20 June 2020

Coronavirus #11: Two metres or not two metres?

The government is reviewing whether the two metre guidelines for social distancing can be reduced to one metre, something many hospitality businesses feel is necessary to for their survival as their capacity is severely constrained at two metres to the point of unprofitability.

The science around the distance ultimately goes back to the 1930s and is subject to a lot of caveats; coughing is more likely to spread the distance than talking for example. Time spent at the various distances is also important. In a way, it's rather like radioactive exposure; a little won't harm you, but a lot will.

However, it is a lot easier to get rid of viral droplets than radioactive substances; the former can be destroyed with just soap and water.

Ultimately, a lot of this will come down to hygiene; a lot of the mini-spikes have been around meat processing plants where a lot of people work in close quarters, some of them not exactly with full legal papers (so they will be reluctant to speak up about any issues) and where hygiene practices can be sketchy. It's a good thing that proper cooking kills the virus too.

I'd personally favour Germany's 1.5 metres with an increased emphasis on face masks; you could wear them while not eating in a restaurant of course i.e. while waiting for the bill.

But I'm not a scientist.

13 June 2020

On the removal of statues

I'm perfectly fine with statues of slave traders coming down; it is not erasing history to remove a statue that is there to venerate someone. Churchill and Baden Powell, while holding views definitely unpleasant now and dubious even then, ultimately did more good than harm.

Ultimately, we should honour God above people. However, when we do honour people, we really do need a wider range of people represented. More than just white men made this country.

06 June 2020

Coronavirus #10: Coming down from the peak

The 'peak' has now very much passed in Europe; in Britain this was in the first week of April. Europe is starting to open up; 15 June will see full openings of many of the internal borders in the Schengen Area.

The UK quarantine regulations start on Monday, but I really don't see them lasting for too long - summer holidays abroad will definitely possible... but in a somewhat different form. Clubbing is likely to be very much off the menu, along with buffet breakfasts.

Fears of a 'second wave' are widespread, with every little rise in cases jumped on by people who believe we shouldn't be lifting lockdown now. We are going to see these mini-spikes across Europe, often hyper-local ones linked to a specific workplace or community. The overall trend in cases is something that needs to be taken into consideration and localised increases in restrictions may be needed as we continue to damp down this fire.

Ultimately, it will be imperative on us to 'stay alert' and take reasonable personal precautions to prevent further spread. That will mean wearing face masks, even if they are pretty uncomfortable, which will be a small price to pay to save lives.

05 June 2020

More than a grain of greatness (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.15, "The Trouble with Tribbles")

This is an episode that's rather hard to review. Firstly, it is considered an absolute fan favourite with a main alien that has turned up throughout the history of the franchise in some form or another - 14 times in fact, with the last appearance being in 2019 in a Short Trek that I don't think I've watched yet because it's not on Netflix in the UK...
Secondly, I've already seen it once.

Anyway, a Priority One message warning of disaster leads to the Enterprise racing to its next destination, a space station called K-7. There is in fact no disaster, which leads to a very annoyed Kirk... but there is a Klingon ship. There is also a trader selling small furry little creatures.


For a first professional script, this is a superb effort by David Gerrold (who would write two animated series episodes and was involved with the first season of The Next Generation before quitting after a dispute with Gene Roddenberry over a story idea that was dropped) with Gene Coon providing rewrites. There's a lot of humour, a great plot and an excellent 'threat'.

The regulars are all great, except for Sulu, who isn't in it (George Takei was away for much of the season filming the pro-Vietnam War film The Green Berets). Not just the top three, but Scotty, Uhura and Chekov all are very well catered for in this story; their character traits are wonderfully brought out here. Spock's "I don't feel emotion... until I do" trait gets an excellent appearance here.

No less than 500 tribbles were made for this episode; many went walkies after the episode, others would turn up around the set for months after the fact. They're fairly adorable, although I prefer my cute things to have eyes. The sheer number allows for some wonderful scenes, including Kirk half buried under the things when opening a storage hatch. This in fact took eight takes to get right, with Shatner visibly wondering when this will stop. Well, there are worse indignities an actor can suffer. At least the props were dry.

The bar fight in this episode, when a drunken Klingon insults Scotty's true love - his ship - leads to some truly epic Kirk-fu (without Kirk) that just works here whereas it doesn't where the stakes are truly mortal. Many points to James Doohan for doing most of his own stunts.

The Klingons themselves of course lack the refinement, not to mention the makeup, of their 'later' versions. They're portrayed rather like Cold War Soviets here, engaging in a spot of sabotage for gaining influence. There's a rather interesting bit that foreshadows a certain Star Trek: Discovery character...

One minor flaw - and it's enough to stop this getting a 10 - is that the tranquilising effect that Tribbles supposedly have on people isn't very consistent.



An absolute classic. Small and nearly perfectly formed, much like a Tribble, only it won't eat your grain. The Hugo nomination for this episode was justly deserved although another episode would win it.

Those tribbles was robbed, I tell you. Robbed.


02 June 2020

George Floyd

Many controversial police killing are often cases where a jumpy officer misinterpreted the actions of a person, often with mental health issues that mean they don't understand how to act around police officers.

Not the case with George Floyd, where kneeling on a man's neck for nearly nine minutes had no tactical justification whatsoever, especially once he become unresponsive. The officer who did this has been rightly charged with third degree murder and to be frank the others need charging as accessories.

There have many protests, there have also been riots. There has also been some real police brutality. Donald Trump has managed to set a new low, even by his standards, with his staged photo opportunities at churches... with peaceful protestors forced out of his way by tear gas just so he could do one of them.

Should Joe Biden become President in 2021, he will need to do a lot to heal the United States. The rot runs deep - Trump has some genuine popular support, there is deep-rooted and probably institutional racism in American police forces (including in Democratic cities like Minneapolis) and the justice system has real problems - like the grand jury system, which often fails to indict.

I pray for his success.

RIP George Floyd. You didn't deserve what happened to you.