Embedded Inequality in the vaccine development process

I knew it was bad, but Vox spell out the embedded inequality. Remember for all the people being vaccinated in one country, it will never be over till most of the world is vaccinated. Vaccine nationalism needs to end!

In related news I got my call up for the vaccine… I was thinking it would be interesting if there was a system like the OLPC (remember that?) get one, donate one. I know it wouldn’t scale but it would at least focus us away from vaccine nationalism.

https://mas.to/@cubicgarden/106137630859489518

Chilli Chocolate showdown: Carolina reaper vs Instant regret

Carolina Repear vs Instant Regret chocolates
Its the Chilli-chocolate-faceoff

I said I would film a video of me eating the some of the hottest chilli chocolate. So here is the video complete with my nose slightly running from the chilli. Not so pretty.

With some further time, I decided Instant regret was pretty horrible chocolate and I actually had some more Carolina reaper to try and remove the taste of instant regret. It just didn’t have anything about it, maybe a hint of chocolate which disappeared quickly and you are left savoring chilli. Not exactly what you want to savor…

Another thing I didn’t get around to saying on the camera was the chilli was quite different like the difference between Tabsasco and Sriracha. I guess thats due to the different chillis which are used.

If you want something which will make you have some regret, then look no further than instant regret. However if you want something which actually tastes good then Carolina reaper is calling your name.

Where I’m reading information about allergies and the vaccines

Covid19 vaccine

I have mentioned a few times previously about allergies and covid19 vaccines. A few people have asked me about my sources, so I’d thought I’d share the biggest ones.

Anaphylaxis.org.uk’s Covid19 vaccine update is a good overview and not too difficult to understand. The site is gear for people with severe allergies for many things including different vaccines.

The NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service is a very technical detailed site including the exact ingredients and some terms I needed to be looked up. But it cuts straight through the noise.

Hope these are useful to people too.

Excessive energy drink use, symptoms include…

Caffeine under a microscope
What Caffeine looks like under a microscope

There was a time when I would consume upwards of 5-14 cans of redbull every night on a weekend, while going out clubbing and raving. So many I would add Tabasco sauce to slow me down if I was in a bar not a rave (imagine trying to smuggle in Tabasco sauce into a rave!). At the time there was no sugar free redbull and I was aware of the threat of diabetes.

I never touched any illegal drugs although I was surrounded by them, nope my drug of choice was caffeine (it was useful for those 12 hour raves, although I was wide-awake on the coach home when most were coming down). In retrospect maybe I would have been off with ecstasy (I half joke) Reading about the student who had heart failure from excessive drinking of energy drinks, I got away lightly, even with my brush with death.

For two years, the man drank four 500ml energy drinks a day, according to the BMJ Case Report. He spent 58 days in hospital, including the intensive care unit which he described as “traumatising”. Before the hospital admission, he suffered with shortness of breath and weight loss for four months.

Doctors treating him considered a number of diagnoses, but concluded: “Energy drink-induced cardiotoxicity was felt to be the most likely cause.” An organ transplant was considered after tests revealed both his heart and kidneys had failed – with the kidney failure linked to a long-standing but previously undiagnosed condition.

My hope for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is put on hold it seems

My hopes of getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the UK seems to be on hold. Like the AstraZeneca vaccine, there have been a very very tiny amount of blood-clots which are not clear are caused by the vaccine or are coincidental.

Every life is important and blood clots can be lethal, however we got to look at the statistical amount of risk. I’m personally still keen to take the J&J vaccine over the others right now.

17 years at the BBC

Ian PORTRAIT at work

I never thought I would stay at the BBC so long but today its been 17 years.

I have talked many times how little the BBC impacted in my young life as a young black man in inner city Bristol, immersed in the underground rave scene. So won’t drag that up again, except to say that drive to change the BBC is still very much there.

What keeps me going? Being in a the research and development department is key for me. Its fitting with my personality and my ambitions for a better world. A world where public service can be the viable alternative to the surveillance capitalism and government surveillance. We need different models to keep each one honest, accountable and transparent.

Working with personal data stores, human values, decentralised protocols/systems, in a collaborative manor with the likes of Publicspaces, Mozilla, Nesta, universities like Lancaster, Nottingham, etc. Keeps me excited.

So here’s to another year, maybe one day it will be 20?

Recycling plastic by the numbers

2 years ago in my new year 2020 resolutions, I mentioned this one… Be even more aware of the environment and what I can do to help

A friend asked what did I actually do?

