The tubs! They’re coming!

Years ago, I had the great pleasure of attending a talk by J. Craig Venter. And as I sat in the audience, looked at the images of metabolic pathways he was displaying on the screen, I suddenly realized I was looking at electronic circuits. Undoubtedly, many others had already seen that before me.

Next I read that some microorganisms use extracellular electron transport, on the sea floor.

And it started to look, to me, like the future may contain tubs of bacteria in our attics or basement spaces. To generate energy for our homes, I mean.

Now that’s happening. That research is underway (methane-producing bioelectrochemical systems, for instance).

I can’t wait to see how this is going to work out in practice.

You can cut the power losses currently sustained during transport to homes, factories and other facilities, but keeping the things running has to be very easy, too. We would also have much fewer power lines that way, which would probably save a bird life or two and the occasional hot air balloon. And it would likely result in much less pollution as is currently still associated with old-fashioned power generation.

 

 

“Don’t you dare harm my baby!”

Yesterday, I encountered a gull and realized “Oh! You’re a baby!”

I think this was the second time in the past five years or so that I’d seen a young from close enough that I was able to detect the messiness of its feathers. The first time, I mistook it for a gull that had had an encounter with hot exhaust gases. *blush*

I looked up. Would there be a parent around? Sure enough, an adult was sitting on the roof above the youngster and sure enough, it swooped down and signalled “Don’t you dare harm my baby!” by reaching a point no more than about a meter over my head – I instinctively ducked – before it swooped upward again.

Message understood. Roger, willco, over and out.

So I walked on. The parent returned to its high perch, literally watching over its young.
Then I took this photo, with my old mobile.

The pigeons of Waterlooville, Havant

In Waterlooville, quite close to where I am based, they are having a situation that is far from rare (and one that is so wonderful to work with). See the following three pages:

https://www.havant.gov.uk/news/crackdown-feeding-time

http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/our-region/havant/don-t-feed-the-pigeons-in-havant-or-you-could-be-fined-80-1-8042053

http://www.aboutmyarea.co.uk/Hampshire/Portsmouth/PO6/News/Local-News/309312-Crackdown-on-Feeding-Pigeons-in-Havant

Apparently, some residents and shopkeepers are experiencing problems with pigeons while other residents are feeding the same pigeons, eh, up to 8 kilograms bird food per day? (I am sure I have misunderstood that, because that is a heck of a lot of bird food.)

Both sides are right, of course. While pigeons rarely spread disease – a common myth – their droppings can be unsightly and, well, a pain in the butt. Pigeons are also very smart creatures for which we are actually responsible, however, as it was us who took these birds from the sea cliffs in the countries where we found them in the past. We took them with us, and spread them all over the world because we liked them. Yep. We also used them as messengers, of course.

So what’s a pigeon gonna do? It has no choice but to use our buildings and bridges to roost and nest, as those are the only things that come close to the sea cliffs they once had in warmer countries.

And apparently, even if they are told that the birds will be killed unless they stop feeding them, many people who feed pigeons will continue to feed the birds. It is understandable. If you’ve only once seen a pigeon trying to eat some utterly disgusting piece of greasy fast food that made us gag and throw it away and that gets grease all over the bird and barely any nutrition into it, then you start feeling an obligation toward these gentle rock doves. Again, after all, we’re the ones that brought them here.

(In fact, when you look at the pigeons around you, you can also often see that the local pigeons breed with the white pigeons released on various festive and memorial occasions!)

While many city councils may feel powerless when dealing with a pigeon problem, there is actually a solution. After Nottingham City Hospital tried it in 1999, they were astonished. The pigeon population was reduced from 1200 pigeons in 1999 to 63 pigeons in 2005, only 5 years later. That is a 95% reduction in flock size without killing a single bird! Nottingham City Hospital also won the prestigious RSPCA Best Practices Award for its work with a pigeon organisation that sadly no longer seems to exist. (But this one does: http://www.pigeoncontrolresourcecentre.org/html/reviews/artificial-breeding-facilities.html. And that page has more examples and cost estimates, too.)

