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It is never personal, you're not the protagonist

It's so easy to become offended. It actually comes pretty natural. Someone says something.  You feel it's directed at you Strong reaction follows No need to react, it's got nothing to do with you as a person Imagine some remarks about academic work versus manual one, a bit dismissive about the latter. You don't have a degree and never wanted one. You know very well it takes years of experience and training to do what you're doing. Talent is involved too, as some people do have "two left hands".  You still feel you should add something to the conversation, but not sure if it is going to be well-received. No need to enlighten the other party right now Most people think in terms of opposites. If it's not this, it's that and it can't be anything else. Certainty of one's convictions is also a form of self-reassurance that everything is stable in one's world. Other points of view cannot be allowed because they are disruptive. Cognitive disrup

The bearable side of social distancing

The carefree and the cautious, the well-behaved and the morons, they all walk up and down the same pavements (sidewalks if you prefer). Whoever wrote a book on how people behave when they approach a stranger, needs to add a new chapter. It could be called the Virus Effect. Before the pandemics, there used to be a kind of social ballet, especially on narrow lanes. One step to the right, maybe a bit of backtracking, eyes averting direct connection. At times, so many of us have been fooled by the fellow passer-by's moves (neurons mirroring someone else's neurons , as they do). We would move in the same direction, ending up in an amused half-collision. Nowadays that benign bumping into each other is not on at all.  Social distancing, or physical distancing rather, has altered pedestrian behaviour. People scan the approaching human traffic and assess pretty fast if they need to stop, step to the side and wait. A lot depends on how rushed or distracted the other party seems to be. Wa

Which virus is more dangerous?

Lockdown reflections 1.3 Update: How could I miss that street litter can end up as ocean litter? * There was a meme a while ago, widely shared, about people having to fight two pandemics: the corona virus one and stupidity. I forgot about about the quip until I saw a disposable latex glove on the ground.  It's not that I have never seen other objects of personal use discarded nonchalantly in a very public place, like a street.  Condoms for example, although very very rarely (it can't be that comfortable, using a small wall as a prop, I'd guess). There have been as well the odd sock, a T-shirt, cigarette butts.  This is not fly-tipping  as such, we are talking small stuff, not humungous fridge-freezers or king-size mattresses. Small things do get lost or forgotten or thrown away.  In the middle of a pandemic though? A disposable glove of the type that has become associated with precautionary measures meant to defend us against the Virus? I can understand someo

Black and White

Lockdown reflections 1.2 It's not easy to spell the adjective "manichaean". The word that has ended up meaning "black and white thinking" has its origin 17 centuries ago.  At the time, it was not that simplistic. I think it is definitely worth looking into Manichaeism, the religion founded in the 3rd century AD by a Persian prophet and the idea of a battle between light and darkness. Modern use of "manichaean" is pretty much divorced from the ancient belief system. Rarely employed in writing, it has the undertone of a rebuke. These days, it is not exactly a compliment. Could it be that we are so in love with nuances? There's always a "but..." dangling from the end tail of a sentence. To be more precise, there used to be a "but", before all nuanced conversations went out of the window. Or were rather locked down. Duality in its strictest, most dogmatic form is reigning supreme. It's an either/or situation,  no mid

The new normal is the old normal

Lockdown reflections 1.1. It started with the frequency of phone calls and messages. Everyone was worried. Interest in other people's welfare took on an unexpected turn. "Are you alright"?  became a magic phrase. The speed of sharing immunity tips increased. There was a definite fervour around any bit of new information. Some became suspicious that others may know something and hide it. The spurt of activity on various channels was matched by what happened in the media and to a more significant degree on the internet. The two spheres, the personal and the public one, were in synch up to a point only. Then some sort of fatigue started gnawing away at individual hyper-communication. Phone calls became less frequent. Text messages turned into forwarding funny videos and memes, mostly. Family members and friends, let alone acquaintances, settled back into their usual routine. The new normal, under lockdown, reverted to the old normal, and it's a comforti

Crowdsourcing the Virus

CROWDSOURCING THE VIRUS QUESTION The Virus does not deserve a photo. Just words, mainly arranged in questions. As signing up for an online course in virus genetic sequencing is not a priority right now, let's first stick to popular science.  Even better, to what every possible outlet has written about its appearance: spherical, with leech-like tentacles.  No idea how the crown analogy came about. I looked long and hard to find any connection or identify the spiky crown that gave it its name. That blob we all now recognise is full of spikes, true, but that's about it. Anyway, it has a name which is not necessarily its important feature, IMHO. The package is far far more important.  It is made of fat, "an envelope", as it's called. Have all similar viruses a layer of fat?  Apparently yes, but why fat and not something else? Is it because fat is such a good preservative (think of meat kept for months in lard) ? Is it then a survival techn

Runner's new syndrome

"Running is good for you", or so they have been saying. They had said it long before the Virus turned up and they have not rescinded that bit of advice since. As a form of exercise, runners can boast of displaying certain rare virtues. They are resilient, accept pain as a rite of passage and ignore weather conditions. Running is also a good introduction to old-age loneliness. With some exceptions,  a very long life ends up being a solitary life. If not through lack of companionship, loneliness is born out of not being able to join in and do what everyone else is doing. This "all by myself" quality of running does have it drawback though. It seldom came to light before the Virus and the new rule of physical proximity. Running requires single-mindedness. 'Social distancing" is an exercise in the opposite.  Getting from A to B has to be negotiated and pace adjusted. It involves stopping and sometimes backtracking, to avoid getting too close to passers-by. This

The Virus (not a computer one)

If a 4-year old can ask a parent who has just sneezed :"Have you got the virus?", something has definitely changed in the world. The new player on the stage ( I know, Shakespeare has said it before, "all the world's a stage"), this new player is terribly feared and ferociously pursued. It's both fast and  evasive, it carries no ID (do scientists know something we don't?),  it can kill. It does kill and maim. For short, more than just a bloody nuisance. Fleeing communism or fascism or any -ism used to involve crossing some form of physical border, risking life and limb. No point anymore in viewing the other side of any border as a safe space. The Virus has made sure old perceptions have become totally useless, even dangerous.  It loves ridiculing us, the whole lot.  Take that "There's safety in numbers".  Gotta be joking, no? Is it still true that "No man is an island "? (I know, just quoting J