One of the things I did do was get the bottom of my own recycling system. The biggest mystery was always plastic. I did know the number didn’t mean how many times its been recycled but wasn’t sure what it actually meant for my own recycling. So I did some research

Plastic recycling

From my research, in Manchester plastic types 1 (PET)  & 2 (HDPE) are easily recycled. Everything else is a pain in the ass and can’t be taken from the usual council recycling pickup. I know type 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP) can be recycled but its got to be taken to a specialist place.

I find myself now inspecting the plastic before buying it now which is a good thing. For example I didn’t know my grapes container is type 1 (PET) can be recycled but my Greek yogurt type 4 (PP) can not. Weirdly enough others like Yeo Valley use type 2 (HDPE). So guess which one I changed to a while ago.

However I got to mention the specialist recycling like Terracycle. I bought this Carex 1L refill pack, which is better than buying more plastic pumps (yes its not as good as soap but its not a bad solution). The Carex comes in a plastic bag which fills 4x pumps. But the bag can only be recycled at Terracycle centres. The nearest one for me is just under 20mins away by motorbike. Of course I’m saving them up so next time I head that way, I can recycle them all and anything else all at the same time.

I ordered my first take away in a long time, yesterday and it came in type 6 (PS) containers. Of course I can reuse them again and again but I was surprised.

Doing research into plastic recycling, really has been an eye opener.

National opera house Kyiv, looked quite different when I saw it

opera house Kyiv as I visited it in 2017

Back in 2017, I wondering around Tallinn, Estonia as part of Mozretreat. I came across a interesting structure not far from the centre on the coast. I didn’t know it was Linnahall.

opera house Kyiv in tenet

When I watched Tenet I thought the opening scene with the opera house looked familiar. Then recently I finally looked it up.

opera house Kyiv in tenet

The same place and what a difference!

Not the biggest mark fan but the subtle art of not giving a fcuk is good

A long while ago someone once called the game, a self-help book for men who don’t like/will take self-help. I’m still so-so on that one but seeing Mark Manson review his own book, reminded me of the two books he wrote which I actually found pretty good. (I don’t really like the man but he writes well and his examples are always useful). Not that it changed my life or anything like that. But rather I liked the down to earth advice and there was plenty of things I heard and took on board a long time ago.

For example the fault and responsibility one.

The pandemic isn’t my fault, its also not my fault I’m terrified of medical injections. But it is my responsibility that I have my vaccine injection. In my mind its unfair but its overridden by my responsibility to myself, family, friends and society.

The questioning of death is a important one I learned 11 years ago. I said then and now, I want to push my limits but not in a jump out the plane or climb a mountain way. I’m much more interested in socially pushing myself.

So as a whole I would recommend the audio/e/books, even if you don’t like the punk rock style of Mark himself. I know lots of people love his style and the heavy swearing, I don’t care so much for it, however what comes out from his brain is a wealth of experiences and connecting it with a better way to be more human.

The chili-chocolate face off

Carolina Repear vs Instant Regret chocolates
Its the Chilli-chocolate-faceoff, 1.5million SHV vs 6.4million SHV

There is one thing I love… Chili Chocolate.

I tried many times but the one which has my heart is the Carolina Reaper, first discovered in Stockholm and available from Cocoarunners. However I was told by a friend about Instant Regret.

So I bought a bar. Before I even open it, I didn’t realise it was milk chocolate bar. Something which is very off putting. I am wondering if the 6.4 million scovilles is slightly cancelled out by the milk and sugar? But more importantly, I’m wondering if it will be actually good to savoir?

I described it to my friend Hannah the other day like this from my mind… A Indian vindaloo curry is very hot but ultimately has little taste, especially the after taste just being fire. While a Madras, Dopiaza or Rogan Josh is hot but has a great after taste which you are pleasing to have. One is just hot for the sake of hotness while the other one is measured, warming and flavor-some. Don’t get me wrong, you can have very hot food which is flavor-some (curry goat for example) but Instant regret sounds like it might be all heat and little substance?

I promised to do a full review and maybe a video of me eating both sometime soon?

Single shot Covid vaccine on its way here

As I have said many times before, happy to have a Covid19 vaccine and happy to wait, but fearful of the actual injection having trypanophobia. One thing I have been keeping an eye on is the one shot vaccines. The thought of having a needle stuck in my arm twice in less than 4 months is absolutely terrifying make no mistake!

Then this week I heard some good news.

Johnson & Johnson applied for vaccine approval in UK late last week
The UK has already secured 30 million doses of the vaccine.

30 million is great but its unlikely I will get the choice, plus I do need to look at the allergy side of the new vaccines.

