Friday 13 May 2011

Blogger: Go and sin no more

Caring for my baby

It would appear one would have to take extra breathing classes to contain the stress levels that might arise from the dangers of losing one’s blog.

In 2003, when I chose the platform offered by it appears I had a vision that extended beyond that of the owners – I cannot say I had planned to blog for as long as I have been blogging but now into my eighth year, I am still at it and hopefully consistently too.

I first opened an account and blog on Blogger in January 2007 only for the purposes of being able to post comments to Blogger-hosted blogs that had restrictions in place that favoured only Blogger members.

Defaulting to Blogger

However, as 2009 came to a close, I noticed that there was very little innovation on Blog-City and on the day of the 6th anniversary of blogging I began simultaneously posting my blogs to both Blog-City and Blogger.

Maybe I am prescient, I do not know, but in August 2010 Blog-City announced they were bored with the project and planned to close down the service in January 2012.

I panicked as I found there was no easy way of moving 1,500 blogs from Blog-City to any other platform, basically, they had lagged behind the curve so much, I was at risk of having a dud blog becoming a dead blog.

Why backup a blog?

A blog in my view was a repository, a data bank, if you like an online journal and by inference backed up by its presence online – in essence, there is no point having a backup of a blog if you cannot read back the data with a simple restore process.

In the end, I decided to cast my lot with Blogger and began moving my blogs manually, brick by heavy brick; stone by rugged stone until it all was done by February 2011.

I have maintained Blog-City as I have tried to divert traffic to my Blogger blog which I acquired a domain name for and is addressable as http://akinblog-nl

Over time, I have added features to help ease the navigation of the site and I have generally been happy with it.

It wasn’t broke, so they broke it

This morning Blogger was down, apparently, it was supposed to be down for just an hour of maintenance, it lasted 20 hours because some gremlin had entered the works.

It got me thinking and wondering about the major decision I made in August 2010, with a behemoth like Google behind Blogger it is a surprise that this ever happened, it was like cowboys were let loose on the corral shooting their guns and scaring the buffalo into a right roaring stampede.

Before that maintenance window, I do not think anything was broken on Blogger, it is fine that they need to keep adding features to keep up with the competition like WordPress or Tumblr, but this is a case of them ignoring an old mechanic’s advice, “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”

The blogs I wrote on Wednesday and Thursday have disappeared though we have been assured they will be restored, I have seen sorry but a humiliating grovel by those who did this might only start to comfort me, I will reserve the greater sense of displeasure for another time.

Blogger, go and sin no more.

The Blogger is Back note.

Thursday 12 May 2011

Editorial: Twelfth of May 2011

Concerning another monkey vaccine

Two news stories appear to coincide with managing the scourge of HIV/AIDS, on the one hand is the study of eradicating the primate variant of HIV known as the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in rhesus macaques making use of a genetically modified version of the rhesus cytomegalovirus (CMV).

The good news here is that this vaccine appears to strengthen the immune system to the point of controlling SIV and eventually reducing its progressive infective rate until the disease is abated.

However, there are many concerns with this study from the controversial view that patient zero contracted HIV from a chimpanzee to the concerns of introducing a strain of human CMV as part of a treatment regime.

Africans may not benefit

CMV belongs to the herpes family of viruses that is usually benign or dormant but can break out as chicken-pox, shingles, fever blisters (herpes I) or genital herpes (herpes II) amongst others, it is more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else making that line of research rather risky and ethically questionable in terms of safety and assurances for effectiveness.

This study might well be of greater value to those outside sub-Saharan Africa but after the failures of a number of vaccine trials, many of which were aborted too, it is important to remain vigilant that all checks, procedures and monitoring are in place so as not to raise false hopes at first and then cajole subjects into trials that might be of greater detriment to their already weak health status.

Helping sero-discodant couples thrive

Accepting the fact of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has been hard enough for some societies and beyond that the measures needed to prevent infection are fraught with cultural, religious, political, social and economic issues.

UNAIDS have released a study that heralds the reduction of infection between partners where one is HIV infected or in the jargon, sero-discordant couples. The study began with about 1,750 couples from 8 countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

Entry into the study required the infected party have a CD4 count of between 350 & 550 which represents a level at which the WHO does not require the patient to have commenced Anti-RetroViral (ARV) treatment.

Between news and scientific fact

One arm of the study was immediately entered into ARV treatment on commencement of the study and the other arm only commence treatment after two consecutive tests measured a CD4 count regression to between 200 & 250 or had developed an AIDS-defining illness.

The results show a reduction in transmission of HIV infection in 96% of the cases as reported by UNAIDS but the news story does not appear to comment on the significance of viral loads which is the amount of virus in the blood that could determine how infectious a person can be.

It is however known that ARV does reduce the viral load significantly to somewhat undetectable levels it does not however mean the complete absence of contagion.

