The Soldier by Rupert Brooke was the first poem that made me realise what poetry was about

“a golden-haired, blue-eyed English Adonis,

If I should die, think only this of me:
      That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
      In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
      Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
      Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
      A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
            Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
      And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
            In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Sixty years later, I still remember where I was sitting when I first read it. It was printed in a book entitled “Realms of Gold”, the phrase taken from the first two lines of John Keats’ poem ” On first looking into Chapman’s Homer”.

The book was a history of English literature which we were trudging through on a weekly basis with our English teacher “Pansy” Napier, a ponsified gentleman, who managed to inspire absolutely no love of literature whatsoever, probably because he had none himself.

I was sitting three rows from the front, by the window, and for no particular reason began to read “The Soldier”. It was like being struck by lightning. I had never had such a reaction to anything like it before.

Here was a young man, who was possibly about to die and his thoughts were only on the fact that he was English and on way he had become English. Not only that, but somehow this would be preserved eternally when he was buried, or his body lost, on the battlefield.

It was the first time I had understood a poem so immediately and so thoroughly. Throughout my education in what had seen an interminably long series of English classes, we were constantly searching for the ” hidden meaning” something lurked beneath the words on the page. We had been constantly taught that poetry never actually meant what it said.

Suddenly, here in front of me, was complete contradiction of everything I had been taught in English classes.

It’s probably not the most brilliant poem that has been written but it had a formative and profoundly important influence on me. The late Betty Churcher, who was a wonderfully perceptive critic of Australian art, had a similar experience as a young girl. It was this painting Evicted by Blandford Fletcher

Not the greatest painting but for Betty Churcher profoundly influential

Some years later, after completing teacher education degree, a part-time BA getting married and the birth of our first son, Andrew, teaching, rowing in a surf boat, I completed a Master of Arts in English Literature.

Robert Graves, probably my favourite poet after Shakespeare, ends one of his poems with the line

Yet that was where it started

You can read my review of this poem in my post

You can read some of my commentary on other poets and Shakespeare on the following links

Weight Loss and the Pandemic: a Progress Report

On April 8, I published a post on the progress of my fasting diet. At that point, I had been fasting for just over nine weeks and lost 7.5 kg. Now I have fasting for 22 weeks and lost 14 kg. So, in terms of weeks it was about .6kg and now it’s roughly .4kg so things are slowing down a little but I’m still moving ahead.

Here’s a graph of my progress.

There has been a very big flat spot for the last couple of months.

The trendline is the red dotted line. As I said in my original post, I shifted from 5:2 which was fasting two days a week (eating five and fasting two) to eating for two days and fasting for one. You can tell by the flat trend line, that this did not work particularly well.

For the recent lockdown in Victoria and some domestic arrangements, I have moved back to the 5:2 diet and that seems to be working better, although I have no way of knowing why.

One observation is that weight loss tends to be uneven. There are long flat plateaus and then rapid weight-loss. I appear to be beginning a weight loss period but no apparent reason.

This is not to say that weight loss and plateaus are not without causation but it can be frustrating when you don’t understand why. The answer may be to keep a very strict records of weight, your calories and your exercise patterns. Some, like me, may find this obsessive and time-consuming.

Another observation is about the fasting days. I find them quite easy. I don’t get hungry when I’m fasting. I tend to want to eat more on the days when I’m not fasting.

I don’t know what other people’s experiences have been in terms of weight loss/gain during the pandemic or during lockdown but I suppose that my experience of a weight-loss over eight months is a satisfactory outcome for has been a relatively painless diet regime.

Stay tuned.

Thatcher, Reagan, Privatisation and the Crisis in Victoria’s Aged Care Homes

Sometimes it helps to join up a few dots especially when some people might not be old enough to know when the dots were made.

Ronnie Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were not much good for their economies

Ronnie Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were disciples of Milton Friedman an economist who argued against government intervention in the economy. They were also strong believers in privatisation.

Ross Gittins writes “The truth is that only conservatives of a certain age (and failing memories) hanker after the glory days of Thatcher and Reagan. No one else wants to return to the halcyon era of privatisation and deregulation because by now most people realise how lacking in halcyonicity those things are.

One of the things that Thatcher did was close down the coal mines. Something that is probably lost on both Morrison and his Treasurer

Ronnie Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Josh Frydenberg’ new heroes, were all about big private enterprise and small government.

As a result, in Australia, we sold off Telstra, a large amount of Medibank, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and in Victoria our transport system, water system, electricity system, gas system.

