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The ‘Second Phase’ in the UK is No Shopping Time (Unless You’re Really Desperate)

The Manchester experience, day 1

Main Line Railway Station 2

For the past two weeks if not longer we’ve sort of looked forward to some stores reopening. After about 80 days of lock-down some things in the house were broken and probably needed replacing. I expected the city to be packed with people and stores to have loads of discounts (sales). How wrong was I…

To be fair, we have no prior experience when it comes to this. The last pandemic that hit the UK (at a scale remotely like this) was over 100 years ago and a lot of things were different back then, so any shallow/superficial parallels don’t quite apply.

Today was my first time putting the mask on because usually, at least for food shopping, I chose small stores where isolation was super-easy and a mask barely needed (there’s already a plastic screen near check-out tills/clerks. Cash is OK as long as you don’t touch the face, even when it’s itchy.

The mask is really irritating. The heat in particular. Breathing isn’t too easy either; it’s kind of a nuisance. So you’re already uncomfortable just by ‘virtue’ of being there. Not for a few minutes but hours….

We left the home at 9AM and came back at around 1PM. I don’t think we’ll go back to these stores for at least a month. We just bought what we really needed. And looking back, maybe it wasn’t really worth the bother; we could wait a while longer…

The main observations worth making:

  1. There are very long queues, sometimes huge ones. It depends on the stores’ size and appeal. Hard to think of people so desperate to stand in line (waiting in those means being outside)…
  2. There were very few people in the mall and out in the streets. Like 10 times less whatever I was expecting. Even after almost 4 hours we still didn’t see many people. So it’s not about our early arrival time…
  3. Most or least at very many stores are still shut, they don’t bother even if they’re now formally allowed to reopen. Makes one wonder how many are technically bankrupt or may be too afraid to reopen for health reasons/or and expectation of dire sales. Maybe people aren’t receiving a salary, so they lack finances or financial security/confidence (uncertainty about the future).
  4. For each store that is open, bar few, the experience inside the store is like a guided tour; it’s so limited, losing much of the appeal of in-store shopping (permissible and impermissible walking routes)
  5. We got lots of hand sanitiser, as each shop advises if not forces you apply it. Again and again.
  6. Not only does store staff issue guidance; inside the malls (not stores), even while merely walking in the aisles, one has to follow some odd rules and instructions of mall workers must be obeyed

The bottom line is, unless it is really essential, like an item that must be purchased and carried in person (or paid for anonymously), I’d advise to not bother. The way things stand, the experience is painful, unsatisfying, and I think reduction in consumerism may be the best solution right now. We aren’t going back there any time soon; not because we don’t want to support local stores (we do!) but because there’s clearly a severe problem here. And if people are not willing to spend or lack the budget to spend (borrowings must be hard now), I dread thinking about what summer will look like for businesses, causing social unrest if not societal breakdown.

Nobody Benefits From COVID-19

THE crisis is not “fake” and it is not “manufactured”. Speaking for myself, based on extensive readings, it’s the latest epidemic of many and if people passed COVID-19 around by acting as if it’s “business as usual”, millions would already be dead, either due to weak resistance or lack of hospital/ICU beds.

The economy is screaaaaaaammming at the moment; I speak to people every day about it. We barely leave the house and don’t meet anybody in person, except shopkeepers behind a plastic screen (installed last month). My wife and I are both remote workers and have been that for many years, so the pandemic didn’t take its toll on it. Yesterday I ran out of coffee again. We try to shop for food as infrequently as possible to keep healthy and keep others safe, too. My doctoral degree was in Medical Biophysics, so I know a thing or two about health. We also routinely urge people to stay home; it does in fact save lives. Here in Britain the true COVID-19 death toll is estimated to be somewhere around 50,000, based on a Financial Times investigation (the “official” figures aren’t complete; they hide how poorly our government has done, likely worst in Europe).

