Lockdown 3, Week 1

I didn’t document lockdown two, as it really didn’t seem to change things much. Work happened as normal, my cycling dropped off somewhat due to the weather and other issues, and I started using the tube again to get to the lab. The District Line heading west was mostly empty unless you hit particular times; even at its most busy, it was nowhere near pre-pandemic usage. Masks seemed to be in use by most people, often just skimming or sitting below the nose. Those determined to make a point of not wearing a mask were as blatant about it as possible. Groups of teenage males seemed to be the most likely to ignore mask and social distancing requirements.

Monday 4th January 2021
First day back at work. Walked from home to Stratford (9 miles or so) then caught the bus to Mile End. An easy enough walk, but not one I’m likely to do too frequently. I followed the usual route I’d cycle.
The day was mostly meetings about teaching and getting things up and running the in the lab. Rumours we may be about to go into Lockdown 3 started at lunchtime, two of the PhD students expressed concerns about how this would impact experiments and their progression. Unfortunately, it’s all up in the air.
I left early enough to get and empty train home.
We’re in Lockdown 3, but don’t call it that. No word from the university regarding the lockdown, I’m going to assume it’s a repeat of Lockdown 1 until told otherwise.

 Tuesday 5th January 2021
Cycled to work. The bike needs some attention, still making some odd noises.
Still so word from the university, I shut down the lab again and head home.

Wednesday 6th January 2021
Woking from home today, it’s online student induction all day; I may as well do this from the comfort of home with all the Tea I can drink on hand.
Before the induction kicks off, I receive an email from the university that boils down to “Business as usual”. I find out from a follow up email that I’m an

Induction goes well, it’s a good group of students this year. It’s a shame we may never meet any of them face to face.
I spend the evening watching a bunch of cunts attack the US Capitol. I miss the final eviction of the terrorists because I’m asleep.

 Thursday 7th January 2021
Again working from home. Pretty sure I was supposed to be attending a virtual conference today, I got the day wrong – it’s tomorrow. Spent the later afternoon – evening adding new data to the conference presentation, and generally catching up with a colleague over zoom.

Friday 8th January 2021
Awoke to a hard frost, which had just started to clear when we got an unexpected flurry of snow. The snow laid for an hour or so on the still frosty patches, but melted almost instantly everywhere else. The dog does not like snow.
The actual conference day. Again, working from home. Fixed a few snags in the conference presentation, then had the first tutorial session with my tutor class.
Presentation went well, we should turn the results into a journal article soon. Attended a colleague’s professorial inaugural lecture on zoom, congratulations to them.

Saturday 9th January 2021
Took the dog to the park, much muddier than I expected. I took a few photographs, mostly of trees, these were the best ones:

A frozen spiderweb on an interesting tree at the park
A frozen spiderweb on an interesting tree at the park
This tree was almost perfectly monochrome against the grey sky, it only took a little bit of desaturation to bring it out.

A clear night is predicted, so I set up the telescope for the first time this year, aiming to try out NINA for control and imaging instead of APT that I usually use.
Lit the woodstove in the shed to keep warm while I worked. I thought I’d use some smokeless cure I picked up last year. Useless bloody stuff, it took forever to light and burned so slowly the shed never got above 8 Celsius.
Neighbours had a house party in defiance (or ignorance) of tier 4 restrictions.
I managed to get an hour of imaging on the andromeda galaxy and had started to get to grips with NINA when all the imaging went to crap. Upon inspection, the heater band on the telescope objective was not able to deal with the extra cold snap we had and the lens started to fog over. I packed away, and will need to improve the heater before next time.

Sunday 10th January 2021
Walked to the shops to but some supplies for the week. Ended up buying two bags of compressed sawdust logs for the woodstove, I’ve used these before and they throw out loads of heat. Getting the shed up to 25 celcius when it’s freezing outside is not unusual.


Well, that didn’t go as planned.

One trip out of the country, to Iceland in January, followed by lockdown travel restrictions and an opportunistic infection trying to eat my right arm off at the elbow.

The enforced home-staying did mean I got to do a lost more astronomy than I otherwise would have, but this was curtailed towards the end of the year by the bloody awful weather. Clear nights were few and far between and tended to coincide with total exhaustion on my part.

Back in 2004, when I installed wordpress as a stop-gap until I finished writing my own CMS, I asked myself the question:

Well, to answer myself, I still seem to be writing here, however sporadically. This year did see a more frequent run of posts, mostly because I decided to try to document the first lockdown and also because I had astronomy photos to post.

2021 will be the year I document things more, here and elsewhere. Lets see if I keep to that. Hello Me of the year 2036 if you’re looking back and writing a retrospective post.

Long term art project

Take several (perhaps an irrational number – if it seem arty enough – of) Henry Hoovers and place them in wilderness locations around the planet.

Record what happens to them with a time-lapse camera until they have totally disintegrated – may take thousands of years. When the last has fully returned to the earth, print all the images recorded in a flick book.

Title of the book? Nature Abhors a Vacuum.

Hopefully our great great great^n descendants will appreciate the effort for a weak pun.

I am become Death, the destroyer of snails.

I like snails. Not to eat, but as animals in themselves. I’ve even done a stand-up comedy set about slugs and snails. I find them fascinating. I don’t kill them on purpose.

Since taking up cycling to work, I have accidentally killed many snails. There is a patch of tarmac connecting Castle Green park and the cycle-path alongside the A13 (https://www.google.com/maps/@51.5327466,0.1178673,20.03z); Snails love it.

After every period of damp weather, this short stretch of path is covered with snails, many already dead from previous pedestrians and cyclists. Even at low speed, you can’t help but hit one or two.

Sorry snails.

Considering Phlebas

Turning the wheel and looking to windward
Turning the wheel and looking to windward

I went sailing for the first time in 30-something years. Many thanks to Alan for hosting me and trusting me with the wheel of his pride and joy. From Thorpe le Soken to Felixstowe and back again.

O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.