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Corona diary 03

Updated: 11/04/2020.

Third week of Corona virus “situation” in Serbia. First and second week got their own, long and boring posts. Diaries are numerated with two digits, because I’m an optimist and expect this Shitstormβ„’ to not last longer than 99 weeks. While I am generally a pessimist, on this I am optimistic – in two years, or sooner, Corona virus will not be a great threat.

Contents:

  1. Monday – Think of a subheading yourself!
  2. Tuesday – The whining Italians
  3. Wednesday – April fools
  4. Thursday – Routine, productivity
  5. Friday
  6. Saturday
  7. Sunday – lockdown chill


1. Monday – Think of a subheading yourself!

30th of March, 2020: These days, Luke has been very interested in national flags. By now he knows them all by heart. During our last video chat, he noted the details of the Mexican flag: the eagle and the snake. I asked if he knew what those symbolized. So now another Pandora’s box is open (to my delight I must say), where symbolism of each country flag is explored and learned. Now I’m even more certain he’ll be a politician/diplomat when he grows up. Saw that in him ever since he was a small baby: he could look you straight in the eyes and smile, while defecating.

As for the fun and sports: the president has been threatening with 24 hour curfew unless people take the situation more seriously and stop mingling. Last week I wrote a bit about human and animal rights. Numbers of infected are piling up – while the publicly announced number of deceased is at 4 now.

Last havoc that hit our country were great floods in the spring of 2014 (Luke was born at that time so I joked calling him “Demian”). At that time, without any public discussion and much announcement, a new workers-related law was passed. Reducing worker’s rights drastically. One of the beauties of it was that you get 65% of your pay while on a sick leave.

These days, my countrymen are suddenly amazed that the law relates to the doctors as well. Those who get sick, or sent to quarantine for Corona virus, get 65% of their pay. Internet is “on fire” about how unfair that is. Better late than never, but I’m not sure now is the time to debate about a new workers-related legislation. Once this is over, most will probably forget about it. As for my stance on the subject – this sums it up:

Unlike capitalism, communism is a goal worth striving for - no money, no borders...
Unlike capitalism, communism is a goal worth striving for – no money, no borders…


Not on active duty at the day-job for this week. Spent less than an hour on the phone with co-workers, then went on a lengthy training session with SWMBO. She was getting more and more anxious last week, while I was working and she was alone at home. She’s quite scared of the virus. On the bright side – she’s getting better at Civilization VI.


2. Tuesday – The whining Italians

31st of March, 2020: more first world problems – why did they put that guy with “weak” beard in the video at all?! πŸ™‚


Thought of that song because SWMBO used to play it a lot a few summers back. Nothing too special with the song in and of itself. This is how a song and a video really should be done:


Isn’t that just beautiful? Better music, great lyrics and even the video is smart and even erotic, without being “tits in your face”. πŸ™‚

The video reminded me of an animated series I loved as a kid, Terrahawks:


Mixed it with the Thunderbirds, used for the video:


Blast from the past. πŸ™‚

Again – back from the important, to the funny stuff:
from what I can read and hear, the logistics for handling the Corona diseased people are far from well organized and sufficient – as one would expect, even the countries that are well organized have problems in dealing with something like this.

Many people have started complaining about “the dictatorship” and how Serbian authorities couldn’t wait to do this. While I have no illusions about the care for the people by any regime here from the 1988 on, I don’t really think now is the time to complain about such things. Before the Shitstormβ„’? Definitely. After? Of course. Just not now.

The public “threat” of 24 hour curfew is most probably (in my opinion) not made because our president is evil, but because he must be aware of what a great logistics problem that poses. Checking people’s IDs, discerning justified goings out from the others, checking all that. Arranging delivery of food and other necessary supplies to all the citizens… it’s a logistics nightmare. I’m convinced that 24 hour curfew is the last thing politicians want right now – but I’m also sure it will be imposed when more people get sick and many more people die from the virus. Chosen as the lesser of two evils.

