Stay Off The Phone

A couple items worth noting from the Record’s latest OPP Roundup.

On Sept. 4 at 2:30 p.m., police saw a motorist using a cellphone while driving on Highway 401 in Thames Centre, near London.

When they pulled over the car, police found $800,000 worth of dried, packaged cannabis and $130,000 in cash.
A Toronto man, 42, was charged with possession for the purpose of distributing, possession of the proceeds of crime and driving while using a phone. A passenger from Beeton, 35, was charged with possession of the proceeds of crime and possession for the purpose of distributing.

What phone call is that important? And even if one is, why do you have a passenger with you if he can’t handle it?

A 30-year-old man in Middleton, in Norfolk County, called 911 on Sept. 9. Was it a kidnapping, a burglary, a fire?
“It was determined that they called the emergency number after their neighbour’s grass clippings were blown onto their property by the lawn mower,” police said.
OPP urge people to dial 911 only if it’s a real emergency.
“Please do not call 911 about a power outage or to inquire about road conditions or if you have a sick raccoon on your property. This is NOT an emergency.”

I’ll be honest, I had to read this three or four times before the words “30-year-old man” completely sunk in. My mind was picturing the caller as some crazy old crank in his 70s and refusing to let that image go. It’s still having trouble with it, actually.

By the way, if you read the whole article and the last item doesn’t make you cringe and maybe even get a little dizzy, you’re made of stronger stuff than I.

Ahh hell, maybe I’ll put it here in case it’s ever not around. News sites are notoriously bad for moving and disappearing content.

A guardrail struck by a car went right through the vehicle.
On Sept. 5 at 8 a.m. the car hit the rail and rolled over in a ditch on Highway 69, 60 kilometres south of Sudbury.
The guardrail sliced into a female passenger, 52, severing her foot. A male passenger, 27, suffered fractured ankles. The driver, 56, of St. Catharines was not injured. He was charged with careless driving.


Silly Nephew, Didn’t You Know, I’m Bluffing My Way Through The Gruffalo?

The other day I went on a tiny shopping spree…for kids’ books. Yup, I bought a few books to have around in case we end up babysitting wee ones.

I have learned recently that I can memorize kids’ stories if I hear them read often enough, and sometimes it only takes a few repetitions to get it. I didn’t get to put this to the test in the era of “Grandma and Me”, but boy did I have to do it this last Christmas.

Incidentally, oops. The past two Christmases have come and gone and I never wrote about them. I understand Christmas 2019, but Christmas 2018? I have no excuse. I guess I’ll have to sprinkle them in when it makes sense…I at least have ideas from Christmas 2018 stashed away.

Anyway, at least I can tell this story of Christmas 2019. It was a Steve year so we went to his mom’s place. I learned that the Seppa-Tebby-Tebby nephew had a new favourite book called the Gruffalo.

Hey, Youtube video! Where the hell were you back at Christmas?!?!

I had heard about this book a few years ago and a coworker had read it once, and I watched Steve’s sister read it a few times. Every time, I would commit the main rhymes and sequences to memory. Tusks, claws, teeth, jaws, knees, toes, wart, nose, orange, black, prickles, back, fox, owl, snake, and so on.

On the last day, Steve and I were alone babysitting little Mr. Seppa-Tebby-Tebby and he pulled out his new favourite book. “Gruffalo!”he said and flopped the book open. Of course the little guy hasn’t figured out that Steve and I can’t see, so can’t read those beautiful letters on the page. What were we to do but fake it? “Well,” I thought, “here comes the final exam.” Steve distracted him a little bit longer while I tried to cheat by finding a copy I could use as cue cards. I had to settle for a song someone put on Spotify as a cramming tool.

Now it was time. I was told that if I got it wrong, he would tell me so in no uncertain terms. So…*gulp*, here goes nothin’.

It started off and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. But I got a little nervous, and at one point I said teeth instead of tusks. Just as I had been warned, I was told loudly that I got it wrong. “TUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSKS!” he screamed. You’re right, tusks!” I said, and tried to pick up where I, er, left off…sort of. Thankfully he was happy again. Miraculously, I could make it through the rest of the story without getting another scolding. Phew! That was lucky.

But that taught me that it would probably be good to have a few books on hand so that I don’t get caught unprepared. Plus, I would love to read to the Sukie Jukie nephew some time. Apparently, he has already started learning about Braille.

