Friday, 15 October 2010

Progress: possibilities and problems:

Do you ever get the impression some people have too much time on their hands?  1,600 people have found a way to use some of theirs.  They have pledged support and money to build the first working model of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.  "This was the first real computer," enthuses John Graham-Cumming, author of The Geek Atlas, whose idea the project is.  Babbage envisioned his engine in 1837.  A steam powered monster of brass and iron which would, he said, "be bigger than a steam engine."  If you have trouble envisioning what such a behemoth would look like SEE IT HERE

The Fish has just one question:  What is the point?

Napoleon Hill said: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”. There are cases where the Fish hopes not  - more super weapons anyone?  But if it were not for advances in modern medicine The Fish would not be alive to bring you all this insightful stuff in place one and no technological advances and I'd be stuck with my nearest and dearest, who know better than to listen to me, and the neighbours, who would soon start to hide when they saw me coming!  Progress is a good thing, an inevitable thing, right?  Scientists at Manchester University are suggesting that life since the Industrial Revolution has not been without its costs as well as its benefits.

A study at the university has looked at ancient Egyptian and Greek literature and human remains and come to the conclusion that cancer was almost unknown in these societies.  The first operations for cancer and descriptions of tumors come from the 17th century and only in the last 200 years has there been scientific reports of distinctive tumours.  The reason for this could be many, of course, and the study itself could be flawed in some way but it would appear that we need to look at the costs of  progress to our planet and to ourselves.  Professor Rosalie David, at the university's faculty of  life science concludes: "There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle." 

There is a nothing-new-there quality to this story and the clock will never be turned back to some idyllic golden age in which we all lived in a kind of pre-lapsian innocence, which probably never existed anyway.  The other medical news this week, of the first use of embryonic stem cells to repair a spinal injury, point to the good that progress can bring.  But the Fish would like to see progress with thought for people and for the planet, not, as is too often the case, for it's own sake or merely for profit.


Monday, 11 October 2010

Farewell Dame Joan Sutherland

Tonight all the fish can say is farewell La Stupenda.  Dame Joan Sutherland has died aged  83.  One of the truly great voices of opera and by all accounts a warm hearted lady with not a trace of the tempremental diva about her. Condolences to her family

If you don't know what all the fuss is about check out La Stupenda on youtube 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Hello to the Chilean miners and farewell to Butch

The fish is delighted to learn that the Chilean miners, after 65 days underground, have at last been reached.  If there is a lesson to those of us never likely to be such an extreme situtation it is - always have a plan B.  It was the plan B that finally reached them when both plans A and C had gone off course and failed to reach the men living 2,300feet underground. We hope the rescue plan progressess well and that soon these guys see daylight and more importantly the faces of their loved ones.

On a lighter note we say farewell to Butch, one of the Tamworth Two.  In 1998 they made a bid for freedom and became heros to the nation, (England has some odd notions of whom it considers it's heros and those whom it merely catapaults into the spotlight) (Ah, an explaination of Simon Cowell's sucess at last?)  Two Tamworth pigs heading for the slaughter house made a dash for freedom and spent a week on the run. They were named Butch and Sundance The reward for this porcine audacity was to spend the rest of their lives in a rare breeds centre after they were purchased by the Daily Male newpaper- never to be bacon.   The sibling pigs have lived cheek by jowell, or snout by trotter perhaps, ever since and now Butch, the sow, has gone to piggy heaven via mother nature rather than the more brutal fate once resevered for her.   Her brother, now elderly and artiritic, lives on alone.  The fish sends condolences!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Swimming against the tide.

No, the title of the blog does not mean the fish is trying to swim upstream when everything else is on its way down ( though it sounds like the kind of thing said fish would do.) The tide is that of public opinion which gets mightily offended when everything in its path does not sweep nicely along with it. Dissenters there are and, let us hope, always will be. But the majority of people follow like sheep and stifle their opinions for the sake of popularity. Not so Virgina Ironside, agony aunt, and now, the fish imagines, public hate figure.

The Daily Mail reports that in a television interview on a Sunday morning God slot Virginia declared she would suffocate a suffering child to spare it further pain and went on to suggest a loving mother who chooses to abort a disabled or unwanted child is committing a 'moral and unselfish act.' (And before the shouting gets too loud let me say Yes, she does have a child and grandchildren.)

