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Category: oblong culture

COVID chasers are not getting COVID out of the way

When the COVID pandemic started almost two years ago, people would side-step each on the footpath for fear of contracting the virus. Now some people, known as COVID chasers, are going out of their way to become infected, by attending so-called COVID parties, where, I suppose, someone in attendance has the disease. People are of the belief they can get COVID “out of the way”, and get on with their lives.

If only it were so simple. The problem is we’re not dealing with a disease that gives an infected person life-long protection once they recover. While someone who is infected with COVID, and recovers, will develop anti-bodies, the life of these anti-bodies is short lived, lasting anywhere from three to sixteen months. Like all diseases, COVID affects everyone differently. Someone might feel like they have a cold, but another person, especially those unvaccinated, may find themselves in an intensive care ward. There’s the real risk COVID will get them “out of the way” instead.

With the virus spiralling out of control in some areas, the chances are many people will contract the virus. If you became seriously ill, perhaps you could draw some consolation from having made the best efforts to avoid the disease. But how many people would feel that way given they had deliberately tried to become infected? Be careful what you wish for. In the meantime, be safe, and keep reading books.

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The gift you can gift the most difficult person to gift

A gift for people who have everything? Could well be. Sydney based writer Ashley Kalagian Blunt, has a suggestion. What’s one thing we like talking about, apart from ourselves? Our favourite story. If someone took the time to read a book you especially like, and then sat down with you for an hour or so to discuss it, wouldn’t that be enjoyable? It doesn’t have to be a book though. A movie or an album also works. I think it’s true, experiences make the best presents.

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Warning: book clubs may be a threat to your life

Killing Katie: Confessions Of A Book Club, the debut play of late Sydney based Australian scriptwriter Tracey Trinder, takes theatre goers into the sometimes murky world of book clubs. Think book clubs are groups of likeminded novel aficionados, happily swapping notes about their latest reads? Think again.

Trinder’s play lifts the lid on bitter internal politics, feuding, and murder, after the straight talking, bold Katie, joins a readers group convened by Robyn. Unhappy with Katie’s unseemly exuberance, Robyn plots to remove her from the club, with unforeseen dire consequences.

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Combatting the spread of COVID-19 in Australia

Australia needs to adopt a vaccine-plus strategy to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19, says C Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity, at Sydney’s UNSW, writing for The Conversation.

Among other things, this includes expanding PCR testing capacity, making rapid antigen test kits freely available to everyone, ditto high quality face masks, and stepping up the vaccine booster program.

If there’s no change in policy, there will be a higher, faster peak that far exceeds available health care, which may then force a lockdown. If people who need simple measures like oxygen cannot get a hospital bed, the death rate will start rising. The other option is to use “vaccines-plus” to flatten the curve and ease the load on society and the health system.

The perception the Omicron strain of COVID-19 is mild — thinking that possibly resulted in Australian federal and state government leaving the virus to spread — while sounding comforting, is not necessarily the case, says MacIntyre:

The Omicron wave has made health systems buckle in most states, with NSW worst affected currently. Delta was twice as severe as previous variants, so if Omicron is 20-45% less severe than Delta, that’s still no laughing matter with low booster rates.

It’s food for thought, considering the long term effects of the virus are yet to be understood. It sounds like prevention is easier than cure, but prevention is not easy.

It’s worth doing everything we can to prevent COVID and the long term burden of illness it may cause. In addition to long COVID, SARS-CoV-2 lingers in the heart, brain and many other organs long after the acute infection, and we don’t know the long term impacts of this.

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The coin toss in cricket, should it change?

Haris Aziz, Scientia Associate Professor at UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, has proposed a new way of managing the customary coin toss that precedes a cricket match. Presently the winner of the toss decides whether their team will bat or bowl first.

Depending on factors such as the state of the playing field, and anticipated weather conditions during the course of play — which can have an impact on the outcome of the game — the winner of the toss can have a substantial advantage.

Under this method, the toss takes place as normal, but instead of the winning captain choosing whether to bat or bowl first – and thus immediately gaining a potentially strong position – the losing captain would instead make a proposal. The losing captain would make his own determination on how many runs advantage he feels would be gained by batting first. For example, in a Test match, he may feel that a pitch that looks easy to bat on for the opening couple of days but might later produce turn, is effectively ‘worth’ an extra 100 runs to the team that bats first. To counter that advantage he then proposes an offer to the captain who won the toss, by way of a choice. Either bat first and give up 100 runs, or choose to bowl and take the 100 bonus runs for his own team.

