Saturday, 17 April 2021

Grapes of Wrath


Don't Put Frozen Tatties up yer Bottom! 

The advice as stated above is undoubtedly sound. Tis not the ravings of Flaxen's unsound mental activity but advice given by the British Medical Association. You might wonder why the medical establishment is so moved to issue this rather strange proclamation? This is not some weird fetish, although folk of a certain proclivity are apt to shove various items/utensils up their arse for erotic pleasure. The emergency department is replete/recondite with tales of folk slipping in the shower onto a light bulb/coffee jar/alabaster bust of Napoleon. Folk keep the strangest stuff in their shower. 

But why is the medical profession concerned with frozen potatoes? It doth appear that folk sundry are stuffing the aforementioned frigid vegetable up da arse to relieve the malady known as haemorrhoids. The flaxen haired one has never suffered from this indisposition, however I have friends so afflicted. I've been told that the combination of the itch and the pain is enough to propel a man into god hood. 

Haemorrhoids, from a medical perspective are no more than varicose veins that descend outside the anal cavity. There are numerous home remedies that include shoving the offending veins back in with a stick and afterward applying a cold honey compress. One hopes that the stick is checked first for irregularities; the recipient has to be hyper-vigilant for offending splinters. Actually this makes good sense as honey is an excellent antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. The 'cold chip' scenario seems less sensible. Mayhap the cold comestible offers some relief and the bulk of the item retains its negative calorific value for awhile. I will refrain from making inappropriate, 'wedgie jokes'. 

I suppose the problem is that sufferers are too embarrassed to approach the doctor with said ailment, which is sad, as there are a plethora of medically effective treatments, such as, the administering of a  soothing balm to the nether regions, to salves, and finally, depending on the severity of the condition, cauterisation. Thus, the 'hot poker' up da arse is sometime warranted. 

I will finish on a sage note, as befits my nature:

Arse, big, sore/itchy, arse






no shit

Friday, 16 April 2021

Friday Madness Akimbo

 


                                                             Wise words, indeed

According to the British Medical Association, medical staff should now refer to pregnant women as ‘pregnant people’. Underlying this ruling is the principle, that medical folk, should not assume that the pregnant person is female. You would think doctors, nurses and midwives are well versed in the nature concerning human physiology, anatomy and sexuality. As a biologist, I was taught that humans are split into two counter genders and the female of the species is the only gender able to conceive, carry and give birth to a human child. The male of the species is precluded from this activity due to fundamental restrictions afforded by anatomy, physiology and hormones. This ‘edict’ from the esteemed British Medical Association comes from a respected professional institution well noted for its ‘sensibleness’, sound common sense and a reputation for being old fashioned and rather fuddy duddy. The proclamation, I suggest, has been foisted upon the medical community, not by medical doctors, but by admin staff of a left wing persuasion peddling a feminist agenda. Why the usually sensible medical association have acquiesced to this rather silly ruling is frankly beyond my ken. Mayhap the top tier doctors have just got tired of resisting against these rather silly, profoundly indoctrinated women in flowery skirts. After all, the practice of medicine is a very serious pursuit and I’m sure doctors are applying themselves to more important matters, such as saving patient’s lives. Perhaps I am being too progressive.

I suspect most of the medical profession will ignore this nonsense and aptly call ‘a duck’ by its correct gender. This is just another example of a minority of woke/PC protagonists trying to force their ridiculous agenda on the majority.

There is another argument that makes the point that the term, ‘pregnant women’ is discriminatory against transgender folk i.e., women transitioning into ‘men’. To my mind, a person’s biological gender is immutable. If you want to call yourself a man even though you are a biological woman then that is your business and no business of mine. But what you cannot do is convince me that you are a real biological ‘man’. And if you expect me to abide by your social construct, then you can bugger Orff. No compliance here. And this is the dilemma (not for me though): the sensible majority are expected, and sometimes coerced by legislation, to conform to this minority insanity. What happened to the hard-won principles of, freedom of thought, speech, and expression by deed in print?    

I can only hope that pragmatic medical staff ignore this nonsense and carry on calling a woman with child, a pregnant woman. Otherwise, our civilization is lost and deserved to fall.

 

            

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Vaccine

 


I'm special- don't vaccinate the prole/scutters/gypo types

I received my first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine two days ago. Like most developed countries, New Zealand is making the vaccine available to the population by degrees. This is due, in the main, to the limited supply of the vaccine. In the first tier, doctors, nurses and border staff, together with other specialist groups received their shot. I belong to the second wave of inoculations that is being doled out to 'essential workers'. Next in line will be the most vulnerable segment of our society, the over 80s. Afterward, the vaccine will become available to the general population, excepting those under 16 years of age. 

