Mask mandates and individual liberties

The number of in-flight clashes between passengers and airline crews in the U.S. increased lately. 

Clashes over what? Masks. Safety instructions. The crews infringing on passengers’ individual liberties and inalienable right to assault flight attendants.

The FAA–that’s the Federal Aviation Administration–logged 1,300 reports between February and some unspecified time, presumably in early May. Before that, it took ten years to collect that many incident reports. So either there’s something in the snack packets they’re handing out or some portion of the population’s gone feral.

What happens to airline passengers who tear their masks off, throw their mashed potatoes, and hurl miniature liquor bottles at flight attendants? They’re fined, and the fines can be hefty. Four people are facing fines of $70,000 each. (They have thirty days to appeal, which is why the wording there is a bit weasley.)  An Alaska state senator was banned from Alaska Airlines flights for “violating [the airline’s] mask policies,” which I think translates to refusing to wear a mask. Or possibly eating it in mid-flight. Because sometimes a person just has to stand up for her liberties. 

In spite of the recent changes in mask mandates, masks are still required on planes and in airports in the U.S. 

Irrelevant photo: Yet another rhododendron. They stay in bloom for a long time. It’s not my fault that I’ve been posting a lot of them.

What else has increased?

The number of British children swallowing magnets has grown  fivefold in the past five years. That probably means five times as many kids swallowed magnets in the past year as swallowed them five years ago, but you can’t trust me around numbers, which is why I’m tiptoeing through the words.

In about half the cases, the kids need surgery because the magnets didn’t find their own way out.

How do we explain the increase? Are magnets more attractive than they were five years back? Are they coming out in new flavors or is someone advertising them to kids on the cartoon shows? Are the kids swallowing one magnet and before they know what’s happened it’s convinced others to jump in and join it? You know what magnets are like.

The most likely answer is None of the Above. Kids are also swallowing coins and button batteries. This is why the relevant experts spend so much time fussing at parents about kids’ nutrition. Get them to eat their broccoli and it’ll distract them from those lovely magnets. If nothing else, they won’t have the time to look through the cabinets and kitchen drawers.

Toys that use magnets are legally required to display a warning, but the thing about kids young enough to swallow them is that for the most part they can’t read. The oldest kid to have swallowed a magnet was sixteen. He or she has an excuse, though: Laws be damned, lots of manufacturers don’t display the warning.

So would a warning stop a sixteen-year-old who wanted to swallow a magnet? All my instincts say no. I was sixteen once. Tell me not to swallow a magnet and I just might’ve swallowed it to prove my point. Whatever my point would have been. It could easily not have been clear to me either.

It’s when kids swallow multiple magnets that the situation, in all seriousness, gets dangerous. So kids, if you’re going to swallow a magnet, please, it’s one to a customer. 

Have you ever wondered why my career in public health messaging didn’t go anywhere?



And what’s decreased?

A German car parts maker called Mahle is working on an electric car engine that doesn’t use rare earth metals. In other words, this may be a sustainable engine that’s actually sustainable. 

It also doesn’t use magnets. Hands up: Who knew that the current crop of electric cars does use magnets? 

Okay, you’re smarter than me. I didn’t have a clue. If my keys start flying out of my pocket and gluing themselves to cars as I walk past, I’ll know why. 

In addition to being more sustainable, the new design is more efficient and longer lasting. It uses (I’m going to quote here, because I haven’t the faintest fucking idea what they’re talking about) “powered coils in its rotor, transferring power to the spinning rotors using induction, which means they never have to touch and that the motor has no surfaces that will wear out.”

The won’t wear out part I understand completely. Also the not touching part, and the keys not flying out of my pocket part. Also the part about the rare earth metals. Because the thing about rare earth metals is that–well, see, they’re rare. 

Do you ever have one of those days when you feel like you have to explain everything?

The cars should be less expensive than the current breed and the batteries should last longer. They’re expected to go into production in two and half years. And if you feel an itch to explain that business with the rotors, you don’t need to. The truth is I almost understand it, which is enough for me to get buy. It’s just that I don’t trust myself to turn it into anything more reader friendly.


And what’s happened that has nothing to do with the arbitrary theme I’ve imposed?

Somebody broke into Arundel Castle, in West Sussex, recently and stole about £1 million worth of goodies before the cops got there.( They tripped a burglar alarm on the way in but were fast enough for that not to matter.) I’m not sure you need to know this, but in case you do, the castle’s in West Sussex and is–for reasons I’m not going to try to understand, never mind explain–the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Norfolk. Which is a whole ‘nother place from Sussex. Maybe it’s traditional among the English aristocracy to sit their ancestral seats in places other than the sites cited in their titles. How would I know? 

What you do need to know is that if anyone tries to sell you a golden set of rosary beads, they might not be as good a buy as they seem. They belonged to Mary Queen of Scots–she was clutching them when she was executed–and will be pretty recognizable.