Suggested to SWMBO we do a supply run today, since by the end of the week, I could bet a beer that 24 hour curfew will be imposed – judging that from reading the news reports “between the lines”. Supply our parents and ourselves – while the shops are open and while we’re healthy (or with no symptoms at least). She likes to sleep in, while now there’s a 5 PM curfew. So not too much daylight to use. Suggested we skip… OMG… the morning exercise (first world problems πŸ™‚ ) in order to go shopping earlier, since it’s a work-day and there should be less crowd in the morning. Of course, the exercise is very good, especially these days – it helps with staying calm, along with being fit and healthy, but we could skip one day.

As for the title of this “chapter” – in the past few days “them Internets” are being filled with videos of Italians burning the EU flag. Why? Well, if I understand the perspective properly:

  • Virus breaks out in China. It is hushed at first, but then admitted publicly.
  • In January, China puts an entire city/region under isolation/quarantine. The shit looks serious.
  • Meanwhile, all the other countries are like: “Naah, it will be fine!” Business as usual. While anyone reading the news could tell it is really serious.
  • Disease starts in Italy. Italians are like: “let us go to football matches and party on the weekends, we don’t want to change our way of life, it’s just a flu” (someone should trademark the “it’s just a flu”).
  • Many Italian politicians support that point of view.
  • Disease starts to spread very quickly and looks really serious. Everyone is suggesting reduced movement, quarantines, but many Italians are still like “naaah, it will be fine!”
  • Shit really hits the fan – thousands are dying. Italians are in panic, not able to handle the situation. At the same time, all the other EU countries are facing the same threat. Now is NOT the time to send any spare supplies and help – everyone is expecting to end up in the same trouble.
  • Italians have eventually taken the necessary measures. Too late, but better late than never. Of course, the economy is struggling.
  • Mean while, countries like Germany had invested in a good health care system, paid their share of money to the common EU bank, and taken measures that they see fit to fight the disease.
  • Now, Italy is asking the EU bank to give each Italian 1,200 euros per month, to help them with the economy.
  • EU refuses to do that.
  • Italians are outraged how EU won’t help them, and burning the EU flags.
  • German Hesse region finance minister kills himself allegedly over “Corona virus worries”.
  • Italians still burn EU flags for them not willing to send them the money.

Can those who won’t help themselves expect help from others? I sympathize with the problems of Italian people, but it’s the same shit that went on with my country, especially with the last US bombing: you can’t do stupid, irresponsible things and not pay the price for it – or go and blame everyone else. Surely, many people were responsible and aware, but on a country level – it’s the average (idiot) that counts, just like with the elections. Decisions of majority, or, often, of only masses that are large enough (critical mass), even if they aren’t a majority, is what can determine the outcome for all – everyone ends up on the same boat.

It’s not fair and I have no idea how to fix it in current systems of any country (communist dictatorship, if responsible and honest people do bother to go into politics sounds like the most promising option in my opinion). It sucks.

Anyway, my proposal for supplies shopping was accepted. πŸ™‚ SWMBO had started complaining how this Corona stuff is really getting on her nerves, being more and more difficult and frustrating, messing with our daily lives. I replied that no people we know have gotten ill, nor died. “That is the most important thing and most we could hope for in a situation like this. Plus we have food, water, electricity, even the Internet! Things might get a lot worse in the coming months. We can expect to get into really problematic and difficult situations and choices. We’ll get through it, but we need to stay calm and be happy for anything that is still good and look for that in every day.” Had a real short politician-bullshit speech (though I meant all of it). But I think it went well with her – she accepted it and agreed. So we prepared and went “hunting”. πŸ™‚

Moderately sized queue
Moderately sized queue

Afternoon: shopping for supplies took quite some time – then the time to deliver all. By the time we were finished shopping, more and more people started coming to the stores and were hauling stuff. Don’t have a TV, don’t watch the news, don’t listen to the radio – so still don’t know if there are any changes – will have to Google.

