An image of a green fedora hat, which serves as the logo for this site.Gordy's Discourse

Briefly: Chickens and eggs

In 2011, there were about 6 billion egg-laying chickens in the world and they laid about 1.2 trillion eggs, which is about 3.2 billion eggs a day. That's roughly one egg every other day for everyone in the world.

Let's assume that has all scaled up proportionately to the present day.

Some people don't eat eggs and I wouldn't be surprised if the ratio works out at an egg a day for everyone who's interested in consuming the things (and two a day for me of course).

So why have we got an egg shortage at the moment?

Apparently a chicken will only lay an egg on two out of every three days on average, which is just lazy. How hard can it be? I'm sure with the right encouragement — a stick, perhaps — chickens can lay an egg a day.

So there's really no excuse for an egg shortage is there?

44 vaccines being developed and tested for coronavirus External link icon.

44 vaccines are currently being developed and tested to see if they will work against coronavirus and Wired gives us a nice summary of them.

Perhaps the most sobering part of it is:

The Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating the slow, safe vaccine development process, but even the most aggressive predictions don't see us getting protective jabs until next year at the earliest.

The WHO are running global trials of four of these potential vaccines and some people think Remdesivir is the most promising candidate. Remdesivir introduces errors into the virus's replication process and it was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola.

Rather depressingly, we probably shouldn't pin our hopes on any sort of speedy solution.

Briefly: Toilet paper

Who knew toilet paper would become the dystopian unit of currency? I'd venture to suggest a man with 24+ rolls is now an upper-class elite and his kids would be a shoe-in for Eton. Strange really because, as far as I'm aware, coronavirus doesn't give you the shits.

Instead of pounds, shillings and pence we now have loo rolls, hand sanitiser and pot noodles. The useless gold in the Bank of England has been thrown away and the vault is now full of Andrex wet wipes.

The bulk panic buying (to the detriment of others) is, I fear, an accurate portrayal of much of humanity.

Briefly: Ducks and locusts

The most astonishing thing about the BBC’s ducks and locusts article is that a duck can eat 200 locusts a day. I never would have thought them such greedy guzzlers.

China is going to send 100,000 ducks to counter the plagues of locusts in Pakistan. The ducks may be successful in their task but what will Pakistan do about the plague of ducks they’re then left with? Will China have to send 100,000 cats to cure Pakistan of its plague of ducks?

It puts me in mind of the old lady who swallowed a fly.

Briefly: iPad shutdown screenshots

Why did Apple make the iPad shutdown button combination the same as the screenshot button combination? Both use the volume up + power buttons, it's just a slightly longer press to shut an iPad down rather than take a screenshot. I've just deleted more than a dozen unwanted screenshots of my home screen, taken whilst attempting to shut it down over the past few weeks.

Why does the universe have a cold spot?

The universe is cold at 2.73 kelvin, which is -270.42 C (-454.76 F), but the small temperature it does have is very useful indeed. This radiation is called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and it was emitted only a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang. In a universe that’s 13.8 billion years old, that’s extremely early. Over the eons the wavelength of this radiation has been stretched to the microwave end of the spectrum by the expansion of space.

CMB map picturing the cold spot.
Cold spot, circled bottom right.
Credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration.
The CMB tells us many things about the universe and we’ve used lots of high-tech instruments to analyse it. The radiation is homogeneous, meaning it’s largely the same in every direction we look, with only tiny fluctuations amounting to no more than about 20 microkelvins either way (and a microkelvin is 1 millionth of a degree). That is, except for one particular cold spot, which is on average 70 microkelvins colder than the rest of the CMB and up to 150 microkelvins colder in some parts. This makes cosmologists rub their chins, mutter things like “hmm” and then they start penning theories as to why this might be. Did we collide with a parallel universe at some point? Is it just a

Read more icon.

Briefly: Universal Credit's problems

The BBC website has published a number of articles about Universal Credit lately and a lot of them profile people who got into trouble after taking an advance on their payments. People take these advances because it’s not until five weeks after applying that a payment is made to the claimant.

The good news is that I’ve solved this problem for the government. It’s a two-step process.

