Happy Easter

Easter this year. A different church experience for me during this pandemic. Thankfully the gospel message of hope and redemption has not changed.

Instead of playing at a worship service live, I recorded all of the parts from our worship team. I mixed a dozen vocalists and a full band of musicians. All from the confines of my motorcoach. I have never held remote recording sessions before. I have never mixed live services over the Internet before. And I have never played in a worship setting with just a computer before me.

This is a video I made of one of the songs. It is not the video we will be using later this morning for the livestream of our church service. This video was just a moment I tracked while working on the project in our motorcoach. It starts with a shot of our coach and yes, it was snowing, and then shows me recording the guitar part as well as some cut shots from the software that I used to track all of the numerous parts from the other band members.

Social distancing has impacted our lives in so many ways.

Yet the message of Easter is this: Christ defeated the powers of sin and death for all who believe.

Quarantine Is Over

Our mandatory quarantine, accompanied by the government’s threat to levy a fine of up to one million dollars and/or three years in jail for non-compliance, has ended. Lorraine and I are not showing any symptoms.

Out of an abundance of caution, we spent our last two weeks in Florida practicing social distancing and remaining mostly within our coach. The only time that one of us left our resort was to get groceries.

We wanted to ensure that we did not have any symptoms prior to returning to Canada. And when we decided to leave Florida early, we drove straight home without any delay.

We made arrangements to be in a location where we are far removed from anyone.

And we did this to do our part to help flatten the curve.

What now? What changes after this?

We currently have no home for our coach although we are optimistic that the government may allow us to occupy our site for the season. The first order of business will be to reposition ourselves whenever our site becomes available. If not, our wonderful friends at our dealership have told us not to worry. We can remain here for as long as needed.

We will follow the government’s request to stay home and only go out when needed. As a retired couple, that is the single best way for us to make a difference during this pandemic. We will continue to play the role that we are being asked to play as laid out by our public health services:

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within communities and across the country, all Canadians are advised to:

  • stay at home unless you have to go to work
  • talk to your employer about working at home if possible
  • avoid all non-essential trips in your community
  • do not gather in groups
  • limit contact with people at higher risk, such as older adults and those in poor health
  • go outside to exercise but stay close to home
  • if you leave your home, always keep a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 metres) from others
  • household contacts (people you live with) do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick or have travelled in the last 14 days

You can go for a walk if you:

  • have not been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • have not travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days
  • If you go out for a walk, do not congregate and always practise physical (social) distancing by keeping at least 2 metres apart from others at all times.

Beyond that, there is little else to plan. The suspension of civil liberties will continue for several months. We are not even certain if we will be able to return to Florida in November. All of our travel plans for the next six months are irrelevant.

I’ve been asked about my reaction to the suspension of civil liberties. I’m not happy about it and I do have a concern when the state moves to suspend civil liberties.

Contained within the Canadian Charter of Rights:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

And:

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

I understand why the state has taken certain actions. We are doing are part to follow the advice of the state.

During my career, I was a senior executive and decision-maker in business. Failure to plan and failure to execute inevitability led to termination of employment. It appears to be somewhat different for senior political leaders. The electorate will vote them out however very few are ever held to account for a failure to plan and a failure to execute.

I’ve read through several dozen government reports on Pandemic Preparation dating all the way back to 2006. The government of Canada committed $1 Billion to implement a Pandemic Preparedness Strategic Research Initiative. The mandate of which is described below:

The PPSRI is a component of the Government of Canada’s Avian Influenza and Pandemic Influenza (AI/PI) Preparedness Strategy, announced in May 2006. Aiming to improve Canada’s ability to respond effectively to pandemics and other public health emergencies, the Federal Government committed a total of $1 billion over five years through the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, and CIHR. With the overall goals of reducing illness deaths and societal disruption as a result of an influenza pandemic, the AI/PI Preparedness Strategy’s specific objectives are:

• To support research that will contribute to evidence-based decision making;
• To ensure that safe and effective vaccine/antivirals are available on a timely basis to all Canadians in the event of a pandemic, including the development of a mock vaccine and build regulatory capacity in this regard;

The Canadian government had developed a series of highly detailed playbooks for dealing with a pandemic and yet, when COVID-19 arrived, our senior political leaders did not follow those playbooks in a timely fashion.

Although I applaud many of the government actions of late, the extent to which the current administration floundered on this file is shocking. Downplaying the threat repeatedly as low risk. Failing to ensure appropriate stockpiles of medical equipment. Failing to act promptly on basic containment protocols.

