part because of our trip to the Sunshine Coast. The article is actually about a web site based on the material in that book – go read it to find the link to that!

The other thing that I think also bears your attention right now is “Covid, Twitter, and Critique” which is published in American Anthropologist and deals with what we needed to have been learning from the pandemic.

The anthropologist is Carlo Caduff of King’s College, London who says

“I had not been using Twitter much before the pandemic. During this period, I have turned to it as a kind of public notebook, where I could write down thoughts and then publish them and have a record for myself. The tweets were either orientations, diagnostic, or suggestions for another politics of life.”

“At the beginning of the pandemic there was hardly any political voice, because people were overwhelmed, and then stuck. Many were busy with homeschooling. And then lots of people were scared, so the first responses were either people not saying much, or they were repeating what everyone else was saying, or it was just silence.

Now, I think that has definitely changed. There are more political voices. The views are more diverse. People have gained a better sense of the complexity and the seriousness of the pandemic response and its consequences.”

“The lockdown was presented as if there were no alternatives. And that’s simply not true. First of all, you need to understand the history of the idea of the lockdown. Lockdowns only figured in infectious disease modeling. They were basically a theoretical idea that disease modelers used in simulations: What happens if you do this? What happens if you do that? Can you reduce the number of deaths if you do x, y, z? A complete shutdown was never an option that public health professionals considered in their preparedness plans for a pandemic like this.”

The parallel is the Perfect Competition market – which economists always knew did not exist either but was also a theoretical idea – a simplified abstraction meant to help explain how markets in general would work if viewed without the inescapable complexities of real life. It was never supposed to normative or prescriptive. Unfortunately most politicians never got beyond Economics 101 even if they did study it academically. A bit like putting a new graduate from high school with an A in physics in charge of a nuclear reactor.

I have been keeping a journal during the pandemic but it does not cover anything that can be found in the on line universe. It exists only as some paper notebooks – three so far – written with a fountain pen. Because an archivist that I knew from Facebook said that in the future our electronic ruminations may well not be readable. The technology will certainly have moved on – or maybe be even eliminated – whereas physical marks with permanent ink on good quality acid free paper lasts quite a while in the right circumstances. One thing I do know is that I was completely unaware at the time that lockdowns were only theoretical until now. So we truly are living through an experiment, so maybe my recording first person experience will have value freed from the certainties that seem to infest both social and mainstream media.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 3, 2020 at 3:43 pm

The Notebook

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A while ago now, I used to teach adults about energy efficiency. One such venture was concerned with buildings. The students were learning to qualify for a national program, based in the United States, and I travelled to Bellingham as a guest speaker. Nearly everyone else they heard would have been talking about building issues – insulation and so on. Hardware mostly, but also management. I talked about the bigger picture. How a building’s use and location was actually much more significant in terms of its greenhouse gas footprint than the energy used by its HVAC system.

The consulting company that ran the course gave me a nice little memento. The notebook, which was part of the kit given to the students. It is a monument to the principles that were being taught. The cover is made from recycled tyres. The paper, of course, was recycled too – every page has a pale grey logo printed on it.

The pages are all punched and the binding is by four small openable rings. Towards the end of the book there is page printed with the contact information of the maker. So that users can order a refill. Today I contacted them by email as, when I went to their web page, I could not find a refill that would fit this format.

Their reply. “Yes, this is a long discontinued item and we do not carry these refills anymore.
I am sorry about it.”

I won’t embarrass them by publishing their name. It is just a sad reality that business is business, and clearly this product, designed to be reusable for much longer than any one pad of paper might be, was not a commercial success. Which says more about us than them.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 1, 2020 at 11:52 am

Posted in Recycling

I have now left Facebook

with 4 comments

I clicked on that blue button on the bottom left of that screenshot. Nothing happened. I did not get any kind of confirmation. What is supposed to happen – according to Facebook is “Enter your password, click Continue and then click Delete Account.” but I didn’t get to that page where I can do that.

This blog started to get neglected as Twitter and Facebook began to get much more attention. But I increasingly got more concerned about the direction that Facebook was taking. Not the people I was following or the ones who followed me (and those were easy enough to quietly ignore when necessary). More disconcerting was the attitude of Mark Zuckerberg as described in this Mother Jones article.

I did contact Facebook help and, of course, I didn’t get any.

