Celebrating the Invisible People

Stromae is back with a song celebrating those who keep the world running, but who are never noticed.

Welcome back, Stromae.

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Facebookland

An excellent, and chilling, article in The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance about the power and dangers of Facebook. Worth reading.

I left Facebook, with absolutely no regrets, over six years ago. One user down, only another 2.9 billion to go…

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Ten Years

It doesn’t seem possible that it has been ten years since Len died. He is still much missed. He still occasionally visits me in my dreams. I’ll be back in a dream version of our house in Bristol Gardens, and Len will be smiling and giving me some good advice as usual.

I think he would be appalled and angry about the events that have occurred since his death. Brexit and the damage wreaked by the public school boys Cameron and Johnson in particular. Len always did have an outlook that was European and beyond in scope.

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The Embuggerance Revisited

I’ve now completed the course of chemotherapy and immunotherapy that was called for when it was discovered that I had an embuggerance.

The good news is that the lymphomas have shrunk, and a couple have disappeared altogether; the not-so-good news is that most are still hanging around.

It’s not bad news however, the doctor was pleased with the results, but it does mean that I am now on a “maintenance” regime – an infusion of rituximab every three months to keep everything under control. This may go on for a couple of years. Every now and then there will be a PET-scan to see how the lymphomas are doing.

The bottom line is that there has been no magic cure, but I should be OK for a few years yet… As Alan Bennett said, I intend keeping on keeping on…

Posted in Health and wellness | 4 Comments

Another Day, Another Microsoft Rant…

As I predicted a year ago, Microsoft is dropping Skype, and trying to persuade people to move to a version of Microsoft Teams intended for home users. It will come as standard in Windows 11, but it is already available for Window 10 as a download. Actually, it’s been available for some time for iOS and Android devices, with support for Windows having been added in the past few weeks.

I’ve been using the business version of Microsoft Teams for some time, but I thought I would check the personal version out in view of the likely demise of Skype in the not too distant future (if Microsoft has its way).

For years, I’ve had two Microsoft Accounts, each associated with its own separate email address, and for years, both accounts have had the same mobile number associated with them because I have a single mobile phone.

I’ve just tried to set up the personal Microsoft Teams application with the second Microsoft Account.

I get to the stage where it asks for a phone number to be added to the Microsoft Account. But, hang on I think, that account already has my number – why is Teams asking for it again? Oh well, no harm in giving it again I think.

Wrong.

I get a message saying: “That number is already taken”, followed by a message from the Authenticator app on my phone telling me that my phone number has been removed from my account. Er, what?

Could it be that the developers of Microsoft Teams cannot conceive of a use case where someone can have multiple email addresses, but only has one mobile? Please say it isn’t so.

Gah!

Posted in Computers and Internet, Organizations | Tagged | 2 Comments

Microsoft: Opens Mouth to Change Feet Yet Again…

I see that Microsoft is demonstrating its endless capability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again.

Last week they proudly unveiled Windows 11.

Their web page for Windows 11 includes an App to check whether your Windows PCs are ready for Windows 11. Naturally, I downloaded it and ran it on all my PCs and tablets.

I had expected that my old desktop PC would not meet the requirements, but I was somewhat flabbergasted to see that my 1 year-old Surface Go 2 also failed to pass the tests:

The Surface Go 2 has an Intel Core m3-8100Y CPU, which is actually on the list of supported Intel CPUs for Windows 11.

It turns out that the PC Health Check app is a load of dingos’ kidneys. And that Microsoft don’t seem to be able to agree amongst themselves what, precisely, the actual requirements are.

Oh, and I see that while Microsoft says Windows 11 “will be coming later this year”, the fine print later on the same page qualifies that to “The upgrade rollout plan is still being finalized but is scheduled to begin late in 2021 and continue into 2022. Specific timing will vary by device”.

‘Twas ever thus for Microsoft. Plus ça change…

Posted in Computers and Internet, Organizations | Tagged | 5 Comments

The UK’s Home Office Does It Again…

Are they incompetent, malign, or both?

Acclaimed British cellist has passport cancelled by Home Office

Judging by their past performance: both is probably the closest to the truth.

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If You Go Down To The Woods Today…

…You’re sure of a big surprise.*

Took the dogs for a walk in the woods this morning, and we were greeted by this newly-erected sign at the entrance.

It says: “beware of defensive buzzard”. There’s obviously a nest up in the trees somewhere, but I couldn’t spot it. At any rate, we were not buzzed by a buzzard.

