Thursday: Hili dialogue

December 9, 2021 • 6:45 am

Good morning on a chilly Chicago Thursday: December 9, 2021, and National Pastry Day. Remember, there are only 17 shopping days left until the beginning of Coynezaa.

Here’s a North African pastry dissected for your visual enjoyment, filled with meat, fruit, nuts, and other goodies. I had it at an Algerian restaurant in Paris in 2018. The pastilla, as these pastries are called, always have sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top:

It’s also  Christmas Card Day, International Jewish Book Day (I recommend Goodbye, Columbus), National Llama Day, and the UN-created International Anti-Corruption Day.

Baby llama:

Wine of the Day: It’s a happy day when you find a good champagne for $23 a bottle. (I didn’t say “French champagne”, as any wine called “champagne” by law must come from a particular region of France, and made in a specific way. If you see wines from other places labeled “champagne”, it’s a lie.) Well, look no further than this full-bodied, toasty Haslinger champagne for your Christmas bubbly. Rich and complex in aroma, and cheap as dirt for what it is, buy this by the case.  I’m unable to use the fancy adjectives that others do when tasting, but here’s a purple-prose assessment:

The Champagne opens with aromas of pears poached in white wine with a sprinkling of clove, ginger, anise and vanilla – the poaching liquid reduced and finished with mascarpone, spread on pâte feuilletée with thinly sliced pear. It’s creamy and refined, with a delicate mousse that sparkles across the palate as an aperitif. But the real show-stopper is to turn this bad-boy’s richness loose at the dinner table, supporting everything from Coq au Vin Blanc with tarragon and chestnuts to coconut and celery root puree with sautéed pink peppercorn shrimp and scallions. It’s snappy enough to serve while toasting, yet rich enough to keep going all night, right on through the meal.

It’s reasonable that many people have never heard of Haslinger – because it is entirely made at G.H. Martel Champagne Company (not to be confused with Martel Cognac Company).

I had this with a boneless skinless chicken breast, green beans, and rice flavored with a dollop of hoisin sauce. I’m telling you–if you can get this for around $20, DO IT! I’d also suggest, as I discovered only about a decade ago, that a good champagne is a great accompaniment for food-the right food.

News of the Day:

*If you’ve had your Pfizer jabs, are you protected against the Omicron strain of Covid-19? According to the NYT, Pfizer and BioNTech claim that if you’ve had three jabs—that is, you’ve had the first two and a booster—you’re pretty well off:

The companies said that tests of blood from people who received only two doses found much lower antibody levels against Omicron compared with an earlier version of the virus. That finding indicates that two doses alone “may not be sufficient to protect against infection” by the new variant, the companies said.

But the blood samples obtained from people one month after they had received a booster shot showed neutralizing antibodies against Omicron comparable to those against previous variants after two doses, the companies said in a statement.

But if you know about immune responses, you’ll see a problem with the above, and the NYT adds it immediately:

These experiments, done with blood samples in the lab, cannot say for sure how the vaccines will perform in the real world. Vaccines stimulate a wide-ranging immune response that involves more than just antibodies, but levels of antibodies are the fastest and easiest response to test.

So be optimistic, but realize that the data aren’t all in yet. What we want to know is how protected we are against illness, serious illness, and death. Antibodies are correlated with such protection, but not perfectly.

*Bad news for those supporting Jefferson’s wall between church and state. the hyper-conservative (and religious) Supreme Court appears poised to allow taxpayer’s money to be used for sending children to religious schools:

Such a ruling would loosen longstanding restrictions on using taxpayer money to pay for religious instruction, further lowering the wall of separation between church and state.

The justices heard 90 minutes of courtroom argument Wednesday involving a program in Maine that makes tuition money available to families living in areas without a public high school, which they can use pay for attendance at public or private schools in other communities.

But the money cannot be used to send children to sectarian schools, defined by the state as those that promote a particular faith or belief system and teach material “through the lens of this faith.”

Several of the court’s conservatives suggested they believed the state law is unconstitutional.

