Last day in Canberra. The meeting I'm editing finished at lunchtime, so after buying some factor 30 it was off to Canberra's open air swimming pool, followed with another trip to the botanic gardens. People knock Canberra for being dull, but I've had a really nice time here.
Wandering up to the gardens through the ANU campus a thought crossed my mind: could I still be mistaken for a student? Perhaps a mature-ish one? It seems a long time since I was at university. I liked it so much I spent six years there.
How's this for a thought? Throughout human history, we've tended to carry parasites in our guts and other places in our bodies. Big parasites have to avoid being dealt with by the immune systems; many of them evade elimination by modulating the host immune response in clever ways, damping it down. Our immune systems respond in turn by whacking up the power. Take away this parasitic load and its corresponding immune damping, as we have done in our clean, modern western societies, and what do you get? An increase in autoimmune disease, asthma and allergy - precisely what we are seeing today. If we understand how helminth parasites dampen immune responses, perhaps we could do this with drugs and thus have a tool for dealing with this rising tide of autoimmune and allergic diseases.
Back to wine. Tomorrow it's the 0645 flight to Melbourne, and two days in the Yarra, followed by two more days of as yet unconfirmed wine-related activity around the Melbourne area (some of this will be closure related: don't yawn, it's important). Then home sweet home.