The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

Day 27 in the corona house: The phantom of the opera.

04/04/2020

Day 27 in the Corona house

The twenty seventh day with our own company chez Gumnut and we found it hard to easily bring to mind the last people we spoke to and when.

I’m not including the socially distanced ‘thanks very much’ as the delivery driver backs down the stairs to our front door rather like the Lord Chacellor used to having delivered the Queens speech successfully to the Monarch. Next time I shall give my best regal RP ‘Thank You’ before retiring back through the portcullis and into the safety of the house.

After some thought we pinned it down to an Indian Sunday lunch with our friends Charlotte and Cyril on 1st March. Since then, we haven’t engaged with anyone other than those four word exchanges with a neighbour or dog walker. For both of us, this has been the longest period (so far) without any form of social interaction.

The Phantom who spent years hidden away

Of course, this time frame is nothing compared to the periods people routinely go without such contact, but for us it’s certainly uncommon ground.

Many elderly and isolated people across the country have little more human contact that this – hopefully this period might give us all a sense of what that might feel like and as a country we might consider how to tackle the isolation and loneliness that so many face in normal situations.

Literature is replete with characters either heroic or otherwise who have been isolated, outcast or in one form or another of solitary existance. These range from the man in the iron mast, Robinson Crusoe and the elusive Phantom of the Opera who avoided contact (if you believe the fiction) for over forty years.

Speaking of believing the fiction, I was amazed to hear what would usually be considered sensible individuals suggesting utter rubbish. The latest that Coronavirus-19 was a fiction to cover the ‘truth’ that the 5G network was making us all ill made me wonder when we lost all capacity for critical analysis?
In recent weeks we heard the UK’s chief scientific officer mention herd immunity (perhaps unwisely). However, this type of contagious belief spread is more like herd stupidity.

In a letter to the UK from Italy (click here), the author touches on such reactions explaining them as a need to explain and blame something, anything and in so doing regain some limited control over the situation. It may be worth considering this as a potential driver by those engaging in such conspiracy theorising.

The second thread of thinking from the corona house also relates to the Phantom which explains the title and chosen music track. As Shakespeare would never have put it, to mask or not to mask, that is the question?

Other than a sense of doing something,
do masks reduce the risk of Covid-19?

In recent days, I’ve noticed the sudden increase in masks being worn routinely. That’s a small sample as it’s based on those I see when walking Taz (under ten) and those I can see from the window. However, the trend is most certainly upwards.

In a sense, it’s the herd behaviour in action. The world health organisation has recently changed it’s advice to those living in areas of highly symptomatic coronavirus that it may be beneficial to wear a face mask. – Stand by for the latest items to be panic bought. I do note the advice assumes areas of highly symptomatic people and the conclusion is conditional – it may assist. Then again, it may not.

I find myself (uncomfortably) landing in the same position as Donald Trump. That is, though I could envisage situations in which I might wear a mask situationally, I don’t see the point in day to day activities such as walking the dog. Where we may differ, is that I believe my position is based on the science not on how it may look to others.

The rationale is simple – but multithreaded. Firstly, the classical cloth surgical mask offers little protection to the wearer from contact with the virus. Certainly, the additional protection it gives above social distancing and hand washing/cleaning is marginal.

A sense of scale

Many studies show that when dry the material forms a minimal barrier protection, however, it doesn’t stay dry long. Ironically, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that when moist they ease the transmission of particles such as the virus – so in those circumstances there can be a positive disadvantage in wearing one.

Most importantly, most masks of that type don’t form a good seal around the mouth and/or face. In that situation, the mask may increase the amount of unnecessary face touching with various attempts to adjust the fit.

To give you a sense of how important that seal is and why without it wearing one is a bit like trying to stop a mosquito with a tennis raquet, consider this.
We can all picture a 1cm space (for those who work in old money just under half an inch). The virus we’re seeking to stop with these gappy masks is small, – if you’ll excuse the expression bigly small. If I were to take the virus and lay them side by side I could fit 100,000 of them in a centimetre length. So you can see how small gaps in poorly fitting masks provide more than enough space to get through .

Lastly, they may provide a false sense of security. I don’t feel particularly unsafe when walking outside briefly each day. Why not? Because I avoid contacts, touching surfaces or my face and practice hand hygiene when I get back inside before doing anything else.
If we make ourselves too comfortable with preventative measures that aren’t really that preventative we may let those other actions slip and that would be significantly worse.

It appears that a mask does provide some protection if the wearer is symptomatic. It may prevent the worse of the droplet splash they present. However, they are being more helpful to others that to the wearer in that situation. Also, if you were highly symptomatic, most people’s experience is that you won’t be out of bed so the point is largely moot.

I’ve accepted a couple made by friends partly because it would be rude not to and there may be instances where it would be reasoanble to have one with me if nothing else. As to them being worn by others, I have no objections and if it helps people feel more at ease then perhaps they are serving a mental health purpose. However, I won’t be adding to the panic buying of this particular product.

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The title of this post was taken from Phantom of the Opera and may be heard on the control below.

Day 26 in the corona house: Can you hear the people sing?

03/04/2020

Twenty six days in isolation and we find outselves around two weeks ahead of the majority of people who are around the 10-14 day period. Interestingly, I’m starting to spot comments and trends on social media that we experienced about the same time into our isolation following return from Milan.

I remember at around day 12 both Vaughan and I had to check with each other occassionally to make certain today was in fact the day of the week we thought it should be.