*The jury deciding the fate of accused race-crime-faker Jussie Smollett took a break yesterday afternoon after deliberating for 2.5 hours. Deliberations will resume deliberation today. My question is WHY? The man is palpably guilty, and was taken apart by the prosecution during the cross-examination. I would have expect the jury to come back with a guilty verdict after an hour or two. If Smollett is found not guilty (I expect a verdict today), I will send $10 to the first reader who sends me a photo of their cat this morning (not someone else’s cat!), mentioning my offer. You have nothing to lose, and watch this space to see if the slot has been filled.

*The NYT writes on the silencing of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who had accused a high Chinese official of sexual assault and then dropped out of sight. It’s a good account of how Chinese censorship works (and how it sometimes fails). The censorship began 20 minutes after Peng’s accusation:

This time, according to analyses by The New York Times and ProPublica, China began a multifaceted propaganda campaign that was at once sophisticated and clumsy. Inside the country, officials used internet controls to scrub almost all references to the accusation and restrict digital spaces where people might discuss it. At the same time, they activated a widely followed network of state-media commentators, backed by a chorus of fake Twitter accounts, to try to punch back at critics abroad, the analyses show.

The effort didn’t always succeed. This is how China reacted — and how it stumbled along the way.

One detectable stumble:

In recent years, China has often used fake accounts on Twitter in coordinated campaigns to spread disinformation or bolster its preferred narrative.

​​A New York Times and ProPublica analysis of Twitter accounts identified 97 fake accounts promoting Mr. Hu, the Global Times editor, and other Chinese state media messaging about Ms. Peng.

Nearly all followed no other accounts and had no followers, an indication that they were created only to amplify others. Many promoted the message that the images of Ms. Peng were proof that she was fine. They were among more than 1,700 Twitter accounts, identified by the analysis, that bore the hallmarks of a covert Chinese information campaign promoting a range of government messaging.

*Matthew found a wonderful site called “Snowball fights in art: 1400-1946,” showing all kinds of paintings, prints, photos and drawings of ice battles. Here are just two.

Princeton students after a rough snowball battle. Those snowballs must have had rocks in them!

Photograph of Princeton students after a snowball fight between freshman and sophomores, 1893.

All the world loves snowball fights (well, at least the parts of the world that have snow):

Color woodblock print by Utagawa Kunisada (I), ca. 1825.

*There’s a new book about the discovery of DNA by Howard Markel: The Secret of Life: Rosalind Franklin, Francis Crick, and the Discovery of DNA’s Double Helix.  Do we need more maps of this well-trodden territory? Not according to Nathaniel Comfort, whom we encountered a few years back. Here’s an excerpt of Comfort’s review of the book in the LA Review of Books:

But Markel makes a more radical argument. Watson, he maintains, was the ringleader in a vast male conspiracy against Rosalind Franklin, the brilliant crystallographer whose data, unbeknownst to her, were crucial to the solving of the structure. Essentially all of the men around her, Markel argues, colluded to short-circuit her career, drive her out of the double helix race, and deny her credit for the discovery. Markel’s argument fails for a peculiar reason: not because he misstates Franklin’s treatment (although at times he does), but because for all his gallantry, Franklin remains overshadowed. The world he creates on the page is just as simplistic and male-dominated as the one he seeks to replace.

I find this review confusing, and can’t really put my finger on the main reason Markel finds the book a failure. I’ll wait for Matthew to read it and tell me.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 791,933, an increase of 1,275 deaths over yesterday’s figure. In a week we will hit 800,000 deaths: a figure once thought inconceivable when the pandemic started (even 200,000 was beyond imagination). The reported world death toll is now 5,298,095, an increase of about 8,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 9 includes:

Read this post to hear about my visit to see the miraculous Virgin in 2018. Here are two photos of the cloak. It’s always visible from the congregation of the Church, but to see it closer up, you have to stand on a rapidly moving sidewalk that whisks you past the Virgin:

Blurry because the sidewalk was moving:

Here’s what those first lights looked like:

Here’s Pinchback, son of a white planter and a slave. He governed for only about a month:

  • 1905 – In France, the law separating church and state is passed.
  • 1917 – World War I: Field Marshal Allenby captures Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire.

