Phase 4

Belgium’s exit from lockdown goes into Phase 4 on Wednesday, with yet more restrictions being eased.

The big change as far as we are concerned is that cinemas, along with other indoor cultural activities, will be allowed to re-open with a maximum audience of 200 people. Our local cinema already has a programme up which, unsurprisingly, is made up entirely of films that had already been screened before lockdown. Still, it’s a start and I really don’t object to seeing Call of the Wild again.

On a related note, the Kinepolis multiplex chain are also going on tour next month which is why we will be seeing an outdoor screening of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Alden Biesen in the middle of July. For outdoor events like this, audiences of up to 400 are allowed, so at will be interesting to see how it works.

Time limits when shopping have also been removed, as well as the maximum number of stalls in markets. Contact bubbles — the number of people we can have in our social circle — rises from 10 to 15.

Wearing a face mask is recommended but not mandatory.

The infection rate is still coming down so, if things carry on as they are, we can look forward to another easing of restrictions in August, and sending the kids back to school in September.

Unintended consequences

This is interesting. An environmental study published on Monday that suggests that tree-planting projects can be counterproductive.

It all comes down to the fact that new forests tend to be monocultures which tend to reduce biodiversity without achieving the same levels of carbon sequestration, habitat creation and erosion control as natural forests.

“If policies encouraging tree plantations are poorly designed or poorly implemented, there is a great risk not only of wasting public money, but also of leading to losses in both terrestrial carbon and biodiversity,” said Eric Lambin, a researcher at UCLouvain and Stanford.

Unintended consequences and all that.

The researchers suggest that, rather than planting new forests, measures should be implemented to help promote the restoration of natural ecosystems.

Ten plus Ten

Alexandre and William both hit ten years old today and, since they are at school, we have the best part of the day to make sure everything is ready for this evening.

There’s no party this year because of the coronavirus, and the outdoor play area we would normally unleash the kids onto is still closed. But we will be having a barbecue tomorrow (which is promising to be the hottest day of the year so far) and plans are afoot for a proper (if small) celebration either this weekend or next.

Hitting double figures is not something that can go unacknowledged and, today, there will be cake.

Box Office Victory

This amused me.

A pair of filmmakers filmed a 29 minute horror movie on Zoom (and let’s be honest — all Zoom interactions are horror stories), then rented a cinema, bought every seat and then screened the film for just the two of them.

With the Coronavirus pandemic in full swing, nothing else was being screened so this zero-budget film topped the US box office.

The film is called Unsubscribe and can be rented on Vimeo.

Addiction to prediction

Samanth Subramanian makes a good point:

Our societies are complex systems, turning on a host of visible and invisible axes. Predicting their behavior is, quite literally, the stuff of science fiction; only Hari Seldon, the psychohistorian in Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novels, has managed to do it with any reasonable success. But he had the advantage of being a fictional character.

It’s always tempting to talk about “the new normal” and speculate about how the world will be different once all of this is over. I’ve done it myself often enough.

We should, however, keep in mind that we really don’t have much basis for extrapolating from the current situation, inertia is often underestimated, and any prediction probably says a lot more about the person making the prediction than anything else.

It strikes me that the problem with this sort of prediction is that it lazily assumes that things will work out however we want them to. As such, I think it would probably be worth spending a bit less time talking about how the world might look and a bit more time thinking about how the world should look.

Walking

Over the course of the lockdown I have tried to remain reasonably active and, after some trial and error, this has meant going for a walk for an hour every day. It helps that we live within walking distance of Totterpad so I can enjoy some pleasant scenery at the same time.

Normally, on a weekday, I would go immediately after I have shut down my work laptop for the day. That isn’t going to be possible today so I went at lunchtime instead.

It’s surprisingly peaceful on a Monday lunchtime, presumably because most of the kids are back at school, and some of the local fauna were out and about.

Deer

I knew there was deer in the area and have even glimpsed them on occasion (most notably the times when I have had to wait until late evening before going out), but this is the first time that they have hung around long enough for me to pull out my phone.

I should go out earlier more often.

Forty-Two

WordPress informs me that today is my forty-second day of continuous posting. Yes, I really have managed to spout some sort of drivel every single day for forty-two days (including today).

As everyone should know, Forty-Two is the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. This is doubly appropriate for me because, not only am I full of answers, but I also have no idea what any of the questions are.

There are many ways of celebrating an entirely arbitrary achievement such as this, but I intend to go find an olive so that I can finally mix myself a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.