At the date of writing, seven distinct vaccines designed by laboratories worldwide have been made available. There are differences between these vaccines, although the basic mechanism of action is broadly similar. When trials began last year there were many more candidate vaccines undergoing evaluation. The development of any novel drug is required, by law, to undergo a systematic and arduous testing process and most drug candidates will fail at one of the many stages in the drug’s assessment. And this has been the case with potential COVID- 19 vaccines. Even though the urgency of the situation mandated a rapid introduction of an effective vaccine this did not mean that safety and efficacy requirements were compromised. Usually, the introduction of a new vaccine requires a four-year rigorous testing process in the lab and in the ‘field’. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine the whole process was truncated to under a year. This in no way indicates that the development of the vaccine was haphazard, or normal testing standards removed or curtailed. The rapidity of introduction was a consequence of several salient factors: A lot of the preliminary work had been achieved on similar RNA viruses and vaccines in the past, so it was not as if researchers were entering unknown scientific territory. A huge amount of money was brought to bear on the problem world-wide. The current estimates place total expenditure in the region of $7 billion US dollars. The development of an effective vaccine was a combined international effort. The best scientific minds and the most prestigious research institutes went into overdrive, and with virtually unlimited financing, the usual research restrictions with regard to funding miraculously slipped away. In fact, they slithered away, like a greased ferret in an ‘Exotic Lard Emporium’ (Steady Flaxen- remember what your psychiatrist said). Unlike most research, in the initial stages at least, the results of scientific endeavour where widely distributed/disseminated internationally. The sharing of data between researchers, to this degree, is almost unprecedented in the annuals of scientific research.              

New Zealand is currently dispensing the vaccine developed by the German company, BioNTech, in conjunction with Pfizer. During trials it has been determined that the vaccine, known as BNT162b2, has an efficiency rate of 95% in preventing COVID-19 infection.

The Science Stuff Briefly Explained

The vaccine contains a piece of viral RNA, that under normal infective conditions, is responsible for the formation of part of the protein coat that surrounds the viral RNA. In particular, the RNA encodes for a class of spike projection proteins. When the virus infects the cell, these projections facilitate the entry of the virus through the nuclear membrane. Once the virus has pierced the nuclear membrane, the genetic material of the virus, in this instance, RNA, can interact with the host genome. Once ensconced the viral RNA hijacks the protein manufacturing processes within the cell, ultimately producing new viral particles, that once released, go on to create invasive and infectious havoc, anew.

Shortly after inoculation, the introduction of the partial viral genome triggers a strong immune response. As only a portion of the viral RNA is contained in the vaccine there is no possibility for the pared RNA to encode for an intact, infectious, viral particle. The RNA in the vaccine is encased in a lipid coat to prevent degradation once it enters the recipient’s cells.

Once vaccinated the individual’s immune system becomes primed and ready to react to the presence of the virus entering a host cell. The presence of the virus initiates the production of antibodies. These antibodies are highly specific to the spike projections of the COVID-19 virus. The presence of the virus triggers the immune system to manufacture large numbers of the antibody particle. When the antibodies encounter the virus, they attach to the spike proteins. The presence of the antibodies initiates two key events. Firstly, the presence of large numbers of attached antibodies physically prevents the virus from entering the cell’s nucleus. Secondly, the attached antibodies act as a beacon that attract specialist immune cells. Once the virus is encountered by these cells they are quickly engulfed (phagocytosis) and rendered harmless. All this occurs outside the cell nucleus and therefore the virus is destroyed before it can reproduce and produce symptoms of disease.

This genomic approach differs from previous outdated anti-viral strategies where the presence of the whole virus was necessary to elicit a positive immune response. In these instances, however, the virus was first inactivated by heat.

This sophisticated genetic approach is not entirely new as researchers have been working on this 'RNA strategy' for the development of novel vaccines for over a decade. There are a number of RNA viruses that cause disease and extensive anti-viral research has been conducted on COVID-19's more dangerous and virulent RNA viral cousins, such as those responsible for the diseases of MERS and SARS. As mentioned earlier, this seminal work has contributed to the rapid development and production of BNT162b2. What's in a name? You think a bunch of smart scientists could have made a little more effort to give the vaccine an imaginative and catchy name; BNT162b2 does not exactly trip off the tongue. If it were up to me, I would have burdened the vaccine with the moniker, ‘Arse, big fat, arse’. But what do expect from someone who is madder than a bucket of frogs in vinegar- nuff said.

