Belated Flickr Update

We found ourselves in the midst of some ridiculously mild weather for the midwinter’s weekend, and thus we headed up to Rhodes Memorial to sample some views and some nature.
Yes, I took a few photos, the kids spotted a quagga or three and there may have been the bonus of tea and cake at the little restaurant up there.

It was only when I did a quick upload this evening that I realised that there were some photos from last month (OMG, no?!?) (But actually OMG, yes!) that had yet to be uploaded to Flickr as well.

This I have now done. And suddenly, I have a whole new raft of potential quota photos!

I promise to use them sparingly and only when necessary.

I tacked the old photos from last month onto this album, and I put today’s stuff here. Go see!

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Shortest Day

It’s the shortest day of the year in Cape Town today.

You’ll have noted that the sun rose at 7:51am and it will set later this evening at 5:45pm. That means that we’re only going to get 9 hours, 53 minutes and 35 seconds of daylight.
Make the most of it. Or choose to slow down a little and use a torch when it gets dark.

Your call.

The official winter solstice is at 12:51pm, three minutes after the solar noon, at which point the sun will be at a distance of 152,023,000km from Cape Town. This also means that it’ll be 152,022,999km away from the top of Devil’s Peak, which conveniently measures 1,000m in height and which is inconveniently casting a curse over the Mother City.
Won’t someone please change the name of that godforsaken lump of rock and save us all?

I digress.

Tomorrow, although the sun will still rise at 7:51am and set at 5:45pm, eagle-eyed readers should notice that the day will be a whole 1 second longer, as we begin our near-unstoppable charge towards summer.

Bring on beers, braais and bikinis on the beach.


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Bugle takes a break :(

News from The Bugle Podcast (you may remember them from such posts as Cheeseburger) is that they are “taking a sabbatical”, because, as Andy Salzman explains:

As small, eagle-eared listeners would be aware, John has been a little tied up with his new TV show, dismantling the very fabric of American and global society, whilst for me, well, that tortoise in my garden gets more active in the summer and I have some serious cleaning up to do on the lawn and the garden path, plus an enema run to do in August, so we’re going to take a little time off.

Indeed, tortoises can do that to a comedian’s spare time. And yes, John Oliver has been the talk of the internet with his clever rant at FIFA and the other clever (and always funny) rants at other people and organisations on Last Week Tonight.

In an effort not to lose too many listeners, Andy and John will still be releasing some material each week until their return in September, so it’s probably worth sticking with that podcast feed if you are looking for some cutting satire in Spring (other seasons are also available).

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Oopsie! My bad!

Incoming from Atlanta:

As many as 75 scientists working in US government laboratories in Atlanta may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria and are being offered treatment to prevent infection from the deadly organism, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

That’s not good.

Potentially dangerous bugs are categorised on a 1-4 scale so that when we’re working with them, we can handle them appropriately and protect ourselves (both laboratory workers and the general public) accordingly:

  • Hazard Group 1 – A biological agent that is unlikely to cause human disease.
  • Hazard Group 2 – A biological agent that can cause human disease and may be a hazard to employees; it is unlikely to spread to the communityand there is usually an effective prophylaxis or effective treatment is usually available.
  • Hazard Group 3 – A biological agent that can cause severe human disease and presents a serious hazard to employees; it may present a risk of spreading to the community but there is usually effective prophylaxis or treatment available.
  • Hazard Group 4 – A biological agent that causes severe human disease and is a serious hazard to employees; it is likely to spread to the community and there is usually no effective prophylaxis or treatment available.

Bacillus anthracis – the bacteria that causes Anthrax – is a Hazard Group 3 organism. For reference, Ebola virus is a 4 (you have to wear a big yellow suit), E.coli is a 2 (you can play with it on your desk), and Tobacco Mosaic Virus is a 1 (you can lick it and still not get ill).
Obviously, this is a scale set up for humans. If you’re a tobacco plant, Tobacco Mosaic Virus would be right up there in the 4’s. TMV is the tobacco plant version of Ebola. Tobacco plants should not lick TMV. Hell, tobacco plants shouldn’t even have tongues.

So, while you’d probably rather not work with stuff at the top end, sometimes you just have to (I do this with TB – also group 3 – every day), so you take precautions, for example “inactivating” (read: “killing”) the bug before you work with it. That’s what should have happened with this B.anthracis, but someone made an oopsie and forgot to do it.
Or at least forgot to do it right. Awkies.
Or maybe deliberately chose to forget to do it. (In which case, click here.)

Thus, what should have been a perfectly harmless bug turned out to be anything but, and now loads of people have potentially been exposed to a rather nasty disease:

With anthrax, the biggest threat is inhalation anthrax, in which bacterial spores enter the lungs where they germinate before actually causing disease, a process that can take one to six days. Once they germinate, they release toxins that can cause internal bleeding, swelling and tissue death.
About 90 percent of people with second-stage inhalation anthrax die, even after antibiotic treatment.

Fortunately, you have to mess around quite a lot with B.anthracis to get those spores aerosolised (as in Dustin Hoffman’s famous line in Outbreak: “OMG… it’s gone airborne!”) in order that they can be inhaled, so that’s probably not… sorry… they did what?

Two of the three labs conducted research that may have aerosolised the spores, the CDC said on Thursday.

“…may have”. Lolz. I love it. As if it’s something that could have happened accidentally.
That’s like saying:

“Steve, can you remember if you wrote a detailed 2500 word essay on the formation of the popular 1980s rock band Def Leppard, with specific reference to their roots in city of Sheffield and the declining mining and manufacturing sectors in South Yorkshire around the time of their inception, this morning?”

“Umm. I may have.”

Presumably, these US Government labs were merely working on Anthrax in order to protect the general public should any more “white powder” letters be sent through the US Postal Service.
As the two crisply dressed, concerningly efficient American gentlemen who are suddenly standing behind me (how did you guys get into my house, by the way?) have just pointed out, I can’t for the life of me think what other reason they would have for producing aerosolised Anthrax spores, inactivated or otherwise.

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Birdhouse In Your Soul

I know. You’re singing it already, aren’t you?

I’m your only friend,
I’m not your only friend
But I’m a little glowing friend,
But really I’m not actually your friend,
But I am.

Flashback to 1990 and John Flansburgh and John Linnell’s retro 1960’s robot-inspired brand of alternative indie rock. This was the hit from their album Flood which I had – and probably still do have somewhere – on cassette.

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More recently, I was amazed to see their name on the credits for the “Hot Dog” theme to The Mickey Mouse Funhouse: a series I used to watch with alarming regularity. But this was their biggest hit – their only hit, really – before they moved into kids’ music and won a Grammy.
But who could blame them for making up wonderful nonsense for children when their stuff for adults contained such wonderful nonsense as:

So the room must listen to me,
Filibuster vigilantly.
My name is blue canary,
One note: spell L-I-T-E.

The whole of Flood was rather experimental – 43 minutes of weirdness over 18 songs – but suddenly, I’m anxious to revisit it.

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