This was not a good week to lose a filling

It’s never a good time to lose a filling, but with the country on lockdown and dentists only allowed to deal with emergencies, convincing a dentist that my broken tooth was an emergency felt like something of a challenge. The first dentist I tried told me to just take some paracetamol, which sounded like a lot of painkillers over the next few weeks.

I had more luck with the second dentist who asked if the broken tooth had any sharp corners. Oh yes, I replied, you can cut glass with this tooth. So it was that I was able to go to the dentist for an emergency filling this afternoon.

Except I didn’t get a filling.

It turns out that my wisdom (hah!) tooth has pushed against the molar so much that the molar has been deformed… Well, not exactly deformed but pushed over and squeezed to the extent that an emergency filling1 wouldn’t hold and I would be in a lot of pain in about four days time.

The only alternative was to extract the tooth.

To be fair, she did ask me in all seriousness whether I would prefer to have the pulled immediately or wait until the agony became unbearable.

Anyway, the deed is now done, both parts of the shattered tooth have been hygienically disposed of and I am supposed to avoid spicy food until the wound heals.

This could be a bit of a challenge.


  1. I actually do mean emergency filling here. Dentists are allowed to open for emergencies only, and certainly not for regular checkups. The dentist would have been able to plug the hole in my tooth as it was painful, but I would have still had to go back to get it redone after the lockdown had ended.

The Belgian shutdown has started

You can tell things are getting bad when Belgium gets a government. This is, of course, only a temporary government — negotiations are still ongoing for the new federal government — but prime minister, Sophie Wilmès now has powers for six months to take measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic without requiring parliamentary approval.

The first thing this government did was to declare a declare a nation-wide shutdown as of noon today. Until 5th April, we are all expected to stay at home except for essential reasons, such as food shopping, or outdoor physical activities which can only be done with people living in the same house.

They are trying to avoid calling this a lockdown for fear of negative connotations. But that’s what this is.

Compared to yesterday, we’re not that much affected. I’m already working from home and Eve is still able to take the boys out in the afternoon in order to prevent us all going stir crazy. Because I am not walking to work at present, I have taken to taking a walk around town before I start working and again when I have finished. This is still allowed as long as I don’t talk to anyone.

In slightly more positive news, a citizens’ initiative has been launched aiming to bring together isolated people with volunteers available to gather and deliver essential shopping. The idea from Covid Solidarity is to make shopping list templates for printing out available to people who find themselves isolated.

Once completed, the list may be placed in a visible position in front of one’s house so that a neighbour can pick it up and set about making the necessary purchases.

The shopping is then deposited without physical contact, and reimbursement for purchases made is handled directly by the person lending assistance and the person being assisted, according to the procedure detailed on the site.

And two Dutch universities are looking into whether a vaccine for tuberculosis can be used to boost immune systems which may mean fewer and less severe infections.

Five Things #26

Safe, Child, Safe is an Obsidian and Blood Short Story from Aliette de Bodard. I now want to read the whole of this Aztec noir fantasy series.

Kristin Andrews and Susana Monsó point out that rats are sentient beings with rich emotional lives, and ask why they don’t get the same ethical protections as primates.

It’s a Brewtiful World visits Brasserie Cantillon, where he first discovered the joy of lambics and geuzes.

Hannah Wallace visits the town that stopped big bottled water.

Will Bedingfield looks at the strange evolution of conspiracy theories leading to coronavirus misinformation. Think before you share.

Mad compromise of the moment

The Belgium National Security Council met on Thursday to come up with new measures to address the public concern surrounding the coronavirus. They have come up with a number of measures that, essentially, amount to cancelling weekends and, bizarrely:

All classes at school will be suspended, but schools will be asked to provide care, especially for parents who are unable to look after their children during school hours. The Prime Minister has called for children not to be taken care of by grandparents.

In other words, schools will remain both open and closed until the end of the month.

According to Politico, this is the result of disagreement between Flemish and French-speaking politicians:

Whereas French-speaking politicians wanted to close down all schools in Belgium, as is now the case in France, Flemish politicians were more reluctant to do so, fearing an economic shock. A compromise was found by suspending all classes but not closing all schools.

After the press conference, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon stressed that schools are not shutting down completely. “Closing all schools would be a problem for people who work in the health sector or for parents whose children can only be cared for by grandparents. That is precisely the most vulnerable group. Parents who can’t find a solution for their children can still rely on schools.”