So, in a few days, a few little print-Braille kids’ books will arrive in the mail. Hopefully I’ll get to put them to use some day.

COVID Hyper-Alert?

I have a probably dumb question about the new COVID Alert app. If you get the virus and report that to the app and input your happy little key, what happens when your case is marked as resolved? Does the public health unit deactivate your key so your phone stops spewing warning-triggering codes? Or are they not doing that right now because we can’t figure out how many poor saps with resolved infections have it flair up again, so they’re just leaving them marked as possible COVID positives?

I looked on the COVID Alert help page, and there is nothing about this. If there is a FAQ about this app, I would hope that this particular question would be an F-ly A’d Q.

I would hope they turn off the keys of resolved people. Otherwise, we’re going to reach a point where there are tons of false positives sending lots of people into testing zones for no reason. I know we haven’t reached that place, or anywhere close, but I figure it would be good to know how that part of the plan works. Or maybe I’m missing something somewhere. If so, someone can please enlighten me.

A New COVID-19 Theory? That’s Super, Computer!

As we learn more about COVID-19, it pisses us off because it feels like its laundry list of symptoms just keeps growing, and the symptoms have no connection to each other. We just want to scream “Now you tell us it can cause

  • cough,
  • fever,
  • loss of taste,
  • sore throat,
  • headache,
  • stroke,
  • heart trouble,
  • kidney problems,
  • diarrhea,
  • COVID brain,
  • COVID Toes?

Aaaaaaaaa! What doesn’t it cause?”

But finally, thanks to a supercomputer, there is a theory out there that might be able to tie all these symptoms together!

Earlier this summer, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee set about crunching data on more than 40,000 genes from 17,000 genetic samples in an effort to better understand Covid-19. Summit is the second-fastest computer in the world, but the process — which involved analyzing 2.5 billion genetic combinations — still took more than a week.
When Summit was done, researchers analyzed the results. It was, in the words of Dr. Daniel Jacobson, lead researcher and chief scientist for computational systems biology at Oak Ridge, a “eureka moment.” The computer had revealed a new theory about how Covid-19 impacts the body: the bradykinin hypothesis. The hypothesis provides a model that explains many aspects of Covid-19, including some of its most bizarre symptoms. It also suggests 10-plus potential treatments, many of which are already FDA approved.

To all those people who can’t figure out why scientists can’t solve this virus, think about that for a second. It took a wicked fast, mega powerful computer over a week to get through all the data it was fed.

I’m not a scientific genius, so maybe someone who knows more than me can drive a truck through this theory, but watching it use levels of this chemical called Bradykinin to draw lines between all the symptoms I had heard of, and a few I hadn’t, and explain it so well kind of made me jump up and down. For example, if Bradykinin is used to lower blood pressure, and this virus can cause your body to start filling you with Bradykinin, of course people’s blood pressure would go all low and weird. If Bradykinin is also known to give people a dry cough, and lose their sense of taste, that explains that too. I imagined this theory taking all the COVID-19 symptoms and tying them up in a bow. I think of myself as a logical person, so I like it a lot better when things make sense, and this stupid virus was not making a lot of sense before now. If this theory is proven correct, it sounds like it has the potential to save a lot of lives.

And in even better news, we already have a bunch of approved drugs to try out, now that we know that they might have an impact on the underlying processes that create all this soapy lung goop and leaky blood vessels and stuff.

And wouldn’t it be awesome if something as basic as Vitamin D could help? Vitamin frigging D!

I know everything has to be tested in carefully-calculated studies and all that, but wouldn’t it be awesome if the solution to treating COVID-19 was right under our…noses? Heh heh heh!

I�ve Got To Fix This!

We have been wanting to solve this mystery for years, and the other day, we finally did, so I thought I’d pass on the solution.

It started one day when Steve and I were sending emails to our buddy J. Steve was using Thunderbird, and J and I were using Outlook. For some reason, I looked down into the thread, and saw that in Steve’s messages, there were these weird strings of characters like “�”. They usually showed up in place of the apostrophe or at the ends of sentences. I asked him what the heck, and he said “I haven’t a clue,” and he thought I was nuts because in his sent mail, they looked just fine. We were confused, but we didn’t really search for an answer. We also noticed that it only happened if we used his Rogers address, not his VC one.

