Retirement is official

Well, the lab is empty. It was the last bits today. All the big stuff was out so the car is full of plastic bags stuffed with random bits for the final clearing-up. I am no longer paying rent on a lab I rarely used for the last few years and I won’t be doing any more 60-sample marathons. Ever.

See, with microbial samples you can’t do half one day and half the next. The half you do the next day will have changed. If you freeze them, you kill some species faster than others. If you don’t freeze them, the population will change overnight, even in the fridge. So if you get 60 samples you have to do them all that day.

This often meant working past midnight. In a remote lab, alone. Stuff that. I’ve done it many times and I don’t want to do it anymore.

I’ll still take on consultancy work if any appears but no more late-shift lab work.

With the demise of the lab, I can make my retirement from science official and concentate all my efforts on Leg Iron Books. No more distractions that lead to blunders.

Science is wrecked anyway. When I started it was all about getting new knowledge. Now it’s all about getting new money, and to hell with principles or diligent research. I can’t do that because I’ve never cared about money. I was always a blue-sky researcher and often, those wild experimentations came up with good results.

Nobody seems to care about results any more. The conclusions are pre-written by the funder and if you don’t reach those conclusions you get no more funding. I won’t play that game.

So I am now a publisher full time. Oh, and a seller of second hand lab equipment for a while 😉 I will hang on to some things that will be useful in brewing, of course, but there’s a lot I don’t need to keep.

I appear to have a large stainless steel condenser in my collection. I think I’ll hang on to that…

So, I enter 2019 at the start of a new career that really started in 2016, but which is no longer split by a second career. I am now Leg Iron Books and I have to learn marketing, fast.

Now, at least, I have the time to do it.

Wind Power

No, no, no, I have not made another baked bean Madras. Once was enough for anyone’s lifetime. I have never felt so deflated, nor so totally empty.

This is about the Green God’s Gadgets. Again, no need to worry. I have not grown a straggly beard and had all my arm muscles replaced with lentils and string beans. I am still of the firm opinion that the entire man-made global warming rubbish is a control freak scam and believe me, smokers are currently best placed to spot those. Especially smoking scientists – which is what I am.

However. I am and always have been attracted by the notion of free energy. Okay, yes, it’s never really free. You have to buy the thing that turns sun or wind into electricity and it only works when there is actual sun or wind around. I get that. It’s not just about electricity bills though.

Living way out here, internet is best described as dire. Sometimes teeth-grindingly slow and sometimes it will die out for short random intervals. I have been looking into a 4G connection. That will work if I place the receiver at a certain point at the kitchen window (yes, it’s that bad) but it can work.

It still won’t work if there is no electricity. It doesn’t matter how many phones or tablets or laptops you have fully charged, when the power goes of and the router stops, it all stops. Unless you stand in exactly the right place with your phone. A little restrictive, I think you’ll agree.

Two issues here. Recently, someone drove a truck or tractor into the phone line pole at the end of the drive. Phone and internet were off for a day until it was patched up, and off for another few hours another day while they fixed it properly. A small issue? Yes, but it can happen again.

The phone line passes through trees and trimming back those trees would be a job for a tree surgeon. Get it wrong and you’d bring the line down right now. Ignore it and one day, one of those branches will fall on the line and bring it down. It will happen.

The other issue is the electricity supply. This is prone to random outages. The local distribution transformers are at the top of a hill – safe from flooding but not from lightning. It’s not too frequent but sometimes there is no electricity.

This is a bigger issue for us than for most. Cooking is not a problem, we have a hob powered by gas bottles outside. Heating is a small problem, we have a wood burning stove in the living room and an entire elm tree cut into small bits in the barn, so could huddle up and survive an extended blackout.

The big problem is water. Our supply comes from a well via a pump. The well head supplies the pump tank by gravity but the pump supplies the rest of the house through filtration systems. That has to have power. No power, no water.

