Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Point of view


The excellent xkcd comic; telling things from an unusual point of view..

Monday, March 30, 2020

Risk


Working in the software industry as I do, I like to think that I recognise "risk" to do with the software development life-cycle where many others don't (which is, of course, true for experts in most industries) With everyone and his dog rushing to build ventilators (often for dubious reasons IMO) there is a distinct risk that the underlying control software in these brand-new designs and machines will have faults (In 35 years of development, I've never released a piece of software without a fault in it somewhere) Now, hopefully any faults turn out to be benign and not cause dangerous situations, but then again, that's the thing with faults, you simply don't know where they are (or you'd fix them!) and so with new minimally tested software the risk is much greater. 

Here's a story about a ventilator that in my view takes a slightly more pragmatic route, it's almost entirely manual using what we used to call a "belt and braces" approach. It's made by a team at MIT in the USA and is centred around an "Ambu bag", which is the blue thing in the picture and what's used to manually ventilate patients when fully automated machines aren't available (i.e. a doctor squeezes air in the bag into the patient by hand). In this prototype a simple motor squeezes the bag containing an air/oxygen mix via a tube inserted into the persons' mouth/throat. The other key thing about this design is that it costs around $100 in parts rather than the $30,000 that much more sophisticated and automated machines cost. So, although perhaps not the ultimate in medical technology, things like this could prove to be real life-savers once this thing gets into it's stride in India and Africa, there certainly are a lot of people out there who'll need something at the more "robust" end of the spectrum to help them get through this.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Social distancing


This "social distancing" malarkey is fun isn't it, people seem to be taking it quite seriously to the point that I've heard a couple of folks getting quite vocal about it, all very un-English! At least the supermarkets are getting back to some kind of normal. Yesterday I went out to do a shop as we'd run out of vegetables and fruit and apart from standing in the car park for 10 minutes it was fairly painless and most things were available. Looks like we have our first new phrase of the year for the Oxford English dictionary, I wonder what other new terms will enter our vocabularies before the year is out?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Making tracks


Delicious beer last night from a company called "Track Brewing" based in Manchester. A real belter for tropical fruit flavours and perfect "spiky" carbonation, only 3.8% ABV too so you could have a few! Unfortunately I only had one can, but one that's definitely going on the "repeat purchase" list!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Ideal places


Not to understate the current pandemic, but, we've been here before, and the solution was science. Vaccine is the only viable exit strategy for our current woes, that seems obvious. So, as nations, states and individuals we need to be investing more in biological research and drug research in general. That way we get vaccines before we know we need them, the place I'm sure we'd all rather be.

Always learning..


Love this photo, taken in central Cardiff, it's a Sparrowhawk downing another unfortunate bird (looks like a Pigeon?) for lunch. Not something you'd normally see on a city street but because things are so quiet now, nature is starting to reclaim what are normally exclusively Human spaces. I also saw a photo of a coyote in down-town San Francisco along similar lines. On a related note I went for a little 5 km run yesterday and couldn't help but notice the way in which the air seemed clearer/cleaner. Now, I don't want to over-egg things as yesterday morning was quite crisp and breezy anyway, but, there was a noticeable difference. I wonder if six months of this world-wide will make any difference to climate change, probably not, but we (in the developed world) can hopefully all learn something from this experience about how to cope without our addiction to using an internal combustion engine everyday?

Friday Smirk


I've heard a few people make this mistake in the last couple of weeks, but I'm not going to crow about it!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

London spirit


Nice bit of "London spirit" on display here.. love it!

A safe distance


J&M pointing out the obvious fact that during these times of crisis caused by natural phenomenon such as global pandemics, tsunamis, volcano's, earthquakes etc. None of the thousands of Gods that people have ever believed in over the millennia appear to be the slightest bit interested or bothered as we suffer and perish in our thousands. Now this could be for some complex, deep, impossible to comprehend theological reason or simply because all these magical entities are entirely imaginary and man made. People have to decide for themselves what the evidence of their own eyes suggests is most likely, but on a more practical point, since there is essentially so little difference between the absent and the non-existent we might as well crack on and sort life's challenges out ourselves using compassion, reason and science, after all, life is way too short to worry about the ridiculously unlikely foibles of callous (imaginary) despots in the trees/mountains/clouds/heavens etc.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Midweek Mirth


I know some people's attitude to this pandemic is that they say something like "Britain fought and won two World wars, we can handle a bit of flu" or words to that effect (mostly Brexiters it must be said). Well, complete bollocks is what I say! This isn't "flu" and if uncontrolled this disease will kill more people than both wars combined, people who say stuff like this should be encouraged to do some volunteer work at their local A&E department. As the famous WWII saying goes, "coughs and sneezes spread diseases", so, in the true WWII spirit I conclude that certain people should keep their mouths firmly shut, just in case...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Hindsight?