Think like a pigeon! What does a pigeon want? A good place to sleep, sheltered from the elements. A good place to nest too.

(And the best food you can get, because good food helps you stay healthy.)

Our buildings often don’t actually offer pigeons a lot of good shelter, so you can entice pigeons to move out by offering them a better alternative. You can place artificial roosting and nesting structures – modern dovecotes and pigeon lofts – in parks or on flat roof tops. They’re also called artificial breeding facilities or ABFs.

They enable you to decrease pigeon pressure elsewhere by attracting the pigeons to them. They can also allow you to control and maintain a healthy pigeon population (which requires a DEFRA licence just as it is also against the law to kill any kind of wild bird without a licence).

When I read that in Waterlooville, pigeons apparently are roosting (?!) on balconies where the human inhabitants don’t want them, I concluded that those pigeons must be very desperate. So that would mean that this solution might work particularly well in Waterlooville.

I bet it is possible to engage those who are currently feeding the pigeons in locations where they cause problems in a pigeon control and relocation project, leading to good results for everyone.

Put yourself in a pigeon’s shoes. Where would you like to sleep? In a nice condo or in a leaky shed that may not even have a roof? Pigeons are damn smart. It’s easier to work with their intelligence than against it. Some pigeons routinely take the tram or metro and one has even been spotted taking the ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo and back.

Need more convincing? Ha! Watch these 46 minutes by National Geographic.

The artificial structures can be made from scrap materials at almost no cost. They can also be made from recycled plastic, which is sturdy, completely non-toxic (environmentally friendly) and totally maintenance-free. It is highly durable.

You can get it from Kedel, who were the winners of the 2015 ‘Best Recycled Product’ award and are based in Colne, Lancashire, Second Life Products Wales (SPLW), who are based in Swansea and British Recycled Plastic, who are based in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire.

With a bit of luck, ha, you can even tie such a project to your own local plastic recycling. You can also come up with ways to let the structures fund themselves, partly or fully. (Allow people to name a pigeon or sponsor a “floor” in the structure, volunteer in all sorts of ways, what have you.)

You can combine it with all sorts of educational activities (responsibility for our own environment including for example recycling) or use it to, say, connect different generations. You can include it in primary school teaching. Lots of stuff you can do with it, I am sure.

Now, if I were such a borough or city council, I’d jump at such an opportunity to make many people happy, and get lots of kudos without ticking anyone off.

If the pigeons already know one or two people who feed them, they are likely to follow those people, who can lead the pigeons away, in daily steps. And you can also teach pigeons sound signals to respond to (signals they associate with the food).

The Royal Family  has been keeping pigeons for many decades, by the way.

When I searched for the problem on Twitter, for Waterlooville, I only found four tweets, none recent.

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Reblogged: Children of drug addicts

Originally posted on Researching Reform: A new BBC 2 Documentary, the first part of which is airing tonight on BBC2, looks at a unique rehabilitation centre in England which helps mothers and fathers come off drugs. The centre’s approach is controversial – children stay with their parents throughout the process. Researching Reform was very kindly…

via RR For Huff Post: Should We Remove Children From Drug Addicted Parents? — World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum.

Great eye drops

Clinitas Soothe Lubricant Eye Drops

  • Also available in larger packages if you use them daily.
  • Quick, soothing, effective relief for dry, gritty, irritable eyes
  • Gentle and preservative-free.
  • Contain highest available sodium hyaluronate concentration for eye drops (in 2013 when I first bought them, but this still seems to be the case). Sodium hyaluronate occurs in (on) your eye naturally as well.
  • Also suitable for people wearing contacts.

The excellent packaging makes this product very suitable for occasional use. You won’t have to throw most of it out again soon, as is usual with other types of drops. The purchase price may be higher relative to plain eye drops (that don’t contain hyaluronic acid), but if you use them only occasionally, they are likely cheaper than when you buy a cheaper product, which you will need to discard soon after opening. A big plus is the lack of preservatives, as many people are sensitive to preservatives commonly used in eye drops.