Had a small argument in front of a supermarket. A man, wearing a face mask, came close to me and started talking. He was obviously anxious, upset – we all are. SWMBO asked him to step away, politely, but with less tact that I would have shown – and he started arguing, of course. I just laughed and told them to calm down – it was all nonsense after all. SWMBO was then quite upset with me, for “never taking her side!” πŸ™‚ Women: can’t kill ’em, can’t eat ’em! πŸ™‚

Did manage to calm her down later – explaining that people vent in different ways – the man was obviously upset and loosing it. By the time we got home, she was a lot better. Deciding to walk outside with a good friend of hers (let’s call her Linda – as the supermodel, since she is a model as well). While I was to unload the “supplies” and pack it all in the fridge etc. All in all she’s taking it all rather well – I couldn’t stand being stuck with me for days. πŸ™‚

Evening update: well, it seems that government has promised 100 euros per month for each citizen over 18 years old, after the state of emergency is proclaimed over (could be a year from now for all I know). And companies are let to not pay the taxes during the state of emergency (they’ll have to pay it all afterwards).

For the past two weeks, every evening at 8 PM, people were clapping on their windows and balconies. It was instructed by the media as a form of “support for all the hard-working health workers”. Last evening there was almost no clapping and some people were playing an anti-regime song loudly. This evening – no clapping whatsoever, with the anti-regime song playing. The singer from that video has been arrested a few days ago, for “not respecting the quarantine”. She had returned from a concert in Montenegro on 14th of March, while a 14 day quarantine for all the citizens returning from abroad was pronounced on the 17th of march, prolonged to 28 days about a week ago. She claims she was unaware of her being obliged to stay in quarantine, so left her house after only 7 days of isolation.


3. Wednesday – April fools

1st of April 2020: Today, our government finally closed betting and gambling houses. Those guys must have a very good lobby – since all the pubs have been closed for about 2 weeks now if memory serves me well.

Spent over 4 hours playing post apocalyptic Fallout Tactics – I like playing computer games from time to time, ever since the early childhood. For me it’s a great way to sort of “unwind” and get completely lost in a fantastic universe. SWMBO and I had agreed to make it a computer games day.

In the afternoon, switching between playing and reading the news, she concluded that reading the news is useless – so many conflicting / contradicting information. We both joked how we’re fortunate to have me. πŸ™‚ She calls me “the professor”. I do know at least a bit about a lot of things.

A colleague called me saying her 12 year old is having problems with her computer science homework, asking for help. The school is being done remotely these days – learning from home, with lectures given on the national television and over the Internet. Homework was about making a basic function in Python. I had never programmed anything in Python, but knowing the basics of programming, algorithms etc, it was relatively easy to figure out the syntax and do the task. But the problem was explaining that to the kid, over a Viber chat. From what I could gather, they had not been explained the basics: basic loops and branching (not sure if this is the proper English term), variables, what functions are in the first place etc. The kid was surprisingly patient, as I was doing my best to explain the basics, so that the solution would become clear. It was far from a good way to get the kid interested in the topic – the magic of making a computer do what you need / want and understanding the logic behind it.

People are getting pissed with this isolation. Sure, it is a hassle, no way of disputing that. But I tried to make SWMBO see the bright side (there’s always some kind of bright side to most situations). We have the Internet, with the option of making video calls. It doesn’t beat the live thing, but it’s a lot better than nothing. We have food, electricity, hot water – that hasn’t changed from “the normal times”. If you wake up early enough and go to be early, you do have more than enough time to go out and do many of the things you want. I still can’t talk her into making her own YouTube channel for makeup and cooking tutorials. Nor to start making content for her makeup studio website – think now is the best time to use for that, since she can’t work in her studio.