I think Virginia is brave to vaunt such unpopular opinions, especially before a bona fide reverend. But surely she is putting the cart a little before the horse? A loving mother, or someone who hopes to be one someday, would surely use contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy in place one? (We all know contraception has it's failings but ten out of ten for trying). As to Virgina's apparent altruism in declaring better abortion than a lifetime of physical suffering that begs a very delicate question of who decides how much is too much? My partner's niece died recently at age only 37, after a lifetime of suffering. She led a full and happy life, surrounded by the love of family, having two children of her own. Was her mother less loving for not denying her the chance for such a life?

When lines have to be drawn on moral issues there are always experts, self and society appointed, queueing up with the yardsticks of their choice. Moral issues are never black and white, they are murkier than dishwater. Virginia would end her child's suffering, if that child were mine I do not think I could do anything to hurry on his/her end, though I would give the last drop of my blood to alleviate their suffering in any other way. Who is right? As this debate began on a religious programme lets leave the last word to Jesus Christ 'judge not lest ye be jud

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Friday, 1 October 2010

Bin Laden the voice of reason? Surely not

The latest tape from Bin Laden - or maybe not because he's not a one for verifiable public appearances - makes what would seem a reasonable appeal for governments to spend their money on their citizens not their armies, for a relief agency to help those in areas liable to floods, like those that have caused such devastation recently in Pakistan.  But this apparent altruism is restricted to Muslim peoples and countries.  No suggestion of the need for humanity per se to be protected.  But in this is not Bin Laden sounding like every other world leader, concerned about his own before all the rest?  When we can agree that humanitarian aid is needed for the human race, and there is the need to eradicate poverty and want even in the most developed countries, then maybe young men will no longer die in useless wars and the need to reform the welfare system, a big hobby horse for our current government in England, will be a redundant issue.

One for the Not Suitable For Those of a Nervous Disposition file.  The fish was startled to learn, via  USA Today, that the fossils of five feet tall penguins have been  uncovered and these monsters roamed Peru about  36 million years ago.   What next will they discover, the fish wonders?  Mice the size of Yorkshire  terriers? Bats with a six foot wingspan?  The mind truly boggles.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Politics, posthumous and people

Today the fish turns its eye on to the mayhem that is current British politics. We have a coalition government of two parties who on the surface were inimical to each other, Labour elects its new leader and his brother goes off in a sulk- dressed up to look like a dignified retreat.  Come on, David, who are you kidding?  And now the Guardian gives us news that the far right British National Party(BNP) is in disarray after a leadership feud and questions about it's finances.  They are £500,000 in debt. Not long back we had the furore when BNP leader Nick Griffin was given and then refused an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party. Then the Equality and Human Rights Commission ( EHRC) investigated the party for racist clauses in it's constitution. Mr Griffin is now appealing desperately for funds from the party faithful to fight the EHRC, saying, 'if we don't fight we will be shut down and killed off.' This little fishy sincerely hopes so.

Farewell today to Tony Curtis. Let's hope he's remembered for more than his naff Cary Grant impression in Some Like it Hot.  Also  Katherine Zeta Jones reports hubby Michael Douglas is doing well with his battle against cancer. Mr and Mrs Douglas, the fish wishes you both well. 

Dr Landeau has made himself piggy in the middle

The New York Times reported yesterday that Dr Eli Landeau has written the first ever Israeli pork cookbook. In a country where keeping kosher is not an alternative lifestyle this has, naturally, led to a storm breaking over the head of the retired cardiologist and food writer with one rabbi accusing him of deliberately taking a pot shot at religion, another dismissing him because he's from Tel Aviv; and "what goes on in Tel Aviv , nobody cares."  Dr Landeau himself writes of the recipes with such passion and care it is hard to imagine he meant anything except, as he claims, to teach people to cook it in a country in which pork sellers face regularly face protesters and even arsonists.

There is something ironic and deeply fitting about the humble pig highlighting the dangers of entrenched thinking - which is divisive and suffocating weather it be in religion, politics or any other field in which one group says this is right and closes their ears to all other thinking.  Dr Landeau says that twenty years ago his book would not have been possible, twenty years hence it will be natural. Perhaps it could be pork today and peace tomorrow? Could it be that, to paraphrase holy writ, 'a little piggy shall lead them?'