These drops are syrupy because of the highly soothing hyaluronic acid (found in many of our body’s tissues). So when you use them, give them a few minutes to work their way into your eyes and wait for the temporarily blurred vision to disappear.

I purchased mine for the first time around Christmas 2013, when I started using eye medication that was turning my eyes gritty. Their expiry data was July 2015. My Boots branch no longer sells them and last time I needed such eye drops in a hurry, I bought BioTrue by Bausch+Lomb, a bottle with a pump, containing drops that also have a high hyaluronic acid content.

Occasionally, one of my contact lenses will fold and find its way into the crevasse at the top under my upper eye lid. It sucks when that happens. The only solution that works for me is using this type of eye drop – containing a lot of hyaluronic acid – to wash them out. Saline does not do the trick.

I also apply a rubbing/pushing motion on top of my closed eyelid, toward the bridge of my nose. Eventually, the lens will appear in the corner of my eye.

(What can sometimes also help when something gets under the upper eyelid is pulling the upper eye lid down over the lower lid.)

I am not the only one this happens to. Neither are you. One woman even had 27 contact lenses removed from an eye: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40630852

As this story shows too, one of the problems with growing older is that we start taking a heck of a lot of stuff for granted because we (are made to) believe (certainly here in the UK) that various kinds of discomfort and malfunction are a natural part of growing older.

But unless you are actually ill or have a particular condition, the only thing you can’t do a lot about is wrinkling of the skin. Everything else should be able to keep working more or less the way it’s always done. Provided you do your bit and look after yourself well.

(Yes, it gets harder, takes more work, more dedication. Some things do change and not all of us have lucky genes. There is an article somewhere about an extremely fit older woman; if I find it again, I’ll post it here, to show what I mean. This is not it – https://seniorplanet.org/aging-with-attitude-ballet-dancer-john-lowe/ – but it is a very worthwhile read/watch, as is this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1236395/Meet-flexible-older-woman-defies-age.html.)

But that’s just an aside.

Anyone can use and benefit from these eye drops.

I don’t like the eye drop bottles with a pump, by the way, because they are clumsy and get eye drops all over my face. And the bottle with any remaining fluid needs to be discarded at some point after opening. But the drops themselves are perfectly fine.

Anna Marie Marshall case – 2

This is the case of a homeless woman in York who had been found with an injured gull on a leash. An arrest warrant has been issued against the woman, who may not be well, so I understand.

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/15391489.Woman_found____walking_injured_seagull_on_lead____in_York/

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/15411980.Woman_wanted_on_warrant_over_seagull_allegations/

From the above page, I also understand that one of the charges against her – and likely the most serious one – is that she allegedly caused the injuries to the gull.

I find that unlikely. I have been lucky enough to have volunteered at a world-renowned wild-bird rehabilitator in the US (Lee Fox). It normally takes at least two people to hold and examine an injured bird. Putting a leash on a healthy bird, single-handedly?

Gulls are pretty feisty and far from cuddly. I find it very unlikely that this woman would have been able to capture and keep this gull with her if the animal had not already been hurt (badly).

Unless they have experience with birds, even regular veterinarians generally don’t know how to handle birds (so again, unless this bird was already injured considerably, this woman very likely would never have been able to keep the bird with her). Even a pigeon – usually much calmer than a gull – can be very hard to catch. Even a non-flighted pigeon can be very hard to catch if you don’t know what you’re doing (and even sometimes if you know what you’re doing).

I am trying to find out more, am contacting veterinary practices in York to see which one received the gull and what the nature and extent of its injuries were.

I have been in touch with her solicitor on Twitter, but he is not allowed to tell me much, of course, and I can only applaud his reticence. I’ve also left a message with an organization for the homeless in York, and one or two other places.

My sole interest is helping this woman if I can. Because this case is not about a healthy woman purposefully hurting a bird, by the sound of it.

