Posts Tagged ‘Coronavirus’

Housekeeping Note: In case you were wondering what happens to the blog after 31st December…

Well, the current plan is to run the blog through until ‘2022 plus 08‘, then there’ll be the usual anniversary post about Mike…

…and then both I and this blog take a break. The single Thursday in that ‘2022 plus’ run almost certainly won’t have a piece of new fiction. This Thursday’s is intended to be the last new fiction on the blog for 2021.

When I return — I’m currently thinking of the start of February, having taken the remainder of January off — I’ll have have think about what I want the blog to look like in 2022.

Now, unless something huge happens, January’s posts until the ‘plus 08’ will be light fair, with maybe more fiction from the vaults than usual. I’m not sure.

I do know that when I’ve tried to run the blog through into a ‘plus’ run, intending to keep it going for ages, I get to around eight or ten days and then burn out completely, taking months and years off.

I don’t want to do that again. So, I’m trying this.


It’s not exactly news that politics, that public opinions, that expressing a view on anything the past few years has run into a bit of a problem.

No, it’s not the ‘cancel culture’ thing; most examples of so-called ‘cancel culture’ are nothing more nor less than ‘consequence culture’. People complaining loudly that they can’t say [this] or [that] anymore without facing consequences for saying it. Tough fucking luck, pal.

What we should be angry about is that they’ve faced no consequences in that past, not that those expressing racism, antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia are facing consequences now.

It’s a truism to suggest that freedoms of speech and expression have never been freedoms from the consequences of that speech and expression, but in many cases, too many cases, those consequences haven’t been faced.

But no, this post isn’t about the specious argument that ‘unless i can say whatever I like, whenever I like it, wherever I like it without facing consequences of any sort then I don’t have freedom of speech’. And no, it isn’t about the conflict between differing rights and which should have primacy.

No, this is about something else: the absence of nuance, of any grey areas, of the contraction of debate into binary alternatives. And furthermore, the polarisation to the point of there are only two alternatives, and you much not only choose one of them to fanatically support, you must also obsessively denigrate the other.

It’s been around in politics for a lot longer than is sometimes suggested; I certainly remember it being around in the 1980s, and I’m sure it existed long before that as well.

But it reached its apotheosis once social media made it easy for everyone to reply to everyone else in what should have been the world’s greatest debating chamber but instead became the world’s biggest and drunkest pub crowd five minutes before closing time.

Take the further restrictions some are suggesting are necessary to control the spread of the omicron covid variant. The vast majority of online commentary, and that of politicians, seems to be

yes, we need to have them, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t care if a) the NHS is overwhelmed and/or b) people die!!!

or

Over my dead body! Totally unnecessary and those calling for them are authoritarian fascists who don’t care about people’s mental health or their right to be free!!!

The attacks not only on the contrary idea but on those who are making it… angers me.

It’s back to the “once upon a time, those who differed were ‘good people with bad ideas’; now they’re bad people with worse ideas”.

Me? I’ve thought from the start of any restrictions that it’s both personally and perfectly reasonable to loathe the restrictions while reluctantly accepting their complete and utter necessity.


Sidebar: I’m quite self-servingly selfish about one part of lockdown, but I’m happy to admit that I’m quite self-servingly selfish about it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I live alone, and I’m not in a relationship. So the only people I saw on a frequent basis were friends who I stay with once a week in Richmond, and my ex-wife.

I went through the first lockdown having been deprived of both of those. By the time of the second lockdown, the government had at last recognised that it ain’t particularly healthy for people who live on their own to see… NO ONE for months on end. So they introduced ‘social bubbles’, whereby a household could invite someone who lived on their own to form part of that household for the duration.

My sole wish, if lockdown, or something like it, is reintroduced is that they reintroduce the bubbles. I really don’t want to have to lose that personal contact again.

A friend once described me as ‘dangerously content in his own company’. That’s probably fair. Or at least it was. Before covid. Because enforced solitude made me at first tire of my own company and then actively resent it. I really don’t want to subject my mental health to having to do that again.

OK, self-servingly selfish bit over.


I truly wish I could believe that we’ve come through the worst of the polarisation; sadly I don’t even believe we’re close to the peak.

The assumption of too many, on all sides of the political divide, not only re covid but re so, so, much else as well, is that any disagreement with the position they hold can only be malicious and in bad faith.

Years ago, a penny dropped for me when considering how the Tories and Labour regard each other, and why Labour’s assumption of inherent moral superiority in their position rankles so much. (This was way before Corbyn’s apotheosis, when it became blatant, and me and mine copped out as a result.)

Tories observe Labour and don’t understand for the slightest iota of a moment how anyone could genuinely believe in the stuff Labour believe in.

On the other hand, Labour sees the Conservative party beliefs and very well understands how people could believe the things they believe… but Labour people choose not to believe those things.

And Labour therefore thinks they are inherently better people because of it.

