Monday, July 31, 2006

By Titan's frigid shores

The Solar system gets more intriguing as exploration continues. Now it seems there are lakes on Titan. It's by no means definite, but radar pictures are showing smooth kidney shaped areas, similar in size to Earth's lakes, which could contain liquid methane or ethane. The shape of them also suggests they are formed in collapsed volcanic calderas, which might indicate yet another world with volcanic activity!
If only it weren't so cold, it would be ideal for colonisation.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

FSM 101

If you surf the internet, you may have come across comments using strange phrases as 'touched by His noodly appendage', 'pastafarian' and 'ramen'. If you go to, all will be revealed. This is the website of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or FSM for short.
It's only been a year since Bobby Henderson wrote his satirical letter to the Kansas Board of Education asking for the FSM theory of creation be given equal time with evolution and Intelligent Design. The idea was to point out the absurdity of ID, and that if there was a creator, it didn't have to be the god of the bible. ID of course assumes that the creator is the christian one, even though it can't say so.
FSM obviously hit a chord with the cybercitizens. In the American culture war, it is a way to show your defiance of the religious right, in the same way that the letter V (for victory) was such a potent symbol during WWII.
In April this year, Connie Morris, a member of the State Board of Education was annoyed to find a picture of FSM on a classroom door, and asked for it to be removed. As far as I know, it's still there. It's good to know the truth hurts.

PS. Ramen seems to be some kind of American pasta dish, but because of its similarity to Amen, it has become a popular sign-off tag on the internet.
So until my next post - Ramen!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.

In the current issue of Private Eye, there is a report about the water supply on the Island of Jersey. The environment minister wants to restrict groundwater extraction and introduce metering. He has based these measures on a study by the British Geological Survey on the island's water resources.
George Langlois, a local water diviner, says there is water deep down underneath the island, which completely contradicts the BGS findings.
Who would you believe? A team of geologists who have studied the island and concluded that the water table is shallow and only extends down for 30 metres below the surface, or a dowser with a forked twig?
Guess which way the Jersey States have gone? (Hint: would I be blogging about this if they'd gone for the sensible option?)
If you want to read Mr Langlois own testimony to the States, where he explains how the moon draws water from France (!) to below the island, then click on this link. The interview took place two years ago.
Though reading it, I'm not convinced that the committee themselves are convinced by Mr Langlois.
Here is another case where believing in pseudoscience can be bad for your health. If the States go with Mr Langlois in search of non-existant water, and do nothing to conserve what water they have in these times of increasingly hot summers, they run the risk of running dry, and when that happens, life on the island will become untenable.
The only hopeful descision they have made, is that they are going to test Mr Langlois' claim by making some test bores. They should save their money.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Do you believe everything you read on the internet?

The other day, there was a panic post in a forum about a computer virus that was supposed to destroy your hard disk if you opened an attachment marked invitation. The poster begged us to tell as many people as we could. Now they were passing on the message with the best of intentions, hoping to preserve our computers from a perceived threat, but what they hadn't done was check to see if this was a real or imaginary virus. What I did, which is what I always do now, when I encounter something on the internet that I'm uncertain as to it's veracity, is to check . This is a website which lists all urban legends, and tells you whether they're true, false, uncertain, partially true, exaggerated, or false but based on a true incident.
When I checked the invitation virus, I found it was a hoax, and I duly informed the forum, thus preventing a cascade of e-mails through cyperspace.
The problem with these cascades, is that when they're posted to an office in an organisation with it's own intranet (I'm thinking of the one I'm familiar with which is the Lothian NHS Intranet), the person in the office then e-mails their contacts, who then e-mail their contacts...and soon the intranet is jammed. This happened most recently with the e-mail about Bill Gates giving $250 to anyone who passes on the e-mail. If you ever get that one, delete it! It's a hoax!
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it's a ringer!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Factor this