I have considered buying a generator. There is an old huge rusty one here which could probably be put in working order but the amount of fuel and oil those things can go through in regular use is horrible. I am still considering one as an emergency backup. It would really only need to run the water pump as the most vital component of the system, so a small one would suffice.

But… could I sustain the pump with a Green God Gadget using 12V batteries and an inverter? It does of course depend on how long I’d have to do it for but it’s possible, at least for a short outage.

I looked into it. Solar is a bit of an issue this far north. When the problems are most likely to arise – winter – the sun peeks over the horizon, says ‘ screw this shit’ and ducks back down again. You can’t charge a little garden solar light in winter here.

How about wind? We get quite a bit of that, being on top of a hill. Well, okay, but it’s not really reliable. On a still cold day after a storm there’s nothing to charge the batteries to run the pump.

Both options are very expensive to install. The Green God might be here to save mankind but he ain’t doing it for free. No sir, he’s an expensive consultant indeed.

Maybe these things will pay for themselves eventually. Maybe not. There’s only one way to find out and it’s risky. What I need is a Scotland-oriented reliable power generator.

Rain. Rivers. Streams. I have never seen a hosepipe ban in Scotland. Water is not short of supply here, it drops out of the sky most days. So, if I get a windmill, put cups on the ends of the blades and dip it in the stream next to the house…. I have something far more reliable than wind power.

What if I install little waterwheels all along every downpipe from the roof? Each one only generates a little bit but if there are 20 or more per downpipe it would add up.

Sun power is sod all use in north Scotland in winter. Scratch that one. Wind power is a bit better but windless days happen – and often when it’s really cold. Water though… there’s a lot of it and it’s always moving. Best of all, you get no energy from the water itself.

Water power is actually gravity power. 20 waterwheels in a downpipe or drain – how much energy does the water lose from one waterwheel to the next?

None. The energy is not coming from the water. The water is a vector. The energy is coming from the gravity pulling the water down, and that is inexhaustible. It does not matter whether you have 10, 20, 100 waterwheels in that downpipe. The last one gets the same driving force as the first one.

The same is true in rivers and streams and our ancestors knew this. They could build one or forty watermills along a river. It made no difference at all. If you were in watermill 40, you saw no difference in river speed from watermill 1. No energy is extracted from the flow of the water because that’s not where the energy is. It’s gravity. Water flowing downhill. It would work the same if it was dry sand flowing downhill. Gravity is the energy that cannot run out.

Nobody seems to care about this. It’s all ‘buy solar panels, buy little windmills’ and they will work some of the time. As I said, here in north Scotland, solar panels work when you don’t need them and wind can be capricious. But the river always flows.

I have a map of this place dated 1768. Both the main river and the stream are on the map and both are still here. Neither have any record of ever drying up. They flow and they flow and a watermill will not slow the energy in that flow by a single joule because it is not the water that is the energy in the flow. It’s gravity. That is the real free energy but the Green God’s Followers don’t want to exploit it. There’s no money in free stuff  😉

So I am wondering. I have candles for lighting, I have all sorts of backup batteries for computers (enough to keep the little ones going at least), I have alternative heating and cooking arrangements, so really I need to power the water pump and possibly a 4G router in a total outage. I don’t really need a big generator.

You know, if it came right down to it, I could bypass that pump and use the gravity-fed water from the well. Unfiltered and risky but better than nothing and boiled, it would be mostly okay.

So. If I get an old car dynamo or alternator from the scrapyard, fit it to a waterwheel with sufficient diameter to ignore the seasonal rise and fall of water level, and dip it in the river, I could have a more reliable bank of backup batteries than anything the Green God’s Gadgets have on offer.

That river is not going to stop flowing tomorrow. The wind might.

Tobacco, the wonder plant

As suggested by Smoking Scot in comments, here is Nisakiman’s elegant idea for a ‘smokers welcome here’ image:

It comes from an idea a long time ago which I seem to recall was started by either Frank Davis or Junican. I’d like to be more specific but I’m afraid I was very, very drunk at the time. I’d actually written two of the stories in the latest Underdog Anthology around that time and entirely forgotten about them… yeah, pretty drunk.

