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Speed Read – Pancakes, preposterously priced pizzas and planetary progression

In a week full of pancakes, financial opportunities and a return of the great Handforth Parish Council, The Friday Speed Read is back for another rundown of the things you absolutely need to know. No sarcasm intended. 

Ah Pancake Day – or Shrove Tuesday for the purists out there. Often excessively flat (yes, it’s somehow possible to make the humble pancake too flat – trust me), yet offering the platform to eat a copious amount of calories without fear of judgement. Almost the perfect metaphor for the last 12 months we’ve endured. I personally opted for a humble bacon and maple syrup combo, the presence of something savoury being the perfect way to convince yourself that you have indeed had an adequate meal.

Speaking of an adequate meal, cast your memories back to May 2010 when one Laszlo Hanyecz had a hankering for a classic American pizza. Being the forward-thinking modernist that he is, young Laszlo paid for his two pizzas via Bitcoin – a shrewd decision at the time as he was able to show just how far cryptocurrency had come. He could actually buy a few pizzas worth $30 with just 10,000 Bitcoin! What a bargain. Well, fast forward nearly 11 years and that $30 pizza order is now worth a sickening $520,000,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Five hundred and twenty MILLION DOLLARS. This comes as Bitcoin hit its all-time highest price this week, an astonishing $52,700+ per coin. Oh Laszlo, wherever you are, I hope you’re doing okay.

Back to the UK and Boris provided us with the relatively promising information this week that the plan to exit lockdown will be ‘cautious but irreversible’ – much like the first round of lockdown haircuts. Still recovering from that one. Who knows what this means at the moment. All we can do is keep everything crossed for BoJo’s next address to the nation on Monday – we’re getting there, slowly.

News also broke this week that the Government has backed a series of experimental trials in the fight against COVID-19, with a juicy £33.6m purse. This study is calling for young volunteers (18-30) to intentionally contract the virus and quarantine in hospital to test different treatment methods, with a smooth £4.5k on offer to anyone who takes part.

Staying on the topic of pressing UK news, Handforth Parish Council once again provided a shining example of seamless, efficient communication at a senior level. The viral sensation, Jackie Weaver (we love you Jackie) took the moral high ground on this week’s meet and did not attend as the original clerk had returned to action. This news would not have gone down well with the ONE THOUSAND public spectators to the meeting (isn’t the internet a fantastic place), with many drinking and smoking throughout – hey, we have to make the most of these things in lockdown. #JusticeforJackie

The rise of Zoom has given us some unforgettable moments over the last year (see previous paragraph ref. Jackie Weaver), but boy has it also given us some toe-curling moments of cringe. I know I’m not alone in the ongoing fight against technical issues, with the phrase ‘oh, you’re on mute’ haunting my dreams. The few seconds between realisation and getting your mouse on the unmute button can feel like an eternity. Whilst the battle against radio silence rages on, another key component of Zoom anxiety seems to be the rush to end a video call in a smooth fashion – something much easier said than done. Well, fear no longer! A clever chap named Brian Moore has come to our rescue with an ingenious remedy. Designing a 3D-printed pull cord which connects to your PC via Bluetooth, Brian has created a method of ending a video call with a simple pull of the cord will end the call, much like flushing a toilet from the Victorian era. The only problem now is having to fight muscle memory and refrain from standing to pull your trousers up after pulling the cord. Can’t win them all.

And just in case we needed another seismic world event to focus on during a seemingly never-ending global pandemic, this week saw the successful landing of a NASA robot on Mars. Amazing how something which seems like a line from a sci-fi film is genuinely happening, especially during these times economic woe and endless restrictions. There’s a lot of logistical issues to sort out before the robot is fully operational (I won’t pretend to understand it), but for the first time in history we should see high-definition video footage from another planet. I hope Perseverance (the robot in question) had a COVID travel exemption form. I suppose technically it is testing its eyesight…

We’ve also seen another top-drawer explanation for rule-breaking travel, this time from Texas Senator Ted Cruz as he was caught taking a family trip to Cancun, Mexico amid both the pandemic and the ongoing weather crisis currently hitting Texas. One for the ages, Mr Cruz has defended this decision by saying he planned the family holiday for his kids as he ‘wanted to be a good dad’ – a true role model. If only he had the chance to utilise his natural flair for taking care of others on a state-wide scale… oh. yeah.

On a slightly more serious note, our thoughts go out to those currently suffering the historically low temperatures felt during the deep freeze in Texas this week. Millions within the state have been without any power for days on end, and with that comes the terrible news that at least 24 people have died from the relentless winter storm. We hope the situation is rectified soon and life can return to something closer to normality for the people of Texas.

With the dawn of a new week comes the opportunity for more moments of viral mayhem, people making fools of themselves and others continuing to showcase just how incredible the human race actually is. We can achieve some pretty impressive stuff (ergo landing on Mars) if we work together and I think that is a sentiment we could all do with keeping in mind.

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