Have a read of the following extract from a medical research paper..

ABSTRACT:
Before the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in 2003, only 12 other animal or human corona viruses were known. The discovery of this virus was soon followed by the discovery of the civet and bat SARS-CoV and the human coronaviruses NL63 and HKU1. Surveillance of coronaviruses in many animal species has increased the number on the list of coronaviruses to at least 36. The explosive nature of the first SARS epidemic, the high mortality, its transient reemergence a year later, and economic disruptions led to a rush on research of the epidemiological, clinical, pathological, immunological, virological, and other basic scientific aspects of the virus and the disease. This research resulted in over 4,000 publications, only some of the most representative works of which could be reviewed in this article. The marked increase in the understanding of the virus and the disease within such a short time has allowed the development of diagnostic tests, animal models, antivirals, vaccines, and epidemiological and infection control measures, which could prove to be useful in randomized control trials if SARS should return. The findings that horseshoe bats are the natural reservoir for SARS-CoV-like virus and that civets are the amplification host highlight the importance of wildlife and bio-security in farms and wet markets, which can serve as the source and amplification centers for emerging infections.

INTRODUCTION
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a novel virus that caused the first major pandemic of the new millennium. The rapid economic growth in southern China has led to an increasing demand for animal proteins including those from exotic game food animals such as civets. Large numbers and varieties of these wild game mammals in overcrowded cages and the lack of bio-security measures in wet markets allowed the jumping of this novel virus from animals to human. Its capacity for human-to-human transmission, the lack of awareness in hospital infection control, and international air travel facilitated the rapid global dissemination of this agent. Over 8,000 people were affected, with a crude fatality rate of 10%. The acute and dramatic impact on health care systems, economies, and societies of affected countries within just a few months of early 2003 was unparalleled since the last plague. The small reemergence of SARS in late 2003 after the resumption of the wildlife market in southern China and the recent discovery of a very similar virus in horseshoe bats, bat SARS-CoV, suggested that SARS can return if conditions are fit for the introduction, mutation, amplification, and transmission of this dangerous virus. Here, we review the biology of the virus in relation to the epidemiology, clinical presentation, pathogenesis, laboratory diagnosis, animal models or hosts, and options for treatment, immunization, and infection control.

Sound familiar? It should do. It's describing the precise source, transmission and character of the current pandemic, the most sobering fact about it though was that it was authored in 2007. Shame the powers that be didn't do more to insist that these cruel and unnecessary "wet markets" were regulated and/or closed down long ago, let's hope they do now!

Evidence and logic


Saw this little meme the other day and thought it totally appropriate for the orange-faced moron running the USA at the moment. Apparently he's saying that his country will be "opened up by Easter" meaning social distancing and remote working will have stopped by then and the Covid virus will be completely free to ravage the population. Of course if that turns out to be true (unlikely since most of what he says is untrue or wrong) then he could kill a couple million Americans! Sounds like genocide of the poor if you ask me?

Don't hold your breath


So, day two of the lock-down; how's everyone coping? My brood seem to be getting on with stuff OK, the hardest part for the teenagers (as I suspected) is not going out to "hang" with their mates (boyfriends and girlfriends etc.) I can understand it but to their credit they're being pretty stoic for now, I'm just thankful for zoom, face-time and decent fiber-optic broadband! In all of history, a pandemic is probably best fitted to the internet-age..

I don't know about you but when I go for a walk and pass someone on the pavement I feel the urge to hold my breath.. Is that just me being paranoid? Anyway, spare a thought for my Daughter who is 16 years old today, we're trying to put the best face on things we can but TBH it's the crappiest 16th birthday ever!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Day one


So, working-day one of total lock-down for our family done!

