Jamie's Notes

Currently browsing covid-19 ⤵

Wired interviews Bill Gates

Stephen Levey’s interview with Bill Gates in Wired is something. I read most interviews with Gates. He’s smart and worth listening to. He is usually careful with his words, which makes it all the more surprising that he is so blunt about the failure of politicians to get to grips with the most significant economic and public health crisis of our lifetimes.

On vaccine sceptics:

Yeah, you’re right… They do it in this kind of way: “I’ve heard lots of people say X, Y, Z.” That’s kind of Trumpish plausible deniability. Anyway, there was a meeting where Francis Collins, Tony Fauci, and I had to [attend], and they had no data about anything. When we would say, “But wait a minute, that’s not real data,” they’d say, “Look, Trump told you you have to sit and listen, so just shut up and listen anyway.”

On the quality of US testing:

The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted… When we tell them to change it they say, “As far as we can tell, we’re just doing a great job, it’s amazing!” Here we are, this is August. We are the only country in the world where we waste the most money on tests.

On the CDC:

We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House a bunch of times. Now they say, “Look, we’re doing a great job on testing, we don’t want to talk to you.” Even the simplest things, which would greatly improve this system, they feel would be admitting there is some imperfection and so they are not interested.

The full thing is worth a read: Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’

No Mercy / No Malice

Saturday morning is when I catch up on my newsletters. This weeks edition of No Mercy / No Malice by Scott Galloway is a cracker.

Donald Trump was right, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mistakes. Mistakes that cost us almost 7,000 American souls, 208,102 Iraqi and 111,000 Afghan civilian lives, and $1.9 trillion (inflation adjusted). But Covid-19 will register an even greater toll of American blood and treasure. The response to the novel coronavirus would have been swifter and more disciplined if the pathogen had brown skin and worshiped a different god. Americans can’t seem to wrap their head around an enemy 10,000 times smaller than the width of human hair.

Link: The Great Distancing

Two days left

Just two days left until it becomes compulsory for us to wear a face-covering or mask in stores, and I’m not seeing any evidence that people are proactively changing their behaviour. Earlier today, in Asda, I didn’t see a single person wearing a face covering of any kind.

I struggle to understand it. It’s such a small thing to do. Whether you agree with the science or not – at the very least it shows some respect for the people who have to work in the stores with thousands of people milling past them.

It did feel weird at first, but I’m used wearing one now. I feel safer with the mask on than with it off, even if the purpose of it isn’t to keep me safe. I’ll feel much safer when everyone else is wearing one.

Don’t be a twat. Wear a mask.

Time to show restraint

Michael Gove says that we will have to ‘show restraint’ in our shopping habits when stores reopen in mid-June. We won’t be allowed to try on clothes & shoes, or test make-up. Essentially, don’t bloody touch it unless you’re going to buy it – like my mother used to say. It’ll be like internet shopping, but you have to pay for parking and then run the risk of catching a deadly disease. Such fun – buy one shoe, get one fatal lung malfunction free.

People will also be allowed to meet others in private gardens, so long as they stick to the physical distance guidelines. Good news, particularly for grandparents, but it seems to me that most people started doing this weeks ago and that the public as a whole is a few steps ahead of the official guidance – which nobody has really tried to enforce.

The problem is with the quality of the messengers. None of the cabinet inspire any confidence that they have the remotest clue. Take Matt Hancock, our beleaguered Health Secretary, for example. You can tell that he’s as surprised as we are that he’s in this position because he looks completely bewildered when the press asks him a question – like a supply teacher faced with a precocious class that knows more about the subject than they do.

But that’s what you get when you relegate anyone with a spine to the backbenches, and all you have left to choose from to form your government is a small group of supine but spineless cretins.

Notes from week ending 12th April, 2020

The city of Hull is not a desirable place to live. People joke that even the Coronavirus doesn’t want to come to here. It does have one of the lowest infection rates in the country, so perhaps there is some truth to it. Hull isn’t on the way to anywhere. You have to come here with intent – and there’s really not that many reasons to do that. A copper once told me that the reason we don’t have much gun crime (compared to other cities) is that there’s only one road in and one road out, making escape problematic. It’s a strange place.

