A few things I learned from getting COVID-tested.

Overnight Friday to Saturday my sleep was troubled by sore throat and post-nasal drip. Oh no! I only just got over a bad cold a few weeks ago! Again?? Again.

I admit I hesitated before calling it in. (Am I really sick?) Because once you engage in it, everything else has to stop. Our family’s plans for the weekend were instantly stalled. Just ordinary life stuff, but it has momentum, and you feel it as you pull the cord.

So that’s the first thing I want to highlight. That friction where we delay and sigh about it and try and rationalise to ourselves. We all do it! It’s how our brains work! And as a behaviour guy, masters degree in social psychology, I watched myself doing the same stuff.

Here’s the workaround. Two of them, in fact. First, make a plan, now. The plan isn’t complicated: if I get sick, I’ll call the healthline. Visualise it, even! I’ll look up the phone number, I’ll sit on my bed, I’ll get a pen and paper… The more details the better. That gives your brain a script to follow. Our brains love scripts, especially in the face of stressful situations. And being faced with taking an action that will upend the momentum of ordinary life? That is stressful! (Let alone the possibility you might have COVID!)

Second, make the plan with the people in your life. The people who will be affected when you pull that cord. Unless they are dicks, they will be all for taking action! Say it to each other – if one of us gets sick, we do the thing, even though it will be a nuisance.

So that’s the workaround for the hesitation, and the bad feeling and unease around slamming on the brakes over a wee sniffle (as your brain will rationalise it for you). Plan now, it helps then.

I called Healthline instead of the local Dr because it was weekend. They were great, very helpful and clear. MAD respect for all the people working those phones, I feel like they are nailing it, obviously working off a good combo of clear scripts and freedom to ask questions. They gave me the contact details for the local testing station, so i called them up and made an appointment. Smooth! They asked what kind of car I’d be driving up in, and my mind completely blanked, all i could say was “blue”. I had to go and check to remind myself!

While waiting for the test, i began self-isolating, as advised by healthline. there are some logistics involved, obviously! We can cancelled all the stuff we were lined up to do on the weekend, and my lovely partner began to figure out the details.

(Worth mentioning that i was sick, my brain was fuzzy, and the aforementioned stressful context hurts thinking – so having someone else do this kind of problem-solving is incredibly handy.)

Hopped in the car, went to get the test. it was quick and easy and the staff were so kind and clear. It didn’t hurt at all, but it did hit my gag reflex, definitely a bit unpleasant but over very quickly. Definitely not bad enough to be afraid of having one!

Then back home with some extra info about self-isolation. And so the next two days were spent with me sectioned off from my family! Daughter was horrified that she couldn’t hug me but pleased to have her mum doing a sleepover in her room.

Because we only have one bathroom, complete isolation was impossible. Solution was a pack of antibacterial wipes + masking. I wore a mask most of the time, to stop breathing particles on to surfaces, and when i went to the toilet I’d take a wipe to sanitise handles etc.

This is another piece of advice: get a pack of wipes NOW so you don’t need to think about it if and when you end up in household isolation.

The other tricky thing, oddly enough, is washing dishes. You can be delivered your meals by your loving family/flat mates/whoever, but then those plates and cutlery need attention after. We left the dishwasher open for me to load my dishes in directly, and also just let some dishes pile up in the corner of the bedroom in expectation of me getting the all-clear today.

…and i did! Text came through 46 hours after the test, and now i am free to breathe on whatever i like and hug my daughter again. Lovely.

So to recap my advice: mentally rehearse what you’ll do if you get symptoms. Do it with your family/flat mates/whoever, to create a bit of confidence and shared accountability. Get some disinfectant wipes now and put them aside.

We all need to be diligent about testing! There are still common colds and so on circulating, so there’s a good chance someone in your household will end up needing to do this, especially as level 2 is sticking around. A bit of mental prep now will make it much easier to give in to the process if and when that day comes.

I’m grateful to be part of the big NZ team. Be excellent to each other!

Chilcot

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Me in 2004: “But that’s what he deserves: to fall from grace, spectacularly, hugely, humiliatingly, with all his self-delusions laid bare.”

We knew all this years ago of course. Again, me in 2004:

how come no-one has pointed out the most damning fact to come to light in the whole Hutton inquiry, namely this: Downing Street sought to make the dossier as strong as possible in order to garner support for the war. The only conclusion one can reach from this is that they had already decided to go to war on grounds other than WMDs. If they already had enough evidence of WMDs to go to war, they would not have needed to strengthen the dossier.

My rage against Tony Blair burns white-hot as always and the Chilcot report gives me hope: not that he will answer to his crimes (oh how I wish) but that the way the world talks about Blair will finally change. Because despite everything, he has been treated with something like reverence by media and political elites ever since he stepped away from the role of PM.

Maybe this is what it takes, then, to convince the powerful and mighty and wise that they were obviously foolish all along: seven years of careful work producing millions of considered words. How long, one wonders, would the report need to be for the courtiers to accept the Emperor really did have no clothes?

Me, right after the Glasgow march against the war in February 2003:

The ball, I feel, is in Tony Blair’s court – and there is every sign he is unmoved by the display of doubt in the drive to war. This will have immense political consequences, and soon.

“soon”!

Remaking ANZAC Day

Every year on April 25, New Zealand (and Australia but I’m talking NZ here) marks ANZAC Day, which commemorates soldiers who fell in wars great and small. Particularly it remembers the horrific slaughter at Gallipoli in World War I, which is often seen as the moment where NZ became a nation.

It is always a contested event: the nationalism and militarism of the day are obvious, and there is a fundamental ambiguity over whether the solemn ceremonies deplore the violence, or strengthen the narrative that it was necessary. But each year, attempts to complicate the mythology of ANZAC day are met with furious resistance by a populace who simply want to remember their relatives from previous generations who died doing their best in a horrid distant war, and to pray that no such horror ever comes again. The talkback radio phones ring hot decrying the insensivity of protesters.

