Liked When kids cave under the pressure of COVID lockdowns, it turns out skateboarding can help by Virginia Trioli (ABC News)

As far as I can tell, no jurisdiction has yet put proper thought and effort into ventilation, air filtration, and priority teacher vaccination at our schools not only to mitigate against future outbreaks but to find a way to keep schools open safely during lockdown and protect our children’s mental health and educational future.

There was important, challenging but not impossible engineering and construction work to be done to make schools safer for students, teachers and the families they go home to, but we haven’t done it. And we still refuse to see it as a high priority.

Replied to https://twitter.com/Capitan_Typo/status/1431797618418470917 (Twitter)
Thoughts with you Cameron. Sadly, this seems to be the new gold standard:

“We are approaching 1 million jabs a week and for a population of 8 million people, that is outstanding,” the Premier said.

“Thank you. It is making a difference. We are going to show the way in Australia as to how you can live with COVID.”

Always leading the way?

Liked Town planners on a ‘crusade’ against TB could help us to redesign our cities post-COVID by Sarah Scopelianos (ABC News)

Professor Byrne’s predictions include a shift away from high-rise apartment towers in city centres to suburban low-rise apartment buildings or townhouses with access to backyards.

He also predicts more green space, common areas for casual interactions with plenty of space for social distancing, improved access to public transport from the suburbs and more employment opportunities nearby.

Sarah Scopelianos reflects upon the changes made in regards to town planning one hundred years ago to combat tuberculous. She explores some of the possible changes including a move to more low rise appartments and the investment in more open spaces. Ian Bogost described this as the ‘revenge of the suburbs‘. This is a topic Derek Thompson also discussed last year in regards to the history of innovation in city design within the US.

I think that the other point of change that I have noticed has been registers in supermarkets. Not only have screens and distance been introduced, but there also seems to be a push for more self-service with large conveyor belts.

Listened Have we misunderstood the Doherty modelling? from ABC Radio National

Who would have thought pre-pandemic that the intricacies of mathematical modelling would become part of people’s everyday conversation and widespread media coverage.

Norman Swan speaks with Allan Saul about misconceptions associated with the Doherty modelling, in particular that 70% of the population vaccinated does not equate with some sort of Freedom Day.

In a seperate piece, Katherine Murphy highlights the ways in which it is a political pandemic.

If the country doesn’t reopen once we’ve hit 70% vaccination rates, the prime minister wants frustrated people to blame the premiers. Seeing that manoeuvre coming, some premiers (the people who run health systems that could be overwhelmed) sprinted ahead of the prime minister last week, foregrounding the various risks, identifying the crossroads Australia had now reached. How many hospitalisations are Australians prepared to tolerate? How much serious illness? How many deaths? What about kids?

Bookmarked

I did my part. Gave up waiting for Morrison and I went and got my jab of AZ.
Bookmarked The life of Dr Norman Swan (ABC Radio Australia)

How a boy from Glasgow named Norman Swirsky grew up to become Australia’s most famous doctor

With the release of So You Think You Know What’s Good for You, Norman Swan speaks with Sarah Kanowski about his upbringing in Glasgow, a failed drama career, coming to Australia, the stress of his daughter’s Italian accident, and his role with Coronacast. Although I heard much of this before in his interview with Barrie Cassidy on One Plus One, one thing that I had not heard him speak about was his thoughts on the coronavirus as a political pandemic. He argues that it would not have happened ten years ago and that it has been in part caused by political ineptitude to get on top of it early, as well as respond to it once it was out.
Liked What are the motives? (Daily-Ink by David Truss)

What I don’t understand is the motivation behind these otherwise intelligent people choosing to talk about science fiction and call it science? What’s the benefit? Who gains from this? Conspiracy theories depend on so many people acting in bad faith, people across the globe in different countries colluding and keeping secrets, all for the purpose of maintaining a narrative that makes no sense.

That is a fascinating question David. Here in Victoria, we have had people protesting in the middle of a lockdown to hammer the Delta breakout. The lockdown is meant to expire on Tuesday, yet with the hoards of people gathering, I doubt that will be the case. We live in strange times.
Bookmarked Opinion | Where Did the Coronavirus Come From? What We Already Know Is Troubling. by Zeynep Tufekci (nytimes.com)

Despite the current dissembling, we should assume that the Chinese government also doesn’t want to go through this again — especially given that SARS, too, started there.

This means putting the public interest before personal ambitions and acknowledging that despite the wonders of its power, biomedical research also holds dangers.

To do this, government officials and scientists need to look at the big picture: Seek comity and truth instead of just avoiding embarrassment. Develop a framework that goes beyond blaming China, since the issues raised are truly global. And realize that the next big thing can simply mean taking great care with a lot of small details.

