1990

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075469/

This page written circa 26 March, 2020.

NZ is in lockdown. Bold and sensible, is the impression. Donna congratulated me on living in a country with a sensible, responsive government with a good scientific grasp. Articles rightly praise the PM's leadership judged against researched performance criteria. It sure looks like they have been briefed on the top theories on Endgames. Jacinda Ardern's advisors are clearly going for Endgame C. Nevertheless, I have the same fear that Jeff Goldblum's mathematician, Dr Malcolm, had in Jurassic Park: Nature finds a way.

Of course it is much nuttier elsewhere. In Australia, hairdressers have been told that they can only deliver services that take less than 30 minutes... can you believe that? You might catch covid if you get a full treatment, but not if you are out in 30 minutes... great logic. Well, here they have been to told to close entirely. Unpleasant, but understandable.

At first I thought this lockdown would be quite fun. Then more details and some ominous, last-minute patches appeared. For starters, unlike Australia and the USA, all liquor stores are being forced to close; you can get beer and wine at supermarkets, at least so far. Are gin and scotch essential supplies? I suppose one might debate this.

Next the government decided that I cannot buy non-essential things, even online. Seriously?
I can understand the need to minimise contacts, socially distance, but the point of online shopping is that I do not have to interface with other people. TradeMe, the NZ equivalent of Ebay, have been forced to extend all auction deadlines to the end of the lockdown. Couriers have been told only to deliver essential supplies. (Evidence suggests that they can't tell a lot of the time.)

The university has been told to close, and not just to close, but to prevent anyone coming onto campus. You are expected to take stuff home and try to work from home, but if you forget something (like the keyboard on the back of which you write your passwords because you don't actually care), you are stuck. Forgot crucial data drives? Bad luck. Expecting an experiment to fill its data card before the end of lockdown? No coming back to fix it. We have a store here like Wallmart, called Warehouse. They sell food, but have been told to close because they sell other stuff, clothes, appliances, etc. So fresh underpants are not to be had, in person or by courier. You are alowed to go for a walk "inside your bubble", meaning contacting only someone with whom you live, but you cannot go surfing, even by yourself... go figure.
The powers here don't trust you, subject (that's like citizen without the rights, a key problem noted elsewhere).

The government has offered a huge relief package. Sadly a lot of people here fall though cracks. Grad students existing on part-time jobs (like our gardener) find themselves unable to claim shutdown-related payments. In the US there is a lot of fuss over just who will get the huge amount of money, but nobody looks here. Kiwis trust their government. Yeah... nuh.

I think we have got this out of perspective. The infection rate, even in China and Italy, is below 1 in 1000. That is the infection rate, not the mortality, which sits between about 1 in 100,000 and 1 in 10,000 depending upon your medical environment. The CDC reports that 80,000 people died of plain-ordinary flu in the USA alone last year, 1 in 4000. Between a quarter and half a million die of respiratory-related flu worldwide every year. The corvid death total stands at about 20,000 so far. Of course it will get worse, but disasters happen, tsunamis, eruptions, earthquakes, epidemics, crashes, recessions. The response should be proportional. As someone has told Trump to say, we should not let the cure be worse than the disease.

Trying to teach electronics without a lab and equipment is like trying to teach people to program without having a computer. I am handling my current class by having everyone take home with them a scope, power supply, soldering iron, components, etc., essentially a whole lab kit. Only works because the class is small. And it only works if you don't suddenly find you need a spare 7805 that you did not bring home with you. So we are not allowed on the premises, even alone to collect a resistor from a deserted lab. You can walk past staff, students, or random people in the street, with two metres separation, but you can't hide from the fuckers in your deserted office. All because education is an essential service "except at level 4", reads the last-minute amendment to the rules. Universities here were degrading rapidly, well before covid-19, although not as badly as in Australia (see Campus Meltdown: The Deepening Crisis in Australian Universities). I guess it is true, Kiwis really do think education is not that important. Good thing my kids have US & Australian passports, because they are sure gonna need to get out of here in a few decades. But I digress.

"Virus laws rushed through" says a headline, so politicians won't have to meet for months. A warning voice in parliament pointed out that "Parliament continued meet during other crises, including during the two World Wars", but they were all in too much of a rush to get out even if they thought that "at these times... Parliamentary scrutiny is more important than at any other time". Which they obviously didn't.

