1. Vaccine website crashes, phone lines overwhelmed
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness said in an email that CanImmunize (the third party platform overseeing the booking) alerted them earlier today to “extremely high traffic on the site.” [Who could have foreseen this? Totally unexpected.]
“They are investigating the cause of the slow down. As a precaution, the site has been disabled until they can resolve the issue,” spokesperson Marla MacInnis said via email.
By the end of the day, the site was up and running again, but the wait times were really wonky. You could get into the queue and watch as your estimated wait fluctuated between 29 and 221 minutes. When my elderly neighbour finally did get in, it was only to see a message that no appointments were available.
2. One new case of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia yesterday
It is somewhat heartening that after a record number of tests over the weekend, there was only one new case announced yesterday, and it’s a close contact of someone who previously tested positive.
Today, there is pop-up testing at the Halifax Central Library from 10:30 to 7:30. I saw reports of people saying they were in and out for testing in 15 minutes yesterday.
3. Online gambling concerns as casino revenue declines
With casino revenues falling, Atlantic Lottery is moving into online gambling. And that has some people concerned.
Will Shead, an associate professor of psychology who primarily researches gambling, said he’s doubtful that limitations can be placed on online gambling that would keep people safe.
“We don’t really know what effect this is going to have on people. You can make arguments and say this is how it’s going to work, but it could potentially be disastrous for people to have access to such high betting limits online,” said Shead, who teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.
Shead is also a board member of Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, whose members are particularly concerned about high-stakes wagers online that could lead a gambler to lose thousands of dollars per hour.
I have seen Halifax-based Alex Weldon, who writes for online gaming publications, argue that having governments move into these spaces is not a bad thing, because people are already gambling online using offshore sites with no controls at all.
He reiterated that message on Twitter this morning:
I wish you guys would stop framing this as a choice between online gambling and no online gambling. It’s a choice between regulated, taxed online gambling, and the current situation, which is unregulated, untaxed online gambling. The latter is clearly worse on every axis.
Me? I’m playing the PS4 version of the High-Roller Casino pinball machine these days.
4. Instead of subscribing, just pull the (virtual) lever
Speaking of gambling, yesterday Torstar, which owns the Toronto Star and related papers, announced it was planning to launch a gambling app to help fund its journalism.
For a second there, I thought maybe the people publicizing the scheme had mixed up March 1 and April 1.
As various outlets reported, Torstar is serious about paying for journalism with gambling proceeds.
After decades of being controlled by a trust owned by the families who founded the Toronto Star in 1892, Torstar was recently bought by an investment company called Nordstar, which promised to maintain the company’s focus on producing “world-class journalism befitting the Star’s storied history.”
The Toronto Star has, since its founding, espoused the so-called Atkinson principles, which are named after one of the founding families and broadly focus on advancing progressive causes such as worker protections, civil liberties, and other social justice issues…
[Co-owner Paul] Rivett said it’s to everyone’s benefit for an Ontario-based company like Torstar to become a player in the province’s industry.
“We want to ensure the new marketplace is well represented with a Canadian, Ontario-based gaming brand so that more of our players’ entertainment dollars stay in our province,” he said.
Evans says the scheme has yet to be approved, so there are no estimates for now on how much money this could bring in.
1. Save journalism!
Last week, Tim Bousquet wrote about appeals for readers to subscribe to the SaltWire’s regional weeklies. The message was that without more subscribers these papers will fold. Bousquet shared tweets from Colin Chisholm, an editor and columnist with SaltWire. “We need to save the Tri-County Vanguard,” Chisholm wrote. “They need 1,500 paying subscribers in order to be sustainable. If they don’t hit that number by March 31 of 2021, they’ll have to shut down. We can’t let that happen. ”
Last Friday, SaltWire president and CEO Mark Lever included a message in the print and digital editions of the Chronicle Herald about the weeklies. Oddly, I thought, it was addressed to “hello member” (members being what SaltWire, like so many companies, calls subscribers).
Lever thanks members for their support and says that “many” of the publications that closed and staff who were laid off have been “brought back.”
