The news from Britain, with neolithic sites and new coronavirus tests

News about the government’s failed Coronavirus tracing app keeps trickling out. This weekend, we learned that several groups responded when the prime minister called for a national effort to create a smartphone app. Dunkirk spirit! Save the nation! 

What happened next? NHSX, the outfit that made the failed app the government committed to, treated them as rivals. 

NHSX, ever so incidentally, was set up by the health secretary before he became the health secretary, so he was able to be totally neutral about it.

Don't worry about it. The photo's just to break up the text. It's completely irrelevant.

Irrelevant photo: pansies

“We naively thought they would incorporate them into one,” Tim Spector, one of the rival developers said. “The whole point was to help the NHS, to find the hotspots so they could get the resources to the right hospitals.”

Silly him. NHSX, he said, treated his team like the enemy and people within the NHS were told not to work with them. 

“They were very worried about our app taking attention away from theirs and confusing the public,” he said, but if the NHSX app had worked they’d have happily handed over what they’d done. 

Of the rival apps, Covid Symptom Study has 3.5 million users and helped spot symptoms like loss of taste and smell, and Evergreen Life has 800,000 and spotted a local outbreak around Manchester before testing was available. 

The Covid Symptom Study reports that although the number of people reporting symptoms are decreasing around the country, they’re staying steady in London. As far as I can tell, it’s getting zilch in terms of backing from the government, which is now betting its chips on an adaptation of the Apple-Google app, which won’t be ready till fall. 

The delay is because the government says the distance calculator on the app isn’t accurate enough. That means it’ll send people who haven’t been exposed notices that they have been, and they’ll have to self-isolate when they shouldn’t have to. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said the government’s working closely with  Apple-Google and will come up with a hybrid version. Which will be better, bigger, more accurate, and have polkadots.

“Oh yeah?” said  Apple-Google. “We never heard of you and where exactly is Britain anyway?”

Okay, what they–the they in question here being Apple–actually said was, “It is difficult to understand what these claims are as they haven’t spoken to us.”

They said they’re not aware of a distance problem and have no idea what the hybrid model’s about.

The NHS, however, said, “NHSX has been working with Google and Apple extensively since their API [application programming interface ] was made available.”

Google said, diplomatically, that it welcomed the government’s announcement.

Yeah, we’re doing fine over here, and thanks for asking. Hope you are as well.


While we’re doing tech news: K-pop fans have co-opted the #BlueLivesMatter hashtag by tweeting images of Smurfs and other blue characters. They also flooded #WhiteLivesMatter with K-pop videos to the point where it became known as a K-pop hashtag.


Let’s check in on what’s happened with all those possible tests that we heard about and that were going to save our viralized asses from an enemy that’s not only too small to see but too small for most of us to imagine. 

A four-week trial of a saliva test is about the start. All people have to do is spit in a plastic jar instead of letting someone stick a swab down their throats and up the  noses (or worse yet, having to do it themselves, which involves finding either your tonsils or the address where they once lived).

People can do the test at home. They can even do it out in public if they don’t mind being disgusting. Cross your fingers. 

The current test has multiple problems. In addition to having to figure out where your tonsils used to live, it gives a lot of false negatives–20%. It also makes people cough and sputter, putting people administering the test at risk. And the virus doesn’t last long on the swabs, so too much delay and the test’s invalidated. 

Another new test gives results in 50 minutes and should be tested on NHS staff starting this week. Unlike the saliva test, which reports back in 48 hours, though, it relies on a throat swab. 


When the government instituted a program to deliver food parcels to people who are in deep hiding from the virus because they or a family member are particularly vulnerable, I had a moment of thinking the government might get its act together and I before long I wouldn’t have anything to make fun of. 

That’ll show me what I know.

Where the program works, it’s great. But. It’s delivering pork products to Muslim families. It’s delivering free food to families whose pride is hurt by the assumption that they need help and who would happily take themselves off the list if someone had asked.

I’d be willing to bet they’re sending beef to HIndus, but I haven’t seen that reported. 

The program’s being run by a private firm and the government says anyone with special dietary needs should contact their local government and leave the national government the hell alone. Want to place any bets on how long it takes to get through three levels of local government to the company that’s actually running things?


