Saturday May 23

Red alert, day 72. Lockdown, day 62.

Marscon (January, Virginia) is cancelled.

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tell me more

Red alert, day 71. Lockdown, day 61.

Friday of spring Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, Helluntai weekend in Finland [1] and Memorial Day weekend in the US. Today I met T in the park for a chat again. There were some other small groups meeting – families, dog walkers, flower sketchers – but quite scattered. Ipswich Borough Council has sent out an e-mail setting out once again the blurry lines for interaction as the weather tempts people outside:

What is missing from this list? Masks. The kind of mask regulation we are seeing in my blended, semivirtual, Anglo-Euro-American space is local and privatized and tentative: Sajid Javid has proposed mask requirements for London transport; shops and workplaces may be able to require masks for entry but it is by no means widespread. I saw only a couple of masks in my hour out in Ipswich, which included a shopping stop.

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stand still, stay silent

Red alert, day 59. Lockdown, day 49.

Stand Still Stay Silent is of course a webcomic.

Finally a simple, population-normalized graph has made it onto social media. It is possibly dodgy, depending on how much we trust the reported figures, and already out of date as death rates in Germany and China are reported rising again, but the outsized losses in the UK, US and Sweden are indisputable:

Boris Johnson is set to finally read the speech on easing lockdown tonight. The top ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have repudiated the new “Stay alert” messaging, pointing out there was no Four Nations discussion. Arlene Foster says NI is “not deviating from prior messages at this time.” Mark Drakeford: “Staying home remains the best way you can protect yourself and others.” Nicola Sturgeon reiterates “Stay home” – except you can now go for a walk twice a day – and has also joined the chorus of people asking what “Stay alert” means.

Downing Street responded by releasing a clarification which was basically the same as Stay Home, only with a few hedges (“if possible,” “if you can”). (Earlier, two-panel version, possibly sent by e-mail to press since I cannot locate the original tweet.)

In Ipswich, Borough Council leader David Ellesmere (this is not the same as the Mayor, which is a ceremonial office) says “the current situation will not change radically in the short term.” Some construction will resume, along with garden waste collection. “It will be some time before council revenue-generating services like sports centres, the Regent and Corn Exchange will be able to re-open.”

Not cancelled, so far: Futuricon, which is this year’s Eurocon, to be held in Rijeka, Croatia, beginning of October. I actually had an early bird ticket for this (still only 15 euros).

Zoom today: an hour with L testing presentation formats co-hosting and breakout rooms. I wish I’d had a chance to do this before giving lectures on Zoom. We’re both now much more aware of eye lines and how things look to the viewers, as well as ways to improve the sound.

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6 May Wed

Red alert, day 55. Lockdown, day 45.  // Suffolk has 936 (+40) confirmed cases in today’s figures, neighboring Essex has 2320 (+76, about 2X Suffolk population) cases and Tower Hamlets has 591 (+5, about 0.5X Suffolk population) confirmed cases as of this morning.

The UK has recorded 161,145 cases on 763,387 tests (+43,563 , some on the same people). A total of 21,678 (+586) deaths in hospital have been recorded.

From today, all passengers on Boston mass transit must wear face masks.

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Red alert, day 48. Lockdown, day 38. Waiting for today’s figures.

Some food stalls at the Ipswich Market will reopen on Friday with distance markers.

Construction has resumed in Ipswich. The sound of drills was not missed while it was absent.

Among the sectors that are first mentioned as being permanently damaged by the pandemic is travel and tourism. I remember my one visit to Prague, for example, as being cheek by jowl with other tourists on the Charles Bridge, not actually seeing the city because of the crowds. This kind of mass tourism will become even less attractive. Small-scale, off the beaten track travel may flourish by comparison.

Painting of Prague by Martina Cleary salvaged from Antti Korpin tie renovations

I expect museums will have metered progression through exhibitions, with lines on the floor. Entry will be even more expensive than previously. British museums will have to start charging admission for the guards to enforce social distancing, at least until we learn. My usual museum style of going to crowded shows on the last day and darting back and forth to sketch and photograph favorite pieces is not going to fly anymore.

Speaking of flying, the sudden collapse of cheap air travel and calls life choices into question. I know a couple of people in long distance relationships who left the rest of their lives behind and flew out at the last minute to be with their partners. Definitely the right choice if you could manage it without losing your place/right to live in hte other country.

