Good News – Phoenix Park to remain a quieter place with less traffic

This is a good thing:

[T]he OPW on Friday morning said it will not reopen the gates on Monday, and has not set any future date for their reopening. It has also given its strongest signal yet that the use of the park as a “throughway” to the city could be brought to an end and said “further measures to curb traffic volumes in the park are likely to be introduced in the coming months.”

Thousands of people signed an online petition, initiated by Green Party councillor Michael Pidgeon last month, calling for the end of the use of the park as a throughway for motorists.

The OPW was “determined to ensure that the park is a safe, quiet, green space for our visitors, where flora and fauna thrives and where visitors’ health and wellbeing can be enhanced through experiencing the natural environment in the park,” OPW commissioner John McMahon said

“With this in mind, reducing the volume of ‘through-traffic’ is critical and maintaining safe, quiet, open spaces for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy is a key priority for OPW.”

Cars can still access the park through the Castleknock and Parkgate Street gates and the current parking arrangements will be maintained. However, the OPW said: “These measures are being kept under constant review with An Garda Síochána and other key stakeholders and the OPW is monitoring and measuring the impact of these initiatives.”

Lockdown: The Country Scale Experiment

One thing about how humanity has dealt and is continuing to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak is that it’s really a huge experiment with country scale populations. Some really interesting effects are being seen, I’d say that the research hasn’t even really started yet. There’s all sorts of questions that could be examined, from mental health effects to lack of traffic and cleaner air.

Two that caught my eye so far are related to pollution in the air we breathe. I hope that things like these will really bring home to people just how much impact that invisible air pollution has on our health.

Two million people in the UK with respiratory conditions such as asthma have experienced reduced symptoms during the coronavirus lockdown, according to the British Lung Foundation.

Guardian: “Cleaner air during UK lockdown relieves asthma for millions

Back in the day, I remember our science teacher telling us that asthma was on the increase, and at the time we considered smoking as a possible cause, but now I’d point the finger at air pollution. While Dublin had cleaned up the very visible smog, the fine particle pollution was on the increase, as it is today.

Another fascinating one is the fall in pre-term births:

An “unprecedented” fall in pre-term births in one of the country’s largest maternity hospitals is being credited to the effect of positive lifestyle influences during the lockdown.

The number of underweight babies fell dramatically in University Maternity Hospital Limerick in the first four months of the year, a trend researchers believe is due to reduced stress and healthier lifestyles brought on by the Covid-19 restrictions.

There was a 73 per cent reduction in the number of very low birth-weight babies born in the hospital, compared to the average for the same first four months of the year in the preceding two decades, a study has found.

If the same finding is replicated nationally for the first four months of the year, there could be up to 200 fewer very-low-weight births this year, and several hundred more if the effect were to last to the end of the year.

Likening the unique conditions of the lockdown to “nature’s experiment”, lead author Prof Roy Philip said the improvements were due to a mix of self-imposed behavioural changes by mothers and externally imposed socio-environmental changes.

These include: reduced work; stress; commuting and financial strain; increased family support; reduced environmental pollution; better infection avoidance; improved sleep and nutritional support; adequate exercise; and reduced exposure to tobacco and illegal drugs.

Irish Times, “Positive lockdown influence credited with fall in pre-term births”

The real research here will be picking apart the confounding factors, some of the changes noted above for example – I’d guess that lots of mothers experienced more stress, perhaps worse family support (relatives couldn’t visit) for example. I hope more research gets done on this.

The privilege of being clutter free

Don’t pack too light:

A few weeks into coronavirus quarantine, a reader who had cleaned out his home according to the decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s ultra-popular KonMari method emailed me to ask if I had heard from anyone else who was regretting that move. He’d been happy with the results until the country’s circumstances had abruptly changed, and his family ended up reordering some of the same board games and casual diversions they had parted with back when their lives were busier and the boxes were taking up space in a closet.

Packing light for a lifetime has its perks, but it’s not a strategy that’s highly adaptable to sudden unemployment or overburdened supply chains. America’s economy asks its residents to cycle new things in and out of their home constantly, and for decades, the process has looked like a perpetual-motion machine to all but the poorest among us. When the pandemic hit, it became clear that the process was much closer to musical chairs. Tossing everything that isn’t just right in the moment is its own kind of privilege, which is why Kim Kardashian’s house looks like a mausoleum, and why the set for the anti-capitalist film Parasite is all sharp edges and sleek wood. The pursuit of domestic perfection should be done only by those who don’t have to worry about what unforeseen wants or needs might lie ahead. Among consumer culture’s most impressive sleights of hand is convincing far too many people that they’re in that group.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/07/the-triumph-of-the-slob/612232/?utm_source=digg

Everything in moderation is the best approach. Absolutes tend to be brittle when hit with changing circumstances don’t they? I think it makes it easier to adapt to change. That’s my philosophy piece for today.

“The officers responsible are rarely prosecuted.”

Protests over the murder of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer have reached every single US state, in a level of nationwide demonstration not seen since the 1968 assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

Curfews are in place across dozens of cities and National Guard troops have been deployed to back up an already heavily militarised police in at least 23 states.

