Saturday, 4 February 2023

Jed dead

Struck in the face by a 10in by 10ft hanger, hidden in a raffle branches, as he tidied up some storm damage, arborist & tree-surgeon Jed Walters was killed instantly on Friday 20th Jan 2023. He was about 50 and leaves bereft a wife and two daughters. I know a few foresters and I know enough about chain-saws [I done the course!] to be terrified respectful around them. "about 50" means that he'd mebbe 30 years experience cutting down and tidying up trees most days of the working week. That's a lot of face-cuts, back-cuts, Humboldts . . . and near-misses; but now Atropos has caught up with him.

The youtube [tree] community has some tributes to a respected member of their profession:

There's a GoFundMe created by Jed sister-in-law, to raise $250,000 for his wife and kiddies. Nearly 3,000 people have stumped up some cash for the cause.

Friday, 3 February 2023

that way madness lies

A family from The Midwest has been promised Lotto money - €31 million - to support one of their number who has cerebral palsy, hearing loss and other cognitive impairments. The family's lawyers allege that the tragedy occurred because 1) the mother's urinary tract infection UTI was neither identified nor treated 2) steroids were not administered at the appropriate time. As all these events happened nearly 20 years ago, it is difficult to mount any effective defense against the allegations.

TIL that untreated maternal UTI is indeed associated with cerebral palsy CP. One study from 25 years ago found that kids with CP were 5x more likely if the mother had a UTI than otherwise. Significantly, the top Google hit for the association flags up a firm of Michigan attorneys who specialize in getting cash for misfortunate sufferers from CP. Cochrane, the GoTo for authoritative medical evidence has nothing to say about the UTI/CP association but does recommend pre-term screening for maternal UTI because that intervention helps prevent preterm and low-weight births. Cochrane's assertion is that routine screening and treatment will reduce cases of pre-term birth from 5% to 3%; saving €60,000 each time. Someone needs to do the calculus for the cost of "routine screening" to set against 2% x €60,000 to see if that's an efficient use of health resources.

Cerebral palsy is a terrible thing: physiotherapy and other interventions - like respite care for the parents! - can make life easier and more fulfilling for all concerned but it all costs money. Mr Justice Coffey has decided that €31m is what it will take to cherish this citizen and her family while she's still with us. But here I choose to put €31m into context for the nation's young people. The annual budget for all Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services CAMHS appears to be on the order of €85million annually. The same source indicates that another €40million a year would bring CAMHS funding close to what civilized societies expect from the tax-dollars. 

And now we have a damning report: Mental Health Commission finds CAMHS is barely fit for purpose. Any organization needs an audit from time to time. But with CAMHS, the first pass audit turned up a quite disconcerting proportion of failings. You can't close such a Pandora's Box, once you've peeked inside - you have to keep digging because each deficit, failing or error is a beloved but troubled child not getting the help they need; and deserve at least as much as all the high-profile cerebral palsy cases which reach the courts. 

Trouble is, mental health is really not usually amenable to a quick fix. But if CAMHS is chronically under-funded, under-staffed and swept under the un-sexy carpet [and it is!] then the few Effectives left in the building don't have time to give any child the attention needed, let alone ALL the children who need it. One of the identified failings is giving anti-psychotic meds to children for longer than is clinically advisable because auditing a child's chart takes time and there are three more new kids on the books who have just tried to top themselves or are unable to face school or are in A&E again atfer self-harming physically or chemically. Hello! There are 20,000 "open" cases on the CAMHS books, the failure-to-serve rate from the pilot audit indicates that 4,000 [20%!] of these open cases have been badly served by the state.

Adversarial defense of claims against the HSE and its subsidiaries including CAMHS means that, in addition to the cash or credit awards to the plaintiff, the plainiff's lawyers and the HSE's lawyers get their cut. In a case which has dragged through the courts for years of billable hours, this is also going to be a seven-figure sum. 

