Saturday, December 30, 2006

Going for bronze

Drat and double (oh) drat! I'm not the first with ion curtain. Somebody's got a blog with that name. Still, I'm on the first page of Google with the phrase, so that makes me about third or fourth to come up with it.

Ways and memes

I've got two memes that I have thought up. It'll be interesting to see how far they travel. The first is how people are going to refer to next year. Instead of calling it "Oh Seven" like the rest of this decade, I'm sure people will give it a James Bond twist and call it "Double Oh Seven"
So far, I haven't seen this, so it is my own original thought, but I'm sure it will occur to other people. It's just that I'm blogging about it first.
My second meme is one that I've already used in a previous post talking about the barrier that Blogger had up temporarily, which prevented me from commenting on Beta blogs. I referred to it as the Ion Curtain. It can be extended to refer to any electronic barrier in cyberspace. Feel free to use both memes. Just remember where you heard it first.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Speaking of which

I've got an accent. It's one that's very, very uncommon, basically because it's a blend. Most people have the undiluted accent of where they grew up. I spent the first five years of my life in the town of my birth - Banbury in Oxfordshire - acquiring a midlands accent. Then we moved to Edinburgh.
I started off in the primary school there as the one English pupil in a class of Scots speakers. My younger sister adapted to the new speech patterns, but being older, my accent was just about fixed. I say just about, because there was obviously still some flexibility left in my neural structure. Slowly, my accent has evolved. Now, if you could hear it, you could tell I was Scottish, but you wouldn't be able to say from where in Scotland. No-one can. Patients are always asking me where I come from. My accent has been placed in the Highlands and Islands, Buckie, the Borders, even Ireland. They're always surprised when I tell them I'm local.
Of course, I can't hear my accent. To me I sound as if I'm speaking straightforward English. It's everyone else who has an accent.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Look Ma! No Pa!

What do the films Godzilla and Jurassic Park have in common? OK apart from the depiction of large bipedal reptilians. What I'm trying to get at is they both use parthenogenesis as a plot device. Godzilla lays all those eggs in Madison Square Gardens, and the dinosaurs have frog-filler DNA which enables them to start breeding and thus allowing in the element of chaos that Jeff Goldbloom's character witters on about.
So far so sci-fi. Reality however has a knack of catching up with our imagination. A Komodo dragon in Chester Zoo has just laid eight self-fertilised eggs! The biologists' conjecture is that this is an evolutionary strategy to enable a single female to colonise an island by producing a batch of male offspring who can mate with her, and kick start the population.
I'd always felt that this was one of the weaker plot devices of both films. Parthogenesis? In large lizards? Yeah right. And now it seems that biology has proved them right. I bet it's morphic resonance really.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas
You must not miss, this
Merry old Christmas
So come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
Sleigh bells chime
Our guests they are on time
To drink of this mulled wine
So come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
The clock in
The hall is tick-tocking
So hang up your stocking
And come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
Children banter
As bedwards they canter
They mustn't miss Santa
So come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
Best wishes
And mistletoe kisses
To master and missus
And come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.

Good Blogger

Blogger seem to have fixed the glitch they had with commenting on beta. I've had no difficulty in the last couple of days. Thank you Blogger.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Exodus decoded - aye right.

I watched James Cameron's documentary last night, Exodus Decoded, which figured out that the Exodus occurred in the aftermath of the Thera eruption. (Like, duh!) Only trouble is, they gave the date as 1500BC, when Thera has been dated by Greenland ice cores to 1628BC. As everyone knows, the chronology of the second millennium BC is a major headache. Exodus and the papyrus of Ipuwer are clearly describing a major volcanic eruption, but the historians continue to place the Exodus in the time of Ramesses II with minimal evidence.
But people trying to reconstruct history based on Exodus should also be wary. Although it may be based on ancient texts and oral tradition, Exodus probably wasn't written in its final form until the exile in Babylon, about a thousand years after the events. The description of the Thera event of 1628BC could have been incorporated into a later description of a mass migration following an earthquake round about 1500BC.
Here's another possibility, suppose the great famine that occurred under Joseph's governorship was the aftermath of Thera? Seven years of famine caused by a couple of degrees cooling of the Earth resulting from the release of tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, sounds like a plausible scenario.
The chronology problem of biblical times is not going to be sorted until we have rock-solid date markers to hang the known history on. For me, the 1628BC date for the Thera eruption is about as solid as you can get, assuming the science behind the ice-core dating is sound, which I believe it is. The biblical account of Exodus is not solid. It should only be used to colour in the historical record, after the chronological structure is in place. For that, we need more markers, and a willingness to abandon any preconceptions.
It's the ultimate jigsaw. We're missing most of the pieces, and we've only got one of the corners.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quantum Santa Time

Ever wondered how Santa Claus manages to do the stocking run in a single night without moving so fast that his kinetic energy would ignite chimneys all over the world? Wonder no more. I've worked out that Santa operates in QST (Quantum Santa Time)
This is how it works. There are 365 days in a year - 364 working days and 1 Christmas day. In Quantum Santa Time, it's the other way round - 364 Christmas Days and 1 day off (probably his birthday). Being quantum time, these 364 days can all overlap, giving Santa 8736 hours to work with. There are 24 time zones, so Santa starts with a ration of 364 hours per time zone. But not all time zones are equally populated, so Santa can borrow hours from the time zones straddling the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and add them to the time zones covering Europe and the Eastern and Western seaboards of America where the bulk of the Santa-believing children live.
So if you were to be at the North Pole on Sunday night, you would observe Santa and his reindeer-drawn sleigh fissioning into 364 quantum Santas, heading south in an ever widening ring until they disappeared over the horizon.
And that is how Santa is able to deliver all those presents in one night.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Over the wall

I am indebted to the Old Curmudgeon for this public service information. It's a way round the Ion curtain that Blogger have thrown up to separate the Betas from the rest of us.
Before you write your comment, click on other. A different comment box will appear with a space for your blog handle and your URL. Enter these, then type in your comment. Now you can post the comment, and it will appear in the list of comments on the beta blog. The only problem is that your name appears in black, indicating that readers of the blog will not be able to link to you by clicking on your name, so it ain't a perfect fix, but it'll do for the time being until Blogger see fit to undo all the chaos they have sown.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

War of the Worlds

I sometimes feel as if I'm living in two worlds. One is the real world of work, eating and sleeping; the other is the Blogosphere. Both worlds have major events happening, and are populated with a sprinkling of celebrities, but the lists of events and celebrities are completely different.
In the real world, there's Iraq, and the recent US elections. In the Blogosphere there's the Beta Blogger conflict, and the recent voting for the Weblog awards.
In the real world there's Bush, Blair and the Beckhams. In the Blogosphere there's Markos Zuniga and PZ Myers.
Whereas most people in the Blogosphere have heard of the real world, I find that most people I know in the real world are more or less unaware of the Blogosphere's existence. It's difficult to have a conversation about blogging, when you've first got to explain what a blog is. There's no mention of the Blogosphere on the media, no coverage of the exciting campaign waged by Pharyngula and the Bad Astronomer to win the Best Science Blog Award.
It's as if the Blogosphere were some kind of Phantom Zone, invisible and undetectable to the vast majority, constructed from massless blog-neutrinos.
And yet, it has an effect on the real world. The recent Democrat landslide in The USA would surely not have been so devastating were it not for the liberal blogs providing a communication outlet that counterbalanced the traditional media establishment.
If this is merely the beginning, what will happen later? Will the Blogosphere ever break through to the real world, and its events and personalities become familiar to the many?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is Beta better?

I'm not convinced. So far I've resisted the hard sell to switch over to beta, until I get some feedback that it's a good thing to go for. I don't know about you, but I'm finding it very difficult to post comments on blogs that have gone beta, and I don't want to lose what few readers I have, if they can't comment on my posts. I'm just starting to see an increase in the number of new signatures in the comments, and like a delicate orchid, they need careful nurturing to keep them coming back.
One blog I'm particularly having difficulty with is Bentley's blog, now entitled Blogging with Gzus. (whatever a Gzu is?) If you're reading this Bentley, I haven't stopped visiting your blog, I just can't log in to comment. I keep typing in my password, both for Blogger, and for Google without success. I've even tried leaving an anonymous comment - but no joy there. I know he's recently converted, so I'm wondering if that's why I can't get in, or if it's some other reason? When I could get in, he told me he couldn't see that much difference between the two, so if anyone has any further experience with beta, this is the place to share.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I've recently discovered there's a name for it. Unfortunately, there's no cure. It's the Argumentum ad CAPSLOCK. You've all seen this, whenever a religious fundamentalist or conspiracy theorist or general crank appears on a forum or in a comments list, they tend to EMPHASISE certain IMPORTANT words and PHRASES, in order to get their POINT across. As soon as you see it in a person's post, it's a sure-fire indication that they're a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Heck, even the few examples above are making my blog look unstable!
If you want a slew of examples of these phenomena - though why you would want to? - you should check out this website: . Be warned, there are a lot of disturbed people out there, and they've got computers.

