Another Year Another Circle

For the first circle of 2022 I thought it time to “thank whatever gods there be. . .”, with apologies to WEH, for events of the past year, since my GOD is music and his prophet is J.S. Bach.

Thanks to Amanda McClean, for hosting Sharps in Isolation in London during this difficult time. Sharps set the standard for efficient use of time, for recording and cataloging every performance and for grace and tolerance of diverse points of view.

Thanks to Tim Mar and Stoo Born for continuing to host Music and More off main. This is an eclectic collection of musicians who usually allow their features to be recorded and who provide weekly entertainment for the community.

Thanks to John Wade for help and advice with the operations of our circle and for hosting the Brock Music circles in person where possible. We have had many good meeting in the tent in good weather and hope to Zoom on during the winter.

Thanks to Eric Hartman and the folks at PBOMS for keeping music alive on Zoom and for their recent efforts to reopen the ANZA club for music.

Thanks to Steve Deering for managing the Vancouver Folk Song Society and providing much needed technical expertise. Thanks to Christina Rae and Leona Axbey for organizing the bi-weekly Zoom sessions and keeping the folk alive.

Thanks to Watson Seto for suggesting I start a website for beginner guitar players and for his efforts to convince the board of VFSS to consider reopening the Quaker Hall. And a special thanks for continuing to run the in person song circles at Trout Lake. I will try and attend more often.

A very special thanks to John Lyon of the Deep Cove Coffee House. John has provided advice and support to both our circles and our website. He has shown us how to make music together over the internet using Jamulus and Sonobus and he is the most popular performer on the Pickers Circle channel.

Thanks to everyone who attended a pickers circle. Graham Baldwin has attended every circle and has been a valuable source of ideas for the organization. He is a man who will always do a request. Alan Sherman is an amazing guitarist with a fine background in early music. Garth Gibson has an endless repertoire of blues and country music. Don Gilbert has brought us many fine songs from the southern states, Nigel Bell has brought his blue grass collection to the circle and Stoo Born entertains us with country blues and Jazz. Stoo was kind enough to host a workshop on open tunings when our circles were just starting out. William Jordan has played us a tune or two and Amalah and Penelope Johnson have livened up what might otherwise become an exclusive boys club as have Di Skippen, Leona Axbey and Bibien Pierce.

Thanks to Rumi for putting up with the noise in the basement and many thanks to those who simply enjoy the videos and share them with their friends.

Somebody wake up CBC

I have defined the center of this Blog as belonging to folks who may disagree but who are still willing to contemplate the possibility that they may learn something from folks on the other side. So for those who have nothing to learn from Fox News here is a Canadian perspective.

Today, in my inbox was a surprising article from a former CBC producer, Tara Henley, who has decided she can no longer work for that organization. The politics have become so one sided that her only recourse is to resign and become a journalist on Substack. Glenn Greenwald, founder of The Intercept, and a man worth singing about , along with Edward Snowden, has made a similar choice.

Tara makes the case that although she started out as a Canadian liberal her job has become impossible in the woke world of the CBC. Here is her story.

Pickers Politics in Four Parts

Suppose we divide the political landscape into four parts from left to right. The center is occupied by the productive and the compassionate. They engage in a rational discussion about how to make life better and how the good fortune of the most productive can be shared with those in need. They often disagree but respectful disagreement is the only way they know how to manage improvement in a complex environment. As soon as we get more than two people involved in a project things become complicated.

We can separate the “far” left and right from the center simply by their refusal to allow free speech. When people are not allowed to say stupid and hateful things we miss the opportunity to observe what idiots they are and how little attention they deserve. When I say something stupid, which happens from time to time, my friends will call me on it.

On the far left and the far right there is no room for discussion. You will do as they say or you will be attacked, de-platformed, lynched. Observe the KKK on the far right and the Cancel Crowd on the far left.

Two Sides to the Story?

The world we live in is a complicated place. Most good stories have way more than two sides. I like to think of many things as being like a rubric cube with a different phrase on every minor face and at least six main themes that constantly change. Toss the cube. See what comes out on top.

Anyway to keep things simple I’ll have another look at Covid 19 in Canada. A family friend commented on my last post. What about the surge in cases? That is certainly another side to the story.

I often hear that cases are important because death follow about two weeks later. That is so but only on the x axis. The y values do NOT track.

The Whole story in one chart

Deaths in Black, Cases in Red, Tests in Gray. Even as the daily deaths have trended lower we have been testing our little hearts out. Unsurprisingly as the test go up so do the cases. We can see that peak deaths really do ‘follow’ the peak cases in time by a week or so but not in numbers. Cases are plotted on the secondary axis which is 60 times the primary axis. On that scale the deaths, the most important indicator, are just a black line at zero. Does that tell you something?

