The Eye of the Fish

March 22, 2020

Time to think anew

While we are all shut down in our homes, there is lots of time to think. In my case, thinking alone – no TV, no relatives, no pets, no people at all – nothing but a pad of paper and a computer. Well, and 2 weeks supply of food.

So, thinking out loud now: Let’s sum up where we are. The world has caught a pandemic virus, which has spread to nearly every country, except possibly Antarctica (yes yes, i know, its not an actual country) and possibly North Korea (they say not, but it is probably knee-deep in dead bodies as well). And possibly Bhutan – the mountain kingdom, hardly ever opens its doors. And it has spread here too.

NZ is however possibly the only country left in the world that may still be able to contain the spread. Yes, there are 2 possible community transmission cases, and there will be more cases from people who flew back into the country before the borders were closed, but on the whole we are not doing too bad. No one yet has died, and let’s hope it stays that way. The people who have got it so far are mostly not elderly, i.e. 40-50 year old travellers and so they may all survive – fingers crossed. If we keep our borders closed tight, then just conceivably we could stay in that situation forever – as long as our borders are closed. If we can contain all these cases, and seeing as there are no new cases coming in (except for recent travellers coming home, currently in self-isolation), then NZ could come out of this first, and in good shape. Just possibly. So: keep your distance.

The rest of the world is not so lucky. I’m pretty horrified that yesterday 793 Italians died all on one day. No breakdown on this horrific total are available as such, but I’m guessing that many of them are very old – but with the hospitals clearly completely overloaded there, and not enough respirators to go around, there is a lottery going on over who should live and who has to be abandoned to die. There will be hundreds of thousands of people dying all over the world in the coming weeks from this virus.

But what is the eventual outcome? Most people who get this virus will actually survive and will thereafter be immune (to the current virus, but perhaps not to a separately evolved one). So, we could have the situation where NZers are free from Covid and yet the remaining rest of the world are all post-Covid. Does that mean that meeting any surviving “outsider” will endanger the lives of Kiwis who are germ-free? I don’t know enough about the science – but is it that the only way we can permanently survive virus-free is if the borders are permanently sealed? Post-script: apparently the current thinking is that once someone has had the virus and survived, they are no longer a danger to a Covid-free virgin, but it is still too early to test that theory.

Regardless – things are gonna change. Well, Andrew doesn’t agree with me, but I think they are going to change. Airports and airlines are now, and for the next few months, just mothballed history. Air NZ will devolve into a Domestic-only airline (god only knows what will happen to Jet-Star, as both NZ and Oz are dis-owning them) and maybe, one day, will start up a single international flight-path again – but I think it is more likely that AirNZ will give up International for ever. Any incoming passengers will have to be either immunised (18 months away, unless you believe Donal Rump, who I don’t), or they will have to be placed for a minimum of 2 weeks in a Airport isolation hotel, under armed guard. Anybody wanting to leave the country from Covid-free NZ may have to sign a waiver agreeing to possibly never coming back, and possibly dying on foreign soil.

Projects like Auckland Airport’s grand new Airport for the Future are shot down in flames. Scrap it now, it is pointless and doomed. Similarly, Wellington Airport’s plans for 2030 or 2040 are probably pointless too. Certainly not flying international again any time soon. That ugly-as-fuck Rydges Hotel at the airport? History. Close it down now. That completely awful and out of place multi-storey carpark? Growing cobwebs already. No one is flying anywhere for the next few months.

Wellington’s Convention Centre? Sorry to say it StudPac, but your design is now no longer a white whale, but is now a white elephant. Who actually wants to go to a large room and sit next to other people you don’t know and potentially catch their diseases? The future of conferences will now all be digital. That probably goes for the Library as well – those hoardings around it are looking awfully permanent these days. Can we combine the two – put the Library in the Convention Centre? Well, yes we could, but really, should we? Maybe just call a halt to the whole thing now?

Public Transport? Until we’ve got this thing beaten, no one wants to take a bus or a train – and so that puts people back into cars again, which we don’t want to see either. Is there really going to be any commitment to a Rapid Transit route through-out NZ now, if people are not going to be keen to use it? Or will we all just get over it in good time and go back to the bus?