So I have now removed the Social Media widgets from the right hand column, and I have also deleted Facebook, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) and Messenger from all my devices. When you are on a “service” which is “free”, you are the product. So simply saying you are not going to patronize the advertisers doesn’t actually change anything. Facebook still gets revenue for serving you the ad. Only by leaving Facebook can you change anything – but the first thing is that you will not any longer be going down that rabbit hole. If you miss the people you used to enjoy seeing posts from, there are other ways that you can contact them. And all the rest was fluff anyway.

UPDATE June 16

I am pleased to report that I have found a solution. I had installed a Facebook app called “Fluff Busting Purity” which ran as an extension on Chrome. Simply removing that enabled me to get to the account deletion. But then I discovered that the password – as recorded by Chrome – did not work. So I changed the password then deleted. I now have 30 days before the account finally disappears.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 7, 2020 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Transportation

I don’t know right now

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Every so often when I look away from this screen to look out of the window, I am struck by the fact that what I am looking at is three dimensional. A screen, of course, isn’t. Though there are increasingly frequent images which try to get around this.

I looked away because I had just read Elizabeth Warren’s experience of dealing with one of her brother’s death from COVID-19. I do not know her, of course. I just know of her. Of her relationship to her brothers, not at all. Until now. And, for reasons that I am at a loss to explain, this one hit home. Hard.

And she is right. It did not have to happen like this.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 17, 2020 at 5:26 pm

Posted in personal thoughts

The Pixsy Experience

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Lens cleaning cloth from Pixsy
Free gift of a lens cleaning cloth to celebrate getting paid!

As a PRO member of flickr (something I pay for) I get a complimentary subscription to Pixsy a service which matches pictures online. It is used to track copyright violations. Some people copyright everything they post online. Other use a Creative Commons license which attempts to restrict some of the uses pictures are put to.

At one time I was posting my pictures directly to this blog – now I try to post only links to my flickr photostream – as everything that is on this blog is covered by my copyright notice. But of course I also use plenty of illustrations from other people. I regret that I was not always as careful as I should have been over identifying the source of the images I used. So in using Pixsy I have discovered not just those pictures that others have used, but also pictures that I should have labelled.


In an attempt to speed up the effectiveness of my use of Pixsy I have now removed this blog as a match in the hopes of removing a lot of duplicates. It would also be nice if I could have got rid of a lot of old matches when I was not bothering dealing with on Pixsy. Unfortunately that still leaves me with a 2,363 matches – or which 2,266 “unseen” that need to marked ignore, approved use or not my image or followed up – send takedown or submit case.

Pixsy also identifies domains that are “not viable for commercial resolution” or those outside jurisdictions that they support . You can send them a takedown notice – which in my experience has been completely futile – although the number of those you can send through Pixsy is also limited. It is also pointless pursuing sites which are simply hotlinking back to another site which hosts the image. In that case you have to go after the not site but the host – which again usually means a takedown – but I have had some success with removing my images from such sites. Not so much in the way of reward for use of course. What is annoying is that it too often takes me time to fill in the necessary details, file a claim and then have it rejected because is in the wrong jurisdiction. It would be far better if their software detected that and did not waste so much of my time.

In fact so far in the course of three years, I have actually been paid three times. Not enormous sums, but worth some effort. Since I only get 1,000 images monitored on my free plan and on flickr alone I have 18,439 images I do want to get rid of the useless ones even if that does take a lot of time. Comparing what I would have to pay every month to upgrade with how much I have been paid in the last three years, I find it hard to justify an upgrade.

There are also many images on my photostream that are very similar to those of others. After most of the places I have visited are now highly accessible and – before COVID19 – everybody now travels and carries a camera or smartphone and often both. So lots of people post pictures that are remarkably similar. Good luck if you can actually demonstrate that your photo of the front elevation of Sacre Coeur is unique – and anyway France is one of those jurisdictions where Pixsy has given up altogether.

But the Good News there are sites which do indeed use my images but comply with the strictures of the Creative Commons license and get the Approved sticker!

POSTSCRIPT

I have also come across sites that go to great lengths to make sure they do not have to respond to DCMA takedown notices. Since these are commercial operations, that go to great efforts to avoid their responsibilities to people whose work they exploit, you have to wonder how they treat their customers. I would not want to spend my money on the services or products of those who have demonstrated such determination to avoid the consequences of their actions.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 23, 2020 at 6:21 pm

Posted in photography

Tagged with

Promising new approach

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Elsewhere the orange idiot is pushing drugs that have not been proven safe or effective. The following press release arrived in my in box this morning, and may not be noticed by our mainstream media because they are busy cutting staff pay – or even shutting down altogether. The idea that the government – or their readers – should now ride to their rescue seems really strange to me since the reason they have nothing to fall back on is that they have been bleeding the companies dry. I have no sympathy whatever for these vultures.

