Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Gout




Today I’m going to consider, ‘The malady of kings’ or as it is more commonly known, gout. It needs to be said: I don’t have a personal stake in this condition. I have never suffered, but I know people who are so afflicted. However, I do suffer from an arthritic condition of both big toes with the quaint name: ‘Hallux Rigidus’. Tis a condition I have had since my early 20s. Effectively, my toes have become fused at the first joint causing pain on walking. Currently, I’m taking opiate pain killers to deaden the pain. In the future, I will need surgery to remove chunks of bone. Enough about me......

As far as we are aware, gout was first described by the Egyptians in 2640 BC. Gout was well known to the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, described the condition in the 5th BC as the ‘unwalkable disease’ and thought it was due to an imbalance of the humours. I suspect a sense of humour is absent once the sufferer is gripped in the grasp/rasp of an acute episode.

It was noted by Hippocrates, that gout was associated with the rich, or more importantly with rich living. A diet heavy in meat, delicate dainties, and wine were prophetic portends of the disease. The condition is caused by the deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint. The foot is so favoured due to the circulation in the extremities being less ‘efficient’ than elsewhere. The formation of crystals in the big toes results in severe pain during an acute attack. An acute episode may last up to several weeks and the pain has been described as ‘exquisite’. The pain is, apparently, extreme and likely to turn a sane man into a god. Indeed, the pain is so severe that any pressure on the toe, even by bedsheets, result in absolute agony. Thus the sufferer eschews footwear like a gypo eschews paying tax. Repeated attacks destroy the joint tissue causing frank arthritis. In addition, crystals may form in the kidney tubules. If untreated this can progress to kidney failure.

Uric acid is a breakdown metabolite of purines which play a key role in the formation of DNA. The precipitation of uric acid in the blood occurs when the concentration of the compound exceeds its solubility. As mentioned, it will deposit in parts of the body where the circulation is ‘sluggish’ and may affect other parts such as the hands and kidneys. High levels can be caused by the overproduction of uric acid, often exacerbated by a high dietary intake of uric acid and/or problems with excretion and removal from the body. It will come as no surprise that foods rich in uric acid include red meat, shellfish, and alcoholic beverages. As is often the case with metabolic disorders there may be an underlying genetic predisposition.

In unenlightened times gout was treated with a bizarre quota of remedies. The Romans favoured the application of dung from a female goat. Strangely, this remedy did not work and subjected the gout sufferer to a period of enforced loneliness, at least until the episode abated naturally. In the 16th century a German doctor advocated eating chopped up kitten. Again, this ‘treatment’ was ineffective for gout but it did prevent the patient from coughing up fur balls. In 6th century Byzantium, a physician named, Alexander Tralles (for it is he) treated gout by feeding the afflicted an extract from the autumn crocus. Apparently, the Greeks had been using this plant as a purgative for over a thousand years. But Tralles was the first physician to specifically treat gout with crocus. This treatment proved effective due to the active alkaloid present, colchicine. Indeed, until fairly recent times colchicine was the treatment of choice for gout. Recently, colchicine has been replaced with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. These drugs are more effective and circumvent the acute toxicity inherent in colchicine treatment.

Gout predominantly affects men as women receive a degree of protection due to eostrogen. However, when women achieve menopause this immunity is lost. As previously noted, historically the condition was associated with the upper orders as the plebs were unlikely to be able to sustain an expensive diet rich in red meat. These days gout has become less fashionable with the wealthy and even the poorest prole can be so afflicted as long as he sticks to a diet of big cacs, copious amounts of ale, and buckets of whelks. The disease once the preserve of the gentry has become egalitarian and has slipped down the social scale to render the lower orders with an excuse to sign on the dole. How quaint.

Pain, scorned by yonder gout-ridden wretch, endured by yonder dyspeptic in the midst of his dainties, borne bravely by the girl in travail. Slight thou art, if I can bear thee, short thou art if I cannot bear thee!





Saturday, 27 June 2020

CHAZ without Dave


Seattle-area protest updates: No police reports filed about use of ...

An Experiment of Doom


Following the death of George Floyd socialist progressives and the left-wing media have gone on a metaphorical and actual rampage on the premise that 'Black Lives Riot, er I mean Matter'. What about other races? While it is true that the police kill more blacks than other races- er perhaps because blacks commit more violent crime than other folk. Mayhap if blacks stopped killing each other then the police would refrain from their contribution. It seems radical, I know.

Seatle has set up an autonomous region in the city with the tacit approval of the Mayor. This zone is free from authority of any kind. The police have withdrawn for now. It seems that the: Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAS) is a self unregulated microcosm of anarchy.  The Mayor, Jenny Durkan, described the 'experiment' as a return to the 'Summer of Love'-what could go wrong?