Playbooks are used when scenarios become real. The government, for whatever reason, chose to ignore their own playbooks until it became clear that the threat was not just present, but severe.

The Globe and Mail published a detailed report on this very topic this morning. It is well worth a read:

Long before COVID-19 emerged, top health authorities from across Canada put together a playbook to prepare for a situation strikingly similar to the one the country now finds itself in.

One of the co-authors of that report was Theresa Tam, now Canada’s chief public health officer in charge of the fight against the novel coronavirus.

According to doctors who worked on the 2006 document, which was based on a hypothetical, highly contagious outbreak of influenza, the urgency of the report faded over time, though the threat never did. It is one of several credible warnings that seem to have gone largely unheeded.

A 2010 federal audit flagged problems with the management of Canada’s emergency stockpile of medical equipment; a 2018 assessment of the H1N1 swine flu outbreak a decade earlier raised concerns about ventilator shortages; and a 2019 study led by a team of global scientists questioned the ability of many countries, including Canada to prevent, detect, and respond to a major outbreak.

Leadership, whether in business or government, is a particularly challenging role especially when there is a crisis.

I hope our political leaders make good decisions on this file as the crisis continues to unfold. They certainly had done enough planning to be ready for a pandemic.

Lorraine and I are happy to be out of quarantine.

First day out of quarantine and it is snowing.

Lorraine will make a grocery store run.

I will mix another song for the online Easter service at our church.

Life continues.

Feeling Isolated

Day 6 of mandatory isolation. Although, really, what does it matter. Pretty much everything is shut down. And I suspect more restrictions are on the way.

The news is very depressing and I really should stop looking at it.

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national “newspaper” just published the following helpful article: Canadians urged to plan ahead for end-of-life decisions as toll from COVID-19 builds.

As the death toll of the coronavirus pandemic mounts, some doctors are encouraging Canadians to plan for serious illness and possible death now, rather than leaving family and medical staff to make those difficult decisions once they become ill.

Whoever engineered this shutdown, you win.

Retirement assets pummelled. A deliberate demolition of an economy that will take a generation to mend. Life on hold with many living in fear, uncertainty and doubt.

I surrender.

Hope?

Nothing yet from those in government that lead us.

We must conquer the bug.

At all costs.

Being isolated this way isn’t helping my outlook on the global pandemic. We are parked in the private campground of a closed for business Motorhome dealership.

It is cold.

It is wet.

It is overcast.

Rather depressing really.

We are alone.

No one to infect if we carry the virus.

No one to infect us if they carry the virus.

When I thought about being isolated for a couple of weeks, it didn’t seem that bad. But could this go on for a long, long time?

Is it possible to live this way for a long, long time?

And what will life look like on the other side?

I see indications of a new breed of pundit, the coronavirus denier. This fellow sent me a note with the following perspective:

I feel like this pandemic has now taken on a whole psychological life of its own, most citizens comply with the official story and are scared by the media, but in truth the reaction is way out of proportion to the evidence, and the ensuing damage to humanity will be staggeringly worse.

There are many on the right that have embraced conspiracy theories pushing a view that the coronavirus is a hoax even going as far as to video hospital activities:

On Saturday, a video taken outside the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York went viral, showing a quiet scene in an attempt to counter the idea that the coronavirus pandemic has strained some hospitals.

The video, taken by former Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, jump-started a conspiracy theory that resulted in a trending hashtag and millions of video views — all of which pushed the idea that the pandemic has been overblown by public health organizations and the media.

A day later, a different video of the same hospital went viral on Facebook and Twitter. It showed bodies being loaded onto an 18-wheeler outside the same hospital. The video, which was retweeted by a member of the New York City Council, was later confirmed as legitimate by the hospital.

The two videos illustrate the stark disparity in how the coronavirus outbreak is being portrayed on different parts of the internet, with many people on the far right going so far as to allege that overworked health care professionals are not telling the real story.

Give this pandemic a few more weeks and we might see the horrific unfolding of a savage and lethal virus. The coronavirus is in the wild and it is spreading quickly.

Will our actions slow it down?

Will social unrest become an issue?

Will governments become more authoritarian?

The Years Go By

63 years on the planet today. Birthdays come and birthdays go. A reminder that time passes and, as I get older, a reminder that the time of life remaining ahead is far less than the time of life that has already been lived.