As I am close to the arbitrary defined ‘blog post limit’ of 1,000 words, I will pontificate no more on the topic of COVID-19. However, I will end with this: It has not gone unnoticed by the author, that there is a growing minority of folk who are of the strong opinion that the vaccine is a dangerous entity in itself- more dangerous than the disease and therefore is to be eschewed mightily. The opposition to the vaccine is in some instances, rational, although many of the objections are irrational and often quite bizarre. I will address these concerns in a future post, hopefully within the week.       

   

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

An Interesting Observation.....Mayhap?



                                     Chromosome preparation showing the typical damage after in vitro exposure to a clastogen (mitomycin C). What an exciting/tragic life I lead.

As my regulars are well aware, I work two days a week in a genetics lab. One of my many duties is to oversee a specialist genetic test. In fact, we are the only laboratory in New Zealand to offer this diagnostic test.

Let me introduce a rather nasty genetic condition called, Fanconi Anaemia (FA). This condition is usually inherited in an autosomal recessive fashion. Thus, although each parent carries the condition, they our free from clinical manifestations. The problem occurs when the couple produce issue, as 25% of their offspring will be affected with FA. The condition may present at birth due to congenital malformations or may be suspected in adolescence due to bone marrow failure or the development of acute leukaemia. If the presenting clinical issue is leukaemia, chemotherapy is usually considered as a first line treatment. The problem however, is that these patients suffer from an inability to repair a particular type of DNA damage. Unfortunately, if the patients are given the standard dose of chemotherapeutic reagents it is likely they will succumb to the treatment as they are exquisitely sensitive to agents that interact with DNA. Fortunately FA is rare condition affecting around 3 in a 1,000,000. 

Of course, bone marrow failure and leukaemia could be due to a host of conditions more likely than FA. That said, it is highly important that the rare subset of patients with FA is identified as they must receive an attenuated drug regimen to treat their leukaemia. However, FA is a condition that is caused by a large number of genes that contribute to DNA repair. Therefore, standard genetic testing, using a large genetic panel, can be expensive. There is another, cheaper option. A relatively simple test has been devised that takes advantage of the patient's sensitivity to DNA damaging drugs. The test involves growing the patient's blood cells in a test tube and exposing the cells to a DNA damaging compound called mitomycin C. Subsequently the cells are harvested and dropped onto glass slides. After DNA staining, and interrogation with the aid of a light microscope, the presence of DNA damage, mediated through chromosome damage can be measured. Affected patients exhibit very high levels of breakage in comparison to a control blood sample obtained from a none related individual. The test utilises two different concentrations of mitomycin C. In none affected individuals, and the control, we should observe a minor degree of elevated breakage, but not the excessive levels indicative of a positive diagnosis. This is because 'normal' people are able to repair the vast majority of the DNA damage. This analysis is considered a 'robust technique' and highly correlated with the disorder. But it does not identify the underlying genetic defect/mutation. Further molecular studies should ensue if a positive breakage analysis is observed.      

Last month, I conducted the test on a young male adult with a low blood count, and while FA was considered an unlikely diagnosis, it was important to exclude the condition, for reasons previously discussed. I made the slides as usual, with due diligence, and began to assess the chromosome damage, according to my scientific wont. The patient was found to have breakage levels within the normal range indicating that the patient was free from this dreadful genetic, malady; all well and good. But the control gave a rather strange result. All cultures, without the addition of mitomycin C, gave the expected breakage result. However, when I came to review and analyse the cultures containing mitomycin C, I came across a rather interesting result. In these cultures, there was no evidence of cellular growth and hence I was unable to score for chromosome damage; all the cells had been completely obliterated. A very curious result indeed. On investigation, it transpired that the control blood sample had been collected from a young, healthy doctor. Furthermore, the doctor had recently received his first inoculation of the COVID19 vaccine. Could it be that the vaccine and drug were interacting together to cause a catastrophic loss of cells?

A word of warning and caution. Although, my initial observations are consistent with the hypothesis that: in vivo COVID19 vaccination plus mitomycin in the in vitro environment causes cell death.  This observation, should in no rational manner, be used as justification to consider this as positive evidence for a causal connection between the two agents. My single/singular result is just that, and is to be considered as 'anecdotal evidence'- or in words of the 'Scientific Prophet', no bloody evidence, at all. Arse. In the ideal scientific world, my findings would be the basis of a double blind, and extensive, scientific trial. I doubt this will happen, for reasons various.