I was there

Do you know a teenager who's suffering at secondary school because they're unpopular? Get them to read this essay by Paul Graham called Why Nerds are Unpopular. It won't help them become the social centre of the school, but it will help them understand why they're being persecuted, and why, in the long run, popularity in school is meaningless. Although it's written from an American perspective, and looks at the American High School social hierarchy, believe me, a Scottish secondary school is no picnic for a bright kid with glasses, severe Tourettes, and all confidence and self esteem expunged by the system.
I wish I could have read this thirty years ago. It might have acted as a signpost to better things.
So read it. Then, if you do know someone struggling in that situation, e-mail them the link, or print it off and give it to them. Don't say "I know what you're going through." Just give them the essay. If they want to talk about it, they will. Then, if you've been through the same hell that is secondary school, tell them, "I've been there."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Time after Time

My body clock's all to pot at the moment. I've just done two night shifts, and I've got another one tomorrow. Fortunately, I don't have any trouble getting to sleep when I come home in the morning. Today I got up at 3pm, so I guess that for today at least, I'm synchronised with all my American readers.
Time gets really complicated on the Blogosphere. You find that the time that you post bears little resemblance to the actual time at the bottom left corner of your computer (except on this blog, where I've jiggled it round to Greenwich Mean Time.) It's probably because most of the blog hosts operate out of California, which is about nine hours behind. It's most inconvenient to have to go to bed, just when people are logging on after coming home from work.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

PURE oot continues

The row at Edinburgh University over the Pure course held by the Christian Union is deadlocked. The CU are threatening legal action, and have refused the University's compromise deal, which would allow them to use campus premises in return for the inclusion of material that shows other points of view.
The CU continue to deny that the course is homophobic:
"Homosexuality is a very small part of the course. It's mentioned in the same category as fornication and adultery, not the way God intended relationships to be. It does not single it out as worse than anything else." (emphasis mine)
So that's all right then. It's no worse than fornication or adultery. No homophobia here folks. Move along.
The trouble is, they don't consider themselves to be homophobic. They wouldn't dream of kicking a gay man in the face, or spitting at him, or swearing at him. Their religion is one of love. They love the person but hate the sin. They are sad that these people are engaging in activities that sets them apart from God. But they're not singling out gay people. They're no worse than adulterers or fornicators you understand.
In order to get people to admit they have a problem, you have to get them to admit they have a problem. The CU are feeling persecuted for their belief that gay people are sinners, and they can't see why the EUSA and LGBT have to be so mean about it.
Meanwhile the University faced with legal action, is desperately searching for an answer to this situation. But they've got rules for organisations who use their facilities, and one of those is a commitment to equality and diversity. Well at least gay people are equal to adulterers and fornicators.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm Deacon Barry - fly me!

I've just bought a flight simulator program for the computer. It's called Flight Unlimited II, and I got it for a couple of quid in a charity shop. It's quite a realistic experience, once I get the plane up in the air. My take-offs are a bit alarming, and my landings are a bit fatal. I have now managed to land the plane twice now, if you call landing, 'coming to a stop on the ground while still upright!'
The terrain underneath is a photorealistic depiction of the San Francisco Bay area. I've now flown over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Golden Gate Park, and Alcatraz. At some point, once I've learned how to handle the machine better, I'm going to attempt a flight under the Bridge. That's the beauty of virtual reality, you can do things you could never dream of doing in the real world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thar she blows!

NASA just announced the discovery of liquid water activity on Mars in the Centauri Montes region in the Southern Hemisphere. Comparison of photos of the area taken 6 years apart show fresh bright features indicating the presence of ice which has flowed down the slope between pictures.
It'll make colonisation of Mars that much easier, now we don't have to cart water and oxygen all the way there.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We're going back

It's about bloody time! We're finally going to get a moonbase. It'll be at the south pole, so they can stick up solar panels and catch the almost constant sunlight. Building a lunar base is good science and engineering. The moon is only three days away. We can learn how to construct planetary bases, and learn what not to do. Designs can be field tested. Procedures can be developed. The Moon can be explored in detail. Photographs of the Apollo landing sites will settle once and for all the idiotic conspiracy about faked missions.
Polar ice would be a wonderful find, but recent experiments have put that possibility into doubt. It'll just make the project a bit harder, that's all.
Let's postpone a Mars mission until we've rehearsed it on the Moon. The improvements in technology will make Mars much more accessible

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'll give her my last Rollo

Here, as promised, is the information about the book nearest the computer that I picked for the meme I blogged about yesterday.
It's Love and Will by Dr Rollo May (Souvenir Press, London 1970). Janiebelle, who I got the meme from said last night that she'd found out which book it was, and that wasn't long after posting. I suspect she found out through the internet, but I can't rule out her having the book in her possession, and having read it. If, of course, she turns out to be a close relation of Dr May, then I'm giving up skepticism for good, the universe would then be too darned weird.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hand me down that can of memes

The daimonic can be either creative or destructive and is normally both.
It's a meme I found on U dream of Janie. I thought, what the hell, let's give it a shot. Here we go:
1.Grab the nearest book. No cheating! The nearest book.
2.Open the book at page 123.
3.Find the fifth sentence.
4.Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.
5.Don't you dare dig for a cool or intellectual book on your shelf. Pick out whatever is closest!

The sentence at the top of the post is number five. Here are the next four sentences of the book.
When this power goes awry and one element usurps control over the total personality, we have "daimon possession," the traditional name through history for psychosis. The daimonic is obviously not an entity but refers to a fundamental, archetypal function of human experience - an existential reality in modern man and, so far as we know, in all men.
The daimonic is the urge in every being to affirm itself, assert itself, perpetuate and increase itself. The daimonic becomes evil when it usurps the total self without regard to the integration of that self, or to the unique forms and desires of others and their need for integration.
Whew! I wish now I'd picked the book on the shelf above - a Dilbert book by Scott Adams, instead of this tome, one of my wife's psychology books.
I'm not supposed to tell you which one. You have to guess. So to keep up the suspense I'll wait until my next post to tell you. I promise.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Change of Shift

Change of Shift is up at Fat Doctor, and I'm in it! Change of Shift is a carnival of nursing blogs. Think of it as an anthology of posts by different nurses. It's a good way to sample some good blogging.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And they will call this a film review

We went and saw Tenacious D today. My wife thought it was one of the worst films she's ever seen. I thought it was OK, not a masterpiece by any means, but it did provoke a few giggles along the way. I felt it rehashed some of the themes in School of Rock, which was a far better film. Again Jack has a song about paying the rent. The idea of a Pick of Destiny deserves a much more epic treatment than this film gave it. What was needed was an element of National Treasure mixed with a dash of Da Vinci Code, I mean, this is a pick made from the Devil's tooth, for Asmodeus' sake. But there were some good moments, and the homily at the end is priceless.
Deacon Barry star rating **

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Today's post is brought to you by the number six.
It's been exactly six months since I started this blog. I didn't know when I started if I would have the perseverance to make it this far, or if I would run out of things to say. But I'm still here, still blogging onwards, and now I've got to get to my first anniversary. I couldn't have done it without you reading and commenting. If I hadn't had your feedback, I couldn't have got this far. It's knowing that people are counting on me to write posts that gives me the encouragement to carry on. Thank you.

I was planning, just to post about getting to the six month milestone, when today, one of those serendipitous events occurred. This morning I got my letter of assimilation to Agenda for Change (AfC).
Agenda for Change is the new pay structure for the NHS. All employees - apart from doctors who have their own pay structure - are being matched, according to their job descriptions, to a pay band, running upwards from 1 to 10 (or is it 8? I can't quite remember). Guess what? I'm band 6! Specialist Nurse. It's because I've got the Diploma in Ophthalmic Nursing. I'm gob-smacked. I keep re-reading the letter, just in case it's a misprint. But it's there several times in the documentation - Band six! Call me cynical, but you see, I was honestly expecting to be in band five. This is way better than I ever thought. It makes a big difference to the amount of money I can eventually earn in my present position. The ceiling is so much higher.
And there's two years back pay to come in February.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Well I never!

Private Eye finally came up with an update on the story about the Jersey water supply. The Jersey States thought a water dowser more convincing than the British Geological Survey. But before committing themselves, the did arrange for some test bores, to see if the moon really was pulling water from France.
The results are in, and guess what? No water!!
Geological science -1 Pseudoscience -0.
Jersey States have now wasted a few hundred pounds searching for non-existent water, that the geologists told them wasn't there!
Remember this story, and remind people of it when they look like making decisions based on woo and flim-flam

Sunday, November 26, 2006

PURE oot

There's a bit of a stushie at Edinburgh University. The Christian Union has been told it shouldn't hold its PURE course on University property. The course is a biblically based programme advocating abstinence from sex outside marriage. It recommends a book called What Some of You Were by Christopher Keane, which advocates that gay people should repress their sexual urges. This is what the LGBT students find offensive, and has prompted the call for the ban. Here's how Adam Knight, BLOGS president puts his case.
Contrary to what you may have heard, the CU has not been banned, nor has the course itself. The CU are at liberty to hold the course off campus, though why they would want to after all this negative publicity beats me. They're bound to get hecklers coming along now wherever they hold it.
As far as I can make out through all the conflicting reports, the course hasn't even been officially banned from the campus. It's just if they try and hold it at the University they're going to get picketed. This is what free speech is about. You have a right to express your opinion, but others have a right to challenge that opinion. Opinions which are discriminatory, racist, sexist and homophobic, need to be challenged. If students are not doing this, then something's gone wrong with their education.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Professor Deacon Barry

Today I did the lecture on retinal detachment. I found it difficult to get to sleep last night, and all the way to the Eye Pavilion, I was going over what I was going to say. I was also wondering if I had enough material to fill an hour, or would I rattle through the whole thing in twenty minutes. I knew I had about ten minutes worth on my starting topic - the anatomy of the retina, so at 9:05 I started with that. I was a bit nervous to start with, but as I warmed up, I relaxed. I finally stopped at 10:25. I have no idea where the time went, but it went well. There were two other lectures, one on diabetic retinopathy, and another on lasers. Then it was my turn again. I took the class up to the ward for a practical demonstration on how to erect a positioning set. This is an instrument of torture used by us ophthalmic types to ensure that patients who have had gas bubbles inserted into their eyes following retinal detachment surgery, lie face down, to keep that bubble over the repair at the back of the eye.
There was more torture in my final lesson, guiding the blind patient. The class got blindfolded and had to make their way about the ward, and do various tasks. The following is the exercise that I devised for this.