I’d be interested to see this in action. In the meantime, in regards to the men’s cricket series currently in progress, well, anything that might for a slightly more even contest, I say.

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Find a RAT, a Rapid Antigen Test kit in Australia

Find a RAT in Australia, is a great and timely initiative by Melbourne based Australian application developer Matt Hayward, to help people locate Rapid Antigen Test kits to self-test for COVID-19.

With people in some locations reporting waiting several hours, sometimes longer, to take a PCR test, and waiting days instead of hours for the result because of the strain some test providers are under, a Rapid Antigen Test may be the only option some people have.

In recent days though RAT kits have become difficult to find, not to mention at a reasonable price, but hopefully Find a RAT will assist in locating them.

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A short story about the Trailhead ant colony

The life and times of the Trailhead ant colony, which thrived for some twenty years, in this work of fiction written in 2010 by American biologist and writer E. O. Wilson, who died on 26 December 2021.

But now a second crisis arose. The candidate royals began to quarrel among themselves for control. They converged on the brood chambers and jostled for position there. They struggled to climb on top of their rivals. The winners in these encounters seized their opponents’ legs and antennae and dragged them away.

I don’t know if it’s a childhood fascination I had with ants, but this depiction of the fictitious Trailhead Colony reads like a family drama set in a royal household.

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How to say no to alcohol when you don’t drink

Right on cue for the festive season, how to say no to the offer of a drink, for those who don’t drink alcohol. It’s unfortunate though people feel they simply can’t say no thanks, and are compelled to make up an excuse: I’m driving, anyone? But why?

Consider that twenty-three percent of Australians over the age of fourteen don’t consume alcohol at all. And not all of these non-drinkers are underage or elderly either. People in their twenties are drinking less than their parents did when they were the same age, for a number of reasons.

Non-drinkers may be in a minority, but they are hardly an insignificant portion of the population. What’s with the pressure then to drink, if you don’t want to?

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Adam Thompson sells his wine rack and other stories

Good Weekend magazine asked nine Australian novelists to write about the year that has been. Tasmanian author Adam Thompson, whose debut book Born Into This, was published this year, wrote about selling his now disused wine-rack, a story that resonated with me, as I too no longer possess one.

It took two years to get rid of all the grog – and the lovely wine rack. I kept it close at hand to remind myself that it’s my choice not to drink, because I could, at any moment, if I wanted. I don’t need that reminder any more. And I’ll try to forget the anniversary, too. Let it all slip by, content in the knowledge that I’ve moved on.

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Minds Shine Bright writing competition 2022

Entries are open for the Minds Shine Bright writing competition, until Monday 28 February, 2022. An initiative created by Melbourne based Australian writer and film maker Amanda Scotney, Minds Shine Bright seeks to encourage excellence in writing, particularly fiction. If you’re a writer of fiction, poetry, or script-writing, looking for some recognition, and a financial incentive, this may be the opportunity you’re looking for.

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A good writer never blames their apps for a lack of productivity

Can distraction-free devices change the way we write, asks Julian Lucas, writing for the New Yorker. A writing app, a word processor, one that cuts out the clutter, menu bars, formatting options, font choices, and all the impedimenta that might distract us: would we be more productive as writers if that were the case?

But focus mode on an everything device is a meditation room in a casino. What good is it to separate writing from editing, formatting, and cluttered interfaces if you can’t separate it from the Internet? Even a disconnected computer offers plenty of opportunities for distraction: old photographs, downloaded music, or, most treacherous of all, one’s own research. And so, just as savvy entrepreneurs have resuscitated the “dumb” phone as a premium single-tasking communication device, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would revive the stand-alone word processor.

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The difference between introversion and social anxiety

Kylie Maddox Pidgeon is a Sydney based psychologist, who is also an introvert. The world needs more psychologists who are introverts, because there are some psychologists who are extraverts but appear to have little real-world understanding of introverts. To put it mildly. One once told me I needed to be more outgoing, because I seemed to be too reserved. Thanks for that.

Kylie is a psychologist, academic and introvert. I met Kylie playing netball in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales and I wouldn’t have guessed she was an introvert. She loves socialising and sparks with energy during conversation, but she says if she overdoes it, she feels drained and can experience headaches.

My favourite analogy when explaining introversion is to suggest introverts have a constantly playing media device in their minds. There’s times we’re able to turn down the volume, say for the first hour or two of a social gathering, but as time passes the volume from our in-built media device begin increasing, as the ceaseless thoughts cascading through our minds begin competing for attention. At some point we need to get away, to somewhere quiet, to make sense of this almost subconscious brainstorming.

