Going silent for a short time

I’m going off line for a few weeks. Wednesday, Thursday and today I was on training for the ISTQB Technical Test Analyst Certificate. I write the exam on the 20th July, so for the next few weeks I’ll be studying hard. This post is going to be about two things I’ve been thinking about.
Firstly, the FIFA scandal.
A few weeks ago, the Swiss Police, acting on an extradition request from the FBI, arrested a number of high ranking officials from FIFA. The indictments were for various offences related to taking bribes in exchange for votes. A number of the charges relate to bribery around South Africa’s successful 2010 World Cup bid.
I am rather upset about the affair, even though I’m not really interested in Football. Like many South Africans, I was despondent when South Africa lost the 2006 hosting bid to Germany. I was elated when we won the right to host the 2010 World Cup. And when it was over I was proud that we had made a success it.
And now, everything has gone sour.
We now know that Morocco should have won, but that a bribe of $10 million was paid to Jack Warner so that it would come here instead.
What has been amazing, and not in a good way, is the response of local politicians to the crisis. One of the signs of deception is when a person’s story keeps changing. The very earliest responses were along the lines of “the US is jealous!”, which would have been laughable even if the Swiss authorities (who carried out the raids and arrests) weren’t involved. Then came the comment that the bribe would never be found. Right after that, Chuck Blazer’s confession was unsealed, and yes, a bribe had been paid. Story No. 3 was that the payment was not a bribe, but a donation to the African Diaspora (a lot of Carribean people are descended from African slaves). As the press pointed out, a donation of that size, assuming it was legitimate, would have been trumpeted as loudly as possible. Then the details emerged that the “donation” went to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, one of the people charged in the matter.
This has soured everything for me. I felt pride, and now I know we won by cheating. Imagine you were part of a team that won the prize for “most productive team of the year”, and said prize was dinner at the most exclusive restaurant in town. And then imagine that a few months down the line it emerged that another team had been more productive but your team leads had lied so your team got the prize. Wouldn’t you feel bad, even if you had been genuinely unaware of the deception? I know I would.
The other thing I’ve been thinking about is Gigi Jordan, who was recently sentenced to 18 years in jail for killing her autistic son Jude Mirra. Jordan, from the sound of things, was a curebie. She spent large sums of money trying to “recover” Jude. When that failed, she killed him.
I have no sympathy for Jordan. She was an extremely wealthy woman who could have afforded therapists who knew Applied Behavioural Analysis, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, tutors who specialise in autistic children and round the clock care for Jude. She had resources that most parents of severely autistic children can only dream about, and instead of using them to get Jude the support he needed, she killed him. I’m beyond words.

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A recipe I wish to share with everyone

Today is my sister’s birthday.
Yesterday, we had the party for her at our parents’ place. They arrived home from an overseas vacation last week. I’d promised them I’d make them a meal that I had accidentally discovered, and found to be delicious.
You will need the following ingredients.
Ostrich steaks.
Nomu African Rub.
Use the rub on the steaks, then let stand for a day so that the rub infuses.
To cook (Option 1)
Pan fry in a little butter. Serve with curried green beans and garlic potatoes, or whatever you want.
To cook (Option 2)
Chop up the steaks, mix with sliced peppers, onions, mushrooms and sauce, and slow cook for several hours. Serve on rice.
Have with a glass of red wine.
Both ways are delicious. Even I was surprised by how good they were.

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Farewell lilady, and some good news to soften the bad

A few weeks ago, I learnt something very sad.
Lilady, a regular commenter around the internet and a ferocious opponent of quackery and antivaccine drivel, passed away a few months ago.
From the various in memoria to her, I learnt that her real name was Connie, that she had worked in public health, that she was a registered nurse, that she had lived in Long Island (hence lilady) and that she was responsible for two disabled individuals, one her biological son. I only knew her through her comments on Respectful Insolence and other sites around the ‘Net.
What I remember best about her was her sheer pugnacity. She was knowledgeable, and as ferocious as an irate pitbull terrier. Even though she was from the US, on at least one occasion, I saw comments from her on the IOL website. She was taking on misinformation spouting South African antivaxxers. Whenever an antivaccine liar dropped a load of idiocy on the interwebs, lilady would be there, swooping in for a waterbombing run over the burning stupid.
I wonder what she would think had she known that the antivaccine movement has recently suffered various setbacks. In the US, the state of Vermont has revoked philosophical exemptions for vaccination while in California, SB277, a bill which is also intended to reduce exemptions has endured several attempts to stop it and will likely be passed into law. Best of all, Louis Daniel Smith has been convicted for selling Miracle Mineral solution.
I have written about MMS before. It’s sodium chlorite combined with citric acid to create chlorine dioxide, and administered to autistic children either orally or as an enema. The correct terms for that are “child abuse” and “child endangerment”. To get around restrictions, the sodium chlorite was sold “for its proper uses” but with instructions on how to create chlorine dioxide. Smith was charged with conspiracy, smuggling, and selling misbranded drugs, amongst other things. He faces a maximum of 34 years in prison. As a result, other purveyors of MMS have suddenly disappeared of the radar. One such is Kerri Rivera, who spoke at the Autism One quackfest.
If this stops MMS, it will be the best memorial lilady could have asked for.