Every million given to the lawyers is 15 person years of salary for mental health Effectives. Or one new CAMHS unit [Consultant Psychiatrist; Registrar; 2x Psychiatric Nurses; 2x Clinical Psychologists; Social Worker; Occupational Therapist; Speech & Language Therapist; Social Care Worker; 2x Grade IV clerks] servicing maybe 1,000 young troubled citizens a year.

And remember: one of the reasons that a CAMHS case is no longer open is because a coffin has closed. We've got to do better than this.

Note added in press: I was visiting m'pal Rissoles a tuthree days ago for the first time in yonks. One of his kids recently prevailed upon Daaaad to go with her to a local perf by Blindboy Boatclub of the Rubberbandits. In the questions from fans afterwards, a succession of youngsters stood up to say thanks for The Blindboy Podcast which had saved them from a sea of trouble. B.B. was flattered but understandably aghast: "WTFittyF" [I paraphrase at second hand] "there's something seriously amiss if my ramblings about mental health are more help that the serried ranks of services paid for by the state. Y'all, we'all should get onto our elected reps and let them know this is not good enough." Amen!

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Go Polar

Going to school in England gave me a particular view of polar exploration. I've retained rather too much information about Bowers, Evans, Oates, Scott & Wilson who arrived at the South Pole, pretty much done in, a months after the Norwegian expedition. Scott's people all died on the way back. I doubt one Brit in 1,000 (incl. me) could name more than one person in the successful Norwegian team: Amundsen, Bjaaland, Hanssen, Hassel, and Wisting. Amundsen's party, with better logistical decisions and the willingness to kill and eat their sled-dogs took 99 days on the 3,440 km round trip. In 2006 Hannah McKeand arrived at the South Pole after completing a solo trek of 1,100 km in 39.4 days. Ten years later Joanna Davidsson shaved 9½ hours of the record. No dogs were harmed, let alone eaten, in either of these ventures.

About a month ago another very fit young person cruised into the Scott-Amundsen Polar Base, after 40.3 days of solo sled-pulling, paused briefly and set off back to the coast. This is Preet Kaur Chandi [R] from Derby, England. Polar Preet, as her handle has it, served 10 years in the UK Army, largely in the Medical Corps. This is not her first trekky adventure but it is certain sure the coldest. It is amazing what technology has thrown at the problem of keeping warm and dry in adverse conditions: Gortex beats a Shetland sweater; freeze-dried rations are better that pemmican; reindeer-skin sleeping bags are frightening heavy for their TOG score.. Modern nutritional calculations show that, apart from the scurvy, Scott's logisticians were 3,000 calories a day short of the team's fabulous energy requirements. Carbon-fibre and Kevlar sleds beat fir and steel. What Chandi, McKeand, Davidsson and other solo-sloggers have realised is that expeditions acquire their own momentum: caching food, fuel and spare clothing requires multiple return trips which must be sustained by food and fuel. After multiple National Expeditions to Everest, involving dozens of climbers and scores of sherpas, Reinhold Messner reached the summit on his own in 1978. Solo Polistas are like that.

Polar Preet is consciously doing this to provide a positive role model for young women - personified by her 11 y.o. niece. "No boundary or barrier is too small and I want to continue to smash that glass ceiling. Rory "Afgho" Stewart [prev] mentioned, on a recent The Rest Is Politics podcast, that he'd met Captain Chandi at the South Pole! Bet he didn't walk there, though.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Stamps incomming

Postage for 100g letter to Ireland is €1.25, for the rest of the World it's €2.25!  No wonder nobody writes letters. And of course the two observations are linked in a death spiral. If there was no e-mail and a stamp cost 20c, I daresay Pete the Post would come up our lane more often.  The €1.25 I pay to send a postcard to Galway carries a lot of sorters and supervisors and the Galway equivalent to Pete. One fall-out of the situation is that philately is dead. My collection of mammal stamps has no market.

