0600 Benedict’s Newsletter: No. 335 arrived yesterday and I scanned it on my phone. 15% of global internet traffic is Youtube and 11% is Netflix – more than a quarter of the traffic. Then I read his essay Covid and cascading collapses. You should too. Ever seen a soufflé collapse when the oven door opens? Technology collapses don’t happen the way you think or remember. And that makes them hard to predict. But what does seem useful is to know is Lenin’s astute observation that you can get a decade of inevitable in a week.
0700 Taking in the TV news with coffee and granola got me thinking about ungrievable Russians. Russia has moved up the charts of the infected to lie in 2nd place but so few are dying that we must recognise that none of the reports are likely to be true. Channel hopping, I saw a graph shown to illustrate how the global battle is being won, how the global infection rate is flattening. It was too early in the morning for me to make sense of what I knew made no sense. Later I realised that it was an undeclared logarithmic curve. The idiot or malevolent reporter and his idiot or malevolent editor got it from the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 tracking site. Go there and look for yourself. JH show both linear and lo curves to help you see how the rise in the number of infections remains doggedly consistent but the rate of change is flattening. And like Russia, it’s probably all baloney because you can’t graph what you don’t know.
0800 It was time to take the sourdough starter and turn it into a real mother. Some 100 g of starter was set aside, a precise 100 g added to 200 g of strong white flour and 200 g of 26C water. And that done, I went off to read for a short while from a collection of essays from Richard Dawkins’ excellent 2017 Science in the Soul. Dawkins reminded me how Douglas Adams pointed out the dilemmas in selective breeding when he had ‘Your dish of the day’ walk up to the table in The Restaurant at the End of The Universe?
0900 The phone beeped to alert me to the arrival of links to interviews about naked short-selling. This was another of life’s coincidences to bring things back into balance. I watched the Drug Short episode last night in the Netflix Dirty Money series. This was an alarming look at something you can’t doubt. It was about ‘good’ short-sellers who exposed how predatory pharmaceutical companies acquire life-saving drug production to profiteer from the sick. So there are some ‘good’ short-sellers after all! However, the naked short-selling videos tells of the opposite and worse, regulatory collusion is implied. Bud Burrell is trying to convince us that $100 trillion has been stolen and another $180 trillion destroyed. Some 30 minutes later, I’m thinking this makes sense to anyone who has read $uperhubs or my post Networth$. Take 30 minutes and suspend your disbeliefs. And learn what the ‘naked’ part means.
1000 I note an email sharing a puzzle with a Walking Club membership group. I had a look and was disappointed to see that it was in the same format as a puzzle book from the Irish Ordnance Survey that I was gifted recently, an idea that looked to be a refreshingly original way to promote interest in cartography. I presumed it was an Irish initiative. It seems the Ordnance Survey in Britain is doing the same. Franchised ideas are fine but FFS admit to them. It matters for whoever was first.
1100 There was a great Outdoors article in The Irish Times by Paddy Woodworth the weekend when the clocks went forward. I went looking for it because I wanted to find one of the links among those published in what was useful guide to resources for keeping track of seasonal changes. I ended up in our recycle bin even though I also found the article online. And eventually, I found the printed version at the bottom of the bin. I had wanted it so I could read up about birds and add some things to a journal post on the Coal Tits nesting in our flue. Which took me to the reading about the migration patterns of swifts because 50% of them are lost since 1995.
1200 The sourdough I put aside was turned into pancakes for lunch. I added cream flour, an egg, baking powder and baking soda and a mix of rapeseed and pumpkin oil to make a batter with a smidge of turmeric, a teaspoon each of sesame seeds, poppy seeds and some dried barberries from Iran. Then I threw in some dried elderberries rather than sugar. We ate the fluffy pancakes with greek yoghurt and rose petal harissa. A good lunch.
1300 It was time for Gus to walk us. He took us up the road and around to the right where we encountered unusually few people out in the 90 minutes supposedly allocated to those folk like us who are isolated for age or illness. The canopy of birdsong was magnificent as it has been for months. Our guest was too tired to finish the 2.5 km loop and returned home leaving Gus to bring me the longer way around.