Simulated blindness experience
Blindfold or pad both eyes. Double padding is better at keeping the light out.
Ask the volunteer to move from one part of the area to another.
Try it again using a stick.
If there is a sink, the volunteer should try washing and drying their hands.
Be careful of hot water!
They should also try using the toilet.
Take the volunteer up and down a flight of stairs. Make sure they hold on to the banister.
If there is access to a wheelchair, the volunteer may be pushed around in it, without verbal cues, then asked to find their way back to a specified area.
Once they have got used to the layout of the area, move the furniture and put obstacles in their path.
At some point, after they have come to rely on it, remove their stick!
I didn't have enough time for the full version, so I could only give them a taster, but the feedback from the session was good. Try it yourself. Feel free to copy the exercise and use it in your clinical area. Please let me know how you got on.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blog of mirrors.

I've just found out that the other Christopher Dallman - the singer, not the chemist - has read this blog. He was googling his name (see! I'm not the only one!) and he found this post of mine name checking him. He's now posted the post on his blog - well, in September he did, it's taken me two months to find out about it. So now we've got a situation where a blogger called Chris Dallman is blogging about a blog by Chris Dallman which has blogged about a blog by Chris Dallman. How recursive is that. All it takes now is for him to blog about this post and the Blogosphere will squeal with the feedback.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

At least the Titanic was a ship

That's my three shifts done for this week. Back to the blogging.
In a previous post I expressed my concern about the Eye Pavilion being on prime development land. Recently, someone mentioned that it's actually built in the back garden of Chalmers Hospital which was willed to the city by one George Chalmers, who died in 1836. This implied that the land had to be used for medical purposes, and Lothian Health Board wouldn't be able to sell it to redevelopers like they've done with the old RIE.
They didn't get it quite right. Chalmers Hospital is certainly named after George Chalmers, but it wasn't his property. He left money to the Faculty of Advocates for the purpose of building an infirmary. This indeed was built about forty years later, and lasted over a century until its move to Little France in 2002.
It seems that NHS Lothian do have the freedom to sell the site, since as long as an infirmary in Edinburgh still stands, the spirit and letter of George Chalmers bequest is being fulfilled.
Whether the Infirmary will still be standing in twenty years is open to question. The new RIE is funded by the Public (or is is Private) Finance Initiative - PFI. This is how the Government has got a number of hospitals built, without having to show the cost in the public finances. Basically, a private consortium builds the hospital, then charges the Health Trust rent to use it.
The location of the new RIE, called Little France, used to be the site of a caravan park, which used to get flooded regularly. There's a small river running right behind the hospital. They've diverted it with a couple of 90 degree bends. All it will take is a period of heavy rains after a few wet summers, and a fallen tree to jam in the corners, and the nurses and doctors will have to wear wellies to treat casualties.
Everybody in Edinburgh knows it's built on a flood plain. We're just waiting...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Retinology 101

One week to go until I become a college lecturer. As I think I mentioned before, I've been asked to teach Retinal Detachment 101 to the Ophthalmic Nursing students, so I've been boning up on the subject. Did you know that there are twenty-five kinds of Amacrine cells in the retina? (Did you know we had Amacrine cells?) And no-one is quite sure what they do. There is a gaping hole in our knowledge of human anatomy.
Did you know that rods and cones are similar to fingernails? They're modified hairs that grow continuously and have to be trimmed regularly.
Here's another factoid. You've got about seven million cones - colour photoreceptors - but only 1% of them are actually in your fovea, where your central vision is focused.
Anyway, I'm working my three twelve-hour shifts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday this week, so I'll be unlikely to be posting again until Thursday.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mine's a Guiness

Let's celebrate a great feat of the Blogosphere. Tino Buntic from Canada has created a post on his blog in which every word links to a website. And there's a thousand links! Way to go Tino! He is now planning to go for a two thousand link post. If you leave a comment on his site, he says he'll include you.
If you're the smallest, the tallest, if you do it all
If you're the fattest, the thinnest, if you really win
If you're the quickest, the slowest, if you really go
Then you're a RECORD BREAKER!
The Bad Astronomer posted about this, if you're wondering how I found out about it.
The Blogosphere now has its own mountain for climbing. How high will it go?

Friday, November 17, 2006

All bound for Morningside

Edinburgh is old. Really old. Maybe thousands of years old. Unfortunately, the prehistoric settlements have been built on, and all that remains of those times are the terraces on the slopes of Arthur's Seat. There was probably a settlement on Castle Rock, which is why the Romans didn't have a camp there, but instead had a fort at Cramond five miles away.
There was a road going south from Cramond, and twenty years ago, my first job after leaving college was as an archaeological site assistant, excavating a short section of that road. I found a couple of roman coins and a cow's skull.
Although the road itself, is long gone, the route has persisted. A few miles south, it becomes Morningside Road.
Now I know that New York has a posh area called Morningside Heights, but it doesn't hold a candle to our Morningside.
The area is the fabled home of the legendary Morningside Ladies. These delightful creatures think that sex is what coal comes in. Their feared greeting, when guests arrive, is: "You'll have hed your tea?", implying that if anyone should be so crass as to say no, requiring the hostess to be put to the expense and trouble of offering food and drink, they will be treated to an icy civility henceforth.
The third weel kent fact about Morningside Ladies, though it is one that is only whispered out of their earshot, is that they are "All fur coat and nae knickers." though this description is also often applied to the city of Edinburgh herself. Indeed one is the embodiment of the other.
In reality, Morningside is not the poshest part of Edinburgh. That honour goes to Barnton. What it does have is shops. Apart from Sainsbury, there are no chain stores. They're all individual shops, selling a wide range of goods - jewelry, artworks, clothing, clocks, toys. It's the best street for your Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


You feel let down, when you find out that the really interesting stuff that you've learned turns out to be untrue. Take Chop Suey. For years I have known that this is not a traditional Chinese dish, but something created in the early years of the twentieth century in San Francisco. Now a recipe has been found, which proves it to be a traditional Chinese dish after all.
Jack Palance, who died this week, was, for many years, known to have owed his trademark looks to plastic surgery during the war. Now it turns out that this was a myth put out by the publicity machine, and his looks were due to his Ukrainian heritage, nothing more.
A duck's quack does echo, and Flobadob is not the sound of boys farting in the bath.
I'm beginning to wonder if any of the fascinating facts I've collected over the years are actually true, or is the real world so dull that urban legends are the only way to maintain interest. What will happen when programmes such as QI and Mythbusters have disposed of the last so-called fascinating fact? Will there be any mystery left?
I won't let it happen. Off the top of my head, to celebrate the premiere of Casino Royale, some James Bond related trivia.
Dr John Dee, the famous Elizabethan magician, worked for her secret service. His number? 007!
Rudyard Kipling wrote a short story called .007. It's like an early version of Thomas the Tank Engine, with talking engines.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sign of the times

How's this for a coincidence? I just posted the other day about sign language, and now I've read in our local free newspaper that our local primary school is to start teaching the pupils British Sign Language! I can see it catching on. Imagine, if you are 10 or 11 and you are taught a language that your parents and very few grown-ups understand, what mischief can be plotted, in plain sight! Teachers will at last have silent classrooms, but at what price? It won't take long for children to completely master the language, and be free forever from the tyranny of adults.
Oh, and it's wholly inclusive of deaf children who are now likely to be at the centre of events, instead of on the periphery.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Poetry Corner

It's culture time. Here is a poem written by me. It's in Scots, but I'm providing a translation.

Lament fir a deid spyug

Ma wee spyug's deid
Ma wee spyug's deid
It wis a muckle pun' o' mince
Fell oot the freezer
Hit him yince
Atween the e'en o' his sweet heid
And noo he's deid.

