Day 393 – Malaria News

And it’s good news.


I was involved (as a volunteer) in the (very) early stages of development of this vaccine in Oxford. But I was never actually given the vaccine: I was just given malaria because I was a positive control to check that someone challenged with the parasite would actually get malaria. A few notes on this:

Firstly, I was quite excited to be given, and experience, malaria. As a microbiologist in the UK, I had a proper professional interest in “exotic” “forrun” diseases. They were awesome to learn about and grow and diagnose. To actually have one was really cool.
Secondly, yes, I got paid for my time and effort. And discomfort.
Thirdly, you can’t be injected with malaria or take a pill to get it. You literally have to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Or in this case, five infected mosquitoes. They put them in a paper AMT espresso cup with some gauze over the top (so professional) and you pop them on your forearm in a very well sealed laboratory at a posh London University. Once they’ve all bitten you, they take them away and dissect the little bastards to check that they are carrying the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. You need 5 confirmed infected bites before they send you on your way.
We went straight to the pub.
Fourthly, there were thrice daily health checks at the local hospital (where I was working anyway) and an emergency number for any out of hours problems.
Fifthly, I was completely fine until day 10. That morning, I felt crap. They took my blood and I went to work. And then, ironically almost at the same moment as the Ghanaian blood microscopy expert rang through with a positive confirmation, I fell over in the CSF room. I ate a banana, was driven home, given a few doses of anti-malarials and recovered within 2 days.

I didn’t die. Which was nice.

Hopefully, this recent development will mean that a lot of other people won’t, too.

Day 382 – Swings etc

But actually mainly roundabouts, sadly. [link]

A busy, tiring day after a sleepless night. Haven’t had the chance to get near a computer until now.
There won’t be much from me here this evening.

Good things: Some electrical work I did that did works really well. And I fixed the Weber.


Bad things: An overly demanding painter, a no show from the gardener, and some electrical work I did that didn’t work very well at all and now I have to go and do some more rewiring in the loft.


Goodnight all.

Day 377 – Wizard Poison

I spotted this on Twitter and it made me smile.

“Wizard poison” – what a lovely turn of phrase.

The latest anti-vaxxer (for it is they that Patton is referring to under his “idiots” tag) arguments demonstrate a couple of their usual methods very nicely. I thought I’d run through them.

Firstly, there’s their claim that the vaccines amount to “gene therapy”. Nope.
What they’ve done here is looked at the vaccine, seen the acronym “mRNA”, extrapolated the N and the A to give themselves the phrase “nucleic acid” which they then associate with genes (even though genes are actually made up of DNA, not RNA) and then somehow leapt to the assumption that the vaccine will in some way replace the genes within their and your DNA, thus altering their and your genetic code. wut?
This is plainly incorrect, but – as we’ve discussed many times on here and everywhere else – that simple fact will not stop the rumours from being spread far and wide across the internet.
There’s a further point to this as well, though: the suggestion the gene therapy is a bad thing. Not so. Gene therapy will save countless lives, but that’s very much a secondary issue here, because none of the Covid-19 vaccines are gene therapy.

So that’s the one tactic: getting things completely wrong without any care or repercussion. The second one is cherry-picking the data to suit their narrative.

There may be a problem with the AZ vaccine in that there seems to be a link between it and instances of blood clots in patients. That’s clearly not a good thing, and because of that, the anti-vaxxer brigade have joyfully leapt all over it.

The thing is that we’re looking at 30 suspected cases in the UK, after 18 million doses of the vaccine in question. That amounts to 1 case for every 600,000 doses administered. Those are the numbers, and that’s what’s prompted a full investigation.


Blood clots are also a side-effect of Covid-19, possibly by triggering an autoimmune antibody. The instance of this is approximately 1 in 6,000 cases (nice number). So while you might – possibly – suffer from blood clots as a result of having the AZ vaccine, if you get Covid-19 as a result of not having the AZ vaccine, you’re about 100 times more likely to have problems with blood clots.

Surprise surprise, this is the bit that the anti-vaxxers choose to omit from their shitty monologues.

You can’t believe everything you hear. Or indeed anything that comes from their mouths.

Take it from me: the vaccines are far safer than running the risk of getting Covid, which is very much not safe.
And they contain very, very little wizard poison. Promise.

Day 374 – Dassen Island by night

I didn’t think that the image below deserved Flickr status (that said, I think that the one of the cormorant probably shouldn’t be there either), but I still quite like it. So let’s preserve it for posterity right here.

Dassen Island sits about 9km off the coast at Yzerfontein. There’s not much there save for a lighthouse…

…a penguin colony and a lot of gannets, but a quick look at Google Maps does indicate a little infrastructure at the north end of the island – including that jetty.

And there’s even less to see at night. Because it’s dark, see?

However, if you grab the tripod, stick your short lens on, shelter your camera from the howling wind and time your longish exposure to pick out a flash from the 1.4Mcd light on the 29m tall tower, you can pick out all of the meagre detail: from that lighthouse in the south to the jetty lights in the north, through the evening heat haze. Like this:

Not amazing. But something different. And thinned. Thinned images are still very en vogue.

And that Dassen Island lighthouse characteristic?

Fl(2) W 30s – two white flashes every 30 seconds. I needed to know this so I could time my shot correctly, but when I looked it up, that setup rang a bell with me. And yes, a quick check confirmed that that is exactly the same characteristic as the Langness Lighthouse at Dreswick Point in the Isle of Man. It scares me that I recognised this.

Day 353 – Garden shot

The work on the house continues with some painting, some lighting and some extra additions here and there. The pool is full, but it’s dark and wet (outside, not the pool), so I can’t do my after photo just yet.

Here’s one from yesterday then – a Citrus Swallowtail (Papilo demodocus) in the back garden:

We see a lot of these around (they’re probably the second most common butterfly locally after the Acraea horta) but they never stop moving: they’re flitty and flighty, so I’ve never managed to get a shot before. This one actually settled for a few moments, although it never stopped moving its wings (rapidly) for a single second and so I was forced to use high speed shooting in Sports Mode on the camera to get a decent image (and about 74 poor ones).

There are actually a couple of other reasonable shots, but I haven’t got as far as Lightroom yet, because the work on the house continues with some painting, some lighting and some extra additions here and there (I think I mentioned this), so those might have to wait for another day.