We were all at home today, both kids had remote lessons run by their schools (which I must say worked really well and sounded like fun from what I overheard!) and the adults were working as normal on email and conference calls with digital-work on our various projects interspersed between them. We decided to go for a short walk at lunchtime (mainly because it was such a nice day) and we picked a route that avoided any potential crowds (i.e. town centre etc.) I must say though, we still saw plenty of other people out and about, most alarmingly bands of kids (clearly not all from the same family) playing with bikes, balls and in playgrounds like nothing was happening. I must admit I felt a little annoyed about that! Some parents clearly don't get it (or don't care) and it makes somewhat of a mockery of everything everyone else is trying to do, anyway not much we can do other than moan I suppose.

Anyway, here's our current metrics scorecard..

Food reserves - good
Bog-roll - plenty
Wine and Beer - plenty
Boredom Threshold - within tolerances

Sunday, March 22, 2020

New normal


Kids are home now, schools closed and we're all cooped up in the house together, so far, so good, no problems with food supply or critical services like internet etc. I suspect most people will be adjusting to this new "normal" at the moment, we went for a long walk in the countryside this afternoon and there were a ton of people out doing the same thing, it felt a bit weird. Both my kids are teenagers and I think they will find this particularly difficult, the urge to go see friends and "hang-out" is all consuming for them. I've already had a couple of "debates" about not going out unnecessarily, I'm anticipating those desires getting stronger as time goes on.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sins & Virtues


Loving these two new beers from my local brewer Siren. Called "Sins" and "Virtues" they are a couple of specials made to celebrate the 7th anniversary of  the firm. Sins is an "apple stout" i.e. a dark beer with apple juice added, the style is sometimes called a "graf" and tastes like a beer/cider hybrid, I really liked it. "Virtues" is a hazy pale ale made with American hops, also good but not as good as the graf. I particularly liked the way Siren engineered the ABV of "Sins" to be 6.66%, nice touch.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday Smirk


J&M on the button as usual. What nasty ideas those Abrahamic dogma's really are, when you scrape away the medieval architecture, paintings and hymns etc..

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The other-side


Love this cartoon, so true, let's hope things will be different on the "other-side" (doubt it)

Delusion mass


I can't actually believe that this story is true, but suspect strongly that it might be. In Bangladesh 25,000 people gathered together cheek by jowl to "pray" to their invisible god to "protect" them from another invisible entity, corona virus. No one thought to reasonably conclude that if prayer actually worked then we wouldn't have viruses in the first place! One can't help feeling that our species is well and truly screwed. If you're wondering what the furry animal is and what it has to do with this story, it's a Lemming, make of that what you will.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The scientific paper that changed everything


Been reading the scientific paper from Imperial College (London) - fascinating. If you get the chance you should try to wrap your brain around it, it's available here. The hospitalization rates and therefore the ultimate fatality rates are interesting, they clearly show how age affects the numbers, suffice to say it's really, really important to keep this virus away from old people (see below)


Without wholesale suppression (i.e. isolation and shutting everything down) the number of people that would require ICU beds would overwhelm our system (both here and in the USA) leading to 250,000 deaths. When we do suppress the transmission we lower the need for beds but delay the spike in deaths until later, i.e. when restrictions are eased the deaths spike immediately. The plan seems to be to pump the brakes, i.e. suppress, release, suppress, release etc. But the problem (and the thing that's not being explained) is that this is going to take 12-18 months or until we've got a vaccine, something like 4 months on and 2 months off (& repeat) etc.. (see below)


So, get used to the new normal folks, the WFH culture and fiscal thumb-screws will become something we will all need to get our heads around. We'll need to knock quite a few things on the head quite quickly, people will need to properly self-isolate (they're not right now), stockpiling will need to be made a crime, businesses will need to innovate and re-think and leaders will need to lead! Let's hope we can overcome the panic (which I think will come when people understand these points) without too much angst and suffering, and get to a new steady-state quickly, as a country and society we have the resources to nail this (in fact we have more than we need) but if you understand the contents of this paper, it's going to be tough.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Stockpiling my thoughts


So, we had our first suspected case of Covid-19 at work over the weekend, one of the people in my company has self-isolated and is likely to have the virus (caught from flat-mate) Consequently I took the decision to switch everyone to "WFH" (work from home) mode from today and shut the office down completely. Luckily as a technology/software firm that's not too much of a drama for us although, without face to face meetings, selling the stuff we make to people might be a tad more challenging, we'll have to get innovative there I think, need to think of some opportunistic angles to exploit the bell-curve.