I am almost two years into retirement and I am thoroughly enjoying life in our coach. I hope that Lorraine and I will have many more years to enjoy this lifestyle in retirement. As I get older, I make sure I remember to be thankful for a wonderful marriage, an amazing family, good friends, terrific experiences and, yes, even the many challenges that life throws our way.

In the year I was born, these were some of the major events:

  • It was the height of the cold war and Russia had launched Sputnik and started the Space Race.
  • Russia and the United States launched Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles further increasing the threat of nuclear war.
  • The Asian Flu pandemic had a death toll thought to be in excess of 1 million lives (over 70,000 in the United States alone).
  • The Treaty of Rome was signed which established a European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union.
  • John Glenn, not yet an astronaut, set a new transcontinental speed record becoming the first pilot to average supersonic speed between Los Angeles and New York.
  • Peak year for Baby Boomers — at least I have a lot of company.
  • A detached two-storey house in the Forest Hill area of Toronto could be purchased for $30,000 which was slightly above the average house price in the Toronto area — the same Forest Hill houses now sell for $3 to $4 million.
  • Bridge Over The River Kwai won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • The number one song was “Too Much” by Elvis Presley.
  • The Suez Canal was a major international crisis with the President of Egypt ordering the sinking of ships in the canal.
  • Wham-O released the first Frisbee.
  • The final episode of I Love Lucy aired on CBS.
  • Hurricane Audrey, one of the most devastating hurricanes on record, caused extensive damage in the Gulf coastal region, killing around 500 people.
  • The United States attempted to launch its first satellite but the rocket exploded only a few seconds after launch.

When I woke up this morning, I was greeted by this lovely birthday decor in our coach.

A wonderful start to a birthday in our little bit of paradise.

Struts, Equifax and China

And I’ll be taking care of business (every day). Taking care of business (every way). I’ve been taking care of business (it’s all mine). Taking care of business and working overtime, work out.

A familiar song for those of us that have been around the planet for a few years.

This post is a bit of a departure from the RV world although I often chat with fellow RVers about how they can protect their data when they are travelling. Sadly between corporations, governments and criminals, there is little we can do to fully secure our personal information.

Equifax is one example of a company that wasn’t taking care of business.

I remember when the Equifax breach first occurred. I was a Chief Information Officer (CIO) for a large insurance company in Canada. We had been advised of a critical bug in an open source web development platform called Apache Struts. That notice was made back in March of 2017. The bug could allow a hacker to exploit the Struts flaw and gain access into our systems. The bug is listed on the National Vulnerability Database as CVE-2017-5638.

Critical bugs should be patched immediately.

Equifax did not patch immediately.

Attackers hacked into their systems in Mid-May, more than two months after the notice from Apache had been issued. Equifax reported the breach on September 7, 2017. The breach, data on roughly 150 million customers, is one of the largest in history.

Equifax fired their CIO, David Webb shortly after the announcement. They also fired their chief security officer, Susan Maudlin, although this might be why: Equifax hired a music major as chief security officer. Jun Sing was next in line to be Equifax’s global CIO. He was charged with insider trading ahead of Equifax’s disclosure of a massive data breach. He sold all of his stock options before the announcement. Ying was sentenced to four months in federal prison.

Something odd about the management culture at Equifax.

The U.S. Department of Justice issued this press release and it makes the breach even more disturbing.

A federal grand jury in Atlanta returned an indictment last week charging four members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with hacking into the computer systems of the credit reporting agency Equifax and stealing Americans’ personal data and Equifax’s valuable trade secrets.

The nine-count indictment alleges that Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Lei were members of the PLA’s 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese military. They allegedly conspired with each other to hack into Equifax’s computer networks, maintain unauthorized access to those computers, and steal sensitive, personally identifiable information of approximately 145 million American victims.

“This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” said Attorney General William P. Barr, who made the announcement. “Today, we hold PLA hackers accountable for their criminal actions, and we remind the Chinese government that we have the capability to remove the Internet’s cloak of anonymity and find the hackers that nation repeatedly deploys against us. Unfortunately, the Equifax hack fits a disturbing and unacceptable pattern of state-sponsored computer intrusions and thefts by China and its citizens that have targeted personally identifiable information, trade secrets, and other confidential information.”

Many companies, like Equifax, do not take care of business. China and other state-sponsored hackers are taking advantage although China is the most troublesome with a long history of cyber-attacks. Here is a list of significant cyber attacks on government agencies and companies.

That list is quite disturbing.