I don't want to lend ammunition to the anti-vaxer brigade. My observations are interesting, but should not be extrapolated too far, or at all, on their own, merit. After a little research, I did find prior evidence suggesting, that vaccines, in general, can interfere with DNA modifying drugs. This is considered an in vitro phenomenon. Or in other words, it is a reaction that can be demonstrated in the 'test tube' but may have no effect in the in vivo environment (ie the body). So, in conclusion, my results are simply intriguing and should form the basis of an interesting scientific study.

 Anyone out in the 'big wide world', of a philanthropic bent, willing to stump up the estimated $NZ 50,000 to enable this itinerant geneticist to perform valuable research? Mayhap I should contact Elon Musk? 

Or mayhap, I should truly embrace, true retirement.

    

     

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Calculus: An Introduction


Is there anything more sublime in nature than the branch of mathematics entitled, calculus? I see the eyes of my readership glaze over and heavy despondent heads sink slowly to heaving breasts. This is the standard reaction when most folk encounter anything mathematical, especially if relating to the perceived notion of, 'Higher Mathematics'. And it is true that calculus can be conceptually complex, if you allow it to be so. But the underlying principles are relatively simple and can be grasped by those who would not consider themselves 'mathematically literate', if they are prepared to put forth a little effort.  

When I first encountered calculus 45 years ago I was mesmerized by its underlying principles and its utility in a host of disparate natural topics. Calculus is founded on the concept of infinity, an abstraction both immeasurably subtle and profound, but also calculus is, without doubt, the most useful mathematical tool we have for solving real life practical problems. It is without hyperbole to state: that much of our technological and scientific achievements would not have been possible without the application of this wondrous mathematical process. 

This post is an introduction to an introduction. This will be a trilogy, of many parts and a series that will unfold as I see fit. Hopefully there will not be an inkling of a 'petit mal'- a grand mal is not even in the realm of a possibility, fingers crossed. My aim is to cover the development of calculus, from its 'inception' 2,500 years ago, through to the conceptual breakthrough independently 'discovered' in the mid 17th century by the two greatest minds that have ever existed, Newton and Leibnitz. I'll deal with subsequent developments and explain how calculus has contributed to numerous scientific and technical innovations. But, do not worry gentle reader, this is not going to be a 'mathematical treatise' resplendent with dense mathematical notation. I will strive to make the enterprise intelligible to the educated lay person with a modicum of intellectual substance. It will require no more than a grasp of elementary mathematics, unless I get very drunk.

This is a germ of a project that has been lurking upon my mind (up on the right and on the second shelf) for quite a while now. I feel it has evolved and progressed to a stage where I can confidently write about the topic in a sequential and coherent manner. To be fair, intellectually important topics, though ultimately complex, are vulnerable to simple breakdown and exposition. This is my goal. 

I'm acutely aware that my blog is highly niche, anyway, especially when it encapsulates my strange, and often, incomprehensible humour (even to the author). Ultimately however, the blog is not an exercise in popularity. For me, it is an exercise in the intellect. Most of my writing is directed to a mythical character called, Flaxen Saxon, and, of course, to the incessant voices in this character's head. If I manage to capture and enslave a few world weary free thinkers along the way tis both an intellectual bonus and a means to engage and commune with like minded folk.  

The second installment in this 'ripping series' will make its presence known, but in a thrice. Arse. 

       

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Rhabdomancy



                                            Essential Equipment for Dowsing

What are we to make of the phenomenon, that is dowsing? Is it to be tossed into the bin of 'irrational 'technologies', or does it warrant serious consideration as a legitimate natural phenomenon?

I'm sure my readership is familiar with the art of dowsing. Is it possible to frame a scientifically valid causal hypothesis concerning dowsing's mode of action? Classical dowsing is concerned with the detection of flowing underground water. Could water flow cause the formation of a detectable electromagnetic field? Tis at least worthy of scientific scrutiny. Thusly, flowing water interacting with a subterranean substrate, may induce a fluctuating electric field, that in principle, could be detected by a sensitive and simple, hand held device such as a 'dowsing wand'. Of course, adherents often claim much more, such as, the ability to detect oil reserves, gold deposits, and even buried ancient man made structures. Oil and mineral prospecting companies have been known to employ dowsers in an effort to detect untold wealth. The general public are apt to lend a positive ear and are surprisingly receptive to dowsing. Indeed, 40% of the US population are staunch believers. But then again, 40% of the US population also believe in creationism as opposed to evolution- tis enough to make a rational bonce revolve 180 degrees. Nuff said (arse). 

