Author Archive: Keith Marshall

A controversialist and catalyst, quietly enabling others to develop by providing different ideas and views of the world. Born in London in the early 1950s, I trained as a research chemist and retired in 2010 from being a senior IT project manager. So far retirement is about community give-back and trying to find some equilibrium. Founder and Honorary Secretary of the Anthony Powell Society.

The Knee’s Progress

[If you don’t like things medical, look away now.]

Just for those crazy people out there who might be interested in the progress of the knee, following the total replacement op on 28 December … it’s doing very well. And just t prove it, here are the pictures:

9 days
9 days after the operation
just after having the dressing removed
14 days
14 days after the operation
when the final dressing was removed
4 weeks
After 4 weeks
7 weeks
After 7 weeks
effectively fully healed although still some swelling

Hermit Crat?

And it came to pass that earlier today we had a pile of toot in the living room, where we were in the process of turning out the rat’s nest known as the under-stairs cupboard. Upon this pile there was a green bucket. And in the bucket a strange furry hermit crab — or should I say cat:

Wiz in a Bucket

Result!

Just a quick post as I must log today’s result — and indeed those of the last week.

I’m currently in the usual cycle of medical things. Let’s go back to last Thursday, 9 February …

Thursday. Physiotherapy session for the new knee. Although I’ve had a flu-like bug (not full flu nor a head cold), so I haven’t done a lot of exercises, the knee is progressing well. I no longer need a stick; I’m walking easily; and taking very few pain killers. The Physio is delighted, especially as the flex on my knee is 119° — he says a “fairy tale” knee replacement would be 125°. Now to concentrate on a handful of the exercises to rebuild strength and extension; and see him in a month probably for a final session.

Friday. Horribly early appointment with surgeon for the 6-week check-up on the knee. Surgeon is equally delighted. The scar has healed well; the flexibility is good; the extension is already better than it was (it is now about the same as my left knee). Book another appointment for 6 months time and we can discuss doing the left knee.

This is followed by going to the supermarket with Noreen for the weekly shop. I walk round half the store before retiring to drink coffee. That’s more than I’ve been able to do for over a year.

Tuesday. Two meetings about things to do with our GP’s patient group (PPG; of which I’m Chairman): one with the Practice Manager and the other with CCG people. Good results and progress from both on ways the PPG can work with the Practice and the CCG. Downside: more work for me over the next 6 months.

Today. This afternoon I’ve had an appointment at the big health centre where our local cottage hospital once was. This is my annual diabetic retinal eye screening — that’s where they take a picture of the back of your eye to see if there is any damage. [The image is one of my scans from last summer.] This means drops in the eyes to dilate the pupils so they get a good view — and then you’re semi-blind for the rest of the day. Well usually that’s what happens, except today it didn’t. The charming young lady technician went through all the usual checks, plus can you read the chart (yes, even the bottom row with my glasses on). She was about to put the drops in my eyes but said “Oh your pupils are already well dilated. We might be able to get the pictures without the drops”. Excellent; let’s go for it. And yes, she got all four pictures (two for each eye, at different angles) first time, without any drops. Results in a couple of weeks, but no reason they should be abnormal. I was out 10 minutes before my appointment time!

So I’m home. And I’m not blind. Which is great as dilated pupils give me something like mild travel sickness. The downside is that I don’t have an excuse to be idle for the rest of the day.

So lots of wins!

Next week it’s hearing aid check-up time. I need another result there too.

We’re Back

Those of you who check here regularly, or are unlucky enough to have stumbled across us in the last few days will have noticed everything had gone AWOL.

Our absence was caused by a bad update to part of the site which took down the weblog.

Fortunately we have been able to recover most of the site, although this blog currently looks a little different.

Hopefully we shall remain online now, although over the coming days we will be tweaking the look and feel of the site to be closer to what we really like.

We apologise for the interruption of service and any disappointment caused.

Fukushima, Again

Yet again this week there has been another round of scare stories about what is happening at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant which was so catastrophically crippled by the tsunami following the 11 March 2011, magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

We had headlines and comments like:

Radiation levels in the Fukushima reactor are soaring unexpectedly [Science Alert]
Radiation In Fukushima Is Now At ‘Unimaginable’ Levels [Huffington Post]
The situation has suddenly taken a drastic turn for the worst [EcoWatch]
Fukushima nuclear reactor radiation at highest level since 2011 meltdown [Guardian]
Blazing radiation reading [Japan Times]
Radiation Levels Are Soaring Inside the Damaged Fukushima Nuclear Plant [Gizmodo]

As I suspected when I first saw the stories, and has been confirmed by Jonathan O’Callaghan at IFLScience and Azby Brown at Safecast, this is the usual sloppy, not to say totally misleading, reporting. (Both these reports are worth reading; neither is especially long or difficult.)

Yes, TEPCO (who are responsible for the plant) have measured incredibly high radiation readings (530 Sieverts an hour — with an error of +/- 30% — that’s enough to kill a human in seconds) inside Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2. To do this they have used a 10.5 metre robotic arm to image further inside the Unit 2 containment vessel that they ever have before. The images appear to show a 1 meter square grating melted by exposed fuel rods. From the data obtained TEPCO have estimated the radiation level. But this does NOT mean radiation levels there are rising. That is not what the data are indicating — they can’t say that as this area has not been measured before, so there is only this one reading.

As IFLScience reported:

Measurements in new locations … pin-point hot-spots and understand the nature of the radioactive materials within the reactor complex and to better inform us on suitable strategies for long-term decommissioning and clean-up … The purpose of this was to plot out a route for a robot [TEPCO] is planning to send into the reactor … But the robot is only able to survive an exposure of up to 1,000 Sieverts. At 530 Sieverts per hour, it would be destroyed in just two hours. Thus, this latest finding is likely to complicate [the decommissioning] even further.