It appears, that some of the occupiers, at least, have considered this action to be ongoing and long-lived and have seriously considered forming a form of governance based on a consensus without designated leaders. Considering how democracy has evolved, developed, and has been honed to imperfection over the past 2,500 years the declaration/designation of an experimental society from scratch is bound to form seamlessly without a stitch of a societal tear/tear. What could go wrong?  Apparently, hip hop artist, Raz Simone describes himself as the self-proclaimed de facto leader (warlord). Surely, this is totalitarianism, or did I miss the ballot?

There have been demands: Of course, that's how civilised society works. Criminals make demands and the elected officials put there by the democratic process, comply. So what are the demands: Let's start with the abolition of the police force and reallocating the funds to community health; banning the police of any offensive weapons including batons (I thought they were disbanded?). Mandatory retrials for blacks who are serving time for violent crime. Free public housing and free higher education. A refocus on Native American and Black History. What an interesting manifesto. The mandatory release of violent criminals plus a huge tax hike to pay for these 'progressive' reforms is going to promulgate and maintain stability in a modern society, Arse.

Logistics are important in war and peace and especially during a siege. If you destroy and exhaust supplies- wot ya gonna do? You could ask the surrounding and supporting populace to provide provender. So, what are the demands? I suggest a fatted calf or and a case of breaded products. Let's look at the actual demands.  It seems the residents of CHAZLAND are requesting tofu, soy-stuff, and vegan products. Methinks the warlord is going to do well here. Need I say more?

Apparently, during the day a carnival atmosphere dominates. But what happens after dark/darkies? Guess what? Folk start to burn stuff, loot and violence ensures. Businesses that haven't been destroyed are boarded up. Innocent folk and businesses caught up in the maelstrom have left. Every decent citizen has decided enough is enough and are relocating out of town. When all this done and the authorities decide to enforce the rule of law and civilisation what will be left? Let me guess: Destruction, graffiti, and lost businesses. Ultimately, the good burghers will be picking up the tab through taxation and higher taxation at that, because the tax base has diminished. The wankers who have destroyed the infrastructure will not be held to account as they will have fucked off to pastures new. 

Normally, I would suggest a radical burning and purging. But as a reformed arsonist, I'm not allowed to advocate such an activity by a mandate of law. Here is my revised solution. Cordone off the area and remove any decent folk that are left. Drop a low yield atomic bomb. Leave it to cool down and bulldoze the lot. Do you think my plan harsh?


Sunday, 21 June 2020

Freja's 1st Birthday



Chippus Blockus Maximus
Behold my granddaughter who turned one yesterday. She is a sheer delight for her doting grandfather as he descends into his dotage. But what of her future? Will it be bright? Frankly, I'm not sure. The world we inhabit has changed so much in the last 60 years. And while change is inevitable, certain changes are not necessarily for the better. I worry about her education and her ability to obtain a career that pays a salary that enables financial independence. I worry that she will be caught up and damaged by the insanity of liberal left-wing doctrine. I worry about her future......

I suspect I won't be around when she makes critical life-changing decisions as she reaches the fraught stage of early adulthood. I won't be there to offer wisdom, and other advice that she would probably ignore. Her mother, my daughter, will do her best, I'm sure. I fervently hope that when Freja's 35 she won't be living with parents as her mother does today.


Friday, 19 June 2020

Life is Rare, or Maybe Not

                             What We Don't Know About The Universe | Here & Now






I have to admit that until very recently, I believed that life in the universe and intelligent life, in particular, was likely to be commonplace. This is in alignment with most astrobiologists and cosmologists. This thinking is based on the fact that the number of stars in the observable universe is incredibly huge (1 billion trillion) and this only represents the universe we can see. We know that most stars have planets and so it seems reasonable that given the number of planets, there is going to be a large number of planets in the so-called 'Goldilocks Zone', that is, compatible with the formation of life. I've discussed this topic previously when I wrote about the Drake Equation (read it here). For the past 35 years or so the SETI program has been scouring the heavens in order to detect intelligent life. To date, there has been no evidence for the existence of 'Little Green Men' and so the search continues, given budget constraints.

