Of Penguins and Landmines

This comes from the QI website, so I’m fairly convinced of its veracity.

There are thousands of landmines in the Falkland Islands, laid in the 1980s by the Argentinians, which have been a boon to the Islands’ penguin populations, who are too light to set them off (sadly, more modern landmines can be set off by the change in temperature caused by a shadow falling on them, so any penguins in Afghanistan wouldn’t get away with it). The consequent lack of humans in the Falklands means that their populations have rebounded after the decline caused by whaling ventures.

When they did stay on the Falklands, whalers needed fire to turn the whales’ blubber into whale oil. As there aren’t many trees there, whalers would simply burn the penguins, which have highly flammable fat beneath their skin.

Now we know. And now we’re off to Boulders Beach to see if you can actually use a penguin as a firelighter.

Penguin facts, eh? You can never have too many of them.

I was watching an old episode of QI last night and it struck me that I should probably watch a whole lot more episodes of it. While the comedy doesn’t always work, the facts are… well… Quite Interesting.

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Fixing your virus-infected computer

Not Ebola virus, obviously. That’s another story.

No. Computer viruses. They can be every bit as nasty as real human viruses, if you’re a computer. And if the infection has made it past your conventional, Western prophylaxis, why on earth would you choose to trust conventional, Western methods to get rid of the virus?

Especially when there are alternative methods you can use:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

My new PC (despite being phenomenal value) has caused me no end of expense and problems over the past couple of days, so I’m going to call in at my local crystal therapy shop on the way home this evening and do some dowsing.

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Richard Dawkins tweets on thinking logically

It’s a fairly simple concept, but it’s something a lot of people just don’t seem to understand.
Dawkins sums it up nicely here:

Yes. All of the above.

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Going away this summer? Don’t forget a postcard for Josh.

READ THIS! DO THIS! (please) ;-)

UPDATE: Please note: This is genuine and not a hoax. Promise. 
Josh is the nephew of a friend of a schoolmate of mine. 

Bored of signing online petitions that never seem to make difference? Tired of your hashtags on social media repeatedly going unnoticed by the powers that be? Slacktivism just isn’t what it used to be, is it?

And yes, you want to be the someone who makes things happen, but you’re just not one of those people that picks up a placard and stands outside parliament angrily shouting stuff about fracking or Palestine.

It’s time to up your game, but baby steps, baby steps…

I’m here to help. So, here’s a way that you can make a difference without holding a stick or being assaulted by the local police force. It’s as easy as sending a postcard. Sure, it’s a bit more effort than hitting shift-3 just to “raise awareness”, but this is different, because bizarrely, what you are doing will actually make a difference.

I know. Crazy, isn’t it?

Here’s the story:

A Hixon family are appealing for summer travelers to help their poorly 7 yr old son.
Josh, who is undergoing treatment for Leukaemia was set a school summer project of writing a diary about the activities and places he went to during the holidays. However, due to the nature of his illness he is unable to travel so has set about a project of his own, collecting postcards sent to him from others on their travels.

Josh’s treatment has left him neutropenic – basically he has no immune system at the moment and so he’s very prone to infections. He can’t go out and about like you or I are able to. So yes, a quick postcard to Josh from your holiday destination – or, in fact, any destination – will be gratefully received by Josh and would put a smile on his face. And thus, you could easily imagine that 2, or 5, or 10, or 100 postcards would have an even greater effect.

jj

I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that by the time you read this, someone else will probably have already sent one from Cape Town or Joburg (do they have postcards in Joburg?) or Durban or wherever you are right now, so there’s no point in you doing it. But actually, I don’t think that matters one little bit. Who cares if ten postcards from Cape Town drop through Josh’s letterbox one morning? That’s ten postcards for him and it’s ten people who have made the effort to tell him that they’re thinking about him. These things are hugely important when you are seven and not very well.

I want this to go big – I want Josh inundated with postcards from South Africa and you guys have an excellent record in this regard: remember the amazing response when I asked you to find a Rabbit 4 Nic? And that was an extremely rare and elusive toy bunny - this is just a postcard!
I know that we can do it again.

Use the buttons below to RT this post on twitter and share it on Facebook.
Tell your friends, if you have any, and tell them to tell their friends too.

Josh’s address for your postcards:

Joshua Johns,
2 Swansmoor Drive,
Hixon,
Staffordshire
ST18 0FP
United Kingdom

And they’ve set up a Facebook page so you can follow their progress.

Now, get to it!

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Besides Ebola…

While there is a (rightfully) well-publicised Ebola outbreak taking place in West Africa, it doesn’t mean that the usual suspects of the infectious diseases world have gone away. And while the world’s attention is focused on that pesky haemorrhagic fever virus, cholera has been going about its usual business in Nigeria, Ghana and South Sudan.
It’s a reminder that while the “superstar diseases” are widely and enthusiastically reported by the First World’s sensationalist media (like the bubonic plague case (singular) in China that I mentioned last week), the more mundane stuff continues, but goes very much under the radar.

Cholera is unpleasant, acute and life-threatening, especially in children. It’s also fairly simple to prevent, assuming that you can get access to clean water:

“It is the filth everywhere and the lack of hygiene among our people,” the Deputy Director of Health for the Greater Accra Region, Dr John Eleaza said, noting that some patients have been victims of the disease despite using pipe-borne water.
Unfortunately we have some of our pipelines going through some of these drains…some of them are broken” he said.
He is advising Ghanaians to be careful and practise proper hygiene to prevent a deterioration of the outbreak.

And while the mortality rate doesn’t rival that of Ebola, the sheer numbers affected mean that the death toll in these outbreaks is already rapidly approaching (if not exceeding) that of their more famous cousin up the road.

Even the local media is more concerned with the Ebola outbreak than that of cholera, as this story in Nigeria’s Vanguard demonstrates, with nearly half the piece being hijacked by Ebola news, including this spectacular advice from State Commissioner for Health Dr. Joe Akabike:

…avoid touching corpses of victims of the disease and to avoid sexual intercourse with patients of the disease until after three months of their recovery in order not to contact the disease.

He doesn’t mention avoiding sexual intercourse with the corpses, but I suppose that’s just considered common sense.
And common decency.

I digress. All I wanted to remind people is that the Ebola outbreak should be considered an additional problem, and not suddenly the only problem in sub-Saharan Africa.

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