Then Lever touts the company’s various initiatives and approaches: a new podcast, more multimedia, organizing journalists into beats (!), hiring more journalists, and offering “solutions journalism… identifying problems impacting you and exploring the solutions to fixing it.” (One of the problems impacting me is the singular “fixing it” with reference to the plural “problems”.)
Lever then makes his pitch:
For those of you who aren’t active members, I’m asking you to consider the idea of “shop local” and support local journalism. [Proofreader please.]
Overall, the tone is positive: Here is all this great stuff we are doing. Please subscribe.
That tone is in sharp contrast to the messages the company is putting out elsewhere. On Facebook, SaltWire weeklies have posted the image above on their Facebook. It’s tone is much more dire: “Act now and save your local publication.”
Stories from Truro matter. Our journalists, living and working in Truro are passionate about sharing stories of your neighbours, friends and colleagues, highlighting our unique issues from agriculture to manufacturing, helping you form opinions and be a more engaged citizen. Become a member of Truro News today and save Truro journalism.
Stories from the Annapolis Valley matter. Our journalists, living and working in the Annapolis Valley are passionate about sharing stories of your neighbours, friends and colleagues, highlighting our unique issues from farming to fishing, helping you form opinions and be a more engaged citizen. Become a member today and save Annapolis Valley journalism.
Stories from Southwest Nova Scotia matter. Our journalists, living and working in Southwest Nova Scotia are passionate about sharing stories of your neighbours, friends and colleagues, highlighting our unique issues from fisheries to tourism, helping you form opinions and be a more engaged citizen. Become a member of the Tri-county Vanguard today and save Southwest Nova Scotia journalism.
The incoherent messaging is strange. On the one hand, subscribe for all these great features! On the other, our publications will die if you don’t subscribe now. But beyond that, I find this all sad and depressing. A lot of these weeklies — many former dailies — have a long and storied history. Would they have survived on their own? I have no idea. Maybe if it wasn’t for Mark Lever these papers would already be gone. But it will be a shame if, after having been bought up, they are shut down.
2. The horrors of taxes and social justice
Heading over to the other side of the world, an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post has a warning to any people in Hong Kong who may be thinking about emigrating.
The headline reads: “Horrors of taxes and social justice await Hongkongers fleeing to the West”.
This is one of those articles that I read while asking myself whether or not it’s supposed to be parody or satire. (It is not.)
See, the West used to be this kind of paradise:
Rule of law, affordable housing, freedom to travel, high-quality education and capitalism achieved through a meritocratic system drew immigrants to English-speaking liberal democracies.
But now? Now it’s all gone to hell.
Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Britain — all of these countries “have embraced heavy layers of socialism.” And the deficits! Let’s not get started on those.
But even worse is the horror of social justice.
The writer, Harminder Singh, continues:
Growing up in Canada in the 1990s, I was taught race, religion or sexual orientation were irrelevant to achievement. Everyone got a fair shot at reaching their goals. And for the most part, equality had been achieved. [!]
However, social justice warriors, looking for more dragons to slay, are now demanding equity. Equitable societies were attempted in Soviet Russia, Maoist China and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and each was a failed experiment resulting in extremely deadly consequences.
Maybe this is what happens when you read too many screeds about cancel culture.
Who’s zooming who?
A year into the pandemic, I am among the fortunate ones who is not Zoomed out. I usually interview people by phone, and if I’m doing an interview for a podcast, I used a web-based app. (The app just added video, which, as far as I’m concerned is not a selling point.)
There’s been a lot written about Zoom fatigue — the effects of staring at other people on a screen all day, including the weirdness of seeing yourself as well. Sure, you can turn that feature off, but then you have no idea what others are seeing.
Over the last few months though, I have come to appreciate one aspect of Zoom (or other methods of connecting online), and that is the ability to just do a relatively mundane task in the virtual presence of other people.
A couple of months ago, I wrote some stories for King’s about how students and faculty were adapting to the pandemic. Several students mentioned that they appreciated having set times when they could go on Zoom and write together. There was no class or lecture or anything. You just work on your paper while other people are working on theirs, wherever in the world they happen to be. Someone compared it to being in the library and knowing a bunch of other people were there, also working, like you.