It struck me that the temporal blurring that began to feel more the norm than the exception was almost the same as can occur over the Christmas and new year periods blend one day of limited activity into the next. The levels of food consumed are also pretty Saturnalian if you don’t remember the plea from our collective digestive and cardiac systems

Step away from the fridge. You’re not hungry, you’re bored.

Time blurs when you’re having fun …

I was reassured to find it wasn’t just us that had experienced this time-blurring quality of quarantine. I had to smile in recognition of the post sent to me by a Belgian of our acquaintance.

The whole period has reminded me of childhood Christmas celebrations with a northern parent and family. (Those from the south won’t really get it but consider it a glimpse into the north-south divide). My mother would treat Christmas as a time to relax, recharge and spend (limited) time with friends and/or family.

You were at liberty to do what you wanted, no ‘organised fun’ but plenty of drop ins for mince pies. watching old films, catching up on those books you hadn’t read, seeing what was left at the back of the drinks cabinet and other of course food. Down time was perfectly acceptable but only if accompanied with something to eat, drink or both. Those poor souls who visited with no experience of Yorkshire hospitality were often shocked that ‘no thank you, I’m fine’ didn’t prevent the cold meat, mince pies, Christmas cake or other yuletide loveliness arriving – it was purely a rhetorical question.. the food was coming anyway.

It occurred to me that if we all continue eating at this rate over the next two weeks, there will be no need to plead with us to stay in our homes. Most of us won’t be able to get through the door by next Thursday.

Revolutionary change?

I have taken a little time to reflect on the scale of change we’ve seen in the UK over the last two weeks. If at the end of February I had suggested that millions more people would be able to work from home, routine doctor and nurse practitioner appointements and prescriptions could be done by video and electronic means or the justice system would move to video hearings, judgements and even appeals, I may have been laughed at as an idealistic fool. Had we envisaged whole sectors of industry mobilising to create improved key materials (whether that’s internet backbone infrastructure or medical kit or creating new means of providing PPE equipment to those needing it, I would have been considered an unrealistic dreamer. But that’s what has happened.

Several political theorists have suggested that real change only comes through revolution. In this context, revolution needn’t mean the storming of the winter palace, but does mean mass mobilised forces with a single/clear goal rather than small incremental change at the edges.

Will we return to the status quo ante

I would encourage people to consider not what the next two weeks might look like, but what the first two months after the crisis should look like.

Several academic lawyers (both here and in the US) have pointed out that powers taken in emergencies by government are very often not relinquinshed after the emergency at hand has passed.

Examples of this aren’t too difficult to find. The most profound is perhaps the emergency powers taken by William Pitt the younger in 1799. These were introduced to fund the Napoleonic Wars which were at the time perceived to be just as existential threat. Within those measures were a strictly temporary measure introduced with assurances that it would last for as short a time as was practicable. The measure introduced was called income tax which is still in force some 220 years later.
Similarly following 9-11 in the United States increased surveillance and data access rights were granted to the Federal government covering people’s movements, big data tracking and the like. These have not been relinquished despite the war on terror being won at least twice.

When considering the powers taken and being considered in this light it might be concerning to understand they include limiting jury trials. We must ensure temporary restrictions and erosions of freedoms are just that – temporary.

However, I suspect this degree of change is unlikely to return us to 2019. Banks that wouldn’t accept email signatures now are, certain court proceedings (competency hearings in the court of protection) are being heard and pronounced upon by video with email notification to all parties concerned. Home working is being considered normal – many potential rubicons appear to be in a state of being crossed.

Many of the limitations we have been told were insurmountable have been surmounted. I doubt people will accept a return to being told these solutions are once again problematic. Even if they do, there will be those who disrupt markets by offering these continuing innovations. Even in the public sector, the genie is now seen to be out of the bottle. Good luck with getting it back in there.

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This post’s title is taken from Les Miserables. For those who like to hear the associated music track, it can be played on the control below.

Do you hear the people sing? – Les Miserables (Original London cast recording)

Day 25 in the corona house: Tomorrow

02/04/2020

Day 25 in the corona house

Today is a further holding post for completeness and to answer a few questions before normal blogging service is resumed.

I’m aware that’s a bit of a jam tomorrow promise, but it’s all I’ve had time to do today. That shows that if you put your mind to it you can keep yourself busy even in near isolation.

Of course, much of that is also due to the willingness of friends to engage in activities such as watch parties, social media exchanges at the like. Today was mostly down to replacing a non-perfomant streaming service so our virtual film club can watch tomorrow’s offering.

I also managed to attend two job interviews over Microsoft Teams which seemed to work well technically and so far as you can judge was broadly positive. Fingers crossed it might come through with an offer as it sounds both challenging and interesting. We will see.

Tomorrow’s post is forming as I type so until then …

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Today’s title was taken from Annie (you have been warned) for those who like to hear them – under normal non Annie circumstances – it may be played on the control below.

Day 24 in the corona house: Think of the time I save.

01/04/2020

I’m under strinct instructions from he who must be obeyed that today is just a couple of paragraphs as I’ve been up to too much and have an interview for a new job tomorrow so …

Today we’ve livestreamed chicken in pyjamas (A chicken based dish wish is deeply tasty originating mostly from Melbourne). Two large application processes kicked off and associated paperwork – a skype interview prepared for and the dog walking ration taken.

In addition to that some testing on the watch party setup means we’ve cracked most of the problems so things are looking good for the next attempt on Friday. The problem is … I don’t have any time.

As Alanis said ‘Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think.’ I had more spare time when I was working full time and not in isolation. How does that happen?

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Todays post title is taken from The Pyjama game and can be heard by following this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ4KItco0nE

Speaking of which … goodnight John boy.

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