Tobacco is currently villified by the Righteous and their indoctinated dancing clowns of hate but the original inhabitants of America (is that the latest PC term? Please forgive me for not caring) knew a lot more about this plant. They used it for more than just a sly puff at the back of the wigwam sheds.

Modern science has been gradually catching up. Well, the discovery of vitamin B3, Niacin, aka nicotinic acid, and its derivation from nicotine happened a long time ago. There is much more though.

Tipped by Sam in email – Tobacco flowers have a yeast-killer in them.

I had seen this go by on Twitter along with another claim that tobacco may have anti-cancer properties (now there’s a twist, eh?) but no antismoker worth their bile would accept a cancer treatment that came from the tobacco plant, naturally.

This yeast-killing antibiotic (the term is usually used to mean an antibacterial in my world but we’ll let that slide) is vey interesting. It works on Candida albicans, a ‘mostly harmless’ yeast that can still cause thrush and other, not necessarily fatal but really annoying infections. I wonder if it works on other yeast/fungi? Athlete’s foot is really hard to permanently dispose of. Ringworm is an evil fucker and there is speculation (not proof) that seborrhaic dermatitis has a yeast as a causative agent. They are all hard or impossible to cure at  the moment. Should we rub some tobacco flowers on it and see?

The article talks about the ornamental versions of Nicotiana but you know they have to be so, so careful these days. Ornamental tobacco is no use for smoking but as with all these domesticated things it’s a toned down, weaker version of the wild one that has to survive with no watering or plant food or weeding or pest control.

I’m betting real tobacco flowers are way more effective than the domesticated, pampered ones. These plants are quite capable of looking after themselves. In many ways.

Tobacco has multiple medicinal properties. Who knew? Pretty much everyone before the white man’s Puritan horde decided they didn’t like it. Hating tobacco is racist now. There’s one to have fun with.

I look forward to the first tales of antismokers refusing niacin, the new anttfungals and the new anticancer drugs because they come from tobacco. You can watch them suffer and die while watching me not care.

They have no sympathy for me. Expect none in return.

Getting metaphysical

Maybe going as far as paraphysical here. This is not theory, not even hypothesis. It’s just speculation. I know diddly squat about astrophysics, so don’t bamboozle me with your high-faluting equations and stuff like that. Keep it to street level if you want to explain why this is nonsense.

We’ll start with the caveat that it probably is nonsense.

It all began with a (public) Twitter exchange about time.

Which set me thinking in rather more than 140 characters. I did consider calling this post ‘Stop – Twittertime!’ However I need that construction for something else later 😉

Okay. Let’s start from the premise that the universe appeared in the big bang, We can argue about who lit the fuse another time, And yes, the big bang is theory, but that word has a different meaning in science. It means it is not proved but there is evidence to suggest it might be true. I accept that we could be the product of random cosmic forces, I also accept we could be but a spark from one of God’s fireworks. It’s all open to debate. That’s how science works.

This is not about religion vs. science. This is about the nature of time.

Incidentally, if I recall correctly, the Chinese ‘see’ time as coming out of the ground and going up, whereas we in the West ‘see’ it as going forward.

But then time isn’t moving. We are. We move through time so, as I said in that short discussion, what if time is what holds the universe together? What if that is the foundation stone?

Whether Creation or Big Bang, either way, time did not exist before the start because time is an integral part of the universe. We see three dimensions of space and we ‘see’ (rather, we experience) one of time. There could well be more dimensions, hiding all that ‘dark matter’ we know is out there.

If any God exists then he/she/it (obviously not human) must exist in more than our three physical dimensions. That would allow God to be everywhere, or at least see everything, at once. A four dimensional being would look at our three dimensional world in the same way we look at a two dimensional drawing. Five dimensions and our universe is a dot. A microfiche.