Then I started exchanging emails with my French teacher, also using Thunderbird, and she commented on them as well. She said they were replacing French accents. Since I remembered that, for Steve at least, it was a Rogers-specific problem, I emailed her from my Gmail (still using Thunderbird,) and the symbols vanished! But I didn’t want to not be able to use my Rogers email for sending French messages, so I got mad and started to search.

The solution was really easy to find. I just typed “� in my emails”into Google, and Voilà! It seems that the problem isn’t on Thunderbird’s end, it’s something that some ISP’s are doing to emails that are using a certain character set. Non-breaking spaces, apostrophes and special characters get turned into a big pile of broken. This explains why the email looks just fine before it leaves, but goes splat on its way to its destination.

I haven’t sent any French messages lately, but I did send a test message to our buddy J, and he said it looks fine, so I’m assuming I’m all good. Steve also sent me some messages back and forth to my work address, which was fond of turning his mail into splat, and nothing went crash, so I think the solution worked.

Here’s the short version of the solution, copied from the link above.

The “�” is inserted when there are two or more consecutive spaces. It is trying to convert a space to a non-breaking space, but is using the wrong character encoding. Avoid putting two spaces after a sentence to avoid the problem. Here is a test message I sent to myself that shows the problem:

Test again.� Test. test.
no period� no period no period
three spaces�� two spaces� one space x

The problem occurs regardless of whether the checkbox is checked or not, and it occurs when the outbound encoding is UTF-8 or ISO 8859-1.
the characters are hex codes EF, BF, BD, which in UTF-8 happens to be the Unicode “replacement” character to be used when the receiver does not understand the encoding.

I have had this problem for a couple of weeks. Finally found the right combination of settings:
Set Unicode on both Outgoing and Incoming
Check box “When possible, use the default text encoding in replies”
Hope this helps others.

I wish it was as simple as cutting down on spaces. Another message says it eats special punctuation, and I second that.

We just had to check the default box and it seemed to resolve, but there’s how to find the settings area where you’ll have to go to fix it if necessary. TBird, why do you make your settings so…so…labyrinthine?

Hopefully this helps someone else. It sure made me happy.

Your Goose Is Cooked Because My Lunch Isn’t

Another one I missed at the time, but police in France are looking for the person who shot a waiter to death last summer because his food was taking too long. I say are looking for because I’ve been unable to find any updates that say the search is over.

Police say a murder investigation has been launched after the incident on Friday evening in the eastern suburb of Noisy-le-Grand.
The suspect fled the scene and has not been caught.
Ambulance crews tried to save the 28-year-old waiter, who had been shot in the shoulder, but he died at the scene.
His colleagues told police that the customer had lost his temper at the pizza and sandwich shop because of the length of time it had taken to prepare his meal.

Try Before You Buy

I haven’t been seeing nearly as much of this sort of thing lately (Virus keeping all of them at home?), especially not ones starring women.

A Fort Pierce cop was dispatched early Tuesday evening to the Lion’s Den Adult Superstore “in reference to a disturbance,” according to an arrest affidavit. En route to the business, a dispatcher noted that “there was a female in the store wearing a purple shirt and had on no pants.”
Before the officer entered Lion’s Den, a worker explained that the masturbating suspect had “removed a sex toy from the packaging and was now fully nude.” The woman, the worked added, had disappeared into a stock room with the sex toy.
When he entered the stock room, the officer found Theresa Stanley, 36, “sitting in an office chair with her feet up on the table.” Stanley had a “pink colored, penis shaped sex toy” in her hand and was using the device in a “masturbatory manner.”
Right after the cop appeared, Stanley “stopped making use of the sex toy and dropped it on the ground.”

She was placed under arrest on charges of theft and indecent exposure. When asked, she declined to answer any of the officer’s questions. I get it. What is there to say after something like this? Ok, maybe “can a girl get a little privacy in here” or “how about helping a sister finish,” but beyond that, nope. Nothing.

