Alberta Government Health Records Site is Worthless

So I thought it would be cool to be able to log in to the Alberta government’s “MyHealth” site to get access to various health records. I mean, it sounds useful to be able to see that stuff, right? Well, it might be. If it worked.

Well, I went through the steps to authenticate which involved waiting for a code in the mail and a few other things. That part worked well enough and logging took me to some sort of dashboard with a great big widget to click on to access my health records. So I clicked on it.

I watched my browser step through loading a number of things which isn’t particularly unusual for single sign on type things like a government account thing. And then it landed on a page that proudly proclaimed “OOPS! There is a problem” and noted that I was signed out. It then suggested I should be using Firefox or Chrome or Edge or Safari. Well, I was using Firefox. Okay then. So I tried Chrome. Same thing. So I tried Edge. Same thing. I can’t try Safari since I’m not on a Mac.

The text says “MyHealth Records does not work with your current borwser or operating system.” Okay. So I’ve ruled out the browser being the issue. That leaves operating system. (I’m not using Windows either.) Okay, pop quiz: what the fuck does my operating system have to do with a web site? If you answered anything other than “nothing”, you’re part of the problem.

So. The Alberta government has created a site that’s meant to make accessing health records easy. And they’ve fucked it up to the point that unless you’re using Windows or Mac (as far as I can tell), it doesn’t work.

If you’re reading this and you’re responsible for a major web site, go check your site on an operating system other than Windows or Mac. If it doesn’t work on, say, a modern version of Linux like Ubuntu or Mint, rip your web developers a new one. There’s no excuse for that. Period. And, no. You do not ever need anything that is operating system dependent on your web site. Ever. Especially if your organization is part of a government agency.

US Election Results

So as of this writing, it looks like Biden has won out over Trump to take over as President of the United States in January. Overall, I think this is a bad result for the United States as a whole, but that’s not why I wanted to write this. I have a few points I want to make here which don’t form any sort of narrative or support either side of the race.

  • The pollsters were wrong about the results. Yes, most of them correctly (as of this writing) identified Biden as the winner. However, they were predicting a substantially wider margin. Substantially. This suggests some underlying bias in methodology or other flaws in the polling. Perhaps Trump voters didn’t want to admit to anyone who they supported for fear of violent reprisals or worse. Or perhaps the polls had leading questions. Or failed to achieve a proper representative sample. Still, they were wrong about the magnitude of the win and that’s important when analyzing polls.
  • There are allegations of election tampering from various states won by the Democrats. Some of these allegations include Republican voters being given pre-spoiled ballots or given the wrong implements to mark them, thus guaranteeing them to be counted as spoiled. There are also allegations that more votes were cast than there are eligible voters in one state with a very narrow margin. There are additional allegations that Republican observers were not permitted to observe from a location where they could actually observe anything. Regardless how credible you think these allegations are, because of how close the electoral college is, and which states have these allegations in play, it is important that they are investigated thoroughly and quickly. It could potentially, lead to the results flipping in Trump’s favour depending on the outcome.
  • It’s not likely that either Trump or Biden had anything to do with any shenanigans related to the individual state elections. If either “side” is guilty of anything, it will be local officials or citizens who undertook whatever shenanigans occurred.
  • The election isn’t actually complete until the electoral college meets and does its job in December. It’s still possible, though extremely unlikely, that electors may disregard their state’s vote and vote for Trump (or vice versa). Faithless electors (as they are called) have occurred in the past and they are not strictly forbidden, either. No, I don’t think the result of the election will change based on faithless electors, but it’s not impossible.
  • Lest anyone think any legal chaos or challenges will lead to having no legitimate president come inauguration in January, there actually is a failsafe built into the procedure: if the election results fail to be certified appropriately, Congress makes a final decision. That could still lead a deadlock since it isn’t a simple majority vote, but in the event that there is too much uncertainty, Congress gets to choose a winner.
  • The United States could stand some electoral reform with respect to the process of actual voting. I am specifically not referring to the electoral college because that is actualy working as designed regardless what people actually think. No, I’m referring to how voting itself is handled. There needs to be a consistent set of election rules across the entire nation and the processes need to be as immune to tampering as possible. In my not so humble opinion, that means paper ballots with a clear marking on them placed in boxes with paper based controls against duplicate votes. Identification requirements are probably reasonable. Counting needs to be done with scrutineers representing all candicates allowed to be present and those scrutineers need to be able to examine all the ballots being counted. No fancy voting machines with punch cards or the like. Absolutely no electronic voting machines. Do it the old fashioned manual way. It’s about as immune to tampering as it’s possible to get.