I believe science currently allows eleven physical dimensions. We barely exist at all at the top of that scenario. ‘Made from dust’ could well be a literal interpretation in that case.

But I digress. As usual.

If the universe uses time as its foundation then time travel is impossible. The universe is on the skin of a balloon expanding from its point of origin. There’s nothing outside and nothing left behind. It’s easier to picture if you think in four dimensions – we’re on the three dimensional skin of a four dimensional balloon. We don’t see inside or outside the balloon, we only see along the skin. Light seems to go in a straight line in our world but look at it in four dimensions and it’s zooming around through the skin of the balloon.

A balloon inflated by time.

Time is the dimension we cannot see. We can move in the three dimensions we are confined to but we cannot move in time, we are carried along by it. We experience it but cannot see it and cannot change direction.

There is no ‘past’ because the skin of the balloon has left that behind as it inflates. There is no fixed future because the skin of the balloon has not reached that point yet. Time recognises only ‘now’. Every point in time exists only now.

Sure, you can find relics of the past embedded in, and carried along with, the passage of time through space but you can’t go back there. It’s not there any more. Similarly, you cannot visit the future because it hasn’t happened yet.

You can still make a time machine of sorts. It can put you in stasis so you wake up in the future but going back to change the past? Forget it. The past is the void inside the balloon. If you go into the future and don’t like it, tough. There’s no way back.

I mean come on. If you had the chance, wouldn’t you want to go back and kill Hitler when he was still just a crappy painter? Or wipe out the Marquis de Sade or Torquemada or Stalin or Pol Pot any other mass murdering bastards of history? It’s never happened has it? They are all still there in history. Nothing gets fixed because nothing can be fixed. Once you’ve done it, it’s done.

As for the future, my own experience suggests that some people make accurate predictions but never very far ahead (one human lifetime is not even a tick of the clock at this scale of things) but that suggests no more than a tiny bit of variation in the process of time. Barely, probably not even, detectable on a cosmic scale. A minimal hysteresis in the mechanism that any engineer would be delighted to achieve.

Nostradamus? I read his ‘predictions’ So vague they could be interpreted any old way and even he has been ignored now.

There is nothing to suggest anyone from the future has visited the past and nothing to suggest the future can be predicted more than a trivial amount ahead. Travel in time is not possible for us.

However, a creature outside the limitations of our three physical dimensions might not be so constrained.

Maybe, this Halloween, we’ll meet one.

 

 

The Revenge of the Poultry from Beyond the Gravy…

Salmonella and Campylobacter. Sigh. I have grown enough of these in a single experiment to bring down a medium sized city.

Oh it’s easy, when you use growth media designed to make them grow fast. It’s how we find them quickly when there’s an outbreak. It’s also how we test food before it goes on sale. Sometimes it’s in the supermarkets before the test is complete but we can recall it pretty fast.Heavy contamination will show up in 24 hours but it takes about 4 days to be certain it’s a negative.

We test for other things too but the big names in chicken and turkey and general poultry are Salmonella and Campylobacter.

At the end of the experiment, everything goes into a big pressure cooker called an autoclave. Fifteen minutes in there and there is no life anywhere inside it. It’s not magic, it’s exactly the same principle as a home pressure cooker, just scaled up so you can fit a disobedient technician into it. In the past, we actually used home pressure cookers in the lab as benchtop sterilisers for small amounts. of stuff. Now there are custom built benchtop ones. They do the same thing but they look more sciency and they have timers so they don’t go bang if you forget.

For these two nasties, all you need is to have the centre of the meat exceed 80 decrees C and they’re dead. Cook that chicken properly, don’t handle salad with chicken grease on your fingers and you’re fine. It’s only dangerous when it’s raw, or when you let it contaminate stuff you aren’t going to cook.

I’ve never had either infection despite my cavalier cooking methods and despite working with them (and other nasties I haven’t personally caught) for almost 40 years. They aren’t hard to kill.