I know there is lots of debate over the efficacy of the vaccine, but I don’t think everybody understands what this really means.

Time for better masks?

Ian Forrester selfie with a mask

I was reading through my feeds and saw the piece from the Guardian titled Everyday Covid mistakes we are all still making.

Covid-19 infections in the UK are reducing but remain stubbornly high, despite a month of lockdown measures. So could we be doing more as individuals to curb transmission of the virus? A virologist, a psychologist and a public health expert share their views on some of the Covid-19 mistakes that we are all still making.

The rest of the article gives some interesting tips for hopefully avoiding Covid19. Most are common sense but they are well made for example failing to appreciate what ‘airborne’ really means.

If you can smell someone’s garlic or alcohol breath, or cigarette smoke, you’re inhaling air carrying not just the smell of the garlic, alcohol or smoke, but any virus that’s leaving their nose or mouth if they’re infected, said Julian Tang, a clinical virologist and honorary associate professor in the respiratory sciences department at the University of Leicester. “How much virus depends on different people and their different immune responses. But if you stand there for long enough, you’ll inhale enough to possibly infect you.”

And just as you’ll eventually detect the smell of cigarette smoke if someone lights up on the opposite side of the office, airborne viruses gradually accumulate in stuffy indoor conditions, which is why ventilation is so important.

Ventilation doesn’t just mean opening a window. “The clue is in the name: vent, or wind,” said Gabriel Scally, a visiting professor of public health at the University of Bristol and a member of Independent Sage. “You do need a draught going through. People should be conscious of ventilation in the workplace, shops, or any enclosed space – including at home, which is where most transmission takes place.”

During the summer months I thought about this quite a lot, especially with people vaping. Sometimes the cloud of stream/smoke will spread a lot way. I kept thinking lets really hope they are not asymptomatic or tomorrow going to develop Covid19.

How ever the big one I have been thinking about is face-covering, or as the guardian headlines Inadequate face-covering

The mantra ‘hands, face, space,’ is really the wrong way around. All are important for preventing virus transmission, but physical distancing – including preventing small and large-scale gatherings – has the greatest impact, said Tang: “Masking is kind of in the middle. But, if the mask is used as a backup for when you can’t physically distance, or in poorly ventilated areas, it can help a lot.”

The current UK government advice is to pick a face covering that covers both your nose and mouth. Ideally, it should include at least two layers of fabric – although a scarf, bandana or religious garment is acceptable. The World Health Organization recommends three layers for fabric masks.

That advice could change in the face of more transmissible variants, said Scally. “I think there will be very strong voices saying that the three layer face coverings that we’ve got used to are really not adequate, and we should probably have the FFP2-type ventilator masks.”

These are already mandatory in shops and on public transport in Austria and Bavaria. In France and the rest of Germany, surgical masks are required. The main problem with fabric masks is that their quality varies a lot. Some three-layered masks are as good at blocking particles as surgical masks, but flimsy single layers of fabric block far less.

Just a week later the Atlantic’s Zeynep Tufekci and Jeremy Howard ask the serious question why aren’t we wearing better masks?

Don’t get us wrong; everything we said about the efficacy of cloth masks stands the test of time. Wearing them is much better than wearing nothing. They definitely help reduce transmission of the coronavirus from the wearer and likely protect the wearer to some degree as well. But we know that not all masks are equal, and early on in the pandemic, there was a dire shortage of higher-grade masks for medical workers. During those emergency conditions, something was much better than nothing. There are better possibilities now, but they require action and guidance by the authorities.

Even all cloth masks are not equal. Construction, materials, and fit matter, and these can’t be tracked or certified with homemade masks. Unlike cloth masks, medical-grade masks (also called respirators) that adhere to standards such as N95 (in the U.S.), FFP2 (in the European Union), and KN95 (in China) do a much better job of protecting the wearer and dampening transmission. Ideally, they should also come with instructions on how to wear them and ensure that they fit properly.

I don’t think masks are the sole problem but its a good point that maybe its time we started wearing better masks now. Some clear direction on this from experts would be useful too. Although people will still wear them around their cheeks and have their noses poking out the top no matter what directions are said. I’m hearing from multiple sources (one includes a doctor) about the importance of sealing the mouth and nose, as the ones which droop around the ears don’t provide enough of a seal for the wearer. If you look at the PPE hospital staff (finally?) can get their hands on to treat Covid19 cases. It completely seals off their lower face.

Its clear we are going to be living through this pandemic for another year (sorry to say) and even with the vaccine, the advice is to still protect yourself and the public around you. Now feels like its a good time for a serious upgrade on masks (but not that Rich Guy COVID Helmet!)