Labour’s always had a touch of the “We are Moral and Just and Good because we are Labour (rather than ‘because what we can achieve, and what we do’.)

It was ramped up under Corbyn to “We are Moral and Just and Good and therefore anything we do or say is Moral and Just and Good. Therefore any criticism of anything we do or say must, by an elegant inevitability, be Immoral and Unjust and Malicious.”

That at least has lessened. I fear that it could return at any time, however, and even if it doesn’t, the polarisation in politics will grow still further.

I hope I’m wrong. I fear I’m not.

 

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Tuesday ‘something else’.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now scarily rapidly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I’ve written about being tested for Covid before, but something;’s changed in the past couple of weeks, not only with the prevalence of Omicron variant doing the rounds but in my reaction to it.

OK, so until… September, I’d never been tested for covid. I was entirely without symptoms and though I was aware of asymptomatic carrying and transmission, I didn’t feel it necessary to get a test. I’d been pinged in July 2020, as part of the Pingdemic, where millions got pinged because Delta was doing the rounds and the app was very sensitive…

But at no point did I feel even slightly unwell… and I didn’t get tested.

It’s fair to suggest that I may well have been scared off by the horror stories about just how far you have to stick the swab up your nose to get tested.

Again, as mentioned before, I broke my nose (or more accurately had it broken by my then infant son) twice, the second time about six weeks after the first… about 25 years ago.

It left me with a busted up nose… on the inside; the outside looks cosmetically not too bad…

But the inside? Well…

Yeah, you can see that while sticking a swab up one nostril wouldn’t be a problem, sticking it far up the other very much would be.

OK, then in September, I got approached, by random chance, by The Office of National Statistics, asking if I’d be part of the giant survey they were doing, to get PCR tested weekly for a month, and then once a month after that. I gave them a call, explained the situation with my nose and asked…?

They reassured me enough that I figured I’d give it a go.

Now I can’t say in all honesty that it was comfortable, but at no point was I in pain or did I feel I had to push the swab higher than was necessary.

Anyway, so I had a few PCR tests; all were negative, thankfully.

OK, so I was ok with just continuing like that.

Then I got a call from friends whose daughter had tested positive. I’d slept over at their house the previous night, so got a PCR check that afternoon, and another one three days later… all were again negative.

Phew.

I started thinking ‘you know what? I see my ex-wife Laura every weekend for a ‘coffee and catchup’, and I see my friends every week for the same reason… Maybe I should start taking lateral flow tests before I go see them. Y’know, just to be safe…?

So I did that for a couple of weeks.

And then Omocron hit.

And when it hit, I found myself taking daily tests. Not two or three a day as some friends — who are seeing more people than I am — are doing, but yeah, daily tests, before I leave the flat.

I’ve gone from no testing, to the once a month testing, to a couple of times a week, to every day.

And it’s not because I’m especially vulnerable. I mean, other than the fucked up foot, and the usual stuff a 57 year old fella of average height and weight would get, and take meds for (high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc) I’m reasonably healthy, give or take. And I live alone, so it’s not as if I’m worried that I’ll give it to my partner and so we need to know ASAP if one of us has it.

And it’s not because I think I have it or that I’ll will pass it on.

Nor even that I’ll necessarily get it and I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop…

I think, and this is a weird thought… I think I’m doing it because it feels like this way I’m doing something. Because, once you’ve got your vaccination and booster shots, then following the sensible covid precautionary rules is in most cases merely the absence of doing the wrong thing. Yes, ok, I’m still washing my hands a lot, and whenever I come in from outside. But otherwise, doing the right thing is merely but exclusively the absence of doing the wrong things.

And maybe that’s why I’m taking daily tests, so it at least feels like I’m doing something, doing my part, to keep me and those I care about (and those I don’t care about, tbh) safe.

I dunno.

Meanwhile, this was my lateral flow test just now…

…so I can at least go see my friends this evening.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now rapidly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Two ‘odds and sods’ today, provoked by a couple of things in the news…

Reshuffles

Once upon a time, there was a convention, or so it seemed, that if the government had a reshuffle of ministers, then the main opposition party had one as well. That, thankfully, went the way of all things some time ago. But it’s still rare (rarer than it should be) that the main opposition – the Labour Party right now – has a reshuffle on its own.

The opposition has both a harder job and an easier one when it comes to reshuffles. The promotions are purely career makers, the demotions the removal of career opportunities. Being promoted doesn’t bring additional pay, doesn’t bring additional power, doesn’t even bring much additional internal party authority.

Unlike with the government where one of the big three jobs — Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer — is seen as not only a forerunner and a necessity to become Prime Minister, it’s not the same with opposition. Also, unlike the government, the job of shadowing the Chancellor of the Exchequer isn’t as fireproofed a job as its counterpart in government.

The other difference is that of presentation. If you’re the PM then there are the ritual ‘ministers leaving Number Ten’ shots. That doesn’t happen with opposition reshuffles.