Further to my post last month about the use of Avastin, a bowel cancer treatment, being used to treat macular degeneration. I was wondering how anybody could come up with the idea of applying a bowel drug to the eye. It's not the sort of thing that could happen by accident. Orac has a post today, with a picture of an eye (be still my beating heart), which explains how angiogenesis - the formation of new blood vessels - helps tumours to grow. Angiogenesis is helped by small proteins belonging to the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family. Avastin is an anti-VEGF antibody that shuts off the neovascularisation to the tumour, starving it of nutrients. Obviously, what works in the bowel should work in the eye too, and that's how the connection was made.
The interesting thing about VEGF is that a receptor for this protein, called VEGFR-3 is found in large amounts on healthy corneal epithelium. It binds with VEGF-C & D and seems to stop blood growth on the cornea, thus keeping it clear and transparent for us to see through.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Catch 22

Here's a dilemna for the US government. Suppose they reintroduce the draft, to provide enough troops to fight in the middle east, if the situation between Israel and Lebanon escalates. What happens if you're drafted and you're gay? At present, there's a ban on gay people serving in the military.
Will the US government:
a. Drop the ban? This would seriously piss off the top brass, as well as being a complete U-turn in policy.
b. Continue the ban? This would make being gay an automatic get out of the draft card.

c. Continue the ban, but demonise gay people as draft dodgers?
d. Continue the ban, and draft anyone who claims to be gay, because they're only saying they're gay to get out of the draft?
Post your answers to the comments section, and remember Corporal Klinger.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wee Free little maids from school

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland are wanting to start up some religious schools in the Highlands and Islands. They figure if the catholics and the muslims can have them why shouldn't they?
I should think, given the problems Scotland has with sectarian strife, that we could do with fewer such schools rather than more, especially ones run by, it has to be said, a particularly staunch denomination of the church.
The problem is, their part of Scotland is sparsely populated, with a falling birthrate. The catchment area needs to be geographically large in order to have enough pupils, to make a school economically viable. Are they proposing to open new schools to run in competition with established schools, to give parents a choice; or do they intend to take over the running of the established schools. Children then would be forced to have a calvinist education whether they were Wee Free or not.
Religious studies would, I should think, become a major part of the curriculum. How literally would the bible be taught? And would evolution still be a part of the biology course? Hopefully the Schools Inspectorate would step in as they did with the Vardy Academies.
Even so, imagine the horror of attending such a school, with no escape from the word of God and his all seeing eye, and the threat of hellfire if your homework's late!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Gingrich?

It looks like the Americans are pushing for World War III. The religious right want it, because it brings Armageddon closer, and with it the second coming of Jesus. The Republicans want it because they're facing collapse in November, and a major war would let them pull their 'if you're not for us, you're against us' schtick, declare a state of emergency, postpone the elections, with the unstated option of indefinitely, and advance their imperialist strategy to take control of the muslim-controlled oilfields once and for all.
Bizarrely, one thing that would skew American thinking is if any fighting got as far south as Meggido in Israel. Meggido is generally accepted as the site of the last battle - Armageddon - so any battle there would have a profound effect on the christian fundamentalists who would be eagerly watching the skies for the return of their saviour. Imagine how crushing the disappointment will be when Jesus fails to reappear. Hopefully they'll realise that they've been sold the mother of all lies, and abandon their false religion. Unfortunately, when that happens, Israel is fucked. The fundamentalists only support Israel because they are the means towards bringing about the end times. No end times: no support.
Don't put your faith in prophecies. Cyrus did, and brought about the destruction of an empire - his own! America is heading for the same cliff's edge.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fires of intolerance

This is disgusting! Pastor Flip Benham of Operation Save America, at a hate rally in Jackson Mississippi, got young children to rip up and burn copies of the Koran. He's already been in trouble with the law for starting illegal fires, so he has third-graders do his dirty work for him. Are there no depths to which christian bigots won't descend?
He then told the crowd: "We have three choices with Muslims, kill them, be killed by them, or convert them."
I have another three choices: Respect their religion, learn about their culture, and discuss with them how to bring peace to the war-ravaged countries of the middle east.