Anyway, according to my habit, I decided to have a little wander at lunchtime so I braved a walk into town and a visit to our local Waitrose supermarket. Oh my, what a disaster! Hundreds of people milling around (most looking well over 70!) huge queues at checkouts (none of them could work the self-checkouts properly) nothing (useful) on the selves and frankly a terrified look in most people's eyes. The shoppers were mostly blokes who were wandering around aimlessly with their phones cemented to their ears, presumably talking to their wives, since they were saying things like should I by X or Y, clearly having no clue about grocery shopping. Boots was no better, empty shelves and empty looking people, I even noticed a bunch of rough looking geezers (clearly half-cut) trying to get into a pub that was shut, seriously, if this is the "Dunkirk" spirit then I don't rate our chances much!

Now I'm a pretty laid-back person and I must say that I'm not too worried about catching this virus, the genes in my family are pretty tough, my Sister in London has recovered from it already, she says it's a rough 4-5 days but manageable, like bad flu, anyway, we're all fit and healthy with no underlying issues so the statistics are in our favour. Clearly, we just need to make sure that if symptoms appear that we don't pass it onto more vulnerable people etc. But, even I was surprised today, we're not even in the thick of it yet but judging by some the carnage I witnessed (and the volume of vehicles with sirens blaring racing through the town) I'd be seriously worried that quite a few people are going to find this really difficult.

I foolishly thought that I'd just nip out to buy some bread and I also needed a block of marzipan to make a cake for my Daughters birthday next week, but alas, both were completely sold-out (why marzipan??) Anyway, thinking laterally I got flour and yeast (to make my own bread) and found plenty of marzipan in a little local shop on the way home from town, strangely this was the only place I saw any cold-remedies (Lemsip etc.) also; seems like people are stockpiling drugs as well as marzipan, the best strategy seems to be shop local and avoid the supermarkets. 

Holy crap, what a mess. What with congregations of more than a few people banned, faith healing conventions cancelled and churches/mosques/synagogues shut, I could launch into a commentary about the complete absence of any useful deistic intervention at this point, but TBH that seems too bleeding obvious to be worthwhile. Rather, this crisis makes me think more about what our ancient ancestors would have thought faced with similar pandemics in the middle ages, before the enlightenment, the mass panic and fear must have been unimaginably horrific. All at a time when they didn't even know where diseases came from, how to cure them or even how to avoid catching them. It's no wonder they invented things like religions and rituals to persist some level of hope in society. A case of "ignorance is bliss" I suppose, nothing like plenty of unwitting vectors innocently gathering together, speeding transmission, death, recovery and eventually herd immunity, the circle of life, the only agency required being nature, nature red in tooth and claw.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Honest Government



Excellent... and unfortunately true..

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Taking the biscuit


My wife and I took the train into Reading yesterday, she was visiting one of our friends who is in hospital at the moment. I had a mooch around the shops and a little walk around past the old biscuit factory. I ended up in a new pub called "The Weather Station" which is run by Silchester based brewery "Wild Weather Ales", it's a nice spot with some splendid beers on offer (see below). Unfortunately we had to catch the train back so I only had time for a quick one but I managed to pop into my favourite bottle shop (The Grumpy Goat) on the way back to the station and pick up some delicious cheese and a couple of interesting cans to sup while making dinner.


A nice IPA from Wild Weather, tropical flavours bursting from the glass, good mouthfeel and balanced, to quote Arnie, I'll be back!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Turning the tide


I see that Lawrence Fox received an apology from the Equity union today for the remarks made against him by one of their committees over comments he made on a BBC Question Time programme (see above). I think this is a welcome move by the organisation; powerful bodies that have controlling interests over people shouldn't simply be able to call someone "racist" and harm their employment opportunities simply because they disagree on a subjective matter of opinion. In fact, bearing in mind that the intention of this was to put Lawrence out of work, I think the wording of the communication is a little on the "weak" side if anything (see below).


