Living/Working March 13, 2020

Living/Working

March 13, 2020

COVID-19 crisis should spark misinformation eradication mission

The first time I heard the term “social distancing,” it reminded me of the “conscious uncoupling” term actress Gwyneth Paltrow and pop star Chris Martin used when they separated.

We laughed then, but no one is laughing now. The euphemism for staying out of each other’s hair, figuratively and literally, is an essential ingredient now that we have taken COVID-19 seriously.

We need to stay apart when we also need to unite.

It is made more difficult when the planet’s most powerful man is in denial – when he cannot persuade the markets, much less the world, that this is just another flu season and that we can go to work with it. If there was ever a time for him to admit a mistake, this is it.

We are entering a behavioural change in our work lives and life lives. Long, hot, prolific washing of hands. Becoming neat freaks. Covering our mouths with our sleeves, not our hands, when we cough. Not shaking hands. Getting a good night’s sleep.

The easy part was cancelling all the events. We know what not to do. The hard part is the uncharted road ahead. We don’t know what we can do.

Public transit and traffic lightened last week and will deeply do so in the weeks ahead as more people work from home. This crisis – and it is one, make no mistake – will go far to determine how integral an office is and how much we might capably work remotely. Technology improves every time we think about doing this, but this may be an inflection point.

We will also come to recognize how globalization has made us complacent about supply chains for what we buy and produce. The era of abundance will face a hiccup of scarcity. Inventory is expensive but might be more necessary for tomorrow’s businesses.

Still, those are considerations for another day.

The most important habitual change we might accomplish now, though, is to rid ourselves of the crap we accumulate that poses as news and information across the platforms that stream them. It is time for a true spring cleaning.

In the days, weeks and months ahead, nothing will matter more to our lives than to be properly informed. I hope this, too, becomes an inflection point, but I have my doubts considering what I have seen so far. So much nonsense is circulating – hysteria in some quarters, outright quackery in others – that I’m wondering if for some of us the handcart has truly arrived in hell. The most obvious objective ought to involve focusing on your major trusted sources, namely your health authorities and your local traditional media reporting on them. I think this might be our most important route to mitigate what will be coronavirus in most of us.

So, first things first: find and support good media, then examine your social media feed. Is it focusing on evidence or hearsay? Are you consuming the credible voices, or are you distracting yourself with loud but uncredentialed voices? Are you in some kind of echo chamber? This is not the time to stray from established outfits or to latch on to instant answers for a beguiling menace. This is the time for facts, for a reliance on experienced hands (washed) to lead us.

COVID-19 has already wreaked phenomenal initial personal and economic damage. The early statistics – death rates, infection rates, transmissions, cases – will prove non-linear and difficult to project as more data emerges. It will ease and then seize, then relent and recur. It is maddening, and that madness is bound to come out sideways in some of us. Lockdown and restraint are not our basic instincts. We will need to supplement our resilience with tolerance to get through it. We will need to give the benefit of the doubt more often to people who find the anxiety of the moment intolerable.

We won’t know we’re done with COVID-19 until we’re well done with it, perhaps until we have a vaccine a year from now. Hoarding toilet paper may one day not seem so crazy. But we will not regret pre-emptive measures to preserve health and safety, no matter what they cost.

This is the first period of a hockey game that will go into overtime. About all we can do is try to stay on the surfboard as we ride the waves blindfolded.

Kirk LaPointe is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and the vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.

 
Spending

Disneyland will close over spring break due to coronavirus

Disney anticipates a high call volume over the next few days

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Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure will close on March 14 until the end month due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide pandemic. 

Disney stated that it made the decision after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the Governor of California's executive order. It added that a temporary closure is in the best interest of its guests and employees. However, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at either of the parks. 

The company also notes that all staff and performers will be paid during the closure. 

Disneyland Resort hotels will remain open until Monday, March 16 so guests can make neccessary travel arrangements; downtown Disney will remain open. 

Disney says that it will work with guests who have made bookings at the resort during this period, "to change or cancel their visits, and will provide refunds to those who have hotel bookings during the closure period."  However, the company notes that it anticipates a high call volume over the next few days. 