Are you sitting cthomfhortably? Then we'll beghinn.
Cthlick on this link.

(Then wipe the spittle off your screen.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jesus is gay

All this fuss over The Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The way people go on, you'd think it was a terrible thing for Jesus to be married, and have sex with Mary Magdalene. There's no evidence that he was married anyway, apart from one line in a gnostic gospel which says he kissed her often on the ..... The word is actually missing, so it could be lips, or cheek or forehead. Whatever, the case for this particular hypothesis is sparse.
Which is more than can be said for the alternative, that Jesus was gay! Putting aside the old chestnut about surrounding himself with twelve men, there remains the presence of the beloved disciple, or 'one whom Jesus loved'. This is traditionally assumed to be John, brother of James, and supposed author of the gospel that bears his name. But he is not actually named. At the crucifixion, Jesus tells him to look after his mother, saying "Behold thy mother." Now Mary still had three sons left after Jesus' death, so why is someone who is not related to her, charged with her care? Unless that someone was her son's partner, in which case he would be a son to her.
Again from the gnostic gospels, there is mention of a naked youth with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemene, who runs off when the soldiers arrive. With them is Judas who reveals to the guard who Jesus is by giving him a kiss! The question this raises is: was Judas a jilted lover of Jesus? Was that why he betrayed him? Before the night was through, Judas had committed suicide in remorse, the actions of a lover, not an enemy.
There's no real evidence for this conjecture either. The gospels were sanitised to remove any suggestion that Jesus had human feelings for people, be they male or female.
Two thousand years later they're trying to stop a gay pride march in Jerusalem. Wouldn't it be ironic if the first gay pride march through the holy city had been the one in passover week in 33AD.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Killer fans of Korea

In yesterday's Metro: the menace of killer fans. No not the creepy stalker kind, but electric fans. It's a phenomenon found only in South Korea, where they believe that if you leave a fan on overnight, it can kill you. Method: unknown. There's even a website devoted to it.
I think it's urban myth gone rampant. It's probably a subconscious expression of the anxiety caused by living so close to Kim Jong Il's regime, with his missile tests. Like anyone in an anxious state, the brain tries to rationalise the anxious feelings, and latches onto the first thing it can think of, which, at the moment, is killer fans. Trying to reassure the Koreans won't do much good, as their anxious minds will simply latch onto another source of fear. And if that turns out to be something more logical, such as weapons of mass destruction, it could lead to trouble.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The not so final frontier

The space shuttle is back safely on terra firma, which means the space programme is back in contention. Thank goodness. There's a space station to build up there - a fragile jetty compared to the stuff that'll be there in a couple of centuries time. It's important to colonise the solar system. There's a large asteroid somewhere that's going to hit the Earth sometime, and we don't want to be all at home when it arrives. Colonies on the Moon and Mars are like back-up discs for humanity. They can reboot civilisation if things go disastrously wrong.
Of course the best goal is to colonise an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star, but that could take a millennium or two.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that Virgin Galactic kick starts a race into space, to save humanity - in the medium term at least.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

When I'm sixty-four

Shocking news in this week's Nursing Standard. Tony Blair has confirmed that private companies who take over services in the NHS do not have to offer the same pension cover as the NHS pension scheme.
What this means is that if you work for the NHS, and are paying towards, what you have calculated to be, a reasonable pension for your retirement, you are going to lose big time if a private company takes over the part of the NHS where you work. Your pension will be frozen if you are no longer a NHS employee. All you can do is try to find another job in the NHS, along with all the other people in the same situation. You may have to move to another part of the country, away from your family and friends.
Or you can stay in your old job, working for a private company, who are under no obligation whatsoever, to offer you a pension scheme that is in any way comparable to the one you've left. That is if they offer a pension scheme at all. You might just be told to make your own arrangements.
Is anybody safe? Who knows what will happen in ten years time? Already, private companies are contracting to do routine operations. Will they want to take over the running of whole hospitals entirely?
Mind you, how are private companies going to attract good staff from the NHS? Let's just hope that recruitment difficulties will cause these enterprises to whither and die.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Miyake

