Friday, 15 January 2021

Day 305 of self-isolation - Blog spam

Blog spam

For every genuine comment on this blog, there are dozens of spam comments. Most of these consist of flattery on the content of the blog; I suppose they think that I'm more likely to approve those.

It's very strange that only a few of the blog posts get these spam comments. One is my Christmas story about "Rudolf the Red" (I've left one of them there as a specimen), another is "Out with ladysolly". A description of a few of my bicycles gets a surprising amount of attention.

I don't understand what they think they're getting out of this. There is no lonk to anything, there's nothing that I can see that gets the spammer any advantage.

Is it possible that hundreds of people genuinely admire my literary style and command of the subjects that I cover? Not a chance. If that were true, it wouldn't be just a few blog posts; they['d be scattered over a great many posts.

So what is going on?

If anyone knows, please tell me.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Day 304 of self-isolation - Variants


There's the Kent variant, the South Africa variant and the Brazilian variant. Where did they come from, and what problems do they cause?

It's evolution in action. The purpose of a virus is to copy itself, and to do so, it uses the mechanisms of our cells. But the copies are not always exact. Sometimes, there is a small mistake in the copy.

This mistake could mean a non-viable virus, and that's a dead end. Or it could mean a virus that is less infectious. Or more infectious.

The more times this copying happens, the more chances there are for a minor copying error. Most such errors don't change infectiousness, but the copying errors that make the virus more infectious will, obviously, spread faster than the original.

So the problem will continue. As the virus gets more and more common, there will be more and more variants which are more infectious. Kent was unfortunate to be hit by one of the first, and now the whole of the UK is suffering.

The vaccine will change the environment. And evolution is about adaptation to the environment.

With that many copies of the virus floating around, it's likely that some of them will be more resistant to the vaccines. And in the same way that bacteria have evolved resistance to antibiotics, so Covid can evolve resistance to the vaccines.

The vaccines will get us off the hook for now. But not for ever. Just as we need a new vaccine for flu each year, we could need a new vaccine for Covid each year.

We have to get ready for that.


I'd suggest three things.

1. We have to stop running the NHS at near 100% capacity. There has to be unued capacity to cope with an epidemic. Yes, that will cost money.

2. We need more doctors and nurses, and we need to get them by paying for their training (bursaries) and paying them well when trained. Yes, that will cost money.

3. We need to have enough medical equipment (for example, PPE) in stock so that if there's another pandemic, we aren't left using bin bags instead. Yes, that will cost money.

This will all cost money, but not as much as it can cost if we don't get ready for the next pandemic. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Day 303 of self-isolation - More masks

More masks

Waitrose, Adsa and Tesco have all announced a new tough masking policy.

No mask - no service.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Day 302 of self-isolation - Masks


Morrisons and Sainsbury's are banning customers unless they wear a mask. 

Good idea. Perhaps that will lead other supermarkets to follow suit. And perhaps that will make a contribution to reducing the spread of the virus.

We're looking like 100,000  deaths by the end of February.


Monday, 11 January 2021

Day 301 of self-isolation - All vaccinated by March end

In Israel

Every Israeli citizen over the age of 16 who is willing to, will be vaccinated by the end of March.

 Why can't we do that here? We have the world-beating NHS, we have a carpet-beating government, we have access to three approved vaccines, including one developed here.

Israel is also in their third national lockdown, and are currently looking at 400 deaths per million population. That's a third of the number in the UK, which is 1200 per million.

Israel is using the Pfizer vaccine; we are too. Currently, 20% of Israelis have had their first dose if the vaccine; in the UK, it's more like 2%.

Why can't our own oven-ready government exdigitate?

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Day 300 of self-isolation - The first 300 days

The first 300 days

10 months ago, I started this series with a satirical piece "Day 97 of isolation". I chose 97 because I thought it was very far in the future - but it wasn't.

But I'm not going to look back on the last 300 days. There are so many interesting and terrible things happening in America.

The center of government in the USA, is the Capitol building in Washington. It's their equivalent of the Houses of Parliament.

So on 6th January, Trump held a rally in Washington, in which he invited attendees to walk with him to the Capitol to tell the senators and congress people to reverse the results of the election of November 3rd.

And so they did as he asked. Of course, he didn't walk with them. But his followers arrived at the Capitol, and proceeded to break in. In the riot that followed, the police were heavily outnumbered, because who could have guessed that this would happen? Everyone, actually.

Many of them broke into the building, forcing doors and breaking windows.

One police officer (Brian Sidenick) was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher.


One rioter (Ashil Babbi, 35) was shot and died as she tried to force entry by climbing through a window. 


One woman (Rosanne Boyland, 34) was trampled to death in the crush as people tried to force entry. Here's a picture of her waving her "Don't tread on me" flag.

Kevin Greeson, 55, allegedly was trying to steal a portrait of Tip O'Neill, accidentally tasered himself in the testicles and died of a heart attack.

This all came as a great shock to many people, but the general consensus is that this was incited by Trump, as part of his lie that he had really won the election and that it had been stolen.

