All Souls College

The most exclusive of Oxford colleges, All Souls College is unique by virtue of having no undergraduates. Instead, entry is only granted to past winners of the Triwizard Tournament the select few people known as Examination Fellows (or Prize Fellows).

In order to become an Examination Fellow, one has to sit for a written examination, consisting of four papers lasting three hours each. Unfortunately for clinician-scientists like me, these papers normally cover specialist subjects like Classical Studies, Law, History, English Literature, Economics, Politics, or Philosophy i.e. subjects which I now very little about!

In the past, there also used to be a fifth paper consisting of only a single word. Candidates then had to write an essay in response to the chosen word. Crazy, huh?

Do you have Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Chances are you don’t.

But if you were unlucky enough to have gone through this quiz from Biogen & Eisai, chances are you will be left wondering: perhaps I DO have Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) after all!

MCI is a nebulous diagnosis because it hinges on the definition of ‘mild’. What is mild for someone may be significant for others. Nevertheless, that has not stopped these companies from trying to plant the idea in your head that you may have MCI.

I tried taking the quiz myself. There are 6 questions on topics like forgetting important appointments and social events, trouble navigating around familiar places etc. Being curious, I answered ‘Never‘ to 5 of them, and ‘Almost Never‘ to the statement ‘Losing train of thought or the thread of conversations, books, or movies’.

I mean, come on man, who doesn’t occasionally lose their train of thought when faced with a really boring situation?

Nevertheless, I was told:

Here are your responses to the Know Your Symptoms Quiz. Even if you answered “Never” or “Almost Never” to all questions, it’s important to stay on top of your cognitive health. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have and ask if cognitive screening is right for you.

Okaaayyy, I need to talk to my doctor about possible cognitive impairment. Oh wait, I’M THE DOCTOR looking after people with cognitive impairment! Damnnn…

In reality, most of these concerns are so general that they’re practically useless for diagnosing MCI. Of course, the quiz itself comes with the following caveat:

This quiz is not intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other condition, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. Answers to this quiz may help you identify some symptoms that you are experiencing so you can talk with your doctor. Remember to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about your cognitive health and ask if cognitive screening is right for you.

As someone quipped in the comments section for this Ars Technica article ‘Maker of dubious $56K Alzheimer’s drug offers cognitive test no one can pass‘:

Well shit, I’ve apparently had Alzheimer’s since I was eight years old.

You really have to ask the question: why even bother with the quiz then? I wonder if it has anything to do with a certain $56,000/year drug that has NOT been shown to work in Alzheimer’s disease? Go figure.

Dandelion Seed Head

I am in the process of writing a post on Blenheim Palace but it is not quite ready yet, so in the meantime, enjoy this picture of a dandelion seed head I took while jogging in Cutteslowe Park yesterday.

The Uyghur Dilemma

Something is horribly wrong in Xinjiang.

Here’s a brief summary:

Since 2017, the Chinese government has detained about a million people from the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority group in “re-education” camps. Countless others are subject to constant surveillance just for the ‘crime’ of being Uyghur (and by extension, Muslim).

As someone who loves reading about history, I have always wondered how people can just stand by while terrible things are happening around them. How did the Holocaust happen? Did people not care about the terrible oppression of the Jewish people back then, or were they just pretending to look the other way, in effect, silently condoning the massacre?

Something similar is happening here with the Uyghurs. What’s worse is that no one apart from the Chinese government seriously denies that this is taking place! Instead, the Chinese government is basically saying to the rest of the world:

Look, we know YOU know about the terrible things happening in Xinjiang. The question is: what are you willing to give up to stop this from happening?

China has, for better or worse, become the workshop of the world. Unfortunately here, with great power comes even greater potential to abuse that power. That is what is happening in Xinjiang right now.

I would like to share this article that I’ve just read on The Atlantic, titled ‘One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps‘ which was written by Tahir Hamut Izgil. It makes for difficult reading, and I honestly struggled to finish it all at once because of how terrible the situation was (and still is) that he is describing. Nevertheless, this is a hugely important issue that everyone should know about.

Here are some quotes from the article:

If you took an Uber in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago, there was a chance your driver was one of the greatest living Uyghur poets. Tahir Hamut Izgil arrived with his family in the United States in 2017, fleeing the Chinese government’s merciless persecution of his people. Tahir’s escape not only spared him near-certain internment in the camps that have swallowed more than 1 million Uyghurs; it also allowed him to share with the world his experience of the calamity engulfing his homeland.

And later on in the article:

Ostensibly, the purpose of these maneuvers was to maintain a state of readiness against violent terrorists; if anyone failed to cooperate or took part only passively, their name would be forwarded to the neighborhood police. In reality, it seemed that the aim of these activities was to keep us in a constant state of fear.

Regarding the confiscation of religious items:

The government in Kashgar had required all Uyghurs there to hand over any religious items they held. Frightened by the ongoing roundups, most had surrendered to the state any belongings relating to their faith: religious books, prayer rugs, prayer beads, articles of clothing. Some were unwilling to part with their Qurans, but with neighbors and even relatives betraying one another, those who kept them were quickly found out, detained, and harshly punished.

I understand that times are difficult for many peopleCOVID, economic recession, political upheavalbut I hope we will not lose sight of the suffering inflicted upon the Uyghurs.

Socially-Distanced Spider Webs

I took these pictures in early June as I was cycling to the hospital. Along the cycle path I noticed a series of dense spider webs but what struck me was how neatly spaced-out they were (see second picture). I’d love to know why, and more importantly, how they can estimate the distance between neighbouring webs.

Any araneologist lurking around in here might care to explain perhaps?