1. Hospital beds
“The Houston government is moving forward with ambitious plans to add 423 hospital beds, four more operating rooms, and two new emergency departments to meet the health care needs of a growing population over the next 10 to 15 years,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
Premier Tim Houston made the announcement Thursday at a briefing on the new 10-year capital plan, which replaces the QEII redevelopment plan envisioned in 2016.
“This is about building more, building faster, and improving health care access,” Houston told reporters. “The original plan was well-intentioned, but the process was built on outdated assumptions. I won’t wait.”
After a series of protracted negotiations due to changes in interest rates and labour market conditions, the Plenary PCL Health consortium has agreed to design, finance, build, and maintain a new in-patient tower on the existing Halifax Infirmary site. The building will include an emergency department.
Houston said he wants “shovels in the ground” by the end of March, once the project agreement has been signed. Phase 2 at the Infirmary site is to include a new cancer center.
2. Black HRM workers
“Black workers with HRM, who allege they are the target of anti-Black racist bullying by management, will be attending a rally organized by a Black activist who’s been advocating on their behalf,” reports Mathew Byard:
The rally takes place on Friday at noon in front of City Hall. Raymond Sheppard, who organized the event, organized a similar rally outside of City Hall in 2018.
“One of the main issues here is that these workers of African descent are complaining that there’s a two-tiered disciplinary action [system] when it comes to employment with HRM,” said Sheppard in an interview with the Halifax Examiner.
“People of European descent are sort of looked upon as being better-than, treated better than, and believed 110% of the time whereas [the workers of African descent] are not. And they are hurting as a result of that.”
“A woman is suing Halifax Regional Police and three officers alleging they hit her in the head with a baton in a cell last year,” reports Zane Woodford:
Lawyer Peter Gaggi filed notice of action in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Wednesday on behalf of the plaintiff, who lives in Dartmouth. The Halifax Examiner is choosing to identify her by her initials, CDR.
The filing named Halifax Regional Municipality; Halifax Regional Police; officer Nicholas Fairbairn; and two unknown officers, one a man and one a woman, as defendants. None of the defendants has filed a defence. The allegations in the attached statement of claim have not been proven in court.
CDR was “detained and taken into custody by officers of the Defendant HRP on the basis of a summary offence” on Dec. 18, 2021.
“After being received at the Halifax Regional Police Headquarters at 1975 Gottingen Street, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the same day or very early morning of December 19, 2021, the Plaintiff was escorted to a cell by the Defendant Fairbairn, the Defendant Unknown Party 1, and the Defendant Unknown Party 2,” Gaggi wrote.
“Suddenly, without warning, or indication of violence, aggression, or threat, the Defendant Fairbairn, the Defendant Unknown Party 1, and the Defendant Unknown Party 2, struck the Plaintiff with a baton multiple times to the back, and to the back of the head.”
Yesterday, there were two COVID updates for Nova Scotia — the weekly update of the dashboard (for the period Dec. 6-12) and the monthly (November) epidemiologic summary.
First, I need to stress that COVID death figures lag quite a bit, so the latest numbers are not reliable. For example, the October epidemiologic summary reported 27 COVID deaths. The November summary revises that October figure to 55, more than twice as many.
The November summary also says that 24 people died from COVID in November; that figure will almost certainly be revised upwards. Of those 24 deaths, 96% (23) were people aged 70 years old and older and 25% (6) were in people living in a long-term care facility.
Likewise, the dashboard is reporting no new COVID deaths for the period Dec. 6-12, but that will almost certainly be updated in later reports. Additionally, there were 3 new COVID deaths recorded in the Dec. 6-12 period, but they occurred before Dec. 6.
Through the pandemic, 673 people in Nova Scotia have died from COVID, 561 of whom are considered Omicron deaths (since Dec. 8, 2021).
People 70 years old and older are dying from COVID at a rate 261 times higher than those under 50, and are 14.3 times more likely to die than those aged 50-69.
With all the above caveats, this bar graph shows COVID deaths since Mar. 1. It shows that, roughly, two people in Nova Scotia are dying from COVID every day.
