Germ Cloud ID

In the past few months I have heard more and more stories about how a new, potential fool proof way of identifying who we are will be the next step in personal security. Forget palm prints, forget the iris or even face recognition because the next big thing could be the Germ Cloud.

Each of us has a unique germ cloud containing millions of bugs, which can be more personal than fingerprints. Scientists can now identify individuals from a group just by sampling the microbes and other particles in the air around them. Every ones germ cloud has its own unique signature, which varies from person to person that can be analysed. Our individual microbe rich clouds could soon be used in forensic investigations and it won’t be too long before the technology is available to track our movements or locate someone in a large crowd.

Germ Cloud
Photo by PhotoComiX

Humans will typically shed more than a million microscopic particles from their skin, breath and hair every hour most of which contain traces of their recent environment and some of the thousands of different types of bacteria, which typically lives in and around us. Lead researcher Dr James Meadow said ‘We expected that we would be able to detect the human microbiome in the air around a person, but we could identify most of the occupants (in a room) just by sampling their microbial cloud.’ The University of Oregon study, published by Peer J also suggests that this technology will soon give us a new insight into the way infectious diseases are spread and how they can take hold in some populations while being resisted in other areas of the world.

All fascinating stuff but perhaps one day they can take it a little further and detect the bugs we are prone to shed typically when we are lying or frightened, or perhaps when we are excited or even depressed. Why stop there – what kind of signature would a mixture of hubris, bullshit and out and out racism smell like to one of these machines? Would the Republican cartoon-candidate Donald Trump perhaps leave a trail of all those microbes that are supposed to live in and on our money. Or would there be an essence of some good old boy red-neck lynching, the soot particles from burning books or now, as he has become the poster boy for every kind of racist up to the Klu Klux Klan, would the machine pick up the essence of gasoline from a burning cross swirling around him?

Trump and KKK pic
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However, despite sometimes using the rhetoric and style of Adolf Hitler to press the big red racist button, Donald Trump is not quite in the same war criminal club yet? People like Bashar al-Assad or Joseph Kony, or even Vladimir Putin who would surely have some traces of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet downed by a Russian SAM missile in his germ cloud or because he has almost single handedly kept the Syrian war going to preserve Russia’s bases in the Mediterranean and deliberately destabilize Europe because of the Migrant Crisis, wouldn’t he also share some of Assad’s swirling cloud of bacterial traces from the death and decay of almost half a million people – 20,000 of them children?

Assad killer poster

Perhaps the International Criminal Court could eventually use the germ cloud technology to track these war criminals down and bring them to justice. Perhaps not… while the likes of Joseph Kony may be within their grasp I fear the true criminals, the much bigger fish like Putin and the many other state leaders who fight their proxy wars in other people’s counties, will always enjoy implied immunity at the ICC. Even Assad is likely to be spirited away to Iran or some Arab country to enjoy a long retirement, without fear of prosecution, when he is finally forced to let go of his murderous hold on Syria in exchange for some kind of immunity from prosecution. No it isn’t right – but this is what we have allowed our leaders to create on our behalf. So we must live with it until we have the courage and the power to change the ever more outrageous and darkening script of world history.


Silly Season and Budapest

Living in Turkey you eventually get used to the interminable Ottoman bureaucracy you often need to endure to achieve even the smallest government related process or legal task. Yes it is obviously something that can infuriate, especially when you need a dozen signatures on different pieces of paper to complete a task that in other countries may take only a 5 minute phone call. Yes it is annoying but It gradually becomes something you just slowly accept as one of the prices for living here. Learning the language has helped and not getting upset when a queue jumper loudly pushes in as if his business is more important; I say he because this is invariably an older or elderly retired Turkish man (with all the time in the world) who believes that if he doesn’t look you in the eye he won’t have been some ignorant arsehole who pushed in.

Queueing in bank
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However, in recent years I have used my better understanding of Turkish to shame these people so loudly in public that invariably they either apologise and gesture me before them, or they adopt a kind of standing foetal position with tensed up shoulders, which is their signal that they are going to tough it out no matter what I say – and yet with the progression of time the servers and guardians of such service counters have taken to also shaming them by refusing to serve them first. This can then become an embarrassing standoff for him as he may simply begrudgingly stand aside but refuse to turn around to see who witnessed his public climb down as that would also puncture his self belief that he is more important than any filthy foreigner. I have been told in the past that this annoying class of person is almost always an ex public official with a belief that they still hold whatever position they had climbed up to before they retired… a bit like an retired military man who insists you call him Colonel or General. I have no problem addressing them in that manner either, although I sometimes put a little sting in the tail and add, with an emphasis on the designation, ‘retired.’

There’s a digression… as I was about to say this time of year is the silly season for officialdom here in Turkey. Rather than spread things out over the year it always seems to me that most things like taxes, council dues and personal taxes for your stuff like property and vehicles etc., must be completed, paid for, or calculated in a 3 month period from about the middle of February, which always gives me a slight sense of foreboding as these expensive and extremely time consuming months approach. Anyway, I suppose there is also a valid argument that the rest of the year is a breeze, with everything out of the way and paid for but that light at the end of the tunnel is of little comfort when you are forced to call some queue jumper an ignorant pig or you must point out to the mandarin behind a counter that there is barely any room left for yet another signature that he has decided you must get before he can declare the small task, you have been working through for most of the morning/ day, completed to his or her satisfaction.

View of bridge and river in Budapest
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As a diversion from all of the mind numbing bureaucracy I decided to fly up to Budapest last week with a view to buying a very nice apartment I once saw through an agent but which had gone to auction. I love the city. It is only a two hour flight or a day and a half’s drive from Turkey and I always viewed living there as an occasional sanctuary from either the sizzling heat of a Turkish summer or the damp and wind in the depths of our winters. Yes it will almost certainly be colder up there but with such luxuries as central heating and a full cultural calendar to keep my mind busy in the darker months it would represent a very welcome escape for me and my cat. Anyway, yours truly put in the top bid so theoretically after a lot of Hungarian bureaucracy, which at times seems to fall back onto its own historical Ottoman Empire roots for pedantry, the place should finally be mine in May.