Work? Having put all this week’s energy into allowing our office to work from home, is there going to be any great interest in getting together collectively in an office floor once more? Already that seems like an out-dated idea, something as archaic as a typewriter or a gramophone.

As architects and project managers and contractors (hi 60 !) we should be adapting our ways as soon as possible. Things like door handles – on public buildings and especially on toilet doors – we really should be installing automatic doors, or bump-buttons that we can whack with our elbows rather than requiring people to grasp with four fingers and a thumb – this needs to become standard.

Shops and the EFTPOS people need to get their shit together and make everything PayWave-only – I don’t shop anywhere that I can’t just wave my phone at the terminal, pickup my goods and walk on by.

Bars and restaurants – can we have robot bartenders to allow us to still drink – at a regular 2m spacing? That’s going to make it difficult to converse with the team on Quiz night, and hard to have a heart-to-heart with your valentine date, but if it is that or nothing, then I’m up for it. Keep your distance.

We all are doing our bit – except for the dickheads at Destiny Church. Tamaki should be strung up by his heels and roasted for his idiocy – condemning his Maori and Pasifika flock to possible death. If there is one group outside the elderly that is vulnerable, then it is the overweight, diabetes-prone, COPD flock that is the PI population that Tamaki preaches to. Getting the virus stuck into the congregation is a seriously sick idea.

22 - 03 - 20

One thought: is Italy’s death toll so tragically high because they keep their old parents at home with them, rather than isolating them in “retirement villages” like we do, where they are kept free from diseases? That lovely homely tradition of Mama living downstairs may be causing the death of her… Is our anti-social tendency to corral our elderly into “God’s waiting room” actually the key to keeping them alive?

25 - 03 - 20

Alan, you may be right. I’m not sure. Don’t know much about the living habits of italians.

Not a lot of discussion going on here people – i thought that people with time on their hands would be rushing online and contributing, but its a fairly deathly silence. What’s happening? Should I pack this in for the next 4 weeks as well?

Seamonkey Madness
25 - 03 - 20

I think you’re on the money with the canning (or more likely severely delaying) the respective airport extensions. We will recover, but trust in enclosed spaces – such as small flying metal tubes – will be trusted less so, unless everyone has a mask and air stewards are dressed in hazmat suits while delivering tea, mini-Cookie Times and hard-boiled sweets before descent.

Tamaki should prove his faith in God by being exposed to the virus and then praying and having water splashed on his face. Let’s see how long that faith lasts once his respiratory system starts fucking around on him.

Currently working from home, but work sites have shut down, and clients are pulling pins or putting projects on ice for the mo.

Stay well Fish Friends.

25 - 03 - 20

It’s difficult to know where to start making sense of how life will turn out. I guess that’s what art is for.

I have spent decades in the business of laying down cultural capital for some unspecified future need. Perhaps this is it.

Will we spend much more time than ever before living safely but vicariously through the experiences of others? Arguably, that is the core purpose of collecting on a societal scale and a lot of the potential in museums and archives can be fulfilled through individual, remote access – but not all. There is something ineffable about sharing the same location with an object, breathing the same air.

It’s hard to see how we could ever go back to standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the Mona Lisa, but sometimes humans seem programmed to go forward as much by forgetting calamities as by learning from them.

25 - 03 - 20

Thanks Seamonkey and Starkive, nice to know I’m not alone in the world….

Starkey – by “laying down cultural capital” do you mean making books? documentary films? films right now would be great – but unless they are available online I can’t see any of them. I realllllly want to go to the movies and sit in the Embassy, seat G25, right now. But with the Film Archive moving to the big box on the hill, is it more available now than before, or not?

As the old song went – you don’t really know what you’ve got till its gone…

25 - 03 - 20

Levi -don’t bother searching for my personal cultural outputs – I fear they won’t do much to help you through the current unpleasantness.

I was referring rather to institution and collection building – all that collecting, protecting and connecting. The digital orthodoxy has ruled in museums, libraries and archives for a decade or more. Now let’s see how the inheritors of significant collections have prepared themselves for what’s needed.