I think it’s probably fairly disgusting that the police officers or prosecutor in question added the charge that the woman was yelling at the officers. In this case, that’s likely comparable to charging someone in a diabetic crisis with public intoxication (“drunk and disorderly”).

Of course, I may be wrong. Maybe the woman had a big shovel and suddenly stormed down Parliament Street, hit a few gulls, grabbed one and put it on a leash just to, say, re-enact a scene from a film with someone else recording video on a mobile to put on social media. That’s why I am trying to find more information.

I am not saying that the woman has not hurt the bird (as birds have much less dense bones than mammals and have a very different respiratory system, it’s probably easy to injure a bird accidentally), but by the sound of it, it clearly was not her intent to hurt the bird. She may have found the bird and intended to look after it. If she’d taken it to a veterinarian, she might have been turned away by reception staff. (Maybe she even had taken it to a vet practice. I don’t know.)

Neither can it be ruled out at this point that someone else put the injured animal on a leash and pressed the leash into her hands, told her to look after the bird. (That’s the sort of thing that goes on in some towns.)

Is there any CCTV of what happened?

If the woman had been in a different town or had run into different police officers, the case might not even have existed. It sounds like a waste of human resources and the taxpayers’ money.

Let’s ask this. If someone had found an injured gull and put the animal in a box in order to take it to a vet, had run into and yelled at a police officer who wanted to take the box away because he or she thought that the box contained stolen goods, would that person have been charged with the three counts Anna Marie Marshall has been charged with, even though technically, the exact same things would have happened, but with a different person?

(Generally speaking, whether you put a gull on a leash or in a box makes little difference, legally.)

Why do I bother? Because in my nearly thirteen years in Britain, I have seen a heck of a lot of injustice and it makes me sick. If I can do a little bit to decrease the injustice in Britain a little bit, I will.

(But I am no longer naive enough to think that the masses in Britain want anything else other than the misery they already have, because misery – like beauty – is in the eyes of the beholder. The British actually like most of their misery, it seems.)

In the town where I am based, you could kill a hundred gulls, so to speak, for instance with the sole purpose of annoying a nature lover, and police here would very likely merely consider it hilarious, also because lots of people actually complain about no more than gulls being gulls and calling out while flying around. Gulls have just as much right to be on the planet – or more as birds have been on the planet so much longer than humans. That’s all just as bad, or sad, but it shows you how unequally “justice” is meted out in Britain.

If anyone has any helpful feedback, please use the form below. Thanks.

 

 

Playing God

There was a time when doctors were being accused of playing God when they helped patients stay alive. Now they’re accusing doctors of playing God when doctors don’t want to force a baby who isn’t viable to stay alive. (Alive?)

There is a lot wrong in the medical world. I agree. And I too have had to tell doctors things they didn’t know about although they’re supposed to be the experts and I admit that it used to surprise me. Discovering that I sometimes knew more than the doctors I went to for advice.

I don’t have the impression that the Charlie Gard case is one of those.

Charlie is being abused, by having been forced to stay alive this long. He is NOT fighting.

After having been forced him to stay alive – against nature – for so long, the decent option is now to let him have that experimental treatment, as I’ve said in a previous post.

But what will happen if the treatment has no effect? There will be more accusations, more lawsuits and more media drama because this stopped being about Charlie Gard a long time ago.

They will then fight to continue to keep him on a ventilator. (The disagreement in court yesterday about what one of the parents apparently had said three months ago seems to indicate that, along with the statement that the parents will continue to fight for the baby as long as he continues to be on a ventilator.)

That said, there are no 100% guarantees in medical matters. Sometimes, someone does wake from a coma twenty years or so later. True. But someone who ends up in a coma used to be viable. That makes a big difference. It means there was a well-functioning body with the healing abilities that entails.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/charlie-gard-army-high-court-medical-experts-great-ormond-street-hospital-murder-doctors-lying-a7840236.html

“We will not be silenced,” they chanted.