For questions and cancellations, contact The Walt Disney Company at 714-520-5050.

Vancouver Is Awesome

 
Spending

COVID-19: There's an app for that – thanks to Coquitlam man

Coquitlam's Curtis Kim, a BCIT computer systems grad, created a real-time online COVID-19 tracker

Curtis Kim, a recent BCIT graduate, said he developed the web tool as he prepares for job interviews | Submitted

A Coquitlam man has launched a real-time COVID-19 tracker to make it easier for people to get up-to-date information broken down by province and country. 

Curtis Kim said he started developing the online tool after he recently graduated from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in the school’s computer systems technology in cloud computing program. 

“Ever since this virus was out there, I thought it would be a huge, worldwide issue,” Kim told The Tri-City News.

“I kept searching, Googling with the latest keyword. How many people were infected? Always comparing numbers. I felt like I was wasting my time.”

Kim said he programmed the web tool to automatically scrape information from government public health agencies like the BC Centre for Disease Control, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. 

But the latest data, said Kim, is more challenging to automate because of the lag in reporting. So Kim cross-references the new data and goes in manually throughout the day to update the page.

“I try to update it four times a day: morning, afternoon, evening, midnight,” he said. 

The page also lists important contact numbers and feeds a selection of the latest news on the virus.

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The COVID-19 tracker leads with Canadian statistics broken down by province before zooming out on world totals divided by country – Screenshot

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The web tool includes a colour-coded map of COVID-19 infection rates - Screenshot

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You can also track confirmed COVID-19 infections, deaths and recovered patients in a country-by-country table - Screenshot

Kim, whose parents and siblings also live in Coquitlam, moved to the area about three years ago after he spent most of his young life in the South Korean provincial capital of Chuncheon. And while his home province of Gangwon-do has seen a relatively low number of positive cases of COVID-19 compared to some other areas of the country, many of his friends are directly feeling the fallout from the virus.

“South Korea is the second largest number of confirmed people," he said, "Most of them are panicking right now."

Kim said he’s still in touch with old friends back in South Korea, some of whom are now serving their mandatory military service and who have been mobilized to disinfect public spaces and build facilities for the sick after the country recently declared “war” on the contagion.

School usually starts up again in March after the country’s Lunar New Year. Some of his friends in the middle of master’s degrees have had classes cancelled in the coming weeks. Another, a doctor, was sent by the government to the country’s two major international airports near Seoul to screen incoming passengers.

Now, every time Kim signs off with his friends online, their goodbyes end with “Take care of yourself.”

“You never know. The speed of the spread is skyrocketing,” said Kim. “I’m very worried about the situation. My friends are also worried about me.” 

For Kim, the virus tracker is the least he can do to help out. 

“I wanted to prove how I can help the community, help people understand,” he said.

Tri-City News

 
Spending

Taste your way around downtown on this Vancouver Culinary Scavenger Hunt

Follow the clues and your tastebuds through Vancouver

Shutterstock

Follow the clues and your tastebuds through Vancouver on a fun family-friendly Culinary Scavenger Hunt this spring.

Taking place Saturday, April 4, and hosted by Vancouver Foodster, the scavenger hunt is a multi-faceted "tasting experience" in the city's downtown area that will feature clues, challengers, prizes, and surprises along the way.

Participants will have a map and clue card to guide them along the way, making stops at several well-known spots that will be serving up dishes, small bites, treats, and drinks. At each stop you'll get to meet the chefs and other notable personalities.

Already slated to take part are places like Pappa Roti, Firecrust Pizza, J&G Fried Chicken, Davie Dosa Company, Uno Gelato, and Kumme Cafe - but you can expect more places to be announced closer to the event.

Early bird tickets are available at discount pricing if purchased by March 31. 

Culinary Scavenger Hunt

When: Sat. April 4 from 1-5 p.m.

Where: Downtown Vancouver

Cost: $45-60 per person; group ticket packs available. Purchase tickets online.