I like someone's description of the USA's 5th amendment, "not intended as a guarantee of the right to bear arms but a guarantee of the right to insurrection". Depriving citizens of liquor, tech toys, fresh underpants, a lone swim in the ocean, or indeed any online purchases from willing vendors collected and dropped off without personal contact by legal couriers would cause insurrection in the USA, but not a firecracker here. The laws here now allow the government to do almost anything. No checks or balances.

Goldblum's character said "your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could they did not stop to ask whether they should". I can't believe I am saying this, but Trump's approach to the covid pandemic may be the best for his country. The math is clear... 2020 minus 36 equals 1990 minus 6.


March 29 postscript:
Kay went to New World Hillcrest first thing yesterday. There was a queue even before it opened, but it moved reasonably quickly. Stock was pretty good, but no flour, no Nesquick, not much pasta or butter left, and Kay bought the very last chicken. She was home in less than an hour. Fruit and veggies were about as good as they ever get there.

I finally managed to make an online purchase at Countdown Saturday night, well actually Sunday morning, for delivery next Saturday. The secret is to make your purchase about 1 second after midnight. That is when the computer adds another day to the array of delivery times. I clicked refresh about 3 seconds after midnight and the server was jammed. It took about 60 seconds to load the page, by which time 3 of 5 time windows were full already. I clicked one of the other 2 times and got a delivery slot, then checked out. I rechecked 2 minutes past midnight---all slots were full. Only us geeks and nerds will eat.


March 31 postscript:
Australia has itemised the acceptable reasons for leaving home, provided you distance. These seem pretty reasonable. Indeed, I would have more faith in NZ if they were as sensible as they are proactive.

Work, if you can't work from home
To go to school or an educational institution
Shopping for food and other essential items
To get medical care
Exercise, but only if the exercise is done alone or with one other person
Fleeing an unsafe home, so to avoid injury or illness
Dealing with an emergency or on compassionate grounds
Providing care or helping a vulnerable relative/person
Taking your child to childcare
Attending a wedding (adhering to the five-person limit) or a funeral (adhering to a 10-person limit)
Moving house or moving between two places of residence
Donating blood
Fulfilling legal obligations
Accessing support services such as employment services, mental services etc
Fulfilling parental sharing arrangements of children (children can move between homes)
Going to a place of worship or to provide pastoral care, if you are a priest, minister or member of a religious order.


April 1 postscript:
If you doubted that Antipodean universities were going down the managerialist plughole, the covid-responses provide ample evidence:

"Our premise is that no student should be disadvantaged in their studies due to the current global pandemic situation. For example, we will ensure that your grades are not affected by the changed teaching and learning approaches on offer," -- Uni Adelaide DVC A Pascale Quester to students.

This quote from the University of Adelaide essentially says that "the university will lower its standards as far as required to see that you get the passing grades for which you have paid".

The above was qualified the following day with an explanation of what she actually intended (compare these carefully):

students can see results and then elect to have a passing grade converted to a non-graded pass which will not count for their grade point average;
fails will become withdrawals --- again not included in GPA calculations;
results pending can be used when components of courses are postponed to subsequent teaching period.

Solid evidence also of how left-leaning systems are every bit as dollar-dominated as right-leaning ones.


April 2 postscript:
I managed to make a click-and-pickup order at Pak-n-Save last night, for delivery a week today. The story was similar, the server slowed a couple minutes before midnight, then utterly seized. After a long delay, close to a timeout, I booked a slot. It then took fully 20 minutes to make the payment. I was getting worried, as the slot holds for only 30 minutes. At least the order can be changed up until a few hours before fullfillment.

Thus the optimum strategy seems to be to place the order with token items, then adjust as you get closer to the day; you simply need to go through this ritual twice a week. As per online delivery orders from Countdown, only the geeky get to eat.

At least the Warehouse can now sell those essential underpants.

Interestingly, the sudden national interest in health systems brings to light a lovely statistic. The number of ICU beds per 100,000 population is a marker for how well equipped and prepared is a medical system. Germany has more than 25; Italy about 12.5; the United Kingdom has just over 6; Australia just over 9. New Zealand has about 5 and a bit. A report some years ago pointed out this shortcoming... but the government was not so proactive then. Nothing like fear to sharpen the mind.

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