Zeynep Tufekci brings together everything that we know about viruses both past and present, explaining that even if COVID19 did not leak from a lab, that we need to learn from the current situation to make changes to the way we work within such spaces.

One key lesson I came away after this many months of research has been that we were due for a coronavirus pandemic—one way or another. We may not know what that way has been, but we can still try to prevent all the potential ways we’ve learned about. And that is more important than anything else.

Bookmarked Remote workers work longer, not more efficiently by The Economist (economist.com)

The return to the office is well under way, just as summer in the northern hemisphere begins. Pretty soon, people will be able to resume the habit of staring wistfully out of the window, hoping it will still be sunny at the weekend. As many workers embrace a hybrid pattern, perhaps commuting 2-3 days a week, the experiment in full-time home-working is ending. At the same time, assessments of its effectiveness are proliferating.

The Economist discusses the results associated with a new report “Work from home & productivity: evidence from personnel & analytics data on IT professionals”, by Michael Gibbs, Friederike Mengel and Christoph Siemroth. They found that although there were changes, some were detrimental, such as more meetings.

Despite working longer hours, the employees had less focus time than before the pandemic. Instead, all their extra time was taken up by meetings.

This continues the reflections on the changes to work based on coronavirus. In a separate piece, Derek Thompson discusses the winners and losers, such as the growth of suburban-town-centers and downturn in regards to city businesses.

Liked We Need To Get Real About How the Pandemic Will End by zeynep (Insight)

If you look at a chart of deaths from AIDS, one of the greatest moral stains from our history jumps out. More people died of AIDS after we got the triple combination drug in 1995 that turned HIV into a chronic condition for those who had access to it—but almost all the deaths happened outside the few wealthy countries that could afford it. Not until the mid-2000s, following much loss and activism, campaigns and pressure, did things finally change and drug access expand.

It should be unthinkable to repeat such a scenario, but here we are.

Bookmarked Is De-Implementation the Best Way to Build Back Better? (PETER DEWITT, ED.D)

We can no longer pile more and more on the plates of educators and need to take a seriously look, and then engage in actionable steps, to de-implement those initiatives that no longer work and waste our time.

Peter DeWitt reflects on the impact of the current crisis on education. He explains that it has put more stress on the well-being of teachers as well as students. Therefore, to build back better, we need to ‘de-implement’:


De-implementation is a graduated continuum of individual, team, and organizational change that require different strategies in terms of learning and unlearning. Learning refers to the process of acquiring new skills or knowledge. Unlearning is a process of discarding outdated mental models to make room for alternative models.

This reminds me of Tom Barrett’s discussion of innovation compression.

How might we fully appreciate the resources needed to introduce these new ideas and what they overlap with? How can we create space for people to make the most of this idea and for it to have the impact we want? Which programmes or existing innovations might be discarded to release energy and resources?

I wonder if in not taking something off the plate, we instead risk a shock to the system that will require so much more effort to turnaround.

Bookmarked Black Death, COVID, and Why We Keep Telling the Myth of a Renaissance Golden Age and Bad Middle Ages – Ex Urbe (exurbe.com)

This post is for you if you’ve been wondering whether Black Death => Renaissance means COVID => Golden Age, and you want a more robust answer than, “No no no no no!”

This post is for you if you’re tired of screaming The Middle Ages weren’t dark and bad! and want somewhere to link people to, to show them how the myth began.

This post is for you if you want to understand how an age whose relics make it look golden in retrospect can also be a terrible age to live in.

And this post is for you if want to ask what history can tell us about 2020 and come away with hope. Because comparing 2020 to the Renaissance does give me hope, but it’s not the hope of sitting back expecting the gears of history to grind on toward prosperity, and it’s not the hope for something like the Renaissance—it’s hope for something much, much better, but a thing we have to work for, all of us, and hard.

In this long essay, Ada Palmer argues that those who assume that, as with the Black Death and the Renaissance, the current crisis will herald a new golden as misconstrued. He explains that life in the Renaissance was actually worse than life in the Middle Ages, and that we often perpetuate this myth because of the Victorian era’s celebration of individualism.

by claiming that the Renaissance—and all its glittering art and innovation—was caused by individualism, Burkhardt was really advancing a claim about the nature of modernity.  Individualism was an X-Factor which had appeared and made a slumbering world begin to move, sparking the step-by-step advance that led humanity from stagnant Medieval mud huts to towers of glass and iron—and by implication it would also define our path forward to an even more glorious future.  In other words, the X-Factor that sparked the Renaissance was the defining spirit of modernity.  If individualism was responsible, not only for the Renaissance, but for the wonders of modernity, then logically those regimes of Burkhardt’s day which most facilitated the expression of individualism could claim to be the heart of human progress and to hold the keys to the future; those nations which did not advance individualism (where socialism prospered, for example, or “collectivism” which was how 19th century Europe characterized most non-Western societies) were still the slumbering Middle Ages, in need of being awakened to their true potential by those nations which did possess the X-Factor of human progress.