They are, however, very hard to get rid of at source. For Salmonella, many UK poultry farms use a vaccine introduced via drinking water. It won’t wipe them out but it will reduce their numbers. On a bird carcass, Salmonella is mostly surface contamination. Inside surfaces too – it lives in the guts and can get into some internal organs. Still, that’s easy. As long as the surface is cooked, it’s dead.

Campylobacter is a little different. This one lives in the gut too but it can get into muscle tissue. It can be inside the meat. That’s the one you need to kill by cooking the chicken all the way through. Getting the centre of the meat past 80C is enough – you don’t need 200C in the centre. If you achieve that, you have a roast chicken that will shatter like glass when you try to carve it and will probably be about the size of a quail.

Minced/ground meat is a special problem. For any meat. If you have a beef steak you can flash-fry the outside and the inside can be pretty much raw. The only contamination is on the outside. Ostrich steaks are also best quick-cooked. Even though they are birds they don’t seem to suffer Campylobacter infections.

If you make steak mince, you have mixed the outside contamination all through the final product. It’s now internally contaminated and – as with sausages and burgers – you need it cooked right through.

So with poultry mince you will now have both Salmonella and Campylobacter all through the finished product. Nasty.

Not if you cook it thoroughly. It’s mince. If there are no pink bits left then all the bits are cooked and the nasties are dead. I admit, when making any dish with mince, I cook the mince completely before starting with any added sauces. I take no chances with high risk foods.

Should the mince be a no-risk food? That’s impossible. You can never be sure the processing plant is perfectly sterile even if the starting product is clear of pathogens. The processing plant is staffed by people and if you sterilise your staff in an autoclave their productivity will suffer and you might get nasty letters from their relatives. People carry diseases. It happens. Deal with it.

How do you deal with it? Cook it thoroughly and wash your hands after handling raw meats. Disinfect kitchen surfaces (the spray stuff is good enough, you don’t need a flamethrower) and wipe down with disposable paper towels, not a cloth. A contaminated cloth is a stupid thing to have in a kitchen.

That’s it. That’s really it. Poultry, mince, any raw meat is a risk but it’s an easily managed risk. Just do what your grandparents did. It worked for them and it’ll work for you.

Each year, the article says, 830,000 Americans get sick from eating contaminated poultry. There is no excuse for this. All it takes is a few simple things – proper cooking and kitchen hygiene.

You are not going to eradicate these bacteria at source. You’re dealing with living organisms and chickens are, it must be said, among the most disgusting of living things.

But they taste so good. Just cook them properly.

 

Mouldy old dough

I loved that song as a kid.

Anyway, this isn’t about singing. It’s about fungi. A group that includes both yeast and moulds.

Basically, yeast grow as single cells and you make bread and booze with them. Moulds grow in thread-like bundles called ‘mycelia’ and you make blue cheese with them. The distinction isn’t absolute, sometimes yeast can grow like mould and mould can grow like yeast.

There are very few infective yeasts. Candida albicans is one. If you’re one of those trendies who have named your daughter ‘Candida’ she’s not going to see a lot of action from anyone educated.

Ringworm, athletes’s foot and a few other fungi will infect you too but mostly fungi like to grow around 20degC. Inside the body is too warm for them. There are exceptions, the anaerobic fungi that grow in ruminant animals… but I’m drifting into lecturer mode and they don’t matter here.

No, if a mould is going to get you it’ll mostly be Farmer’s Lung or poisoning. Farmer’s Lung is a massive inhalation of fungal spores. Aspergillus gets the blame usually because it grows on hay. Really though, it doesn’t matter which one too much, it’s the mass that matters. Turn the hay, shift bales around, farmers do this in immense quantities and if it’s mouldy at all then disturbing it will throw a huge amount of spores into the air. Breathe them in and the irritation causes fluid buildup and before you know it, your doctor insists you must be a smoker even if you’ve never heard of tobacco.