You’d think all of the above might make opposition reshuffles less nasty, less… difficult. Not a chance. What opposition reshuffles lack in formality, they more than make up for in venom. While I can remember, faintly, government reshuffles that haven’t been a complete disaster, I struggle to recall any opposition reshuffles that haven’t been accompanied by well-founded accusations of nastiness, petty point scoring, and fuckups. My gods, the fuckups.

There hasn’t been a smooth opposition reshuffle for at least a decade, not since the days when David Cameron was Leader of the Opposition; Corbyn was shit at them, and Starmer’s incompetent at them. Both Corbyn and Starmer obviously hated doing them — not a surprise there, most politicians do — but they’re so obviously bad at them as well.

There’s an opposition reshuffle occurring right now and it looks like it’s going to be every bit as much a disaster as the previous.

Of course, we’ll get the exchange of letters, the parting shots of the departed and the entirely fictional expressions of gratitude from the leader.

I’ve referred on occasion previously to Jeremy Paxman’s excellent book The Politcial Animal, Here’s Paxman on how one particular Prime Minister dealt with getting rid of a minister:

There is no disguising the essential fact that you are being dispensed with because the Prime Minister thinks you’re less good at your job than someone else might be. Few have been as brutally frank as Clement Attlee, though. He once got rid of a Scottish Secretary with the words, “Good t’see you. I’m carrying through Government changes. Want your job for someone else. Sake of the party, y’know? Write me the usual letter. Think of something as the excuse: health, family, too much travelling, constituency calls. Anything will do. Good fellow. Thanks.”

For a moment, the minister was stunned. Then it sank in. He was being slung out of the government. “But why, Prime Minister? Why have you sacked me like this, with no warning, with no complaints that I know of?” Attlee, who was already scribbling on the papers on his desk, looked up, removed the pipe from his mouth, and blurted out, “‘Cos you don’t measure up to yer job. That’s why. Secretary will show you out.”

They don’t make ’em like that any more.

Which is a pity, as recognising that a minister/shadow minister ain’t up to the job should be one of the essential skills a Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition, needs.

Omicron

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m not even particularly knowledgable about medical or scientific matters. I do ok, but I’m not particularly knowledgable more than anyone else is who… pays attention. I do, however, trust the scientists who have been working on the covid virus for the past two years.

And while I’ve found some succour in dark humour, I don’t find much funny about the absurdity in which we’ve found ourselves the past couple of years. I guess, it’s in part because by training and inclination I like… certainty, and since early 2020, certainty has been lacking.

That said, I have chuckled on occasion precisely because of the odd absurdities tyhat have occurred.

For the past year, the variants have been named after Greek letters.

Before the latest one, the latest variants of interest were Lamda (λ) and Mu (μ).

Now the next in the Greek alphabet should be, under current naming protocols, Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ).

Except that they’re skipping Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ), and jumping straight to Omicron (ο).

(I wonder if they’ll keep π for the next one; it’ll bugger up every school child’s googling if they do…)

But why they’re skipping Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ) is what fascinates me. The official reasons are that Nu (ν) is being skipped because it would be confused with the word “new” and Xi (ξ) is being passed over because the Premier of China is named Xi, and they’ve fucking had enough of “Chinese flu” being used as an insult.

OK, they didn’t quite put it in that way. Instead;

“It went from mu to omicron, jumping both nu and XI. Nu, the reasoning was people would get confused thinking it was the New variant rather than a name. And XI because it’s a common surname and we have agreed naming rules that avoid using place names, people’s names, animal etc to avoid stigma.”
—- Dr. Margaret Harris, WHO spokeswoman

The former – Nu (ν) – though, reminds me of when I got married.

It’s relevant, I promise. When I got married, some twenty-seven years ago, it was in a traditional Jewish ceremony, complete with being married under a canopy. As part of the wedding ceremony, both my bride and I, and our parents, drank from a glass… and then came the ‘famous’ bit, the thing that most non-Jews know about Jewish weddings. A glass was placed in front of me, and I stamped on it, smashing it, and everyone shouted Mazel Tov!

There are various stories how this tradition got started and to what it refers. To get the silly one out of the way first, it’s suggested that it’s the last time the fella gets to put his foot down, so he might as well make a big thing of it.

Hmm.

The ‘proper’ reason is that it commemorates the last destruction of the Temple to remind Jews that even in the midst of celebration, there is a mark of rememberance. That one never made much sense to me, seeing as we mark it by shouting Mazel Tov!

I much prefer the folk etymology version, one said to me by a rabbi, tongue only semi-deep in his cheek. We drink from a glass to celebrate the marriage; we then smash a glass to remove the possibility that any… lesser toast can be drunk from the glass.

It’s not what happens, but as a Mr Gaiman once reminded us… something need not have happened for it to be true.

And the same applies with Nu (ν) being skipped.

Because I, as a Jewish fella, am very pleased Nu (ν) was skipped for a different reason. Because it would just be too confusing.