Ah the power of the internet. While googling for information about Issey Miyake yesterday, I came across his namesake, Dr Kensaku Miyake, who is Professor of Ophthalmology at the Fujita Health University, and Director of the Shohzankai Medical Foundation of the Miyake Eye Hospital in Toyoake, Japan.
He's been to the 2006 ASCRS/ASOA Symposium & Congress, talking about the desirability of using 'telemedicine', using the latest in televisual technology to enhance the imaging in ophthalmic microsurgery. This would be the new Super-HARP camera, which with a 3-D high definition TV system will replace the traditional ophthalmic microscope used in cataract and retinal surgery. It's made by 3D Vision Systems from Irvine California.
Unfortunately for the audience, the presentation of the new system was marred by the non-presence of special screens which were supposed to have been available. But the day was saved by plucky staff members who, using good old American know how, managed to find some 3D glasses. And so the audience were able to 'ooh' and 'aah' at pictures of eye surgery in 3D.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Every blog needs a fashion page, so here's mine.
For years now I've been joking with my patients, when I've been showing them the theatre tops they have to wear, that they are haute coutoure. I tell them they're the latest thing by Dolce & Gabbana, and they'll be all the rage next year.
Well next year has come. I caught a glimpse of a fashion show by Issey Miyake, and one of the models was wearing what looked like green theatre scrubs with a white hospital coat. Could Hospital chic be really on the way in?
Just imagine, models walking down the catwalk in a tied-at-the-back theatre gown with thigh length, or knee length, TED stockings and pillow paws, topped off with a mob cap! All it needs is for a top fashion designer to spend time in hospital, and it'll happen.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nursing hint #1

Here's a tip from an anaesthetist, to combat nausea. Take a Sterets alcohol wipe, and smell it. The action is similar to the smelling salts as loved by nineteenth century women, having a fit of the vapours. If anyone's actually tried this, and it's worked, let me know. I tried it once, and the patient still vomited, so I'm still sceptical.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Teh hunting of teh snark

The english language is ever evolving to meet new situations, and one of those is blogging. I wish to share with you some of the new words I find being used by bloggers.
The first, obviously is blog. The word weblog was coined on December 17th 1997 by Jorn Barger, and shortly after was shortened to blog.
Snark seems to be a portmanteau word, combining sarcasm, snide, and possibly ironic. It is used mostly as a noun, but sometimes as a verb, with snarky, as the adverb. It refers to a satirical piece of writing.
In the comments, someone who makes provocative statements, to cause a reaction is a troll. A hostile shooting down of a troll is a flaming, and a tit-for-tat battle of comments becomes a flamewar.
Right wing nut case, has been shortened to wingnut, and people on the left are referred to, by wingnuts, as moonbats.
The one word I have not been able to find a derivation for is the very definite article Teh. It may have started as a mistyping of the, but it is now used in an emphatic sense.
So there you have it, an elementary primer to the strange new language of the Blogosphere.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The wrong choice