Pair wee spyug
(Ah cried him Shug)
Sic a sad demise.
He scarcely hud the time tae wince
When yon big doad ae frozen mince
Cam hurtlin' fae the skies
And dealt wee Shug
That mortal slug
Richt atween the eyes
And sent him oan a wan wey trip
Tae Burdie Paradise.
Requiem for a dead sparrow
My little sparrow is dead
He is an ex-sparrow
It was just over 0.45 kilograms of finely chopped beef
Which plunged from a front-loading device for keeping food fresh, by maintaining them at a temperature close to zero degrees centigrade,
And collided with the aforementioned bird once, and once only (but that was enough)
At a point on his cranium - of affectionate memory - equidistant between his medial canthii
And from then onwards he continues to be in a state of unlife.
Unfortunate junior member of the Passeridae family
(I had previously given him an appellation which was the diminutive of Hugh)
How tragic was your passing
The number of milliseconds allowed for him to flinch approached zero
When the aforementioned future sunday lunch at a temperature of zero degrees centigrade
Descended at an acceleration due to gravity of 9.98 metres per second squared
And imparted it's momentum fatally through the skull and cerebral tissue of my late avian friend
Targetted on the aforementioned point of impact
Immediately causing him to depart on a non-returnable excursion
To his own personal avian afterlife.
(Which is also a play on words on certain elaborately feathered inhabitants of Papua New Guinea)
I hope that made everything clear?

Friday, November 10, 2006

---o--- <-O-> I=O=I >o8o< ---o---

The Ministry of Defence has closed its UFO project. This leaves Britain wide open to a possible invasion by alien beings from outer space! People who report seeing UFOs will no longer be interviewed by the MOD. Is there no end to the Government's parsimony? First the NHS, now this? How will we sleep at night, knowing that extra-terrestrials may now land in our fields and back gardens with impunity.
Bonnybridge, the UFO capital of Europe, will now have to upgrade its infrastructure to cope with the influx of invaders from beyond space*.
The garages will now have to add Dilithium crystals and antimatter to their forecourts. The tea-shops and restaurants will have to add alien cuisine to their menus; pubs will now be serving Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters; and you'd better make sure your mobile is working, because there'll be a long line of ETs outside the public phone box!
*It's where Zoltar came from in Battle of the Planets.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You need hands

Everyone should learn sign language so that they can communicate with deaf people. It can bring unexpected benefits. Here's an example:
My wife and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon. We hired a gypsy caravan, drawn by an independently- minded horse called Molly, and spent a few days traveling round the Dingle peninsula.
On the Thursday, we camped in Annascaul, and took a bus ride into Dingle. We took a boat trip round Dingle Bay and saw Fungi the dolphin, then we went into a pub for lunch.
In the pub I saw a deaf couple signing a conversation. Now I had worked at the East of Scotland Society for the Deaf, where I picked up a bit of sign language, so I signed "Hi there."
Their faces lit up. In no time I was telling them with my hands that we had come over from Scotland for our honeymoon, and that we had parked our caravan and horse in Annascaul, and we were enjoying our holiday in Ireland, and so on.
After our meal, we waved goodbye, and spent the rest of the day in Dingle, ending up in the cinema, watching Phenomenon starring John Travolta.
When we came out, we found we had missed the last bus back to Annascaul so we had to get a taxi. As we were waiting, who should appear, but this couple, and they lived in Annascaul! They invited us to share a taxi with them, and insisted on paying the fare!
Learn sign language. It comes in handy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Elation and elevation

It's celebration time! The Democrats have won the House of Representatives. Also, South Dakota's nasty little abortion ban got well and truly trashed. It's a good day for democracy, and the forces of tolerance.
It wasn't such a good day for the lifts at work. Both of them stopped working this morning at the same time. We couldn't move patients between the ward and theatre. There were delays and cancellations. Typical Wednesday!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Just another manic Monday

*sigh* Back to work tomorrow, after two weeks annual leave - hence the uncommon regularity of my posts. I'm working Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so my posts are going to become erratic again.
It's my sister's birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday! The present's in the post.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Ted Haggard, beacon of the Religious Right, scourge of homosexuality is thoroughly and absolutely hoist by his own petard. He's being seeing a male prostitute for three years, and has been buying methamphetamines from him. This he has admitted. But he claims he has not had sex. Yeah....right. That's up there with "I did not have sexual relations with..." Now Ted may not have had full on penetrative intercourse, in which case, his "no sex" claim is technically true in its narrowest sense. But if one needs massage on a regular basis, there are plenty of qualified massage practitioners who would be willing to come to your home, with the proper equipment, to give a proper therapeutic massage, quite openly. No-one would think anything of it. Being a televangelist is a very physical job. Heck, Ted could probably afford a full-time masseur! Well, up until yesterday anyway.
No, Ted has to come to terms with his gay yearnings, and do a St Paul-like conversion, to use his talents to push for gay marriage. That way he can find redemption.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Planet management 101

The problem with renewable forms of energy production such as solar and wind power is that they only produce electricity when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, so the power has to be used then and there. If there could be a way of storing the electricity, then it could be on tap when it was needed at peak times. Until such time as industrial strength superconductors can be used, I think the answer should be as follows:
Use flywheels to store electricity for night-time and calm days.
Use the electricity to extract hydrogen from water. This will provide the fuel for vehicles.
Encourage everyone to have a solar panel on their roof, and a windmill in their garden.
Use the world's deserts as solar energy farms.
The more solar panels there are, the more surface area there is, to reflect sunlight away from the Earth and help cool the planet, thereby reducing the global warming. Of course, if there's too much reflection, there's a risk of triggering an ice age, so we might have to balance it with carbon emissions.
Why's no-one talking about the Gaia Hypothesis any more? A very good scientific test, is to see whether the increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere triggers a reaction in the Biosphere to counteract its effects.
We should be looking at this global-warming crisis, not as a disaster, but as a learning opportunity - a crash course in planetary management. If we come through this, we will be masters of climate control - an essential skill if we intend to terraform other worlds.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This means war!

It's a conspiracy! God is for Suckers is back up, and I find that other blogs have been hit. So far I know of four casualties, apart from myself, but there may be more who haven't reported in.
Blogroll of the injured
If I hear of any more, I will keep you posted.
This is starting to look like deliberate sabotage of athiest blogs. If it is, then the hacker has committed a crime. Not only that, but by attacking me, it becomes an international crime, since the victims are in different countries.
This is a happening in progress. More news as I get it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gremlins are revolting

It looks like I'm not the only one having the computer gremlins at Halloween. One of my favourite sites God is for Suckers is off line (temporarily I hope). Stardust thinks it might be a Troll Hacker's virus, but we'll have to wait until GifS sorts out its server problems and returns to the Blogosphere, before we find out. Has anyone else had problems? I haven't heard of any other outbreaks of cyber-carnage, but then it's hard to see the bigger picture from one small website.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween. The bogles and beasties have been at my computer. When I clicked on my favourites, I found everything in disorder. Some links have been lost, (don't worry, I'll get them back) and others were in the wrong place. I've just checked Snopes, and there's no mention of a Halloween virus, so I'm baffled.
Not many guisers tonight. We've bought a couple of bags of sweets, but so far only two parties of three.
I got a Halloween joke from one of them:
Q: Why is today a monster's favourite day?
A: Because it's Chews day!

Monday, October 30, 2006

No halt couture

I think people should lay off muslim women, about whether they wear the hijab, niqab or burka. This is a free country, and people should be allowed to wear what they like - even if it's nothing at all. Wearing cultural apparel gives people a sense of belonging, inclusiveness, and identity. Goths, Sikhs, Muslims, Weegees, Punks - all have their own tribal outfit to distinguish them in a crowd. But you can't tell someone's character just based on the way they dress. Everybody is an individual, and you have to get to know them before you can make judgements.
I'm Scottish. The cultural costume for Scots men is the kilt. Now I don't have a kilt, and I haven't worn one since I was 14. But if society said they didn't want to see Scottish men wearing kilts, I would go out and get one, and wear it, just to show my solidarity with my fellow countrymen, and to annoy those who disapproved.
Disapproval of the niqab is turning it from a symbol of subjugation into a symbol of empowerment for muslim women.
Banning stuff stirs up the rebel in us all.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It raises my IRE

The Eye Pavilion, where I work, is an outlying part of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. This is abbreviated to RIE for ease of communication. But for some strange reason, our local newspaper persists in calling it ERI - Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. To me, it's like they're trying to create an insider status for themselves, much like a middle-aged parent trying to appear cool to his kids, by using what they believe to be the in-phrase, and getting it horribly wrong. Everyone who works for the Lothian Health Trust says RIE. The bed linen is stamped RIE. What more proof do you need?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Whit a hangover

I was out last night with my friend the Demon Landlord. We went to our usual haunt, the Sheep Heid Inn. This is the oldest pub in the country. It was established in 1360, and has been frequented by many eminent Scots such as Bonnie Prince Charlie, Jock Tamson, Robert Louis Stevenson, and of course Deacon Barry.
It was also the scene of the most famous resurrection in Scottish history.
Maggie Dixon was found guilty of killing her child, and hanged in the Grassmarket. Her body was loaded into a coffin and transported out of the city. The wagonners stopped at the Sheep Heid for a quick hauf, and to their horror, watched as Maggie pushed back the coffin lid, climbed out, and staggered home. In those days (18th century), hanging was not yet a scientific art, so survival was possible. Because the sentence of the court had been carried out, Maggie was free. She lived the rest of her life as a local celebrity, and was nick-named Half-hingit Maggie.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tempus fuggeddit