There are a lot of hours between waking and sleeping. It’s one of the many things that didn’t get much consideration before, but now seem very important – like knowing that your lungs will keep flapping without need of mechanical intervention or, to a lesser extent, that you have enough toilet roll.

My employer expects me to work during the week. I’m grateful for this. It passes the time and they are willing to pay me for it. I’m used to working from home and I’ve stuck dutifully to my regular schedule – it’s the hours after that now feel oppressive.

I started with good intentions: start running again, exercise daily, eat better – all the clichés. If I had an ounce of commitment, I would come out of the lockdown looking a little less like Peter Kaye and more like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I tried Jo Wicks once, at the beginning when motivation was high. That was a laugh. I nearly died. There’s no way those workouts are designed for kids. I bet he laughs when the camera is off – “bet the fat bastards are sweating now!”. Instead, I’ve been reading mental conspiracy theories on Twitter and selling imaginary turnips to strangers over the internet. I have not baked any sourdough bread – that’s one more thing I can add to my list of things that I probably won’t do.

It’s spookily quiet around here. Cities are loud places. There is a constant background noise of traffic, helicopters and sirens; interrupted sporadically by a dickhead on a scooter, a pisshead shouting at himself or the neighbour coughing up her lungs as she sparks up the tenth spliff of the day. Quiet is rare. Silence is rarer. Right now the predominant sounds are the blackbirds that live in the bush at the end of the garden and the gurgling of a pond fountain that has either only just appeared or was previously drowned out by the din. Normality will be difficult to get used to again.

Nature seems grateful for our absence. As I walk through the woodland near our house, I note that the local wildlife seems braver. Birds fly closer and chatter loudly. A fox watches me carefully from the path but doesn’t flee. They seem aware that the outside spaces are theirs again, for now. Good for them.

My week notes are intermittent because there’s not a lot going on. There’s only so much you can write about Zoom meetings, home working and this big, weird situation we all find ourselves in.

Until next time.

I don’t want to see any of you out there.

Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands.

Notes for week ending March 21st, 2020

Well, it’s all getting a bit scary, isn’t it?

In the beginning, it didn’t feel significant. It was important in the vague way a lot of things in the news are, but it was a long way away a I filed it away in the ‘probably important, but not right now’ file. The vagueness resolved itself rather quickly. I was told to work from home, the phrase ‘social distancing’ became normalised, the schools closed, groceries became scarce, restaurants & pubs closed their doors. Many things are less certain than they did a couple of weeks ago.

Am I worried about the virus? We are young and healthy. We’ve got stable jobs and employers that allow us to work flexibly. By any measure, we are incredibly fortunate. We’ll follow the government advice and hope for the best – because that’s the responsible thing to do to ensure that the NHS can treat those affected by the virus along with all of the other people it needs to treat each day.

Yesterday, my eldest daughter remarked that we’re living through a time that the children of future generations will learn of in school. She’s having a bad week. It’s her eighteenth birthday on Friday and everywhere is shut. On top of that her exams, which she’s been working towards for two years, have been cancelled and her employer has cut her hours to zero.

We adapt to this new way of life. There’s no choice. It seems more of an inconvenience than an emergency, but we treat it with the seriousness it deserves. There is little grumbling, though there is rising anger at the cretins stockpiling pasta and toilet-roll. ‘What a surprise. Selfish bastards’ said a woman in Asda when she saw the rows of empty pasta shelves. What on earth are people doing with all that pasta?

I’m working from home, so have left the house rarely this week. That’s not a big change from normal, except that everyone else is home with me. We like each other though, and I’m sure we’ll be fine once we’ve worked out the logistics of it all. If push comes to shove, they can evict me to my office in town.

I’ve been making an effort to reach out to people I haven’t spoken to a while (by phone of course), just to say hi. For some people, this will all be quite scary, and knowing that someone else is thinking about you might be enough to take the edge off a really shitty day.

Be kind to each other, and wash your hands.