I saw this story in Private Eye (1162; p30). Isle of Wight Primary Care Trust are being forced to pay Mercury Health £200K for 200 cataract operations: cash up front; no refunds. Mercury have, so far, only done four operations. No other trusts are wanting to buy these operations either. I had a look at this website and found that the situation is worse than the Eye states. It's 1650 operations a year, and up till March 2006, only 60 had been done instead of the expected 330, for which Mercury have been paid £335,412. Now a NHS cataract operation should cost £847. Sixty of them should cost £50,820!
I am not against independent providers coming in to perform operations, to help reduce waiting lists, and I'm fairly OK with the fact that the operations would only be done on patients with little medical history, who wouldn't require a general anaesthetic, with a low risk of complications. The hospital would be left with all the GAs, diabetics, frail elderly to treat of course.
The problem is that Mercury get paid for doing nothing. What's wrong with the Trust just paying for operations after they've been performed? That way, they can pay Mercury £50K for what they've done, and use the remaining money for the ophthalmic department in the hospital.
It's the patients' fault, of course. They've chosen the state-run hospital over the brand new private facility. The question is, why?
I assume they were given the choice; that, after all, is what the whole exercise is about.
Cataract surgery has a 95% success rate, or a 5% risk of complications. This would mean that of these 200 operations, you would expect to see about 10 of them going to the hospital for further treatment. Maybe the patients feel that if they should happen to be in the unlucky percentile, they'd be better off being in the hospital to start with where they might feel that the hospital ophthalmologists have more experience than the Mercury doctors.
Mercury do their operations at St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth. No wonder patients on the Isle of Wight are put off by the Solent crossing.
These may be the reasons that patients prefer the Trust. If so, Mercury need to improve their PR drastically.

Kentucky Fried Blog III

In parts 1 & 2 I told you how Governor Fletcher of Kentucky had banned a critical blog, Bluegrass Report, from government computers. Mark Nickolas, the blogger who writes it, has filed a suit, calling for his blog to be reinstated. This is excellent news, and hopefully will be upheld. It would mark a change in the status of blogs, giving them similar legal rights as the mainstream press, and confirm them as legitimate news outlets in their own right. Remember, in this case, Bluegrass Report was selectively censored. There was no blanket ban on blogs. The case appears to be straightforward. You can be sure, though, that Gov. Fletcher will fight this one all the way - until he's ousted this November!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fouled River

Antisemitism is alive and well and living in a town called Indian River, Delaware. A Jewish family, name of Dobrich, had to move out of town due to the aggressive Christianity of the town. For details, go here and here.
People in Britain just don't get what's happening in America. Christianity in the US is like a cancer, eating away at all that's good and wholesome in society. It's attacking free speech, education, science, civil liberties and culture. In Britain there might be one holy roller in your workplace, in America, if you're not born again, then you're the odd one out.
So places like Indian River are very difficult to live in if you're the wrong religion. The Dobriches suffered because nobody stood with them, except one other family who remain anonymous. They were targeted for insults and even got a veiled death threat!
I hope it can't happen here. Trouble is, a lot of our cultural trends are imported from the US - rap culture for example. There are people here who would welcome a more widespread evangelical world view in British society. If the US moves even further towards theocracy, it might start making religious conditions to trade and diplomacy. Already, christian charities in Africa are pushing their message with their aid, and denying help to those who won't accept what they're saying.
Be vigilant! We can't say it'll never happen here. Religion is a route to power, and there are people who will fight for that power.
Just remember Indian River. That's what's ahead of us if we don't guard against it. And it's not just jewish people who are at risk. Muslims, gays, athiests, pagans, socialists, scientists, teachers; we're all vulnerable. Read the links above and tell the people you know. Let's make Indian River a byword for bigotry.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Och high the noo two

In my previous post Och high the noo, I was a wee bit snarky about Virgin Galactic, so in true Glenda Slagg tradition, I now wish to put the case for the defence.
Having a spaceport in Scotland would be the coolest thing possible. It would increase tourism to the area. People would actually go to RAF Lossiemouth, just to see the spaceships take off. I believe they're even calling one of the ships Enterprise. It would be VG though, and not USS, but hey, who cares, it's spaceships!
I know tickets start at £110K ($200K) but if this enterprise takes off (didja see that? a double pun!) the price could plummet. The next logical stage would be an orbiting hotel (Virgin Orbiter?), and that is where colonisation of the solar system truly starts. What about Virgin Lagrange? Or Virgin Tranquillitatis?
In the 21st century, it'll be private enterprise that opens up space, not governments. There are fortunes to be made out there, and where there are fortunes, the entrepeneurs won't be far behind.
But the really cool thing about a Scottish spaceport, the absolutely best, numero uno thing is...