Vancouver Is Awesome

 
Spending

This B.C. beer pioneer paved the way for the craft beer revolution

His anti-establishment attitude and dissatisfaction with the status quo would become hallmarks of the craft beer revolution to come

On the first label of Uncle Ben’s Malt Liquor, Ginter is wearing a fake beard. Photo courtesy The Exploration Place, Prince George

In the days of monopolized beer sales, when just three companies had a stranglehold on the beer market in B.C., only one man was brave — or possibly naïve enough — to thumb his nose at the corporate juggernauts of the day.

That man was “Uncle” Ben Ginter, and while his Prince George-based Tartan Brewing never produced anything that could remotely or conceivably be considered craft beer, his plucky determination and anti-establishment attitude helped embody the spirit of the craft beer revolution that would follow.

Ginter was a Polish immigrant who grew up in rural Manitoba before dropping out of school at 14 to go into business for himself. He started his own construction company and, by the 1960s, had amassed a fortune of close to $30 million by paving the roads and highways of the rapidly expanding B.C. north. In all, his many trucking, construction and paving companies employed more than 9,000 people.

Ginter knew nothing about beer when in 1962, he bought the former Caribou Brewing Co. plant in Prince George for $150,000 which he intended to use as a storage yard for his heavy road construction equipment. The brewery was only five years old, and its brew house was still operational, however. At the time, Prince George had the highest per capita beer consumption in the country — possibly the continent — so after being convinced by a group of local hotel owners, Ginter instead decided to get the brewery back up and running under the name Tartan Brewing. Canadian Breweries, whom he had bought the brewery from, now offered him $150,000 just for the copper brew house so that he wouldn’t brew beer to compete with them. But Ginter’s mind was made up, and the offer, which he took as an insult, only further convinced him.

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During his two decades in the beer business, Ginter’s Tartan Brewery produced dozens of products—many with his face plastered on them. Photo courtesy The Exploration Place, Prince George

Initially, Tartan produced a series of knock-off beers with names like Budd, Paap’s, High Life and Pil’Can. After a predictable series of cease and desist orders, Ginter rebranded yet again, and this time decided to put himself on the labels — complete with a fake beard — and launch Uncle Ben’s Malt Liquor in 1969. The beer was an instant success thanks to the fact that it was cheap and… well, that’s about it. It was so cheap, the B.C. liquor board actually forced Ginter to increase its price to bring it in line with the likes of Molson, Labatt and Carling O’Keefe. So Ginter started taping a dime to the inside of every 12-pack of beer to refund his loyal customers.

Ever the innovator, Ginter was one of the first Canadian brewers to adopt the beer can and later the pull tab. He was also the first in Canada to offer a refund on empties.

“He was a true maverick,” says Chad Hellenius, assistant curator at Prince George’s Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre. The museum recently recognized Ginter as one of 100 Prince George Icons. “You have to look at him as a pioneer of viral marketing campaigns.”

Ginter hired Austrian-born Eugene Zarek to be his brew master and by many accounts, the quality of the beer initially ranged from merely terrible to borderline undrinkable.

“It was improperly aged,” according to Hellenius. “It was described at the time as being ‘green and chewy.’”

The quality did improve, however, and by 1977, beer expert Michael Weiner would proclaim that Uncle Ben’s Malt Liquor was “almost perfect” in his book, The Taster’s Guide to Beer.

Ginter was every bit the rough and tumble frontiersman he depicted on his beer labels. Big and barrel-chested, he was a gruff self-made man, usually wearing blue jeans and a red flannel shirt instead of a businessman’s three-piece suit. He worked tirelessly to build his empire, and he expected everyone around him to do the same, which resulted in predictable labour conflicts.

“Ginter is a work addict,” wrote Allan Fotheringham in Maclean’s magazine in 1968. “Just as hooked as the dope addict, the booze addict, perhaps just as unhappy and guilty about it.”

For close to 20 years, Tartan Brewing was a thorn in the side of the Big Three breweries: Labatt, Molson and Canadian Breweries (later renamed Carling O’Keefe). In the late ’60s and ’70s, he sought to expand his empire across the country, opening breweries in Alberta and Manitoba, while plans for breweries in Ontario and Newfoundland proved to be costly failures. The Big Three — and the provincial governments that supported them — fought him every step of the way.

“He was dangerous,” says Hellenius. “He was sticking that big middle finger up at them because he played by his own rules.”