The arrest on Friday of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s case, has not quelled the demonstrations which look set to enter their seventh night in some areas.

This Is How Absolutely Massive The George Floyd Protests Are Across The US

You get the feeling that the cops in the USA just aren’t held accountable to any reasonable standard.

No officers were ever charged” “all four officers acquitted” “No police officers were charged” “was fired but not charged”

Is anyone really surprised the pot boiled over?

That’s a Camera

Elsa Dorfman, Who Made Art With Giant Polaroids, Dies at 83

She used a 200-pound camera for her natural portraits of everyday subjects and celebrities — even while Polaroid, outpaced by technology, was fast going out of business.

“she was smitten with the Polaroid’s power to render a painting-size image so rapidly that she and her subject could watch the likeness materialize together before their eyes. “I was in love,” she said.”

Fossil Fuels in Terminal Decline?

I know it’s been predicted and pushed for, but maybe this time it’s happening. Mass burning of fossil fuels just isn’t sustainable. I like to think that burning a little is ok though, because I love my motorbike. For everyday transport, and for heating, cooling, no.

The report says the world is “witnessing the decline and fall of the fossil fuel system” owing to the quicker-than-expected growth of clean energy alternatives coupled with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels amid the pandemic.

It follows findings from the International Energy Agency, which forecast the Covid-19 fallout would lead to the most severe plunge in energy demand since the second world war and trigger multidecade lows for the world’s consumption of oil, gas and coal, while renewable energy continued to grow.

The world’s demand for fossil fuels has plunged by almost 10% amid the coronavirus lockdown, and many energy economists believe it may fail to recover from the crisis.

Bond said fossil fuel companies and their investors had failed to realise the current decline of the fossil fuel industry may prove terminal.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/04/coronavirus-crisis-collapse-fossil-fuels-demand

What’s really wrong about Dom’s lockdown trip

Fintan O’Toole nails it:

So why does his odyssey during lockdown produce a whole different kind of emotion? Because it reaches into the innermost experiences of millions of people. It cuts right through to the pain of a loved one dying alone, of grandchildren growing distant, of precious human bonds being forcibly severed. It grabs hold of that torment and it squeezes the meaning out of it.

We endure these things individually because we understand ourselves to be also enduring them collectively. Cummings’ actions – and, even more, Johnson’s valorisation of them – strip away the second part. The big, communal and institutional structure that gives a value to the millions of individual sacrifices has been kicked away – in Johnson’s defence of Cummings, the only value is the individual “instinct” of the members of the ruling caste. To use the Blitz analogy that England apparently cannot escape, it’s fine to leave your lights on during the blackout if you’re an important person with documents to read.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/26/cummings-contempt-lockdown-rules-public-catholic-church-ireland#maincontent

Relaxing with strategy wargaming?

Well, I can think, but I just can’t gather the concentration to really write anything. Sometimes you need to push yourself through that, and other times you need to listen to your mind – it wants a break from thinking! I’ve had a wonderful weekend with my partner in life, love and lockdown. So I’m going to read a little, relax, play a little strategy wargaming.

Toy Soldiers, advance!

Yes, I love a strategy wargame. Ever since I started playing with toy soldiers as a kid, I’ve been interested. I used to set them up and make forts, then destroy them with marbles (I had a big marble sized steel ball bearing which was awesome and something I’d never give my kids now because I’m pretty sure I dented the skirting boards with it).

Then as I grew older, I started trying to add some realism (if you can call it that, maybe simulation is a better word) to the games by letting each soldier represent a company, and rolling dice to see who won. It was fun, but cumbersome.

The next step was computer based games, but I had limited options for my well-loved Sinclair Spectrum, mainly whatever came free or as a demo on the covertapes of Your Sinclair and Sinclair User magazines. But then I got a PC, and a copy of Panzer General, and I was hooked. It was great, easy to get into, lovely graphical maps of Europe to play on, and endlessly replayable. I still play it from time to time, some 25 years after it was released, which is testimony to either how much I like it or how good it was.

But Panzer General (and it’s successor Allied General, and Panzer General 3D which I remember having once now that I think about it. I never found the follow on titles to be as good as the original) didn’t quite have enough, well, detail. (I love detail, it’s why I liked making model aircraft and tanks. It’s all about the little details). So, fast forward a lot of years and a mate put me on to Paradox Interative’s Hearts of Iron series.

Now we’re talking detail! I played Hearts of Iron 3 for *ages*, and, I’ve just started playing HoI 4 (4 years after it’s release because hey, I don’t have the time anymore and because I don’t have the time I was waiting for it to go on sale, 9.99 is a sweet price). This is grand strategy. You can take control of any country in the world in 1936, manage it’s diplomacy, trade, research priorities, type of armed forces you build, then take them to battle! You need to take care of the civilian population, deal with supply and equipment production, develop defensive and offensive battleplans, it’s pretty awesome in scope.

I’m trying it out by playing Ireland. I’ve developed an interventionist foreign policy and a tiny navy. Playing a small nation is a good way to get used to the game without being swamped with options (Germany starts the game with 25 divisions or so, I’ve got two!). So, let’s see what happens. Maybe I can ferment a coup in Germany and get them to ditch Hitler to alter history. Fun 🙂