Data Models

Let’s take a deeper look at the Covid 19 data for Canada.

  • What is the story?
    • Outbreaks come and go in waves.
    • Each wave has a peak and a duration.
    • Experts tell us that as a pathogen matures it often becomes less lethal
    • Let’s start with the simplest model — y = ax + b the straight line.
  • If this was a stock chart your broker would tell you to sell it now.
  • Charles that is way too simple.
  • OK. Lets look at some expert models from IHME.
  • We often hear that growth of a new variant is exponential.
  • That can be confirmed by looking at the start of every wave. Each wave starts out as an exponential – and then tops out. A better model for the next wave would be a gaussian – the bell curve loved by statisticians everywhere.
  • Here are the “expert” projections from IHME. The dotted lines for future scenarios are shown on the right with a shaded area of uncertainty.
  • The projection is for the doom to peak on Feb 23 at 0.26 deaths per 100 thousand. Without getting too far into the mathematics we can see that the width of the projection conforms approximately to the width of previous outbreaks and the height is a reasonable projection of the first two peaks .
  • The model on the left is a 7 day rolling average which is used to “clean up” the picture of the past. I have already said I prefer to look at the raw numbers which allow me to estimate the uncertainty in the data as reported.
  • Clearly the further apart we draw the black lines the less confidence we have in the data. The model in the previous figure appears very certain and precise. Right — the truth is likely in there somewhere.
  • Notice how the uncertainty, the shaded portion of the projection, is much greater than the area between the black lines. The future is always uncertain but so are the past and the present. It is to the credit of IHME that they acknowledge the uncertainty in their projections if not in the reported data.
  • The green line is the optimists projection. The “republican” view of the data. It is just as uncertain as the “expert” projections and could have been shown as a box. It says the death rate will be zero on Feb 23.
  • IHME has another model, not shown, for Total deaths. We know this is a model because it gives us numbers about double those “reported”. What we do not know is exactly what fudge factor was used to transform reported data into “Total” data. We used to call these factors SWAG, like the green projection.
  • Lest I appear too cynical about the science here is a wonderful video about the models we use to predict the high and low tides. These models are a beautiful use of mathematics to accurately predict a very complex phenomenon.
  • “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”- George Box

How do you recognize a useful model? Simple. Good models make accurate verifiable predictions. Some examples are: tide tables, Google Maps trip times, and sunrise and sunset from my home automation setup DomoticZ.

A model in predictive form tells you the probability that an event will happen. The weatherman says forty percent chance of rain. You look out the window and the sun is shining. Oops. Weather forecasts are actually pretty good, mostly because they are so easy to verify and a lot of serious work has gone into their verification and calibration.

I’ll be back on Feb 23rd to see which model was closest to the truth.

Ballad of Edward Snowden

Capo V  Dm -   b = 90
Am                                    C                G
Come gather all around me friends I'm glad to find you well
Am                                  G
Sit right down beside me here -- a story I will tell
Am                               C           G
Tis about one Edward Snowden a patriot of note
      Am                        Am    E      Am
Who hacked  away the N.S.A. and got Obama's goat

Our  Eddie was a sys admin;  a job that pays you well
Am                                     G
But he couldn't stand the spying and he couldn't stand the smell
Am                                     C                    G
Of a hundred million e-mails - that would make the Stasi proud
Am                                       Am      E     Am
As they vacuum up the contents of the systems in the cloud

Am                                  C              G 
So one day Eddie writes a note to a fellow name of Glen 
Am                                 G
Glen Grenwald at the Intercept; a fellow with a pen
Am                                 C               G
I have a tale says Eddie that will put you on the floor
    Am                                  Am      E      Am
But first you need to a secret way to speak to Citizen Four

We need to use encryption , we need pretty good privacy 
Am                                      G
To keep our secrets out of sight of the spying agency
Am                                  C                 G    
We’re gonna need a password when we put things in the mail
Am                                             E       G
And we need a damn good password to be staying out of jail

Now Glen was just a newby, hardly heard of P.G.P.
But he had a friend in Laura who already had a key
Together they got started with a system known as TAILS
They conjured up a master key; we hope it never fails
The files are at the Intercept-go read ‘em if you dare
The movie got an Oscar but nobody seems to care
A hundred million phone calls; that would make the Stazi proud
As they vacuum up the contents of the systems in the cloud