To take one example, the Film Archive/TVNZ/Radio NZ collection at Ngā Taonga contains hundreds of thousands of items. Digitisation started in earnest 10 years ago. Can we sit in our cocoons and see or hear the results?

Meanwhile, here’s hoping for a safe passage for you and the other fish.

60 MPa
26 - 03 - 20

Sorry I can’t help with specifying door pulls that don’t require hands – that’s more an architect’s bailiwick
There’s this
and this

I can honestly say I’ve been doing some good this week – we’ve been putting extra temporary doorsets and dividing walls into Wgtn Hospital Theatre/ICU/Post-Anaesthesia wards to segregate and create “airlocks” to prevent the spread of infection – we’ve re-used some old doors from parts of the Oncology that is slated for demo so not much extra costs to the taxpayer too
A 14hr day on Wed but satisfying

As for Covid, the speed of change in the news environment is impressive.
If we can suffocate it with stasis then contact trace any new cases with tight border controls then we could be ok
The 3rd week is going to be the test I reckon – bored hoons and meth heads after their fix could start to be a problem

The real danger right now is those sort of people (mostly short men) who want to feel important and be on the essential worker list so they can wield their little power trips over the rest of us through pointless checklists and procedures – they will alienate the good faith held by the citizenry against the government

Before we all say “In Remdesivir we trust” people are trying the old ways again

For light relief, in Alicante, Spain people have been ticketed for walking the same dog 4 times in one day
People there were allowed to go out if they were exercising their dog apparently so one owner was charging people to walk his dog as they were desperate to get outside

Won’t someone think of the animals?

27 - 03 - 20

Excellent suggestions 60, and thanks for your work at the hospital. Hugely helpful to prep ahead for the coming influx… I reckon closing the borders to all people for the next 6 months should do the trick. No exceptions. Just freight.

60 MPa
27 - 03 - 20

Yep, just Export/Import

If any country has a perfect natural setting to keep it out it’s gotta be Aotearoa

It’s hard on the Tourism industry as that was a huge earner but, as Rod Oram puts it in this RNZ podcast

(start around 11:15) – if we are individually costed at $4.7Mill then that number of deaths is just a huge cost to the country as a whole
Putting any moral dimension to one side it just makes plain good sense to do this economically

For those wanting the smartest updates I have found Marginal Revolution to have some great info

28 - 03 - 20

I am mostly with you on all of this. Mass Transit and the Library are hard hard sells in this environment. Also, this article suggests the Italian death toll could be multiples higher than reported:

29 - 03 - 20

Hi Conor, welcome back. Glad that you’re not Mayor then? What a ghastly set of problems to have for anyone – and I’m so glad that Jacinda is in charge here, not Mr Rump. I can’t figure out why Italy has gone so drastically wrong though – and the sadness from the lack of all the old italian mommas and poppas. Those little hilltop towns are going to be lonesome in the future….

31 - 03 - 20

Yes, a tough time to be mayor! Though be good to hear something, anything at all from our current one. Surely rates freeze plus no more council funding for the LGWM anchor projects, library is obvious to all. Things I haven’t read anywhere are that there will also be a medium term hole in rates as businesses close and that the airport is now basically worthlesss.

31 - 03 - 20

Conor – yes its a worthless lump right now, and I suspect that the international travel angle has now flown the coop forever – NZ’ll probably settle for just one large international airport in the future, so as to enable easier lock downs in the case of future virus flame-ups – but I’m picking that NZ’s domestic tourism market will pick up again long before the international one does. And the old internal, domestic, zipping up and down the country, may well bounce back.

Probably not to the extent that it had been before – do all those business people really need to go to the Koru lounge at 7.00am to fly to Auckland on the 8.00am to get to a central-Auckland office by 9.00? Especially not when they are currently just waking up, hauling on a shirt, and maybe pants, and Zooming in at 8.55….

But the fact we have a large ditch of water between the Fish and the Waka means that we’ll still want to fly to Wanaka and Q Town for winter skiing, if nothing else….