Let's hope that this is a clear sign that the fight-back against ridiculous and politically inspired "wokeness" that has (dangerously IMO) gained a foothold in our culture and that the tide will now be turned. We should celebrate diversity of all kinds, particularly diversity of opinion.

Meanwhile, back on the farm..


This is proof enough for me that there is no God or Gods, because if there were, they/it/he/she would strike this total slime-bag down instantly. The prize bell-end in the video is healing no one, there's no such thing as magic! If you're really ill, go to the doctor!

Friday Smirk



Good to know.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Oculudentavis khaungraae


Amazing discovery in Myanmar of the smallest dinosaur ever found. The fossil was spotted in a piece of amber, exactly like the scenario in the blockbuster film "Jurassic Park", hopefully it wasn't bought by a megalomaniacal bond villain who owns an uninhabited tropical island! Of course the little critter looks very much like a small bird, about the size of a hummingbird, and may even answer some of the questions around how birds evolved from dinosaurs that tended to be much bigger in size. I have no doubt that the creationists out there will be droning on about how this is "just a bird", but if you look close enough (CT scan below) you can see that, among other unique non-avian features, this little creature had teeth, something birds simply don't have, a clear example of a transitional species.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Strawmanning


An excellent J&M this week pointing out the current trend for attempting to seize the moral high ground by "strawmanning" your opponents with labels such as "racist", "Islamophobe" or "sexist" for simply disagreeing with you. This seems to be a tactic much beloved of the left (particularly radical feminists) and also the more radical fringes of LGBT+ interest groups and their representatives. Much has been written and said on this subject recently, I particularly like the work being done by conservatives (with a small "c") such as Douglas Murray in "The Madness of Crowds" and Sam Harris in his videos and podcast, both rational thinkers commenting on a landscape of irrational identity politics.

Parasitic scams


I guess "faith" isn't such a great thing to base "real-world" decisions on then! We are often told by our religious brothers and sisters that "faith" is a virtue, but, in my estimation it's nothing of the sort, more like gullibility as far as I can see. Of course, we can all suffer from that Human weakness from time to time, confirmation bias is a powerful force, we are all Human after all. But, having even a grain of skepticism protects most of us from the worst snake-oil-salesmen in our communities, and their relentless parasitic scams.

Mid week Mirth


ha ha..

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Stockpiling


Elegant solution to the bog-roll stockpiling situation I thought...

Mental health


Had a bizarre conversation with someone yesterday. A mutual friend is going through chemo-therapy at the moment and so is highly immunocompromised; I suggested that we should advise her to stay at home (in readiness for the inevitable spread of the virus to her workplace) The objection raised was that the lack of direct contact with people might be "bad for her mental health". I pointed out that being "dead" is probably worse for her mental health and that we should all probably err on the side of caution. Judging from the raised eyebrows, I got the impression the comment wasn't well received. Such a depressing thought, when otherwise intelligent people value risking feelings over risking life itself, such is the screwed up society we seem to live in these days!

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Oxo-Tower


You could say I've started stock-piling..

Vibrant


Spent an enjoyable day in the New Forest yesterday with some friends that live over that way. We visited the brewery tap-room of Vibrant Forest, and very lush it was too! They had a little event going on to usher in the Spring and had a couple of street-food options and some music as well as a decent amount of indoor seating and most important of all some banging beers! Loved the one above, called "Pupa" (as in butterflies) it was a haze for days IPA loaded with flavour and American hops, delicious and really nice out of a cask (as opposed to key-keg) for a change.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Nice while it lasted


With the rate of COVID-19 infections more or less doubling every day, I think we can safely assume that the beast has properly escaped into the wild now. The "containment" phase was nice while it lasted, unfortunately I expect, like me, most of us blinked and missed it. We can only conclude that sadly the majority of us will probably come face-to-face with these pesky critters at some point now. I wonder if it's time to fill my bath up with pure alcohol (or one of my higher ABV home-brews) and sit in it for the next six months, or should I do what someone on the train did yesterday and walk around with a Tesco's bag over my head (slits for eyes) although clearly, being the commuter belt, a Waitrose "bag for life" would be preferable (even though "life" may turn out to be a relative term)

Still, I'm always on the lookout for an upside so perhaps my plan should be to skip the next two "phases" and get out there among the "people" right now so that I catch it as soon as I can! I'm sure I'd get over it (fingers crossed) and then, once immune, the path will be clear to cash in on cheap, uncrowded holiday destinations and accommodation deals all Summer (while simultaneously "working from home"... wink, wink) Anyway, must dash my train is due and I need to lick as many door buttons as I can before I get home (it's only 2 stops you know!)