Allenby didn’t enter the city until December 11, and did so on foot out of respect for the city’s history:


  • 1946 – The “Subsequent Nuremberg trials” begin with the “Doctors’ trial“, prosecuting physicians and officers alleged to be involved in Nazi human experimentation and mass murder under the guise of euthanasia.
  • 1950 – Cold War: Harry Gold is sentenced to 30 years in jail for helping Klaus Fuchs pass information about the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union. His testimony is later instrumental in the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
  • 1960 – The first episode of Coronation Street, the world’s longest-running television soap opera, is broadcast in the United Kingdom.
  • 1979 – The eradication of the smallpox virus is certified, making smallpox the first of only two diseases that have been driven to extinction (rinderpest in 2011 being the other).

Here’s the last known victim of smallpox that was infected naturally, as opposed to in a lab. The Wikipedia caption: “Three-year-old Rahima Banu of Bangladesh (pictured) was the last person infected with naturally occurring Variola major, in 1975.”

  • 1996 – Gwen Jacob is acquitted of committing an indecent act, giving women the right to be topless in Ontario, Canada.

Here’s Jacob in the act; read more about this landmark trial here.  I still haven’t seen any topless women in Ontario; do they appear?

  • 2008 – The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is arrested by federal officials for crimes including attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1608 – John Milton, English poet and philosopher (d. 1674)

Here’s an original copy of Milton’s defense of free speech in Areopagitica, often touted as a must-read by Christopher Hitchens.

Haber won the Prize for developing a process for synthesizing ammonia for use in fertilizer an explosives.

  • 1898 – Emmett Kelly, American clown and actor (d. 1979)

He’s the archetypal clown:

  • 1909 – Douglas Fairbanks Jr., American captain, actor, and producer (d. 2000)
  • 1915 – Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, German-Austrian soprano and actress (d. 2006)
  • 1934 – Judi Dench, English actress
  • 1953 – John Malkovich, American actor and producer

Here’s John Malcovich on Conan’s show, declaring that he hates the sound of his own voice. He sounds like a deeper version of Truman Capote:

And here’s John Malcovich on the Letterman show saying the top ten things that sound creepy”

  • 1957 – Donny Osmond, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actor
  • 1962 – Felicity Huffman, American actress and producer [and jailbird]

Huffman in prison garb:

  • 1966 – Kirsten Gillibrand, American lawyer and politician

Those who began being consumed by invertebrates on December 9 include:

  • 1641 – Anthony van Dyck, Belgian-English painter and illustrator (b. 1599)
  • 1964 – Edith Sitwell, English poet and critic (b. 1887)

Sitwell’s great book is English Eccentrics, a fantastic read about a number of English loons from the past. It’s hilarious! I’ve never met anyone besides me who’s read it, though.

  • 1971 – Ralph Bunche, American political scientist, academic, and diplomat, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1904)
  • 1991 – Berenice Abbott, American photographer (b. 1898)
  • 1996 – Mary Leakey, English archaeologist and anthropologist (b. 1913)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron agree with me about trying to read long pieces on the computer. Hili and Szaron also seem to have become friendly, if not friends.

Hili: They all too seldom read paper books.
Szaron: Yes, these computers are a horrible invention.
In Polish:
Hili: Oni zbyt rzadko czytają papierowe książki.
Szaron: Tak, te komputery to okropny wynalaze

From Animals in Art Through History: a joyous winter fête. The notes: ‘Christmas in the Woods’ 1917, Author Henry Clayton Hopkins (1869-1943), Illustrator W Philip Vinton Clayton:

From David:

From Bruce:

Stephen Fry misses days gone by: days with burgers, fries and pie:

A tweet from Simon. You might guess what’s going to happen, but you’ll be wrong. Simon says, “Sound on.”

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. The Eagle is the pub in Cambridge where Crick supposedly announced that he and Watson had discovered “the secret of life.” The problem is that, as Matthew showed, this story isn’t true.


Very clever!

