OHIP Eyes

I am no friend of DoFo’s ONConGov, and they are not friends to healthcare. And maybe the fee schedule needs to be reassessed. But what cannot happen is for service providers to dictate what OHIP pays for services.

What optometrists are actually complaining about here is lost opportunity cost. Every service and every product at an optometrist is extraordinarily expensive. Doing eye exams and selling glasses in particular is a lucrative business. Why would any optometrist want to pause overcharging a working professional with generous private insurance many hundreds of dollars for an eye exam and new glasses just to provide healthcare to an elderly person?

Wanna see the association turn white as a sheet? Bring all eye care for everyone under OHIP so they are all always payed from an single-payer universal health insurance provider fee schedule for every service they provide.

No one has the high ground in this dispute.

Grey on grey

There really are some shitty trends in graphic design. Grey on grey is one of these. In interface design particularly designing a series of icons with light grey on a dark grey background or vise versa really makes the icons hard to read. This is because you are reducing contrast. If you want to design for maximum clarity and readability you maximize contrast and the maximum contrast is black and white with no grey.

This becomes more critical when there are lots of icons because now the icons are going to be small because of space and detailed because you need many distinct symbols. Making them grey is the equivalent of trying to read in the dark. The problem with which is again minimized contrast.

And so it surprised me that I received specifications for digital artwork that required that all the ‘blacks’ be changed to dark grey because, “it is easier on the eyes.” What it is is a source of eye strain.

Making this more ridiculous is the simple fact that no monitor shows a perfect black or a perfect white anyway. So even if you spec #000000 and #ffffff the user never gets absolute black and white contrast regardless.

I wonder if the people making these decisions imagine that books would be easier on the eyes if they were printed with dark grey ink on light grey paper.

Trees

I would never try to discourage anyone from planting an native tree in an appropriate location. In fact, go do one now, I’ll wait…


You done? Ok, trees are great. But they are not plant and go. Young trees need care for up to five years. Particularly in urban plantings trees routinely die after only a few years. If you do not provide the follow up care no tree planting is any carbon sink.

But more problematic, 23% of Canada’s “renewable” energy is solid (wood) biomass. For trees to be a sink, you have to leave them be. You cannot cut them down and cook them to make fuel. This is just so stupid that I cannot stand it.

And then there is the orders-of-magnitude problem that so often undermines silly environmental wishful thinking. Trees sink carbon, sure, but even reforesting as much of the planet as at all possible would still be orders of magnitude too little carbon sequestration to offset the shit show we are manufacturing.

By all means, plant trees for all the reasons trees should be planted. But tree planting cannot be a way of offsetting enough carbon to make a meaningful difference to climate change.

Work From Home

Obviously some jobs have to be done at an office or business. Otherwise all employers should have to justify why it is necessary for any individual to stop working from home. The neediness of a middle management martinette who misses micromanaging is not a reason.

The what’s wrong with most of our activism about fighting climate change.

In 1994 I bought a new furnace. It is not very high efficiency, but high enough to need a power vent. It is now 27 years old. The heat exchanger is not rusty. It could use a new motor on the vent blower, cause one of the sealed bearings is I feel a little noisy. It has broadly serviceable parts, for instance the vent motor is bolted on and could theoretically be replaced.

My mum had a similar vintage furnace. I think it was a little older. It ran perfectly well, and was also very serviceable. In 2008 my mum, who was feeling her age, somehow decided to blame feeling cold on the furnace. Someone used that to sell her a new high-efficiency furnace, which cost at the time in excess of $5000. I tried to explain to her that there was no possible way for the new furnace, by virtue of its increased efficiency, to ever offset the cost of prematurely replacing a perfectly functioning furnace. But it was to no avail.

In 2013 the fan died. That was a $1200 part I think. It was however covered by the warranty. In 2020 the vent blower got very noisy cause a bearing was going. But you can’t just replace a bearing. That would be too sensible. Because of the intentionally unserviceable design that meant not just a motor, but an entire panel full of electronics had to be replaced. The replacement is a cheap plastic assembly that surely cost less than $100, possibly less than $50 to manufacture. And that assembly installed was $2800.

And it gets worse. The service person said that most times they see a 12-year-old high-efficiency furnace they have to disconnect and condemn the unit. Mum’s new furnace is certainly near the end of its life in 2021. The reason for this is the same as how it is high-efficiency. Instead of using waste heat to vent the furnace the unit has a secondary heat exchanger, which dramatically reduces the temperature of the power-vented exhaust, resulting in condensation and moisture and inevitably corrosion.