The BBC recently put out a video surrounding the better face covering space…

Lets be deadly honest about whats happening behind the dating sites

I had hoped I wouldn’t be back dating again but thats the way things go. Stepping back out into the online dating world I’m shocked how worst things have gotten.

Now OKCupid is now very driven around the hot or not mechanism. If you are on the web site, it is possible to search via questions and a keyword. But thats about it. I got sick of Bumble which once again wants way too much attention and removed the app. I requested my GDPR data again, as I’d love to get to the bottom of the cisgender male issue I had.

However saying all this… It was good to see the buzzfeed post and the connected Reddit thread which was pointed to me via Herb Kim.

Before I say anything, sadly almost zero of this was a surprise to me. Its exactly why Herb sent it my way, having the past talked a lot about the problems with dating.

Anyway I wanted to run through some of the reddit thread and add a touch more.

“We used to create fake accounts and chat with users. It was everything from someone having a premium account that wasn’t getting responses, to bored employees.”

The amount of fake accounts on dating sites is a real problem. All the sites are affected by this problem but the site team blame fake accounts on spammers. Most people don’t realise the problem is actually being caused by the dating site its self. People don’t connect the fake accounts with being ghosted over and over again.

“The algorithms are less sophisticated than you think. … The main goal of the algorithm is always to get you to pay, never to actually ensure you meet somebody in real life, as much as we tried to lie to ourselves that it was.”

With everything we know about algorithms in recent times (bias). Its been mentioned so many times and I made the judgement that this is exactly the same as the birthday paradox.

“Female dating app users tend to sign off for the day several hours earlier than male users, which results in men who log in after about 10 p.m. generally not encountering many logged in female users. In order to keep these men feeling like there is genuine female activity on the site (and thus continuing to pay for memberships), dating apps can pay for entire armies of ‘ghosts.’ Ghost profiles use photos of real women, but are  operated by men, typically young men in their late teens and early twenties, living in France, Serbia, Ukraine, and Russia.”

The fake account problem again but targetted based on stats. Its something I’m aware of but I gather its different for different sites.

“Many apps seed attractive bots to keep people engaged. The bots will send/respond to a couple of substandard questions. ‘How was your week?’ ‘What are you looking for?’ and then ghost. Despite the ghost, the high of matching with a super attractive person who spoke to you is enough to get many people hooked and chasing the dragon.”

You start to spot a pattern with the chats. Heck you can spot pattens in the profiles. For example in OK Cupid, there is something I recently noticed with huge number of profiles which have answered the same 15 questions and in the same way. Their profiles were also pretty new.

“I worked as a software engineer for a dating site in the mid-’00s. Literally every single female profile was fake. They were ‘generated’ profiles using arbitrary data and paid-for lewd photos from various sources.”

I have actually seen packs of profiles (1000’s at a time) complete with photos and data you can buy to populate a new or young dating site. Most are grabs from different sources but when I last spoke to a person, they were suggesting some have been generated by machine learning practices.
As for the data, I have seen SQL and XML dumps but most are CSV and JSON.
Prices? I’m not sure but I gather a lot cheaper than getting real people to sign up.

“Most of the female users were fake. We would import thousands of fake profiles all the time to prop up the numbers and let the men think there were all of these women on the platform.”

I experienced this with Bumble a long time ago. For weeks I could get to through most of the users in my filters. Then suddenly there was a influx of model like profiles. They all had a similar style and shouted to me fake. That’s even before you read the small amount of written profile info, which could be a user or operator not bothered. Either way, its not necessarily someone I would be interested in contacting

“I ran operations for an online dating company (notably not affiliated with Match). IIRC, we were able to determine that it takes on average about three dates before sex happens (I don’t recall how we worked that out, I’m not a data analyst, but presumably it was some keyword-based algorithm looking at chat messages).”

Some people forget all messages between users are tracked and analysed. All those things you are sharing with another person is being logged and tracked. If you read some of the  terms, you will see they also sell the keyword data

“The most depressing stat…was the histogram of word count in messages. Something like 91% of opening messages were just one word ‘hey,’ and ~85% of conversations were just one exchange long (‘hey’ -> no reply ever). Looking at human, digital mating habits splayed out in data science form was really depressing.”

This is why I stopped reading OKCupid’s Dataclysm, I started to loose faith in humanity with the conversation lengths.