. . . and a tweet by Matthew himself. The birds of paradise of New Guinea have the world’s most stunning collection of behaviors related to sexual selection. Here’s just one:

43 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Since Rosalind Franklin was mentioned in today’s Dialogue, I’d like to give a shout-out to Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science nearby me in Lake County, Illinois. Note that the school’s emblem shows her famous crystallograph.

    1. IIRC Watson and Crick acknowledged Franklin’s contribution in their famous paper. So there was at least that minimum of courtesy.

  2. I am not bothered by the potential Supreme Court ruling. Parents have a right to send their children to the school of their choice, and, if they are taxed for school support, that money should be used to support their school. In other news, at last count seventeen state School Board Associations have withdrawn from the National School Board Association since the NSBA sought to characterize obnoxious parents as domestic terrorists.

    1. But not only do they pay taxes for school support, you, I and all other residents of the school district pay taxes for school support as well. Thus, my tax dollars are going to support indoctrination in a religion I don’t believe in. Hence the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Yes, I realize that the Establishment Clause has been in tension with the Free Exercise Clause of the same amendment, but this Court is deliberately obviating the Establishment Clause and neutralizing that vital tension.

    2. I guess you are basically against public school then. Because as millions of religious people send the kids to “their” schools, public schools continue to go down the bowl. The rich get a good education and the middle class and poor get nothing. That is what you and the supremes are for. Next, the supremes will select which religion should get this support and then where will you be.

      1. To that point, might I suggest that anyone with the resources now move to open a sectarian school based on the Church of Satan or perhaps a Scientology-based school in the area, or even–heaven forbid–a Muslim school. Then require taxpayers’ money to go to it as well, based on this potential court decision, and see how support changes for the measure.

            1. True. I’m just saying the forthcoming court battles and PR nightmares should come as no surprise. And, as much as I hate to admit it, more and more of the Constitution has been conveniently ignored by both major parties over the past 150 years. The feds have taken on more powers than enumerated in the Constitution, and the Presidency has taken on powers granted to Congress.

      2. I think you might be inverting cause and effect; as public schools go down the drain, people take their kids out.

    3. Must agree with StephenB. As you state, parents may exercise a right to send their children to a religious or any other private school they choose. They should not have a right to funnel our tax dollars earmarked for public education to private schools, religious or otherwise. The pro-religious supremes seem to be tying themselves in knots justifying why public dollars going to religious schools is acceptable. No one is telling these parents what religion they may practice or how to educate their children. But now they want to take money away from the public school system and cry religious discrimination if they can’t. This issue would not have come up had the program only allowed public funds to be transferred to other public schools.

    4. Sorry-I am late to Hili dialog today- “In other news….NSBA sought to characterize obnoxious parents as domestic terrorists.” Yes the NSBA letter to President Biden was one of the most poorly composed letters I have read in a long while, maybe almost equaled in embarrassingly poor quality by the letter from my own state’s association (VSBA) to the NSBA by which it withdraws from the national association. It looks like the NSBA letter was an attempt to put together a range of possible federal connections to K12 schools that the writers received from people at several federal agencies in an attempt to resonate with the executive by showing a high level of federal connectivity. Unfortunately for the NSBA, the specific types of issues they raise in their letter are not relevant to the specific federal connections they raise, but, rather, are instances of first amendment rights being exercised by citizens at board meetings, the broad interpretation of which for students in school settings, particularly for political speech, was validated by the Supreme Court in Tinker, a case that should be well known to every school board member in the land as part of their day-one school board member training. A real issue that NSBA could have raised was and is the threats of physical harm that have been made to individual school board members and their families. These threats seem to me to be far outside protected speech and assembly and greatly chill the ability of appointed and democratically elected members to carry out their responsibilities to our children. The incompetence of the NSBA in properly articulating a serious problem, does not mean that that problem does not exist.

  3. Fritz Haber was one the greatest paradoxes of good vs evil. From Nobel prize laureate for almost eliminating famine in the world to poison gas developer. The suicide of his wife (supposedly because of her disapproval of Haber’s actions) did not stop him from going to the front to witness a gassing ‘experiment’ with the British troops. He was a German patriot, which didn’t stop the Nazis from booting him out for the crime of being a Jew.