Queen’s University leading cell therapy clinical trial to help improve outcomes in COVID-19 patients

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are leading a UK-wide clinical trial, offering an innovative cell therapy treatment for COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure.

This clinical trial, led by Professor Danny McAuley and Professor Cecilia O’Kane, both researchers from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, is investigating the use of allogenic Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) in patients with a complication known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) caused by COVID-19.

In the most critically unwell patients with COVID-19, many develop a complication known as ARDS. In ARDS the lungs become inflamed and leaky so they fill with fluid. This causes respiratory failure and patients may require admission to intensive care and a ventilator machine to support their breathing.

A recent statement from the four UK Chief Medical Officers outlined the importance of clinical trials amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Professor Cecilia O’Kane said: “It is only through clinical trials we will be able to determine if new treatments are effective and safe in critically ill patients.”

The trial involves the use of MSCs, a type of cell derived from human tissue such as bone marrow or umbilical cord (which is otherwise discarded after the baby is born), to treat the injury to the lung caused by COVID 19. MSCs are a novel treatment that have been shown in experimental models to reduce inflammation, fight infection and improve the repair of injured tissue.

Patients in this trial, which is known as REALIST COVID 19, will be treated with a purified population of MSCs derived from umbilical cord tissue called ORBCEL-C. The ORBCEL-C therapy has been developed by scientists at Orbsen Therapeutics in Galway, Ireland. The ORBCEL-C therapeutic is manufactured under licence by the UK NHS Blood and Transplant Service for the REALIST COVID-19 trial.

The trial is being introduced as part of an existing programme of research investigating the use of MSCs in patients with ARDS. The first patient has now been recruited with plans to recruit at least 60 patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at multiple sites across the UK including Belfast, Birmingham and London.

Professor Ian Young, Clinical Professor at the Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast, Director of HSC R&D and Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department of Health, said: “The Health and Social Care Research & Development Division has been working with researchers across HSC to address the global problem of Coronavirus.  We have contributed £230K for this vital research which will provide important evidence regarding a potential new treatment for respiratory failure, a leading cause of mortality in COVID-19.  We will continue to support health research and encourage people to participate in research trials and other studies so patients can get the best possible treatment to help tackle the spread of COVID-19.”

The trial has been identified by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a national urgent public health study. It is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Chief Medical Officer/ Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.  The study is funded by the Health and Social Care Research & Development Division and the Wellcome Trust, sponsored by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and supported by the NI Clinical Trials Unit, the NIHR Clinical Research Network and the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network.

Orbsen CSO Steve Elliman noted: “While there are over 100 vaccines and therapies in development targeting the SARS-CoV-2 infection – at present there are no disease modifying therapies approved for ARDS.  We’re delighted the REALIST trial was approved and listed by NIHR as an Urgent Public Health Research Study so we can continue assess the safety of the ORBCEL-C therapy in patients with ARDS.”

Sir Professor Alimuddin Zumla of University College London, a global coronavirus and infectious diseases expert said: “This is an exciting and important trial which targets rectifying the underlying causes of lung damage and has great potential of saving many lives from COVID-19. The team should be congratulated for their leadership of host-directed therapies, a concept which has not yet been explored to its full potential.”

Professor Danny McAuley is also part of an international network of researchers who are taking forward trials of umbilical cord-derived Mesenchymal stromal cells for the treatment of COVID-19: UK: (UCL- Sir Professor Azumla); Portugal (Champualimud Foundation – Professor Markus Maurer; Italy (INMI-Professor Giuseppe Ippolito) and China (Fifth Medical Center- Professor Fu-Sheng Wang.)

-Ends-

  1. Media inquiries to comms.officer@qub.ac.uk  
  2. About NIHR: Please visit  https://www.nihr.ac.uk/covid-19/ to learn about other studies that have been given urgent public health status and the single, national prioritisation process that has been established to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the resources and capacity of the health and care system to support COVID-19 research are not exceeded.
  3. About Wellcome: Wellcome exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation. For more information please  visit: http://wellcome.ac.uk/
  4. For further information about HSC Research & Development Division work, please visit: www.research.hscni.net

Written by Stephen Rees

April 7, 2020 at 10:00 am

Posted in good news, Pandemic

Tagged with

Social Distancing

with 2 comments

There was a little bit of ambivalence for me yesterday. The people who work in our hospitals were posting “Stay Home”

But the official line from Bonnie Henry the Provincial Health Officer is that we can – and should – go for a walk as long as we maintain social distancing. Clearly this is easier to achieve in some places than others. The pictures that accompany this post shows what was going on at Locarno Beach and Spanish Banks yesterday. The logs are now being removed to deter gathering in one spot.