1400 A brief shopping trip involved a two km drive to The Punnet to buy fresh fruit and veg, rye flour and whole grain risotto rice. And I stopped off at the Select Stores in Dalkey seeking some diversions for our guest – purple carrot juice and such things as she might tolerate while taste is altered by chemotherapy. Impossible to open; rubber bands even failed – we need a smaller version of oil filter tool. A cash register conversation was bizarre; two people were comparing notes on when they last saw actor Matt Damon walks his kids. He’s trapped here in Dalkey in surreal lockdown irony as a father protecting his family in a pandemic – remember Contagion?
1500 I went into my study to write the daily journal. I had three ideas and this is one. The other two were also getting fleshed out:
I had just listed to Sean Moncrieff on NewsTalk radio where TB was the topic discussed with Dr Lucica Ditiu. And this became one thread and these are my words influenced by what I heard and what I read when I got home:
It’s quite surreal living in a world that’s competing to develop a vaccine to stop a disease that appeared only 150 days ago and will kill millions.Especially when the same folk are not competing to develop vaccines for a disease that’s been killing since it was named over 150 years ago. It has killed hundreds of millions and will kill millions more than Covid this year, as it did last year and will next year.
The curse of tuberculosis is that it’s thought to be a disease of the poor. And now it’s associated with HIV and is on a new killing spree. TB is seventh in the top ten of global killers. TB kills more than diabetes and road traffic but we don’t seem to care.
We’ll stop Covid or lie as if we have because we mismanaged it and it’s killing people who aren’t so poor.
Oh yeah, a lot of countries kicked out patients with TB from facilities that were ideal for treating Covid. Which means TB infections are likely to rise. Public health officials will say that they had to prioritise. Fair enough. But what were they doing for the previous generation?
1600 The phone rang as I was listening to David G. Haskell talking about The Voices of Birds, the link I had wanted to find when I was in the green bin. Do the voices of birds draw us into different times? What does the syrinx do? ‘This syrinx is only the size of a lentil or bean. Into this tiny space are interwoven a dozen rings of bone and two dozen muscles, all connected to membranes and lips of soft flesh. The muscles are among the fastest known, capable of contracting up to 200 times per second.’ I was standing at my window while I was listening taking photographs of birds for my third thread of an idea (more on that tomorrow).
I ended up almost an hour with on the phone talking with the supplier of naked short-selling links about corporate challenges, the energy industry and the huge numbers of unemployed doctors in the US during this pandemic.
Then another call with a daughter who sounded exhausted yet delirious having submitted a project funding application, an application that took a month to put together. They also managed to assuage a six year old with a €2 coin rather than the diamonds she expected from the tooth fairy in exchange for her first tooth.
1700 Lia finished her final online class in a series on writing that she’s been enjoying this last while. Tea for us both and sourdough bread for me and we made an agreement to meet to watch the news at 1800 and then cook dinner together. I went back to making notes for the journal and next thing it was after 6, we’d missed the news. Mind you, I’d finished listening to The Voices of Birds.
1800 We prepared dinner, reheating a mushroom risotto from yesterday and cooking up a spicy spinach and kale dish together with fresh white asparagus, skinned, boiled and served with melted butter. I have to add that we first ate asparagus like this in May last year during a brief visit to an ancient pub in the more ancient city of Aachen.
1900 Everyone is tired and it seemed sensible to watch some TV together. Our guest has brought DVDs of two series of Killing Eve. And so it was. The psychopathic assassin Villanelle slaughtered her way across our screens in a murderous comedy love story that has some weirdly tender moments. It’s so long since we watched a DVD, it took fifteen minutes to get the remote control un-choked of the oxide ooze so I could replace the batteries. Can’t imagine anyone bringing back the the mercury skin that used to prevent this.
2000 We took a break between episodes to make some dessert from a cornucopia of fresh fruits, star anise and yoghurt.
2100 Everyone is fading and our disbelief is returning as Villanelle reaches the UK to kill two assassins into whose team she was relegated for behaving badly.
2200 Our lights are going out while the truly spectacular sunset is lingering. I tried to put finishing touches to this post but I needed a bit more time for the links.
I bid you au revoir.