That’s about all I have to say at the moment. Just some random thoughts related to the US Presidential election.

Is COVID-19 Worse Than Influenza?

Ever since COVID-19 appeared, the doomsayers and their ilk have been banging on about how this is the worst health crisis in the history of humanity. Well, maybe most haven’t been going quite that far, but there’s definitely a cadre who do. But is it really worse than other endemic respiratory infections such as influenza? I’ll be honest: I don’t actually know. And neither do you. Here’s why.

Since COVID-19 appeared, we’ve been doing crazy levels of surveillance for it. And, in many cases, erring in the direction of assuming COVID-19 even without positive tests to back up the assertion. Some jurisdictions have done better with their reporting than others. Alberta, for instance, seems to have a somewhat better approach than much of the United States, for instance, by virtue of having ramped up testing far faster and sooner than most. Naturally, with the heightened level of surveillance, we find a lot of infections that would otherwise not be known due to people having very mild symptoms or even none at all.

So how does this compare with influenza? Well, we don’t actually know. We don’t do anywhere near the same level of surveillance for influenza as we currently do for COVID-19. We also don’t panic and institute massive lockdowns and quarrantine periods when a case of influenza is discovered. Nor do we obsess and panic over elderly patients dying from complications from influenza. Nobody reports the statistics for the number of cases of influenza nor the deaths from those cases. Maybe the health authorities do have that information, or have information that is somewhat comparable, but I doubt it. Without a similar testing regime for influenza, we can’t know what the actual case counts for it are. Without the same level of testing, we won’t know how many “colds” were actually influenza. We won’t know how many people had a strain of influenza without getting sick at all.

Of course, that comparison isn’t quite fair. “Influenza” is a class of virus, much like “coronavirus” is a class of virus. It would be far more fair to compare individual strains of influenza against COVID-19. But we aren’t doing that sort of testing so we don’t have the numbers. At least not publicly. But we also need to remember that there are other coronaviruses that don’t do much more than cause the common cold. (Colds are caused by other viruses than coronavirus, too. Like rhinovirus and RSV.)

Also it’s important to note that COVID-19 is problematic because it’s new and, thus, nobody had any immunity to it prior to this pandemic. At least ostensibly. I’m not personally convinced by that. It is at least theoretically possible to have some level of resistance due to having a variation of coronavirus that is somewhat similar to COVID-19. It’s also possible that COVID-19 was moving through the population for some time before flaring up like it did and it was simply not noticed. Even so, it’s clear that there has been a large scale increase in infections.

What is not clear, due to lack of reliable information about other endemic respiratory diseases, is whether the fraction of servere outcomes for COVID-19 is particularly high compared to, say, “ordinary” pandemic influenza. Clearly, given the lack of panic over other endemic respiratory diseases, we do not generally find the incidence of severe outcomes from them worrying. So it follows that if the rate of such outcomes with COVID-19 isn’t actually significantly different, then we probably shouldn’t be panicking about COVID-19, either.

Basically, the point of this is that health officials need to start releasing comparable statistics for all extant respiratory diseases. And, to get those comparable statistics, we need to be doing the same level of testing and analysis for those diseases as we currently do for COVID-19. Maybe we are doing that level of surveillance and the information isn’t shared, but I somehow doubt it. Regardless, without that information, it’s impossible to make a properly informed choice about what to do about COVID-19 and it allows COVID-19 to be used as a convenient issue to push whatever agenda any particular person or group has. So let’s call on health officials to drown us in accurate numbers for everything. Not just COVID-19. Seems to me that if they do that, at the very least COVID-19 won’t seem quite so bad as it does when its statistics are reported in isolation.

Racism and Black Lives Matter

Okay, now that click bait has been achieved, let me start by being perfectly clear: I do not condone racism of any kind, period. Making assumptions about a person based on the colour of their skin or the shape of their eyes or whatever is plain wrong. I had originally written a lengthy diatribe about how Black Lives Matter (BLM) is racist itself among other things but it read like an angry rant so I decided to spare everyone that. Instead, I have a couple of points about the current landscape.

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Impending Demographic Correction?

Everyone reading this is probably aware of the global pandemic thing that’s been going on. As it drags on, containment measures have become more and more extreme. While these measures can only really hope to flatten the curve of demand on health care resources, they are, nevertheless, almost certainly necessary for just that reason. But that’s not the point of this post. Instead, it’s the consequences of the containment measures which have moved all the way to locking down entire countries.

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The Information Age Collapse

Good. Now that I have your attention, you can probably go back to whatever you were doing an generally ignore everything I’m about to say. For those of you who stick around and get the reference, yes, I really am referencing the Late Bronze Age Collapse. With that out of the way, on with the wild speculation.