Like I wrote above, this ceased to be about a little baby a long time ago. (I had that feeling from the beginning but I was not sure about it, and kept my opinion to myself until very recently.)

This is just as consumerist as wanting to design your own babies according to specs.

I hope that I am wrong about this. I do. I hope that they’ll take Charlie to the States and that a miracle occurs and he’ll grow into a strapping young man. But that’s not going to happen and I am afraid for little Charlie who is denied a say in this and who will also be denied a say if the treatment has no or no significant effect.

I heard a very significant mistake by an American news anchor yesterday.  She talked about the current “treatment”. But Charlie Gard is not being “treated” and the legal proceedings are not about GOSH wanting to stop a treatment, which some people apparently seem to think.

Read this, too (GOSH statement):
https://t.co/X9WHHjhl3u

Read also this (opinion piece in The Guardian):
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/09/the-guardian-view-on-charlie-gard-reason-and-unreason?CMP=soc_3156

Also, there are huge differences between Charlie Gard’s situation and the situation of Ashya King and his parents, as I have mentioned before.

See: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/judgment-and-family-court-orders-in-the-matter-of-ashya-king/

Ashya King is healthy now.

Charlie Gard matter in court again

Is all of this still about Charlie Gard, actually?

Or is this an expression of a consumerist view of children?

Been wondering about that for a while now…

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/10/health/charlie-gard-new-hearing/index.html

The parents seem to claim that Charlie is “fighting”. But if he was, he wouldn’t require life support. He is being kept alive artificially.

Charlie “fighting” would be to take him off life support and finding him able to live on his own, surprising them all.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/10/charlie-gard-key-questions-answered

It’s true, though, that if this child had been in the US, the experimental treatment would already have started and doctors would have a better idea of how it would affect the child.

With the case having been dragged through the courts for so long, and the postponements in terminating life support and allowing the child a peaceful passing, it’s now becoming more logical to allow the kid the treatment, if only because he’s been forced to stay alive so much longer now and would already have passed away if it hadn’t been for the legal battle.

If this news article is correct, though, then the parents’ battle is not about what is best for Charlie, by the sound of it:

http://www.wxyz.com/news/national/baby-charlie-gards-parents-storm-out-of-court-hearing

“Yates interrupted Francis as he said that the parents had said they would not want to prolong Charlie’s life in its present state, only if there was hope of improvement. “I never said that!” she exclaimed from her seat behind her barrister.”

Let’s see if I can find this back in Joshua Rozenberg’s tweets. Yes. Though he does not specify what the disagreement was about.

 

Nature itself considers Charlie Gard absolutely not viable. That is a very strong clue. Nature does its best to limit lives not worth living as much as possible.

Forcing Charlie Gard to stay alive is like insisting on having a purple parrot if its natural color is green and the other color goes with, say, severe liver disease. That’s not about what’s best for the parrot.

(I apologize to those who feel hurt by putting it this way. Maybe I should add that I had a green parrot for 21 years and loved her very dearly.)

The courts and the Charlie Gard case

I’ve noticed that several people landed on my site because they were looking for an update in the Charlie Gard case. Well, the European Court has declined the case as well.

It occurred to me that if you want to learn more about how courts arrive at the decisions they make, then this book can be a good start.

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

Who loves to be glued to a desk?

There are very few geologists who went into earth science because they loved sitting at a desk behind a computer all day long (though particularly structural geologist do a lot of modelling).

I am no exception. Below is a view from the lamproite plug that I had in my fieldwork area in south-eastern Spain one year (Cancarix).

See what I mean?

By the way, a lamproite plug is like a tiny volcano with molten rock that came up from very deep in the earth. Kimberlite – which can contain diamonds – is a bit like that too.

I loved doing fieldwork, and I miss it. In fact, when I spend too much time behind a computer, typing up reports and so on, I tend to develop neuromusculoskeletal complaints of shoulders, arms, wrists and hands. I don’t like being indoors all the time either.

It is one of the reasons why I enjoy working with wildlife. It enables me to spend more time outside. I even have a small tent for this purpose.

