Day 266 – None of it is good news

With bugs and diseases like TB or Measles or HIV, we don’t often learn much new significant stuff anymore. That’s mainly because we already know a lot of stuff about those bugs and diseases and so there’s less unknown stuff to learn. But it’s also there’s less research being concentrated into those bugs and diseases (which again is possibly because we already know so much about them).

SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 don’t fit that bill. They’re new, we’re (desperately) researching them in great detail and we’re learning new things every day.

Seemingly, none of it is good news.

I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that the governments dealing with Covid-19 often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. There are no easy answers here: what might work well in one place won’t necessarily work well somewhere else. Countries are different; their economies, cultures, populations and population densities are different. And this is all new.
There is no one right way to deal with this pandemic. Equally, something is going to have to give: you sacrifice lives or the economy, depending on how you choose trying to manage the pandemic in any given place. And while that might seem like a no-brainer at first, sacrificing the economy will also cost lives in some form or other. It’s important to understand that it’s not a zero-sum game and it’s also important to remember that this is a virus that is going to kill some people.
Sad and blunt, but true. If you are criticising those in charge because of each and every death – devastating as each one is – you’re simply being obtuse.

That’s not to say that this couldn’t have been better managed. Of course it could and hopefully, if this ever happens again, we will have learned from the mistakes that were made this time around. Some of which were unavoidable, and some of which, well…

…seem inexcusable.

Sweden, once lauded for its “softly softly” approach to dealing with Covid-19, is back under the spotlight, and for all the wrong reasons. While it was being lauded in the early part of the pandemic for taking a different path, by July, it was already clear that it hadn’t worked:

The pay off was meant to be apparent when the second wave came around: with so many infections, would there be a degree of herd immunity and a much lighter caseload?

No.

And suddenly, those claiming that Sweden’s approach was the way to go:

have seemingly quietly moved on to other nonsense.

While those who are usually very quiet about… well… everything, have chosen to speak out at just how badly the government there have handled the pandemic:

Again, I’m not blaming any government for their stance on dealing with Covid-19. But I feel strongly that it’s important that those who supported Sweden’s approach and insisted that it was working when all the figures showed us otherwise, shouldn’t now be allowed to just brush their mistakes under the carpet and try to advise us on how we should be dealing with the situation in which we find ourselves.

Our hospitals are full and according to some reports, some difficult decisions are now having to be made on criteria for admission to ICU beds. At times of stress and overcrowding, these decisions often have to be made, but if the cutoff age that I have seen quoted (38) is correct, then we are clearly in a very, very dire situation. And of course, that’s not just for Covid-19 cases. If you are involved in a car accident today in Cape Town and you need an ICU bed, well, that’s probably not going to happen.

Across the pond, new evidence has come to light that yes, while death from Covid-19 is predominantly amongst the older population, that’s not an exclusive club:

Young adults are dying at historic rates. In research published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we found that among U.S. adults ages 25 to 44, from March through the end of July, there were almost 12,000 more deaths than were expected based on historical norms.

In fact, July appears to have been the deadliest month among this age group in modern American history. Over the past 20 years, an average of 11,000 young American adults died each July. This year that number swelled to over 16,000.

It’s a lot of young lives lost. And the tragic thing is that so many of those deaths will have been avoidable. Simple steps like wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact and crowded or indoor spaces can hugely reduce your risk of contracting or spreading SARS-CoV-2.

But all that has been said until we’re blue in the face (from frustration and exertion, rather than inadequate oxygen saturation) and yet still not many people seem to think it applies to them.

I could understand that as we started this journey, it all seemed so surreal. But what I don’t quite get is how people can still think that this is a problem for someone else. I’ve often mused over what it will take for these people to realise that it might affect them too. Sadly (or weirdly, maybe thankfully?) the second wave of infections seems to be hitting a lot closer to home for a lot of people – I personally know at least 20 people affected in the last week alone – and maybe that will be a bit of a reality check.

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re going to just hunker down for the next few weeks. If you’re reading this in SA and you are also lucky enough to have the option to do the same, I’d strongly advise it.

Warning of possibility of fight at concert after fight at concert

As promised yesterday.

Concertgoers in Sweden have been warned of possible violence at an upcoming performance this weekend, after a brawl broke out at a similar concert at the same venue earlier in the month.

You might be wondering which punk band or hippity-hop outfit were playing on the night of the brawl, but you’d be barking up completely the wrong musical genre, because it was Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons leading his Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony which triggered the appalling set-to.

Classical music is, of course, well-known for encouraging violence – one only has to consider Antonín Leopold Dvorák’s Serenade for wind instruments, cello and double bass in D minor Op. 44, B. 77 which is widely believed to have been one of the major catalysts for World War I.
And Mahler’s Fifth evidently still evokes those same aggressive tendencies.

Or maybe it’s not so much hearing the music as not being able to hear it:

A fist fight broke out at a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.5 in Malmö on Thursday night, after a listener was sent into a rage by another rustling a bag of gum.

Nothing unusual here. Apart from the fist fight bit, obviously. Concert audiences are regularly notoriously irritating to those of us who actually paid money to listen to the music rather than chatting to our friends or rustling a bag of gum.

What Happens Next Will Amaze You

At this point that the rustling on the second balcony became apparent, ruining the effect of the gently soaring strings and softly plucked harp for all sitting nearby.
After a few minutes, a young man sitting next to the woman with the chewing gum lost patience, snatched the bag from her hands and threw it to the floor.

And that was that. Well, at least for 70 minutes, it was.