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Fortnight from hell

Work has been bad the past two weeks.

I’m a member of a test team that’s working with test teams in other countries to test a new HR system for a multinational company. The system is being rolled out to our client’s offices around the world. The project has been broken down into various releases. In each release, the system is deployed to several countries. Once everything is up and running in those countries, they move on to the next release.

What grates is that the client doesn’t seem to have learnt from mistakes made on the last few releases. In previous releases, the test teams had problems from performance issues; bad or incomplete requirements; documentation not getting through to them on time or at all; and bad or corrupt test data. In the release we’re currently working on, all of those issues have occurred.

It’s annoying. One of the things I have been taught in testing is that if there’s a problem, not only should it be fixed, it should be investigated to find out if there’s an underlying cause. Otherwise, the problem will just recur and have to be fixed again. Clearly, this wasn’t done. Testing has consequently been held up, with invalid defects being logged and then rejected.

And yet, all this seems trivial. On Monday the 11th May, we came into the office only to learn that over the weekend one of the South African test team had been killed along with his mother in a road traffic accident. He leaves behind a daughter who is in preschool.

RIP Mpho.

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Mind Blown

Totally and completely blown.
Many years ago, epidemiologists discovered something strange. A few years after vaccination against measles, deaths from other childhood diseases would plummet. This was consistent across countries. A few years after measles vaccine was introduced in a country, that country would see a fall in deaths from other diseases. And now, a study proposes a very interesting explanation.

Many viruses suppress the immune system for several weeks after an infection. That’s why secondary and opportunistic infections occur. But measles seems to wipe out immune memory.

Once you get infected with a disease, your immune system uses the disease’s antigens to devise a response. Some of your white blood cells become “memory cells”, which will recognise the disease immediately if you are ever reinfected. This is the principle behind both vaccination and natural immunity. But measles appears to disable these memory cells. So if you had a bout of, say, rotavirus, or were immunised against it, but you then developed the measles, you would then be at risk for rotavirus in the future.
Antivaxxers say natural immunity is better. It’s not, and this is one more reason why.

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From bad to even worse for anti-vaxxers

It’s been another horrible week for antivaxxers.
A study, Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism, was published. The researchers used data in the Optum Research Database. This database contains anonymised data of claims from Medicare and private health insurers. Their rationale was:

Families with a child affected by ASD may be particularly concerned about reports linking MMR and ASD, despite the lack of evidence. Surveys of parents who have children with ASD suggest that many believe the MMR vaccine was a contributing cause. This belief, combined with knowing that younger siblings of children with ASD are already at higher genetic risk for ASD compared with the general population, might prompt these parents to avoid vaccinating their younger children…
Thus, we set out to report on ASD occurrence by MMR vaccine status in a large sample of US children having older siblings with ASD and to compare findings with those among children who have older siblings without ASD.

Their conclusion?

MMR vaccine receipt was not associated with an increased risk of ASD at any age.

In California, Senate Bill 277, intended to remove philosophical exemptions from vaccination, passed out of committee and will now go before the State Senate to be voted on. More here. It looks like with that Measles outbreak at Disneyland, people have now started realising that non-vaccinators are eroding herd immunity and wanting action taken.
And Vermont is doing the same.

The Vermont Senate has voted to end the philosophical exemption some parents use to decline to have their children vaccinated. The Legislation would require the full range of required vaccinations as a pre-condition to enrolling in school.

Full article here.

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Australia pisses off antivaxxers

It’s official. Australia has decided that people who don’t vaccinate will not be eligible to claim certain rebates.

Update

The religious exemption has also been tightened. From now on, only Christian Scientists will be eligible for the religious exemption.

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