Meanwhile while it could die tomorrow, or in another decade or two, my old furnace just keeps running tickity boo. The older furnace that my mum replaced at exorbitant cost would probably still be running fine if it had been maintained. And the replacement mathematically would have taken perhaps decades to offset the net cost of replacement with increased efficiency. Except new furnaces do not last decades.

It would be completely unsurprising if you took into account the real net cost of a new high-efficiency furnace, including cost of disposal of the old unit, manufacture and maintenance of the new unit but particularly amortized that over the absurdly short lifespan of the equipment, the newer furnace almost certainly has a much larger footprint than any older lower-efficiency furnace. Replacing the old furnace with the new, high-efficiency unit was a gross waste of resources.


It upsets me that so much of our response to climate change consists mainly of this kind of poorly thought out false-economy.

This foolishness pervades much of small-e environmental activism. A certain kind of person keeps demanding broad action without any calculation of cost or consequence. I keep seeing calls to replace oil and gas, not just without any real plan to offset that energy, but in complete denial that we would need to build the electrical generating capacity to joule-for-joule replace the energy we currently get from fossil fuels. And for many that is a dream of wind and solar that despite being almost none of our supply after decades of investment is a dream too many cannot wake up from. Or “renewable energy” a political concept that is used to lump hydroelectric and biogas, both environmental no-nos, in with wind and solar to pad out the numbers, which otherwise can be summarized as, “almost none.” People, quite rightly, want to replace an old unsustainable energy economy, but you cannot do that with by pretending a worse, or nonexistent alternative is a solution.

And as usual what I am arguing for here is again the safest, and cheapest technology we have at our disposal to generate large amounts of electricity, nuclear power. And right there, a great many people who might ever read this came to a complete intellectual stop. “Never nuclear!” But without it, we are not going to start moving away from fossil fuels. Without building quite a lot of nuclear electricity generating capacity we are going to continue to demand change in a rapidly heating world without ever starting to implement anything we could actually transition toward.

You can’t always do what you want

You don’t often hear people arguing in favour of open defecation. When you expect people to do their dirty business in a toilet, you don’t often hear them say, “So, no freedom? I don’t have a choice?”

No, because sanitation is important and necessary you don’t get to drop trou anywhere you want. Your freedoms do not extend to behaviours that endanger others.

Same for the series of CoViD vaccines you will have to take over the next few seasons in order to participate in public life. If you can, you will have to get those vaccines, because if you don’t, like sewage in the streets, you will pose a public health risk to everyone else.

You can probably understand that your “rights” are limited with respect to poop… the follow through is that this applies to other things as well.

To win a race, you have to start it.

Canada should be vaccinated by now. But at this rate we will not reach herd immunity this year. As vaccinations level off and stagnate we may never. And this is because perhaps a third of us don’t understand most of the fundamental concepts at play here.

People misunderstand how herd immunity and immunity in general work. They have grave misconceptions about how their own immune system protects them, what an infectious disease is, what a virus is. Lots of people have some or many grave misapprehensions about the science, the state of our understanding, and the difference between rights and responsibilities.

So, the pandemic just keeps going. People are going to restaurants and cinemas. That is insane. Insane proof that in general we are a society too ill equipped with basic knowledge and too loaded down with ignorance to respond appropriately even when all that demands of us is to stay away from other people. We can’t outrun the pandemic because we cannot even get to the starting line.

And I fear this is exactly the same as global warming. Decade after decade we have not just failed to mitigate, but we have failed to even start to stop making it worse. And so much of this is that when you talk to people about the actual technologies available to us, so many, perhaps most, are weighed down with such a heap of misinformation and disinformation that they cannot even usefully assess cost or risk even when you lay the actual data out before them.

And so we continue to argue over well understood technologies. People endlessly regurgitate either insupportable wishful thinking or outrageous paranoia. And round and round we go, over the same well worn ground. Never approaching the starting blocks for a race that began in the last century.


And I quote, “The deaths per terawatt hour graph shows nuclear energy as the safest… However, by what criteria?

for whom

Concerns over antisemitism in the Labour Party have helped ensure Brexit Conservative election victories and governments in the UK in recent years. This, despite the fact that the UK Conservatives and Brexit are both overtly racist and have brought the united Kingdom very near to dissolution as Scotland is likely to end the Union in the coming months in order to rejoin the EU. Boris Johnston is likely the last PM of the United Kingdom and his racist treacherous Conservative government its last, in a large part because of hand wringing over whether Jeremy Corbyn was or was not anti-Semitic.