There are many interesting and spectacular constellations in the night sky, such as Orion, Ursa Major and Cygnus. But which constellation would you consider to be the most boring? My initial candidate was Horologium - the Pendulum Clock. This was mapped by Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille - an astronomer with an inordinate fondness for machines - in honour of Christiaan Huygens who invented it. Huygens also discovered the rings of Saturn.
Horologium is made up of a number of faint stars, the brightest being magnitude 3.85. Iota Horologii has a planet twice the mass of Jupiter, 0.91 AU from the star, orbiting in about 311 days. Now if it's got a large enough moon, orbiting far enough out to avoid the intense radiation, it could be within the star's habitation zone, and have liquid water on its surface, and possibly life.
This makes Horologium much more interesting, so my candidate now for most boring constellation is Caelum - the Chisel. It has no star brighter than 4th magnitude. It's got a Mira-type variable star (R Caeli), and that's about it.
It's also a neighbouring constellation to Horologium.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Deconstructing modern art

Today I took my wife and my mother down to Peebles for the day. We had lunch in one of the hotels on the High street, then went for a walk round the town. The Peebles museum and gallery is holding an exhibition called Connections, and we went in to have a look.
The idea behind this exhibition is that artists pass their work on to another artist who uses it as inspiration for their work. It's like the games Consequences and Chinese Whispers. It has produced a number of chains of artwork, where you can see how the ideas have been used and moulded by the artists. There are also some chains of sketches which had to be done in three minutes, and they are a fascinating insight into the artists' creative thought processes.
In the centre of the hall though is a wooden, interactive machine/sculpture. The idea being that you turn a wheel, which turns cogs and levers, and draws a design in a container of sand.
Well I had a go. I turned the wheel anticlockwise. The pulley went back. the wheel on top turned. The lever hit the pegs and reversed direction, moving the brushes in the sand drum in a different direction, then...


The bottom fell off.

It was broken.


It was a large wooden wheel with a plastic cable round it, to turn the sand drum which had fallen. Mind you, it was only held on by a single screw. A heavy thing like that? No wonder it fell! I went and found one of the staff and pointed it out, so I did the right thing. It looks like it'll be easily fixed, thank goodness. Now I know how the man who crashed into the Ming vase felt - shattered!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Timidus. Ipse timidus.

If you've wondered why I get so het up about the perils of society sliding into a theocratic mindset, you should read this proposed criminal code proposed on an extreme christian website called Shadowgov. Or click over to Gods4suckers and read their take on this.
It's a simple system. Flogging or execution for all crimes. No need to keep criminals locked up in prisons for years at the public expense. Do you want to live in such a society?
I admit, it's about as extreme as you can get. It makes Sharia law look merciful. But don't ever say that it couldn't happen. This was the norm three thousand years ago. The Middle Ages weren't much better. We are capable of creating this kind of society. It just won't happen suddenly, that's all. To get from here to there requires a lot of small incremental steps, that get the population thinking that law and order based on biblical teachings is not such a bad idea. America has already gone some way down that road. We, fortunately, are much further behind.
Complacency and apathy are the tools that will help the theocrats gain momentum. There are already about a dozen religious channels on Sky, including Britain's very own Revelation TV. The evangelical churches are growing at the expense of the traditional churches, and they're against abortion, evolution and homosexuality.
Britain is nowhere near as religious as the USA, and the likelihood of it moving towards this theocratic mindset is, I admit it, extremely slim. But if America succumbs, then the outlook is bleak. We've seen how the government wants to maintain that special relationship with Washington. Would the pressure be on to adopt more christian-friendly policies?
Let's just say I'm concerned. I don't want us to sleepwalk into a second Commonwealth, so I'm going to shout about it as long as I've got access to the internet.
All I can do is spread the word.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Absens in Remota

By way of Pharyngula comes this interesting site. It tells you how many people in the USA have the same name as you. So I typed in Christopher Dallman, and got the answer 6. Now one of these I already know about. He's the one who occupies my spot on Google, and doesn't let me appear until page 7 or 8. That leaves five unaccounted for. Remember, I live in Scotland, so I'm not included in the count. Neither is the other Googled Chris: he's English.
6 may be an estimate, the people who run the site say it's a ballpark figure. It's also based on the 1990 census. My Book of Dallmans doesn't list any American Christophers. So I'm left with only the three I know about. (Three of eight? Sounds like a borg!)
My message to any of those missing Christophers out there is: Get yourselves noticed! Don't be anonymous!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

You'll need back-up

I read in the paper that in twenty years, we'll be able to download our minds onto computers. I must admit, I'm skeptical about the timeframe, but if it is possible, then how cool is that? In twenty years time, I'll be approaching retirement, and my body will be starting to wear out. If I wait another ten years while they get the bugs out the system, I can then download myself, and live for centuries in cyberspace. I would create my own worlds, and become god of my own universe, raising up mighty virtual civilizations. It would be like Age of Empires, only much more like reality.
If you want to get an idea of what it would be like, read Tad Williams' Otherland series. It explores the concept of virtual reality, and downloading personalities. For another take, there's a humourous short story by Bob Shaw called Harold Wilson at the Cosmic Cocktail Tea Party, where the downloaded character is a right wing dictator, being kept online by his government. Unfortunately, he's become more interested in conquering virtual realms than running his real one.
Seeing virtual worlds through a plasma screen is a delight. Being part of them, would be an afterlife worth pursuing.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hiatus hearin' ya

It's good to be back. I've just been reconnected. My phone line went dead on Thursday. Today the BT engineer came and discovered the problem was a fault at the exchange. So, no phone and no internet for two days. And things build up when you're not around to read them. Fortunately, it wasn't long enough for me to develop any severe withdrawal symptoms (my precious.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A cross in the box

When I'm admitting a patient to the ward, one of the boxes I have to fill is 'religion'. The reason for having this box is to give us a heads up on any dietary requirements, or pastoral needs the patient may have. The hospital kitchen can supply halal, kosher, vegetarian and vegan meals, as long as they're given enough notice. The chaplaincy service can be contacted, if the patient requests it. And a priest can be summoned to perform the last rites if that were ever necessary. In an ophthalmic ward, it would be an absolute rarity.
Most often, when asked, people reply "Church of Scotland" which I write down as 'C of S'. Some just say "protestant." Occasionally, someone will tell me they: "Don't really have a religion." For that I put down 'none.' I have hardly ever had someone describe themselves as atheist. Yet I suspect that many of those C of S's are just giving me the church they were christened or married in, which they haven't been to for years. Agnosticism seems to rule in Scotland. True believers always describe themselves as "Christians."
Nobody has ever objected to being asked their religion, and I would be overjoyed to hear someone reply "Jedi", or "Reformed Odinist"
The dearth of atheists troubles me. I feel it wouldn't take much to herd these soft agnostics back into the fold of more evangelical churches if the right charismatic preacher came along. The only reason most people don't bother with church-going is the boredom factor. One hour of a typical presbyterian service is the most mind-numbing experience you can have in a week.
The traditional churches are dwindling as their aging congregation expires. Evangelical churches, on the other hand are gaining momentum and young converts to a hard core message that is fertile ground for intolerance against their three big bugbears: evolution, abortion and homosexuality.
The allegiance of the soft agnostics is the prize, and there are so few atheists, and so many evangelicals. The Culture War rages in America, and the storm is coming to Britain.
atheists of Britain arise! Your country needs you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Grand Rounds and Coffee Grounds

Grand Rounds is up at Emergiblog. And guess what? I'm in it! Remember my post on leeches? I sent it to Kim at emergiblog for Change of Shift, which is the nursing carnival, but she asked if she could include it in Grand Rounds, which is the medical carnival. So I said, of course, and now there it is.
She's got a Starbucks theme to the event. I'm at the end of the menu under Irish Coffee. Ireland - Scotland? Close enough.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Death of a President

I watched Death of a President this morning. If you remember, I blogged about this last week. I was working Monday night so I had to record it, and I finally got round to watching it today.
I enjoyed it. It was well put together. They've managed to splice footage of Bush and Cheney seamlessly into the film so that it looks and sounds like a real documentary. The date of this fictional assassination is 19th October 2007 - just over one year from now. It will be interesting to see what happens then. I think Bush should avoid Chicago on that date, just to be on the safe side. I don't agree with his policies, but I am opposed to anyone trying to assassinate him.
It was an interesting film, but because it is so obviously fiction, one is tempted to ask what the point of it was. Last year, I watched a similar type of film - a fictional documentary - about a plane collision over London. I didn't catch the start of the programme so I thought it was a genuine documentary about the risk of collision. When they started showing the pictures of burning wreckage, it felt very weird. I felt I was witnessing some alternative history that had somehow interfaced with my universe. Surely I would have remembered something as dramatic as a plane collision over London? I soon realised it was fiction, but with an important warning about the state of our airways. This was an accident that could happen.
I didn't get that feeling with this film. The risk of assassination is always there for US presidents, but they have a substantial security team whose job is to prevent it happening. The film touched on the consequences of Bush's assassination, and all I can say is I fear it would not be a good thing for America.
I may discuss this later once my readers in America have had a chance to see this film. It's definitely worth watching, and I give it three stars.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Be vigilant. Be pure. Behave.

