Charles Gutjahr

Melbourne, Australia

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Charles Gutjahr

Blog post

Judging pandemic words

12 Jul 2020 — a 1 minute read on COVID-19 Words

For a while I was posting a short opinion online each weekend, more for my benefit than yours. I find writing down my thoughts a useful bit of introspection. It is a chance to evaluate whether my instinctive reaction to an issue is right, whether I would be comfortable writing it down and standing by those words.

I had stopped in this pandemic because I don't feel like I can contribute. I don't have the scientific or epidemiological expertise that is necessary to provide valid opinions on COVID-19 — and honestly I reckon most opinions I see are junk because they too lack that expertise.

Maybe I can't opine on how to deal with the virus itself, but I reckon the language we use to describe it is fair game. Some words that we use every day I had never heard of a few months ago. Why do we use those words and not other ones?

So now Melbourne is in lockdown (ooh! there's a word!) for six weeks, let's see if I can keep up six weeks of judging pandemic words.

Week 1: Social distancing

How did we end up with the term 'social distancing' when it means distancing yourself physically from other people, not distancing yourself socially from them? I reckon we ended up with the wrong term here. It should have been 'physical distancing'.

'Physical distancing' has a natural meaning: tell me to physically distance and I can guess what you mean. But before this pandemic 'social distancing' would have sounded more like 'social isolation' or 'social withdrawal' to me; not what is meant by the term, and indeed exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. This pandemic is hard on our mental health and we need to keep up that social contact even when we are physically distant.

I'm glad to see that the Victorian and Australian governments seem to have switched to saying physical distancing now. I have too.

Charles Gutjahr

The Alehouse Project
Cramming in some pub time tonight before they’re shut for the next few weeks.

Charles Gutjahr

We are addicted to this super simple recipe: mix a few veggies and some frozen gnocchi in a baking dish; add salt, pepper, herbs and olive oil; bake at 200° for 20-25 minutes; squeeze half a lemon over it; serve with grated cheese. 👨‍🍳

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

Should we do everything to stop COVID-19, or just enough?

Are you more worried about getting COVID-19, or more worried about giving it to someone else?

Up until now there's wasn't much point in separating the two. We Australians mostly followed government advice to stay home; we mostly stopped people getting it and we mostly stopped people passing it on. But now that governments are relaxing the lockdowns and society opens up again I think the distinction becomes important again.

Do we want to try stop anyone from getting this novel coronavirus from now on, or are we OK with hardly anyone getting it? To put numbers on that: we've prevented 99.97% of Australians getting infected so far, would we be comfortable letting the caseload triple and 99.9% of Australians remain uninfected?

The big danger is if the virus gets out of control. You probably know the story by now: exponential growth, overwhelmed hospitals, death on a massive scale. You can see that recognised in the relaxation of restrictions in Victoria that were announced yesterday: they keep repeating "contact details must be kept for tracing". The rules seem to focus on preventing an outbreak from getting out of control, rather than focus on preventing anyone getting the virus in the first place.

I think this is why we have rising tensions over the relaxing of restrictions. I reckon a lot of people think the right thing to do is prevent anyone from getting this coronavirus, but our governments aren't aiming for that. Governments seem content to let a few people get sick in exchange for opening up our society again... as long as the virus doesn't get out of control.

I didn't write this to advocate for one side or another. I wrote this to point out that we are in an interesting new phase. We are no longer in a battle where the mathematics of exponential growth mean we face a dichotomy: either almost everyone getting sick or almost no-one getting sick. We won that battle and almost no-one got sick, and we did the things necessary for that with remarkably little dissent. The next battle is far more subtle yet I think the arguments will be far more bitter: should we do everything to stop this virus, or just enough?

Charles Gutjahr

THE B.EAST
Thanks @thebeastburgers, you’re legends too. The Filthy burger is an essential service.

Charles Gutjahr

Want to make sure your #covidsafe app is working? On iPhones it only records contacts when the screen is on and the app is visible. It doesn't work if your iPhone screen is off, on the lock screen, making calls, or on Instagram etc. Remember to switch back after using your phone!

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

My initial review of the COVIDSafe tracing app

COVIDSafe: Looks like government has does a decent job on privacy, it doesn't track your location, it doesn't store unnecessary information. You should feel safe installing the app.

The problem is it probably doesn't work. I installed it on two iPhones yesterday and then logged all the Bluetooth activity between them overnight. They were notably chatty at first, exactly once a minute contacting each other with COVIDSafe data — which is how the apps can trace who you are in contact with. The apps kept doing that while the screens remained on. Then when I went to bed I pressed the side button to turn the screens off. Communication stopped immediately. As far as I can tell for the rest of the night the apps didn't talk to each other. Looks like the iOS apps only work when both phones have installed the app, both are running the app at the time, and both have screens turned on.

That's not how people normally use their phones. They takes calls, watch TikTok videos, message their friends. My concern is most people will install it, think they're doing the right thing but because they use their phone like a normal person their app won't record even a single contact.

I don't want to be too harsh on the app. They tried something, and we should be trying new things to deal with this pandemic. I don't think the app works right now, but with more time (and probably adoption of the Apple/Google Exposure Notification protocol) they might be able to make an app that is useful.