This year, two fresh threads in this critique have emerged that seem fruitful as ways to attack the nationalist and militarist mythmaking around the day but seem to have avoided this fierce backlash.

First, the idea of explicitly expanding ANZAC Day’s commemorations to include the wars within New Zealand (commonly known as the Māori Land Wars). The idea is covered beautifully by Toby Morris’s latest Pencilsword comic strip, “Lest We Forget“.

Second, a set of guerrilla sculptures erected around Wellington showing a soldier receiving Field Punishment Number 1, a brutal punishment meted out to pacifists who refused to fight. Public opinion is generally in agreement now that this is a blemish on our past. Protest group “Peace Action Wellington”, normally being tarred and feathered at this time of year for its protest actions, is this time being written about with something approaching admiration in the daily paper, and the comment section as I write is solidly in favour of the sculptures.

Great work on both accounts. I look forward to these threads being expanded further in years to come.

The problem with men

This has been an unpleasant week; by which I mean I have been reminded many times that for women, every week is an unpleasant week. All this came across my screen.

The dark side of Guardian comments
“New research into our own comment threads provides the first quantitative evidence for what female journalists have long suspected: that articles written by women attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men, regardless of what the article is about.”

The women abandoned to their online abusers
On the internet, if I ever complain and say; ‘This has happened, I’m sick of it’, people say; ‘You’re on the internet, what do you expect?’
“There’s no support for women at all, from the police or anyone else.”

This horrifying and newly trendy online harasment tactic is ruining careers
“Both 8chan and Kotaku in Action regularly crowdsource research into the histories of private individuals who’ve done little more than post about feminism on social media.”

I will come forward
How a prominent New Zealand music identity conducted a troubling series of relationships with young women, including girls as young as 12.

Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem
“I know that if I speak out against the abuses myself and my friends have suffered as a result of our participation in the “friendly gaming community” I can expect to be silenced with extreme prejudice.”

But at least there was also, in response to that last one:

For good men to see nothing
I have a list of things you can do.

Football Game & Eric Garner

Podcast confluence today. I listened to this:

You Are Not So Smart episode 41, which opens with a discussion of a divisive Ivy League football match in 1951, and the studies where students from the two schools watched tape of the match and simply couldn’t see their own side’s poor behaviour but were really quick to spot infractions from the other side.

Then I listened to this:

This American Life: Cops See It Differently, part 2, which opens with a TAL reporter watching the video of Eric Garner’s arrest with her friend the police officer, and her astonishment that they couldn’t agree on what they were seeing.

Transcript of the TAL episode is not up as I type but should appear at that link in a few days.

No transcript of the YANSS podcast, but mostly McRaney’s reading from his own book, and the relevant section is conveniently available in this excerpt from the publisher.)

Ruminator: Rape & NZ culture

I expanded the first chunk of that last post into a longer piece for the Ruminator: Rape is easy here.

It’s another example of how I’m using the existence of the Ruminator as a prompt and motivator for a different style of writing, with a different set of goals. (e.g. I write here often for myself, whereas there I often write to whatever audience I imagine.) I’m very pleased to be a contributor to the Ruminator and intend to keep sending them content.

The Ruminator is also fundraising. In theory “pay our writers” is part of the goal but I’ll just be happy if it covers the ongoing costs of hosting and registration. If you like what the Ruminator is doing, you might want to send a few virtual coins its way…

The racism in the Trayvon case is here:

The justification [of self-defense]… is not available to a person who… initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless… Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm….

There’s the racism. Right there.

It all hinges on that “reasonable belief”. In the culture of racial anxiety and safety paranoia that dominates certain swathes of the USA, it is much easier for a jury to accept that a white man reasonably believes he is in such danger from a black man, than the reverse.

(Note that the accused doesn’t need to be a racist for this to have an effect. Nor does the judge, nor the prosecution or defence, nor the jury.)
(Yes, Zimmerman wasn’t white. Still counts.)
(Yes, the legislation says that the basis of the belief must be the degree of force. Still counts. A punch from a black man is straight-up more terrifying than a punch from a white man.)
(The blockquote above is my selective quoting from the relevant Florida legislation, as excerpted by Ta-Nehisi Coates – read his post too.)

Ruminator: Pink vs Blue

Yesterday turned out to be an interesting day. There was winning at basketball, which happens rarely enough these days that it’s a happy moment indeed. There was completing the serialisation of “in move”, my teenage-boys-in-the-Hutt novel, about which more soon (I need to get the ebook version prepared for release). There was getting a heat pump installed, hurrah for that. But the big thing was Pink vs Blue.

Pink vs Blue was a post I wrote over at The Ruminator. It’s about how being a dad to a little girl has given me some new avenues for thinking about the way our culture codes and scripts gender in a really limiting way. I spent a while scooping together lots of bits and pieces I’d been thinking and feeling for a while, and lined them up in what I hoped was an illuminating way.

As usual with this sort of stuff, the writing of it is also the thinking about it – I look for turns of phrase or metaphors or rhetorical flourishes that feel like they help me understand. Like if I can just line up the words in the right way, I’ll unlock some hidden secret. Sometimes it does feel like that.

Anyway, I’m pretty proud of this post, because it’s very personal and also very general, and I tried hard to get it right. It’s taken off in a moderate sort of way, lots of shares by people I’ve never heard of. Easily the most widely circulated thing I’ve ever written (excepting that time I cut and pasted a few Wikileaks tweets and added the words “this is interesting” and it went crazy on Reddit).

You can find it here. I hope you’ll have a read, and if you are so moved, do pass it on to anyone else who might be interested.