Poisoning, well, picking your own mushrooms can do that. Destroying Angel is an innocent looking mushroom but very very deadly. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, get your mushrooms at the supermarket. Those are grown by mushroom growers who know what they are doing. Amateur mycologists are rare because most of them are dead now.

Shaggy Inkcap is a nice one. Get it before it turns to ink and fry it lightly. I know where a patch grows. But don’t have alcohol with it – it reacts very badly with alcohol. You won’t die but you might wish you had  😉

So, who just did a double take? Who thought I changed subjects between mould and mushrooms? I didn’t. Mushrooms, toadstools, they are all moulds.

More accurately they are the fruiting bodies of moulds. The spore producing parts. The seed pods, if you like. The frilly bit under the mushroom is where the spores are formed and released. Millions of them. Button mushrooms are the artichokes of the microbial world. The unopened flower.

Quorn is made of mould. Stilton is nothing without its surface mould and neither is Brie nor Camembert. The blue lines in many cheeses are a live mould. I like to keep Danish Blue until it’s turned very blue indeed. In fact, when the other cheeses start to turn blue, that one is ready.

I know, there is a terror of mould these days. The black stuff growing on your damp walls is nasty. Kill it immediately. And yet other moulds are good to eat. The cheese moulds are no different to eating mushrooms. It’s all mould.

It’s all killed in your stomach, you know. It’s hot and acidic in there.

If your fridge has no detectable levels of mushroom spores I can conclude that you never eat mushrooms. The same goes for spores of the white moulds around Brie or Camembert or the blue moulds through other tasty cheeses. They are all producing spores all the time.

You know what? It doesn’t matter. In a reasonably clean fridge the mould are the Biblical seeds that fell on stony ground. They can’t grow in there. It’s too cold and there’s no food.

And you are supposed to clean the fridge once in a while…

I’m not going into the whole range of different spore formations, it’s tempting but I’m not a lecturer any more. The basis is, mould spores are everywhere all the time. Always have been. Don’t worry about it.

Food that goes mouldy had those spores on it from the start. When you bought it or grew it, the spores were on it. If it’s mouldy it means only one thing. You kept it too long. Bin it.

As long as you’re not a total idiot, moulds are not scary. The red one with white spots, Amanita, is one to avoid. Yes you can get high on a small dose, but get the dose wrong and you get so high that Saint Peter says the last hello. As I said, if you don’t know what you’re doing leave them alone and stick to shop ones.

I seem to be alternating between terrifying and harmless. Well, it’s just common sense. Would you eat of the fruit of a tree you don’t know? Especially one you’ve been told is a bad idea to eat from?

Actually the Bible starts with the first humans doing just that. Might not be just a story. Could be a description of human nature.

‘Don’t do that, it’ll kill you’

‘Oh you think so? Watch this’.

Yeah… Not much has changed.

CStM told me about the last general strike in Denmark. People were stocking up on things in case they ran out and one of the things was yeast. Bread making yeast. In Denmark it’s sold as live active yeast, not the dry spores we get in the UK, so it has a very limited shelf life. Buying loads of it is silly. As she said, everyone could have gone for a sourdough approach starting with one pack. Nobody thinks of that unless they’ve studied at least a bit of microbiology and/or breadmaking.

Fungi make your bread and your beer and wine and whisky. They give you all those fancy and plain mushrooms and exotic cheeses. And yet you are terrified of them. I suppose it’s not a surprise. You’re all scared of bacteria and yet enjoy yogurt and salami and sauerkraut…

The modern obsession with ‘clean’ is killing you. You think you’re being healthy. No. You’re becoming weak.

The Daily Scare tells us that there are mould spores all over the place and we should be terrified. Sigh. If there weren’t spores all over the place we’d be on a different planet. A dead one.