Charles Gutjahr

I had planned to make ANZAC biscuits today in remembrance. I could not make them today because the response of many Australians to this latest global crisis was to hoard oats, so I had no oats. I made banana bread instead. At the risk of offending someone I have christened it BANANZAC.

Charles Gutjahr

Are you sick of okonomiyaki yet? Not me! Today I had a few different ingredients around today so this is quite a different recipe to what I posted the other day. I used wombok cabbage which is crunchier and more moist, spring onion instead of a brown onion, Amy's homemade kimchi, and some lovely fatty free-range bacon! This combination was particularly nice. Only problem is it didn't cook quite as well; it was a bit soft. I think I had too much liquid from the kimchi and wombok. I used 100ml of water like last time... perhaps it should be halved to 50ml? Try using as little water as possible while making sure the flour isn't dry. Ingredients: * 200g wombok / napa cabbage * 1 spring onion / Chinese shallot * 5mm slice of ginger * 75g flour * 50-100ml water * 1 egg * A whole chilli * A big spoonful of fried shallots * A really big spoonful of kimchi * Two rashers of streaky bacon, fat separated from meat * Vegetable oil (canola, peanut, etc) To serve: * Kewpie mayonnaise * Otafuku okonomi sauce * Shaved bonito Start by chopping the vegetables finely. If the cabbage is chopped too coarse I find it doesn’t cook, so chop thin slices. In a mixing bowl add the flour and water (but not the egg), then mix it into a paste. Then mix in all the vegetables and fried shallots into the paste, including the kimchi. Give it a good stir to make sure everything is coated. Finally break an egg on top and mix it through. Heat a frypan to a medium-high heat, and add the bacon fat (keep the meat for later). My induction cooktop has heat levels 1 to 9, I use 7 for this. Once the fat has rendered down, discard the pieces of fat leaving the oil coating the pan. Spoon the mixture into the pan then flatten it out into a thick pancake shape. Cook for 6-7 minutes on one side. While it is cooking lay the bacon meat on top of the pancake, then flip over and cook another 8-10 minutes on the side with the bacon. I find it needs a bit more cooking on the bacon side to properly cook through. Serve it with the mayonnaise, okonomi sauce and shaved bonito on top. Eat!

Charles Gutjahr

OK okonomiyaki fans, here is the recipe I used for today’s okonomiyaki pancake. The recipe varies depending on what I have around… I wouldn’t normally use onion but I have a lot right now so in it goes! Ingredients: * 200g cabbage * 70g onion (half a small one) * 5mm slice of ginger * 75g flour * 100ml water * 1 egg * A whole chilli * A big spoonful of fried shallots * Mysterious rice seasoning * Vegetable oil (canola, peanut, etc) To serve: * Kewpie mayonnaise * Otafuku okonomi sauce * Shaved bonito Start by chopping the vegetables finely. If the cabbage is chopped too coarse I find it doesn’t cook, so chop thin slices. In a mixing bowl add the flour and water (but not the egg), then mix it into a paste. I have a mysterious pack of Japanese rice seasoning so I added a spoonful here. Then mix in all the vegetables and fried shallots into the paste. Give it a good stir to make sure everything is coated. Then break an egg on top and mix it through. Heat a frypan to a medium-high heat, with a little oil. My induction cooktop has heat levels 1 to 9, I use 7 for this. Spoon the mixture into the pan then flatten it out into a thick pancake shape. Cook for 6-7 minutes on one side, then flip over. Cook another 6-7 minutes on the other side. Now the fun saucy part! Slide the okonomiyaki onto a plate. Squeeze some mayonnaise in lines across the whole pancake. Squeeze some okonomi sauce in lines in the other direction. Now throw a small handful of shaved bonito on top. Eat!

Charles Gutjahr

I have become somewhat addicted to okonomiyaki for lunch recently. So I have decided to inflict this addiction onto you all by posting a photo whenever I make okonomiyaki.

Charles Gutjahr

Amy desired a lamb roast for her birthday dinner. Too bad you schmucks can’t be here for it 🍖

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

Welcome to April

Welcome to April, the month when most of the first Australian Government stimulus package is rolling out.

It is interesting how things have changed in three weeks since that was announced. Back then the Government was still in politicking mode: saying things like "we will not be pursuing a cash splash in the reckless Rudd-Gillard fashion", and setting up stimulus that was mainly delayed until April — which seemed suspiciously like an economic gerrymander. Packing all the economic damage from the bushfires into the first quarter and pushing most of the stimulus into the second quarter looked more like a plan to avoid the political embarrassment of a technical recession than exemplary economic management.

Fortunately now I reckon the Government has switched their focus away from the politics and more towards finding the best response to the crisis. We've had two more stimulus packages since, each bigger and more immediate. By the third stimulus on Monday the newly announced JobKeeper payment started that day — which is even before many of the measures from the first stimulus had started.

This is good! It's amazing how in just three weeks we can go from prioritising politics to prioritising getting the job done. It gives me hope that Australia will come out of this pandemic as well as possible.