American Airlines has just written to its frequent and infrequent (me) flyers to say cabin staff will be wearing masks from May 1, customer surfaces and fittings as well as galleys and counters will be wiped down, HEPA air filters remove 99.97% of airborne particles, etc. Nice try after the Washington Post published an animation of how aircraft ventilation systems spread infection. I wonder if ocean liners are going to come back, or if sleeping in a sealed environment for longer raises the chance of infection despite the possibility of distancing on board.

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Red alert, day 47. Lockdown, day 37. County figures were not updated today. The BBC checker still gives figures for April 27.

The UK has recorded 161,145 cases on 763,387 tests (+43,563 , some on the same people). A total of 21,678 (+586) deaths in hospital have been recorded. From the yo-yoing of the daily figures, it is clear we have no idea where we are in the curve. From the data on overall deaths reported with ONS figures, it is clear that we are still nowhere near complete figures.

US Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic without a face covering, NBC and CNN reported.

Maria Nikolajeva has the best piece so far on the sense of time. She acknowledges her privilege as already having retired modestly but comfortably in Sweden, and, based on her work in children’s literature, discusses the difference she found as between kairos – circular, liquid time – and chronos – secular, progressive time:

I feel leaving chronos behind is a relief. I still need to keep track of days to know when my groceries delivery is coming, and I need to know when the live-streamed concert starts, but apart from that days are determined by sunrise and sunset, meal time is when I am hungry and bedtime is when I am tired. In between there are so many exciting things to fill my days, and every day is Sunday, and it is always summer. Unlike childhood, there is nothing I must learn because it will be useful later in life. I can gather totally useless knowledge and acquire totally useless skills. I can “waste time” because I have unlimited supply of it. I have the peace of mind to feel joy about everything I do, everything I see, hear, touch, smell. I do not look back with nostalgia or regrets at my past. I do not look with hope into the future. I do not feel anxious about the future either. I am not longing for anything, least of all any return to my previous lifestyle. I enjoy being away from civilisation and close to nature. And of course remoteness and isolation are the very tokens of kairos.

Also very good is her essay on shortages in the Soviet Union.

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Red alert, day 46. Lockdown, day 36. Suffolk has 936 (+40) confirmed cases in today’s figures, neighboring Essex has 2320 (+76, about 2X Suffolk population) cases and Tower Hamlets has 591 (+5, about 0.5X Suffolk population) confirmed cases as of this morning.

The UK has recorded 157,149 cases on 719,910 tests (+37,024 , some on the same people). A total of 21,092 (+360) deaths in hospital have been recorded.

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reverse Ebola

Red alert, day 45. Lockdown, day 35. Suffolk has 896 (+21) confirmed cases in today’s figures, neighboring Essex has 2244 (+42, about 2X Suffolk population) cases and Tower Hamlets has 586 (+0, about 0.5X Suffolk population) confirmed cases as of this morning.

The UK has recorded 152,840 cases on 669,850 tests (+29,058 , some on the same people). A total of 20,732 (+413) deaths in hospital have been recorded, including these Suffolkers profiled in the East Anglian Daily Times.

To reiterate, this is definitely an undercount and the level of government response is nowhere near what it should be. In Finland, 12 out of 26 residents of one nursing home have died and there are surely similar cases in total institutions everywhere. We’ll have to to wait for Private Eye to tell us, or whatever bureau keeps tabs on funerals. Another chilling detail: in the US, people are attending funerals by sitting in their cars outside the cemetery.

The most frightening social media chain letter of the last 24 hours is the Washington Post story (also without paywall in The Independent) about the clotting ability of the virus, or one version of the virus. It is causing strokes in young patients and, in the most striking image, seems to make clots form faster than surgeons can remove them. Like Ebola in reverse.

I am trying to level up in cooking by copying dishes from friends’ social media posts. Tonight: egg noodles with oil and peanut butter (this friend adds peanut butter to everything), and sauce of egg and mushrooms and herbs. His also had pepperoni and parmesan. I forgot the parmesan in my vegetarian version, but will add next time, along with some more spinach and maybe garlic.

Today I hosted my first nonclass Zoom a high school friend. We invited six others to see if we could maintain a single threaded conversation (plus chat) with that sized group. It worked well and I think this crowd will be having more of them. One friend was spending the afternoon on a virtual bike ride on an app called Zwift that connected with his exercise bike, and shared the screen (below). Now I’m wondering what other augmented virtuality apps can be meshed with Zoom. Nobody expects to be traveling anywhere before July at the earliest.

