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Among the living

Is 40 middle aged? I don’t know about that, but I do know that I’ve been ill far more frequently that I should be since I’ve approached, and surpassed, that little benchmark.

I’ve been on the sick for the past nine days – nine! I’ve only ventured into work today because my sicknote ran out yesterday and I would have had to venture over to the docs for another one.

To be fair, I’m mostly OK now, though I’m still nursing a bit of a (rather pathetic) cough and I could have done with at least another day off. I’ve had a virus of some sort, probably a “head cold” according to the doctor. It’s taken some shifting. I’ve not really been that ill, not compared to earlier bouts of cold, but this one has just stuck with me, giving me a headache and that horrible cotton-wool-in-the-head feeling that makes you want to watch the Style channel all day and drink lemon-flavoured cold remedies.

I’ve managed to do the odd job about the house – under duress! Jo’s been good to me, but as she’s eight months pregnant I can’t really expect her to be mopping my fevered brow all day.

I’m OK now, though, and back at work. It’s a long drive here and it’s not much incentive to drive all the way down here if you’re feeling shitty.

Still. Wilko’s Max Strength Cold & Flu Remedy did its thing. Eventually; and at a quatre of the price that Lemsip charge.

We are puny

Have you ever considered how big the universe really is? I have, and I’m not convinced that it’s impossible to imagine just how big it is.

Watch this video and then experience a brain meltdown while you try and compute the sheer immense size of our amazing universe:

How big is that? There are no superlatives adequate enough to describe it.

[via Pharyngula]

Thanks for the memory

Homeopathy bemuses me. I really don’t understand how anyone could believe that it would work and yet there are plenty of people out there forking out for magical sugar pills “soaked” in “healing” water.

Ben Goldacre explains it pretty well in this video:

Ben Goldacre on Homeopathy from science TV on Vimeo.

Homeopaths would have you believe that water has a memory. If you put an “active” ingredient in some water – something that you think (but can’t prove) will heal an ailment – and then dilute it to buggery it somehow becomes even more effective.

It’s a load of bollocks.

When I’m ill I will be going to see a doctor, someone who’s aware of scientifically-proven remedies. I’ll be wanting care to be given by someone that understands that our bodies are complex but that there are proven pharmacological products that can help.

I’ll be wanting the drugs, not some poorly conceived placebo. And a big hug, obviously. That’s always nice. Not from the doctor – my wife is good at that sort of thing. Doctor: drugs, wife: hug.

Adaptive cruise control

I live in Nottingham but work just outside Coventry. It’s a great job but the daily drive up and down the motorways are a complete pain in the rectum.

The trauma of the journey is much reduced due to the availability of a few colleagues that live close enough for me to car share with. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to not have to drive every day. The journey isn’t that long and arduous, or at least not as long as some poor sods have to put up with, but it really helps to be able to share the experience with others.

The other thing that really helps is cruise control. I like to get on the motorway, find a decent speed and switch it on. The car sorts itself out, generally, and all I’ve got to do is point it in the right direction. The only problem with the cruise control in my car (and most other people’s cars too) is that it doesn’t pay the slightest attention to how everyone else is driving around you.

For instance, I’m driving at one speed but the guy in front might be driving at about 0.05 miles an hour slower than me. Eventually I’m going to have to overtake but it’s going to be a tortuous manoever if I leave it on cruise control; I’m much better off giving the car a burst of juice to get past him. If the motorway is even remotely busy there are no end of drivers all driving at different, inconsistent speeds, and it really buggers up my desire to stay on cruise control.

Wouldn’t it be great if your car could adapt its speed to the vehicles around it? Well, apparently some very clever people in the good ole’ US of A have developed just such a thing:

Heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike, Ford Motor Company engineer Jerry Engelman swings his 2010 Taurus into the left lane to pass a semi. The Taurus hesitates, slowing down, and then Engelman adjusts his heading. The car takes off. “Larry,” he calls to his colleague in the back seat, “write that down!”

Engelman is driving, but just barely. The Taurus has a radar-based adaptive cruise-control system that lets him set a top speed and then simply steer while the car adjusts its velocity according to traffic. He’s been weaving and changing lanes, doing between 45 and 70 mph—and hasn’t touched a pedal in an hour.

Sounds fabulous to me. Do you think they could fit that in our Seat Leon by the weekend please?