Social Distancing sign
Notice that the Parks Board cannot even get the simplest things right.
Below the City gets it right
See the difference?
Social Distancing 1
Social Distancing 2
Social Distancing 3


Then this morning this appeared on Facebook. Everything below this is a quotation.

————————————————————————–

A good read. Please share Subject: Eye opening

Very, very important information posted by Jonathan Smith:

Hey everybody, as an infectious disease epidemiologist (although a lowly one), at this point feel morally obligated to provide some information on what we are seeing from a transmission dynamic perspective and how they apply to the social distancing measures. Like any good scientist I have noticed two things that are either not articulated or not present in the “literature” of social media. I am also tagging my much smarter infectious disease epidemiologist friends for peer review of this post. Please correct me if I am wrong (seriously).


Specifically, I want to make two aspects of these measures very clear and unambiguous.


First, we are in the very infancy of this epidemic’s trajectory. That means even with these measures we will see cases and deaths continue to rise globally, nationally, and in our own communities in the coming weeks. Our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and people will die that didn’t have to. This may lead some people to think that the social distancing measures are not working. They are. They may feel futile. They aren’t. You will feel discouraged. You should. This is normal in chaos. But this is also normal epidemic trajectory. This enemy that we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not my opinion; this is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. We know what will happen; I want to help the community brace for this impact. Stay strong and with solidarity knowing with absolute certainty that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people begin getting sick and dying. You may feel like giving in. Don’t.

Second, although social distancing measures have been (at least temporarily) well-received, there is an obvious-but-overlooked phenomenon when considering groups (i.e. families) in transmission dynamics. While social distancing decreases contact with members of society, it of course increases your contacts with group (i.e. family) members. This small and obvious fact has surprisingly profound implications on disease transmission dynamics. Study after study demonstrates that even if there is only a little bit of connection between groups (i.e. social dinners, playdates/playgrounds, etc.), the epidemic trajectory isn’t much different than if there was no measure in place. The same underlying fundamentals of disease transmission apply, and the result is that the community is left with all of the social and economic disruption but very little public health benefit. You should perceive your entire family to function as a single individual unit; if one person puts themselves at risk, everyone in the unit is at risk. Seemingly small social chains get large and complex with alarming speed. If your son visits his girlfriend, and you later sneak over for coffee with a neighbor, your neighbor is now connected to the infected office worker that your son’s girlfriend’s mother shook hands with. This sounds silly, it’s not. This is not a joke or a hypothetical. We as epidemiologists see it borne out in the data time and time again and no one listens. Conversely, any break in that chain breaks disease transmission along that chain.


In contrast to hand-washing and other personal measures, social distancing measures are not about individuals, they are about societies working in unison. These measures also take a long time to see the results. It is hard (even for me) to conceptualize how ‘one quick little get together’ can undermine the entire framework of a public health intervention, but it does. I promise you it does. I promise. I promise. I promise. You can’t cheat it. People are already itching to cheat on the social distancing precautions just a “little”- a playdate, a haircut, or picking up a needless item at the store, etc. From a transmission dynamics standpoint, this very quickly recreates a highly connected social network that undermines all of the work the community has done so far.

Until we get a viable vaccine this unprecedented outbreak will not be overcome in grand, sweeping gesture, rather only by the collection of individual choices our community makes in the coming months. This virus is unforgiving to unwise choices. My goal in writing this is to prevent communities from getting ‘sucker-punched’ by what the epidemiological community knows will happen in the coming weeks. It will be easy to be drawn to the idea that what we are doing isn’t working and become paralyzed by fear, or to ‘cheat’ a little bit in the coming weeks. By knowing what to expect, and knowing the importance of maintaining these measures, my hope is to encourage continued community spirit, strategizing, and action to persevere in this time of uncertainty.

UPDATE

It turned out to be difficult to find the source of that piece. One of my readers Barb Meinema was more persistent than I and sent me this email today

Hello!  I reached out to Dr. Bozard, and she was kind enough to respond and too find the original author.  It would be very appreciated if you would please update your post accordingly.  See below.  Thanks so much!