In the education section of the Independent this week is this article, about a creationist group trying to push an information pack onto British schools. Now while this is a big problem in America (though fortunately the tide seems to be turning against them), here in Britain we have so far escaped the worst idiocies of this movement*. That doesn't mean we don't have to be vigilant. Unlike the USA, there is no separation of church and state. Anglican bishops sit in the House of Lords. The Queen is Head of the Church, and is therefore a religious leader as well as a secular one. She is the equal of the Pope and the Dalai Lama. The UK is technically a theocracy, though most people will shrug and say, "Whatever." Fundamentalists are regarded as cranks, and creationists are lumped with other loonies such as Flat Earthers, Scientologists and Iridologists**.
Creationists see themselves as doing God's work, which is getting everybody to worship Jesus as fervently as themselves. The Theory of Evolution is a major obstacle because it is logically incompatible with the Creation account in Genesis. Without Genesis, there is no Original Sin, therefore no need for the Crucifixion. This renders Christianity meaningless.
The creationists can't push their literal version of Genesis directly, because most people consider it a myth. Therefore, they must first sow the seeds of doubt by getting schoolchildren to question evolution by putting forward arguments that some biological structures are so complex, they couldn't have evolved naturally and therefore it's reasonable to assume they were designed. By whom? Oh...a creator.
If you press a creationist to define what he means by a creator, it becomes obvious that he's not talking about an Arisian*** or a Flying Spaghetti Monster. There's only one creator he wants you to know about, and that's the one written about in Genesis.
These (dis)Information packs need to be shot down in flames and banned from science classes. If they are included in Religious Education classes, they need to be ridiculed and scorned, as an example of the foolish things some people believe.

*The 'bowel' is implied.
**Sorry, couldn't resist.
***Literary reference to EE'Doc'Smith's Lensman books.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Where the streets are paved with gold

It's official. I work in the most expensive street in Scotland. It's called Chalmers Street and the carpark at the foot of it has just been sold for nearly £10 million. When I say carpark, don't be having visions of a multistorey edifice with wardens and CCTV. I'm talking 0.8 acres of open, gravelled ground with a parking ticket dispenser in the middle. So why the hefty price tag? Across the road, they're demolishing the old Simpson's Maternity Hospital, and converting the old Royal Infirmary into an upmarket estate of luxury apartments and leisure facilities to be called Quartermile (because it's a quarter mile from Edinburgh Castle). It is also next to the Meadows, the large public park in the middle of Edinburgh. So if you build fifty to sixty apartments and sell them for £1 million each, you're going to make one heck of a profit.
The problem with this from my point of view, is that just up the hill is the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, where I work. £10 million would come in very handy for the Lothian health trust...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Death of a blogger

I just found out this morning that Sean from God is for Suckers has died. Apparently he died in his sleep on Friday. He had been ill for some time, but had put off treatment. Tragically his death came only two weeks after his father's death. His blog, GiFS for short, is an athiest blog, and his posts were an entertaining and incisive take on the absurdities of Christian Fundamentalism. I only started reading the blog this year, but his 'voice' was distinctive. The best post he did was on April 1st, when he put up a complete false web page, announcing that he'd seen the light, repented, and was now born again! When I saw this I said WTF! When I clicked on the page for further information, all was revealed - April Fool!
I don't know much more about him, what his last name is, or what he looked like. He lived in San Francisco. Hopefully somebody will post an obituary on the site.
I'm sad he's dead. The Blogosphere is still in its infancy, and already a leading light has been extinguished. He'll never see how blogging matures and develops over the next few decades, or how GiFS fares. I hope it survives. It is a communal blog with a number of contributors. But Sean will be missed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Splish splash

There are many flood myths. Every culture seems to have one. This has been taken by christians to be proof for Noah's flood. Of course, all the other flood stories have been handed down by word of mouth, and have been distorted over time. The biblical account being the only literally true version - yeah right! The biblical account is reckoned to be based on the Babylonian version, which is in turn based on the one referred to by the Sumerians in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The hypothesis I favour at the moment is that this story is based on an orally transmitted memory of the deluge back in the sixth millennium BC, when the salt waters of the Mediterranean Sea burst through the land barrier where Istanbul is now, and drowned the shores of the vast freshwater lake north of Turkey, to create today's Black Sea.
In Greek mythology there is the Ogygian flood, whose survivors are Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha. This flood, however, seems to date to a few generations before the main events of Greeks mythology such as the voyage of the Argonauts, the Theban wars, and of course, the Trojan war. A flood dating to 4,000 years previously is incompatible with Greek writings. A flood dating to 1628BC, on the other hand, is well within the timeframe. That's when Thera erupted according to ice cores excavated from the Greenland Ice Sheet. It caused a tsunami that devastated Crete, and drained then flooded the marshes of Northern Egypt, an event which may have been remembered as the parting of the waves in the Bible.
And what of Greece? The tsunami would have been as devastating to its coast as it was to Crete, and just as traumatic to the survivors as the Black Sea flooding was centuries before. And it has not gone unrecorded. My hypothesis is that the Ogygian flood of King Deucalion was the result of the Thera eruption, and not a distorted retelling of an earlier flood legend.
Two floods. Not one.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Don't stop the Carnival

Kim at emergiblog is hosting this month's Change of Shift. "What's that?" say my readers who are not nurse bloggers. It's a Carnival. "What, with dodgems and carousels...?" Not that sort of Carnival. In the Blogosphere, a Carnival is a round-up/collection/digest/pick of the best posts of the month from various blogs. Change of Shift is the nursing Carnival. I only discovered it last month, so I haven't had a chance to organise a contribution. Once I write a post about nursing that I feel good enough to be included, I'll be sending it to whoever is hosting it. Bloggers take it in turn to host it you see. This month's is volume one, number eight, which suggests that it's only been going since March. That's the thing with blogging, everything's so damned new!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Five tunes to die for

I've just been meme-tagged by Mother Jones RN of Nurse Ratched's Place. My very first meme-tagging. Whassat then? Meme tagging is a game that bloggers play, usually involving posting a list. Then you tell another blogger, "It's your turn!" A meme, of course, if you've read anything by Richard Dawkins, is the cultural equivalent of a gene - a self replicating idea.
So what has Mother Jones tagged me with?

Five songs to be played at my funeral.
1. Tibetan monks' chant.
This to be played as the pallbearers carry my coffin into the crematorium. Many years ago, I was in a production of The Jew of Malta, and this was the opening music.
2. Chantilly Lace by the Big Boppa.
Anyone who's been to a karaoke with me will understand this one. "Hello babe!" is just the thing to open the ceremony.
3.Cinderella Rockefeller by Avi and Esther Ovarim.
This is the song of my childhood. It's also a final "I love you." to my family and friends.
4.Pawn's Lament from The Chess Game by Ian McDonald.
You won't have heard this one. It's from a musical, performed over twenty years ago at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which my brother and sister were in. It goes like this:
I hear the bells toll for just another pawn
Your life was but a moment in the whole of time
The bell rings soft now, but no-one seems to hear
Why am I living when so many lie around? I feel so cold now?
When...I have survived.
I don't want to grow so old now
Now that all my friends have died
They're not alive
But they'll survive
Their memory lingers on.
Finally, as my coffin heads towards the oven, the final song -
5.The Cygnet from Carmen Burana.
I can't resist the refrain:
Miser, miser
Modo niger
Et ustus fortiter.
(Alas, alas, now black, and roasted thoroughly.)
So that's my bunch of five. Now who can I tag? Lemmee see now. Mother Jones tagged me, Sapient Fridge doesn't have a blog, so that leaves...
BeepBeepitsme - you're it!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bush assassinated!

Made you look! Next Monday, apparently, there's a programme on More4 called Death of a President which is a drama about what would happen if somebody shot Dubya. I know nothing more about it other than Hillary Clinton and Kevin Costner have denounced it, and the Whitehouse has said nowt. What's interesting, is that it's been made by a digital channel. More4 is the digital branch of the terrestrial Channel 4. Digital channels are not best known for their commitment to original drama production, so this comes as a nice surprise. I'll have to record it though, because I'm working a night shift next Monday. It's on at nine o' clock.
And it comes less than a month after Disney's mock assassination of Clinton! (Which I avoided like the toxic candy floss it was.) This sounds way more(4) appealing. If I do manage to record and watch it, I'll review it for you.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Plates of meat

When I was a nursing student, we had a class on complementary therapies. These included massage and relaxation techniques which I have found useful, but it also included reflexology. If you are unaware of what this is, I will now dispel your good fortune. Reflexologists believe that the body is mapped onto the soles of the feet, and by massaging the appropriate area of the sole (soul?), one can alleviate disorder in the corresponding body part. What bollocks! Foot massage is only foot massage and nothing else. Have they considered the logical flipside of their delusion that if massaging the foot helps to heal (heel?) and organ, then accidently treading on a broken glass, or spilt drawing pin should cause injury to that organ. Of course it doesn't, which only demonstrates that reflexology doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Friday, September 29, 2006

When I'm feeling blue

Is life getting you down?
Are all things going wrong?
Wipe away that frown,
And listen to my song....

Raindrops on noses and whiskers all soggy,
Clothes ripped by roses on days dull and foggy
Soft wormy apples gone mouldy and bad
These are the things that make me sad.

Grumpy old beggars with snotty moustaches
Snowstorms that freeze up my hair and eyelashes
Brown paper envelopes, each with a bill
These are the things that make me ill.

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When the sailors curse
I simply remember that life is no good
And that makes me feel much worse.

