Baby Admin post

Do these count?
Of course they do.

I have added the tweetmeme plugin to my vast range of WordPress plugins which make my life easier and make your reading enjoyment all the more… enjoyable.

If you’re active on twitter (and let’s face it, these days, who isn’t?) you can now retweet the content that you see here with just the click of a single button (that little green one under the post).
Share the wealth. You know it makes sense.
One great feature is that you still get to edit the content of your tweet before you tweet it. I suppose some people would call that a twedit.
Not me, though.

Go on – choose a post (hopefully more interesting than this one) and tell the world you were here!

Obligatory Swine Flu post

Already, people are starting to come up to me in the street and ask me what they should do about Swine Flu. I’m not sure if this is because I look like a pig or because I had my “Trust me, I’m a Microbiologist” t-shirt on. I’m guessing the latter, since no-one in their right mind is going to approach anyone that looks even vaguely porcine right now.

I’ve been getting the regular quizzing, you know the: “Is this serious?” and the “Am I going to die?” ones. Well, yes it is and yes you are. Sorry to be blunt, but I’ve got to save time for the more interesting questions, like: “Can we blame Jacob Zuma for this?” and “I had a tequila on Friday night – am I infectious?”.
I don’t have the answers for those, but they’re far more entertaining than the rather morose death stuff.

Who knows where this outbreak is going to go from here? Well actually, no-one does yet. Experts may hypothesise, but if one looks carefully, not one of them is going to make a definitive statement on what is going to happen next, for the simple reason that we have reached the edge of our current understanding.

Already, social networking sites – most especially twitter – have been blamed for causing unnecessary panic about swine flu. But who can say that this “panic” is “unnecessary” right now? Well actually, no-one can. Swine flu might go away quietly, but it would be wise to be aware that it’s more likely not to. The bad news is that early reports suggest that it is highly infectious. The good news is that the mortality rates seem relatively low.
The fears over bird flu which began about five years ago were, in my view, entirely justified and it was only a combination of global medical awareness and good luck that the H5N1 virus didn’t infect and kill more individuals.
That this H1N1 strain has the ability to be passed from human to human is extremely concerning to me, not least because I am a human. It’s widely accepted that the lack of human to human transmission was the only thing that stopped bird flu from going pandemic, which is why, even at this early stage of the outbreak, the global infection patterns for the two similar viruses are distinctly dissimilar.

In my mind there are three things for us to be worried about at this early stage:
1. The scale of infection. Even if the mortality rate is low, huge numbers of people being away from their jobs is not good news. Services, food, production etc may well be hit hard. Not good in the midst of a global economic downturn.
2. Tamiflu resistance developing. So far, so good – at least we can treat those with the virus – to a degree. But we only have one weapon and once this new virus overcomes that – well, we have no defence.
3. A nastier strain emerging. It doesn’t take much for a more virulent, more aggressive viral strain to develop – especially in a virus which is so very infectious. This would be my biggest fear and could be where we start to see numbers of deaths climbing very sharply. And annoyingly, there’s nothing we can do to prevent this occurring.

Of course, the ease with which we can access information these day is a double-edged sword. While it can alert us to the threat of swine flu (or anything else), it does open up windows of opportunity for misinformation to be spread… well… virally. And separating that important, helpful information from all the background noise is where the skill comes in. But it’s not that difficult, is it? Simply take into account the source of information and then make an informed decision on whether or not you choose to believe what you read.
So yes, read what @scaredpig (or whoever) is telling you on twitter and then discount it. Read what the WHO say and take note. But hasn’t that always been the case?

But does this potential information overload actually make things any better or worse? If twitter had been around in 1918 when the Spanish Flu killed off 25 million worldwide, wouldn’t people have been tweeting about the latest news of cases and deaths in their areas, speculating and spreading rumours? Would it have done any good? Would it have done any harm?

Meanwhile, mashable.com’s How to track Swine Flu online article, which includes the admirable advice:

Stay Calm, Stay Informed:
While there’s likely to be much concern on social networking sites about public health incidents, it’s important to keep things in proportion, and go direct to the sources of news rather than spreading panic.

has also fallen victim to to those misinformants – this gem from the comments section:

Most important, don’t take any government vaccinations! Strengthen your immune system!