The constant opposition caused him stress, and paranoia. Ginter famously accused his competitors of hiring actors who would order Tartan beer and then loudly complain to the bartender about how bad it was and dramatically pour it out, only to ask for a “real” beer by one of the Big Three instead.

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The Drake Eatery in Victoria has a few Tartan Brewery bottles on display. Photo Lara Zukowsky

Eventually, the ill-advised expansion resulted in Ginter overextending himself. In a last ditch effort to raise funds, he offered public shares in his company in return for bottle caps, according to Allen Winn Sneath in his book, Brewed in Canada. Two hundred caps could be traded in for a block of 10 shares valued at $200. Despite the incredible value being offered, the promotion failed to increase sales.

By 1978, Ginter was bankrupt and much to the joy of the Big Three breweries, Uncle Ben’s was done. Ginter died of a heart attack in 1982, his fortune gone.

Nothing remains of Ginter’s empire, not even his once opulent, ostentatious Prince George mansion. According to Fotheringham, it featured preserved butterflies mounted in the ceiling, Japanese silk wallpaper in the bedroom, a royal purple velvet headboard, stuffed woodpeckers and squirrels over the fireplace and the clock in the simulated-leather cowboy boot, a 20-by-40-foot indoor pool, backed by an artificial waterfall that, “at the touch of a button sends water cascading over the plaster elves and their fishing poles.” In the den, beneath the velvet painting of the fighting stallions is the bar, covered in the soft skin of unborn calves.

The original Tartan Brewery in Prince George is still in operation, however, albeit under a different name and ownership: Pacific Western Brewing, home of Cariboo lager.

“Although he was only a player for 15 years,” writes Sneath, “his unorthodox approach to business reserves him a permanent place in Canada’s modern brewing history.”

He may have been ahead of his time, but Ben Ginter’s anti-establishment attitude and dissatisfaction with the status quo would become hallmarks of the craft beer revolution to come.

The Growler B.C.

 
Exploring

What are we reading? March 12, 2020

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Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.

 

Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

A big boost to the viability of battery farms as major contributors to the power grid courtesy of Elon Musk. – Popular Mechanics

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a31350880/elon-musk-battery-farm/

 

More encouraging news on the carbon conversion front: how waste CO2 is being converted into fuels and other usable products. – The Coversation

https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-should-give-us-hope-that-we-are-able-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-133174?

 

This U.S. call for aspiring space cadets might be a good career option considering the upwardly spiralling COVID-19 hysteria. – USAJOBS

https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/561186900

 

Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

The Italian government has announced that mortgage payments will be temporarily suspended for its locked-down population. – Business Insider

https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-covid-19-italy-mortgage-payments-suspended-during-lockdown-2020-3

 

Talking Points Memo boss Josh Marshall notes how state and municipal governments have rushed to fill the leadership vacuum left by the “drifting and headless” Trump administration’s piecemeal and misinformation-strewn response to COVID-19. – Talking Points Memo

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/drifting-and-headless

 

Tyler Orton, reporter:

“Dear readers: Please stop calling us ‘the media.’ There is no such thing.”

Want to annoy a journalist? Refer to them as “the media.” It’s a concept that really doesn’t exist in the way many consumers of information seem to think. – The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/dear-readers-please-stop-calling-us-the-media-there-is-no-such-thing/2016/09/23/37972a32-7932-11e6-ac8e-cf8e0dd91dc7_story.html

 

“Mark Carney heads to Ottawa”

The highly esteemed central banker returns home after trying to shepherd the U.K. through the Brexit. Carney is known to be a character with a penchant for hard rock and cheeseburgers. But he has his sights set on combatting climate change at this stage in his career. – MacLean’s 

https://www.macleans.ca/economy/mark-carney-heads-to-ottawa/ 

 

Emma Crawford Hampel, online editor: 

Barnes & Noble’s new plan is to act like an indie bookseller. Those who remember the 1998 film Who’s Got Mail?, in which Meg Ryan’s indie bookstore was losing business to Tom Hanks’ Fox Books (which was based on giant bookseller Barnes & Noble), may find this latest development interesting. Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-03-04/barnes-noble-wants-to-be-more-like-an-indie-bookseller