In early January, just in time for the Orthodox Christmas, but two weeks late for ours, I got a letter from Vladivostok. It was not unexpected, because my old correspondent Сергей Sergey had emailed me in  November for a street address. You have to imagine how the envelope got so beat up. The stamps are all scrorched, that's for sure. I think someone must have left a mailbag out in the rain, or maybe it fell into the sea when some Russian postal worker tried lobbing it onto the last ship leaving port. Ho hum, it's the thought that counts. The news - that Серг is also retired - could fly by internet; but there's something of old style courtesy in sending a card halfway round the world . . . because we both worked in the same field in the last century. More letters, with stamps, are needed.

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Comet, green, can be seen

Trying for faint astronobjects in Ireland-of-the-drizzles is a big ask but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Green-tailed Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) hasn't gotten a common name yet - because the last time it was visible, 50,000 years ago, human astronomers were banging two rocks together. I've done some work to increase the likelihood that you'll catch this one. Base picture from TheSkyLive. Annotated by moi to show the ?familiar? Big and Little Dipper in the NE sky:

We tried to see this object on Thursday 26Jan night after a clear and sunny late afternoon, but by 19:00 the stars were winking out one by one as wispy clouds obscured the sky. By 21:00 we couldn't even see the moon: bracketted by Mars above and Jupiter below. Last night, Fri 27Jan23, I was out again several times, knowing exactly where to look. βUmi and  γUma, the two bright adjacent stars of Ursa Minor were visible but, of C/2022 E3: zonders, zilch, zero. I have now discovered that, kneeling down and craning up, I can see Ursa Minor out of the tiny landing window at the back of our house. So I don't have to stumble in the dark up the steps to the garden on spec. Bring back Comet Hale-Bopp, I say, C/1995 O1 was defo visible in the Spring of 1997 as we waited for the builders to move out of our home, so we could move in.

Polaris, the Pole Star, is formally called αUmi [the brightest star in Ursa Minor]. wrt the fixed stars, the Comet is moving "up" the night sky at about 3° a day and will be closest to Earth [and most visible?] on St Bridget's Day = Lá Fhéile Bríde 1st February. But don't wait for the brightest night, go for a possible = clear-sky night between now and mid-Feb. Binocks, even crappy ones, will help, but a crystal clear sky will help better. And city folks should endeavour to leave the street-lights behind and find somewhere dark. Good luck.

Friday, 27 January 2023

Old Crockern disposes

We live on the edge of a rolling upland mostly comprised of dry heath with plenty of boggy bits to give you wet socks if you like that sort of thing. In a technical sense we own a chunk of those uplands - in  common with our neighbours. But I can assure you that I don't go up in jodhpurs and instruct walkers and birdwatchers to get orf my laaannd. Although I get tetchy when visitors leave tinkle-tissue behind, there is conspicuously little litter or other evidence that hundreds of ordinary folk yomp about our hills every year. Even on a busy weekend, it's easy to be out of earshot of everyone else, get some fresh air and exercise, and generally recharge the batteries.

On the weekend of 21st Jan 2023, some 3,000 people rallied to Dartmoor to protest that their right to camp wild on Dartmoor had been curtailed by a recent court case. Millionaire Alexander Darwall, hedge-funder and pantomime villain, b[r]ought his lawyers to court to make people ask his permission to camp on the 4,000 acre 1,600ha. estate he acquired in  2011. He reckons that scruffies disturb the pheasants and deer which he and his rich pals / clients like to blast away at in real life; having exhausted the delights of killing communists in video-games. Wild-camping? This sort of thing. [bloboprev]

Vox.Pop [9 mins]from PoliticsJoe. Some of the scruffies invoked Old Crockern, a troll which / who is said to live under Crockern Tor, a granite hillock in the middle of the moor. O.C. saw off an earlier interloping land-owner who tried to make money out of his investment:
"If he scratches my back, I'll tear out his pocket."
Despite being a land-owner, I'm with the wild-campers. As should be Darwall: one way to stave off a bloody revolution is to allow poor people a little recreational fresh air at the weekends so that they work better at the mills of Capital the following Monday. Mass trespass has a long and honorable history in the UK: it's 91 years since the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of April 1932. In Finland Jokamiehen oikeudet allows people to access the countryside respectfully. More comment and context on Metafilter.