The last time I saw a buzzard’s nest in these woods was eleven years ago.

Good to see them back.

*The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

Posted in Nature, Photography | 4 Comments

Hating Peter Tatchell

That’s the title of a documentary about the LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell, which is now available on Netflix.

It is very good and well worth watching.

I have always liked and admired the strength of Tatchell’s convictions and his willingness to keep on battling against all odds. Seeing the rerun in the documentary of the time of Thatcher’s Britain with AIDS and Section 28 and that awful woman was painful.

It was only the activities of Outrage and people like Peter and Derek Jarman who really got things moving to repeal Section 28. I used to be a member of CHE back in the 1970s, but I always remember that it was the UK’s GLF that galvanised me into becoming a soft activist, doing what I could in my small way.

Peter is rightly celebrated in this film. He’s paid for his actions with his health, but long may he continue to speak truth to power.

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Accidents Will Happen…

Following on from my last post, it would seem that people are beginning to at least consider all the options concerning the origins of Covid-19. A good thing too, however uncomfortable it may be to consider the possibility that it was an accident arising out of virus research being carried out in labs that were only at BSL2 level.

There are four degrees of safety, designated BSL1 to BSL4, with BSL4 being the most restrictive and designed for deadly pathogens like the Ebola virus. From Nicholas Wade’s article:

Before 2020, the rules followed by virologists in China and elsewhere required that experiments with the SARS1 and MERS viruses be conducted in BSL3 conditions. But all other bat coronaviruses could be studied in BSL2, the next level down. BSL2 requires taking fairly minimal safety precautions, such as wearing lab coats and gloves, not sucking up liquids in a pipette, and putting up biohazard warning signs. Yet a gain-of-function experiment conducted in BSL2 might produce an agent more infectious than either SARS1 or MERS. And if it did, then lab workers would stand a high chance of infection, especially if unvaccinated.

Much of Shi’s work on gain-of-function in coronaviruses was performed at the BSL2 safety level, as is stated in her publications and other documents. She has said in an interview with Science magazine that ‘[t]he coronavirus research in our laboratory is conducted in BSL-2 or BSL-3 laboratories.’

The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan? – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (thebulletin.org)

And so, questions are beginning to be asked…

And so, like many other times over the past year, we’re stuck without a clear answer. The point has been made that, epidemiologically, none of this really matters. Lab or not, the pandemic happened and is still going. But finding its origin would be hugely consequential. A natural origin would absolve any one person, but further confirm that our nature-encircling world is incubating pandemic disease at an unprecedented rate. A lab-leak would tarnish the job of scientific research for a lifetime and prove some of the worst people in the culture war – partially – right. I think I’d prefer the first case, but even more than that, I’d like to know the truth.

Why the ‘lab-leak’ theory of Covid’s origins has gained prominence again | Stephen Buranyi | The Guardian

Absolutely.

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Oops…

Nicholas Wade has written a long analysis of the question: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?

As he writes:

I’ll describe the two theories, explain why each is plausible, and then ask which provides the better explanation of the available facts. It’s important to note that so far there is no direct evidence for either theory. Each depends on a set of reasonable conjectures but so far lacks proof. So I have only clues, not conclusions, to offer. But those clues point in a specific direction.

What I find worrying in his analysis is the early strenuous denial by researchers that the COVID-19 pandemic could possibly have been the result of a laboratory accident because of a conflict of interests.

The conflict of interest point about Peter Daszak seems pretty damning to me. And what is also worrying is that the WHO team visiting the Wuhan lab had others who could potentially fall prey to this. e.g. Marion Koopmans from the Netherlands who heads (with Ron Fouchier) the Dutch lab that has been doing gain-of-function research for many years. She’s been on Dutch TV talkshows regularly over the past year.

Until now, I had never thought about whether GOF studies had any real benefit in combatting pandemics. Now I’m more inclined to view them as playing with fire, because we can…

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It’s A Sin

And following on from the It’s A Sin TV drama, Olly Alexander teams up with Elton to perform a big production number of The Pet Shop Boy’s classic:

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The Fox in the Henhouse?

According to a news story in the Guardian, none other than Nigel Farage has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Dutch Green Business Group.

This does seem to be a rather ill-thought out decision for a company supposedly proud of its “green” credentials.

Farage has a long history of climate warming denialism. I doubt that this particular leopard has suddenly changed his spots. And now he is to act as a “spokesman” for the company? The mind positively boggles.

Addendum: It just goes from bad to worse.

