Covid Vaccines

If I ruled the whole world, not just my little enclave, I would do things very differently for the vaccine roll-out.  I would not consider where they were made, who can outbid the poorer countries, nor even the death rates as these are people who have passed out of consideration.  I would attack the virus by sending the available vaccines to the hot spots of new infections to halt it in its tracks before new variants emerge.  This was the model and plea of the WHO prior to any vaccines being released, but they were shouting into a storm and I am sure they knew that.  It is ironic that many of the rich countries are indeed among the most at need, like the US where new cases are 70,000 per day, Germany having a third wave etc.  So, as was quite predictable, there is an unseemly and desperate scramble to get hands on vaccine and the winners are……. the rich and powerful.  No surprise there.

And perhaps it is all in vain as the virus is likely to sprout so many variants that re-vaccination will be required in less than a year, long before most of the world is even vaccinated the first time.  This was brought home by an interview today with Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC (Center for Disease Control in the US) who tossed the script and said she had “An impending sense of doom”.  As have many leading epidemiologists who see us on the losing side with this virus which has already mutated so many times.

I have decided not to seek a covid vaccine inoculation.  I have been eligible for a couple of weeks being a septuagenarian, but have been watching the roll-out world wide.  I am by no means an anti-vaxer, or have any doubts about the efficacy of the vaccines, it is just that I have seen the inequality of distribution.  It is mainly produced in rich countries and mainly distributed to rich countries.  That doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  This is not some self-sacrificing stance based on long-held beliefs in equality (well maybe a little bit), but some rational thinking that the virus has to be tackled first in the worst hit places to be able to knock it on the head.  I think it will be in my interests and Australia’s interests to tackle this as a worldwide problem, which it undoubtedly is, to send the vaccines to where they will do the most to control the virus.

As WHO feared and railed against even before the vaccines were available, the rich countries have snapped up the supplies, no doubt due to having more purchasing power.  It is also true that some of the countries most in need are the rich ones.  Europe and the US are having a torrid time dealing with continuing infection rates and in any equitable distribution system should enjoy some preference.  But many other places with major outbreaks, they are not able to get sufficient (or any) supply.  PNG springs to mind.  They have a serious outbreak and rudimentary medical facilities.  Well, we could congratulate ourselves with our minimal infection rates and send them a few doses to “do the right thing”, which we have done with I believe 8000 doses.  Actually, it would be in Australia’s interests, and mine, to send them a whole heap more to help contain the outbreak there.  Perhaps Scotty doesn’t realise that Australia extends to within 4 km of PNG.  Perhaps he doesn’t realise that due to PNG’s weak public health system, the infection rates and deaths will be hugely under reported.

I did my weekly shopping in Atherton today and it was a bit eerie.  Nearly everyone had masks on.  I haven’t seen any masks since April last year, and even then only 20% had them.  I was handed a mask at the entrance to Bunnings and told I wouldn’t be allowed in without one.  Had I missed some emergency health warning?  Perhaps, because just everybody had a mask on.  The supermarket didn’t enforce masks, but the bottle shop did.  Everybody stayed subdued and distant and for the first time I wore a mask.  I didn’t like it.  It was hot and suffocating and I could no longer read smiles or scowls and felt alienated from people by being no longer able to have communication by facial expressions.  I suppose most of you are much further down the track than I am, but it is a track I do not want to go down.

So, after brief glimmers of hope, I am back to my original ‘gloom and doom’ prognosis of Feb 2020, that this disease would be a “permanent scourge of mankind”.

Treats and Toil in the Jungle

I have sought and found a different lifestyle than most people in Australia and I hope dear readers find some interest and amusement in me relating tasks and events and trying to give some impression of what it is like to live and work in rainforest.  First off, I don’t commute.  My work and pleasure is all around, me so I can step out the door and do something.  I guess there are a lot of people who could better use the time and money commuting bleeds from them.  Also being self-employed and the B&B business requiring work mainly in the middle of the day, I can get up when I feel like it for a leisurely shower and breakfast.  I am past the morning scramble to get the kids to the school bus.  So life is not too demanding so far, and I do have the choices of what I do.  My own priorities.

First some treats.  I enjoy talking and socializing with guests.  Most I treat with respect and care and having shown them round and orientated them to Possum Valley, I leave them to their own devices.  Some who return and show some interest in conversation I get to know better, invite to dinner, or get invited and have a most convivial time.  Recently I had an evening with frequent flyer guests of two young teenage boys and their father, as the mother had stayed home to look after a newly acquired puppy.  The boys expertly taught me some new card games and we had a lot of fun.  Also I heard the tale of the heroic mother, hi Nadege, who saved the puppy from a large python.  The boys and puppy were asleep in a room of their home in Cairns, when Nadege heard some disturbance.  She entered the room and the boys were fast asleep and a python had the nose of the puppy in its jaws and coils around its body.  I had always seen the gentle side of this lady, but had suspected there was also a fierce side.  The fierce side sprang into action and ripped the python off the doomed puppy and flung it towards the door but missed.  I am sure you know how difficult it is to aim a heavy and powerful wriggling serpent at a target …. or perhaps you don’t.  It hit the wall with a mighty thud and dived for cover in the boys bedroom.  The household and serpent were in uproar by this time, blood everywhere, the dozing father now on the scene and the snake chased out.  This will go down in family legend.  Don’t mess with Nadege or her loved ones.