Friday Smirk


I never understood the connection between Easter/Christianity and chocolate eggs/rabbits, no doubt it stems from some bizarre medieval eating dogma (like you can't eat avocado until the third weekend after Lent etc.) or perhaps it was nicked from some pagan fertility ritual or belief. Anyway, not important now, it's one of those little idiosyncrasies that we just shrug and get on with, after all, what's there not to like about chocolate? If the tradition had linked Easter with eating live slugs then I'm not so sure it would have persisted without question for so long, such is the nature of "tradition"..

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Retro game-shows


So here's a good idea for a new retro game show, perhaps hosted by Philip Schofield? You have to choose your favourite flavour and take a drink, but one of them has a virus in it! Personally, I was always suspicious of Cherryade, tasted nothing like cherries to me, Cream Soda every time!

Always read the small print..


I guess the "magic" doesn't work against viruses, are they more powerful than the will of the omnipotent creator of the universe we wonder, or is COVID-19 an intentional device on the part of some malicious evil "God" or other? So confusing this religion stuff, is magic real or not? Seems to me that whenever the magic comes up against reality it dissolves into allegory or becomes utterly powerless. Think I'll stick to only believing in things that can be shown to be true and continue to avoid crowds of Italian-Chinese people and wash my hands 10 times a day...

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Mid Week Mirth


Splendid J&M, as usual, pointing out the way in which many religious people stretch, twist and mold the obvious facts of the world to fit their favourite world-view, i.e. that their particular omnipotent deity exists and regularly intervenes in Human affairs in their favour. Science (particularly Medicine and Biology) have progressed in the teeth of opposition from religion over hundreds of years, the examples of this are legend. Of course, some religious scientists are able to compartmentalize these two things and function perfectly well in doing their science but this fact has no bearing on the validity or otherwise of the truth claims of religion, it merely speaks to the demonstrable plasticity of Human brains.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Virus thingy


This virus thingy that's doing the rounds at the moment seems to be turning everyone into expert microbiologists! Everywhere you look there's assertive commentary about pathology, diagnosis, mortality rates, treatment and contagion. If we do end up in a pandemic situation, which is looking more likely by the day now, then the number of social media "I told you so's" will be both deafening (and nauseating) at the same time. Some (fatalist) part of me is hoping that I contract the blessed virus soon and get it over with before the Summer gets here, wouldn't want food shortages, mass riots for drugs and regional "lock-downs" to interfere with opportunities to exploit the roasting hot weather that we'll have due to global warming. Just living' the dream these days..

Monday, March 02, 2020

No possible flaw


It's been ages since I've had a pop at the idea of "creationism". Saw this meme the other day and thought, that's a nice summary of their position; a good one to remember to "whip-out" at an appropriate point in any debate on the subject. 

Actually though, I reckon this is the position of most religious people, certainly our monotheistic brothers and sisters. The nuance of course, is that at the more sophisticated end of the spectrum the tactic seems to be to insert the "Deity" figure into the small gap (Cosmologically speaking) between the big-bang and evolution by natural selection getting started on planet Earth. They must feel like this gap in our current understanding of nature is sufficiently large for their ideas to fit into un-challenged? Personally I wouldn't want to peg my hopes on something as tenuous as a gap in scientific understanding, history has shown that gaps like that have a tendency to shrink quite quickly over time leaving the gap-filler disoriented, dogmatic and somewhat bitter (i.e. a classic creationist)

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Americans


Reading in the paper today that many Americans are confused if Corona beer is related to the Corona virus in some way. I guess if you're an American of a certain kind, are partial to industrial drinks that don't actually taste of anything and are confused to such an epic degree then perhaps a global pandemic that thins out the herd a bit is long overdue?