“My roommate used to work at one of the big dating apps and one of the issues they had was that their algorithm changed at one point to more emphatically enforce dating ‘pools’ where people who got more right swipes would only see profiles of people who get more right swipes, etc. With the idea being that it would put people in similar ‘tiers’ to actually match. One big issue they were having was…well, racial ‘preferences’ or sexual racism being pretty amplified as a result. Black women and Asian men especially were being overwhelmingly shuffled down the algorithm because there are a lot of people who will basically automatically swipe left on them as soon as they see they’re a Black woman or an Asian man, even if they were hot as hell.”

https://i2.wp.com/image.slidesharecdn.com/dating-against-humanity-ian-forrester-final-160214222131/95/dating-against-humanity-47-638.jpg?w=840&ssl=1

Its clear by algorithmic bias that users are boxed off from each other. This is why its important to be able to find your own way around the users rather than the way the algorithm presents things to you.
My recent ex made it clear I was found outside of the recommendations. If she stuck to the algorithm we likely would never have met. I know some of you might say, well not everyone has the time to manually go through the site. But if you look at this way, madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I can’t tell you how good it was to read OKCupid members blogs and get in touch. Likewise I’ve been looking for abstract terms across POF to see where people have used it and how. Years ago I had a great conversation with a woman who included a circus skill in her profile. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Diabolo but the Poi is still cool.

My ex bf worked for the Yahoo Italy dating site back in the earlyish 2000s. His job was to pretend to be a woman, and message male customers just as their accounts were going to expire. This would encourage them to pay to renew their subscriptions. Once they renewed, he would ghost them.
He only lasted for a few months due to how unethical it was.

So common and I know a few people in the past who have done this. However recently I met a person who did this for a while for a small amount of money. They are paid to engage with users as they close to the end of their membership period then once they renewed their membership disappear/ghost.
Of course the profile is a fake one, sometimes they are made up by the person or are rotated by the dating site (this has limitations of course, where the ).

A couple met on the dating app I worked on.
Unfortunately, the man passed away and the lady returned to the app where they met for remembrance.
One day, a bug in the system made some profile likes to be sent again after months and she received one from her deceased boyfriend.
Her bug report was heartbreaking.

This is horrible but I have seen similar examples of ex-members receiving emails by accident or their profile coming out of a dormant state. Mistakes happen but this should never happen

Good luck to all the singletons dating in a pandemic, its rough out there and to be fair the dating sites could make things a little easier if they wanted to.

I still have a strong feeling this is all too important to be left to the private sector. Imagine if the covid19 pandemic keeps us apart for another year? Or the next pandemic? We can’t rely on the unethical practices described above to connect people for the future…?

As if perfect timing… The Guardian has a piece about this…

Falling fertility rates have been a problem in the world’s wealthiest nations – notably in Japan and Germany – for some time. In South Korea last year, birthrates fell to 0.84 per woman, a record low despite extensive government efforts to promote childbearing. From next year, cash bonuses of 2m won (£1,320) will be paid to every couple expecting a child, on top of existing child benefit payments.

The fertility rate is also falling dramatically in England and Wales – from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to just 1.65 in 2019. Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 suggest it could now be 1.6, which would be the lowest rate since before the second world war. The problem is even more severe in Scotland, where the rate has fallen from 1.67 in 2012 to 1.37 in 2019.

On trying Oatmilk…

Dad with milk
I’m no dad but interested in giving milk the push

Independent of the advertising push to stop dad from buying milk (I think its only just started), During the covid19 lockdown’s, I have been trying things which could make me ill.

This time I thought it was time to try the alternatives to milk. Rice, Oat and Hemp milk? (obviously not Coconut, Pea, Cashew, Soya, Almond, etc) Now to be honest I don’t drink much milk, and when I do it use to be skimmed milk or semi-skinned with a bit of water. I also only add milk to cereal (I tried using water and orange juice).

I don’t really like milk, ever since we had to drink it at primary/junior school. Remember tasting whole milk and feeling so sick. Anyway I added Oatly to my monthly online shop and today tried it with some Wetabix minis.

The colour was a little off white but thats fine, when I actually tasted it. I was very surprised how sweet it was. The important part is there was no gag from the milk taste, I didn’t feel ill like I sometimes feel with milk but I also wouldn’t want to drink too much of it.

In short I would drink it any more than I drink Milk right now. However I will switch to Oat if Rice or Hemp milk are not any better. Be great if I could get a half a litre instead of a litre.  I would also give it a try in a mocha coffee, as I can imagine that working well. Maybe I could also finally get my Matcha tea latte going at home.

So in short its better than milk but I need to give Rice milk a try too.