Subtle observations with this study

The study that took in couples from the United States was aborted and though it was supposed to run for 78 months seems to have ended 3-4 years early because of the positive results though one should be concerned about the fact that low viral loads and higher CD4 counts for the time of that study does not confer immunity by any stretch of the imagination.

The lack of Western subjects is also instructive because medication in the study did not include multi-class combination drugs like Atripla though combinations of other discrete drugs would have been effective all the same.

At the same time, it is possible that Eastern Europe might have benefitted from this study though on balance the cases of heterosexual HIV infection would have been more prevalent in the areas that had the study.

HIV is more than a medical condition

It is important that the kind of complacency that appears to attend to HIV infection in the West because of more effective treatments does not cascade to these other study areas that included India, Brazil, Thailand, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, the absence of Nigeria from that study group should be investigated too.

On the whole, the progress in trying to control, manage or cure HIV is welcome but the news stories appear to herald situations which on closer scrutiny of the facts belies less of the optimism being communicated.

Most importantly, there are significant anthropological consequences of these studies between countries, cultures, traditions and laws coming north of the equator in Africa would have given this study much more empirical import just as allowing it to include the West, China, Russia and Eastern Europe. HIV in different societies is a lot more than a medical condition even in the broadest terms.


The following sources form the basis of this editorial; the news about the CMV vaccine against SIV was published by the BBC then related to drug regimes reducing HIV transmission as published by UNAIDS but 6 months earlier, the BBC had run a similar story.

The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) Study is fully documented at the HPTN 052 website. Meanwhile the list of available drugs for the treatment of HIV as at February 2011 is hosted at the AIDSMeds website. Regarding CMV the New York Department of Health offers some information about the Cytomegalovirus.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

My Own Blog Writing Rules

Writing rules

The latest blog on lists the writing rules [1] of Alligator Legs and this was inspired from reading the writing rules of a number of writers who were invited by the Guardian newspaper in the UK to share a few tips about their writing habits, rules and creeds over 4 days in February 2010 in series titled Rules for writers [2].

After reading through all the rules I realised everyone seem to have some rules and the exceptions that came with caveats of levity allowed if the writer were writing like some other established writer.

My way

In other words, you must as a beginner go skiing on-piste but there comes a time when you dare to go off-piste and well you are responsible for the consequences of your actions. I publish what I have to publish, the damnation is for those who fear to speak their minds.

Now, I am not a writer in the broadest sense of being able to write novels and long stories, I am what is known as a blogger who writes in journal form about things which in my view are too concerning to ignore and I seem to have a set of rules I follow with my writing.

Be naturally inspired

Any time of the day is a good time to write, unlike many writers my inspiration is like a natural stream; slow and deep in some places, shallow and rapid coursing through rocks in other places but from the banks always a pleasure to behold.

My writings are always about things I know, things I observe, where I am at and how things affect me, if what I write covers all those topics, I would have written a long and interesting blog.

I usually do not wait for the thoughts and plot to be fully formed before I begin to type, there is something that links a workshop of processing in my head to my fingers that the whole picture begins to take shape and form as I type – so, just write and you can edit, clean up and rearrange the thoughts written later on, there is no time limit to editing your blog later on, it could go on for years in my case.

Have an angle or leave it be

Let the news take care of itself and never follow the crowd with the low-hanging fruit that everyone picks so easily, if all the angle you can get is the low-hanging fruit then eat out of the baskets of others you have nothing to write about especially if you are not the first to offer an opinion on that topic.

Your voice has a unique pitch and timbre, I would say that applies to writing too, many may disagree but my voice is my style, it has been cultivated over years but allowances are made for refinement and improvement but no parroting of a fashion or following some trend. Style is like make-up you either apply it well or make a mess of it and you look like a masquerade or a clown.

Do your thing, nicely

Use the word that means what you want to say, the privilege of a good education or even upbringing is not necessarily showing off erudition, if you are used to good meals do not pretend you love fast food to feel part of a crowd – do not let the experience of a good life be consigned to satisfying the lowest common denominator of communication.

Sentences should be full, complete and not too long whilst paragraphs that exceed six lines on your page can be off-putting. Allow for space between your paragraphs, what is aesthetically pleasing to the eye would probably be a pleasure to read too. I always put in my captions after I have written the full blog.

My blogs are normally 2 pages long, they do extend to 3 pages and rarely are ever over 4 pages except where analysis necessitates such length, usually, if the thoughts cannot all be contained in 3 pages I consider splitting it into two blogs.

Acknowledge a good skirt

Where the thought is not original, reference, attribute, acknowledge and courteously thank those sources if they are people you know, a blog is for your opinions and your thoughts, if you want to be a parrot, find a cage in an aviary.

Finally, as I sometimes paint pictures with my words and rarely use multimedia to convey my thoughts I follow this basic seamstress rule – Make your writing like a good skirt, short enough to keep the interest and long enough to cover the detail.

In my view, anyone can blog and like one of the writers said, if you can talk, you probably can write too.


[1] alligator legs: my writing rules | NigeriansTalk.Org

[2] Rules for writers | Books |