70 minutes is a long time to sit and think about how you might react if someone has thrown your bag of gum on the floor. It’s widely believed that Lord Horatio Nelson took just 40 minutes to come up with his strategy to defeat the French and the Spanish in the Battle of Trafalgar, and that involved a revolutionary method of approaching the enemy in two columns, sailing perpendicular to their line -one towards the centre of the opposing line and one towards the trailing end – then breaking the enemy formation into three, surrounding one third, and forcing them to fight to the end. So one can only imagine what an extra half hour listening to Mahler’s Fifth could produce.

70 minutes is a long time to seethe and stew and plan. Especially when you don’t have any gum.

The moment the music stopped, she took her revenge.

Yes?

“The woman gave the younger man a slap right in his face.”

Right. Well, I guess that what it lacks in the strategic complexity department, it makes up for in its pure simplicity – and power, apparently:

…the blow was powerful enough to knock the man’s glasses from his face.

He became angry and started fighting back.

And then it all went off.

The woman’s companion, an older man, then seized him by his shirt, and began to throw punches in his direction.

Olof Jönsson, who was sitting in the row behind, described the onslaught as “a violent attack: It was very unpleasant actually. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

But then, Olof has led a very sheltered life.

So how did this bloody rumpus end then?

Eventually, the other audience members managed to calm the two sides down and they went home.

This reaction proves a few things about the Swedish public. First off, that they are a peace-loving people, who (generally) abhor fighting at concerts. Secondly, that they’re generally quite dull and – having had a fight – will just head off home to bed, and thirdly, that they’re very thorough in their follow-through of these sort of incidents in checking that both parties actually do go home and don’t begin to kick off again at the bus stop.

“Leave ‘im, Magnus: ‘e ain’t werth it!”

Good for them.

So if you’re heading out to a concert in Scandinavia this weekend (and let’s face it, we’ve all done it, haven’t we?), please don’t rustle your gum bag.

It’ll all end in tears.

WOW

Simultaneously spotted on twitter (via @ivovegter) and Stumbleupon (via someone else), this Marble Music Machine is simply incredible:

I wanted to share this asap, but there’s evidently a massive backstory which you can view here.

And there’s previous as well, with this punched card, hand cranked music box offering from over 3 years ago.

Wow.

Weird Internet Problem and a Manx Lighthouse

I’m having a weird internet problem. I thought it was due to my ADSL connection at home, but now I’m having the same issue at work as well. I can’t look at my blog. “Lucky Bastard!” I hear you cry. And you could well be right, but it’s also a bit annoying.
Afrihost don’t seem to be able to explain it, so just in case you’re a internet whizz, here’s the info:

When connecting via my Afrihost ADSL, I get a connection timeout error if I try to look at 6000.co.za, or any of the back end. I noticed this yesterday evening. This was across multiple devices: 2 PCs, an iPad, an Android tablet and my Android phone. As soon as I hopped off the wifi and used my Vodacom cell connection, things were fine.
And it wasn’t just on Chrome or any other browser: the WordPress app didn’t connect either.

I could seemingly access every other site (.co.za’s, .co.uk’s and .com’s) with no problem. And other people (including those with Afrihost ADSL in Cape Town) could access 6000.co.za.

So it looked like an issue with my home ADSL, but then exactly the same thing is happening at work as well (where we also have Afrihost ADSL). I’m using TunnelBear to connect via a proxy in Sweden to write this, and that seems to be working just fine.

So, my Einsteiny little friends, what’s going on here? I’m really hoping that someone will turn round and go: “Well, obviously, that’s your QBR settings; go here and click this and it’ll all be fine,” and I will go there and click that and it will all be fine.

Anyway, if you’re still here after that admin and gobbledygook, you’re probably a dies hard reader and you know that I light lighthouses. Here’s one just down the road from us in the Isle of Man: Langness. It’s a great photo, but it was emailed to me so I don’t know who took it, but give that man (or otherwise) a Bell’s. Or even some decent whisky.

langness

And now things are slowing up, presumably because my bear is growing tired of tunneling under Stockholm or Malmö or wherever in Sweden he is (EDIT: Just checked – he’s in Borlänge), so I’m going to end this. Hopefully by tomorrow, I’ll have some answers and will be able to give my ursine assistant some well-deserved time off.

Swedish sightseeing

I’ve only been to Sweden once and even then, I didn’t get very far into Sweden. Still, the little bit of Sweden that I did get into was very nice and it made me think that if I ever got the opportunity to get into a bit more of Sweden, then that would be something I would like to do.

Thus, since that opportunity has yet to arise, I have been exploring the country online. The best way to do this is to get a local guide to take through some of the best urban and countryside areas. And here, in the video for her song Out of Mind, Swedish songstress Tove Lo (you may remember her from such hits as Stay High) demonstrates several of the wonderful sights you can expect to enjoy when visiting her country.

True, for the first minute or so, you don’t get to see much of Sweden, because it’s mainly shot in a grey studio with her wearing a loosely fitting crop top and some underwear, but don’t let that put you off, because after that, she ventures outside onto a bridge in… maybe Stockholm or some other city. Whatevs.
I’m guessing by her continued skimpy attire that it’s during summer, which is probably when I would choose to visit, so it’s really helpful stuff.
Also, I have to find out where the shot at 1:27 is taken from too, because just look at that view. LOOK AT IT!

tovelo

And then we head out into the local woodland, where Tove demonstrates the opportunities for trail running in her Scandinavian homeland. What a great place to run.
And while the light filtering through the silver birches (yes, I know they’re pine trees, but poetic licence, ok?) is fairly spectacular and will surely be a distraction, I’d suggest that it’s hugely important not to take your eyes off the undulating mounds while you’re there.
Lest you should… fall. Or something.

And on that safety first approach, I’d suggest wearing some appropriate training shoes for added grip as well. And maybe some shorts, in case of… upper thigh sunburn. But it’s really up to you, as our hostess demonstrates.

Sweden, hey? It looks just great.