But what about the counter possibility: We are unique and alone in the universe. This is a less popular stance amongst the experts but is certainly a viewpoint worthy of exploration and a view point that is becoming seriously considered by serious scientists. Mayhap, the chances that life can come into existence (abiogenesis) on a suitably primed planet is statistically highly improbable. There have been countless experiments over the last 70 years to reproduce the harsh conditions that occurred on the earth a billion years after it was formed. By applying heat and electrical energy to a 'soup' of inorganic chemicals it has been possible to produce organic compounds such as amino acids, which are essential for life. But so far the production of a self-replicating chemical compound has never been achieved- this would be the absolute minimum requirement for the fabrication of a proto-cell. Perhaps the conjunction of energy and chemicals in a particular/peculiar configuration necessary for the constitution of a replicon is exceedingly rare. We are primed by our intuition and our anthropic stance to extrapolate and conclude that life in the universe is inevitable. But what if we are exceedingly lucky?  What if the statistical probability of life occurring on a suitably primed planet is in the order of a sexdecillian to one  (1051).  Now, this is an exceedingly small number and on my part, completely arbitrary. And this brings me to an important point. We have absolutely no idea of the probability of life initiation on any planet including our own. It could range from virtually inevitable to almost impossible. For this statistic, we have no data at all. Of course, we can speculate, but if we are intellectually honest we must concede that our speculation is based on nowt.

At this stage of the proceedings, certain folk will envoke the 'God Principle'. I will not consider the multiple conceptual issues and logical problems with this principle and, at this stage, I'm happy to leave this irrational belief to educated religious apologetics and at the other extreme, the ill-educated.

As yet, I haven't considered the probability of the jump from the simple single cell to multi-cellular organisms. This would be a necessary step toward the evolution of intelligent life capable of producing sophisticated societies. Again, we have no data to account for this possibility.

In conclusion: We have to face the uncomfortable fact that when it comes to the probability of life formation we haven't a clue. This is a fact that many find very uncomfortable, scientists included. Others are untroubled by the 'unknown'. Indeed, it is a basic tenet of the scientific method that we start with a causal unknown and work through to the known (to be clear: an approximation of the known) by the acquisition of data. We must also appreciate the possibility that certain aspects of our reality may be totally closed to rational scrutiny. This might not be inevitable but it is certainly a prospect that is truly compatible with our reality.

As someone once said: "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."         


Watch a great man and weep.






Thursday, 11 June 2020

The Dead and the Famous



Sweeping gene survey reveals new facets of evolution
Everyone has one of these

How long do you think you will be remembered after your death? Will paeans be sung in 1,000 years' time about your intellectual prowess? Of course not, to think otherwise is simply ridiculous. The reality is that you will be remembered by your spouse, at least until she remarries, by your kids and if you live long enough, your grandkids. And that is that. Only those folk deemed 'famous', by dint of skill or luck will enter the history 'books' for the future enlightenment of our ancestors 1,000 hence. I fervently hope that the Karcrashians will not be part of remembered history- now, if they are, that would be a heinous twist of fate.

For mundane humanity, and to be honest, that is the vast majority of us, we can live in the minds of the living for no more than three generations. Future relatives may plot a name on a 'family tree' but they know nothing but the lists in dusty books or sterile databases- that is our legacy.

In the popular imagination, at least, there is a gaggle of folk that will be remembered forever- well until the human condition passes away. I confess I'm being parochial in my analysis. The folks mentioned here have a distinct Eurocentric flavour. For other cultures, the list may be different.  

Here is a collection of 'oldies' that will always be cherished although their mortal span was thousands of years in the past. Of course, Jesus, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Nero, Alexander the Great, Newton, Leibnitz, DaVinci, Galileo and Hannibal will continue to abide in their legacy and in the mind of man. This is obviously not an exhaustive list and there are others that would be very comfortable in this selective group. There is another point to make: most folk pondering these historical characters will have a very superficial knowledge about their lives. I suspect many would have a problem placing the above individuals in the correct century. And I stick by this principle even when it comes to the historical Jesus. Although to be fair, even dedicated scholars know very little when it comes to the historical Jesus. Kenneth Copeland, the American tele-evangelist and multi-millionaire seems to be blithely unaware of Jesus' core teachings and precepts.

Of course, a few names will linger in the minds of the specialists. Scipio Africanus has long slipped the mind of the common man. But the historian and the sophisticated warrior know his triumph, his tactics, and his ultimate downfall. Thus is the fate of the conqueror of Hannibal Barca.

As for the 20th century: certainly, a memory of Hitler and Stalin will resonate down the ages; perhaps Churchill in the Anglocentric world. In the world of science, Einstein will remain clear of the pack. I'm not so sure about Sigmund Freud. Add to the distinguished list according to temperament and will.