I am certainly sympathetic to the view that offloading kids onto grandparents — the most vulnerable group — for the best part of three weeks would be insane. But if schools are going to stay partly open, I don’t see the value in not keeping them fully open.

Then again, it probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that the country that gave us Magritte would also be the first country to invent Schrödinger’s School.

It’s Alive!

Many years ago,I found myself in possession of a Nokia N810 internet tablet. With it’s smaller screen and pull-out keyboard, this is what tablets looked like before tablets were a thing, and I spent many a happy (or frustrating) hour trying to connect to a WiFi hotspot long enough to send a email.

Of course, everyone uses Android now and, after Nokia crashed and burned back in 2011, my phone could increasingly do everything the N810 could do, and then some, and I found myself using it less and less. Eventually, the battery started dying on me and the device ended up in a drawer.

More recently, I discovered Battery Champion, a site that sells batteries. Batteries for everything, including the N810, so I thought I would see if I could revive the device.

I now have the tablet up and running and, in many ways, it feels like looking back at a future that never was. Nokia devices have always been well engineered and they were certainly well placed to dominate the emerging smartphone and tablet spaces. It was only through management incompetence that they managed to lose their lead.

The world has moved on, of course, and it is probably inevitable that a device built in 2008 will feel a bit clunky now. The keyboard certainly proved to be a big surprise. It’s a physical keyboard that slides out which sounded like a great idea back in the day, but I found myself really struggling to use it. The keys are too small and painfully unresponsive. In fact I was intending to write this post on the N810 but after two paragraphs, the keyboard got the better of me.

It’s slow, too, compared to modern devices. This, I think, is more a reflection on the way in which websites have become so much more bloated over the years rather than on the device itself. Indeed, watching any page load is a revelation in terms of just how many calls to external sites and services are made.

The battery life, on the other hand, is still impressive. It can go up to ten days between charges which, combined with the fact that it is compact enough to fit into a pocket, gives the N810 a level of portability that the manufacturers of more modern tablets can only dream of.

Of course, all of the software on the tablet is about a decade out of date. And, with this device being no longer supported, many of the repositories are no longer available so upgrading it — if possible at all — will be something of a challenge.

And if I do manage to find some reasonably current software, I will then need to figure out a use for it.

Parts: The Clonus Horror

Jay at Assholes Watching Movies recently reviewed The Island, a film that I didn’t see. In fact the only thing I know about this film is that when it was released, people started remarking on how similar it was to a 1979 film called Parts: The Clonus Horror. So much so that the makers of Parts sued Paramount for plagiarism, finally reaching an out of court settlement which is believed to involve a seven figure sum.

I do happen to have a copy of Parts: The Clonus Horror so, the other night, I decided to pull out the DVD and see how well the film stands up.

After a couple of opening scenes (one of which I will come back to), the film proper starts in an idyllic location populated by beautiful young people who spend their time engaging in a variety of sporting activities until they are deemed fit enough to travel to “America”. It’s fair to say that most of these individuals are none too bright and it’s when two individuals or normal intelligence, Richard (Timothy Donnelly) and Lena (Paulette Breen) accidentally meet that things start to go off the rails.

With the word “Parts” in the title and an opening scene that sees the camera panning through a roomful of bagged bodies, it’s fair to say that this is not a film that intends to spring any surprises on the audience. This film is very much a conspiracy thriller and, on these terms, it works reasonably well.

There are a couple of narrative conveniences along the way, but on the whole the plot does a solid job of building towards — and delivering — the horribly inevitable conclusion. This is helped no end that Timothy Donnelly puts in such a likeable as an innocent, confused and completely out of his depth.

While not the greatest film ever made, Parts: The Clonus Horror is a solid thriller and one that attempts — reasonably successfully — to examine some of the potential issues around cloning and the ways in which we can dehumanise people to achieve the most trivial of benefits.

Five Things #25

Sonya, Josephine, and the Tragic Re-Invention of the Telephone by I. S. Heynen is a powerful slice of dystopian fiction.

Chris Grey suggests that Brexit is going feral, and examines the consequences.

Denzil visits The Vlooyberg Tower near Tielt-Winge.

Ben Orlin asks What Makes a Great Teacher? With answers from four great teachers.

And another wolf has been sighted in Belgium. This time in Liège.