  4. AIUI the SCOTUS case is a near-given (for the conservative side), because of the last several years of (conservative) precedent.

    Basically, the rule now is that if you have a program that provides government funding to nonreligious charity or private sector services, you must allow religious charities and private entities to apply and have access to that program’s benefits too. And if you grant secular groups exceptions from some state standard or practice, you must allow religious groups exceptions from those standards too. So if you have a voucher program that sends state funds to a private secular school, you must allow private religious schools in the voucher program. Fulton vs. Philadelphia in June was, I believe, the last time SCOTUS used this legal reasoning (that case was about letting a Catholic adoption agency not-follow a city regulation because the city had allowed other adoption agencies to not-follow their regulation).

    There’s a couple obvious ways to bring back the church/state separation here. First, a state could give up voucher programs altogether – hey what a novel idea, use the state revenue you’ve collected for education to fund state schools! The less ‘nuclear’ option is to adopt good curriculum standards as a prerequisite for a school to be in a voucher program. That doesn’t prevent a religious school from offering religious indoctrination as a separate class, but it at least tries to ensure that the non-religious classes it offers meet state standards for what they teach.

    The latter option would be why I disagree with Dr. Brydon. In all 50 states AFAIK, “we the people” have decided that we want our state government to ensure our children are educated to a certain standard. So I think the “right” here is to schools that meet state standards. You can always homeschool or pay for your kid to go to a private school if you don’t agree with those standards, but your “right” to have the state cover your education costs does not necessarily extend to any private school at all, and IMO even if we do extend it to private schools, that right should stop at providing funds to schools that don’t meet state standards.

  5. Like most nostalgic fantasies, I think Stephen Fry might find his disappointing. Wimpy Bars (as they were called, the Bar being akin to a coffee bar) were rather nasty greasy and unimaginative places. Burger, bun and you could have fried onions in it or not. If the admittedly nasty Big Mac were a 10, then a Wimpy was a 1. Using their characteristic font, I had a badge (pin to N. Americans) in the 70’s that spoonerized the situation: “Simpys Make Me Wick” it said. If you wanted fast food in those days it was better to stick to fish and chips, or, my favourite, a steak and kidney pie and chips.

    1. In general I agree with your assessment of Big Macs, but I did encounter a clear exception. My wife and I had been in Japan for about 2 weeks and she had not been enjoying the local cuisine. We turned a corner somewhere in the vast city scape of the Tokyo Metropolis, and there before us was a McDonalds.

      My wife insisted that we eat there. In hindsight I shouldn’t have been surprised, given my experiences in Japan till then, but the meal we had there was very good. Being the OCD perfectionists the Japanese often are, all of the food items looked even better in real life than they did in the pictures. Completely opposite of the norm in the US where when you pull a McDonald’s burger out of the bag and unwrap it, it looks like it was recently rescued from a dumpster.

      And it wasn’t just appearances either. Every aspect of the food was far better than the US McDonald’s norm. Better quality bun, beef, cheese, fries, condiments. And everything was prepared to perfection. I swear they must have individually fried each French fry with special attention to achieving a perfect degree of color and crunchiness over every square millimeter of surface while leaving a tender interior.

      The stark differences didn’t stop their either. The staff were competent, kind and impeccably groomed. The facility was well designed, comfortable and spotlessly clean. They brought you your food and cleaned up after you. If McDonalds in my town were anything like this one, somewhere in the vast Tokyo Metropolis, I’d happily be a regular customer.

      1. Practically any time someone waxes on about McDonalds, I feel compelled to mention how good they were back when they actually put their hamburgers on a proper grill instead of whatever they do to them now. The cheese on a Big Mac was actually melted! I have no real idea what this change did to their bottom line but I like to think it hit them hard. They used to have lines out the door at lunch time. Now, most of them are rather empty. Perhaps they are really profiting off the change but I will continue to complain about it until the day I die.