Yes, that’s by far the most important thing to do – if offered a vaccination that may save your life, don’t take it. Because…. because… well… never mind – just don’t!
One can only hope the author takes his own advice on that one. Goodbye.

Meanwhile, I’m off to lie in the sun in Kirstenbosch Gardens. May be a bit busy there with it being a three-day week, but I’m taking my trusty sombrero with me. I don’t expect to be bothered by anyone all afternoon.

Twitter ye not

Incoming DM (direct message) on twitter:

You doing alright? If I’m not mistaken, you and I had a romantic moment some years ago. Can’t remember it, but hope all is forgiven.

Jeremy Nell / JeremyTNell

Erm… no. You are mistaken. Really.

And why would I be forgiving you?
Do you usually expect forgiveness when you can’t remember what you did during a ‘romantic moment’?
Have you got some sort of history in this regard?

We’ve never met, OK? Romantically or otherwise.

Have we?

OK – I’m scaring myself now.

 

Post 903

Post 903
(title assigned automatically by an annoyingly slow WordPress (see below) and which I have neither the will nor the imagination to change to anything more interesting)

Stuff I have noted over the last few days:

1. The internet in South Africa has been even worse than usual of late. I blamed my ISP, my ISP blamed Telkom and Telkom blamed Ndujani.
It turns out (following extensive research) that Ndujani is a mongoose god, worshipped by some tribes in the Northern Cape. Any claim that Telkom is merely passing the buck is met with the standard, “Please don’t turn this into a cultural issue, Mr 6000”.
More likely is that one (or more) of their ADSL hamsters which keep the internet working by running around their little wheels in Bloemfontein has died or gone on strike or something. Probably over a cultural issue.

2. The Oscars were on. A celebration of Hollywood excess while everyone else suffers the wrath of the global credit crunch.
More salt with your wound, sir?
I’m not a big fan of the movies, but was pleased to see that Kate Winslet finally won something after so many bare-breasted cinematographic moments. Had to be worth it in the end, hey? (But please don’t stop now – you could win again!)
One thing I found shocking was that, even though winning a little gold man surely marks the pinnacle of any actor’s career, Keith Ledger couldn’t even be bothered to turn up and receive his award for Best Supporting Actor. What a snub. They should have given it to someone else. It’s just plain bad manners.

3. I’m concerned over a tectonic shift in my musical tastes of late. Away from decent Indie and Nu-metal towards irritatingly-catchy Brit-pop, hip-hop, rap and pumpin’ House.
As I write this, I have David Guetta’s Joan of Arc on the iPod. Actually, to give everyone credit, it’s actually David Guetta (featuring Thailand). It remains unclear whether everyone in Thailand (pop. 60.5 million) played their part, but if so, then they probably shouldn’t have bothered.
[Mental note to self: Check up on most ridiculous names of “featured artists” for future blog post]

4. Twitter isn’t actually that good. Either you follow too few people and nothing ever happens, you follow too many and everything happens too quickly or one person (no names, sorry) fills your screen with rubbish for the sake of putting something (usually about cooking) on twitter.
I’m left debating whether the very occasional good bits are worth the very regular daily disappointments. Le jury est out, as the French would say.

5. I saw a “collaborative project” in the Art Spot of the newspaper yesterday:

Trasi Henen curates a collaborative project [see?] called I Forget That You Exist’ at the Cape Town gallery, Blank Projects. Participants were asked to engage with the following Dialectic: Dominant culture is a victim of the Will (after Schopenhauer’s The World as Idea and Representation) and therefore perpetually oscillating between Desire and Ennui. Desire is a state of potentiality.
When the desired destination is reached, is this a tragedy?

Sometimes I forget that you exist is a collaborative research project around desire and the heterotopia. Participants are asked to engage with the above dialectic. The exhibition process is ongoing, and contingent, culminating in a closing event. In the two weeks leading up the exhibition, blank becomes the research studio which opens the project to dialogue and interventions.

Something for everyone to think about there, then.

I was once asked (in a 1992 interview for a place at Wolverhampton Poly, no less) if money spent on the Arts is a waste. I wish I’d seen stuff like this before they asked – it would have made a rather stuttered, awkward answer much simpler. (Because there’s obviously nothing more beneficial that Trasi could be doing for the world).