Day 299 – Inauguration Day

or… All Is Not What It Seems.

Yes, I’m aware that Joe Biden’s* Inauguration is only taking place tomorrow, but I might want to save the date (or rather the day) to take stock and look back at other stuff, given the significance of the cardinal number for that day.

Anyway…

I’m not sure if – wherever you’re reading this from – you have plans to watch the US Presidential inauguration proceedings tomorrow, but if you are, then please just be aware that you might be watching a familiar, unfamiliar face being sworn in.

Yes:

Not seen much of either of the protagonists in this saga over the last few days? Well, now you know why. Hopefully the surgery will all be done by tomorrow and we can watch Joe… er… Donald being sworn in for his first… er… second term in office.

Wow. It’s complicated, isn’t it?

I wonder how they sorted the hair issue. There’s quite a difference.

And that’s not all. Donald is 7cm taller and 30kg heavier.
But presumably they sorted all that while they were swapping the faces.

Yep. That all seems in order then.

 

* allegedly anyway

Day 295 – Postponed, Cancelled, Delayed

I’m looking at my desktop today and it’s a pretty miserable sight.

School reopening has been delayed until (at least) February 15th. Our two were due to go back on Monday. That’s clearly not happening now. Whether we (as a private school) will be allowed to work online in the intervening period remains to be seen. My boy had 16 months before his exams. Now he has 15. That’s more than 6% of his learning time gone already before he’s even started and that’s assuming that we’re able to stick to that 15th February date and that there are no further problems during 2021 (ha!).

I completely understand the delay – and I support it – but what I don’t agree with is the alleged reasoning behind it:

That will be 2½ months they will have had to “assess readiness”. I understand that the situation is fluid, and I understand that teachers need a break after last year, but is there really nothing that they could do to prepare a little more in the interim?

And then, an email from the school – before all this morning’s announcements – confirmed what we already knew: my son’s school camp has been postponed. This is on top of two scout camps being cancelled over the summer break, and his school tour – a real highlight in his educational journey – being chalked off at the end of last year.
Again, I get it, but I feel for him and his classmates: it’s just really crap.

Emirates have joined the party and suspended all flights in and out of SA for the next couple of weeks, due to “operational reasons”. I’m guess that this is a combination of not being allowed to fly in or out during curfew hours (currently 9pm-5am) and no-one wanting/needing to fly in or out anyway.

But they could just have said that.

Those who thought that 2021 might mark any sort of recovery in our fortunes*, were wrong.

I’m not even bothering to look at the calendar at all at the moment, because clearly, there’s going to be nothing that is currently on there which is going to remain in place. There will be no concerts, no gatherings, no festivals. I won’t be doing the Cycle Tour or the 2Oceans Ultra Marathon again this year. Even a social braai is going to be an ordeal.

Ugh. What a schlep.

I might go and write some online quizzes to cheer myself up and bamboozle friends and family.

 

* I was not one of these

Day 284 – Catching up

I said yesterday that my plan was to do a bit of catching up and I did make a start on that, but I didn’t get too far because of one thing and another. I started, obviously, with a run down the blogroll and that was where I came across some rather shocking and upsetting news:

This was from Brian Micklethwait’s blog (the new one, because the old one stopped working properly). He posted it on the 28th December, but as I have mentioned already, I’m only now beginning to get to the internet things that the Agulhas internet wouldn’t let me read last week.

Sorry.

His letter follows on below that introduction and is typically chatty, informative and candid as Brian’s posts always have been. It’s full of honesty over what he has done and what he is facing, but there’s also optimism there, which of course there should be: having a diagnosis – no matter how bad that news may seem – is the first step to being treated and recovering – a road along which I hope Brian is already progressing.

Even if you don’t know of Brian or read his blog, you should click through on this link and take two minutes to read and recognise the courage and the humility of what he writes.

The only part of his letter that I’m going to share here is this:

But, let me now tell you what would really boost my morale.

Tell each other which of my writings you have most liked, and do so just as publicly as you feel inclined. Blogs postings, blog comments, social media, the lot. My circumstances are now no secret. If I do die soon, I would greatly prefer to do this in the knowledge that various things that I have said and written over the years have left behind them a trail of enlightenment and entertainment, and might be fondly remembered, for a while at least.

I know from personal experience just how much of a role morale plays in these situations, and so I’m very happy to do my little bit here.

I’m going to divide this up into two parts. Here’s the first.

There are a lot of specialist blogs out there, concentrating their efforts upon one particular subject: geography, photography, politics, technology, art, sport, or design – and then others even more niche that aim for all the myriad sub-genres within each of those categories. If those are well-written, informative, interesting blogs, then they will always attract an audience who share the same passion and interest for those particular subjects.

It’s far harder to write a popular blog about nothing in particular. For people to want to read that, you have to produce well-written, interesting, informative posts and you have to be ten times better at it because in all likelihood, you cannot rely on the immediate engagement of recognition and a shared interest in the subject matter.

I like to think that I mostly do ok with that sort of thing, and I think that Brian also does a great job. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t actually matter.

And here’s why.

One of the first posts I mentioned on here from BrianMicklethwaitDotCom (the old one when it was still working properly) is one (about shelves!) with a line in it that prompted a complete change in my blogging mindset, and a line that I have returned to again and again and again over the years:

“my most important reader is me”

Indeed:

…every so often I have to remind you people that my most important reader is me, in a few months or years time… this will warm the cockles of my faltering heart, the way me burbling on about the Cold War ending, and what a Good Thing that is, never could. Oooh. I see that in April 2008, I was of the opinion that the Cold War ending was Good. Well, twiddledidee.