Canada has a terrible history of racist injustice. But to suggest that the current Liberal federal government is maliciously engaged in a campaign of genocide against the First Nations of Canada is absurd. If you think for a second that given the opportunity of waving a magic wand and getting the credit for the miracle of providing reliable city water to remote and rural communities the federal Liberals would not take that you are gravely mistaken. But counter to wishful thinking it is quite possible for an engineering problem to remain insoluble even in concentrated outrage.

So when you are sharing demands for Trudeau to, “do something” about his government’s outrageous failure on issues that have loomed very large in two decades of Canadian politics I would like you to ask yourself who you are actually working for.

The future is…

If you had to push a car from Ajax to Thorold, which is incidentally up hill, you would quickly discover that that takes a lot of energy. Right now, for almost everyone, that work is done by burning fossil fuels. Which has to stop. But the electric car you need doesn’t get free energy by being electric. In order to do that same amount of work, the amount of energy we get from gas and diesel has to be replaced joule for joule with increased electrical energy production.

And transportation as well as industry and heating and cooling, supplied by carbon sources, are a huge fraction of our entire energy budget. To transition to carbon-free electricity we are going to need vast increases in the amount we generate. It is unlikely to be an exaggeration that our core generating capacity will have to double at least a couple of times to increase our electricity production by enough to offset depreciating other energy sources. In the end, with other factors included, no one should be surprised if it turns out that we need an order of magnitude more generation.

And while we hide the sad truth under “renewables” most of the minority of electrical generation that is called renewable is hydro, which cannot be responsibly increased, or biofuels which are a dead-end source of more greenhouse gasses. Only a tiny fraction of electrical generation is wind and solar, which is what you are hoping people are thinking you mean when you talk about green energy. It is simply a delusion that we are going to produce four or ten times as much electrical energy as we do now without new investment in nuclear power. Anyone who tells you otherwise probably means well, but has no idea what they are talking about.

Tied and Untied

A friend mentioned the other day how surprised they were that the Liberal government in Ottawa had not introduced many new sources of revenue in its latest budget. And I think the probable reason for that is important to think about if we would prefer to see a progressive future in which things broadly get better rather than worse.

So, consider Canada’s anti-prostitution law. Canada’s past and present anti-prostitution laws have repeatedly been found to be themselves illegal. Any anti-prostitution law is likely to be unconstitutional for a variety of reasons. Chief among these will be the consideration that, like so many other “morality” laws, criminalization of sex work makes the situation, whatever you might believe about it, worse. The law, its enforcement, does in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada, “disproportionate harm.” Despite this, when the old (illegal) law was struck down, the Harper government replaced it with a worse, and it turns out equally illegal law.

And I am pretty sure the current government, the PM and his cabinet understand this. So why don’t they skip the part of this process where the government faces expensive appeal after expensive appeal until the law is inevitably struck down?

Even if you personally do not have strong feelings about the wrongness of prostitution, I would be shocked to find that you do not know people who do. It is quite probable that the choice of this example is on some level upsetting to most people. And that is why I chose it. Because it is so easy to see how taking a right, legal, moral stand on reforming laws governing sex work in Canada would outrage lots of people. It would likely hand the next federal and indirectly some provincial elections to Conservatives who would have a field day with such a policy.

So, why no new revenue in the federal budget? Because one of two things is going to happen after the next federal election in Canada. Either the Liberals are going to form the government or the CPC are. That is the truth of it. The current government needs to fear the easy outrage Conservatives can expect from their supporters. Reforms that hand the disloyal opposition the next election are absolutely no use. And so, a political climate where so many voters are so easily manipulated, outraged and gulled into supporting extremist parties is one in which neither reform nor democracy have much of a chance.

Justin Trudeau was asked, when the government moved to decriminalize marijuana, if they intended to follow the successful Portuguese model and decriminalize all recreational drug use and possession. To which he answered, “no.” Because Canadians would not support that policy. So, doing the right thing was impossible.

And you may squeal that things would be different if we dumped FPTP for something else. But what is really going on here is more fundamental. It is not FPTP that is our problem. It is Canadian voters. As long as enough voters are willing to support extremists and populists, so long as so many thoughtless regressive people can be so easily manipulated by stands taken on inflammatory issues, as long as there is a threat of such people giving such parties power, no party can be free to act progressively.