I am saddened to be speaking to increasingly ‘rebellious’ types, blaming the wrong things or the wrong people. Unemployment will drive more people we used to know as stable and rational into the verge of insanity and boredom will reaffirm this insanity of theirs. The Internet has anything one looks for (affirmation). YouTube has no lack of “cranks with webcams” in it…

I’ve given some thought to the economic situation right now, bearing in mind deep national and personal debts in the West. Hours ago our bank sent out an E-mail to everybody, calling a temporary relief from mortgage payments “holiday”. As if slavery till death (“mort”) is even remotely connected to a holiday…

But people are getting desperate. Our government sends out mixed and contradictory statements, e.g. that we’re getting this thing under control (the numbers suggest otherwise) and that we can reopen in 5 days (they mean very limited if not staged openings; without public confidence even open stores will remain vacant, costing them more to operate than they can earn!).

I’ve put down some mental notes, narrowing down the employment types/status right now to something like this:

  1. employed with job security (albeit clients, the revenue/supply, may perish and run out of funds)
  2. employed with uncertainty and prohibitive conditions/deadlines
  3. employed with reduced pay/time/benefits (I heard about those from some people)
  4. temporarily unemployed with real prospects of resumption later (usually no pay)
  5. temporarily unemployed no certainty of resumption (limbo)
  6. unemployed, cannot find job (not many openings and those that exist are competitive; cannot have face-to-face interviews, training etc.)
  7. retired (but retirement savings lose on interest, inflation)

Based on the above list, it’s hard to say that anyone is better off, either collectively/nationally or personally. And no, China isn’t benefiting either. Nobody is buying its stuff now; there’s no demand, resentment aside. What about the super-rich? Well, they might be drooling over bailouts (plunder), but one can think of these as compensation or insurance rather than a permanent alternative revenue source (which is practically a form of socialism for the rich, robbing the taxpayers to keep the super-wealthy almost as wealthy as before).

Health Club Awards 2014

Health Club Awards 2014

The Midland Hotel’s health club, the club I have been going to since my teenage years, has won Health Club Awards 2014 for the north west and ranked 3rd overall nationally. This is the second year running that our club wins this award and today the staff took this photo of Rianne and I with the awards for this year. The staff there is wonderful.

Transplants and Ethical Approval

YESTERDAY I had a conversation with my sister in law in Singapore, as she works on surgeries there, mostly transplants. The subject fascinates me because I am registered as an Organ Donor who also believes that terminally-ill patients should consider donating their organs as part of euthanasia that helps dodge the pain of dying. It’s not the same as organ harvesting, it’s a case of assessing how to increase overall survival of the collective. Yes, it’s a controversial subject, but ethics do change over time (or place) and if it’s all consensual and it increase communal benefit, e.g. survival, then why not entertain the idea? Here is part of the conversation:

(14/12/12 14:58:35) Anonymised: Hi bro, I’m sorry I haven’t reply to you..I fall asleep, been toxic this week..
(14:59:02) Roy: oh, tell me about it sis
(15:10:56) Anonymised: We have back to back liver transplant both cadaveric And living related donor..
(15:13:29) Anonymised: I’m on pager call for two weeks for the transplant and we have cases :)
(15:13:44) Anonymised: :(
(15:15:35) Roy: Oh, I didn’t realise it works like this..
(15:15:51) Roy: I spoke about this in the sauna last night
(15:17:51) Anonymised: You mean u talk about the transplant in a sauna?
(15:18:13) Roy: yes, hypothetically
(15:19:09) Roy: I said to a friend who is about 60, what if there was ethical approval for a terminally ill person to give a sibling with dodgy liver his/her own liver as part of the euthanasia, like live organ donor, pre-death
(15:45:36) Anonymised: Yes bro, just like last Monday..
(15:47:13) Anonymised: The patient donor is an road traffic accident victim, which is brain dead so the family gives the consent for organ retrieval but not all of his organ.
(15:48:41) Roy: oh, how timely a conversation I had… although the hypothetical situation I described was terminal cancer and the receiver perhaps a heavy drinker
(15:49:56) Anonymised: Here in SG, those who sign to be a donor and if time will come that they have an accident or they got terminal sickness the family are prepared that he or she will donate his or her organ..and the recipients here are listed…
(15:51:14) Roy: i am registered here
(15:52:45) Anonymised: If the donor dies of cancer, I’m not sure if they will retrieve the organs coz they will check the laboratory works like blood if they matches too then they will decide if they can do the transplant
(15:53:28) Anonymised: So, you have a donor card
(15:53:45) Roy: assuming the tumour has not spread to the donated organ and the donation is between siblings, I thought…
(15:54:02) Roy: Anyway, i carry my donor card in my wallet, to be on the safe side (time is valuable)
(15:56:13) Anonymised: Between siblings, still need to undergo check of blood groups and laboratory check up they need to be sure it matches..ESP. Kidney which is very sensitive organ
(16:09:12) Roy: Oh, see that’s where I don’t have sufficient knowledge.

