Jamie's Notes

The Sound of a Tesla Motor

I don’t know what I wanted a Tesla motor to sound like, but it turns out that this is exactly what I wanted it to sound like.

It’s not over until the fat lady sings

Who is the fat lady? I don’t know, do you?

I’m not an American. I’ve said before that I feel some connection to the result of the US elections because of the influence of the US on Britain, but it is to Americans that it matters most, and I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like over there.

Waking up on Wednesday morning and seeing the closeness of the race was an oh shit moment. But by Wednesday evening, UK time, there was excitement as a different picture emerged, and by Thursday things were looking dicey for Trump. The glee turned swiftly to impatience. An election happens incredibly quickly in the UK. The whole process, including the campaign, takes less than a month and the time between casting your vote and having a new government can be less than 24 hours. To us, the US election seems to have been going on forever.

The map hasn’t changed much in two days, but there is calm today. The process needs to reach conclusion, but result is virtually inevitable. Democracy is exhorting its will, state by state, box by box, vote by vote.

I’m trying to resist hyperbole, but it does feel like a small weight is being lifted from the world.

I don’t know about you..

..but this just about sums up the last two days for me.

Holly Figueroa O’Reilly / Twitter

Mere thoughts are as powerful as electric batteries and as good for one as sunlight. To let a sad thought or a bad one into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever get into your body.

 The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Good luck, America

Approximately twice a day, I head over to 538 to check the latest polling data on the US election. It should calm my nerves, but recent events have proven that nothing is inevitable and that polls are only fleetingly reassuring.

UK politics is inextricably linked to that of the US, perhaps even more so now that we’ve left the EU. America is our largest and most powerful ally, so where they go, we usually follow. We share the big things: language, culture, democracy & love of McDonald’s — but are perplexed by the guns, the crazy health care system, intense evangelicals and FOX News. We accept these as American foibles. It’s not like we don’t have our own problems. Even so, the Trump presidency has been intensely worrying for many in the UK. Deep down, we worry that it might happen to us.

The election of Trump did something, just like Brexit did to us. It turned cracks into fault-lines. But Trump, I think, is the symptom rather than the cause. The fuel for discontent has been gathered for generations. The air was primed to burn. He was the spark, and an unwanted reminder that order and chaos are precariously balanced.

I’ve been trying to think of the standout moments for me. At first, there were the lies – which at first seemed outrageous, but now seem normal. The moment I remember most is Charlottesville and the image of young men – the new face of the far right – carrying tiki torches in the dark, eyes burning with hatred. There was something medieval about it, and I’ve never been able to shake it off.


How do you fix America? From this distance, it seems a problem too big to solve. But the first step, surely, is to evict that orange twat from the White House.

Good luck, America. Please, god, make something nice happen this year.


Murmarations of Starlings

One evening last year, while walking the dog, the youngest and I walked past a small tree full of starlings. There were at least a hundred. They crowded together on every branch, wing to wing and made the most terrific noise. Then, all as one, as if on some secret signal, they rose and disappeared over the rooftops.

Just before dusk, smaller groups will gather at a communal roosting site and put on an acrobatic display before bedding down for the night. It is an awe-inspiring sight. If you’re lucky, you’ll see hundreds of them, swooping and diving in a synchronised dance. You can see it at sunrise too – but that would involve getting out of bed early.

hahaden / Flickr / (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The best time to see them is between October and March. It can happen anywhere, but the map below from Starlings In the UK shows some of the more populous roosting sites.

Riverside Park

The child in me thinks this is great. The parent in me does not.


Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19 in Indoor Settings

El Pais has an interesting visualisation of how aerosol transmission works in indoor settings. It’s one of those things that you read and then wish you hadn’t because it makes the world just a little more terrifying.

Aerosol transmission is different from droplet transmission. The latter happens when someone coughs or sneezes at you. The droplets generally don’t travel far but infect if they come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. Aerosol transmission is by way of tiny particles, which are light enough to travel in air currents. They can stay in the air for hours, floating around and increasing in concentration until they are dispersed (or inhaled).

Silent / Talking / Shouting

It’s always seemed to me that aerosol transmission is understated in the UK response to COVID-19. Bars and restaurants have been allowed to remain open, and many people are now working in offices again – albeit with reduced numbers and preventive methods such as barrier screens and temperature checks. But if you’ve got an infected person in a room with 20 other people, with poor ventilation, none of the standard prevention makes any difference. The air will be full of aerosol droplets.

There’s still a couple of unknowns. We know that aerosol transmission happens, but we don’t know how much it is contributing to the wider spread. We know that ventilation helps, but we don’t know whether HVAC systems help or not.

The mitigation is straightforward:

  • Don’t stay anywhere indoors longer than you need to, ideally no longer than an hour
  • Make sure your destination is well ventilated, preferably through open windows/doors but at the very least through mechanical ventilation
  • Wear a mask when you can
  • Try to do things outdoors instead

More in the archives.