Someone might like to add a comment at the bottom of this post pointing out the benefits of all this.

The fundamental assumption is that adding a profit margin to the cost of the electricity (and other utilities) is going to make the cost of electricity lower. Now that is so fundamentally stupid, you don’t even have to begin to argue about it.

So, the problem with privatisation is that we have now have an Aged Care system which is (a) a Commonwealth responsibility and (b) primarily run by the private sector for profit and, in Victoria at least, is now failing miserably to protect its patients against the ravages of Covid-19.

It is abundantly clear that the staff in the facilities are inadequately trained to deal with the problem and that the facilities are not designed to cope with the complexities of the pandemic. It is also obvious that the response to isolating vulnerable patients into hospitals has been too slow.

There are a large number of areas in our society in which the pressure exerted by Covid-19 has demonstrated a few cracks in the way we treat significant areas of vulnerable people in our society: those who live in public housing or aged care facilities are obvious examples.

It is now becoming obvious the standard of care in these facilities is not adequate and facilities were not designed to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. The other problem is that standard care will always be eroded by the profit margin and this will not become obvious until the system is placed under pressure.

So this brings us back to a fundamental issue.

Is there a set of basic services we wish to fund and provide for ourselves as a society.

Medical treatment? Education? Aged care?

The list could go on for quite a while.

And what would we wish to have provided by private enterprise and be prepared to pay a premium for the profit motive. Water? Electricity? Transport? Rubbish Collection?

Perhaps this crisis would link to a re-evaluation of some of our priorities. One fears that the relief of getting life back to normal will be so great that no one will bother.

Bunnings customer confronts staff over face mask rule for second time in as many days

Some forms of idiocy seem to be congenital and probably not going to be corrected by anything other than some fairly radical forms of therapy.

Traditional forms of punishment have been known to be effective in changing behaviour

It is also important that public example be made of people who openly flout public regulations designed to protect the well-being of the general public. It’s not a question of individual freedom question of public safety.

People wishing to visit the transgressor were encouraged to bring plentiful supplies of rotten fruit and vegetables

Presumably she expects to start some form of popular uprising. What should happen is she should be subjected to the full force of the law and also all forms of public humiliation

Poor front page from the THE SUNDAY AGE: Conflicting advice may be driving virus spread

When you read the article, it’s about one woman who received conflicting advice from DHHS about her stages as a recovering/isolated quarantine case.

Now it looks as if it was a bit of stuff up with Olivia Craig, who Is a health worker, and would probably have understood when she was free to come out of isolation. 

It certainly wasn’t a life threatening incident for Olivia.

It certainly wasn’t “driving virus spread” and about to cause a third wave of the pandemic

Not spread by advice

So THE SUNDAY AGE really should be a little bit more responsible about the way it prints its front page headlines

So Zach Hope, Rachel Eddie and Craig Butt, I really think you can do better than this. It really doesn’t do to sensationalise one single and relatively unimportant incident. Didn’t they teach you this in journalists’ school.

Perhaps it would have been better to have had an informed discussion of the two graphs in the article.

Trump starts backflipping his way towards the 2020 presidential election

Trump has cancelled the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida saying his priority is protecting the safety of Florida residents.

Cynics might say that he was concerned that even Republicans are now concerned about COVID-19 and probably wouldn’t turn up to the convention. And that would be a very bad look for Trump to be holding a convention with a very empty stadium.

“It’s really something that for me, I have to protect the American people,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always done. That’s what I always will do. That’s what I’m about.”

This is what protecting the American people has looked like. As the president would say “We’ve got the best numbers. Beautiful numbers, No one’s got numbers like we have.”

The US has the worst record of any country in the world. Trump has now realised he is going to have to talk his way out of this very unhappy situation before the presidential election. Because many people hold him responsible for the continuing spread of Covid-19 through the US.

The Florida Convention confronts him with his first dilemma. It is one of the hottest of the hotspots in the US

Florida recorded a record high 173 coronavirus deaths on Thursday alone (Friday AEST) as well as 10,249 new positive cases. A total of 5517 people have died in the state.

Florida has a population of 21m million which makes it about the same size as Australia where there were 423 new case yesterday and this is being viewed with great concern by politicians and health officials alike.

More than 140,000 people have died due to the coronavirus in the United States, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. More than 3.8 million have been infected. (CNBC)

Despite refusing to endorse the wearing of masks for months, Trump is now tweeting “that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!”