Rickety wardrobes with pull-away handles
Slippery sand that seeps into my sandals
Motor-car engines that splutter and choke
These are the things that gie me the boak.

Clouds grey and sleeting on snip-snappy poodles
Pies with no meat in and green soggy noodles
School-dinner custard that's lumpy and thick
These are the things that make me sick.

When the toast falls
On the jam side
And the fat lady sings
I rattle my fist and I write out a list
Of my least favourite things.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The astrologers lament

With poor old Pluto out of the game, what's going to happen to all those horoscopes which rely on his influence? And what about all those Scorpios without a planet to rule them? And those astrology books which explain how Pluto, with its change of sign every generation, has been the underlying force of history for the past centuries, even though it was only discovered in 1930?
Oh dear, it's a sad time for astrologers everywhere. They had managed to incorporate the subtle guidance of Pluto into their comprehensive system, and now it's all been taken away from them - woe, woe, thrice woe!
Do you think part of the reason the IAU decided to demote Pluto was to seriously piss off the astrologers? Sadly, probably not, but it must feel oh so good even so. Astronomers probably loathe the trine and square brigade as much as I do iridologists.
I've not seen any astrologers on TV recently talking about this. Maybe they're hoping for it to be forgotten quickly, so that they can go back to bilking the public with one less planet to work with.
Fat chance! Do you want to know how to wind up an astrologer now?
Three words:




Sunday, September 24, 2006

Over on channel beep

I'm having an interesting discussion over on Beep beep it's me, on two threads. One about the Exodus, and another about the Resurrection. Why not get over there now, and join in before she moves onto another topic. The comments section for both is getting quite long, people seem to be posting screeds (myself included), as opposed to the normal short pithy paragraphs.

How I wish I could get a comment thread this long on this blog. I'm sure it'll happen one day. I've only been going four months. It takes time to build up a readership, and I know I have you, my band of regulars. Knowing that there is an audience, gives me the strength to persevere.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Heigh ho, heigh ho.

Well, my three week break is over and I'm now back at work. It's as if I've never been away. Next week I've got a four day week. This may not seem much, but the shifts I work are from 0730 until 2030. That's thirteen hours, but I don't get paid for my two half hour meal breaks. Normally I work three days a week. That makes 36 hours. A full time working week is thirty seven and a half hours. So what we do is add up those extra 1.5 hours to make an extra day every eight weeks. And I'm working it next week.
Still, can't complain, I prefer doing it this way. I'm used to the long days now. The hours after teatime are invaluable for getting loose ends tied up. And I love all those days off.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Nukes for Iran

Why should Iran give up its nuclear ambitions? Its neighbours have nuclear weapons. An attack by the USA seems to be on the cards. For Iran to have nukes then is only sensible. Iran is a country with a democratically elected president and government. What right do other countries have to interfere in its internal affairs? How would Britons feel if we were told to dispose of our nuclear deterrent by the UN. Or how would Americans feel if they were ordered to close Guantanamo Bay... (Um...these are not terribly good examples are they?)
What about Britons being forced to spell things the American way? And Americans having to play rugby and cricket instead of football and baseball?
The purpose of nuclear weapons is to dissuade attack. If America tries to invade Iran, it would be a disaster of biblical proportions. What's needed is another Cold War in the Middle East, just to keep a lid on tensions until a new generation comes to power and diplomatic solutions have time to be worked towards.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hoddit and Doddit

President Ahmadinejad of Iran is currently visiting President Chavez of Venezuela. They're doing the usual diplomatic stuff, signing treaties and stuff. It really is a bizarre combination. Now Venezuela and Cuba I can understand, they're both Latin American countries with an antipathy towards the USA. But Venezuela and Iran? Apart from being major oil producers, and opposed to US imperialism, what do they have in common? *
The political set-ups of the new millennium are evolving. The Country as a unit of administration is slowly moving towards the Continental Region as a political/economic structure. China is the oldest by far, followed by Russia, India and the USA. Europe is coalescing fast. Pan-Islamiyya - the uniting of all the countries of the crescent - is as yet a far off dream, but is feasible, given the common languages and religion. A unified Latin America is even more feasible, given the dominance of Spanish (except in Brazil**)
Which brings us back to these two leaders. Imagine the strength of a Pan-Islamiyya/Pan-Latina alliance compared to the present Europe/USA alliance. Serious competition I think.
Anyway, in the wake of the Pope's verbal gaffe, these two leaders at least, are showing that it is possible for Muslims and Catholics to overcome the religious divide and work together. This can only be a good thing, right?

*We may have the beginnings of a Monty Python sketch here.
**But Portuguese is easily translated. Just change all the -cion suffixes to -cao***
***I haven't worked out how to put a squiggle**** over the o. Just pretend it's there.
****The squiggle probably has a name. I can't think of it at the moment.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hit or myth?

In the aftermath of Star Wars, back in the late seventies, there was a slew of sword and sorcery films such as Hawk the Slayer, Lord of the Rings - the original animated version, Dragonslayer, and, according to a friend of mine who says it's the best film ever - Krull! A bit later, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a couple of outings as Conan, and George Lucas had an attempt with Willow.
There are a lot of fine fantasy novels, but we had to wait for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, before we had a truly epic fantasy film. It wasn't the special effects that were the problem - they were good for the era - the actual plots were all a bit weak.
(Warning - plot spoilers ahead)
In Dragonslayer, Ralph Richardson plays a wizard who dies in the first act, returns to life in the final act only to do a suicide bombing on the dragon. In Willow, it is prophesied that the baby will bring about the destruction of the villianess, in fact it's Willow that does it. The baby is irrelevant. In fantasy fiction, prophesies should be iron-clad. They may not unfold as the characters expect, but the prophecy must be fulfilled to the letter. George Lucas has redeemed himself by incorporating the best example of a fictional prophecy - Anakin Skywalker bringing balance to the Force - in the Star Wars epic.
Which of these films is your favourite? My vote goes to Dragonslayer.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Vale Xena, Ave Eris

Just in case you've missed it, dwarf planet 2003UB313 has now been officially named Eris, after the greek goddess of discord. Its moon is Dysnomia, after the goddess of lawlessness. They were nicknamed after their discovery Xena and Gabrielle, after a well known television show. Xena was played by Lucy Lawless, and though the moon's name is an obvious pun, it was not intentional, but when it was pointed out, they decided to go with it anyway. So it is a sort of tribute.
The only thing is, these two worlds have been Xena and Gabrielle for three years, and names have a habit of sticking. Who's to say that a planet can't have a proper name and a nickname? People do, objects do, why not worlds. There is a precedent: Arrakis and Dune!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Belt up!

On Monday it becomes law. Children under 1.65 metres will have to sit in a booster chair in the car. As an adult and a nurse, I approve of this safety measure, but it's going to cause a great deal of pain and misery. The smallest children in the class have enough problems. Now they're going to be discriminated against purely because of their stature. While other classmates do the school run as usual next week, they will be forced back into baby seats, with all the teasing and bullying that implies. I know I would be mortified. I was the youngest in my class, and the second smallest. If this law had come in back in the seventies, I would have been in a baby seat until I was nine or ten. The Tourette's was bad enough, imagine this on top!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Does Gordon Brown have Tourette's? Or some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? I'm wondering because I watched him give a speech yesterday on TV, and as he was speaking, he kept touching the top corner of his notes with his left hand every few seconds. To the layman, it might have looked as if he was straightening his notes, but to those of us in the know, it screamed tic. He also does that thing with the muscles in his lower jaw when he completes a sentence. He's in his fifties now, and the severity of any Tourette's will be much reduced, but it would be interesting to ask anyone who knew him when he was younger whether he had more noticable tics.
Not that it makes any difference to his Prime Ministerial ambitions. Barring any cock-ups of biblical proportions between now and when Mr Blair finally goes, Mr Brown will be our next Prime Minister. Whether he can win a fourth term for Labour is another matter entirely.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And the answer is...?

It's Mount Chimborazo of course, the highest mountain in Ecuador. It's only a degree away from the equator, which means, because the Earth is an oblate spheroid, the summit is the one point on the Earth's surface that is furthest from the centre. Go here for more information.
Congratulations to Sapient Fridge who was first with the answer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What is the highest mountain in the world?

If you said Mt Everest, you're going with the easy answer. It's the highest mountain above sea level, but it's not the answer I'm looking for.
If you said Mauna Kea, you're getting higher. Everest is 8.848km above sea level, but Mauna Kea is over 9km from sea floor to summit. But it's still not the answer I'm looking for.
There is, in fact a mountain, who's summit is 2.1km higher than Everest's. And that mountain is...?
Tune in tomorrow to find out.