The Story Of The Save

I’ve been watching baseball forever, but there’s still a ton I don’t know about the game. One of those things, until today, was just how complicated the history of the save rule is. I started watching in the 80s, which means that the save as we know it has always been there for me. But I had no idea, for instance, that when I saw my first game that our version of the rule was only 10 years old (it was adopted in 1975). I also had no clue that talk of the concept has been traced all the way back to 1907 or that it appeared in Ty Cobb’s 1915 memoir. That’s astounding to me, because although I know relief pitching was sort of a thing back then, it was also still part of the era where guys pretty much threw until their arms fell off and many of the relievers were just starters on an off day. Also interesting is that there were teams hiring stats guys as early as the 1940s. Considering how many around the game still look at stats guys today, I’m sure that went over well and without much in the way of grumbling.

Enter baseball’s first full-time statistician, Allan Roth. Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey, sensing an opportunity to gain an edge with a dedicated mathematician in the front office, had hired him in the ’40s. In 1951, Roth set about tracking the team’s relievers, and he came up with the first formal definition of the save: Any non-winning relief pitcher who finished a winning game would be credited with one, no matter how large his lead. If the team won, and he finished the game, he’d earn a save.
The system was imperfect—had a reliever “saved” anything if he entered with a double-digit lead?—but the basic concept began to spread to other teams, to reporters, and to pitchers themselves. From the beginning, the metric was linked to a reliever’s earning potential. “Saves are my bread and butter,” Cubs reliever Don Elston told The Sporting News in 1959. “What else can a relief pitcher talk about when he sits down to discuss salary with the front office?”
Roth began to share his definition with the media in the late ‘50s, and before long, the save made its first major evolution. In 1960, the stat had a new formula, a new architect, and a new principle to prove.
Holtzman, a Cubs beat writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, had spent the 1959 season watching Elston and teammate Bill Henry, and he suspected that they were among the best relievers in baseball. However, a different pitcher was getting the attention: Pirates reliever Elroy Face, who had gone 18–1 and been rewarded with a seventh-place finish for NL MVP. There was just one problem, Holtzman figured: Face hadn’t actually been that good.

“Everybody thought he was great,” Holtzman, who died in 2008, told Sports Illustrated in 1992. “But when a relief pitcher gets a win, that’s not good, unless he came into a tie game. Face would come into the eighth inning and give up the tying run. Then Pittsburgh would come back to win in the ninth.” (In five of his wins, Face entered with a lead and left without one.)

So Holtzman set out to create his own definition for the save, with criteria much stingier than Roth’s. In order to be eligible, a reliever had to face the potential tying or winning run, or come into the final inning and pitch a perfect frame with a two-run lead. If neither of those situations applied, there was no save opportunity.

From there, things became a total mess. Some liked Roth’s definition, others favoured sportswriter Jerome Holtzman’s, and plenty of others came up with their own systems. It wasn’t until 1969 that baseball officially recognized it as a stat, and even then it went through a bunch of changes before we ended up with what we have now. And I don’t want to alarm anyone, but even today people still can’t always agree on whether or not it’s a worthwhile thing to track. Yes. Bickering. In baseball. I know.
How Major League Baseball Adopted the Save—and Changed the Game Forever

How About We Don’t Have An Election

Most Canadians comfortable with an election amid coronavirus — what would it look like?
Count me firmly in the camp of not most Canadians, then.

I’m not personally opposed to going out to vote right now. I don’t live in a region that’s currently overrun by disease, so I’m sure I would be fine. But I sympathize with those who don’t feel safe. Leaving the house is literally a life or death decision for some people, and it’s not one they should be forced to make in order to take part in an entirely unnecessary democratic exercise.

That, by the way, is why I’m not comfortable with an election right now. We don’t need one. We just had one. No, it didn’t really settle anything, but we have what we have and right now what we have has served us pretty well in some extremely uncertain times. Now isn’t the time to be potentially changing leadership. It would be one thing if we had to because four years had passed and the term was up, but it hasn’t even been a year. There’s no good reason to go to the polls at the moment, especially with the extra costs it would take to pull it off safely during a pandemic. We can all judge the dumb, completely preventable, manufactured outrage filled scandals when real election day gets here. But right now, if all of you could just fucking cooperate with each other and help your country through this mess, that would be peachy.

If you’re a Liberal, that means don’t put something in the next throne speech that absolutely no one can support in order to trigger your own demise. And if you’re everyone else, it means don’t oppose simply for the sake of opposing or because you think it’ll score you a few extra points with the base. You don’t have to agree on every single detail, but for Christ’s sake, try to meet each other half way and get some things done. I think, when it comes down to it, most Canadians would like that a whole lot more than having to vote again.