Perhaps one day we’ll be able not only to breed replacements through pigs (which in itself is controversial as it devalues the life of other animals) but also people whose chance of survival is too slim and desire to help others is greater than to have a few more days of living agony.

All these issues, like depopulation or stem cells and abortion, are understandably controversial. I rarely discuss them.

SCI Fitness Announced

Mike Coogan as Mr. Fitness

After some preparation and discussions among ourselves, we are finally ready to show SCI Fitness to the outside world. Some of the pages are still work in progress, but we are eager to make updates and provide information in the near future, so by all means subscribe to the RSS feed if interested.

Looking Back at 15 Years of Weight Training

Just over 15 years ago I started lifting weights. I had only just turned 14 at the time. The memories are many and it was only about 7 years ago that I started writing abut it. I can probably reference my older blog posts about health and exercise, starting with recent and older photos of times when I was in top shape and before I turned to more running (I could run long distances well) and cycling. Back in the days I competed in Mr. Fitness contests (see 2008 victory and photos also from prior years as I had won several times since 2004). I did well at strength events of all kinds. My main competitor was Mike Coogan, who won previous contests (here are some highlights and awards).

I participated in mini triathlons and won rowing competitions too, several times in fact, until recent years.

As a scientist, I strongly reject sport quacks and embrace solid, credible research instead. Although I did not pursue sports professionally as a child (I preferred it being a hobby/game), I do maintain a high degree of knowledge and skill in the area and I spent most of my life (over 15 years) doing regular exercise without ever taking a long break, even when time management seemed hard.

Radiation and Smoke in the Workplace


Having discussed the subject with half a dozen people over the past week or so, it seems clear that the threat of radiation is underplayed by companies that make business out of it (X-ray for the most part, if not nuclear energy too). The crux of the argument is that, just as people are increasingly not allowed to smoke in pubs due to people who work there (not always out of choice), in places where radiation is abundant, e.g. scanning facilities in hospitals and airports, people’s right to deny and avoid exposure to radiation should be respected. In companies where CT scanners are tested, even software developers are required to be exposed to radiation (my siblings) and sign a sort of waiver that removes liability. In more and more airports not only suitcases are subjected to X-ray treatment but humans too; they are not even given alternative options, except not work (in the former case) or not fly (in the latter case). The attitude ought to change. As someone with doctoral qualifications in the area of medical imaging, I occasionally try to raise the issue (not confront) those who are victim of this status quo (e.g. hospital workers who spend hours in particular rooms and particular airport staff standing adjacent to high-power scanners), but it is not easy to reach a solution which does not leave both sides with relative discomfort.

The solution one might propose here is a legal requirement for companies to bear full liability in case staff develops cancer (tumours that can be shown to have their causality within the workplace) and people who enter X-ray scanners should be both advised/alerted and also require to sign a form of waiver in case an X-ray-free gate is not made available at an airport (like in Manchester Airport). It is bad enough that the problems with cellphones are de-emphasised; here we talk about modalities whose effect is orders of magnitude higher and in late 2009 a study was published in a respected journal having managed to show the correlation between CT and cancer to be far greater than previously stated, possibly in industry-funded studies.

The GE-owned MSNBC used to tell us how wonderful and safe nuclear energy was. That was before the GE-designed Fukushima facility suffered a disaster that would probably kill hundreds of thousands, over time, with agony.

People used to think smoking was harmless. People used to smoke in places where non-smokers were the majority. Why is radiation still treated differently?

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