And he was absolutely right, wasn’t he? Because now, he can look back over the past 16 years and warm his cockles by remembering and reliving his thoughts at any particular moment during that time. And they don’t have to be hugely important thoughts on hugely important subjects. In fact, it’s probably better when they’re not. They might just be thoughts about the weather, the cricket, the new bus service or a new building in London. They might even be thoughts about shelves. Whatever.

And if people want to join in: well, they can. And they can dip in and out, enjoy, be enlightened and entertained. But blogging for oneself, not caring too much about who chooses to read, agree or disagree with what you are writing – making your most important reader you – means that when you take some time to look back over what you have written, you are absolutely fulfilling the purpose of all that effort you have put in over the years.

That’s a fundamental message which underlies a style of blogging, one which Brian has clearly followed extremely successfully over the years. But the second (shorter) part of this post is about how he has found a few… “different” ways of observing everyday things and made them his own. Because never again will I be able to see “roof clutter” or a “thinned photo“, watch a “billion monkey” “photoing” a landmark – perhaps one of London’s “Big Things” – and not think of Brian.

And when struggling for inspiration for a post on any given day, I will always happily fall back into the welcoming easy-way-out of a “quota photo“.

To the outsider, none of these phrases will mean very much, like some sort of in-joke in a comedy series you’ve never watched. But when you have been reading for years and years*, Brian’s ability to share the mundane and yet keep it fresh, relevant and interesting by dropping it into categories he has created, is pretty special and just another reason that he keeps his regulars coming back for more.

 

Reading back over the past 1000-odd words (oops – well done if you’re still reading this far), this reads like something of an awkward homage. But I’m actually fine with that, because I’ve very much enjoyed reading Brian’s blogs for 15-odd years, and I look forward to reading many more.

And if ever there was a time to let him know, then this would certainly be it.

Get well soon, Brian.
My thoughts are with you from… oh… you know… several thousand miles away.

 

* and I, along with many others, have.

Day 278, part 2 – Mentality

OK. Quick post here to clear my mind. (Or as quick as I can with the internet crawling under the weight of several (or more) holidaymakers.)

Last night, the President spoke once again and raised the lockdown back up to Level 3. I’m not saying that locking down is a good thing or necessarily even the right thing to do, but it is clear that he had to do something. To be fair, it was actually a speech in which he told the nation off like we were a group of naughty children. And while that might irritate a great number of people (and it did, with many of them fitting the stereotype), the fact is that too many people are behaving like naughty children. We were given the chance to take measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and we (overall, as a collective), ignored it and continued with our daily (and nightly) lives unabated.

If it was difficult stuff, like you had to cut off the fingers of your first born or pour washing up liquid into your eyes to help slow the spread, then you might understand people not complying. But it’s putting a piece of cloth over a bit of your face and it’s staying away from people.

And we couldn’t even manage that. It’s actually rather embarrassing.

For that reason, amongst other things, our local beach (150m down there [points]) is now closed.
We can look, but we can’t touch. This makes me very sad (and quite annoyed), but it’s been coming for a while.

And yet already, the local Whatsapp group is buzzing with ideas to circumvent the regulations. If you have a fishing permit, you can access the beach (as long as you are also fishing). And that’s a great example of exactly the mentality that’s got us to where we are right now. Local residents who have lived here for years and years are now off to the local post office to get their ticket to the beach. Instead of noting that there’s clearly an issue which needs to be resolved, and staying away from public areas for a couple of weeks, people are actively looking for ways to go and sit next to each other on the shoreline.

Sure. You’ll ask me why anyone would trust this government. They are far from perfect.
But are people that blinkered that they can’t see past their need to break the rules or snub the government and see the huge viral pandemic which is literally killing hundreds of ordinary folk just like them, every day right now?

Here’s another example from Facebook – from before last night’s speech. I’ve removed the guy’s name. I’m not sure if he knew he was quoting a local right-wing, anti-mask covid-denier, but whatever.

First off, there has to be a dividing line for any rule or regulation.

“On the right is 17 years and 364 days old. On the left, 18 years old.
Such clever alcohol this, our government thinks it knows the difference.”

said no-one ever, despite it being a completely arbitrary boundary that we have lived with all our lives.

But aside from that…

I’m not saying that there is any danger or risk in how those people are gathered on the lagoon on the left. But instead of choosing to understand that there was a reason that they weren’t allowed to gather on the beach on the right, they simply chose to just gather somewhere else close by.
In this case, it’s not the virus being “clever”, it’s the people being obtuse.
And if you can’t see that, then I don’t think you are being very “clever”, either.

Precisely because of this mentality, we literally have to be spoon-fed each and every rule. So now – and perhaps even because of this well-circulated image – the regulations have been extended to include rivers, dams and lakes. And then people will complain that the rules are too complicated or pernickety. But it’s really not that hard.

Ramaphosa’s speech last night included these lines:

We can only weather this storm if we immediately and fundamentally change our mindsets.
Compliance with the health regulations should not be simply about fearing the wrath of the law.
It should not be about reluctant observance or peer pressure.
This is about common sense.
It is about taking responsibility for our own health and the health of others.

But common sense and taking responsibility are not things that happen in this country, where a red traffic light is taken as merely a suggestion and the law is completely disregarded when it doesn’t suit us to follow it. It was already happening in Cape Town this morning.

There will be no change in mindset, despite the personal and/or collective consequences.

And because of that, there will be thousands more completely unnecessary deaths.