In the department of slight over-reactions, North Korea lost its temper over a defector’s plan to send propaganda across the border from South Korea and blew up an office that was set up to improve north-south communications. 

Am I making assumptions when I say they lost their temper? Probably not. The official news agency said the move reflected “the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes.”

So yeah. Lost temper. Plus a few commas gone a-wandering.


Near Stonehenge, archeologists have found a 4,500-year-old circle of shafts that’s 1.25 miles across. Or 2 kilometers, if you take your distances metric. That may be a rough approximation. I’d be surprised if they match that neatly but I’m too lazy to check. Whatever it translates to, it’s the biggest prehistoric structure found to date in Europe. A paper on it has been published in Internet Archaeology and is available to any idiot–and I offer myself as an example of the species–who clicks on it.

61 thoughts on “The news from Britain, with neolithic sites and new coronavirus tests

  1. But the very VERY best K-pop troll ever was to come up with the idea of requesting free tickets to Trump’s Tulsa rally and then not showing up. #TikTokGrandma Mary Jo Laupp made a video [] urging teens to do just that. And they did. By the hundreds of thousands, apparently. So much so that the million+ tickets the Trump campaign thought they’d given away translated to 6200 attendees and a bare stadium.

    Liked by 3 people

    • And even better than that, since people could get tickets at the door, no one was turned away, so it’s not like people were clawing at the doors to get in.

      Now the ones who are over 18 just have to vote.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the problem is that Google-UK teamed up with Apple Records. The goal now is to make “Get Back” the official song of the Corona Virus Pandemic. Everyone distancing m1.8m or 6′ in the US will have to pay a royalty, which will be automatically collected when you connect to WiFi.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You have to get through to your specific council for the food, and if you didn’t get through, when you finally did they say you managed until now.
    I haven’t heard that dietary needs are met. Anything but….

    Liked by 2 people

        • Friends of ours have found them wonderful–a real lifeline–although they get a couple of things they can’t use, which they pass on to a neighbor. One couple we know, though, are mortified to be the objects of what they consider charity and have passed them on to the food shelf, which needs donations desperately, so at least they’re not going to waste. I do wonder, though, what’s going to happen to the program now that the government’s saying people who’ve been shielding can come back out. I can’t say I’d believe them if I were that vulnerable, but it may mean they cut the program, which will force some people out.

          Excuse me, I have to go throw things at the target I keep out back.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the updates. It’s good to know that not too much is changing here: seemingly, all government departments continue to be run under the auspices of the Department of Jingoistic Numpties.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I think I already commented once about Sen Angus King (I- ME) measuring social distancing in moose-lengths.
    Right now over here there is such a cluster-mating going on that we are barely able to keep up with the increasing rise of Covid. At least your (not you personally necessarily – the UK in general) – beloved football is back. Small steps.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Re the app, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. In Oz, the ABC (the Beebs little sister) tells us that ‘ since its launch on April 26, more than 6.2 million people have downloaded the app. But so far, no local health authorities have announced that COVIDSafe identified any otherwise unidentified contacts.’ And now it has been revealed that it doesn’t work at all if your phone’s locked, a state which anybody even mildly interested in privacy has their phone most of the time. I just wish that They Who Must Be Obeyed would stop making up stuff you couldn’t make up if you tried.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I laughed and sighed reading your post. I never downloaded the app we have here in Australia and then one of our Government crazy folk said two days ago that they are tracking people anyway via Google and Apple…although your phone has to be on blue tooth…so everyone who heard it is making sure its off. Its to the strains of 1984…… We have just gone back a step in my state….due to idiots who were tested positive decided that they could still go out and catch up with family. Talk now is those suburbs that have spikes will be closed off and door to door by police will be carried out. Western Australia my birth state is doing really well…people are doing the right thing to the point that by mid July everything will be back on track. Social distancing will still apply thought. I like all the screens that have been put up at supermarkets etc. I hope they stay for when those idiots who have the flu decide to still go out. Some COVD19 testing places have been set up in shopping center carparks and nurses have noted that people who have been tested then go in and shop…Can you believe that! Apparently in Hong Kong…anyone who was tested positive and they tested everyone…would be put in hospital until they had a negative test. Not sure why that wasnt done. sorry for the essay