In January, I signed up for a weekly writers’ group, offered through The Writers’ Union of Canada. There are a number of such groups. The one I am in is hosted by Pam Bustin, who live in Chapleau, Ontario. (I’ve been there. Beautiful place. Quite remote.) Every week, we get together, Pam does a thoughtful introduction, and then we get to work, writing in two half-hour sessions with a short break in between.
At first, I felt self-conscious about leaving my camera on. I mean, I’m just sitting at my desk writing. But that’s what we are all doing! And it turns out, there is a real comfort in sitting down and writing knowing that you are somehow in the presence of others doing the same thing. Every once in awhile I look at the thumbnails on the screen. There we all are. The others, looking at their screens. Sometimes looking away. Staring into space. I was trying to describe something to do with hands one day and kept holding mine up in front of me, making soft fists, looking at my knuckles, rotating my hands, then writing down what I was observing. My fellow writers make similar gestures from time to time.
I’ve also signed on for a weekly qi gong class taught by an instructor in Oxfordshire called Mimi Ku0-Deemer. Every Thursday, a bunch of us from around the world stand in our living rooms, or gardens, or studios, or whatever, pets and kids wandering in and out, while we go through our practice. Many people post where they are from in the chat at the start of the session. I tend to leave my computer in speaker view so I’m only seeing the instructor, and I suppose most others do the same thing. I’ve done plenty of practice on my own, or with my father-in-law (I call him up as soon as Iris finishes editing my Morning Files), but there is a wonderful, intangible feeling about being connected to a bunch of people around the world all doing the same thing at the same time. If I miss a class, I can follow along with a recording later, but I never do it. Somehow it’s not the same.
While much has been made of videoconferencing making events more accessible for all, journalist Julia Métraux has pointed out that Zoom has failed when it comes to offering free captioning.
I often have to go on Zoom calls every day with clients and interview sources who request to use this platform. I am also hard-of-hearing, which makes following what people say on calls tiring, due to listening fatigue…
Zoom plans to roll out live captions to everyone in fall 2021, but people can now fill out live transcript access requests. I jumped on filling out the form—which was temporarily closed to the public when the blog post went live for at least 10 minutes—and now I am waiting for one to two weeks to get access to live transcripts.
The service has been available for paid accounts, and Métraux says she’s had people tell her she should just get her employer to pay for her account. No big deal. But that doesn’t cut it. She writes:
This frustrates me for numerous reasons. Deaf people are disproportionately unemployed. According to the National Deaf Center and Postsecondary Outcomes, 53.3% of Deaf people ages 25-64 were employed in 2017, versus 75.8% of hearing people. Even if Deaf people are unemployed or underemployed, they should still have the same access to this essential technology without having to pay. I am also a freelancer, which means I have to pay for my own business expenses. I should not have to pay for equal access because of my disability, which many hard of hearing and Deaf people have been doing to have adequate accommodations over Zoom.
No public meetings.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — live webcast with captioning on text-only site
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — virtual meeting; no dial-in or live broadcast
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference, with livestreamed CART service. Emma Halpern from Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia and Vanessa Fells from African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition will talk about “Overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous People in the Justice System.”
Orbifolds of topological quantum field theories (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — Nils Carqueville from the University of Vienna will talk via Zoom.
The Last Taboo Workshop: Examining Resources, Supports And Services For Women Facing Violence In The Preston Township (Tuesday, 6:30pm) — Zoom workshop held by The Descendants of African Americans Enslaved Living in Nova Scotia
Stressing the powerhouse: what Drosophila can teach us about metabolic (in)flexibility? (Wednesday, 4pm) — Nicholas Pichaud from Université de Moncton will talk via MS Teams.
The Librarian Is In (Tuesday, 3pm) — drop-in virtual session to ask library- or research-related questions
In the harbour
06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
08:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
09:15: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
11:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond Terminal (National Gypsum) from Cape Canaveral, Florida
15:00: Ef Ava sails for Portland
20:00: Hong Kong Eagle, bulker, sails from Anchorage #10 for sea
Today’s morning file was written while listening to From Burnside with Love by Matt Mays.