A little treat of an azure kingfisher on my veranda

My last weekly supplies run to Atherton had a happy end when I came back along the track to see a cassowary striding along.  It took off into the bush and when I pulled up to where it disappeared, just waving bushes to be seen.  So I drove off and 70 m later it dashed out of the forest right in front of the car and crashed into the foliage on the other side of the road.  I think this is one of the wild ones.  A couple of hundred meters later, I met guests on the way out and cautioned them to take care on the road because of a cassowary.  They would have loved to have seen it, but didn’t.

Now some of the toil.  Bom had forecast that a low off the coast would turn into a cyclone category 3, but would not cross the coast.  On Monday I woke up to gale force winds and and lashing rain driven by vicious gusts.  But the eerie bit was how dark it was.  The whole day my solar panels couldn’t harvest a single amp of power.  Which would have been useful as about 9am the hydro went offline not producing any power either.  I thought about the rain raising the creek and bogging the turbine, but there had not been enough rain to cause that so it was likely an open circuit with a break in the transmission line or a fallen branch bringing the lines together to produce a short circuit.   Either way I had to shut down the turbine.

I got into my wet weather gear and went to shut of the turbine which resolved the diagnosis of the problem.  The turbine was going slowly with the water pounding out past the nozzle inlet completely reversing its trajectory from the nozzle.  I will point out the nozzle speed of the water is about 70 km/hr and the blow-back is quite spectacular.  This told me that a) there was a dead short in the transmission line, and that b) the generator hadn’t burned out yet as it was still valiantly trying to produce electricity.  If there was a break in the transmission, or open circuit, the turbine would have been thundering around at double speed and the power of the water making great noise as it hit the rear casing.  I shut it down by turning off the inlet and put my hand on the generator to see how hot it was.  Ouch, yes hot.  Now to find the short.

I blundered up the power line, but in rainforest the light is about 2% of the intensity in open ground and with the very dark conditions I could hardly see the lines.  Also I need specs and every time I looked up I was blasted by teeming rain further obscuring vision.  I finally found a fallen tree across the power lines and where they had crossed over.  I went for my tree destruction tools, a pole saw and machete and my power line fiddling tool, a long light pole with a vee notch at one end and a hook at the other.  A couple of hours later I was drenched to the bone but had the power back on.  Just as well, as the solar panels were on strike.  It was so dark that they couldn’t raise an amp between them at midday.

More toil.  I had seen so many branches down and a carpet of green leaves on the ground so I suspected the track in through the rainforest would be a mess.  I tooled up with chainsaws, machete, axe etc, and set off in the car.  There was plenty to do.  Sticks and branches every 20m and about 8 sizable trees across the track that completely obscured it.  After about 4 hours hard yakka of chainsawing and hauling off the debris, I had reached the end of the rainforest and thought I had finished.  Might as well check my mailbox at the end of the track.  Just as well I did.  Not far from the Highway, a mighty old wattle with a trunk over a meter in diameter with a huge number of branches had fallen over the road with the crown right in the middle.  More than 2 hours work there sawing and pulling the branches off the road.  My pulling power was reduced by slippery red For those of you shuddering at the mud and even more slippery cow pats, as the cows had congregated there for shade or shelter.  I had to use the full reach of my pole saw (5.3 m) to get to the higher branches.

For those of you shuddering at the thought of floundering in mud, getting scratched and bloodied, wet and tired and wondering how to down a broken tree without ending up underneath it, well, I would rather do this than paperwork.  Just as well because such efforts are required just to live here.  So all you keyboard jockeys just don’t know what your’re missing, and now you do know, you probably think “thank goodness”.

News from the Fungus Farm

We are in the middle of the wet season now, but nothing dramatic like cyclones to laugh at.  The rain has come in moderate amounts and with about 770 mm YTD, it isn't a failed wet either.  The only thing I can complain about is lightening sneaking up … [Continue reading]

Happy Days

It being the school holidays, I have the pleasure of the company of two grandsons for a couple of days a week.  Recently, they persuaded to make them a machete each.  It may seem a little reckless to arm a 6 year old and a 4 year old with a machete, … [Continue reading]

I Don’t Like it … It’s Too Quiet …

The title is an old western (film) cliche from when that genre existed.  A few seconds later the unfortunate actor would be hit by an arrow between the shoulder blades and sink to the ground.  I had that "too quiet" feeling about a month ago when I … [Continue reading]

Under the Pump

A few days ago I started the ram pump and went away expecting it to to fill up the depleted tanks over a couple of days.  By the time I realised that it had stopped working, the top tank which supplies Maple Cottage was perilously low just a couple … [Continue reading]

PV Trivia

I feel a bit like Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings.  Storms, disruptions, crises, plagues and depressions have swept by leaving me quite untroubled in my little enclave.  Nothing disrupted Tom's daily joy in the beauty and bounty of nature and … [Continue reading]

A Smaller World

It has long been an accepted saying that the world is getting smaller.  And so it has seemed, as the speed of transport has increased so much and the ease of getting visas has been relaxed with the rise of international tourism and the promise of … [Continue reading]