The table below shows the number and age ranges of hospitalizations and death since March 1. You can ignore the PCR number — it’s meaningless. And as I say, the November death count will be revised upward significantly.
During the week of Dec. 6-12, 36 people were hospitalized because of COVID. On Dec. 13, seven COVID patients were in ICU.
Nova Scotia Health (but not IWK) reports the COVID hospitalization status as of yesterday:
• in hospital for COVID: 29 (5 of whom are in ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID: 122
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission to hospital: 34
The table above shows the age-adjusted hospitalization and death rates by vaccine status, Mar. 1 to Nov. 30, 2022.
In general, unvaccinated people in Nova Scotia were hospitalized and died at just less than three times the rate as those with three or more doses (hospitalized = 2.7; died = 2.6)
5. Brunswick Street
“Permanent bike lanes, wider sidewalks, narrower lanes, and trees are proposed for the downtown portion of Brunswick Street in a plan headed to council,” reports Zane Woodford:
Council’s Transportation Standing Committee heard a presentation on Thursday from landscape architect Katherine Peck on the “Brunswick Street Complete Streets Active Transportation Connection” project.
The project covers Brunswick Street from Cogswell Street to Spring Garden Road, and Gottingen Street from Rainnie Drive to Brunswick Street.
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6. AI writing
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is letting a writer run off with some idea I either hadn’t much thought about or had no great interest in, and they come back with an article that leaves me gobsmacked.
This is what happened when Philip Moscovitch said he’d like to write something about AI writing, and I said, sure, have at it, thinking he’d write a quirky piece making fun of the process. Instead, he came back with a tour de force, “Could a robot write this? Lessons on using AI writing tools, and what they mean for journalism.”
This article is both a joy to read and disturbing. I’ll be thinking about it for a good while.
Moscovitch touches on so many topics it’s hard to know what to pick out, but I was taken with his discussion of “kipple,” a phrase coined by Philip K. Dick that “refers to the tendency of junk and garbage to pile up, turn into an indistinguishable mass, and drive out anything useful”:
One of the characters, John Isidore, explains the concept to a neighbour:
Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself… It always gets more and more.
Contemplating the nearly abandoned thousand-unit apartment in which he lives, Isidore thinks:
Eventually everything within the building would merge, would be faceless and identical, mere pudding-like kipple piled to the ceiling of each apartment.
This was written long before the advent of the commercial internet, but it is an apt metaphor. And AI writing tools are speeding the process of kippleization.
On Mastodon, @firstname.lastname@example.org described the phenomenon like this:
Honestly the state of the internet is miserable if you’re trying to learn things.
Like, you want to learn how to care for an animal? Well, every Google result is a bot generated fake blog. Maybe try YouTube? Well, you have a few new options: there’s the person who just got this animal for the first time talking like experts about them. Or there’s the literal child telling you what they learned about caring for hamsters from the bot generated fake blogs they just looked up.
This goes for almost anything anymore. There’s no expertise, the only advice is just from whoever is the best at SEO, which is often not an actual person. But if it is they probably know as much as you do.
I used to semi-joke that we hit Peak Internet at around 2008, and ever since then it’s been so commercialized, so ad-ridden, so sales-driven data collecting, that the experience has become increasingly terrible. Remember when Google Maps was helpful? Remember when you didn’t have two or six or eight pop-up windows to click out of before reading an article? Remember when there weren’t algorithms convincing us all to fight with each other, when Nazis and science deniers weren’t promoted in the name of “engagement”?
I know I’m getting old and this might be perceived by the youngsters as a get-off-my-lawn moment, but I am increasingly using the phrase the shittification of everything.
Hey, the world has always been shitty, and I’ll use this as an excuse to quote the words Ursula Le Guin put into the mouth of a character named Sparrowhawk in her novel The Tombs of Atuan:
The Earth is beautiful, and bright, and kindly, but that is not all. The Earth is also terrible, and dark, and cruel. The rabbit shrieks dying in the green meadows. The mountains clench their great hands full of hidden fire. There are sharks in the sea, and there is cruelty in men’s eyes.
And sure, absolutely, the poor and dispossessed and people of colour and women and, and, and have known about the shittiness forever, point taken.
