Sunday, March 22, 2020

Place in the Time of the Virus

As a university lecturer I am now in the unenviable position of teaching undergraduate students without meeting them physically, with no communal lab resources, with no chats in the hallway... in short, without sharing place.

There are many tasks that can be accomplished with distance learning. I can put lectures online as videos, share lecture notes and screencasts, upload code. As a class we can chat individually or in groups, using video conferencing software.

But our sensory modalities are limited. Visually, we are now restricted to a two-dimensional array of pixels, without the depth and richness of an unmediated encounter. Our appreciation of each others' voices is hampered by frequency filtering, noise gates, and cross-moduation. Texture, scent, touch, and other sensory experiences are totally lacking. I miss the play of light in the classroom, and how the weather changes. (This season has seen snow, hail, and numerous storms with individualised characteristics.)
Thursday, March 19, 2020

Support great music.... now!

In this time of isolation, artists are suffering. Their consulting work is put on hold; their day jobs vanish; their gigs are cancelled. This post contains music from friends and accomplices. Please open your wallets along with your hearts. Donate to help keep music alive.

There's no better place to start than today on Bandcamp. This site is waiving their fees for 24 hours, so all the money collected goes directly into artists' hands. This offer starts Friday at midnight Pacific Time. While this is an ambiguous timestamp, I think, that means it kicked off already at 7am this morning (Friday) GMT.

Here are some of my favourites, in no special order. I will be buying too, so see you on Bandcamp!

Also I will continue highlighting artists in the future, since it's not only today you could be helping them. Besides, there's no way you can listen to all of this in a few hours!
Saturday, March 14, 2020

Government preparations for COVID-19

Updated 16 March 2020 with many more references and stats for four countries.

I am not in the business of predicting the future, which is a dangerous activity at the best of times. But governments are now taking actions based on their best predictions, along with other factors. Chief among these is the requirement that they do not panic their citizenry. History has shown the people are caring when the chips are down. But in the transition period there can be panic.

Is our government here in Ireland doing the right thing? Is your government?
Thursday, March 12, 2020

COVID-19 compared to other diseases

Please note that this article was written 12 March 2020 and updated 14 March. It is retained here with the original statistics, as a piece of historical writing. Sadly, there are now more than 4600 deaths from COVID-19. Far more.

Since my last article, a lot has happened. COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the WHO. Italy has quarantined the entire country. Ireland has shut down all schools and day-care, banning large public events, including the upcoming St. Patrick's Day parades. These are reactions to the medical reality of the current disease.

I am seeing people on social media comparing COVID-19 to the catastrophic 1918 Spanish influenza. On the other extreme, some say that this pandemic is just another flu. Who is right? This article will use medical sources to answer this important question.
Friday, March 06, 2020

COVID-19 Recommendations and Analysis

Please note that this article was written 3 March 2020 and updated 8 March and 14 March. One recommendation and certain comments have been deleted to avoid misinformation. This is the first time in 1000 articles that I have done this, but I wish to avoid misleading readers.

This article is an attempt to compile facts concerning SARS-CoV-2 and its related disease COVID-19. Though I am not a medical expert, I will compile recommendations from reputed sources (available in the references). It is important that you know what precautions must be taken in the initial (containment) stage.

Then I will discuss matters arising, both statistical and political. That section is motivated by the anti-Chinese discourse and outright racism I have witnessed in the last weeks.

Please read this carefully. I am open to corrections in the comments.