     “I’m feeling a bit rough.”

          “Nu?”

     “Naah, just a sore throat.”

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

So I’ve been surveyed..

Not my flat, me.

A couple of weeks ago, I received some forms through the post. Which was reasssuring in an odd ‘this is the way things should get done’ way. Although I’m more than happy to complete forms online, and though I really like the efficiency and speed with which stuff can get processed electronically, there’s… something about holding forms in your hand.

Whether it’s because I’m an old fogey or whether it’s just because I’m a sceptical bastard – yes, yes, I know what you all think, and I kind of agree that it’s probably both, – I have to admit that had I received the forms by email… I dunno; I may have, probably would have, have just consigned it to spam.

Because this is what I received…

I’d heard about the survey, of course, but to be fair to myself, I had no idea what it was.

I wrote, a few weeks ago, about getting pinged¹.

Huh.

Now, dear reader, whenever I type something that starts ‘I wrote, a few weeks ago…’ you’d expect to see a link to the post to which I’m referring. Hell, I’d expect to slap the link in without thinking.

And you will get that in a moment, I promise, but I first just want to express my flat out astonishment at how long ago it was.

Because had you asked me this afternoon exactly when I was pinged, I’d have guessed… oh, six weeks ago, maybe? Possibly a week or so before that.

I certainly wouldn’t have said almost three months ago. Eleven weeks ago. Almost three months; how the hell was that three months ago?

Anyways… here comes that link.

I wrote, in July (!) about getting pinged. At the time, when I was freed from the – mostly self-imposed, as it turns out – self-isolation, I considered getting tested. But at the time, there were many reports about a) how far up your nostril you had to stick the swab, and b) how unpleasant the test was at the best of times.

And you may remember that the inside of my nose is completely, to use a technical, medical term, buggered. No? You don’t remember? Well, I did mention it in a post about the personal medical consequences post, at the start of ’57 minus…’

Look, here’s an MRI from 2010, taken for other reasons completely. You can, however, see that the inside of my nose is, to again use that technical term, completely buggered.

So, yes, although I did consider getting tested for covid, when i was pinged, in the end I decided against it.

I live alone, I don’t see anyone (other than my very closest of friends) for more than a short period of time, I wear a mask whenever I can, and I’ve been one of the most “wash your hands” people I know.

Moreover, I had no symptoms. And while I’m of course aware of asymptomatic transmission, I thought it was worth the risk in not getting tested, especially since I had no wish to stick a swab far up my nose.

But while I’ve never been tested, I think I’d have to be very weird indeed not to have at least wondered, idly or otherwise, whether I’ve had it. And while I might be weird, I don’t think I’m that weird.

And then, as I say, I got these forms through the post inviting me to be part of the Office of National Statistics nationwide survey.

Any mild scepticism that it might not be genuine evaporated when I checked it out and then, even before I saw that they give you a small amount of money for taking part, about more of which in a moment, I called them and ‘signed up’ for it.

Many things attracted me about this thing, that led me to taking part.

In no particular order:

  1. They come to you. They come to your place of residence and you take the first test in front of them, so they know you know what you’re doing, then take the test away and email you the results a few days later. For future tests, they hand the kit to you, and wait outside while you perform the testt, and then you hand it back to them.
  2. Although you can walk away from the testing regime at any point; there are three ways you can take part. (I’ve chosen the last one of the three options below.)
    1. Just one test, and you’re done. That’s it; you never need to head from them again.
    2. Four tests; the first test and then one a week after that for three weeks.
    3. The four tests above, then one a month after that.
  3. The appointments are pretty much ‘within a few hours’. They call you to arrange when’s good for you, then they come to you. The two calls I’ve had so far were for an appointment the following morning, and one call that came at 3 in the afternoon and I had a test a couple of hours later.

    I’ll repeat this bit, because it genuinely was one of the things that I like about it: they email you the results and they’re clear and simple to understand: this is the one I most recently got from the second test I had.

If you are selected, and you agree to take part, it’s fifty quid for the first test and then twenty-five pounds per test, thereafter. Payment in electronic vouchers you can use in dozens of major retailers and online places.

So, yes, good news all around. I get confirmation I’m covid free, and I help the ONS with their numbers.

See you tomorrow, with… something else. I’m not sure what yet, but it’ll definitely be something else.

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)


¹I’m amused, as so often, that my autocorrect changed the final word ‘pinged’ to ‘pounded’; I mean, getting covid may kick your arse a bit but not in that way, shurely?

 Well, can’t say that this is the first time its happened this run, but I’m staring at an empty screen and I’ve nothing to write about. Well, nothing that’d take up an entire blog entry. Well, again, nothing that isn’t the post I’ve been putting off finishing and publishing. I’m going back and forth on that one, to be honest. As mentioned previously, it’s a bit ‘personal’ and I’m still not entirely sure I want to put some of it into the public arena.