(Man, I love cliffhangers)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mair mud

Apparently, the BBC showed an amended version. Berger doesn't slam the phone down, but just looks indecisively into the distance. Whatever. It still didn't happen. It looks like American Airlines might take legal action. No word yet from A, B & C (Allbright, Berger & Clinton). Early days yet.
I didn't watch it again tonight. Instead I finally caught LA Confidential. Cool movie.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

More mud on the path

I've just switched off the Path to 9/11. I'm not going to waste five hours of valuable blogging time watching Bush's propaganda. If you're reading this, and you've actually watched it, remember that what you've seen was a fictional drama, based on a historic event. It has errors, that misrepresent what actually happened. The first scene - where Atta's name comes up on the airline computer as a warning - didn't happen.
The climactic scene at the end of the first part - where the NSA boss slams the phone down on his agent, ensuring that Bin Laden goes free - didn't happen. Bill Clinton being too distracted by Monica Lewinsky to hunt down Bin Laden - didn't happen.
The film is a deliberate attempt to smear the Clinton administration before the November elections, and the BBC are party to this. All I ask is that you spread the word.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The muddy path

The big news all over the Blogosphere just now is the scandalous Disney TV movie The Path to 9/11, which they have admitted publicly has been fictionalised to make it appear that the Clinton administration are to blame for allowing the tragedy to take place. The film cost $40 million to make, but there will be no advertising during the screening. This, in effect, is a donation by the Disney Corporation to the Republican party of a piece of prime time propaganda. One hopes that what they receive in return for this largesse will be worth the loss in good will from the American people. Already, panic measures are taking place, Scholastic have pulled out of producing a discussion guide to be given to schools concurrently with the airing of the show.
Guess what? We get to see the film before the Americans. It's being shown tonight (the 10th) on BBC 2, the day before they see it. I hope the BBC realise that they're opening themselves to some serious legal sanctions. The film is defamatory, and there are laws against that sort of thing.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Resistance is futile

I've been through a week's backlog of mail, including my Nursing Standard. Reading through it, I see that 90,000 NHS staff have still to be assimilated to the Agenda for Change payscale. That includes me. I was hoping to see my letter of notification amongst that mail backlog, but it didn't happen. Until I receive that letter, I can't get my hands on the arrears that have been building up since October 2004. Rumour has it, that there's a couple of thousand (£) waiting for us. (Cha-ching!)
All I hope is, that this is the last time they restructure the NHS wage structure, until after I retire, anyway, and that's a couple of decades away. It's been a major hassle. I don't think anyone foresaw how complicated an operation it was going to be. I feel the problem is one of trust. We have none! We feel the Government is out to shaft us with weasel words. Unless we nail them down with cast-iron guarantees, they'll wriggle out of any commitment, and sell us down the river. (How many mixed metaphors in that?) Last year's heckling of the Health Secretary, what's-her-face, at the RCN conference was merely a public manifestation of our mood.
How good a deal is AfC, if the doctors and senior managers don't want to be involved, anyway?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What I did on my summer holiday.

I'm back! I've been on my summer holidays on a round trip of Britain, from my home here near Edinburgh to Cambridge, then on to the south coast in Hampshire, returning via the Lake District today. I've driven nearly one thousand miles over the last week, and I've only had to fill up twice. The weather has been hot. Going three hundred miles south really makes a difference to the climate. I've been in T-shirts the whole time, even at night!
We went to the Historic Docks at Portsmouth, and saw the Mary Rose, the Warrior and Victory. It was interesting seeing the development of naval warships from Tudor times to the Victorian era.
If you were in Cambridge last weekend and saw or heard fireworks, we were right there, celebrating a family birthday.
I am now returned, refreshed and respirited (12-year old malt whisky) and ready to blog!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Beep beep it's me - on the blogroll.

Another day, another blogroll. Beep beep it's me - cogito ergo sum has added me to her athiest/agnostic blogroll. Click on the link and check her out. It's one of the most colourful blogs around - and it's on Blogger! I reckon she's really been hitting the html around in her template. It takes about thirty seconds for the posts to appear, so be patient.
OK, I really am off now on my hols. See you next week!

We're all going on a summer holiday

I'm going to be out of touch for a week. It's my summer holiday at last, so you, my dear regular readers of this blog may have to wait till I return. I say may, because there is a chance I might have access to computing technology, in which case I can do an 'on location' post. If not, then I'll return to the blog next week, refreshed, revived and rejuvenated.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Do you speak ancient Egyptian?

You'd be surprised at how much ancient Egyptian you know. Most people know the word Ankh which is the looped cross. It's actually supposed to be a sandal strap. Then there's the names of the gods: Osiris, Isis, Anubis, Horus, Set, Thoth, and Ra. And don't forget the pharoahs, Ramesses, Akhenaten, and Tutenkhamun. You'll probably feel that I've exhausted your supply of ancient Egyptian vocabulary. Not so! The following are words in English that have the same or similar meanings in ancient Egyptian.

Ebony, road, hut, him, Mary, amen, bane, bint, puss, nature, bee, cow, emir.
Nwt is town backwards. The dead are incarcerated in a carcet (coffin), Nob is gold, which is a noble metal. The chem in chemistry and alchemy comes from the name for ancient Egypt which was Khemet. And the word for beer is Heneket, which is not that far removed from Heineken.

Friday, August 25, 2006

New 'Agenda for Change' policies

Dress code
It is advised that you come to work dressed according to your salary. This enables us to assimilate you into the correct banding for your perceived status. We will recognise only three categories of attire:
a. If we see you wearing Prada shoes and carrying a Gucci bag, we may assume that you are doing well financially and therefore do not require a high banding.
b. If we see you wearing clothes by George or M&S that are neither ostentatious nor poor quality (Classification: Just right), you are right where you needed to be and do not require a higher banding.
c. If we see you dressed poorly, you need to manage your money better, so that you may buy clothes by George or M&S and move into category b. which as stated does not require a higher banding.

Sick days
We will no longer accept a doctor's line as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.

Personal days
Each NHS employee will be entitled to 104 personal days per standard calendar year. These are known as Saturday and Sunday.

Stress days
Each NHS employee will be entitled to 260 stress days per standard calendar year. These are known as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Toilet use
To ensure Government targets are achieved, savings will be made in the amount of time NHS employees spend in the toilet. A strict three-minute time limit will be observed. At the completion of this three-minute period, if the cubicle has not been vacated, an alarm will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, and the cubicle door will spring open, triggering a high megapixel digital camera. After a second offence, both pictures will be posted on the NHS website in the Chronic Offenders' Bogroll.
Anyone pictured smiling at the camera will be sectioned under the NHS mental health policy.

Thank you for your loyalty to the NHS. We are here to provide a positive employment experience. In order to facilitate this, all questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplations, consternations, input, output and throughput should be directed elsewhere.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Requiescat in orbe Pluto (1930 - 2006)

(Sob) Pluto is no longer a planet. Not as defined by international astronomers anyway. There was a resolution to include it, plus Charon and Ceres in a pantheon of twelve. That's been scrapped. A planet is now a body pulled into a roughly spherical shape by its own gravity that has cleared its orbit round the sun (except of course for any moons it has collected in the process.) So that means an octad of planets: four rocky dwarves and four gas giants.
Still, all is not lost; Pluto now becomes the first, and nominative, member of the class of objects known as Plutonian bodies. And there's already more of them than there are planets.
The status of Pluto is really a fuss over semantics. It doesn't change in the slightest the structure of the Solar System. We still need to send a probe to study it. It's still by far the closest Kuiper belt object. It can tell us a lot about the formation of our System and its workings.
And now the textbooks will have to be rewritten.

My multicultural childhood

I grew up in a multicultural household. My parents have got a big flat, so they used to let out one of the rooms to postgraduate students from Edinburgh university. Over the years, we had lodgers from all over the world staying with us, from countries such as: Egypt, Gilbert Islands, Switzerland, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. I learned about Islam from an early age; about prayer mats facing towards Mecca, and about not eating pork. One of our lodgers is a senior engineer in his country's power industry, and another became his country's education minister. With this upbringing, you can understand why I hold a favourable viewpoint towards Islam.
The mosque in Edinburgh serves lunches. For a small charge, you can partake of some tasty Indian cooking in the middle of the day, if you've been shopping. If you don't have the good fortune to live in Edinburgh, why not check out what the mosque in your area is doing for the community, and go along. The only way to break down barriers is for you to do something.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The application of leeches

In this week's Nursing Standard, Jane Bates talks about receiving a nursing dictionary from the 1950's, and she mentions a little used ophthalmic treatment:

'One is straight from the horror films: for acute glaucoma, relief was given by applying leeches to the eyeball.'

Now I actually have in my possession Ophthalmic Nursing by P.Garland which was published in 1966. It has a whole section on The application of leeches.

'Leeching may be ordered for the relief of pain and congestion in cases of acute glaucoma and acute iritis. It is difficult to assess the efficacy as the treatment is so often combined with other measures, but patients with recurring attacks often welcome the apparently unpleasant application.'

The leech should actually be applied to the orbital ridge, and should be prevented from accidentally biting on the eyeball! The leech takes between 20 minutes to an hour to feed. They should never be pulled off:
'A little salt put around the spot where they are attached will cause them to vomit and so lose their hold.'
Explanation to the patient should be sensitively timed:
'He should not be told until the tray is brought to the bedside, and the jar of leeches will be kept out of his sight and also that of other patients.'
There's even a list of equipment:
'Leeches, Mackintosh cape, test tube plugged with wool, dissecting forceps to handle the leech, unscented soap and a small bowl of water, sweetened milk, salt and teaspoon, Carbolic 1 in 20 in a kidney tray, receiver, swabs, square of lint, eye pad, small pressure pad, large wool dressing, two inch bandage, adhesive strapping.
The top pillow should be protected by a jaconet pillow case.'
And let's not forget who'll be carrying out this procedure:
'The inexperienced nurse may feel apprehensive of handling a leech.'