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On a Dark Desert Highway

Omicron, I can’t believe it, I’ve never been this far away from home.

How Covid stays one step ahead of us.

How one scientist concluded that Covid began with a spillover at Wuhan’s wet market.

Why some people pretend Covid doesn’t exist. ICU is full of the unvaccinated.

How protein-based Covid vaccines could change the pandemic.

Pandemic nostalgia.

28 November 2021 · Comment

Breathing Room

Two weeks ago today I wasn’t feeling quite right, and thought I’d better do a lateral flow test from the kit we’d recently been given, just in case. Within moments I was confronted with this:

My positive lateral flow test result, 7 September 2021

Damn.

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21 September 2021

The Mask

Masks littering the pavements of Polwarth and Morningside, August 2021.
Typical mid-pandemic sights. Mouseover for more.

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31 August 2021

She’ll Be Right

Watching developments in Australia from the vantage point of Plague Island has been a weird mixture of reassurance and fearfulness. In the early weeks of the pandemic J. and I were worried that our families there would catch Covid while we were stuck over here and unable to travel back. When it became clearer that the risk of that was much smaller than in Britain, the worry was just that we wouldn’t get to see them for a long, long time. It’s two years since I last saw my folks, and will be at least another. But at least they’ve been safe.

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1 August 2021

A Year On

Five pandemic mistakes we keep repeating.

The best and worst places to be in the pandemic. How your country compares.

How Iceland hammered Covid with science. The world’s unlikeliest pandemic success story.

The hunt for Europe’s earliest, crucial Covid-19 deaths.

The pandemic heroes who gave us the gifts of time and information.

Britain’s outbreak through the eyes of a New Zealand nurse.

Michael Rosen on what it feels like to nearly die.

Their noses paid the bills. Then Covid took their sense of smell.

I used to be a stand-up comedian.

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17 March 2021

Frozen

This is no time to neglect the blog, with covid cases rising steeply in the UK, the first visible impacts of Johnson’s hard Brexit, Trump rallying his thugs to storm the Capitol on the sixth, and the prospect of worse in the next nine days. America is playing out all of my fears of four years and two months ago, and like much of the world I’m holding my breath.

But a new lockdown in Scotland has meant that the kids didn’t return to school on the sixth and probably won’t for another month and a half at least, and four of us are trying to make this a workplace and a school and a studio and a cinema and a home and a refuge and an escape under the same modest roof again. January is always a busy month, with new courses coinciding with marking last semester’s, and this year I have additional management duties and less time in the day to manage them, so I don’t have much hope of doing much here. But I’m posting this anyway, to put in place this month’s sidebar of this morning’s frosty window and leave the door ajar in case I feel compelled to vent about the state of the world.

12 January 2021 · 1 Comment

The Night Before

Christmas 2020

It’s the end of the bleakest lead-up to Christmas that I can remember. Boris Johnson is touting his just-agreed EU trade deal as if it’s the best Christmas present ever, when in reality it’s the hardest Brexit short of no deal and will set Britain back for years. Thousands of lorry drivers are stuck in queues at Dover after borders were closed because of covid, when they were already racking up because of increased delivery traffic ahead of the end of transition. A new strain of the disease is spreading across the UK, with Scotland just over 24 hours from a new lockdown and UK covid cases approaching the peak of the first one. The prospect of widespread vaccination still seems a long way off.

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24 December 2020

Life in Covidtime

I haven’t written much here about Pandemic Life for a while. Things have been busy since the start of August, when I started a new management role in my institute, alongside getting ready for the start of an unusual semester of teaching. As usual, until September we had no idea how many students would turn up, but with none of the predictability of normal times that would let us get close in our forecasting. At the back of everyone’s minds was the thought that all of our preparation for hybrid teaching, with online-only fall-back options for formerly face-to-face courses, might be for the benefit of half as many MSc students as usual. But as it turns out, our school has matched the record numbers of last year. Our Digital Education programme’s intake is up by half, and student numbers on my option course are up 60% on the previous peak. It seems everyone wants to improve their knowledge of digital education, and of its wider global context.

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6 October 2020

Green Sand

There’s growing evidence that Covid-19 is airborne.

Serious brain disorders are developing in people with mild coronavirus symptoms.

It’s not enough to not die.

How well do masks work?

Parenting in the Covid-19 economy.

Those “all over the place” feelings are symptoms of stress. Here’s what’s happening.

Thucydides in times of trouble.

When lies and incompetence collide.

A Caribbean beach could help us slow climate change.

Crocodiles aren’t “living fossils” (via Mefi).

The Hamilton Polka.

15 July 2020

The Madness

How the virus conquered America.

Brazil faces the worst-case scenario.

Europe’s post-lockdown rules. Telling detail: the UK has had by far the longest lockdown.

Britain has gone completely mad during lockdown.

More madness: We can’t fight covid and Brexit at the same time. But as of midnight last night, we’ll have to.

The UK government’s coronavirus testing statistics are missing most of the current new cases.

Our kids have turned 9 and 13 during lockdown and have been trying to keep up with schoolwork on Microsoft Teams day after day after day, and this short film about lockdown life by Canadian teenager Liv McNeil felt so true that it reduced me to tears.

Les poules rentrent à la maison pour se percher.

You can’t understand the world without learning about empire.

A letter to a granddaughter about Earth’s history.

Ukulele Batman meets his match. Aw, come on!

1 July 2020