Step 1. Apparently it takes seven days for a bank to transfer the government’s money to the claimant. This is ludicrous. I can transfer money between two accounts in less than two hours and I’m sure the government has more oomph with banks than me. Is the additional six days and 22 hours it takes the government to transfer their money because they route it through the remnants of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel in Mexico in order to ‘clean’ it? The government should simply demand a modern bank account.

Step 2. Universal Credit is paid monthly, which is fine for the long-term I suppose. However, it’s clear it’s the initial wait for the first payment that’s causing a lot of people problems, so how about making the first two payments on a fortnightly schedule?

And there we are — problem solved. I’ve slashed the wait from five weeks to two by applying nothing more than common sense and I’ve assured myself a knighthood in the process.

Briefly: BBC licence fee and banging MPs

BBC licence fee decriminalisation

So, the BBC are having a consultation to decide whether not paying a TV licence fee should be decriminalised. For the love of God, of course it should. It’s a television, not an Uzi 9mm. Not paying something like that should be a civil offence, similar to not paying council tax, not a criminal offence.

The whole issue of whether we should pay a TV licence at all is another matter. As it stands it’s simply a tax because you have to pay it whether or not you watch the BBC. I think it should get with the times and become subscription-based. You shouldn’t have to have a licence just because you own a telly. They may as well start licensing underpants.

I’d probably still subscribe. The BBC has gone downhill in recent decades, as its Saturday evening dross demonstrates. It just seems to be emulating the commercial channels with many of its programmes and chasing ratings, and a lot of it is complete pap. That said, it does produce the best factual programmes (about things like science and nature) and many of its dramas (The Bodyguard, Killing Eve etc.) are top quality.

So, yes, throw in Radio 2 and the BBC website and I’d subscribe. And I’d give them an extra tenner if they finally do away with the formulaic dancing and singing shows, which always have three normal judges, one nasty judge, a public vote and an unerring ability to depress me. The sheer amount of televisual time Strictly commands is staggering.

Tracy Brabin MP

Great reply from an MP to some trolls. I, for one, am glad MPs aren’t routinely banged over a wheelie bin before parliamentary sessions.

Tracy Brabin Twitter reply.
Credit: Tracy Brabin

Ring doorbell and third-party trackers External link icon.

I'm struggling to understand why Ring's complementary mobile app needs to pass so much (or even any) data to third parties. It does this without user consent and also goes to great lengths to hide the data its passing on, attempting to elude analysis.

Ring is owned by Amazon and Amazon was the second company to be worth more than a trillion dollars, following hot on the heels of Apple. In the last quarter of 2019 Amazon raised $87.4 billion in revenue and made a profit of $3.3 billion. Jeff Bezos is now allegedly worth as much as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined.

So why, I have to wonder, when they're charging between £89 and £229 for doorbell with camera in it, do they also feel they need sell data from their mobile apps?

Ring already has form for data breaches and they could well be setting themselves up for another one. As the Electric Frontier Foundation — who performed this analysis — says:

This goes a step beyond that, by simply delivering sensitive data to third parties not accountable to Ring or bound by the trust placed in the customer-vendor relationship. As we’ve mentioned, this includes information about your device and carrier, unique identifiers that allow these companies to track you across apps, real-time interaction data with the app, and information about your home network. In the case of MixPanel, it even includes your name and email address. This data is given to parties either only mentioned briefly, buried on an internal page users are unlikely to ever see, or not listed at all.

This all raises a few related points.

Companies like you to install their own app instead of you doing your business via their websites in a browser. This is because browsers are getting cleverer at blocking tracking and because you can install ad-blockers in browsers. There are no such restrictions with apps: they can track you at will and advertise to you as they choose.

The thing that puzzles me, though, is why, when you're making £3.3 billion profit in a quarter, you feel the need to do this. Why not instead trade on the principle of no tracking and top class security? You'd probably sell more of your expensive doorbells in the first place if you did that.

On the back of the Cambridge Analytica debacle you'd think companies would learn but most appear to have learnt little. Greed and the lure of selling data, which is after all easy money for a company, still seem to rule supreme.