Jack’s Walk

Well, hello my lovely, ©voyager, all rights reserved

The weather has been decidedly cold over the past few weeks, and it put our burgeoning spring on hold. Any bulb flowers that were up just stopped growing, and so did all the buds on trees and shrubs. It’s depressing to walk past so many flowers day after day, hoping for a bit of colour and seeing no change at all.
This week, though, has been warmer and rainy, and the flowers have been persuaded to get growing. Today we found our first purple of the year and a small patch of delicate white snowdrops. By tomorrow we should see open tulips in a rainbow of colours, along with sunny yellow daffodils and delicate pink hyacinths. The rain is supposed to stop over the weekend, and we might actually get a warm, sunny day that invites me outdoors to be amongst the flowers. I am positively humming with joyous anticipation.

The Douro Valley – Part 2

I had some sort of brain fart yesterday and didn’t get part 2 of this series posted. Because of this, I’ve decided to post the series on Monday,      Wednesday and Friday this week with the last 2 posts on Monday and Wednesday next week. That way there will be 2 weeks with beautiful photos by Nightjar, to whom I sincerely apologize. Without further ado, Nightjar presents The Douro Valley, Part 2.

I had never seen a lock operate before, let alone actually navigate through one, so I was really looking forward to this part of the cruise. Being raised 28 meters (92 feet) up a dam and looking back on it as we go upstream is quite an experience. I think these photos tell the story well.

Going towards the lock, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Corona Crisis Crafting X: Masks

I don’t know how many masks I made by now. It’s a three digit number for sure and we’re making them for all our students. Oh, we did get free masks from the government: 5 of those flimsy single use surgical masks per person…

Better than nothing, I guess.

But I needed to have a little fun as well:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My interfacing is a bit flimsy, so if I make another one I’ll need to change that. Otherwise I think I can fit some snacks into the nozzle.

The Douro Valley, Part 1

Welcome to a new series from Nightjar. The story is told in 5 parts, beginning today and ending on Friday.

I’ve had this series semi-prepared for over a year but I kept meaning to write up a better story to accompany the pictures and since that never happened, I never shared them. I have now decided to write up something not as detailed as I had planned initially and just share the photos already. I’m sorry I couldn’t put more into this, but I hope you all enjoy it anyway.
Back in 2017 I did a (partial) Douro up-river cruise. Douro is one of our major rivers and the region around it is where Port wine comes from, as well as being home to important almond and olive plantations. I’ve regretted this trip, not only because cruises here are becoming too popular and thus environmentally costly, but also because shortly after it a scandal broke about workers’ rights abuse by the companies running this business. So, destroying the environment while trampling workers’ rights, that doesn’t exactly make me want to repeat it. But anyway, I selected a few photos I took during the trip to share. Here you can see an overview of the river and the surrounding landscape, some of its bridges and one of its dams. In the next chapter we, and the boat following us, will navigate through that dam. A 28 meters / 92 feet rise.

Overview, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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The Art of Book Design: The Pink Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Pink Fairy Book. Illustrated by H. .J. Ford. New York, Longmans, Green, 1897.


This week’s Andrew Lang Fairy Book is pink. Bright pink with golden sunshine, angels and cherubs. Inside, the illustrations are again by the talented HJ Ford, and I’ve chosen my favourites to share with you. They include a Japanese tanuki, cats, dogs, baboons, dragons, mermaids and princesses of all sorts.  I’m especially fond of the drawings with wind and water, both of which are difficult to draw, and Ford does it brilliantly. Enjoy.

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Is a Homemade Face Mask Better Than Nothing?

The best thing an amateur can do in times of crisis is to follow experts, specifically the expert consensus and not the hand-picked cherries who pander to one’s preconceived ideas. Not that the consensus is automatically true, but it probably is the best that human knowledge can offer at the moment. What we are seeing right now is a consensus shift regarding the wear of facemasks, as more and more countries recommend them or even make their wearing mandatory in some places.

This is accompanied by new research, and one such research in the Czech Republic focuses on comparing various materials. The findings are not published yet, but one such preliminary finding is mentioned in the Czech article – five layers of ordinary t-shirt fabric are effective at catching nearly all particles of the size that have droplets exhaled/coughed out. That is huge since it is nearly equivalent to a surgical mask. And since the main argument for widespread use of face masks is that they should slow the spread of disease from those who have it (especially those who might be asymptomatic), then yes, even such self-made masks are better than nothing, if everybody has them.

But the article mentions another thing, which is even more interesting. One layer of t-shirt fabric was able to stop 11% of the much smaller sizes, those that are expected for the dry incoming particles. And five layers would stop nearly 46% of such incoming particles at maximum breathing speed (i.e. during intensive exertion). Slow breathing increases their efficacy.

That might be significant. There is some evidence that the initial viral dose of SARS-CoV-2 might have an influence on the severity of the illness. That seems logical – the illness has several days incubation period during which the virus grows in the body exponentially. A smaller viral dose thus might give the immune system may be a whole day or even more to develop appropriate antibodies, as is the case with influenza. But I could not find any study looking at whether there is a correlation between the incubation period and the severity of the disease.

It is a work in progress, but to me, it seems the answer to the question in the title is “very probably yes, possibly even for your own protection”.

Before you submit any argument against wearing face masks, please consider whether said argument could be used with the same weight against the universal and non-controversial recommendation of washing your hands. For example, an argument that many people are wearing masks incorrectly is not an argument against wearing them, just like the fact that most people wash their hands incorrectly and insufficiently was never an argument against hygiene. It is only an argument for making an effort to educate the public.

Like this video, which educates about both.

YouTube Video: DELIBERATE DESTRUCTION – Film and TV weapons

I found this video to be informative and interesting, as well as very painful to watch. I cannot imagine doing something like this to a knife that I have spent several days making. I would do it if I got paid and the destruction were for a purpose, as it is in this case, but even so – ouchouchouch…