An alternative approach to manage the Coronavirus outbreak?

A friend showed this article to me and I thought it made some excellent points from the alternative medical perspective of the veterinary profession.  It’s well worth a read. So good I forwarded a copy to my local MP and to Matt Hancock.  There’s a low chance it will ever reach them, physically, less so intellectually but you’ve got to try.  I’ve included below as a pair of .jpg files.  You could also download as a pdf from here.

The article first appeared in the Vet Record and was written by Dick Sibley of West Ridge Veterinary Practice and Joe Brownlie formerly of the Royal Vet College.

 

Panic, it’s a cosmic crisis!!!

Screenshot_2020-04-22 ftse 250 - Google Search

Or is it? There is no doubt that the impact of COVID-19 on peoples’ health and the hard working members of health care teams is extremely significant and something to be viewed with compassion and regret. However I’ve been thinking about the impact on businesses and economic indicators (Jan ‘20 to today)

  • FTSE 100 – down by 24%
  • FTSE 250 – down by 28%
  • Brent Crude – down by 74%
  • Unemployment up by millions in the `UK
  • People accessing foodbanks up by 80%
  • Business insolvencies accelerating

And this is after just over four weeks of “lock down” measures in the UK. I’d love to be corrected by someone more experienced in business and economics but the above speaks to me. It suggests to me one of two underlying issues.

1. That businesses in the UK (and with similar figures in the US and Japan, by extension much of the capitalist world) have been on a very weak footing. That the financial sustainability of very many businesses has been recklessly weak. You’ve not been able to sell your product or service for four weeks, just 20 working days and now your business is only worth 70-80% of what it was before. Really? Is the business model for so many firms so ‘hand to mouth’ that a disruption of four weeks is enough to cause this.

2. That market indicators are led by hype, but that this exaggerated negativity then leads to real failure. That the attitudes of those who drive the markets are like that of a manic depressive but worse than this. The negativity which starts as only an idea then morphs into reality and becomes a self fulfilling prophesy, but a prophesy based on weakly justified sentiment and not fact.

I see many articles from the hand-wringing journalists of the Guardian saying that ‘This should be the trigger for real social change, better wages and welfare.’ In my view this is a worthy aim, but unrealistic. More critical surely is the above. If our economic activity is to generate the wealth from which taxes can be drawn then shouldn’t we be looking instead to build rather better foundations upon which to build such a future. Aspirations are great, no I’d say essential, but you need to be able to fund them.

The COVID Diaries (Weeks 3 & 4)

Here in rural Lancashire we are still a couple of weeks (decades?) behind London & Birmingham so we’ve not seen the direct impact of COVID-19 as yet, but the indirect impact on day-to-day life is now with us just the same as the rest of the UK.  Without doubt it is strange, but after two weeks under house arrest the ‘new normal’ is getting to be fairly well bedded in.

How to light a campfire

How to light a campfire, a great way to also teach the fire triangle and an introduction to combustion chemistry.

Home Schooling turns out to be a much better experience than I expected. With Junior being six I guess I have it easy.  He doesn’t have exams ahead of him and is missing his friends more than it matters that he missing his formal education.  I am finding that a project based approach, akin to the  Montessori  approach is working well for both of us.  Each week we have a project, or two, which acts as the framework for discovery and learning the skills needed to carry it out (maths, science, dexterity) and record it (maths, English).

We have been blessed with great weather thus far meaning that bike rides (twin solo, or with the tag-along) have been possible and have been a little longer than most folks 20 minute walks.  However around here it’s easy to self isolate on the back roads.

I am delighted that I was able to restock my (mini) alpine garden before house arrest too, and am starting to see the results of old and new.

dsc_1054

Church life has changed again.  My ‘live streamed’ drumming to an empty church  was not only the first but probably the last time this will happen.  Since then church buildings have themselves been closed and now our church, amongst many others, is streaming sections of each service from different members homes.  All credit to the people organising this at St James who are doing a grand job.  Canned music didn’t work as well as it might last week, the difference between performance (what you can get from YouTube et al) and leading a congregation, albeit virtually, is actually very significant.  For Easter we had a multitrack of keys, guitar and vocal, complete with video, from two different homes.  Much better. Next week there should be drums as well.  This afternoon I laid down four drumming tracks for someone to mix into next weeks multitrack song recordings.  I’m feeling the benefit of having an electronic kit.  Whilst it’s perfectly technically feasible to mike-up every drum and cymbal, it’s neither easy nor cheap to achieve this.  I can mix my drums within the Roland ‘brain’ and output the drumming track straight to a .wav file on a memory stick.  In theory this is a perfect recording. I can even choose my ambience!

Home Multitrack Recording setup

I’ve found some voluntary work on the day I’m not home schooling and it’s good both to be busy and to be ‘doing my bit’ for the community.  Finally, the wheat malt I ordered has arrived and I have been able to set up my home office and do some informal development work.  I cannot sell the results as I am on furlough, and then there is also the small issue of being unlicensed.  However, it’ll keep my tasting panel happy and keep my brain and taste buds ticking over.

