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The Joys of Spring

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 4th, 2020 at 02:04:15 PM EST

One of the reasons the lock down in Ireland has garnered less opposition than might be expected is that we are currently enjoying glorious May sunshine having had a much sunnier than average April. Temperatures of 10-15 degrees with an absolute max of 20 degrees recently may not seem like much to our European neighbours, but hey, this is Ireland, and we will take this kind of weather any day.

As I write my 6 month old grand daughter is enjoying her first outdoor bath in warmed water under a clear blue sky and a light breeze in blissful 12 degrees sunshine. Many Irish people regard 20 degrees as hot, and 25 degrees an almost unbearable heatwave. There is a reason our forebears migrated northwards out of Africa, but I have always wondered why the war loving Vikings focused on polar climes. Surely population and military pressures from the south couldn't have been that bad?

Of course Irish people have also often over-compensated by taking sunshine holidays in the Mediterranean, the better to get sunburn, sunstroke, and blissfully drunk. For me, as a child, a holiday wasn't a holiday unless it involved sunshine, swimming in warm water, and lots of outdoor activities in the heat. Mountain scenery or big city attractions were all very well for an excursion or two, but the real holiday began at the beach, whether seaside or lake, either in the nip or with just togs on.

The only time it got too hot was when you couldn't walk on the sand, or the cooling water was too far away. Even a pool would do, and aircon was a strange extravagance. Depending on whether it is sunny, windy or wet, anywhere between 10 and 30 degrees is within my comfort zone, but what I call "sea side weather" doesn't really start until 20 degrees, and the sea/lake water temperature has to be at least 18. A swimming pool doesn't really become an option until it reaches at least 20.

I have often wondered about the narrow temperature ranges we like to inhabit. My house, since we got it comprehensively insulated and powered by solar panels and a heat pump is always kept within the 18-20 degree range. Before that it used to be 18 degrees only in summer, with 15 degrees the norm in Spring and Autumn, and as little as 12 degrees in winter.

I can't imagine what it would be like to live in Siberia or some other northerly clime if there wasn't at least some place you could relax and warm up. We are a hardy race, to be sure, and people can get used to all sorts of extremes. But climate change threatens to make large parts of the world uninhabitable, what with rising sea levels, rising temperatures, droughts, storms, and large scale crop failures leading to famines.

So why is it that a species so sensitive to temperature plays so fast and lose with the global climate? Ireland is one of the few places on earth which could actually get colder if climate change stops the thermohaline circulation of the north Atlantic drift. Just our luck. We suffer badly enough from north Atlantic storms as it is. A little more stability in our weather patterns wouldn't go amiss ether, with many days exhibiting the characteristics of all four seasons in one day. Just yesterday I was stuck in a hail shower having departed the house avec avec petite-fille for my 1.5 KM lockdown walk in glorious sunshine.

No wonder the weather is the opening conversational gambit in almost all casual conversations in Ireland. Right now it is making the lock-down bearable, even pleasant, if you are lucky enough to live in a house and garden in the open countryside. I shudder to think of the impact on families with small children stuck in small apartments with inadequate balconies and little in the way of parks near by... Well, in fact I know some, and life isn't easy for them.

So in announcing a two week extension of the lockdown with only minor relaxations, the government felt compelled to issue a comprehensive 23 page, five stage, 15 week plan for exiting the lockdown to give some hope that this will all end soon - always accepting that a second spike in infections will result in a rapid reversal of these plans. So far the trends in national Covid-19 statistics have been hopeful (scroll down), and at least now people can plan for returning to work, re-opening their businesses, sending kids back to school and returning their lives to some semblance of normality.

Although no one believes that life will ever be quite the same again. Let's hope that longer term 'social distancing' doesn't lead to more social alienation, isolation and loneliness. The whole fabric of our society has been torn apart, with people not able to grieve their dead at the elaborate wakes and huge funerals traditional in Irish society. Weddings have been cancelled and all extended family celebrations put on hold. Businesses can recover, the weather may get better or worse. But I fear some good things in Irish society may have changed forever.

Europe In Perspective

Source: Data Worldometer

Deaths/1M and Tests/1K Pop.

Latvia     8   34.7
Malta      9   82.0
Bulgaria  11    7.0
Greece    14    7.7
Lithuania 17   52.9
Poland    18   10.1
Croatia   19    9.5
Czech Rep 23   24.4
Iceland   29  147.9
Hungary   36    8.7
Norway    39   33.6
Estonia   41   42.0
Finland   43   18.7
Romania   43   10.3
Denmark   85   42.3
Germany   82   30.4
Ireland  267   34.3
Sweden   274   11.8
UK       423   17.8

UK behind most European states in tackling coronavirus, says EU agency | The Guardian |

The head of the EU's agency for disease control has warned that the UK is one of five European countries failing to reduce active coronavirus infections, despite Boris Johnson's claims of success.