    Am                               C              G      
It's better than a year now since Ed left his cushy post
Am                             G
And flitted off to Moscow with Putin for a host
Am                          C            G
So now he's living quietly a guru of the net
    Am                                     Am  E      Am
Who better knows the secrets that can make old Biden  sweat

Go look at those secret files; you scarce believe your eyes
Am                                G
A hundred million secrets here -- a hundred million lies
Am                                C                   G
Both Microsoft and Yahoo helping spooks read all the mail
Am                                            E       Am
And Clapper lies to Congress -- but he never goes to jail

Am                                C                  G
I'm just an old curmudgeon and  I never thought I'd see
Am                              G
A good man has to hide away in Moscow to be free
Am                              C                           G
A hundred million phone calls; that would make the Stasi proud
       Am                                        E      Am
As they vacuumed up the contents of the systems in the cloud

It's all to make us safer –sure Its all to keep us free
Am                                      G
That's why they read the e-mails of the likes of you and me
Am                                     C                G
A hundred million e-mails - that would make the Stasi proud
Am                                              E       Am
As they vacuumed up the contents of the systems in the cloud

Data Analysis in 5 min

W5 Who? What? When? Where? Why?

What is the story? What is the evidence? What are the models?

There was a Covid 19 outbreak in Canada in 2020 that began in March, killed 9100 people and was over by Aug 5. The second wave began in September and was mostly done by march 29,2021. It killed an additional 13,840 for an accumulated total of 22940. The third wave peaked on May 9th at 24683 with an additional 1740 people dead. The most recent outbreak peaked Oct, 13 2021 with a cumulative total of 29258 and 4575 dead in the last wave.

Covid19 Canada
Covid 19 Canada

This is the data I look at when I need to ‘fact check’ God’s IT department or Dr. Facuci himself. This website, at the University of Washington, has a user interface designed to allow anyone with an internet connection to view and compare data for an endless number of scenarios.

If you want to look at Social Distancing, or Mask Use, or Vaccinations for a province or almost any country in the world the data is just a click away. Suppose we want to compare Canada to British Columbia.

Notice that I have selected per 100k to make a fair comparison between the country and a province. I have removed the smoothing so that you can observe the variance in the data. I’m using reported data not a model. So what’s the story? I’d say we started out in better shape than most of Canada but soon caught up and now we are not any better off than average, for Canada.

Last Data Nov 3, 2021

And finally you might notice that the reported deaths per 100,000 Canadians are very very low and each wave appears to be less lethal than the previous. May be time to boot Dr. Fauci?

If you read this far and need a movie . . .

10 Nov — Remembrance

I’m not a pacifist. People have a right to self defense. Still, the idea that we have to fight them over there so they won’t come and kill us over here is a bit much for me to swallow. My contribution to remembrance is more likely to be Girl from the Hiring Fair than Johnny comes marching home.

Canada has had two wars that I might have fought. One was the war of 1812. Cue up Stan Rogers’ Billy Green the Scout or the Arrogant Worms’ 1812. We were on the winning side of that one. The Chilcotin War(1854) was more of a draw. We don’t have a song that I know of but we have a Supreme court ruling that has established aboriginal sovereignty in the region and an apology from Justin for trespasses.

Jun 23 – Live long and Prosper

. . . translated from the Yiddish by Leonard Nimoy.

7pm. Sing songs that last. Sing the old songs.

This morning I woke up and decided to try and become a blogger. Actually that is what I do every other week. I create a theme for the Pickers Circle to try and guide our efforts to make some music. So this week the focus is on songs that we hope will last. And I will try and add a few paragraphs to this blog every week.

Why Blog? Because that requires the discipline of recorded thought. A long life and prosperity are the result of thought and effort. Putting thought into written form is the traditional way to prove you can think or to discover what you really think. As we get older physical and mental tasks become more difficult and it seems to me that attention to both is important to a longer life. It also seems to me that a blog is better than a rant and may save a lot of tedious introduction to simple songs.

People occasionally remark that, “live long and prosper”, is easy to say yet hard to accomplish. Some say you have to be lucky or talented. The yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in Light on Yoga, that all that is required to become enlightened is a folded blanket and some persistence. Yoga asanas are prayers for flexibility, strength and balance. For the persistent these prayers are answered. Much the same can be said of playing a guitar. All you really need is an instrument and some persistence. Everything else is sacrifice and sweat.

So as I turn 75 this month I will attempt to record some thoughts each week that I hope will help me to become a little better at everything I do for as long as I can manage to stay focused. You are not dead until you quit moving.