Isolation Pale Ale

Brewing an IPA – Isolation Pale Ale!

Cheers!

The COVID Diaries (Weeks 1 & 2)

We are certainty living in “interesting times” and when writing in a newspaper in 1936, Sir Austin Chamberlain first coined the phrase, this was meant as a curse rather than a blessing. The world has seen pandemics before, but the last one was over 100 years ago and thus not part of my experience or that of my family for three generations. So, so as not to forget and to have something to pass onto Junior other than memes, I thought I’d keep a COVID-Diary.

Andrex Rear Gunner pic

Here is rural Lancashire COVID-19 had no obvious influence on life until the w/c 9th March (week one) when we all started washing our hands more often and with more care. (about the same care in my case because I work in a food factory) Apart from that, everything was running as normal at work, socially and at church. By the start of week two beer sales started to drop because of the uncertainty of whether pubs would be open by the end of the week, with our Boris asking that we stop going out to social venues. Work life as a vet for Mrs W remained as normal. Then in four days we went from normal to ‘all change’ with all the acceleration of a Bugatti Veyron. On Wednesday it was announced that schools would be closing, thus limiting my ability to work to two days per week (the days Mrs W doesn’t work – yes, I know we are very fortunate). This turned out to be OK with my workplace who wanted to reduce all of us to a three day week anyway. My two day week was agreed as I went home at 4pm on the Friday. Then an hour later, Boris announces that all pubs, restaurants and cafe’s are to close that evening until further notice. Over 80% of what Bowland Brewery makes goes into cask, so that put the tin lid on the business. We’ll be back, but no-one knows when.

Saturday left me feeling rather shell-shocked and melancholy. I tackled this by going out for a long walk in an unpopular part of the Yorkshire Dales to see plenty of hills and sunshine and very few people. I am reminded at times like this of the verse from Psalm 121

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help

Perhaps many would consider this a quote taken out of context, but given that I believe that God made and gave us a bounteous supply and variety of mountain-scapes, the hills speak to be of the creative generosity of the divine. I returned from my walk, without a post walk pint, but feeling a good deal better adjusted to the coming week.

All churches were closed for public worship, but again I was blessed. I was on the rota to drum in the band and had the privilege to be part of the first Live Streamed Service from our church.  It’s things such as this which I want to record.  It was very strange to be in a church with just a band, the Rector and a sound / video engineer. Mrs W and Junior watched from home and church started to prove itself to be a body of people, not (just) a building. At its peak Mrs W noted viewing figures of 120 (accounts) which given each viewing was probably from a group of at least two people suggests that the whole congregation was ‘virtually there’ along with a number of extra ethereal visitors as well.

So as I write this we are entering week three and I’ve been put on furlough (a term previously little used outside of missionary circles) and 80% pay. This is good news for us as a family, at least in the short term and for the business. It also means that rather than going to work to mark time I can look for opportunities to volunteer within the community for two days a week. It will be good to be continuing to directly enhance our community, albeit in a different way to making peoples Friday evening treat. Now also I can relax into the role of home teacher, even if this is not something I ever saw as my vocation.

I wonder what the rest of week three will hold for us…   …watch this space…

Have we passed ‘Peak Specialization’ ?

interpretation-of-hyperspecialization

Over the past few months something about the current structure of our society has disturbed me. I’m a deep ponderer not a quick thinker and I’m not sure if I’ve yet got to the root of what is disturbing me or whether I need to take a fresh perspective. Are my concerns valid? The benefit of blog is that I can float my ideas and take listen to the feedback.

So what is disturbing me? I think that we are seeing too much specialization in the skill sets / job roles within our current society. The trigger for this was to compare the job roles I held up until 2017 verses today.

Consider these juxtapositions:

(a) A professional person with a desk based role, using part of their high salary to pay for an expensive gym membership so that can get the exercise their body needs after work. vs. (b) Someone who has physical work integrated within their job, who when they finish work, they do so fit without need for the gym, having more time with their family.

(a) A similar professional person who deals with the mental stress of working within a top down driven silo like existence who lives and earns to be able to go on their next holiday. (b) Someone whose job role is their vocation so the satisfaction of what they do work something they actively want to do, who can blur work and free time to their benefit and enjoys but does not ‘need’ holiday down time.

The human body and mind has certain core needs (link). These have been summarised in the form of the following connections

  1. Exercise / The Natural World
  2. Status & Respect
  3. People & Community
  4. Hope for the future
  5. Good values

It seems clear to me that the over-specialization of job roles has a strong tendency to weaken a number of the above connections rather than strengthen them. We are noticing a rise in mental illness. Between 2003-2014 the prevalence of common mental health issues in the UK rose by 20%. Additionally, the prescription of anti-depressants has doubled over the past ten years. Is there a link?

For an employer, increased specialization gives higher productivity and this improves revenue, and in a well managed firm profit. So is the rise in specialization simply the fuel desired by those who seek to sell more and higher margin products back to society for financial gain? Is it good for the individual, for the family or society as a whole or simply for those at the top of large corporations (of those who profit on the trading of their shares)?