The dowsing device can vary from a simple forked branch, to metal rods allowed to independently rotate, to cunningly fashioned black boxes containing electronics and knobs. So, as said, there may be a perfectly plausible scientific reason explaining dowsing's effectiveness. This would constitute a valid hypothesis. A possible scientific explanation, before any scientific investigation is performed, is termed, 'the hypothesis'. Before a hypothesis can earn the exalted status of a theory, positive experimental evidence is required. And this is where our posited hypothesis flounders (wet fish). Simply stated: numerous researchers have failed to come up with any hard scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of dowsing as a real natural process for detecting underground water, or anything for that matter. When controlled experiments have been conducted, the detection of hidden objects, by dowsing devices, has been found to be no more than chance. Therefore, the hypothesis has been found wanting and consequently dowsing is not a viable technique for the detection, of anything. Hard nosed dowsers seem unconcerned that science has not been able to uncover a causal mechanism. For them the technique works. And it does appear that dowsers do experience involuntary muscular movements that cause dowsing rods to move. This in no way demonstrates that dowsing is effective, but is likely due to 'ideomotor movements'. This is fancy psychology jargon for 'it is all in the mind' and is under subconscious mind control. This is a similar effect observed when gullible folk play around with the Ouija board. 

I would like to introduce 'The James Randi Educational Foundation' and its 1 million dollar challenge. If someone can produce real evidence, under rigorous scientific conditions, that demonstrates paranormal abilities, then the foundation will award the individual with the princely sum of 1 million dollars. Since the challenge was put in place, hundreds of applications have been submitted to the foundation for testing. Interestingly, 80% of  the applications are about dowsing ability. And guess what? The reward awaits to be claimed.        

Dowsing is very popular amongst the 'New Age' crowd. They are also keen on other dubious pseudoscientific beliefs, such as crystals and alternative medicine- see earlier postings. Fringe groups are notoriously anti-science and take great delight in disregarding true scientific principles and replacing them with utter gobblygook and sundry bollocks.

To conclude: dowsing clearly comes under the umbrella of pseudoscience and should be treated in the same way we would treat astrology and a belief in ghosts. All that can be considered without evidence, can be dismissed, without evidence.   

“We must accept dowsing as fact.  It is useless to work experiments to prove its existence. It exists.  What is needed is its development.” 

The above was expressed by a prominent dowser, Charles Richet. This really sums up the anti-scientific stance typical of the 'pseudoscience brigade'.


Saturday, 27 March 2021

Huzzle Puzzle

I'm not a fella who endorses products on this blog, but on this occasion I'm driven to make an exception. Specifically I'm writing about a puzzle company based in Japan, called Hanayama. The company manufacturer's cast metal puzzles. The puzzles themselves are defined works of art and fashioned in cunning array. They are engineered with precision that defies reason and technology. Often they are composed of just several metal pieces. However, their structural simplicity belies a complexity that is both devilish and beguiling in equal measure. The puzzles come in six levels of difficulty. Level six encompasses a level of sophistication and exquisite intricacy that is designed to send an insane man, sane.

I own seven of these puzzles in the hardest category. The pleasure involved in their disassembly is difficult to define. However, the real test makes itself apparent when it comes to reassembly. I suggest you sequester yourself away from every day mundane distractions, mayhap on a wet Saturday afternoon, and focus intensely on the task in hand.

I can't  mention this topic without a foray into the past. My father fought with distinction in the last Great War. I recall a singular incident when I was about eight whilst playing with my Airfix plastic soldiers. On this particular occasion I had a box featuring Japanese soldiery. I don't recall any Japanese snipers in the fold. My father was none too pleased and I remember his reaction, very distinctly. He took up the cardboard box and spat upon its surface. I admit, this action made an impression on my young soul especially as my father was not prone to dramatic or florid acts. Mayhap it had something to do with my father's brother, uncle Charlie- remember him? I've posted about him before and insinuated that he had a passing resemblance to the Dali Llama. Anyway, uncle Charlie fought in the Burma campaign. Perhaps, my uncle's experience had a dramatic impact on my dad's psyche. Forgive and forget is the watchword, however we still must be on guard for itinerant Japanese snipers still on active service in the West Midland environs.

I've strayed from my original theme. Anyway, to conclude, I commend these puzzles to my readership. However, and regardless, we should always be vigilant and prepared to root out lurking, and near sighted Japanese snipers, within our midst. The Tipton Japanese snipers are particularly active, currently. Arse, big fat, arse.