Week 1: Christmas is officially over
The tree is gone, the decorations are down, and Christmas is over.
When you first get a Christmas tree, it’s trussed to relatively manageable dimensions. After a few weeks inside, however, there’s no way it’s ever going back down to that size again. Thus I found myself sawing off the branches with my 500 mm wood saw until I had a tarpaulin full of branches that I could take to the reuse and recycling centre, formerly known as the council tip.
Even though I’ve come around to Christmas trees in recent years (mainly because L— possesses more than enough Christmas spirit to negate my humbugging tendencies) and now quite enjoy having one around, I’m glad to regain several square metres of floor space.
We’re now in “lockdown”. What this mainly means is that the whole of England is now in Tier 4, schools are closed again (to most pupils) after one single day of the spring term, and the government put the words “national lockdown” on a web page.
There’s no canonical definition of lockdown, and if you read the actual statutory instrument (for which you must also trace through all the previous amendments to work out what on earth is going on, a ludicrous situation) you find that it literally extends Tier 4:
Every area of England, apart from the territorial waters adjacent to England and the airspace above England and those territorial waters, is within the Tier 4 area.
There are a few other tweaks: zoos and gyms are closed, pubs can’t sell takeaway beer, and there are some restrictions on childcare. But as we were already in Tier 4, my life hasn’t changed much.
I don’t really know what people mean when they demand “lockdown”. I don’t think they do, either. I doubt they really want to go as far as welding everybody into their apartments, Wuhan style. But if you just ask for something called lockdown, you’ll get something called lockdown.
Speaking of wishing on a cursed monkey’s paw, people are just beginning to notice the inevitable consequences of Brexit. It seems that no one in government bothered to think it through, and most of the population blithely assumed that everything would broadly continue as before. This is going to get a lot worse over the coming weeks and months, especially in (Northern) Ireland.
The daftest consequence so far comes from the UK government’s simultaneous insistence that any retailer anywhere in the world selling to GB must sign up for and collect UK VAT. The collective response from smaller retailers has been, predictably, bollocks to that cost and paperwork, we won’t sell to GB. This will be a cultural loss, mostly: the kinds of things that you have to get from far afield tend to be for relatively obscure hobbies.
Ironically, the removal of the low-value VAT exemption is an EU regulation, the implementation of which is delayed there until July due to COVID, but with one significant difference: it’s not compulsory to register, so a seller can still choose to dump the tax and facilitation fees on the recipient. That’s a worse purchasing experience, but it’s better than the alternative of just not being able to get something. I hope that GB will end up in this position, but that might be too sensible for the present government.
I went to give blood for the 32nd time. The process was uneventful, but it was nice to be in a room with that many people! I really enjoyed sitting around the refreshment table afterwards – responsibly spread out – and just chatting with strangers. It wasn’t the best weather, but I put on my warmest coat and walked all the way there and back, along the river, across Tower Bridge, and through the empty City of London.
For a few hours, the US appeared to be undergoing a coup. It failed, but so
did the Beer Hall Putsch
in 1923. It was full of comical characters, but people died. The events behind
it are still unclear, and I think the story isn’t over. So far, Trump has been
kicked off every platform that tolerated him until this week, and the
suggestion that he might regroup on  attention thrown on the
activity on right-wing Twitter clone Parler has led to
them being expelled from the Google and Apple app stores and from Amazon web
I can be simultaneously glad that a dangerous voice has less opportunity to make itself heard, and uneasy about the power of a small number of companies, can’t I?
I built a random voltage generator Eurorack module. I’d taken advantage of Thonk’s post-Christmas sale, where everything was reduced but wouldn’t be shipped until January. I ordered a Transient Modules 4R kit. It arrived on Friday, and I built it on Saturday afternoon. The only problem I had was working out the orientation of the op-amps. There were no discernible indications on the board, the label was the opposite way round to the text on the chips, and the instructions described differently-marked chips. I ended up tracing the power supply on the circuit board to be sure.
It’s the kind of thing that’s superficially boring – you feed it a trigger, and it gives you a random voltage until the next trigger – but that can add a lot of interesting texture to a sequence of notes. And it’s only 2HP wide.
I’m still enjoying not working but I did have a dream in which someone offered me a job making robots. I think I might enjoy that.