So instead of driving myself mad (a short drive, I assure you), here’s some stuff on various things I’m thinking about today. All of these could have easily been today’s goingcheep, but they weren’t.

So you get three of them here; aren’t you all lucky?

I wonder when…?
I quit smoking in 2016. I’ve not smoked for over 1,700 days. Every so often, I’ll work out the number of days and it always surprises me. And I never know whether to consider myself a non-smoker or an ex-smoker. I mean, I usually just go with “I don’t smoke… at the moment.” I don’t think I’ll return to lighting up cigarettes. But I’m genuinely scared that all it would take would be one and I’d be back on 20 a day.

I’m on my third… substitute, I guess you’d call it. Or third crutch. I started off my ‘no cigaetters’ phase by using a Curv e-cig, then switched to vaping after about six months, when I was pretty sure I was going to stick at the ‘not smoking’ thing. And about six months after that, I switched to my current method of vaping, an Aspire PockeX.

In over 1,700 days, I’ve wanted to smoke precisely twice. Both times were in the first year, both times I was pissed off and angry and just wanted a cigarette. And, fortunately, both times I was with friends none of whom smoked.

But I can honestly say that since the first anniversary, I’ve not wanted a cigarette, not once. The vaping does me very nicely thank you.

Two rules I set myself when I quit: 1) No evangelising to others; I loathed it when I was a smoker, and I don’t get to tell anyone else that they should give up. Corollary to that: don’t tell anyone else they can’t smoke around me. Again, I’ve given up; they haven’t. My wanting them to not smoke around me, if that were the case, shouldn’t trump their wish to smoke. 2) Just because I found it easy, using the method I did, doesn’t mean that anyone else would.

So what am I wondering? I’m wondering two ‘how long before?’s.

How long before… I stop being scared I’ll start smoking again?

and

How long before… someone will have trouble lighting their cigarette, and I’ll automatically reach for my lighter before remembering I don’t carry one any more?
 
 
A few Ten Things that I either can’t narrow it down to Ten or I couldn’t get to Ten, no matter how I tried.

Some time ago, on the blog, I started doing Ten Things posts. They kind of arose out of John Rentoul’s Top Ten feature in The Independent., wherein he asks for nominations for the Top Ten Returns from political wilderness, or the Top Ten Actors Who Are Younger Than You Think, or even the Top Ten deaths eclipsed by people who died on the same day

I’d never be arrogant enough to pick the Top Ten of anything, nor even usually my favourite ten of anything. But Ten Things I Like, that I can do. And have done. Whether it’s Ten TV Pilots I Like, Ten Comics I Like, Ten Doctor Who Episodes I Like, or even Ten Audiobooks I’ll Listen To Again And Again.

But sometimes, yeah sometimes, I come up with an idea, and I just can’t get it to work, either because I can’t get to ten, or I can’t narrow it down.

Here are a few:

  • Ten sf shows that aren’t Doctor Who that I really like
  • Ten Law & order partnerships I really like
  • Ten Things my brother introduced me to that I still like
  • Ten comics writer-artist teams I like
  • Ten musical comedians I really like
  • Ten pieces of tech that blew me away when I discovered them
  • Ten political pundits always worth reading
  • Ten Sexual positions I like (not really, was just checking you were still reading.)

 
 
Spoilers
Nothing to say on this one other than that I’d seriously consider voting for any political candidate who came up with a decent, sensible, rational and common sense rule that people could agree with… about what period of time is sensible, rational and common sense for people to give away plot points online.
 
 
Lockdown Surprises
Four quick points on this one; things I’ve learned or learned to appreciate over the past 18 months that I’d not have expected beforehand.

1. Video chatting. I always hated it before 2020. Genuinely loathed it. I don’t like how I look onscreen. I mean, I don’t like how I look in photos (not quite true, I’m less repulsed by seeing pics of me than I used to be) but I really don’t like, still don’t like, how I appear onscreen. But I’ve come to appreciate both the necessity and convenience of video chatting it’s enabled me to at least keep ‘in contact’ with people, including Laura and Phil. And while I still hate what I look like onscreen, I kind of like the idea of future doctors’ appointments being on video.

2. People are, for the most part, sensible. Most people have gone along with the necessary restrictions to personal freedom that are, y’know, necessary. And most people, for the most part, don’t confuse ‘disliking the inconvenience’ and ‘refusing to do sensible stuff’. And most people, for the most part, acknowledge that others might find it harder, while not being aggressive to those who do find it harder.

3. There are though a lot of fucking idiots around. Yeah, that ‘for the most part’ means that there are some fucking idiots, doing fucking idiotic things.

4. Getting back ‘to normal’ is going to take a lot, lot longer than I, or anyone, realised. Whether it’s mask wearing, or going to a crowded place, or even going to the theatre or the cinema. It’s going to harder than I thought it would be. Both to feel comfortable doing those things and allowing my desire to do them supersede my fear in doing so.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Every so often, online, someone will ask a specific question, a deceptively simple question. ‘Deceptively’ because the honest intention is that people should become comfortable with admitting having being wrong about something.