~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ 

From Dr. Smith (Posted on my note to Dr. Bozard)
Hi Barb Cox Meinema and Andrea Collisson – I originally wrote the letter to my small community. Since then it is gotten out on the internet. In an effort for version control, I worked with the editors of Medium to make a public version here: 
https://elemental.medium.com/hold-the-line-17231c48ff17

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ 

And, for what it’s worth, the new WordPress block editor made this update much harder to do than the old system. And it inserted typos where there were none before.


Written by Stephen Rees

March 22, 2020 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Pandemic

Tagged with

Empty Shelves

with 2 comments

Paper products
Flour
Canned soup

The local CBC station asked for images of empty shelves in local stores. This is the tiny convenience store section of the pharmacy which has remained open in the Arbutus Mall during redevelopment. Usually the shelves are kept stocked because of the lack of stores in the immediate vicinity for people living in the Village. There is also a considerable volume of trade during the day for the people building the new development.

The mall also manages to attract a steady stream of people in cars because parking is so easy and convenient – and the dance studio and swimming pool are still open for lessons. Though with the closure today of all K-12 schools I do not know if that will continue.

UPDATE

Wednesday March 18

We went to much bigger Safeway on Granville at 70th – and the empty shelves were again much in evidence. Surprisingly for fresh fruit and vegetables – but not organics. Also for fresh bread, packets of cereal, eggs – and not just some types – no eggs at all! This was all mid-afternoon so presumably people who got there early simply swept up all there was.

Some packages carried stickers “limit 2” – because they often do that for sale items. Safeway is not the only retailer, of course, so we found big oranges, jars of marmite and some fresh bread rolls at Choices. There did not seem to be quite the same pressure there.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 17, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Pandemic

Ending the Gerrymander

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By Elkanah Tisdale (1771-1835) (often falsely attributed to Gilbert Stuart)[1] – Originally published in the Boston Centinel, 1812., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6030613

I am a regular reader of “This is True”, an email newsletter. Its author, Randy Cassingham also has a podcast. If you read my recent post, you will know that I am not a fan of podcasts, but Cassingham does things differently. He publishes his podcast with a transcript, so you can read it if you prefer and in this case provides lots of links to the original material.

The United States is bedevilled by broken voting systems. One of the oldest is the practice of allowing party politicians to redistrict elections to give their party an unfair advantage. It has long bothered me – and many other people – that since both parties have been doing this for a long time, getting the system reformed seemed highly unlikely. But Colorado has managed that. And you can read about that, or listen to the podcast at https://thisistrue.com/064-line-in-the-sand/ and follow the links there to the original material.

Well done Randy. Well done Colorado. Other states please copy.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 16, 2020 at 6:10 pm

Don’t Bail Out Cruise Ship Companies

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Eurodam at Vancouver BC
my photo

Capt. Don Marcus, President

International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots 

(representing U.S. sea captains, deck officers and other mariners)

Opposing a Federal Bailout to Cruise Ship Industry

“We should not give one dime in stimulus money to 

‘flag-of-convenience’ party boats…”

President Trump has floated the idea of providing financial assistance to the cruise ship industry, hard hit by the spread of COVID-19. We should not give one dime in stimulus money to ‘flag-of-convenience’ party boats; they should be the last on the list for a federal bailout.

The major cruise lines have owners who live in the United States, but they register their vessels in foreign countries and sail under foreign flags. They utilize flags-of-convenience laws to avoid hiring American crews and adhering to American labor laws and standards, as well as environmental codes. These “operators” depend on the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard for protection while avoiding paying taxes to the U.S. Treasury.

Over the weekend, Vice President Pence described the cruise lines as “great companies.”  They’re not. American taxpayers should not be sending their hard earned dollars to an industry that freeloads off of our government and is notorious for exploiting low-cost foreign crews.

If Congress and the White House want to protect American interests, foster an economic recovery, and help the maritime community, monies would be better spent assisting ferry systems such as the Alaska Marine Highway System now taking a double blow from the economic downturn and the decline in oil revenue. Assistance also should be offered to commuter ferries such as the Washington State Ferries and Staten Island Ferry that have suffered a loss of commuter traffic. The domestic ferry systems employ American workers, and they are an essential part of our transportation infrastructure.

The virus crisis and our dependence on foreign trade also highlights our nation’s overreliance on foreign cargo fleets, especially those of China, Hong Kong and South Korea. Congress should increase incentives for cargo vessels that fly the American flag for reasons of both national security and the free flow of commerce.

For more information on the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, please visit www.bridgedeck.org

Written by Stephen Rees

March 16, 2020 at 11:59 am

Posted in Transportation