Posted in Nature, Organizations, Science | 1 Comment

It’s A Sin

That’s the title of a five-part TV series written by Russell T. Davies. Spanning the years 1981 to 1991, and set in London, it charts the impact of the AIDS crisis on a group of friends.

It is, quite simply, a stunning piece of work, a masterpiece. A strong cast, inspired directing, and RTD’s writing combine to give explosions of joy, horror, and homophobia.

Watching it together with Martin brought all those times back to us. The friendships we made, the friends we lost, the callousness of Thatcher’s government, and the homophobia in British society, fanned by the tabloid press.

RTD’s writing draws upon all of this – there are references to the infamous Section 28 legislation, and he puts the word “cesspit” into the mouth of a policeman in one scene that directly references the utterance by the then Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton, who said that homosexuals, drug addicts and prostitutes who had HIV/AIDS were “swirling in a human cesspit of their own making”.

As well as the wider references, RTD has drawn upon his own memories of the friends he knew to create his central characters. The character of Jill Baxter is modelled on his actress friend Jill Nalder, who herself plays the role of Jill Baxter’s mother in the series.

As I say, watching the events unfold brought all the best and the worst of those times flooding back. These days, while HIV/AIDS is not the automatic death sentence that it once was, it is still not something that should be treated casually. I hope that the series will be watched by the younger gay generations to learn something of what we went through and the awakening of our political action.

It struck me that RTD and his team have produced a work that completely fulfils Lord Reith’s directive to the BBC that its programming should “inform, educate and entertain”. The irony is that it ended up, not on the BBC, but on its commercial rival, Channel 4…

Posted in Entertainment, Health and wellness, History, LGBT Politics, Society, Television | 2 Comments

An Embuggerance

Last October, I noticed that a lymph gland in my groin was swollen. That was the beginning of a roller coaster ride of scans, surgery and biopsies. Come Christmas Eve, I received the news that Prostate Cancer was present, and in January, heard that it had been joined by Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

The good news is that the Prostate Cancer is at an early stage, and only active monitoring is called for. The bad news is that the Lymphoma needs a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy – and I start treatment this coming Friday; six cycles of treatment, each lasting three weeks.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride – the seatbelt is fastened.

The Dutch Health Service – doctors, nurses and healthcare workers – have all been very good; caring and competent. I’m optimistic about the outcome.

Posted in Health and wellness | 7 Comments

“Let Them Eat Cake”

While Boris Johnson has claimed that the post-Brexit trade deal allows Britain to “have one’s cake and eating it“, it is becoming abundantly clear that this is not the case.

The latest twist is that British exporters to the EU are being encouraged by the UK government’s Department for International Trade to set up companies in the EU to circumvent border issues and VAT problems.

Far from having one’s cake and eating it, this sounds more like Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal response to the news that starving peasants could not afford to buy bread.

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Putin’s Shell Game and Navalny’s Gamble

This is quite an extraordinary video. Alexei Navalny documents Putin’s elaborate arrangement of shell companies and what the money is being spent on.

Navalny must be a very brave man, deliberately walking into the lion’s den by returning to Russia, and then releasing this video.

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America’s Kristallnacht

I have to say, I am rather impressed by this video of Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s Governor, addressing recent events in the USA. I didn’t think he had it in him, but I am happy to stand corrected.

Perhaps the events in the Capitol on the 6th January will prove to be a turning-point, and bring about a return to building democracy instead of tearing it down.

However, I share the fears of Francine Prose when she writes that anyone shocked by the events has ignored a lot of warning signs. As she says:

Throughout the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, as journalists and politicians expressed their stunned astonishment, one couldn’t help wondering: hadn’t they heard about the hundreds of people, some of them armed, who stormed the Michigan state capitol building in April, objecting to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order? Had they forgotten that a young woman was killed during the August 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia – a neo-Nazi event that Donald Trump declined to unequivocally condemn? Had their interns not been keeping up with – and informing their bosses about – the popular Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of far-right hate groups and extremist conspiracy theorists? Had no one explained that the Proud Boys’ T-shirt insignia – 6MWE – means “Six Million [Jews] Weren’t Enough”?

Turning a blind eye to the transgressions of Trump and his supporters during the past four years made the events of the 6th January inevitable. That particular horse bolted the stable a long time ago.

Posted in News and politics, Society | 5 Comments

Sedition

With the recent events in Washington, I needed to laugh to stop crying. Thank you Randy Rainbow.

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The Robots Are Coming

I don’t know whether to be amazed or terrified…

Posted in Computers and Internet, Humour, Science | 1 Comment