I came down with my almost-annual bug this week. It started with a scratchy throat that gradually got worse. My immune system is not great, so I went to my doc early. She prescribed some antibiotics, which I began immediately.
I know that many respiratory system bugs are viruses and that antibiotics have no effect on them, AND that taking antibiotic unnecessarily helps create superbugs (by killing off the weak ones and leaving the strong ones in charge). But, like most people with compromised immune systems, if one thing (virus or bacteria) knocks me low, it opens the door for other infections (more likely bacterial, like pneumonia), so I am taking no chances.
One thing I did find out this week is that antibiotics are the only medicines that can have side effects on other people! It seems that if I take an antibiotic for a few weeks, as a result, all the weak strains of the bacteria that are making me sick are killed off, then only the more virulent, more difficult-to-kill ones survive. If I then sneeze or otherwise pass on my bug to someone around me, these are the bugs I pass on, giving them less chance of shaking it.
I think they call this an unintended consequence. Unintended consequences are not always bad. Some are good: like when aspirin, developed as a pain reliever, was found to be an anticoagulant that can help prevent heart attacks as well. Others can be bad: like when irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, but they increase waterborne diseases. Then there are the ugly ones: that make the problem worse, like antibiotic creating superbugs and the above side effect on other people.
Anyway, to give myself the best chance of shaking this bug, I did minimal work and had a quiet, restful week, sitting at home, hiding from the 38◦C heat, and sitting at dialysis, hiding from the same heat. No gym, no big adventures or exploratory missions (though I still managed to make it to my local coffee palace).
What this gave me is more time, to finish up long-outstanding jobs, clean up my office, answer my emails and spend just a little bit more time letting my keyboard explore the wonders of the net.
Here are some interesting finds:
Kidney or dialysis T-shirts! Last November Julie and I wore kidney donor and dialysis T-shirts to the Unit Christmas party. I bought them online, and since then I’ve wanted to share what’s available with you. You can find them by Googling “dialysis t-shirts”, and “kidney transplant t-shirts” and other combos. They vary from the funny: “Double Ice Please!” and “6kg over?… YES I had a good weekend!” to the straight: “I shared my spare”, and “My Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are all in vein” to the downright cheery: “Dialysis: Damned if you do, Dead if you don’t” and “Die-alysis”.
There are also lots for dialysis nurses and technicians, and nephrologists (“On the eighth day god invented nephrologists to ensure urine quality”. Some are fun ones, but you wouldn’t wear them; others may suit quite nicely for your next year’s BigD gathering.
So next Christmas…
Bait some scammers. When your next quiet moment is interrupted by a gentleman from Nigeria, a recently widowed grandmother, a cashed up citizen looking to escape a greedy regime or a generous lottery official looking to present you with a million dollar cheque, don’t just hit Delete. Bait them. Go to your local scam bating website (just search on “scam baiting” – to sites like 419eater and scambaiter) and turn the tables on them. Read the baiting stories, look at the pics of scammers, string them along, have a lot of fun and do the world a service by keeping them out of circulation. Some people have tied scammers up for over a year with requests, promise and delays. Don’t miss out on this latest cyber sport.
Become a citizen-scientist. You have heard of big data: data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using traditional tools or data processing applications. One example of big data is that coming from new arrays of radio telescopes that gather massive volumes of data every second. Much of the data still needs to be looked at and classified by human eyes, so the people collecting it (Galaxy Zoo) have asked for web-based volunteers to help. The same goes for large scale climate, humanities, nature and biology studies (all listed at Zooniverse). Training is provided and you really could end up giving your name to a newly discovered cluster or bug or life-form.
Do a MOOC. I’ve talked about Massive Online Open Courses before. Learn about just about anything, expand your mind and pay nothing. Works for me.
Organ donation. The Australian Consumer Association site Choice recently put out a great summary of the current organ donation situation in this fair country (by comparing it to how things operate in many others). It’s well worth reading.
Pick up a new App. I found a couple of interesting big-picture Apps that make you feel just a little like a god. Flightradar24 (iPhone/Ipad – free or Pro), shows you flight traffic in real time, anywhere in the world, shows type of plane, airline, route etc. It always amazes me how many planes are in the air at any one time.
Sky Guide (iPhone/Ipad – $1.99), shows you the stars, constellations, planets, satellites and more in your sky, night or day. Take it outside at night, line it up with the horizon and you can identify and find out about just about anything in the sky. Fantastic.
Maybe a Medical APP? Things are progressing rapidly with medical apps, in terms of the number of apps (in their thousands) becoming available, and new risks associated with how they are used. One study, published in the January edition of the European Journal of ePractice (free, PDF), identified several factors associated with medical apps that can lead to misdiagnosis and errors in record-keeping and treatment. These include lack of adequate instruction, poor design and differences in terminology between in-app and ”local” languages. Related to this, just this month, for the first time, the US Federal Drug Administration approved a ”prescription-only” app for patient use; it governs blood-sugar measurements for diabetes management, and can only be downloaded after a GP or specialist issues written permission. See a summary here.
All this interesting stuff because I got a scratchy throat bug. Who says there are no positive unintended consequences?