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.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The President And The Pandemic

The New York Times analyzed Trump's comments about the current pandemic from March 9 to mid-April.  The results will not surprise you at all if you have read my earlier post about Trump's narcissism:

The New York Times analyzed every word Mr. Trump spoke at his White House briefings and other presidential remarks on the virus — more than 260,000 words — from March 9, when the outbreak began leading to widespread disruptions in daily life, through mid-April. The transcripts show striking patterns and repetitions in the messages he has conveyed, revealing a display of presidential hubris and self-pity unlike anything historians say they have seen before.
By far the most recurring utterances from Mr. Trump in the briefings are self-congratulations, roughly 600 of them, which are often predicated on exaggerations and falsehoods. He does credit others (more than 360 times) for their work, but he also blames others (more than 110 times) for inadequacies in the state and federal response.
Mr. Trump’s attempts to display empathy or appeal to national unity (about 160 instances) amount to only a quarter of the number of times he complimented himself or a top member of his team.
Bolds are mine.

That his attempts to display empathy are fairly rare is because he cannot feel empathy but must simulate it.  Neither can he really understand why others find empathy important in a leader.  This is because he literally does not have the capacity to feel empathy (and not because he would be particularly sadistic, say).

These are the consequences of so many people voting for someone with this particular personality type to run the country.  

Other consequences also follow:

Narcissism also makes learning new things seem pointless.  After all, a narcissist must already pretend to be perfect, which makes extra learning unnecessary!  Thus, we now have a president who can't be bothered to learn anything, but who enjoys publicly speculating* about possible treatments that could work against the virus.  Ingesting bleach might work, he speculates.

Trump does not like the new game he accidentally began, about his theories about disinfectants and the effect of light on the coronavirus, because that is a tough game for him to win against medical experts.  His current countermove is to state that he was being sarcastic and that he was talking to the press, his favorite enemy, not to the medical expert present at the time.  Sadly, all video evidence suggests that neither of those countermoves are true.

It will be interesting to see which new outrage-game he will start to move the media's attention away from the game he dislikes.

Actually, it's not interesting at all, and neither is dissecting Trump's various rage tweets or the moves in his narcissistic games.  All this could have been avoided in 2016.

In the meantime, the US covid-19 deaths are likely to exceed 60,000, even with a calculation method likely to lead to severe under-counting of actual deaths either directly or indirectly caused by the virus.

* Because he craves the attention.  Negative attention is better than no attention, though adulation is what he is looking for.