Nirrti’s Son

This is another personal, non-COVID, non-science post.  So if you’ve come here for pandemic analysis, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

As per my last “personal” post, I’ve been jiggling with my morning routine more and more. The biggest issue is that I find myself a (common law) married man with an infant, which has really complicated the well refined productive process I developed over the first five decades of my life, but which relied heavily on being alone.

Having to stay up late to manage a crying baby (as I did last night), to get up often to manage a needy dog, to maintain relationship commitments and meet expectations therein, has necessitated the backseating of mental self care. I haven’t read a book for pleasure in months, possibly years. I used to exercise with the dawn, now I squeeze in a workout when the baby is napping and/or when the spouse is unoccupied; it’s unpredictable.  Through in the new wrench of unpredictable requests from the media for pandemic commentary, which always eats up those few moments of free time I do have, and scheduling self-maintenance becomes a real challenge.

This past week I have attempted to remedy that.  I’ve been forcing myself to once again do a dawn workout, which means getting up a bit earlier (as I still have to complete my chores, which include walking the dog, emptying the dishwasher, making the morning tea for me and the missus, and sometimes doing a live TV hit). And I’ve been making time for two more important tasks that I’ve neglected of late: reading and meditating.

Don’t judge me, but I’m reading “Women In Black” by Nick Redfern. It’s a description of the paranormal phenomenon of weird women appearing at various points in history to freak people out.


And maybe because I’ve been reading this book about dark mysterious otherworldly women, a disturbing intrusion presented itself in today’s morning meditation.

I’ve been experimenting with new styles of meditation. Most of my experience has been in the focus style of meditation, that I took from decades of martial arts training. You know, think of one thing or nothing, like imagining a flickering candle and blocking out all other thoughts. It’s a fine way to develop mental discipline. And as a child, I stumbled upon my own homemade version of transcendental meditation, during which I would walk in circles and let my mind wander to where it was naturally drawn. This was a deliberate choice, by the way, not aimless daydreaming. I didn’t know what transcendental meditation was, but I knew that this practice was important to me, and I would block out tie during the day to pursue it.

Lately, I’ve been trying to enter and sustain the trance state. I find it quite challenging, as the many and subtle pains of the middle aged body, as well as the nagging responsibilities in the back of the mind (must be alert to the baby’s cries, must be aware of that meeting I have in an hour, etc.), present barriers to achieving genuine trance.

But I tend to have some success by following the technique that I call “compelled sensory.” This involves deliberately identifying things I can see, things I can feel, and things I can hear, until I am absorbed in that process, and my body is divorced from the whole affair. When I can slip into trance using that technique, it’s not uncommon that I hear voices.

It’s rare, though, that I can make out what those voices are saying. Today it was a clear female voice screeching at me, “Nirrti’s son! Nirrti’s son!”

Now, I knew who Nirrti is. She is an obscure Hindu goddess, usually personifying death and sorrow. She is tucked away way way back in my subconscious. Is it possible that my reading about dark and mysterious (entirely white and European) “women in black” dislodged by knowledge of Nirrti?

What I did not know is that Nirrti had sons.  I had to look that up. Her sons are: Bhaya (fear), Mahabhaya (great danger), and Antaka (causing death).

What does this mean? A residue of my continued mourning for my recently passed father? A prophetic warning from the future?

The subconscious is a mysterious and sometimes terrifying thing.  But I am enjoying this deep dive into its tepid pools. Stay tuned for more reports from its depths.

COVID-19: Even More Q&A

by Raywat Deonandan, PhD
Epidemiologist & Associate Professor
University of Ottawa
(I add my credentials to these COVID-19 blog posts in case they get shared. I want readers to know that my opinion is supposedly an educated and informed one)

Today’s post is a bit of a hodgepodge of topics people have been asking me to talk about. Let’s begin with a question from a concerned citizen, who asked:


The Morning Routine

I was reflecting today on the man I used to be. Before the age of 40, I’d published two critically acclaimed and award-winning books, collected four university degrees including a doctorate, earned a Black Belt in karate and advanced status in several other martial arts, had met the likes of Pierre Trudeau, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama, had travelled the world and had great loves, losses, and adventures.