And that’s not a bad thing to do. Neither the asking of the question, nor the intended consequence.

Though I’ll admit to a prejudice against people who claim they’ve never made a mistake, never fucked up, never come to a wrong conclusion… (with their deliberate implication being ‘I’ve never made a mistake, so I’ll never make one going forward.’) I don’t like it in bosses I’ve worked for, I don’t like it with people I know, and I loathe it in politicians.

Note that when I say “wrong”, or “mistake”, I’m not talking about someone who uses the weasel words of “I reached the best conclusion I had with the information available”. No, I mean “I was wrong about something.”

The question I refer to is:

“Name one thing about which you had your mind changed by a single argument? (Whether that argument was made to you in person, online or through an article or video.)”

After all, a single argument isn’t additional information; it’s a deliberate attempt to change someone’s mind possibly via additional information but certainly by an argument… that the person hadn’t previously encountered.

I mean, I like to think of myself as a not entirely unintelligent person; I’m sure most people like to think of themselves in the same way.

OK, I’m fairly well read (on many things, but certainly not on everything) and it’s rare for me to, these days, encounter an argument, certainly online, that I haven’t come across before. It happens, sometimes, and happened a lot, earlier in life.

But yeah, it still happens occasionally.

Here’s one I’ve mentioned before: the death penalty.

While I spent much of my life… uncomfortable with the practice of the death penalty, I’d not come across ‘a single argument’ against which I had no defence. I’d seen plenty of arguments that made a moral argument against it, but they were always an argument against the death penalty in principle, and I never really had an issue with it in principle, merely in practice. But I was never quite sure why I was so uncomfortable with it in practice.

I’ll get to that argument that convinced me otherwise in a moment, but what I want to stress is that when the argument came, it wasn’t directed at me, specifically. It was made on a CompuServe politics forum a couple of decades ago and the moment, the very moment I read it, my mind was changed.

Again, it wasn’t aimed at me, but it could have been. My closest friends would immediately recognise why it worked with me; indeed, as with most friends – you’ve got friends who would do the same – they know that some arguments just won’t work with me (you) whereas others are so perfect, they’re almost calculated to work on me (again, you.)

Here’s the argument that worked on me for the death penalty. I’ll say it as it was addressed, so the ‘you’ in here is ‘me’, ok?

“If you acknowledge that no justice system is perfect, then, inevitably, there will be miscarriages of justice. Which, equally inevitably, means that someone entirely innocent of the crime will be executed.”

That’s all it took. (I’ve seen it argued that it’s similar to the ‘better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be jailed’ but I don’t think that’s true at all. The ‘better ten’ is an argument for making the system as perfect as you can but not punishing unless you’re very, very sure. The ‘there will be miscarriages’ is an argument against making The Most Serious irrevocable mistake that can be made.)

Now, it took me a bit longer (and I’m not entirely, wholly and completely, there) to acknowledge the wrongness of any state execution in theory, in principle.

But in practice? That single argument forever and irrevocably convinced me of the wrongness of ever executing someone, no matter how convinced a court might be that he or she committed the crime. Because for every time you’re convinced the court reached the right decision, there’s a chance, albeit possibly a small chance… that the court got it wrong.

And that small chance is enough, for me, to wholly invalidate that most serious of penalties.

I’m about to ostensibly change the subject, but I’ll bring it back to some relevance to the above, I promise. Just bear with me, ok?

What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me? No, don’t answer that.

A few years ago, when my marriage ended, when Laura and I split up, I moved into a two-bedroom flat in Barnet; the second room was reserved mostly for my lad Phil when he slept over, but there was a decent-sized living room area, and a similarly decent sized main bedroom.

The flat was exactly the right size for me. (The kitchen was entirely too big for my needs, as any kitchen bigger than a rabbit hutch would be, but other than that, I mean.) Big enough to feel comfortable in, small enough for me to look after, without much effort. But for whatever reason, the light sometimes bugged me. Not the size of the bulbs themselves, but the quality of the light in the place.

I tried brighter bulbs and they helped but not enough. Then I picked up some ‘daylight’ bulbs.


Sidebar: I have to digress slightly here and say that when I asked my usual ‘photo reference library’ – Unsplash – for ‘daylight bulb’, they offered me lots of photos… of plant bulbs in daylight. Lots of daffodils and vegetables and the like. I found, and find, that more amusing than I probably should.


Anyway, as I say, I picked up some ‘daylight’ bulbs. They happened to be the most ‘energy efficient’ available but that wasn’t why I bought them; they just were the best I could find for what I wanted.

And, not quite instantly but pretty soon, I enjoyed the light in the flat. I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder) but I definitely enjoyed living at the flat more with the white light bulbs than I’d ever done so previously.