So what do you do when something is stolen from you? You try to get it back.

But it wasn't stolen. There has been 60 court cases, all of which have failed to show that there was anything wrong with the election. The man in charge of election security said that it was the most secure election in US history. The woman who falsely and repeatedly claimed that Dominion vote counting machines flipped huge numbers of votes, is now being sued for $1.3 billion by Dominion. 

Trump went too far this time. You don't incite an insurrection against the US government - there are consequences. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram have all suspended his account. Shopify has closed his online shop for Maga hats and other stuff. And the process to impeach him has been started - his second impeachment.

Trump's drive to "Make America Great Again" has ended in tragedy and farce. To 380,000 deaths in the pandemic, partly because of his non-mask-wearing leadership. To a ruined USA economy, a ruined respect for the US government and an unprecedented division in America.

Biden is probably not the best person in America to be President. But he had the huge advantage of not being Trump. Hopefully, Biden will take facts on board, will follow the science in the response to the pandemic, and will try to bring America together to heal the terrible rifts that Trump exploited and widened.

Perhaps, after four years, the lunatics will no longer be running the asylum.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Day 299 of self-isolation - Worst ever

Worst ever

On Thursday, we had 1325 Covid deaths which is the worst ever, and 68,053 new cases, which is the worst ever. We are now paying the price of Christmas, which was 14 days ago. We had our Christmas at home, just the two of us, plus the family via Zoom. 

The UK is the worst Covid country to be in the world right now, even worse (on a per million basis) than the USA.

The pressure on the ambulance service and on the hospitals, is horrendous. London has declared a "major incident" as Covid threatens to overwhelm hospitals. This is a very bad time to get any kind of illness that needs hospitalisation.

There are 7,034 people currently hospitalized with Covid in London, 35% more than the worst time in April.

In the USA, deaths were 4207, a new high. New cases were 279,154, a new high. Also Christmas. Also dire. And, of course, American attention is concentrated on their political crisis and the insurrection in Washington.

In California, doctors are now facing the horrendous choice of who to admit to hospital and who to turn away - triage.

And the Kent variant of the virus is starting to spread in the USA.


Friday, 8 January 2021

Day 298 of self-isolation - Good news, bad news

Good news, bad news

Good news

The first piece of good news is that my weight was down to 15 stone 12 this morning. OK, it isn't world shaking, but I'm pleased.

More importantly, clinical trials have shown that two drugs, tocilizumab and sarilumab, in conjunction with dexamethasone, reduce the risk of mortality for people going into intensive care, by 8.5%.

More good news - Trump has been banned from Facebook, his Twitter account locked, Snapchat blocked him and his online shop has been closed by Shopify. He went too far when he incited revolution against the US Constitution. The revolution failed, and Trump has paid the price. Without his Twitter account, he's just another old man mumbling about "Could have been a player".

Bad news

Wednesday deaths were 1162, just four short of the worst so far. We are now reaping the consequences of the 50,000+ per day that we've been seeing for a week. And now we're also seeing the results of the Christmas break.

In America, deaths have gone over 4000 per day. And 261 thousand new cases. But no-one in America is watching Covid, because of the political insurrection that happened on the 6th of January.

In the riot in Washington, four people died.

Other news

There's talk of impeaching Trump, and there's talk of invoking the 25th Amendment, to declare Trump incapable.

Trump is, apparently, mostly upset about being locked out of Twitter.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Day 297 of self-isolation - Distance learning

Distance learning

I spent three years at university doing distance learning. 400 of us sat in a big hall, the lecturer was at the front, writing on a blackboard. We copied down what he wrote. He was 20 yards away, but he might as well have been 20 miles away. One of my lecturers was Professor Paul Dirac, a brilliant Nobel Prize winner, but his handwriting was almost illegible from where I sat.

There were also "supervisions". Two students and one postgrad. He went over the stuff he'd set for us last week, and set us some stuff for next week. It might as well have been Zoom.

The social life, of course, wasn't distance, and in some cases, it was very up-close. There was also the weekly "Puzzles and Games Ring", the weekly bridge tournament, the SF Book Club. But the academic part of it, was all distance learning.

It was pretty much the same at school. Apart from cricket, which I disliked and football which I hated, the teacher was at one end of the room; we were lined up in front. I did like woodwork and metalwork, and learned a lot from that, and you can['t do that remotely, but nearly all the academic learning at school, was no different from distance.

Today, you can get a Raspberry Pi for £35, a keyboard for £5 and you almost certainly already have a TV. If you don't, then a good monitor is £25. The government could do a deal with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and bulk-buy even cheaper. And distance learning can continue.

And what's the problem with exams? Traditionally, you need to crowd the examinees into a room so you can invigilate and make sure that they don't cheat. But there are also "open book" exams, where understanding is tested rather than memorisation. And those are easier to do at distance.

And consider this. The Open University has been running since 1969 and covered 2.2 million people. Distance learning works.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Day 296 of self-isolation - Back in the Jug Agane

Back in the Jug Agane 

 By Willans and Searle I loved the Moleswortt books, alongside Jennings, Just William and Swallows and Amazons.