More recommended reading

These are business books that contain a few life lessons as well. The story about RJR Nabisco is a fast-paced account – it’s been called a thriller – about business and banking practices (junk bonds and whatnots) and of course a portrayal of Ross Johnson and others. (It’s not for everyone, and not for every moment because it requires enough time.)

The book about Greggs gives you the inside view of how Greggs came about and grew into what it is today. It’s a good read and may change how you think of Greggs, the big chain it is today that started as a mom & pop undertaking not unlike my own parents’.

Hilary Devey’s Bold as Brass is suitable for everyone – unless you happen to be a misogynist. It’s a touching book, showing you how Hilary grew up in Britain, the many personal and professional challenges she had to overcome and how she developed Pall-Ex. Throughout her life, Hilary climbed many steep cliffs and was pushed off a few too.

  1. Barbarians At The Gate
  2. Bread: The Story of Greggs
  3. Bold As Brass

Unbleached, recycled and 100% biodegradable toilet paper

You’d think it’d be easy to find…

Amazon has it. Unbleached, recycled, biodegradable toilet paper.

The packaging is compostable, too. Made from potato starch.

Ecoleaf, from Suma. Ecoleaf Toilet Tissue 9 Rolls (Pack of 5, Total 45 Rolls)

And while you’re ordering this… why not get the paper towels too?

Ecoleaf Three Play Kitchen Towel (Pack of 12)

Can you identify this performance of Ravel’s Pavane?

This file contains a recording of Maurice Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte played by an eastern European orchestra. I love this rendition. I had it on an LP that I bought in the Netherlands decades ago and then lost after one of my emigrations. I would very much like help with identifying it as I can no longer remember which orchestra this is and who the conductor was.

During the recording, something fell on the floor, which is audible on the LP (but not in this video). It may help someone identify this wonderful performance.

As you can see, my little poltergeist was active when I created the slides for the video file. (Pavel’s Ravane? Ha ha. One of my poltergeist’s nicknames is “Paul”.)

The YouTube file plays the digitized version of a recording I made with a cassette tape voice recorder when I played the LP in my home in Florida, my two quaker parrots enjoying it too as you can hear. (They’d have hollered if they hadn’t. They liked this music.)

Effective city pigeon management

Traditional pest control companies like spreading persistent myths that help keep them in business. Thankfully, humane wildlife deterrence practices – which are much more effective – are slowly gaining traction. Take pigeons.

They’re highly intelligent animals which we took from their native habitats in foreign countries – sea cliffs – and introduced all over the world. I didn’t know that until nearly two years ago. When it comes to pigeons, there seem to be three groups of people: People who hate them, people who love them and people who are indifferent to them.

I used to be in that third category. In the past, I hardly paid any attention to the critters.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch this documentary:

Deterring pigeons the traditional way is expensive. That’s partly because it works against the intelligence of the animals instead of working with it. Birds have been on the planet much longer than humans – since 150 million years ago, roughly, whereas our oldest ancestors such as Orrorin tugenensis appeared only around 6 million years ago. So birds have built up a vast collective knowledge that we still lack.

Several cities, including Paris and Nottingham, successfully work with pigeons instead of against them. It results in healthier birds and makes – if you want that – controlling pigeon populations much easier (through the use of dummy eggs).

In city parks and on the rooftops of flat buildings, you can provide pigeon roosting, nesting and feeding structures – modern dovecotes – that are so attractive to pigeons – the former rock doves – that they’ll select them over the inferior spots where we humans usually don’t want pigeons.

Such structures can be made from recycled plastic, which is maintenance-free, non-toxic and available in many shapes and colours. You can use them educational facilities for the public too, connect them with their surroundings in a positive and meaningful way that can be highly inspirational.

It makes sense. Would you rather live in a shack that exposes you to the elements from almost all sides or in a nice cosy environment that feels like home?

PS
I’d be very happy to assist any party (city council, park owner, owner of large building with flat roof) who wishes to apply this.