For the news and the social media: I find it very interesting, as a phenomena, to read and document how things change in the reports. At least with Serbian media and the local social network using population. So far it went about like this:

  • There’s a deadly virus spreading from China.
  • It’s just a flu – nothing to worry about for us, Chinese health care is very bad (as if ours is any good!?).
  • Oh, this is dangerous, it started here – we should lock down everything. While politicians and government news agencies are trying to down play it.
  • Measures get enforced.
  • After about a week – why did the measures have to be so strict. In the mean time, the government criticizes the citizens for not being disciplined enough, threatening with the new, stricter measures.
  • Pictures of improvised hospitals at the Belgrade fair (was used as a nazi prison / execution camp in WW2) are published. They look dreadful. People are scared of being forced to go there.
  • Third week – people have started complaining more and more about undemocratic, unconstitutional measures, needlessly limiting our freedom. Accusing the regime of using the state of emergency to deal with any opposition.
  • By the middle of this third week, many people are sharing the news how this whole Corona virus thing is made up, exaggerated. Claiming that the hospitals, even in Italy and the USA are half-empty (sharing some videos of empty hospitals – with no date, no clear location – as I’ve noticed). Another “hit” are the stats of the number of deceased in Italy – showing that the number is lower than in 2019. In general, the public opinion is shifting towards what people want to believe: that there is no deadly virus and that we should go back to business as usual.

While it is interesting to follow and note, it is also rather tiring. In my opinion – most of the media is not objective (paid/lobbied by someone), most of the journalists don’t check the facts and just go with pompous headings to get many clicks. While 90% of the people are idiots about 90% of the things in the world (which includes me – I’m fairly competent for IT and bicycle related subjects, but layman for most other stuff). So when an idiot reads a report, even in case the report is written objectively and it does state the facts, the idiot’s interpretation of it, the conclusions idiot makes from it – that’s most often something to laugh about. Here’s an example:

Dihydrogen monoxide

Dihydrogen monoxide:
It is a major component of acid rain.
contributes to the “greenhouse effect“.
may cause severe burns.
contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
as an industrial solvent and coolant.
in nuclear power plants.
in the production of styrofoam.
as a fire retardant.
in many forms of cruel animal research.
in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.
as an additive in certain “junk-foods” and other food products.

These are all 100% correct, indisputable facts about dihydrogen monoxide. It is also a fact that, in Serbia, it is put into the tea served to children – at schools, and kindergardens. I can testify, in the court of law, with evidence, that every cup of tea served in Serbian kindergardens and schools contains vast quantities of dihydrogen monoxide!

Now, does this worry, or scare you? It might, for now. However, here’s the molecular formula for it: H2O. It’s the fucking water!

This is a simple, obvious example of how hype and misinformation can easily confuse an average idiot (again, including myself here). What we desperately lack are trusted, reputable expert sources of information. The people with a proven integrity, not influenced by money, or blackmails, who are also experts on the subject, explaining it so that the rest of us idiots can understand.

In addition to that, in order for the people to cope with the truth (without any panic, outrage etc) – we need to invest in real education, teaching people how to think critically, how to notice frauds and hoaxes, how to check the facts. And, just as important: teaching people to help each other, the solidarity. We’re all in the same boat – sharing the same planet.

An obvious problem to that, for which I have no solution is that we all want the same thing: to be happy. However, everyone’s idea of what would make them happy differs. Some prefer to not know too much. Some long for the material wealth, believing that will make them happy. So it is a very difficult task. Yet, it is a task and a goal worth pursuing. Unlike the contemporary running after the money at all costs. While destroying the planet, destroying families (children can now, under Serbian law, report the parents if they hit them – for whatever reason).

I quite enjoy writing so much drivel – this casual blog form is nice. For me at least. I’m sure it’s useless for anyone else, but don’t really care. My other websites are kept informative, non-political (non-controversial), as brief as possible and quite useful. This, however, is just for laughs. Looking forward to reading this in a few years time and cringing (if I make it that long πŸ™‚ ).


4. Thursday – Routine, productivity

The 2nd of April, 2020: We’ve sort of gotten into a routine. Getting used to the “new normal”. With all the curfews, not getting close to people, and other measures. After the morning training, SWMBO went to pick her friend from the hospital – she got a baby. πŸ™‚ So I spent the late morning / early afternoon walking around town.

It is so beautiful. Nice, sunny day. Most of the non-natives, many with somewhat less polished manners, had left for their home towns. There are very few cars in the street, the air seems clearer. There’s a bit of good in every bad (and vice versa, of course).

