Atlantic Road

I love the title to this NYT article by Ondine Cohane:

In Norway, the Journey is the Destination.

Of course, this can be the case with any road trip, but this is about Norway’s ambitious tourist project, the Norwegian Scenic Routes: 18 scenic routes you can drive along – in Norway.

After the project was greenlighted in the late 1990s, and following a nationwide competition (both in terms of the roads chosen and the new structures proposed), Norway had envisioned the endeavor as a 30-plus year undertaking to transform 18 of Norway’s highways into cultural destinations.
Each stop would have a new pavilion, observation deck, bridge, restaurant, hotel or other structure, conceived by young emerging architects, and predominantly Norwegian ones, alongside installations by artists of note (like the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois’ evocative memorial for women and men burned as witches in the 1600s). So far 144 projects have been built, with 46 more on the horizon (completion is expected in 2023).

There are no prizes for guessing why I want to do this. The scenery, the cleanliness, the organisation, the scenery, the respect, the safety, the engineering and the scenery. I could go on. But sometimes, one can let a video do the talking.

Incredible.

One (or more) of these trips is going down on the bucket list, where is is vying for top place with Iceland – ironically “just” across the water from many of these roads.

Of course – Cape Town has its own beautiful Atlantic Road – the magnificent R44 Clarence Drive, which I most recently ‘togged like this:

while on this trip.

Warmer, nowhere near as long, but (almost?) as impressive.

Powder of Sympathy

I’m going to try some experimental stuff on the photography front this weekend – weather permitting. And that will result in experimental photographs. However, I obviously haven’t taken them just yet, so here’s a photograph of an experiment – or at least a photograph of a description of an hypothesis. Tenuous.

These days, one can simply glance at one’s smartphone to obtain an accurate reading of one’s latitude and longitude. And thanks to the position of the sun and the stars, sailors have long been able to gauge their latitude fairly accurately. Longitude was an entirely different kettle of fish though – the biggest limiting factor being that in order to calculate one’s longitude, one needs to know the time accurately. When a hefty prize was announced for anyone who could solve this problem, it attracted a lot of interest – not all of it entirely helpful. The Powder of Sympathy was one of the less successful ideas. I love the final sentence: as if we really needed telling.

Interesting fact about Cape Agulhas – it lies right on the 20° Meridian. And I mean pretty much exactly, right down to 6 decimal points. Given that we generally divide the world up into segments of 15°, this isn’t hugely important, but I have noted that if you poke the beagle at noon while standing on right on that imaginary line (I use my phone’s GPS to get it just right), it will let out a small bark, before glaring at you.

Now superseded by modern technology, back in the days of Diaz and van Riebeeck, every ship passing the Southern Tip would have had a beagle on board to poke as they rounded Cape Agulhas. This act wouldn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know, but it’s always good to poke a beagle whenever possible. Keeps them on their toes, see?

TOM

I’ve noticed that several friends on Facebook are – independently of any input from me – beginning to share this post around, and the comments have been unerringly positive.

It was just last week that I was waxing lyrical about the new a-ha MTV Unplugged album, and this is the final song from it. As you might expect, the band finish all their concerts with this song.

Introduced as:

This is a rather different version of this song…
But you’ll still recognise it.

After a distinctly Karma Police first few bars, as you might expect, Morten simply nails the vocal over a beautifully different instrumental.
If you haven’t already heard it – this is your chance. 🙂

It makes me happy to learn that it’s not just me doing fanboy stuff. When a new version of a song from more than 30 years ago, sung by the same guys that did it back then, can still affect people this way – it has to be special.

UPDATE: lol.

Also:

And:

 

See? 🙂

Physio visit

I’ve got an appointment with the physiotherapist this morning. Not having been to a physiotherapist before*, I thought I’d have a look online at what I should expect.

I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to it very much.

 

* This is clearly not true, but please just play along for the purposes of this blog post. Thanks.

Plague in Madagascar: not good, but not unusual either

Microbiology in the news again. This time it’s an outbreak of the plague in Madagascar, and it’s causing a bit of a stir.
Now, don’t get me wrong – an outbreak of plague is never a good thing – but once again, a little perspective is called for here. Surprise (and if I may be so bold) “surprise”.

Plague is one of those diseases which captures the public’s imagination, with historical tales about the Black Death sweeping across Europe in the Middle Ages and killing an awful lot of people in its path. And because of that history, plague has a cool nickname and a “superstar” disease status, and news outlets – desperate for clicks – are getting overly excited about it, just like they did with Ebola.

But the fact is that plague is not just a historical disease: yes, it was infamously around a few hundred years ago, but it never really went away. As with many diseases, its prevalence has merely declined due to better hygiene, better education, better pest control and better medical treatment. But even in (supposedly) developed countries like the USA, there are still up to 20 documented cases of plague each year. Worldwide, there are a few hundred reported cases each year, with a mortality rate of around 25%. However, it’s likely that there are many more unreported cases, given that it is now primarily a disease found in rural areas of less developed countries.

The bad news is that Madagascar is a less developed country than the USA (albeit that its gun control laws are somewhat better), and this makes outbreaks of plague (or any other infectious disease) more likely to occur there and more difficult to control once they do.

The better news is that while this is a terrible and potentially disastrous situation, at this point, it’s certainly not unusual. Madagascar is the plague capital of the world (look, it’s not a claim that they stick on their tourism posters) with around 80% of the world’s cases each year, and outbreaks occur almost annually around this time of year, as the temperatures start to rise and the rat and flea populations – vectors of the disease – start to increase.
Additionally, because of this recent history, the authorities will be better set up to deal with the outbreak, despite the challenges mentioned above. And as we saw with Ebola in West Africa in 2014, that’s really important. Also, as long as you can get treated promptly, as a bacterial disease, plague is eminently treatable with simple, basic, cheap antibiotics.

I’m in no way belittling a very serious situation, but if you didn’t get all panicky and excited about the plague outbreaks in Madagascar in, say, 2014 and 2015, then right now there’s really no reason to get carried away about this one either.