Wednesday, April 29, 2020

While Staying At Home: Echidne Stuff Which Might Distract You For A Moment

1.  Things you notice while self-isolating:  The Decline Of The Humble Garlic.

What happened to garlic?  Once upon a time a head of garlic had several plump cloves, easily detached from the head, and very easily peeled. The skin came off with just a little bit of rubbing.

Now, unless I shop very carefully*, I get heads of garlic where someone has glued the skin on with superglue.  Attempts to peel the cloves leave sticky garlic skin over all surfaces, including me and the nearby floor.  And what looks like one medium-sized plump clove turns out to be a group of five or six thin sliver cloves, each wearing its own garlic winter coat skin.  Peeling those micro-cloves requires a magnifying class and takes hours.

This makes me grumpy.

2.  I got even grumpier when scrubbing the floor.  A particular stubborn dried marmalade stain low on a nearby wall made me start scrubbing the woodwork around the door.  It is old and battered, that woodwork, and so my scrubbing allowed a splinter to slide under the nail of my right middle finger.  The "giving the finger" finger.

The pain was pretty exuberant, so I swore as exuberantly while looking for the smallest tweezers in the house.  When I found them I took a deep breath and then yanked the splinter out.  Luckily it came out in one piece.  Less luckily, everything went dark for a second.

After disinfecting (a lot of disinfecting), I felt relief.  Then the lessons I learned:

-  Wear those housework gloves when scrubbing floors, even when they are uncomfortable.
-  There is a good reason why torturers use this particular trick.

3.  Mask-making.  I have now made many face masks.  The first ones I made out of vacuum cleaner bags, using a pattern which follows the shape of the face.  For ties I used various ribbons, piping and elastic thread I had hoarded in the past.

Those work pretty well, but they are rough against the skin, so the next generation of masks has two layers of cotton material (pillowcases) sandwiching several very thin layers of slightly different filmy material from the insides of vacuum cleaner bags.  They are quite comfortable, but I have no idea how effective they are.

I have also made a few cloth masks without any fillers.

While doing all that I mused on the fact that an extremely rich country now has several areas where people are required to wear masks outside (a good requirement), but where getting those masks is left completely to the individuals.  Indeed, one article recommended home-sewing as the answer to this supply-side problem. 

Most people probably don't know how to sew and even fewer have sewing machines.  There are methods allowing the making of no-sew masks, of course, and a bandana works in a pinch.

But still.  There's something very Trumpian about the way a very public health problem is now partly addressed by home-spun and private solutions.  This is because Trump does not seem to see much of a role for the federal government in combating covid-19.  Earlier he implied** that states would be on their own in acquiring masks, gowns, and so on for health care workers.  This has resulted in something like a Wild West market where individual states are bidding against each other.

I believe the reason is that Trump doesn't understand which tasks even conservatives see as the role of the federal government. 


*  Whole Paycheck has some expensive ones which are like the old-time garlic, so not all garlic has suddenly mutated. 

** From here:

Trump initially indicated states should try to buy supplies themselves, but they found themselves competing with each other and the federal government as they scoured the globe for supplies. The president then said he would distribute some supplies, but a failure to start the process earlier and put a single agency in charge exacerbated manufacturing and distribution problems, according to local, state and federal officials.