I spent the late afternoon and the evening productively, writing a new post for my cycling website: how to transport kids on a bicycle. It’s been planned for weeks, but today I got the time to finally write it. My post about procrastination antidote.

SWMBO decided to start learning Russian, to use the curfew time productively. She suggesting I start learning German. πŸ™‚ I prefer focusing on more website articles, but if I find the time – why not.

It turns out my prognosis for 24 hour curfew was partially correct. Today the new measures announced boil down to:

  • No going out (curfew) from Saturday 1 PM, to Monday 5 AM – so just about 40 hour curfew. Not full 24/7, at least, for now.
  • No more than 2 people together in the same place.

People are getting really annoyed with this. I still think it is necessary, because our health care system is fucked and won’t handle many sick people, while the numbers of Corona infected are piling up.

A journalist from my city got arrested yesterday – for publishing two articles that have “caused concern to the public in the middle of a state of emergency”. Many people, especially the opposition and other journalists are cursing the government… I actually read the articles.

First one is talking about how Serbia has the highest number of Corona virus victims (dead people) in the region (the neighbouring countries). Blaming it all on our poor health system and government’s poor handling of the situation.

Well, the article was published when our death count was at 28. This is still early and far from a statistically valid number. She could have checked the facts and consulted and expert before publishing low quality click-bait article full of drivel (my personal opinion – and I am by no means a fan of our government, nor have any sort of faith in our health care system). People are scared – now is not the time to scare them even more. Publishing something like that was just plain stupid.

None the less, that article didn’t get her in trouble – poor quality journalism rarely gets punished in any country. What got her in trouble was another article, explaining how poorly equipped and organized our city’s local clinic is. Quoting “doctors from the clinic who asked to remain anonymous”. Based on my experience with our country’s institutions, including the health care system – I’d be surprised if the article isn’t correct. Should she have published it now? It certainly didn’t help anyone. Made already scared people be afraid even more. This is a state of emergency.

By the way – the other article is also quite poorly written, it is a low grade journalism. I don’t know if she’s a good journalist, or a poor one, but these two articles aren’t very good – at least in my opinion.

However, after the public outrage, she was let go. No law and order here – just boils down to lobbying and who “shouts louder”. If she broke the law, she shouldn’t be released. If she didn’t – then those who had arrested her should be in trouble. This way: we arrest her a bit, then people complain, we let her go, never mind the laws.

I have no illusions the state of emergency won’t be abused as much as possible by the government and the corporations paying the government. Would be amazed if some new, stricter, more oppressive measures aren’t introduced permanently, even after the “Corona threat” ends. The best choice, especially for the young people, is probably to look for work abroad and leave this mess of a country.

In the mean time – Twitter allegedly deleted 8,500 accounts, suspected of being fake / bot accounts used for political propaganda (pro regime) of Serbian government / ruling party. Link.

On the Corona note, a video that quite nicely explains the phenomena, difference from “the ordinary flu” etc:


While the video above was made by journalists, without clearly stating their sources for all the information given, here’s an interview with a doctor who’s been working with epidemics for about 30 years:


5. Friday

3rd of April 2020: It seems that people are getting more and more anxious. Of course, over this week, my communication was mainly limited to the Internet. On a local Facebook group dedicated to WordPress, I was accused of shilling – by no less than two different moderators. I had been a member of the group for about a year and, since the start, when someone asks a question that I had already answered (written about) on my IT website, I’d just post a link.

Today, a member asked about migrating a website from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. I posted a link to a tutorial video I had made that demonstrates that. This triggered the “you are now officially warned” and similar bullshit from the immature moderators. Suggesting I just copy-paste the explanations from my website, without offering any links.

Well, that makes no sense, since most of my articles contain pictures and are better formated than Facebook text-only replies can be. While the website is completely free and with no ads getting in the way of the content. I replied that I post links to my website because I know that content is reliable and accurate, since I check when I write – the content serves me as a reminder of all the things I’ve tried and confirmed to work, why write the same things over and over again?

To that, the reply was that I should just copy/paste the text, with no linking – because linking is advertising.