But instead of being recognised as an introvert, our sometimes reserved demeanour can be mistaken for social anxiety. Although something else entirely, there is a link between introversion and social anxiety, but as Maddox Pidgeon points out, there is a key difference. Social anxiety occurs when a person is worried about what others will think of them. That’s generally not the case for introverts. If they’ve had enough of being at a party and want to leave, they won’t be concerned at what anyone thinks.

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Earth’s climate change black box

An aircraft’s black box contains data that may help investigators piece together what caused an accident, and hopefully ensure there isn’t a repeat of whatever went wrong. What then to make of Earth’s Black Box? It is a quadrilateral-like shaped structure that will stand in a geologically stable location, on the west coast of Tasmania, and collect climate data. Like an aircraft flight recorder, the information Earth’s black box stores is intended to one day guide a future civilisation, should global warming spell the demise of ours. Thank you, and have a nice day.

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Working from home is bad for your chess moves, and complicated work tasks

Reports of a “new” study analysing the performance of chess players who were participating in tournaments, online from home, during the pandemic, and the subsequent impact on their game, were crossing the wires yesterday. I’m not sure such a study is exactly new though, I found reports about similar research dating back to at least a year ago when I went to find out more.

Regardless, it seems the home office may not be the best place for carrying out certain mentally demanding tasks, a finding made after looking at the quality of some chess players moves which apparently were not to up to the usual standard, while they were playing from home:

According to Dr Dainis Zegners: “Chess is, in many ways, is similar to the work of the knowledge society’s office workplaces: the game is strategic, analytical and takes place under time pressure. Cognitive skills used in chess are also used for complicated tasks and strategic decision making such as drafting a legal contract, preparing a tender document or managerial decisions – the kind of tasks that require clear and precise thinking.

The approach some organisations are taking in having employees present in the workplace a few days a week may then be sensible. Come into the office when something taxing needs doing, and then stay home the rest of the time. As long as we don’t have to spend five full days in the office.

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Winners of the Australian Podcast Awards 2021

Last night the winners of the Australian Podcast Awards were announced, at an event hosted by Sydney’s venerable Ritz Cinema. The Podcast of the Year award went to Private Affairs – which also won Best Fiction Podcast – a show billed as a “romantic-dramedy fiction podcast about a couple learning how to navigate the complexities of an interracial and intercultural relationship.” Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard won The Spotlight Award with her production A Podcast of One’s Own with Julia Gillard, while Tough Love, by Sydney based radio host and musician Linda Marigliano, took out the Best Lockdown Podcast.

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Bondi says: break up with the cup

Bondi BYO cup week, 1 to 10 December, 2021

BYO Cup Week is an initiative by bru coffee, a cafe at Sydney’s Bondi Beach, and Australian journalist and blogger Sarah Wilson, to bring about a reduction in the use of disposable takeaway coffee cups. Between now – 1 December actually – and Friday 10 December 2021, coffee drinkers across Sydney are being urged to switch to re-usable cups, sometimes known as keep-cups, for their caffeine fix. Contrary to what many of us might think, disposable coffee cups are an environmental nuisance:

Although disposable cups look like they are made of paper and recyclable, the majority contain plastics that don’t break down and are damaging to the environment. According to the NSW Environment Protection Authority, 1 billion disposable coffee cups end up in landfill sites across Australia each year. It is estimated that Bondi contributes 75,000 cups a week to that annual total.

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The metaverse, you can log out anytime, but you can never leave

The Metaverse as seen by Sydney based writer and musician, Penny Flanagan:

Call me paranoid, but I’m starting to think that Zuckerberg’s end game is to stop all of us from existing physically in the real world. I think he wants to “make the time spent on the internet better” so that he can turn us all into 24/7 flubby, docile sources of advertising revenue. In truth, his ideal for the metaverse is a world where the internet is so satisfying, you won’t want or need to leave it for the real world.

I can see where Flanagan’s coming from, particularly in light of the recent lockdowns that have forced many of us to participate in an elemental iteration of the Metaverse. If you, that is, consider the likes of Zoom, Slack, Facetime, et al, to be a prototype of the virtual environment Meta/Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proposes creating.

And while there’s little doubt Zuckerberg is eyeing potential revenue, I see benefits in some of the ideas on the table. I’m also not doubting some people could become completely immersed in this new virtual realm in time, but I think we’re some long-way off from seeing the Metaverse eventuate in the way Zuckerberg envisages it.

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