Thursday 17 September, 2020

Quote of the Day

“Here’s what being called sir feels like to me. You see someone who you think you could be friends with because inside you’re 19, and they call you sir, and you remember what it was like when you were them and you saw someone who looked like you look now.”

I know just how he feels. And I’m older than he is! Although, when I think of it, I can’t recall ever calling anyone sir. Maybe I was born middle-aged.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard & Keith Richards – Trouble In Mind


Misconceptions about the virus

The longer this pandemic goes on, the more we’re learning about our initial misconceptions about the virus. Remember when it was just a new kind of flu? And then all the stuff about coughs, high temperature etc. being sure-fire symptoms? And how it was mainly a respiratory disease that attacked the lungs? And how you were most of risk of catching it if you touched an infected surface? And so on.

Making tea this morning I happened to catch an interview with Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London, who’s one of the researchers behind the Covid Symptom-Tracking app which apparently has been downloaded 4m times. This is an app which asks users to spend a minute every day reporting (to the app) their health status (even if they’re not feeling ill). The app asks you to share some general information (age and some health details, such as whether you have certain diseases) and then asks you every day to report know how you feel, so you can share your symptoms. It also asks if you have visited a hospital, and if so what treatment you received there, and whether you have been tested for COVID-19.

Some interesting findings seem to be emerging from this research, including ones which seem to suggest that our original ideas of signature symptoms might have been a bit off beam.

Here’s the relevant audio clip from the programme:


It’s funny how we always seem to be fighting the last war. I was thinking of this while reading about schools and hotels going to extraordinary lengths to make sure that work-surfaces, door-knobs etc are sanitised, or even made redundant.

And all the while maybe the prime means of transmission is via aerosols rather than droplets.

I promise to pay the car park attendant on demand…

My friend Quentin and his wife are on holiday in Cornwall at the moment, where they have run into a problem they hadn’t anticipated — the need to use cash (as in coins and notes). Quentin has written a lovely blog post about it. Here’s a sample:

We’ve been taken by surprise, as visitors here, by the number of car parks which require payment, and where that payment can only be made with cash. Usually in coins, with no change given, so you really want the exact amount. Now, as someone who hasn’t really used cash for years, this was a minor inconvenience the first two or three times. But I’ve now realised that it’s basically the same everywhere: the Queen’s currency is still vital here; it’s a complex kind of car-parking token. Every single car park has required cash; I think we’ve been to four or five here, and one in Devon on the way down. Today, as a gesture to the 21st century, the car park had two machines. One took cards! Hurrah! It was out of order.

Now this isn’t because we’re in some remote backwater where they’ve never heard of digital transactions. Pretty much everything else, since we’ve left home, has been paid for sans contact using my Apple Watch (which is how I’ve paid for most things in the last five years). And, in fact, in Covid-world, most shops are not taking cash at all, so it’s even harder to go and buy a Kit-Kat to get some change. That’s assuming you can find an ATM from which to get some notes in the first place; they’re not exactly plentiful here.

Since there are a lot of visitors to this part of the world, car park attendants have to spend a lot of their time explaining to people that, no, I know it’s astonishing, but you do actually need cash if you want to park here. No, sorry, there isn’t an ATM here, but there’s one in the next town… Yes, that one you drove past 20 minutes ago on the narrow winding road with occasional passing places…

Why Holocaust denial thrives

One of the things that always puzzles me is why conspiracy theories involving Holocaust denial continue to circulate and thrive.

And then I read this report in today’s Guardian:

Almost two-thirds of young American adults do not know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust, a new survey has found, revealing shocking levels of ignorance about the greatest crime of the 20th century.

According to the study of millennial and Gen Z adults aged between 18 and 39, almost half (48%) could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto established during the second world war.

Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, or had been exaggerated, or they weren’t sure. One in eight (12%) said they had definitely not heard, or didn’t think they had heard, about the Holocaust.

More than half (56%) said they had seen Nazi symbols on their social media platforms and/or in their communities, and almost half (49%) had seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online.

Ye Gods!

Bill Gates Sr. RIP

Bill Gates’s Dad has passed away. The Seattle Times has a nice obit. He was an Honorary Fellow of my College, Wolfson, and a thoroughly good egg. Bill Jr. said yesterday that his father “was the real Bill Gates. He was all the things I strive to be.” The funny thing is that while Bill Jr. was a very obnoxious kid, he eventually morphed into a thoroughly good human being. Rather like his old man, in fact.

At last: a full at-home rapid coronavirus test – Axios

If we’re ever to get this virus under some kind of control, the first step is not a distant vaccine but a cheap, quick and easy test. It looks as though one may have arrived. At any rate the American pharma firm Gauss and Cellux has announced what it describes as the first full at-home rapid coronavirus test.

This blog is also available as a daily email. If you think this might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, delivered to your inbox at 7am UK time. It’s free, and there’s a one-click unsubscribe if your decide that your inbox is full enough already!