As we wander aimlessly about our boneyards we sometimes espy a large edifice and last resting place of some long-dead Victorian industrialist. It matters not that he lived as a dignitary in his home town of Tipton. One hundred and seventy years after death his bones are a moldering ruin very like the man's sepulchre itself. Time and entropy take all, in the end. Mayhap there is a street that bears his name. What fame is that? Life is ephemeral. Tis like a gossamer tossed by the wind once plucked by life's eddies, it soon disappears in the draft of oblivion (Flaxen being a pretentious, pompous git. Arse.).

Indeed, to be remembered is scant praise. It counts naught in the courts of the dead. They cannot bask in the guttering flicker of posthumous fame. The dead see nothing, feel nothing, and belong to the eternal realm of dreamless sleep. Let the dead be forgotten.


The Cemetery of All Saints, Nunhead - Edwards and Holmes Family ...
And this shall pass
                               
They count as quite forgot;
They are as men who have existed not;
Theirs is a loss past loss of fitful breath;
It is the second death.

Thomas Hardy

Monday, 1 June 2020

Pallet Wood Projects without any Philosophical Musings

                                     Pin on Nailed it!



Today's post is a little different from my usual stuff. For today I'm going to consider the use of pallet wood for woodwork projects. Tis going to be a very sensible post.

As I'm semi-retired I have plenty of time to indulge my many hobbies including woodwork. First off I'm not naturally gifted when it comes to things practical. What I lack in skill is made up by my dedication to learn and profit from my mistakes (I told you it was going to be sensible).

I mostly work with pallet wood. Pallet wood has the advantage that it is free. Whenever I order an item from the mega hardware store in my area (Mitre 10), that requires delivery, I ask the store to throw in a few pallets that are destined for scrap anyway. I know that dedicated woodworkers the world over will recoil in horror when I mention pallet wood. Pallet wood has many disadvantages and many think it is just not worth the effort. I'll mention these disadvantages later in the post. Personally, I use pallet wood because commercially available wood is relatively expensive and hardwood, in particular, is very expensive and difficult to find. For instance, Mitre 10 only stocks pine and within a two-hour drive, there is only one outlet where I can obtain various species of hardwood such as oak and ash.

To date, I've used pallet wood for a variety of projects, such as: stools; workbench; bows racks; arrow rack/store; mallet; large plant boxes; vegetable plot surround; shave horse; gate; crossbows; associated shelves; shoe rack and archery stand.  I cannot tell a lie, some of the objects have been supplemented with commercially sourced pine.

Let's look at some of the issues involved when working with pallet wood. The first problem is one of safety. All pallets are initially treated to remove insect pests. In the majority of cases, the wood is heat-treated although you can still find pallets treated with methyl bromide. Pallets treated with methyl bromide gas are left with a toxic residue and should never be used. Generally the mode of 'pest control' is indicated on the pallet. Thus, heat-treated wood is coded with, HT, while bromide treated wood, receives the moniker, MB. Therefore, it shouldn't be a problem distinguishing between suitable pallets from pallets that should be discarded. 

Pallet wood is of poor quality. Only the finest shitty wood is deemed suitable for the pallet. The wood is of uneven thickness and full of knots. Also, the ends of the pallet are universally split by the attaching nails. These need to be cut off, unless of course, you are deliberately cultivating a primitive 'rustic' look. If you are not interested in keeping the nail riddled end pieces then removing these pieces will limit the length of the boards obtained. And of course, before you can use the wood you have to dismantle the pallet. This is not an easy exercise and will take some time. There are various methods to do this. I direct my intrepid readers to YouTube. I use a handheld circular saw to cut through the wood in situ. Be careful of nails, they will fuck up the blade! The wood that is left is of uneven dimensions and often warped. Once you process the wood by planing etc, you have to be careful to avoid random pieces of metal, grit, and dirt. I use a cheap blade for this type of work that is exclusively used for pallet processing. Don't use expensive blades for this work as the blades quickly become beaten up and chipped.

In the final analysis, is it worth using pallet wood for your projects? I have to say the main advantage (for me) is that the wood is 'free' although you will have to spend time taking the pallet apart and processing the wood before you can use it. Any scrap pieces of wood leftover go to fuel our wood burner which is the only source of heating in our house. If you live in North America I suspect transforming pallets to second-grade items is not worth the effort. From what I can see, wood is cheap and easily sourced in the US and Canada. New Zealand is a special case. Many items that can be cheaply acquired in many countries are often relatively expensive in my adopted homeland. I'd like to say that the price hike is due to our isolation in the vast Pacific ocean although I can't discount downright profiteering. Perhaps I'll write about this issue in a future post.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Epistemology Akimbo