I mean, look at it. They want us scared that a mould might grow in our carpet – a mould that is either only dangerous to grass or that is actually edible. Your carpet has to be continuously damp to get any growth at all and only then, if it’s a mould that can grow on carpet

So, a wool or cotton degrading mould then. It has to be able to eat the food it’s growing on. Moulds do tend to grow on dead organic matter so wool or cotton would do. Polyester carpet? Don’t spill any food on it…

The Mail have taken a basic-interest science study and turned it into a scare story.

I think tomorrow I’ll maybe get shares in the company that sells spray bleach.

Antibiotic shares? Nah, the idiots will eventually find out where they came from…

 

 

 

Oh I almost forgot…

 

Science and books

I am in some science books. They’ll never make the bestseller lists because they are horribly expensive books, but as a contributor I sometimes got a free one.

My favourite is a non-serious article called ‘Science and the Simulated Organism’ but that’s a story for another day.

It has long been an ambition of mine to produce science books in non-jargon language at an affordable price. Maybe Leg Iron Books will one day achieve that. Books students can read and not say ‘What the blistering fuck does that mean?’ on every second page. That could be fun and useful too.

It used to happen. I still have a copy of A.E. Lehninger’s ‘Biochemistry’ which is probably woefully out of date now but which was invaluable in getting me through the first year of university.

Ah, university, three years I’ll never recall in detail and some of the flashbacks still make me wince. And yet… I learned enough to pass with a good degree and impressed a few professors enough to get me invited on to a PhD course. Oh I didn’t apply for that. It only recently occurred to me that I have very limited experience in applying for any job. The ones I applied for, I mostly didn’t get. Most of them just happened. A phone call, ‘are you interested in this?’ sort of thing. I did begin to wonder if someone was trying to keep me out of the way.

I applied for the janitor job. Well, I called in about the job at 4 pm and was employed at 7 pm. Boss later told me she wasn’t sure I’d be up to it and gave me a chance. Today she sent more texts asking me to come back. I am tempted to put on the uniform for one day and go in, just to see the looks on the staff faces.

Universities are not what they were, some say. Yes, they are, although they are worse now. We had the dopey dicks in charge of the student’s union when I was there (1978-1981) and they insisted we buy life membership to the student union. I didn’t. The bars in there were cheap but so damn humourless we rarely used them. The Cardiff dockside bars were much more fun – back then, before they yuppiefied the whole derelict area.

Universities were always loaded with Leftie idealists and they’d get involved in committees and running the student’s union rather than doing proper student things like drinking and smoking and learning stuff with the remaining brain cells. They never grasped the simple equation that we ‘normal’ students managed to get real degrees in real subjects even though we had destroyed at least 50% of our thinking capacity with strong drink. They, on the other hand, managed to scrape a third in elementary witchcraft and daytime TV while abstaining from anything that could harm what little brain they possessed. Which, on the face of it, was probably a wise decision.

Basically, only idiots join committees and committees should be nothing more than a gateway drug into the secure psych ward or at least the remedial class or perhaps a bag and reservoir thing….

What Frank describes was starting to happen when I was in university. The useless and the downright dangerous-in-a-lab morons were pushed out of the way. Not fired, the union wouldn’t allow it, but shunted upward into admin and manager roles. The dopes were put in charge.

In those days it didn’t matter too much. Nobody took any notice of them anyway. Later though, they took control of the money and then things got very screwed up indeed. Research priorities changed. You couldn’t research for the sake of it any more, there had to be a profit motive.

Then the profit motive took over and it didn’t matter what the results really were, the conclusions had to fit the funder’s declared interests. That’s where we are now. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Get the right result or next year, you’re teaching HND tractor control.

The Leftie Loonies leave university with a determination to make the world a dark, sad and miserable place. I left university with a 2:1 Hons in microbiology and John Otway’s autograph on a copy of DK50/80. And a hangover. And a job as a research assistant working on oil spill degrading bacteria, that later morphed into a PhD on something entirely different.

You know what? In nearly 57 years, I have never been on any kind of march or picket line for anything.

I don’t believe the world owes me anything.

Neither does the world.