Suddenly it’s patriotic to wear a face mask

This will be greatly disconcerting to his legion of loyal followers who regarded it as patriotic not to wear a face mask.

This is the President’s dilemma. Start doing something sensible and alienate your followers or continue pandering to your base.

Why are joggers in Victoria being given a licence to endanger everyones health by being exempt from wearing a mask?

Tonight, while I was walking, I noticed that everyone, except the joggers, was wearing a mask. The joggers were breathing deeply and generally not observing social distance and consequently breathing all over everybody they ran past.

Perhaps I’m being oversensitive. But it seems to me that many joggers do not understand the concept of maintaining a distance of1.5m.

Heavy breathing, asymptomatic mask-exempt public nuisance?

This is an exceptionally dangerous practice because my mask protects the jogger from me. It does not protect me from the jogger.

So can the person who granted the joggers the exemption to the rule that applies to everybody else please explain why joggers who may be potentially infectious are allowed out in public without a mask.

It is this irrational and illogical decision-making that undermines public confidence in the government and health authorities.

The point of everyone wearing a mask is that it ensures that small proportion of asymptomatic people will not pass the coronavirus on to the rest of the population. Wearing a mask does not protect the mask wearer. It protects people to mask breathes on.

So why do we group of people who are

1 Breathing extremely frequently

2 Breathing extremely deeply

3 Covering large distances

4 In the case of the Tan, in relatively populated areas

move about without a mask on ?

It would seem that of all groups, this group should be wearing a mask.

I believe that Dan Andrews has done an excellent job despite some missteps but this particular decision defies all logic.

Tomorrow, wearing a mask becomes mandatory in Victoria and there appears to be widespread acceptance of this measure.

This post for my Facebook friends who are overseas and to show that we believe we can act as a community in Victoria to avoid the worst consequences of this virus.

In Victoria, we are fortunate that we live in a community where there is general acceptance that we all have a responsibility to keep each other safe during this crisis. There is also general acceptance that there number of simple measures that greatly enhance the chances of limiting the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

This clearly not the situation in America where there is openly politicised debate over, And opposition to, the scientific evidence has been established around the nature of the virus. There is also aggressive and violent behaviour directed towards those who would adopt sensible measures towards the control of the virus.

This is not the situation in Victoria where there is widespread acceptance of the validity of the advice we have been given and the nature of the data that is being distributed to the public.

It is the number of new cases which rises and falls on a daily basis that concerns many systems and public policy makers. However, this does not mean that the number of cases is oscillating in the way that this graph would indicate.

It simply means that the manner in which the reporting system is functioning is producing these variations. When people report variations in the time it takes for them to receive the results of their tests, it is to be expected that there will be variations in the numbers of cases reported on any given day. That is why rolling average is probably a better indication of trends.

What remains to be seen, is whether there is widespread compliance with the requirement to wear face masks in public. If there is, and the advice that widespread community compliance is an effective way of suppressing the virus, then we can be optimistic that Victoria will emerge from this lockdown within the next month.

Recidivist numbers in Victoria are probably slightly under 60% and our prisons may be moving towards becoming self-sustaining.

With almost 60% of prisoners winding up back in prison, the system is becoming a revolving door for many prisoners. So if one of the aims of the prison system is rehabilitation then it is failing miserably.

I have just completed a paper on a model I have built of the prison numbers for the next decade in Victoria. This post explains how the recidivist numbers are calculated.

Here’s how the model works. I will do a separate post on the actual numbers.

Prisoners come out of prison into the community. We know that 43.7% of prisoners returned to prison within two years of release having reoffended. 

This actually means that 28% return after one year and 24% return after two years. But, prisoners continue reoffending in subsequent years. Statistically, this means 19%, 15% and 12% reoffend in the next three years. After the numbers are relatively inconsequential.

System Dynamics is very good at modelling this sort of problem. This is what the model looks like. 

Let’s assume that 100 prisoners were released flow into the conveyor on the right-hand side. 

Total releasedYear 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
Number released into community
Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
No of Recidivists18171075
Number re-offending each year

The recidivist numbers suggests the modelling is conservative. However, this comes with a caution that is probably justified. 

The original 43.7% that the modelling is based on is based on empirical evidence and the modelling is based on statistical projections.

The causes of recidivism are deeply entrenched in the society into which the prisoners are released and are difficult to eradicate. However, with some prisoners returning as many as 11 times, recidivism is a profound problem not only for the individual, for the Victorian prison all system for society as whole. Without finding some workable solutions, the damage being done by this problem will continue to escalate.