Thing was I happened to mention to a friend of mine who is heavily into environmental campaigns what I’d done. He and his partner, who was similarly hugely into the environment, were delighted. They good-naturedly teased me a bit about ‘going green’, and when I protested, he got very serious for a moment: I don’t care why you’re doing it, beyond me liking my friends to be happy, but whatever the reason, I’m happy you’re being energy efficient.

And then he said something that resonated, that brings me back to the above death penalty thing: if I’d have known that daylight bulbs would make you more energy efficient, I’d have suggested it ages ago.

It’s always stuck with me, that additional observation:

If I’d have known that daylight bulbs would make you more energy efficient, I’d have suggested it ages ago.

Is that the answer? Is that the answer to persuading people to campaigns, important or not, global or not, urgent or not, less to do with the ostensible subject of the campaign, and more about targeting your message. And not to a group — political campaigns have known it for ages, targeting everyone of a specific demography – but finding a way of tailoring your argument to an individual.

(And yes, I’m very aware that Cambridge Analytica targeted political ads to individuals, and very small groups, but given they did it via – together with Facebook – effectively conning millions of people, I’m not entirely convinced they’re the pattern anyone should follow.)

Because, I tell ytou something without fear of contradiction, we’re going to need to find a way of convincing people, one-by-one, of something. We need to find that way now.

Because of the covid vaccine. (Yes, I know there’s more than one vaccine, but I’m sticking to the singular for this, ok?)

Almost (I nearly typed everyone without the qualifier, but of course it’s not everyone) everyone who wants the vaccine, or has been persuaded by a) the government, b) the health department, or c) the scientific community campaigns has either i) already received their first vaccination, or ii) already had an appointment for their first shot.

(Not for nothing, but I’m truly interested in the number of people who received their first shot and chose not to get their second…)

But the vaccination numbers (not the vaccinated numbers) are dropping, and we’re getting to the areas of population, both here and across the Atlantic, where people don’t want the vaccine. (Again, I’m of course excluding those who have been advised by reputable and competent medical professionals not to have it; those people are why it’s so bloody important that everyone else gets it.)

And we know that those people won’t respond favourably (as in ‘yes, now I’ll have the vaccine’) as a group to campaigns and arguments and debates and threats and pleas. Because if they would… they already would have.

So, the governments are forced to either mandate them with the thread of going to jail or losing their jobs, or find some other way of persuading them.

I don’t know the answer. I suspect some computer modelling might be required, and a lot of analysis, in order to find an argument that persuades a very small number, who go on to persuade more.

But we need an answer. Before we go through the alphabet and end up withan Omega Variant that, though the chosen-to-remain-unvaccinated’s selfishness and antipathy, starts killing millions more.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

When I post these blog entries, I have a standard process. I’m sure I could automate it even more, but I kind of like the old-school feeling of doing it manually.

In rough order:

  • Then I copy the text of the tweet, go into my Twitter scheduler – I use Buffer – and set up two delayed tweets: one for the US crowd, to post at 11:30pm for the New York lot and 8:30pm for the West Coast, and another, an In Case You Missed It Yestersay, for 10:30am UK time the following morning.
  • And, finally, I’ll cross-post it to my Tumblr account. Not the goingcheep account, one named, simply enough, budgie’s blatherings. The former, you understand, is reserved for the daily brain dump.

Rarely, however, does any of that go in reverse.

Rarely do I cross-post from Twitter to here, for example. It happens, occasionally, but only very rarely. Rarely, for example, do I cross-post from Tumblr to here. Again, it happens occasionally, but only occasionally, and even then, it’s usually something from the blatherings account.

So, you appreciate, it’s vanishingly rare that I cross-post from goingcheep to here, yes?

OK, so here’s something cross-posted in its entirety from goingcheep yesterday.

Saturday 17th July: Pinged…

Y’know, when I read stories this week about there being so many people ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app, and the then reported suggestion that the government was considering reducing the sensitivity, so that fewer people would be pinged…

…I thought it an unquestionably stupid idea. It sounded almost Trumpian to me; you know, the whole ‘we only have so many people ill because we’re doing so much testing…’ nonsense.

It’s astonishing how a single notification can change one’s mind.

And, as I tweeted Friday night, knowing that yesterday, a Saturday, I’d usually post a set of funny videos.

Now, I was only semi-kidding about both the tumblr entry and the tweet. I was genuinely but entirely unsure how I felt about being pinged, about what it could mean, what it did mean and, well, everything.

So, yes, there was a Saturday Smile yesterday, and yes, it had a very obvious theme.

Which left me another 24 hours to think about being pinged, what it means, and all of it.

And, 24 hours later, I’m still unsure about a lot of things. Some things I’m very much not unsure of, but yeah, some… I’m still very uncertain about.

Let’s start with the obvious.

I dislike being told what to do, even if I know it’s for the best. So, I greeted the lockdown(s) with about as much enthusiasm as you’d expect.

