Friday, 15 August 2014


Wired Magazine reports that the aging internet infrastructure is at the limits of its capacity. Adding just 1,500 new routes shut down part of the net last week - and will again, until modern main-frames and old wires are updated to the modern age. The biblical Apocalypse did not prophesy this beginning of the end for homo-sapiens. The Four Horsemen - Conquest, War, Famine & Death, who will thunder forth from Hell to finish us off, have a  fifth companion to join their final, fatal charge. He is Darkness and his job is to plunge our electronic civilization back to the stone age. Ask yourself, ...How are your fire-lighting, flint knapping and archery skills, these days....? 

Yesterday, the 20,000 customers who use a Lansing Michigan web hosting company called Liquid Web had some big internet problems. The reason: the internet grew too big for the memory chips in the company’s Cisco routers.
Think of it as the internet’s latest growing pain. It’s a problem that networking geeks have seen coming for awhile now, but yesterday it finally struck. And it’s likely to cause more problems in the next few weeks. The bug doesn’t seem to have affected core internet providers—companies like AT&T and Verizon, which haul vast quantities of data over the internet’s backbone, “but certainly there are a number of people that were caught by this,” says Craig Labovitz, founder of network analysis company Deepfield Networks.

The issue affects older, but widely used, routers such as the Cisco 7,600. These machines store routing tables in their memory—directions describing the best way for packets of data to move to their ultimate destination—but some routers max out when their list of routes hits 512,000. Different routers have different total routes in memory, but most of them have been closing in on the 500,000 level for a few months now. Yesterday Verizon published an extra 15,000, kicking many routers over the 512,000 crash-point.
Verizon quickly withdrew most of these routes, kicking things back to normal, but some routers had problems. Andree Toonk, a network engineer who runs a blog tracking networking issues says on a typical day there are about 1,500 network outages on the internet. Yesterday, that number spiked to 2,587. That’s not enough to quality as a major problem, but it’s noticeable.

Monday, 11 August 2014


Winston Churchill aged 6
I received this inspiring Churchill - Fleming tale from an old friend who is a trusted chronicler - but decided to check it before sending it on. It seems to fall into the category of Urban Legends - and is interesting from several viewpoints.

What Goes Around, Comes Around
His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to eke out a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black mulch, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. "I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life."
Stalin - Roosevelt - Churchill - 1943
"No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied proudly.
"I'll make you a deal. Let me take him and give him a good education. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll grow to a man you can be proud of."
And that he did. In time, Farmer Fleming's son graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.
Years afterward, the nobleman's son was stricken with pneumonia. What saved him? Penicillin.
The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.
Someone once said, "What goes around, comes around."

I'm all for the luck of the Irish and have several tales of magic /coincidence /synchronicity of my own to tell - but checking the Fleming-Churchill story:

Sir Alexander Fleming - 1881 - 1955
Discoverer of Penicillin.


The popular story[19] of Winston Churchill's father paying for Fleming's education after Fleming's father saved young Winston from death is false. According to the biography, Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution by Kevin Brown, Alexander Fleming, in a letter[20] to his friend and colleague Andre Gratia,[21] described this as "A wondrous fable." Nor did he save Winston Churchill himself during World War II. Churchill was saved by Lord Moran, using sulphonamides, since he had no experience with penicillin, when Churchill fell ill in Carthage in Tunisia in 1943. The Daily Telegraph and the Morning Post on 21 December 1943 wrote that he had been saved by penicillin. He was saved by the new sulphonamide drug, Sulphapyridine, known at the time under the research code M&B 693, discovered and produced by May & Baker LtdDagenhamEssex – a subsidiary of the French group Rhône-Poulenc. In a subsequent radio broadcast, Churchill referred to the new drug as "This admirable M&B."[22] It is highly probable that the correct information about the sulphonamide did not reach the newspapers because, since the original sulphonamide antibacterial, Prontosil, had been a discovery by the German laboratory Bayer, and as Britain was at war with Germany at the time, it was thought better to raise British morale by associating Churchill's cure with the British discovery, penicillin.

The story first appeared in the December 1944 issue of Coronet magazine, in an article titled “Dr. Lifesaver” by Arthur Keeney.  The tale gained some credibility from the fact that Churchill had been stricken with pneumonia in the prior year.  Kay Halle’s book Irrepressible Churchill  (1966) notes that Sir Winston was treated for this condition not with penicillin, but with sulfadiazine produced by May and Baker Pharmaceuticals (no connection with Fleming). 
It seems HM Gov was as good at spinning in 1943 as they are good at re-writing history in Wikipedia today.  The Truth will Out - perhaps - if we are vigilant.