So I replied that they should decide – if linking to one’s own content is allowed, or not. If it’s not, it’s a rule that I’d accept. And posted link explaining why I publish my content (yup, that technically was another link to my website, but didn’t want to copy/pste πŸ™‚ ).

What I didn’t wish to discuss is that, while I would certainly respect any rules, my rule is that I don’t write, nor copy/paste texts that are already published on my website. If I can’t post a link, I just won’t post anything. While I would feel bad if I only took advice, and never shared any of my own knowledge, if an online Internet community prevents me from using the basic advantage of the Internet – simple linking, I am fine with not sharing anything. Yes, there are many people who shill, but I’m not one of those and my website is mostly a tutorial one – with things explained the way I would have liked to have had them explained to me. Not many people bother to write good quality content and share it for free.

Had to share this rant – it did make me think. People, including myself, often can’t tell when they are being jerks. So I don’t intend to argue any further. Whatever they decide on the policy is fine as far as I’m concerned.

Spent most of the day testing and comparing Redis, and Memcached server caching methods – concluded that, now practically obsolete Memcached method, is not measurably slower with my websites and servers, but still decided to switch to the more up-to-date Redis, since it is definitely not slower. Things change rapidly in IT and I try to keep up.

SWMBO is making fast progress with her Russian. πŸ™‚

In the evening, I got a call from a senior colleague (the one just “below” Saruman and Grima, the least slimy one), asking me to check on the health of all the colleagues, on a daily basis and report any changes. So I spent the evening chatting with my colleagues. There’s a cool Serbian hip-hop song with chorus “Are you good?” (with witty, semi-political and satirical lyrics). Most of the colleagues know it, since I had played it and we have lots of inside-jokes related to rhymes from the song (“I’m as good as Bruce Wayne’s butler” – for example πŸ™‚ ). Anyway, I called each one and sang the chorus, stating that I was officially asked to do it and report back. πŸ™‚ Dad jokes, yes.

I keep in touch with all the colleagues through our “STATE OF EMERGENCY!!?!!” Viber group – for now it’s still mostly full of dad-jokes and pictures of tits and asses (not work/wife friendly πŸ™‚ ).


6. Saturday

April the 4th, 2020: had to wake SWMBO up earlier than she would have liked – for her morning on-line teaching work. Made coffee, made the bed (as usual, just a bit earlier). On Monday I’m supposed to go back to the day-job. She likes when I do that and said that she’s worried about staying alone from Monday. I replied that it will probably be just the 5 work days, then I’ll be at home for at least a week (I’m not really certain of that, since people will start getting ill and there will be more and more work, with fewer people, but can always hope for the best).

Went out just before the 13:00 lock-down (until Monday 5 AM). Nice, sunny day. Later had a chat with a former colleague. He has a theory that Corona started from anti-flu (seasonal) vaccines, that some people take preventively. Thinks it’s deliberate. Well, this state of affairs sure suits the large capital. And I’ve learned that the sickest things you can’t even imagine have been done – and are being done, so can’t say his theory is impossible. Improbable? Probably, in my opinion – but no one can really tell, can we? πŸ™‚

Online news I can read, along with the info shared on the social media and forums, is becoming more and more silly. With all sorts of contradicting, conflicting information, (conspiracy) theories etc.

Spent the afternoon helping a colleague with making a WordPrees website. Being able to post links to the articles already written on my IT website did save me a lot of time and effort.


7. Sunday – lockdown chill

5th of April 2020: lockdown was on since saturday 1 PM, until Monday 5 AM. Spent most of the time chillin’ with SWMBO. Realized I have no playing cards at home. Was convinced they are in my beach-side backpack. So much for good preparations.

Among other things, we did an on-line IQ test. Got 121 – I’ve always scored over 120 and below 130 on IQ tests, so at least that’s consistent (if on the low side πŸ™‚ ). Not good enough for Mensa, obviously. πŸ™‚

Started doing some articles for my IT website and translated a brilliant article on the Corona virus – from Serbian to English.

Continued at Corona diary 04.

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