But of late, every last damn thing is becoming even shittier. The internet is shittier. The climate is shittier. The politics is shittier. The reporting is shittier. Even the fucking religions are shittier. I can’t name one damn thing that isn’t shittier.
I’ll grant that there are individual artists who bring fresh perspective to the world, and people who otherwise inspire, despite it all, but their contributions are valued precisely because they are acting in the face of a shittier world.
That was a tangental rant, I suppose. In any event, be sure to read Moscovitch’s article, “Could a robot write this? Lessons on using AI writing tools, and what they mean for journalism.”
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The Examiner brings RESULTS
On Wednesday, I talked about how Argyle Street is a filthy disgusting mess, and as I was talking about oil and gunk and a fictional failed tryst, I made this point:
There are also clear signs the the city has no interest in maintaining the streetscape. The government is just letting the street fall apart. Consider this:
Next to the light pole, that used to be a tree well, with an actual tree growing out of it. Someone who works nearby tells me the tree died in the summer, and has never been replaced. Instead, there’s a hole in the street, perfectly situated to injure blind people, or drunk people, or just people who don’t expect a hole in the middle of a pedestrian zone.
Maybe the procuring of trees is limited by supply chain problems, or maybe someone made the decision to wait until spring to plant a new tree. OK. But in the meantime, couldn’t someone fill the hole with gravel or dirt to create a level pathway? Or even just put an orange warning cone atop the hole?
It was actually worse than I wrote — one person has since told me that the tree was knocked over by a snow plow three years ago, and the open well has been exposed ever since.
Well, yesterday, people started sending me photos of … cones!
Whoever said the Examiner doesn’t make a difference in the world?
Oh, there are those who have criticized me for complaining about the filthy disgusting street when there are far more important issues at hand, like homelessness and the climate crisis and so forth, but they’re missing the point. I was opposed to the convention centre because I knew it would be a gigantic waste of money, and it is: millions upon millions of public dollars are being dumped into that black hole every year. That’s millions and millions of dollars that should have been otherwise used to address homelessness and the climate crisis and so forth.
But once they’ve built the damn thing, you’d think they’d maintain it and the fancy streetscape in a presentable fashion.
Two years and nine months into the pandemic, I finally have COVID.
Tuesday night, I was feeling super tired, but not otherwise symptomatic, and I assumed it was because I’ve been overdoing it physically. But when I was still dragging Wednesday morning, I decided to take a rapid test, and that came up negative.
By Wednesday evening, however, I was fully symptomatic — sore throat, congestion, chills — so I went to bed at 7pm, and had a difficult night. Chills followed by sweats all night. This was similar to the chills/sweats cycle I had after my AstraZeneca vaccine, but 100 times worse. I stayed in bed until 4pm yesterday, when ironically, I got up to do the COVID report.
Getting up and moving around seemed to help, and the chills/sweats ended. I was then just a little light-headed, but decided to test again, and yes, it was positive.
As I understand it, vaccinated people tend to express symptoms before the viral load gets very large, as the body knows what it’s looking for. So, symptoms come before the antigen (rapid) tests can detect the virus. (PCR tests can detect the virus at the early stage.) So, I’m probably more contagious now than I was Tuesday or Wednesday.
I went to bed at 8pm last night and am typing this in bed at 8am this morning (about to go start the coffee). Still really tired, and the sore throat is back, but otherwise I seem OKish. I haven’t lost my sense of taste, and haven’t had a headache, at least yet.
I’ve been relatively careful, wearing a mask in the grocery store and on transit, more for the protection of others than for myself. And I self-isolate in the period before I visit elderly loved ones. But I do live a maskless life at the gym and in the bar. Also, people close to me might be conduits. I have no idea where or how I contracted the virus, and it doesn’t matter. We’re in this period when just anyone can be struck with COVID, seemingly at random.
On average, those of us who are vaccinated and aren’t elderly tend to do OK with COVID. I’m not overly concerned about my own physical health.
But I will sleep most of the day again.
Nothing that we know of.
In the harbour
I don’t have the energy to get the ship listing done today, sorry. They’ll be back on Monday.
We could use your money.