61 thousand new cases and 830 new deaths.

We're back in Covid jail, most of us. One exception is pre-school. Four year olds at infant school, are kept at home. Four year olds at nursery school, can still attend. Don't ask me to explain this. It is what it is. Science? We've heard of it.

In London, one in 30 people are currently infected. That's a lot.

But in Los Angeles,  ambulance crews have been told by the county emergency medical services not to take patients with little chance of survival to hospitals.

That's the harsh reality of triage. Some young medic has to decide who gets treatment and who doesn't. It's a nightmare. And, of course, the people who don't make it to hospital, have a worse change of recovering.

That's why we're locking down now - to avoid that nightmare.


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Day 295 of self-isolation - Here we go again

Here we go again

We're back to full lock down.  It's Groundhog day again. We're back to the lock down that we went through in March/April.

I'm not complaining, it's obviously the right thing to do, but there is one mistake - places of worship can stay open. What, did Boris negotiate an agreement with God? I can't play tennis with one other person, but a bunch of Covidiots can cram into a church to spread the word and the virus? Scotland has closed the churches - why not England? Do people think that God can't hear them pray unless they gather in Covid-spreading clusters?

The lock down is till mid February ... at least. So, here we go again.

The significant difference is that now we have vaccines, although there's a question over how long it'll take to roll them out. We're being told March, but we've heard so many optimistic stories from our world-beating government, that I'm more than a little sceptical.

Hospitalisations now are 40% higher than they were back in April, so we really do need this. The limitation that is important, is hospital places. And hospital places doesn't just mean "beds" - you can buy a bed in any furniture shop. The limitation is the medical staff and equipment needed to take care of patients in dire need for as long as it takes for their immune system to fight off the virus - or until the worst happens.

We'll certainly be following this new rule in our house, but then, we've been ahead of government rulings since last March.


Monday, 4 January 2021

Day 294 of self-isolation - Donate to both sides

Donate to both sides

 I got spam.

Subject: TRUMP2024 IS THE BEST
It's not other, until President TRUMP says it's over!
Republicans have outspent Democrats by more than $50 MILLION on ads in Georgia.  
Click on the link to learn more:
We?re in the final stretch of the election that will decide the ENTIRE Senate.  
The Senate will decide the Presidential election outcome.  
It?s going to be incredibly close.  
click below and ACT NOW!

So what is interesting about this spam? Apart from "It's not other"?

The first link is soliciting a $19.95 donation in exchange for a t-shirt, on behalf of the Republicans. Allegedly.

The second link is soliciting a donation on behalf of the Democrats. Allegedly.

There must be a lot of gullible people in America, and they are all being milked by crooks. 

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Day 293 of self-isolation - Remember the Boris moonshot?

Remember the Boris moonshot?

The plan, announced on 9th September, was to spend £100 billion to enable 10 million tests per day.

It got cancelled on October 22nd.

Remember "Five days of relaxed rules of Christmas?" Actually one.

Remember "Schools will reopen on January 4th?" No, they won't.

And the latest. We'll give everyone a single dose, and the second dose 12 weeks later. The reasoning is that this will make use of the scarce resource (the vaccine) to save the greatest number of lives.

I have two thoughts. The first is, I was under the impression that AstraZeneca was manufacturing at full speed while the trials were going on, so that there would be a big stock of vaccines ready to go. It seems that I was under a false impression.

The second thought, is that the first dose of vaccine gives 70% efficacy, 21 days after the first dose.  But many people won't like the idea of not getting the 95% efficacy that was promised.


Saturday, 2 January 2021

Day 292 of self-isolation - Schools stay closed

Schools stay closed

All primary schools in London will remain closed until 18th January. The government has been reading my blog again.


Bucks, Beds and Herts are at the highest level of Covid restrictions, and in Bucks, the hospital system is being overwhelmed. This is why we went into full lockdown last April.

In parts of Bucks and Herts, the reopening of primary schools is postponed. Case rates are from 8000 to 10000 per million; the UK as a whole is about 1000 per million.



Friday, 1 January 2021

Day 291 of self-isolation - Happy New Year

Happy New Year

2020 has not been a complete washout. 

I didn't get infected, nor did Ladysolly, nor did any of our relatives get severe Covid. One of them is already vaccinated.

In November, Trump lost the election.

 Three vaccines were tested and approved.

We left the EU with a free trade agreement.

2021 will be a lot better

Sometime in 2021, hopefully before summer, most people in the UK will be vaccinated. I'm hoping that Ladysolly and I get the jab before spring; we're 10 millionth in line for it.

The new Covid variant will be prevented by the vaccines.

I'm hoping that our heating system will be repaired by February, and we can stop using the Calor gas heaters.

My HSBC Securekey will arrive in January, and I can do online banking again.

I can get a haircut.

 In June, we can have a big family holiday, to make up for the dismal Christmas of 2020. But not on a cruise ship.

I can stop using the horrible VAT MOSS Union scheme from HMRC, and start using the Irish non-Union scheme. 

Ladysolly can play bridge offline.