And despite my being neither the most social nor sociable of people, it grated not being able to go out and, y’know, see people.

But at least I knew that ‘everyone else’ was in the same situation. No one was getting away with it. Same with the mask mandates (as our American cousins call it.) While I don’t enjoy wearing a mask, I do so for all the usual reasons, and because, well, because everyone else is doing it.

(While I’m sure there are some abusing the health exemptions, I’m also sure that the number of people doing so are tiny. I think most people are doing what they’re supposed to.)

So, maybe you’d anticipate my reaction to getting ‘pinged’ to be ‘well, I know that half-a million other people have been this week, I’m not alone, so be it…’. It wasn’t. It really wasn’t. I hated the idea of being told I was stuck in the flat for the next week. I loathed the concept of ‘you see those four walls around you in your small flat? Get used to them because that’s all you’re seeing for the next week.’

But ok, I’ve been pinged. I know what that means.

It means… I’m stuck in the flat; I’m legally barred from leaving my flat for the next week.

It means… ordering food online for the next few days. It means I can’t enjoy my #DailyConstitutional like I usually do.

It means… I can’t see Laura (my ex-wife) for coffee and a catch-up. I can’t nip over to Richmond to spend the night with my closest friends, the people who were my social bubble.

It means… I can’t use the communal washing machine, but that’s ok, there’s no reason to actually get dressed for the next week.

It also means, I discovered a couple of hours ago, that I was wrong about much, about most, of that. But more about that in a moment.


Small sidebar: I woke up this morning, and for once, did not open Twitter immediately. For some reason, my devices hadn’t backed up overnight so I set my iPhone and iPad to backup and left them alone for a while.

By the time I got to them, the latest Tory/Government weirdness had broken, and done the rounds, and then been U-turned. I’m glad I only discovered the story after the U-turn had occurred because my reaction earlier might have gotten me barred from Twitter for obscenity.

OK, so yesterday, the news broke that the Health Secretary, one Sajid Javid, had tested positive for covid-19, and would be self-isolating immediately. Exactly the right thing for him to do, of course.

There was some small speculation as to who he’d been meeting and whether any other cabinet ministers would have to similarly self-isolate. By the time I headed for bed, it had come out that two of those were probably The Prime Minister (who had his own covid problems last year) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

Now, there’s a pilot scheme at the moment, allowing people who get notified to NOT self-isolate but instead take daily tests, and only isolate if they test positive.

This morning, Robert Jenrick (Housing, Communities and Local Govt Secretary) was on telly defending Johnson’s and Sunak’s taking advantage of the pilot scheme. While he was on air, the PM and Chancellor announced they would not be doing so, and would instead be isolating.

That’s the U-turn I discovered. As always, with this government, it was incompetently done, incompetently managed, and – even when the ‘right thing’ was eventually done – it was accomplished incompetently.


OK, back to the ‘it means…’ and what I was wrong about.

I’ve mentioned my ex-wife Laura before. She’s one of my favourite people on the planet, and fairly drowns in that rarest of commodities: common sense. Even when I disagree with her advice, it’s usually sensible, rational and perfectly justifiable.

Well, she told me to call 119, the national covid helpline and ask them what the rules were if you’ve been pinged.

I’m very glad I followed the advice. Because some of it I was wrong about. And even as someone who pays attention, it’s fair to point out that I didn’t know some of this stuff.

I live in a small flat, in a small block of flats. There’s a communal washing machine/dryer and a communal garden area out back. I assumed that self-isolating meant they were out of bounds for the next week.

Well.

One conversation with a very nice lady at 119 later…

Main thing: If I live alone, am fully vaccinated, am not showing symptoms, and haven’t had a positive test… self-isolation – even from app notification – is “advisory only”. Not legally mandatory.

Now this surprised the hell out of me, I’ll be honest. Genuinely astonished me. Now, of course I am going to self-isolate. I mean, there’s a difference between what’s you’re legally obliged to do, and what you’re supposed to do, what the best advice is.

And I’ll take the latter, especially if it enhances the protection for me and others, every bloody day of the week.
 
 
Secondly, as long as I try to avoid people and don’t go near them (ideally, do it when no one else is present), I can do stuff like ‘go into back garden area of flats’, ‘go down to use communal washing machine’, and ‘throw my rubbish in the bins out back

So I can get some fresh air of an evening, if no one else is around. Which is very nice indeed. The nice weather and the sunset falling quite late? I can sit outside reading or watching some stuff on the iPad.
 
 
Finally, being fully vaccinated, and not showing any symptoms, there’s no real point in ordering any online tests. Given that self-isolation lifts Thursday night, and I can then walk in to get tested, might be worth getting tested afterwards, though, to see if I’ve had it at any point.

So, I don’t get to have my #DailyConstitutional every day, but neither am I locked into the small flat in the heat with no opportunity at all to get some fresh air.

Which is nice.
 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.