Instead of Renaissance Italy, Palmer believes that we may have more to gain from looking at the Vikings:

If you really want to know what COVID will do, I think the place to look is not Renaissance Italy, but the Viking settlements in Greenland, which vanished around 1410.  Did they all die of the plague?  No.  We’re pretty sure they never got the plague, they were too isolated.  But the Greenland settlements’ economy had long depended on the walrus trade: they hunted walruses and sold the ivory and skins, and ships would come from Norway or Iceland to trade for walrus, bringing goods one couldn’t make in Greenland, like iron, or fine fabric, or wheat.  But after 1348 the bottom dropped out of the walrus market, and the trading ships stopped coming.  By 1400 no ships had visited Greenland for years except the few that were blown off-course by storm.  And meanwhile there were labor shortages and vacant farms on the once-crowded mainland.  So we think the Greenland Vikings emigrated, asked those stray ships to take them with them back to Europe, as many as could fit, abandoning one life to start another.  That’s what we’ll see with COVID: collapse and growth, busts for one industry, booms for another, sudden wealth collecting in some hands, while elsewhere whole communities collapse, like Flint Michigan, and Viking Greenland, and the many disasters in human history which made survivors abandon homes and villages, and move elsewhere.  A lot of families and communities will lose their livelihoods, their homes, their everythings, and face the devastating need to start again.  And as that happens, we’ll see different places enact different laws and policies to deal with it, just like after the Black Death.  Some places/regimes/policies will increase wealth and freedom, while others will reduce it, and the complicated world will go on being complicated.
That’s why I say we should aim to do better than the Renaissance.

Liked Finding the Universal Coronavirus Vaccine by James Hamblin (theatlantic.com)

The project to create a truly universal coronavirus vaccine would encapsulate a variety of disciplines: cellular and systems biology, immunology, genetics, artificial intelligence, and structural modeling, to name a few. So the coalition to accomplish this would need to be broad, Koff says. The U.S. investment in tracking viral genomes could create a small piece of the infrastructure necessary for tracking many other viruses. Similar efforts will be needed around the world, in order to keep abreast of constantly changing viral maps. Koff estimates that the governments of the G7 nations would have to come together with the private sector, the World Health Organization, and nonprofits such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in order to make the system work. “It might cost billions, but this pandemic alone has cost trillions,” Koff says. “We didn’t learn after SARS, MERS, HIV, swine flu—but maybe this time we will.”

Liked ‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe (Guardian)

The system hasn’t collapsed. The government has failed. Perhaps “failed” is an inaccurate word, because what we are witnessing is not criminal negligence, but an outright crime against humanity. Virologists predict that the number of cases in India will grow exponentially to more than 500,000 a day. They predict the death of many hundreds of thousands in the coming months, perhaps more. My friends and I have agreed to call each other every day just to mark ourselves present, like roll call in our school classrooms. We speak to those we love in tears, and with trepidation, not knowing if we will ever see each other again. We write, we work, not knowing if we will live to finish what we started. Not knowing what horror and humiliation awaits us. The indignity of it all. That is what breaks us.

Liked COVID was bad for the climate by Ryan BarrettRyan Barrett (snarfed.org)

This decrease is “just a tiny blip on the long term graph.” To keep global warming under 2°C, we’d need sustained emissions reductions in this range every year for the next 20-30 years. The pandemic has been hugely disruptive, but it’s still temporary, and all signs point to a strong recovery. The drop in emissions was largely caused by lockdown, not persistent structural changes that will persist for decades to come.

Liked Why You Should Take Any Vaccine by zeynep (Insight)

Based on the existing data, and to the best of my understanding of having read every paper, authorization application and preprint on the efficacy of these vaccines, I can, without a hesitation, say that of the ones I know are being considered in various places in the US, UK and Europe—Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, J&J, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax—I would be happy with receiving *any* of them. I would easily recommend *any* of them to anyone I know, whatever they were offered. (I have not yet read the Sputnik paper, but the numbers look excellent. I know there are issues of trust there, but I don’t have any a priori reason to think that it also wouldn’t work well). If we were to find real efficacy differences, we’d give the higher efficacy ones to the elderly (whose immune systems tend to work less well). But, as a country, and as the world, as things stand, all of these vaccines will do the job of eventually getting us out of this pandemic—once enough people are vaccinated.