Today I'm in a wistful mood and would like to discuss a topic which I have touched on before: Epistemology. Tis a word of Greek etymology and basically means the 'study of knowledge' or more importantly, how do we recognise something as constituting knowledge. I can never spell this word and I’m eternally grateful to the ‘spellchucker’. And as for its pronunciation- don’t make me say it, it's more sonorous in print. We may think we have a commonsense method for distinguishing true knowledge from what is patently false. But commonsense is an elusive commodity and even when present it often leads us astray. Therefore we need an intellectually rigorous means of distinguishing true ideas, concepts, and physical things from stuff that is not part of reality, even if the word for the methodology is difficult to articulate. However, when we delve deeper into the fundamental methodology of epistemology we enter a world full of woe and intellectual contortions/convolutions. If you want it to be, the topic can become immensely complex and technical and hence unavailable for comprehension by the intelligent layman. The subject can be couched in terms full of heavy intellectual promise only partially comprehensible to a certain group of professional philosophers. I'm a simple man at heart (if you believe this you will believe anything) and like to keep explanations as simple as possible. Einstein was of the opinion: "That if you can't explain something simply then you don't understand the subject" (by the way, Einstein probably never said this, although he should have). I suspect it serves the philosophy profession to maintain a barrage of obscurity to exclude the uninitiated. It keeps the profession exclusive/elusive and slightly mystical. Although I'm not against elitism per se- tis the natural order of things after all. I do have a problem with intellectual elitism. Perhaps I will write about this, someday. After this rambling intro, let's get started.

 We need to understand how we gain knowledge at a very fundamental level. How we can reliably, as far as reliability goes, understand the world we inhabit. The ancient Greeks were of the strong opinion that knowledge could be evinced by thinking very hard about a subject using pure logical analysis. Plato and Aristotle were very much attuned to this school of thought. Socrates thought that much of knowledge was innate and not learned. This knowledge could be coaxed from even the unschooled by careful questioning. He considered himself a midwife helping with the birth of preexisting knowledge. When we examine Socrate's dialectic we can see he was being rather disingenuous by encouraging responses with leading questions. By talking to Socrates anyone can become wise.

Of course, the Greeks were wrong in their emphasis on logic and the dialectic. While it is true that knowledge can be obtained in this way it is not the only way. In its purest form such as logic and mathematics, the knowledge found is unequivocally true. Once knowledge has been discovered in this way, and assuming the intervening steps are faultless, this knowledge is irrefutable, forever. As for the dialectic, I will say this: this approach is more suited to questions about the human condition for which there is no true answer.  In a way we are entering the realm of opinion, perhaps learned opinion, perhaps intellectually thought-provoking opinion, but opinion nonetheless. Thus the nature of what constitutes 'courage' or 'morals' are highly amenable to this technique. What Socrates had to say about 'courage' is very relevant today and probably wrong.

The other obvious method of gaining knowledge is through our senses. We can see a table; we can hear a table if we rap it and we can smell the wooden composition of the table. As for tasting the table, I will leave my discerning readers to experiment with this form of cognition. It has been known since the ancient Greeks that this method for gaining knowledge is ultimately flawed. Go and read Hume's, 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding' to grasp some of the problems involved. I still think Hume's exposition of the problems of induction remains the clearest explanation ever written, even though he wrote two hundred years ago. I don't have space to write a critique here, but even the dullard can see that there is an issue with obtaining knowledge by the senses. For instance, we can only experience some of the total electromagnetic wavelengths reflected from a table. Once light hits the retina the image is converted into electrical impulses which are processed by our brain to give a representation of the table. This view is fortified by a consideration of quantum mechanics which views the table as almost entirely 'made' of empty space (what is space?) and what we consider as solid is an electromagnetic phenomenon with a probability coefficient. This is not very encouraging for the true empiricist. However, regardless of how defective our interrogation of nature is, together with deduction, these two methodologies remain the only way we can gain knowledge of the universe we inhabit. And of course, reliance on our senses is the basis of the scientific process for gaining knowledge. There is no doubt that science works, although there is a modern strain/stain in society that belittles its achievements.

Some may say that I haven't considered other possible forms of cognition that remain equally valid for discerning knowledge. They will argue that 'faith' and 'revelation', those twin imposters, are relevant pathways for obtaining true knowledge. I would vehemently disagree although I don't have space to criticise these so-called methods here. However, I will lay out my contrary thoughts in the next eagerly awaited post.

I will leave my readers to pontificate and ruminate on alternative ways to knowledge, at the most fundamental level, and I invite all and sundry to leave their thoughts in the comments below. I am always eager to read any alternative theory that may be proposed.  But beware, I can be savage in my condemnation. Arse.