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Zombie pale-ale


Bought a couple of cans of this some weeks ago at the brewery-tap and finally got around to drinking them yesterday evening. They went down great with some cheesy crisps and a cheesy film (Zombieland  II) watched with my Son, Jack (who enjoyed both the beer and the film) 

The beer is a hazy 4% IPA made by my local craft brewery Siren (Finchampstead) and is a light and fruity session beer chocked full of juicy German, American and Australian hops (Hallertau Blanc, Mosaic, Chinook, Ekuanot and Azacca). The film on the other hand was what you might call a black-comedy, tongue in cheek zombie apocalypse movie with Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg, both not too serious and both thoroughly recommended!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Friday Smirk


Excellent J&M (as usual) referring to the recent abolition of Blasphemy as a crime in Ireland (hurrah!) That country voted back in 2017 to remove the relevant laws from their statute book and it finally happened on the 1st January this year. The amusing thing about the cartoon is that the boys are actually "blaspheming" whilst asking their God for help, nice little double whammy there!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Electile Dysfunction


I've had a severe case of this at the last general election, hasn't improved since then..

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Weather Trends


So, in the spirit of science here is the latest in my series of weather photo's. Every year on February 25th at 12:15 I take a shot of a scene during my regular lunchtime stroll, i.e. from the same spot (roughly). So, from left to right we have 2018, 2019 and now 2020, as you can see the sky had much more of a February vibe to it this year although the temperature was still above average (which is 7 degrees) at around 11 centigrade. Just goes to show that weather is not the same as climate but I reckon if I keep going for another 20 years the proportion of anomalies we'd see compared to the averages in 2018 would be significant.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Superstition will get us in the end


I read that the epicenter of the huge spike in COVID-19 cases in Korea (the largest outside of China) emanates from a fringe religious sect called the "Shincheonji Church". The sect is Christian in character and like superstitious sects the world over clearly attracts a certain "mind-set". Apparently patient zero was a 61 year old Woman who refused to be admitted to hospital and instead attended several religious gatherings where the disease was transmitted. 

Unfortunately in this case it seems as though her arrogant and ignorant attitude that "Jesus (or insert whatever imaginary deity you like here) will save me" has put a huge number of people at risk. Viruses don't care what wacky shit you believe, they're just genetic robots that will do what their bio-chemistry dictates they must do, which is to hijack our eukaryotic cell replication mechanism killing the cell in the process, 1st century Jewish mystics or greedy Korean hucksters claiming to be the second coming of said mystics simply don't enter into it.


In another travesty of ignorance it seems that the original animal incubator of this new strain of Corona virus may well have come from the much abused Pangolin. This is an animal that is prized in Asia for it's scales and being essentially a scaly anteater has quite a few. The scales are used for that ultimate bastion of confirmation-bias "Chinese medicine" or in other words an industry founded on ignorant superstition and fueled by greed and snake-oil. The Pangolin is on the brink of extinction, as are many of the animals having the misfortune of being valued by this utterly bankrupt and vile trade.

So, superstition of two different flavours contributing to significantly helping to (potentially) kill millions of people, let's hope the Korean outbreak can be controlled and the good weather arrives before we have a pandemic to deal with. Anyway, make a mental note, when someone tries to convince you that their particular superstition is "harmless", perhaps challenge the point and use these two examples as evidence to the contrary.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sometimes

Sometimes I get news that makes me really think, I suppose it's the same for all of us. This weekend we learned that a lifelong friend of my Wife's, who was just about to retire to the Sunny uplands of Southern Spain with her husband (literally next week) had a stroke on Friday evening, and is now in intensive care. Apparently it was a serious episode and her condition is still critical several days later. Of course we remain optimistic that she will make some kind of recovery, and will be going to see her as soon as we can to lend whatever support we can, but the news put me in a reflective mood. As we get older I guess it's normal to start to see older generations as well as some peers starting to fade away; it's never easy but the longer I live the more I feel I understand those cheesy quotes that you occasionally read on the subject. The one that sprung into my mind this weekend was "life is a tragedy filled with joy". I can't even remember who said it or where I read it, but thinking about all the wonderful things our two families have witnessed and enjoyed together over the years while simultaneously trying to comprehend the terror of her current predicament, I can certainly see where they were coming from.