PS - Aged 6 in 1948 - my life was saved by the new NHS (national health service) with massive doses of Penicillin at, of all unlikely places, Stockport Infirmary, where I was treated for a galloping, potentially fatal infection of the mastoid bone - just behind the ear.
Hands off our NHS. Here is another miracle of saving a child's life, with Fleming's Penicillin - which is entirely true:

Extract from The Haunting of a Favourite Son -  Year 1948 - 

The mastoid, miraculously as ever, announced its sinister presence when I was just six.  School dinners, provided by Stockport Town Council in huge aluminium vacuum flasks just to ensure an advantageous early start into Alzheimer’s, at St. Winifred's Primary were, apart from being inedible and stinking strangely, served in a large neglected conservatory, dripping with condensation, at patterned oilcloth covered trestle tables. As a course was finished children were detailed off to help the truculent Dinner Ladies clear the tables. When the dank atmosphere and stolid Northern inertia even defeated these combined forces, one or more teachers would leap briskly into the fray and whisk and wipe energetically to keep things moving.  It was the homely and kindly Mrs Jarvis who taught the seven year olds, who standing over our table with a pile of used plates and utensils, dropped a knife that clunked hard behind my right ear as it fell to the damp concrete floor.       

Noel aged 6 - 1948
That afternoon I was sent home early crying with pain. I trudged the mile or so of streets in gentle rain, legs chaffed and reddened by the rim of my wet grey flannel shorts, a consequence of throwing away my raincoat, and eventually arrived during Mother's afternoon rest, her time for sitting by the fire, under the standard-lamp in the Morning Room reading, knitting, sewing or whatever she was inclined to do after housework and before making the main meal of the day, our Tea. 

In pain I found some small comfort sitting on the cold tiles by the old metal-framed kitchen fire and pressing my ear against its warm extremities. The newly loaded clothes rack high above dripped in interesting ways, occasionally hissing and spitting when they struck the coals. But despite the warmth and the unpredictable droplets, I wept continuously. After three days Mother had had enough. We caught the number nine bus to the doctor's surgery on Wellington Road, where we were still registered from our previous address in Derby Road, Heaton Moor before we had moved in an upwardly mobile direction to Birch House, in tree lined Mauldeth Road, in the more refined if shabbier and overgrown district of Heaton Mersey.

The doctor acted immediately and I was whisked by ambulance, silver, shiny bell ringing gloriously and satisfactorily, to Stockport Infirmary where they decided the mastoid was too advanced to operate on. I understood with some glee and fascination that the offending mastoid was a mass of concealed pus and infection eating its way along the mastoid bone, above the ear, and eventually into the brain where it would kill me. But as an immortal six-year-old this medical intelligence did not frighten but only intrigued me.

It's important to understand here that Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, whose main entrance is still  (2014) flanked by two undertakers’ offices (this is the literal truth) and where newly trained abattoir attendants are suddenly and uniquely recognised as fine medical surgeons and set to work on the patients; where Mother died in disgraceful conditions; was quite a different place from Stockport Infirmary, the white, late Victorian building opposite Stockport Town Hall, set on the hill climbing up out of Mersey Square in the direction of Buxton.  Even though both medical establishments were on the same roadway and separated by only a few miles, they were distinguished by the latter having been a place of resuscitation and repair and the former, Stepping Hill, being an ante-room to medical incompetence at its worst and an unpleasant and unnecessary death.     

My Guardian Angel, as Mother told it, was definitely taking care of me. Not only did it steer the ambulance away from Stepping Hill, but it took me to the Infirmary. The Infirmary doctors knew what they did not know and sent to London for a specialist surgeon. All free in 1948 on the National Health. The specialist decided not to operate and to try the new Penicillin that had saved so many wounded during the war. The good news was there would be no operation, two pieces of bad news followed. First, and foremost in my mind, there were no empty beds in the children's wards - only cots. I suffered the huge indignity at six of being confined in a large cot. Second, the penicillin dosage was massive. I suffered an injection for every year of my age, six, in the buttocks, every few hours. In those days, parents were not allowed to stay and visits were strongly discouraged so I faced, or rather backed into, this ordeal alone.

I dimly remember only a high, long room in pale green, with my cot last in a row of beds.  Other children were dotted around, some playing on the floor on the far side. The pain of the continual injections has receded leaving a residual phobia about needles. But I know even now that it hurt a lot. Miracles are not always painless.