The Meerkat Muse – 20th September 2023

a reflection of the trees on the lake
Photo by Barnabas Davoti on

Welcome back one and all, to the Meerkat Muse, on this autumn morn.

Record Highs

September is often the month where temperatures in the UK begin to trail off. The days get shorter, the nights therefore get longer, and the weather begins to change. However, in the UK, temps of 30C or higher were recorded for five consecutive days, for the first time since records began. It be fair to say that early September saw us roast.

Rising temperatures are nothing new, and they are a product of climate change, which is arguably the single most-pressing issue of our time. Despite the evidence for climate change, there are a lot of people who insist on burying their heads in the sand, and denying anything untoward is going on with the climate. They need only use to their eyes to see what’s going on, yet wilful ignorance is a powerful thing.

Crumbling Schools

I dare say it’s the same ignorance that leads people to vote for the Tories, even after 13 years of failure. The latest issue is that schools (among other buildings) are becoming structurally unsound, following the weakening of RAAC – reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. This material has been used in projects across the UK, and is considered to have, at best, a 30 year lifespan. Since it was used a lot between the 1950s and 1990s, you can imagine that lifespan has been exceeded. This has been a known issue for some time (and to be fair, one that both previous Conservative and Labour governments were aware was coming), yet it is only being dealt with now, once schools and their students face serious risks.

For the sake of fairness, I must point out that unexpected financial burdens (such as covid) took their toll on budgets (though oddly enough, other countries with more competent governments have fared better), but nonetheless, this is yet another demonstration of Tory ineptitude. Despite this, polls suggest that 26 percent of voters would still vote for them. Fortunately, 46 percent seem set to vote Labour, which would ensure a comfortable General Election victory.

Coffee Dreams

Turning to strange territory, we have the coffee dream. I don’t remember much, I recall merely being in an American-style diner, drinking coffee with three other men, and making good conversation with two of them. The other was rude and obnoxious to everyone, including the diner’s staff, and his misbehaviour eventually led him to tilt backwards on his chair, and spill coffee everywhere.

Then I woke up.

As ever, I cannot comprehend where my subconscious was at. The other night it delivered a dream about going back to senior school, and preparing for PE lessons. No thank you.

Big Challenges

You may recall from my previous Muse that I’d achieved my intake target for two months in a row at work. Hitting a third consecutive target is proving to be an altogether different challenge. The issue is that we had someone leave, and thus, the targets for the remaining staff have leapt up. Fortunately, head office is understanding of our circumstances (among other circumstances).

As far as work generally goes, all I can do is plug away. There are factors beyond my control that I cannot let grind me down. Getting hung up on stuff beyond your means… it never does anyone any good.

E.T Phone… Um… Far Away?

Jason Wang (Caltech)/Christian Marois (NRC Herzberg)

Extrasolar planets are by now known to orbit thousands of stars, and if the frequency of planetary detection is to go by, we can expect to find many more, especially thanks to the increasing power of telescopes. Of course, with the discovery of planets comes intense speculation that there could be life on some of them, though most of the discovered worlds would be hostile to life as we know it, for a variety of reasons. This hasn’t stopped people from imagining and wondering.

We may not need to wonder anymore. The James Webb Space Telescope has picked up signs of a molecule that, on earth at least, is only produced by life. Here, dimethyl sulphide is produced by marine phytoplankton. No other process known to us can produce this molecule, so if the findings are accurate, we might have our first sign of extra-terrestrial life. The candidate for hosting this life is K2-18b, located some 124 lightyears away, in orbit around a red dwarf.

Don’t book any holidays just yet. K2-18b is said to be eight times larger than the earth, with a surface gravity 12 times stronger. We’d be crushed into pancakes on such a world! Still, this tentative discovery could serve to demonstrate that life can arise in various environments, which is an exciting development. Additional studies are needed, but here’s hoping they yield definitive proof!

Speaking of ‘evidence’, ufologists recently unveiled ‘alien corpses’ at the Mexican Congress, however within a day of this ‘unveiling’, sceptical doubters were concluding that these corpses were in fact the cobbled together pieces of various earth-bound creatures. Whilst I would dearly love to be believe such a find, it seems more realistic that we’ll find alien life via space telescopes, rather than any, shall we say, ‘extravagant’ means.

Breaking the Run

As many of you know, I am a big F1 fan, and on Sunday I bore witness to an extremely rare sight this season: a non-Red Bull win. In fact, the Singapore Grand Prix saw the flying Dutchman, Max Verstappen, finish no higher than fifth, with no Red Bulls making the podium. Instead, victory went to Carlos Sainz, of Ferrari, who drove an intelligent race, especially towards the end.

The 2023 F1 season has not been a thriller, even if it’s been punctuated by some good races. Verstappen will be champion (he could even claim the title next time out, in Japan), but at Singapore finally broke a winning streak for Red Bull that included the last race of last season, and every race of 2023 up to now.

We all love it when our team is dominant, and we all loathe it when another team is dominant. Suffice to say, I have not enjoyed the last couple of years of F1, being a Lewis Hamilton supporter, but at least we’ve had a race that saw a different outcome.

Big Bready Bowls

What did you think I’d typed? Get your minds out of the gutter. I’m talking about a rather delicious idea:

I’m sure plenty of people have had this idea before, but it wasn’t until my wife saw a Facebook post that we decided to try bread stuffed with pasta and cheese, and it was very nice! Not the easiest thing to eat, but very, very nice! I’ve seen a lot of food ideas on TikTok, and having tried this out, might have to try out a few other ideas, as and when I get the chance!

Buses and Bikes

I don’t know what it is about transport and my local town, but sometimes, everything conspires to go a bit wrong. On Monday, whilst bringing my daughter home from school, I held my hand out at the bus stop, to indicate I wanted it to stop. It drove right on by. Gee, thanks. Why he didn’t stop, I don’t know, but it left us walking home. To be fair, it’s hardly a long walk, but the bus might have been handy. What made the journey take longer was that my daughter wanted to stop, and pick up the ingredients for a vegetable soup she likes, which meant a detour to a local supermarket. This meant dealing with people who operate with zero awareness. You know what I’m talking about. There are people who block aisles, making it impossible for anyone to get by. They annoy me.

On Tuesday, as I walked through town, I bore witness to a lad on a motorbike (albeit only just about a motorbike) riding his contraption through the centre of town, which is decidedly not a cycle lane or road. He may have been trying to impress a couple of girls. What he nearly ended up doing was getting side-swiped by a van, as he skidded out in front of one when he came off the pavement and across the road. As he had decided a crash helmet was optional, he was lucky to escape serious injury. How impressed would his lady-friends be then?

Well, in the end, he was fine. An idiot, in my view, but fine.

With that, I draw this Muse to a close. Until next time!

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