They also point out:

While a higher level of radiation has been found inside the plant, levels around it are continuing to fall. This suggests no radiation is escaping from Fukushima into the surrounding environment … There are many people wandering around in Japan with radiation monitors and it would be very easy to see if there was an increase in radiation coming from the plant.

So note carefully: that despite all the problems and the environmental contamination, the various levels of containment vessels in the reactors essentially did their job. They have contained the vast, vast majority of the radioactive material under conditions which were way beyond their design.

That doesn’t take away from the human disasters nor from the unimaginable work which will have to be done over the next, probably, 50 years to decommission the site. But it does show that this was not the immense catastrophe so often painted by the media and environmental groups.

In a classic piece of understatement IFLScience conclude with:

So radiation levels aren’t soaring, but it’s a grim picture all around really. As the latest announcement from TEPCO shows, the clean-up of Fukushima is going to be anything but easy — and there’s a long, long way to go.

Time to stop panicking and enjoy the weekend!

Ten Things

As we’re rapidly approaching Valentine’s Day, thought that for this month’s Ten Things we should have something slightly different …

Ten Quotes about Prostitution

  1. The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs a lot less.
    [Brendan Behan (1923-1964)]
  2. You can make prostitution illegal, but you can’t make it unpopular.
    [Martin Behrman (1864-1926)]
  3. I don’t understand why prostitution is illegal.  Selling is legal.  Fucking is legal.  Why isn’t selling fucking legal?  You know, why should it be illegal to sell something that’s perfectly legal to give away?
    [George Carlin (1937-2008)]
  4. Blessed be they as virtuous, who when they feel their virile members swollen with lust, visit a brothel rather than grind at some husband’s private mill.
    [Cato the Younger (95-46 BC)]
  5. Why waste your life working for a few shillings a week in a scullery, eighteen hours a day, when a woman could earn a decent wage by selling her body instead?
    [Emma Goldman (1869-1940)]
  6. The issue is privacy.  Why is the decision by a woman to sleep with a man she has just met in a bar a private one, and the decision to sleep with the same man for $100 subject to criminal penalties?
    [Anna Quindlen (1952-)]
  7. [Prostitution] isn’t inherently immoral, any more than running a company like Enron is inherently immoral. It’s how you do it that counts. And the reality is that it’s going to happen anyway. It’s not called the world’s oldest profession for nothing. Why not make it, at the very least, safe and productive?
    [Jeannette Angell, “A Wellness Perspective on Prostitution, Freedom, Religion, and More”, Seek Wellness, 30 April 2005]
  8. Every hooker I ever speak to tells me that it beats the hell out of waitressing.
    [Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry]
  9. Prostitution is criminal, and bad things happen because it’s run illegally by dirt-bags who are criminals. If it’s legal, then the girls could have health checks, unions, benefits, anything any other worker gets, and it would be far better.
    [Jesse Ventura, Playboy, November 1999]
  10. All civilized wo/men are prostitutes: Some sell what’s between their legs; the rest sell what’s between their ears.
    [Mokokoma Mokhonoana]

Monthly Links

Apologies that due to an incursion of lurgy this month’s collection of links is somewhat late. Anyway here goes …

Science & Medicine

Unlike most other animals, roughly 90% of humans are right-handed. But why?

Another peculiarity of humans is that we are one of only a handful of species which has an appendix. Again, why?

Evidence is emerging that women with severe PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), really do have an aberrant cellular response to their hormones.

How do doctors measure pain? Answer: inconsistently. And they’re trying to understand this better. [Long read]

I suspect most people don’t notice the pigeons around them, but there are three which are common in the UK: the feral pigeon (rock dove), wood pigeon, and collared dove. The first two are genuine natives, but the collard dove is a recent arrival from Asia which set out to conquer Europe.

Sexuality

Ten things you probably didn’t know about the clitoris.
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The here and there of (female) pubic hair through the ages.

On attitudes to masturbation in a relationship.

The BFI now has an archive of erotic films covering the late nineteenth century to around 1960s.

History

And bridging seamlessly into the really historical, it seems the Ancient Chinese were into sex toys, just as much as modern generations.

Researchers are getting really quite good at dating ancient objects and events. An ancient volcanic eruption has now been firmly dated using fossilised tree rings.

The myth of Medieval Small Beer — no, everyone didn’t drink beer, rather than water, in olden days.

Someone has found what is alleged to be the long-lost skirt from one of Queen Elizabeth I’s dresses being used as a church alter cloth.

A research student has been able to uncover the movements and exploits of a Renaissance spy, who successfully masqueraded as a garden designer to the rich and powerful.

London

Each year IanVisits provides a calendar of the gun salutes in London for the year.
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Crossrail have unearthed yet more archaeology in an unexpected place: jammed and pickled under the old Astoria nightclub.

There’s a section of tunnel under the Thames on the Northern line tube which was bombed and flooded in 1940. And it is still sealed shut.

To go with the previous item, here are a few vintage pictures of London tube stations.

And, just in time for your next pub quiz, here are a few things you may not know about London buses.

Lifestyle

Some thoughts on how to talk meaningfully with children. And not just children, I suggest.

Even the most macho bloke has his bit of feminine. Here are some on the feminine things men would do if they thought they wouldn’t be judged for it.

Unless you’re doing a really dirty job (like down a coal mine) it’s likely you’re showering much too often for the good of your skin.

And finally … Just what did those prudish Victorians have to hide?

More next month.