Despite all that, I still felt like a failure back then. I didn’t have the things I really wanted: a wife and children, financial stability, and some sense of the trajectory my life and career should be on. Only now, in retrospect, do I see how productive I used to be, and how I even had leftover time and energy to be an insatiable reader, writer, and student of other arcane knowledge.

Today I looked back at how I used to spend my days, how I was able to maintain what now seems to me like a breakneck rate of productivity –even though at the time I felt I was procrastinating all the time.  I did so because I’ve been studying the behaviours of the stoics –Marcus Aurelius and Epectetus and Seneca– whose world outlook and discipline I’ve come to admire of late. And weirdly I find that I was already reflexively doing what they preach. (more…)

COVID-19: We Need A Vaccine Policy For Ontario Schools

by Raywat Deonandan, PhD
Epidemiologist & Associate Professor
University of Ottawa
(I add my credentials to these COVID-19 blog posts in case they get shared. I want readers to know that my opinion is supposedly an educated and informed one)


A major newspaper asked me to write an op-ed on mandatory vaccination for schoolchildren. But that was a week ago and it looks like they’re not going to run with it after all. So I guess I’ll just publish it here on my blog instead….



We Need A Vaccine Policy For Ontario Schools

There are four tools for making schools as COVID-safe as possible: ventilation, masking, screening, and vaccination. Ontario’s back-to-school plan relies on three of those. The glaring omission is any effort to maximize vaccine uptake among staff and students.

Mandating vaccination among some professions has widespread public support. Health care workers, first responders, personal care workers, and teachers are daily exposed to scores of people, many of whom are unvaccinated or vulnerable. The benefits of compelling vaccination for such professions far outweigh the risks, both physical and philosophical. Frankly, if you don’t want the jab, then get another job.

Adults in key jobs are one thing. But vaccinating children against COVID is quite another. For adults, the risk vs reward computation is straightforward. While vaccination poses a vanishingly small risk, the likely negative outcomes of actual COVID infection are so dire that vaccination is clearly the best choice. 

Children, on the other hand, do contract the disease, but less commonly. And some will develop “long COVID”, be hospitalized and even die, though seemingly at lower rates than adults. So for kids, the risk vs reward calculation is not as clear, since a tiny proportion of vaccinated children will experience serious, though treatable, adverse events, like mycocarditis. 

For kids, the personal risk and personal reward are both small. The tie-breaker might be the reward to society: getting a significant step closer to herd immunity. It might be mathematically impossible to get to that magical threshold without immunizing children.

This distinguishes COVID vaccination from the nine jabs that are presently mandatory for attending Ontario schools. They include tetanus and diphtheria and other diseases that were once societal scourges but that have been tamed by technology. In all nine, vaccination is intended primarily for personal protection. But for COVID, it would be mostly for the protection of others.

 While the COVID vaccine will likely be added to the list of compulsory shots eventually, now is not the time. This is because of the tightrope that public health communicators must presently tread to win the hearts and minds of the vaccine hesitant. Making this particular vaccine mandatory for children might drive the hesitant in to the arms of the hardcore anti-vaxxers who equate public health with authoritarianism. We would thus increase the behaviour we seek to suppress.

And make no mistake, we cannot afford to lose the battle for hearts and minds. We will need the cooperation of the entire populace in months to come, as booster shots become likely and as the struggle against COVID enters an endemic phase.

But not compelling student vaccination doesn’t mean having no vaccination policy at all. The price for exercising one’s bodily freedoms can include more stringent masking requirements, mandatory regular asymptomatic testing, and restriction from certain high risk extracurricular activities. 

We can cajole, incentivize, and educate our way to higher student vaccine uptake. Vaccine hesitancy is fueled by fear, misinformation and apathy. Making vaccination compulsory addresses the apathy, but accentuates the fear and creates vulnerability to misinformation. 


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