Monday, April 27, 2009

MUN, dial tones and swine doom

And to get your Monday going, some things I've noticed or read over the weekend.

So MUN is launching it's latest attempt at trying to find a university president. The poor, doomed bastards. I mean, I've been on some Committees of the Damned before, but this one sails right to the top of the list.

1. Everybody thinks that this is actually a Committee of One, and that the premier is lurking not so subtly behind the scenes, making sure he gets the candidate that he wants.
2. After the Joan Burke inspired mess of last year, MUN's national reputation is even further in the mud. Impressive, when you think about it, considering all the massive foul-ups the university managed all on its own before the government got involved. And yes, some people might relish a challenge to put the ship back on course, but then you have to look back at answer #1 - how much freedom is the premier going to allow any new MUN president to have?
3. There are apparently a lot of universities looking for new presidents. Trying to get a good one when everyone is looking and your rep is in the mud is not going to be the easiest task in the world.

So yeah, good luck with that whole finding a new president thing, guys. I suspect I'm not going to be impressed with the eventual candidate, but here's hoping for a pleasant surprise.

I first heard about this on the CBC, but they don't have a link to a story. However, there is this press release from the Four Host First Nations Society. And what is it about? Well, they're creating ringtones for cell phones based on throat singing. It's the first of a series of ringtones they're creating based on traditional native music.

Go here if you want to download some throat singing for your cell phone.

I can't tell you why this amuses me. I find most ringtones to be a nuisance and more than once I've wanted to grab a cell phone playing a Britney Spears ringtone and ram it up someone's ass (I don't like cell phones, in case you couldn't figure that out), but the idea of a throat singing cell phone makes me smile. And will probably scare the hell out of me the first time I hear it.

The latest "Oh God, Oh God, we're all going to die" is swine flu, which broke out in a big way, media wise, this weekend. And I'm not saying this isn't a serious thing and it should be dealt with as quickly and professionally as possible. However, I will bet good money this doesn't turn out to be a fraction as serious as what the media is playing out to be right now. I hope.

However, if you need a laugh in-between stocking up on surgical masks, hand sanitizer and duct tape (to air seal your house until the crisis is over, of course), then I think you will be hard pressed to find anything funnier than today's XKCD. A little levity while waiting for the swine apocalypse to come squealing down the highway.

Last Five
1. Circles - Bob Mould
2. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
3. Not fade away - Rolling Stones
4. Long way home - Bruce Springsteen
5. The pretender (live) - Jackson Browne*


Ron said...

I know too much about all this for my own good for various reasons including two degrees specializing in Medical history and a stint at the Dept. of Health 10 yrs ago writing the first draft of Newfoundland's Pandemic Influenza Plan.

It is virtually impossible to stop the spread of the influenza virus and if this is "the big one" pretty much all we can do is nurse the sick and bury the dead. The numbers of people who will become sick will completely overrun the health facilites. There is no cure for influenza. Gov't needs a 5 to 6 months warning to produce and distribute vaccines so there probably won't be anything like that during the first wave. (yes there will be more than one wave over perhaps two years)

The anti-virals can reduce the duration and complications but they have a limited supply and will probably be given to the health workers and emergency responders first then high-risk populations. But those decisions will be made later in the pandemic planning process contingent to how severe it appears to be. Also depending on what is available these might not be your typical "little blue pill". Sometimes they are inhalers and and people require "training" to use them properly - meaning there is a chance they'll get it wrong and the drug will end up being ineffective.

In 1918 the first wave was a less severe strain of the virus which then recombined and became much more deadly in the second wave as much from the disease itself as later complications such as pneumonia. Subsequent waves in late 1919 and 1920 were less deadly as the virus returned to normal. Approximately 1% of Newfoundland's population died from the 1918-19 pandemic which was comparatively high for most jurisdictions. Much much higher if you were Inuk living on the coast of Labrador or even a settler living further south around Cartwright or Battle Harbour. Those were "epidemiologically naive" populations.

It all sounds quite grim but the "up-side" is that the available services today are light years ahead of what we had in 1918-19. Sanitation, housing, nutrition and education are better meaning people are generally healthier and better equipped to take care of themselves or immediate family if they do get sick. Also the general rule is that the more contagious the disease the less deadly it is - organisms which kill their hosts (ie. us) end up killing themselves. So the evolutionary trend is for the "milder" infections to succeed and spread while the nastier ones burn themselves out.

Anyway hopefully it won't end up like Okak in Labrador with the dogs trying to break into the houses to get at the dead bodies... altho Harley did spend part of last night watching me and drooling. Nice to know who your friends are.

nadinebc said...

Ron, that post probably should not have made me laugh, but it did.

And now I have forgotten my comment.

Did you ever read The Hot Zone?

towniebastard said...

I have actually read the Hot Zone and several other of the "Oh Christ, it's the end of the world bug that's going to kill 90% of us" books that were so popular 10 years or so ago.

I'm not saying this isn't potentially a serious health crisis. However, it's virtually impossible to determine its severity with the amount of "We're all fucked!" media hype latched onto this right now.

You know, there are times when I think CNN and its ilk are the worst things to have happened to the world in the past 25 years...

SRD said...

Puts me in mind of Connie Willis' Domesday book (best book you ever recommended I read). Bird Flu didn't worry me at all, but having a small person to worry about gives it a whole new perspective, I've been obsessively checking news feeds!

SRD said...

Uoh..first scottish cases in Polmont. I _know_ people who live there; it's cyclable - well within our commuter belt. Eep!

Amanda said...

hey another Newfoundlander! and a townie at that;)...haha

nadinebc said...

I think the more "The Sky is Falling" Flu stories we have, the less likely we will be to actually pay attention later when it might really counts.

THAT scares me.

towniebastard said...

Amanada, you will find there's no shortage of Newfoundlanders kicking around Iqaluit. It's best to get up here in a hurry before we start cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world to protect us from Swine Armaggeddon.

And Nadine, that's always been my worry as well. On the one hand, it's glad to see such a rapid and serious response by health officials. On the other, it does make you wonder how many times you can cry wolf...

tanker belle said...

Swine flu - fuck all I can do about it, no way of knowing how bad it will be. Honestly, I'm most worried about travel restrictions...trapped in Doha.

The only ringtone I don't hate is one my sister had for her boss: "oh crap" being said by various members of the Simpsons in various tones of voice, pulled from actual episodes, of course. Good ringtone for an epidemic.