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Agents of Shield and Engame

So the sixth season of Agents of Shield has been underway for a few episodes now. You might have expected the season to take place in the aftermath of the Thanos snap but it seems like that is not the case. This would seem to cause trouble for the timeline with respect to how Shield fits in with the overall MCU timeline given references in the finale of the fifth season. I’m not so sure, however.

Endgame established conclusively the notion of a multiverse in the MCU canon. It also established the notion of branching timelines which is also something that Shield suggested as well, and looks like they have explicitly established it now based on events moving forward. That means that Shield can actually still be in the same continuity as that established by Endgame yet not be in the same timeline.

Endgame established a timeline where Thanos never gathered the infinity stones on account of him leaving that timeline to the future depicted in Endgame where he subsequently died which would seem to preclude him going back where (when) he came from. That means there is a whole timeline where the infinity stones were never collected from their previous locations. It also means that many of Thanos’s ravages never happened which would have some massive knock on effects in the timeline leaving the present basically unrecognizable from the perspective of most of the main characters of the MCU movies. However, those events would likely have had minimal impact on anyone not directly involved in them. For instance, the events of Guardians 1 would not have had any impact on Earth. Even so, references in various episodes of Shield indicate that it cannot exist in a timeline where Thanos did not follow his infinity stone collection quest to its conclusion.

That leaves us with an apparent conundrum. On screen evidence indicates that Shield shares a timeline up to some point near the conclusion of Infinity War. Barring some sort of reveal later on in Shield, that would suggest we need another explanation than Shield being in the “non-Thanos” timeline. I can think of two explanations. One is more compelling than the other in my opinion. I’ll save that for second.

Suppose Shield season 6 really is in the post-snap MCU? But wait! Where is all the fallout? Why was there no mention of it? How come none of the main cast were dusted? Well, considering the main cast all did the time travel thing, they may not actually count as part of “all life” or might otherwise be immune. We don’t know what the consequences of that time travel macguffin actually are. Or maybe one of the weird phenomena that occurred in the Lighthouse had some impact. After all, there is a *lot* of stuff there. Also, since randomness is lumpy, it’s actually not impossible that nobody in the Lighthouse was dusted. And, as far as not seeing the consequences of the snap, well, we don’t see a lot of the world outside the Lighthouse in the few episodes we’ve seen so far. We also didn’t see a lot of it in Endgame so we don’t know what else may have happened in the five year time jump in Endgame that left things the way there were. And, while you would expect some mention of it, they have been rather busy so far. Still, this is a major stretch and doesn’t seem all that compelling so unless Word of God says otherwise, I’m going to assume this isn’t the case.

The other, and more compelling, option is that some sort of butterfly effect thing lead to their timeline having a slight difference in the final battle(s) of Endgame. There were several points where the battle could have gone in the heroes’ favour. Starlord could have not hesitated. Thor could have taken a head shot. That sort of thing. If any one of those things happened, the resulting timeline would have been identical up to the points referenced in the finale of Shield season 5. At that point, things could diverge. This feels like the most satisfying explanation to me so barring some sort of reveal later on, this is what I’m going with in my head canon.

Incidentally, one such reveal that is possible comes to my mind: It may be that the references in Shield season 5 were to some other events that we haven’t seen. It’s entirely possible that much less time has passed on Shield than we think over the past several seasons and that we’re still somewhat pre-snap in the timeline. I kind of hope they don’t use this trick, but it’s not entirely unlikely. I hope they don’t go this way because it still leaves problems for the other Marvel shows. But if the Marvel TV shows are all in a universe where Thanos was defeated conventionally by heroes not screwing up during the final battle(s), then it makes things less complicated and we can just get on with having a multiverse.

Anyway, as I said, my head canon is going with “alternate universe where the Avengers and allies didn’t completely fuck up the final battle(s) in Infinity War” until such time as an alternative explanation is provided. Regardless, though, what we’ve seen so far on Shield season 6 is not really irreconcilable with the MCU movies. There are options. (Actually, the current story arc on Shield could lead to any number of those options.)

I will finish by saying that given that the current season of Shield was in production before Endgame was released, I expect the producers didn’t actually know how things would proceed after the snap so it’s not surprising there are apparent contradictions. Since there is apparently going to be a seventh season, it will almost certainly be addressed then if not before.

Endgame Aftermath

I saw Endgame last night. That I was going to see it was not in question, of course, what with it being the culmination of a decade of movies (some 22 in total if I’ve counted correctly), something that is, as far as I can tell, unprecedented in all of film history. What follows is some discussion of the aftermath of Endgame so it should go without saying that spoilers will happen.

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