        1. Management and staff can make all the difference too. One location can be horrible, while another location can be great (for cheap fast food) even though both use the same products, equipment and supposedly methods.

          1. Agreed. A single location can vary from day to day. While this is true at every restaurant, I’ve found it to be a big problem at McDonalds. It is surprising considering that they are at the forefront of restaurant automation. It probably means that lowly paid workers are the opposite of well-trained robots. In other words, halfway automated is much worse than full automation and no automation at all. That’s my theory anyway.

        2. Ah, I remember in Ancient Times when, at Burger King, A Whopper was truly a whopper and a Whaler was truly a whopper.

  6. I remember going to Wimpy Bars on family trips back to the UK. Since we were there for months at a time, we occasionally had to get our burger fix. They were pretty sad burgers compared to what we were used to in California.

    1. I have fond memories of the Wimpy Bars of my childhood. The “bender” (a frankfurter with slits in it so that it could be curve round) was a particular favourite. My favourite location was in Stratford-upon-Avon, which had the wonderfully named Judith Shakespeare Wimpy Bar. I was sorry to see the chain go.

      By contrast, I no longer visit McDonalds. They seem expensive for what they sell, and the tea is AWFUL

  7. “I still haven’t seen any topless women in Ontario; do they appear?”

    Probably not very common (at least there). Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it must be popular, and certainly things shouldn’t have to be popular in order to be legal.

    While I think that women should be allowed to go topless wherever men are, I think that phrasing it as an equality issue is a non-starter, because women’s breasts and men’s breasts are obviously different. But that complaint is not an argument against that right. Rather, the proper argument is that things which don’t harm other people should be allowed, including full nudity at least wherever men are allowed to go topless now (say, on a hot day in a park). Of course, “harm” means real harm. Saying “I’m offended” shouldn’t cut it here any more than it does in such situations where classical liberals complain about the woke feeling offended.

    1. For a couple of years after the ruling one would occasionally see a few women going “top-free” at the municipal beaches at the foot of our old street in Toronto. But fully clothed leering men with digital cameras and access to the internet pretty much put paid to that. Time marches on.

      As to the “harm” argument, it doesn’t play in Canada. The Criminal Code makes it unlawful to be nude “without lawful excuse” in a public place, or on private property in view of the public. The Jacobs ruling simply meant that exposure of the female breast did not constitute nudity any more than it did for men. A business — can’t remember if it was a strip club or a car wash — that attempted to draw in customers by having well-endowed women dressed only in bikini bottoms dancing on the sidewalk outside the business was charged with some other offense, like giving an indecent performance, I think.

      “Peace, order, and good government”, you know.

      For those who really need to know, orgies are lawful as long as they take place behind closed doors, don’t sell sex or violate liquor licensing laws or fire codes, and don’t scare the horses. The Supreme Court dismissed a “common bawdy house” conviction a decade or two ago.

  8. Dang, someone brought a Dallas Cowboy’s helmet to visit the Virgin of Guadalupe? I know they claim to be “America’s Team,” but the Blessed Virgin’s Team, too?

    1. One quarter of the ICU patients in Ontario are fully vaccinated. But that’s OK.

      Our vaccinated rate for over-12s is closing in (slowly) on 90%. Necessarily, since vaccines aren’t perfect, the proportion of cases, hospital admissions, ICU, and deaths who were vaccinated must rise as vax rates climb. The anti-vaxxers claim this proves the vaccines don’t work. But if all soldiers wear body armour, then 100% of combat deaths must occur in armoured soldiers. Duh.

      So as your vax rates climb, you will see statistics and claims like this. Don’t be dismayed. People in poor health — and a few unlucky ones who aren’t—are still going to die from Covid despite vaccination and most will pass through the ICU on the way. Get your booster as soon as it’s your turn.

      John Campbell is making audaciously reassuring, yet credible, predictions about Omicron and the stock market seems to agree with him. Even CNN says the MSM over-reacted. Delta is still being troublesome, though.

      1. “Even CNN says the MSM over-reacted.”