Dr. Andrea Ammon, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), suggested that the UK had yet to progress as far as the majority of European countries in tackling the disease.

In evidence to the European parliament's committee on public health, Ammon said Europe as a whole appeared to have passed the peak of infections on Saturday, with only Bulgaria still experiencing an increase in cases of infection.

But she told MEPs that the UK, along with Poland, Romania and Sweden, stood out as showing "no substantial changes in the last 14 days".

by Oui on Mon May 4th, 2020 at 06:27:15 PM EST
Under the government's 5 stage plan, schools are not scheduled to reopen until September, with the possible exception of final year secondary school students sitting their final exams which determine which third level course they will be offered. Children are supposed to be much less effected than their elders, and also much less likely to transmit the disease. However it is impossible to think that crowding hundreds of thousands of them into class rooms won't increase the rate of transmission. So I think it is right that Ireland, as one of the more badly effected countries, should delay school re-opening until after the summer holidays. Teaching kids the skills of remote learning isn't a bad thing either.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 4th, 2020 at 06:47:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Mon May 4th, 2020 at 10:30:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently the Irish authorities contact tracing hasn't come up with any instances of children infecting their parents....

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 4th, 2020 at 10:48:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find it inconceivable that COVID transmission does not occur through school age children. In fact they would seem to be the perfect non-symptomatic transmission vectors. But I find the opportunity of a window of in-classroom instruction to have great potential benefit. This would be particularly true were that instruction focused on developing good preparation and study habits in student combined with 'tutoring for mastery'.

In such a mode students could be provided with a half day of in classroom instruction a week to start with skills needed for online instruction. This could at first be supplemented by and later replaced by intensive on line communication between teacher and student. The teacher could thus devote the majority of their time to tutoring. A seven hour day could be divided into ten half hour on line tutoring sessions for three days of the week with the remaining time each day reserved for breaks for the teacher, for prep and records time before and after each session and for extra time for needy students. The remaining time could be used for providing and explaining assignments and discussing errors and corrections, either one on one or one to all.

In this model as few as five or as many as ten students could be in a real world classroom at a time and only once a week during the first week. This would greatly reduce the probability of transmission of disease and significantly enhance contact tracing efficiency when infections do occur. This first week would be a very busy time for transportation providers, but after that week very little transportation would be required.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 04:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Try getting that one past the Irish teacher unions!

But seriously, a move to teach on-line study skills and providing all teaching materials and homework assignments on-line is well past its due date in any case, supplemented by real world sessions as you suggest. However you will find some opposition from supported by their unions, who prefer the traditional classroom environment, and parents who are mainly concerned that the school provide a child minding service while they are at work or otherwise engaged.

The teacher's unions are quite powerful,  militant and blinkered in Ireland.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 09:46:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the government determines that it is not safe to have in-classroom instruction in the fall they will have to go with online instruction. How are the teachers dealing with that now?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 6th, 2020 at 03:51:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New Studies Add to Evidence that Children May Transmit the Coronavirus

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 05:47:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(From NY Times article)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 05:48:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From the NY Times link above:
In some of those countries, the rate of community transmission is low enough to take the risk. But in others, including the United States, reopening schools may nudge the epidemic's reproduction number -- the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case, commonly referred to as R0 -- to dangerous levels, epidemiologists warned after reviewing the results from the new studies.

In one study, published last week in the journal Science, a team analyzed data from two cities in China -- Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, and Shanghai -- and found that children were about a third as susceptible to coronavirus infection as adults were. But when schools were open, they found, children had about three times as many contacts as adults, and three times as many opportunities to become infected, essentially evening out their risk.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 05:52:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 06:02:17 AM EST
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 09:58:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Future of the human climate niche - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
All species have an environmental niche, and despite technological advances, humans are unlikely to be an exception. Here, we demonstrate that for millennia, human populations have resided in the same narrow part of the climatic envelope available on the globe, characterized by a major mode around ∼11 °C to 15 °C mean annual temperature (MAT). Supporting the fundamental nature of this temperature niche, current production of crops and livestock is largely limited to the same conditions, and the same optimum has been found for agricultural and nonagricultural economic output of countries through analyses of year-to-year variation. We show that in a business-as-usual climate change scenario, the geographical position of this temperature niche is projected to shift more over the coming 50 y than it has moved since 6000 BP. Populations will not simply track the shifting climate, as adaptation in situ may address some of the challenges, and many other factors affect decisions to migrate. Nevertheless, in the absence of migration, one third of the global population is projected to experience a MAT >29 °C currently found in only 0.8% of the Earth's land surface, mostly concentrated in the Sahara. As the potentially most affected regions are among the poorest in the world, where adaptive capacity is low, enhancing human development in those areas should be a priority alongside climate mitigation.
by Bernard on Tue May 5th, 2020 at 06:52:36 PM EST

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