I am not suggesting that we have left behind a golden period when everything was better than today. One can clearly see the benefits of how we have specialised since we moved away from subsistence living. Healthcare, culture and the arts, travel and free time have all given us an enhancement in our lives today vs. say 1000 years ago. What I want to ask is: Have we passed our peak?

What if something happened to cause societal collapse? How many of us would be able to cook from raw ingredients? Who would be able to start a fire or know how to best source clean water from the wild? Who would be able to repair their own clothes, house, bike, car etc. And how many people would be stuck without being able to seek the advice of Siri or Alexa?

We all have a basic set of needs: Clean air, water, food, shelter, security, good health, sleep, clothing, companionship and the option to reproduce. And beyond that we have a reasonable set of desires; Friendship, community, friendship, comfort, expression and appreciation of creativity (music and the arts), freedom for personal growth and the like. But do we need a trophy car, the latest mobile technology, a television larger than our bookshelf, sculpted eyebrows, this years trainers, all examples of the fruits of a growth driven, technology enabled, specialist made and target advertised economy? Or would we be better off with connections which we fracture to achieve these material goals?

The Will of the People?

Choice Cartoon

I don’t mind if you are a Brexiteer or a Remainer. Look at the motives of the people fighting your cause and ask yourself, “Am I happy with those motives”. I think they are clearer now than they were in 2016. Which ever way you end up feeling (exactly as you did in 2016, or differently) please write to your MP today and tell them your views. These are the people voting on our behalf in Parliament – let’s follow the will of the people by reminding them what we think or pointing out that, with more facts at our disposal, now we think differently.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

Is computer familiarity what is really needed in rural developing communities?

I read with interest an article on a scheme to bring a mobile computer classroom to rural schools in Uganda.  It is flagged as good for the children as it opens up the opportunity for work involving such technology in the city.  But is this really sustainably good?  I don’t know the answer to this question, but it seems far from be ‘obvious and correct’ to me.  And I don’t say this to be negative, on two occasions on Christian Mission trips I’ve made to developing nations I’ve agreed to help teach basic computer skills – both in Honduras and in Mongolia.  I did as I was asked, but reading this article again opens up the question for me – should I have done this?  Was it really the right thing to do.  I am genuinely keen to hear peoples thoughts on both sides of this argument.

What worries me is the promotion of the movement of people from rural to city environments by such initiatives – so whilst, yes, if they go to the city these skills could help; should they be helped to go to the city?  From what I have seen of rural and urban environments in developing nations (and to a lesser extent in developed nations too) is that a higher morality is to be seen in rural areas than in the city.  So in encouraging urbanisation are we also encouraging a reduction in morality? If we are then this needs to be considered in the balance of costs and benefits of programmes like that outlined in the article above – and in the work I did myself.

I honestly ask the question – would it not be better to teach rural children the skills they need to have a sustainable future within their own communities?  This would provide work and wealth but at a lower moral cost (Matt 6:33)

Your thoughts please…

Save FM radio in the UK

I don’t often get hot under the collar about politics in the UK.  Well not since the anti-war [in Iraq] march of 2003 was roundly ignored by the government of the day.  But today I would ask you to consider campaigning to save the analogue radio signal in the UK.  Did you know that until earlier today the plan was to turn it off? Today Ed Vaizey announced that the switch over date would be delayed until there is 50% uptake of digital radio.  So, when only half of the country will be forced to chuck their radio’s into landfill and go and buy news ones this will be OK.  I’ve written to Mr Vaizey to suggest that whilst the delay is welcome, the criteria set is inappropriate.

The only advantage that digital radio offers is greater choice – but for most UK radio listeners this is not a benefit, the UK consumer is happy with the choice (when I find the link to this survey again I’ll add it here) on FM and see no value in the mosaic of very old repeats which are quilted together to form stations such as BBC 4 Extra.

The real reason, of course, for the promotion of digital radio is to free up the FM part of the radio spectrum to sell off to mobile communications (phone) companies.  So I guess if you want the choice of being so absorbed in Facebook that you walk off the end of the local pier then this campaign is not for you.  But if you want decent radio reception in your car (under 5% of the UK car fleet has a DAB radio fitted) and don’t want to drop all our FM radios into landfill the consider writing to Ed Vaizey, or campaiging via SaveFM to suggest that FM is kept running at least until we have 80% uptake and the coverage matches that of the current FM system.

Get Britain Cycling

” promoting cycling as a healthy and affordable way to travel can tackle Britain’s obesity crisis, save millions from NHS budgets, boost the economy and reduce congestion on our roads and trains.   The inquiry’s 18 recommendations focus on reallocating investment, safer road design, lower speed limits, better training and strong political leadership. ”  so starts the background to a UK e-petition to get better road infrastructure to support safe cycling.  I’d like to encourage you to read the proposal and sign it to show support.  If you want to know more about the impact of good cycling infrastructure a recent BBC website article is worth a read too.