        I don’t know what CNN is saying about this but it is not unreasonable to be concerned about the discovery of a new COVID variant. I watch CNN regularly and when Omicron first came on the scene they assured their audience that little was known about it. Several of those they interviewed said that while it could be more deadly than Delta, there was no reason to panic, that it was being studied closely, and more would be known in about two weeks. Now that we have some evidence that Omicron is not more deadly than Delta, it’s ridiculous to claim MSM was wrong or overreacted. I wouldn’t want the MSM to downplay the discovery of the next variant just because this variant turned out to be no big deal.

      2. (Reply to Leslie’s first reply.)
        Yep, as expected. Here, there are still too many boneheads for that to start to happen. Is the overall ICU COVID caseload way down from a year ago?

        Also, is the Canadian vaccination rate in the eligible category (guessing that you go with the permissible age groups in the US?) + those “naturally immunized” above 80%? And what’s the % of the Canadian population that has had COVID? Here in the county that Pittsburgh is in, it’s well over 10% – 156.7K of a population of 1.2M. I’m not sure what our vaccination rate is, tho – I think it’s about 60%.

        1. Appreciate your interest. Speaking mostly for Ontario (pop. ~15 million):
          Yes, overall ICU caseload is way down from its 1 May peak of 828. Dec-Jan was bad but spring was much worse. Because length of stay is so long, there were another bunch of people who were no longer testing positive but still critically ill. I think we were over 1000 total at one point. Ventilated patients were being transferred all over the province. Manitoba even took some. Many of them never made it back. Nobody got turned away and so far as I know, no one died of other emergencies for want of an ICU bed. Fortunately we don’t have very many shootings and most are either DOA or “flesh wounds” inflicted for intimidation purposes. Elective surgery stopped, for a second time, everywhere in the province.

          As vaccination progressed ICU declined to a nadir of 1 since late October. Delta is still a source of concern as we move into winter. Most cases are under 30, yet most ICU admissions are over 50 — the disjunct makes it hard to guess what the “coupling” will be, and of course young can transmit to old if they hang out together. Professional worriers are worrying. The system has used up all its resilience, patience, tolerance, and goodwill and people are furious with the vaccine-hesitant, few though there are.

          Vaccine eligibility is the same broad strokes as in the U.S. We used a lot of Astra-Zeneca at the beginning because our vaccination roll-out was much delayed and it was all we could get. Second doses we delayed for 3 months as the TMiV podcast discussed in order to get more first doses to more people sooner. An astute reading of the clinical trial raw data by Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist in British Columbia informed this decision; it wasn’t pulled out of the air as an act of desperation….and it turned out to be a good one. Deaths inflected in Feb. almost immediately after nursing homes started vaxing and cases plummeted between April and June. All Pfizer and Moderna now.

          We now have about 5% of the Canadian population known to have been infected since the beginning of time (1.79 million out of ~35 million, and not all of those are still alive, of course.) We are advising vaccination x 2 for all eligible, even if infected because we don’t know for sure that one dose + natural infection is good enough. (The anti-vaxxers are of course insisting that natural immunity all by itself has to be better than any vaccines.) Therefore we don’t count that 5% as naturally immunized. We now have so much vaccine that it is easier to just sign everyone up for 2 doses (or 3) than it is to keep track of who might be OK with only one dose. Other than really old people (who mostly died), Covid disease is concentrated in the lower socio-economic classes and BIPOC groups, including, particularly here and in the UK, South Asians, who are not, on the whole, socially or economically deprived. To pass any of them over for second or third doses would raise more questions than it answered.

          Back to Ontario, whose data I know how to read without making mistakes, as of today we have 87.2% over 12 fully vaccinated, and those 5-11 are now being rapidly vaccinated. Boosters for high-risk folks under way which will become a general cattle call for people like me on 13 Dec. Including everyone 5 and over, the 2-dose vaccinated are 80.7%

          1. That’s weird. I typed less than (using the sign thing) 100 for the ICU nadir but it came out “1”. Maybe the “less-than” sign fooled it.

  9. Personally, I like John Malkovich’s voice best with a Russian accent. As “Teddy KGB” in the movie Rounders:

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