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the long 2020

Red alert, day 44. Lockdown, day 34. Suffolk has 877 (+27) confirmed cases in today’s figures, neighboring Essex has 2202 (+183, about 2X Suffolk population) cases and Tower Hamlets has 586 (+4, about 0.5X Suffolk population) confirmed cases as of this morning.

The UK has recorded 148,377 cases on 640,792 tests (+28,760, some on the same people). A total of 20,319 (+813) deaths in hospital have been recorded. That curve definitely hasn’t turned. We are not getting out of lockdown on early March.

Local politics in Ipswich is frozen as council elections have been postponed to 2021. This means 16 councillors will serve an extra year. Mayor Jan Parry and Deputy Mayor Jane Riley will also serve an extra year in those posts as the annual meeting to elect the mayor can’t be held (Ipswich Star).

Nationally, the thing to be furious about this week is that the UK government’s scientific advisory group also includes Dominic Cummings, as well as the brother of a government software supplier who has worked on Vote Leave and has a contract for the NHS tracking app among others (Carole Cadwalladr reports).

Someone with a bigger platform than me (599K followers) agrees that the US needs a shadow government:

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equal sleeps

Red alert, day 43. Lockdown, day 33. Suffolk has 850 (+149) confirmed cases in today’s figures, neighboring Essex has 2119 (+190, about 2X Suffolk population) cases and Tower Hamlets has 582 (+18, about 0.5X Suffolk population) confirmed cases as of this morning.

The UK has recorded 143,464 cases on 612,031 tests (+28,532, some on the same people). A total of 19,506 (+684) deaths in hospital have been recorded. Every life a story. Obituary writers are trying to keep up.

Finland Sanna Marin gets the good press today for holding the first children’s press conference. It’s like PMQs, but with (future) voters! (YLE transcript, Areena recording, English news story on This is Finland PR site)

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piling up

Red alert, day 42. Lockdown, day 32. Suffolk has 814 (+99) confirmed cases in today’s figures, neighboring Essex has 2069 (+89, about 2X Suffolk population) cases and Tower Hamlets has 578 (+15, about 0.5X Suffolk population) confirmed cases as of this morning.

Today’s Public Health England release logs 138,078 cases on 583,496 tests (+23,560, some on the same people). A total of 18,738 (+616) deaths in hospital have been recorded. Some of the bereavement announcements on social media are for not just one death in the family, but several.

In the daily US briefing, President Trump advised people to use bleach (taken internally) or ultraviolet light against the virus. Unlike on television, no staffer piped up, “With respect sir, no, they should not, that will kill them.” Only in living rooms did this happen (Dr Frank Wu video). The New York Times framed his comments against a mushy second opinion (“some experts”), and only later took a firmer stand.


After the remarks blew up, Trump said he was using sarcasm. Breitbart said he didn’t say it at all. The Guardian reported that he’d received a letter from a televangelist touting bleach as a cure. CNN suggested he seemed to be playing off comments about the efficacy of bleach and light in killing the coronavirus on surfaces, made by a Homeland Security official earlier in the conference and just before it (an interpretation favored by Dr Deborah Birx). Two days later (click thread to see how much money they’re up to):

Meanwhile what other news have we missed? Well, in supply chains, the UK could run out of warehouse space in a fortnight as imports pile up, says the Loadstar. These would be imports that were already on their way by sea, before things seized up, but can’t be moved further into closed retail chains.

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silent hypoxia

Red alert, day 41. Lockdown, day 31. Suffolk has 715 (+14) confirmed cases in today’s figures, neighboring Essex has 1980 (+51, about 2X Suffolk population) cases and Tower Hamlets has 563 (+3, about 0.5X Suffolk population) confirmed cases as of this morning.

The UK has recorded 133,495 cases on 559,935 tests (+22,814, some on the same people). A total of 18,100 (+759) deaths in hospital have been recorded.

Today’s scary symptom to watch out for is silent hypoxia. Asymptomatic patients can be losing lung capacity without realizing it, and when they finally collapse it is too late: (click for thread/link):

Germany’s Angela Merkel gets the good press today for speaking the truth:


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