    Liked by 2 people

    • No apologies. I’m glad for the update. You remind me of what it must’ve been like when TB was the terror disease and people who had it were separated in sanatoriums. I’ve never been clear on whether it was voluntary or not. It probably depended on where you were. I’m not a great fan of state oversight of our lives, but to protect a society from a contagious disease I think someone probably has to have the power to enforce a quarantine. I don’t have a smart phone, but if I did I think, to hell with everything, I’d download the app. I leave traces of myself all over the internet, and I don’t like doing it but I want the information that’s there. Why draw the line here?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Divine Annabel Crabb’s take on the app in Oz today. “I’d link here to some coverage of how the COVIDSafe tracing app has been instrumental in keeping a lid on things in Victoria, but it seems not to be mentioned any more, except obliquely by Boris Johnson in the British Parliament this week in which he defended the epic hopelessness of his own contact tracing app by pointing out that there wasn’t yet a country to develop one that wasn’t rubbish. AND WE WANT TO SELL THIS MAN OUR TIM TAMS. Anyway our app seems to have sunk, ironically in circumstances where the term “without trace” seems doubly apposite.”
        Cultural note for UKanians and Mricans – TimTams are a type of addictive chocolate biscuit invented by the Devil right her in Australia that has led to some disgusting practices.

        Liked by 1 person

        • 1. We have family in New Zealand, where we were introduced to TimTams. I don’t want to start a fight about this, but their addictive possibilities bypassed me.

          2. So what you’re saying is that the app’s working well? Let me be clear about this, if Boris Johnson pointed in one direction and said, “The door’s over there,” I’d check the opposite direction first, but I do want to make sure I’m getting this right.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. “NHSX, ever so incidentally, was set up by the health secretary before he became the health secretary, so he was able to be totally neutral about it.”

    How much obfuscation is required to cover the arses of these ignorami?
    How many covidisists does it take to design a failed Coronavirus tracing app?

    Questioned rhetorically of course. :-)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh, that horrible “dog” that tells people to stay 2 meters apart. I laughed crazily seeing it again. It’s truly creepy. And the idea of being trolled by K-Pop kids is so mind boggling, I just can’t imagine how the white supremacists will react. I’m waiting for an easy antibody test, but on the other hand, it wouldn’t change my behavior, because they don’t know whether the antibodies help. Ack.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The antibody test. Yeah. I’m waiting too. We had something at the beginning of this mess that may or may not have been a mild case of The Bug, and we’d love to know, but you’re right, even if we do find out, we still won’t know what it means. But a quick, do-it-yourself test for the disease really could (if a government was capable of organizing its use competently, which is a big if these days) allow a country to either eliminate or minimize the disease.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have to get my first COVID test in about a month ahead of a procedure I’m having. I’m very nervous about having a swab stab my brain. I joked with the scheduling nurse that they (the world’s medical folks) have a month to come up with something less uncomfortable. (I keep saying that about colonoscopies, too.) Your description of the “spit test” gives me faint hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Wow – Stonehenge must be a whopper place. We struggle to keep up with Peachtree Rock, a massive formation 30 minutes from our house – formed when the Atlantic Ocean receded a gazillion years ago. Pretty and I used to take our dogs for visits and tried to explain to them the history of the amazing sandstone formation in the shape of an inverted triangle. But in December, 2017, someone reported the Rock had fallen. Erosion and the occasional initials carved in the rock caused it to just topple on over after millions of years.
    My point: take good care of Stonehenge. Those initials add up.

    Liked by 2 people

      • SRM loves TLW…yes lots and lots of carvings in the sandstone formation. It really was a place we loved to take our dogs. I will try to find the post I did about it. I can understand taking Andrew Jackson down – but Peachtree Rock was really just a harmless, ageless hunk. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Over here, bits of coastline are falling into the sea, taking an assortment of seaside homes and hotels with them–along with the occasional garage or shed. It’s sea level rise. As far as I know, no initials are involved.

          Liked by 1 person

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