It'll really piss off the English.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Rude Fruit

I found this rude strawberry the other day amongst a punnet I bought at the market, so I thought I would share it with you; the photograph I took of it, not the strawberry itself, which by the way was delicious.
It's also given me the opportunity to try out the picture loading feature, to adorn this blog with colour.
Deacon Barry, the blog that's not afraid to go into very dark places, such as the suggestive groceries segment of that stalwart of consumer activism of the seventies - 'That's Life!'
I'm overcome with the memories of Esther Rantzen and Cyril Fletcher. So much so, I'll have to leave you with an odd ode:
Oh Strawberry, thou art sweet.
Oh Strawberry, thou lookest good enough to eat.
Oh Strawberry, I have a hunch,
I'll be having you for lunch.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Don't let it poop on my parade!

So there I am, explaining to my colleague that homeopathy is a load of bollocks, that if the claims are true and diluting a substance makes it more potent, then the amount of dinosaur poop that has been diluted in the worlds oceans over the last two hundred million years would completely overwhelm the feeble dilution of herbal essences.
She says "Show me!"
I point to the computer: "It's on the internet."
I Google homeopathy and find an article on the Lancet study which poo-poohs homeopathy.
She reads it, then triumphantly announces, "There you are, a WHO report says that homeopathy does have some effect!"
By the time I've read the paragraph, she's gone.
The paragraph seems to be a quote from a homeopath, and therefore suspect, but there's no context to the quote, no mention of which study. And the moment is past.
Damn you internet!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Another day, another dossier

Another day, another secret dossier stolen from an official's car and found dumped in the rubbish, then handed to the Sun. Do you not find this chain of events sounding rather bogus?
1. A Major leaves the file and his security pass in his car while he goes shopping. This has happened so often it's starting to become a cliche. In these days of heightened security, what army officer is going to do such a stupid thing. I admit it may have happened, but we're taking it in context here. It starts to stretch the envelope of believability.
2. He is not thought to be facing any disciplinary action. He allows a file and a pass to be stolen, in a time of high security, thus causing the MOD grave embarrassment, and nothing happens to him? The MOD are either being highly magnanimous, or the file is misinformation which was supposed to get stolen.
3. It was found in a gym bag. The major's? If so why was he keeping it in that, and not a briefcase, as one would expect? Or maybe it was the thief's? In which case, why would he get rid of a perfectly good bag? Likewise, if it was the major's, why get rid of a perfectly good bag? Why not take the file out and throw it away?
4. It was handed in to the Sun newspaper by a member of the public.
Why did they hand in it to the Sun, and not to their local police station? It wasn't the Sun's property. It had nothing to do with the Sun. Why take it there? Why is it the Sun that gets these discarded dossiers anyway?
Who is this public minded citizen anyway, who chose to give up these documents with no thought of monetary reward? The thought occurred to me that it might be an office worker at the MOD who was handed the gym bag and asked to drop it in at the Sun, on his lunch break, but that would be unworthy of me.
Remember, it could have happened just like the Sun, reported. There is no reason to believe otherwise.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Is he or isn't he?

Lee Mingwei is pregnant. So what, you may say, millions of women are pregnant right now! But Lee is a man. The world's first pregnant man! Check out his website if you don't believe me!
Mind you, if you do check, be sure to do it with a skeptical eye. Just because it's on the internet and has a flashy site doesn't make it true. The RYT hospital also claim to have a transgenic sapient mouse, called Clewyn, and nanites that look like something out of Star Wars!
Although male pregnancy is technically possible, it requires lots of female hormones, which would ravage the male body, with permanent results. That's why transgender boys have to be really, really sure they want to transition before they start on hormones, because once they start, they can't go back.
My gut feeling is that this is a hoax site, but it sure as hell impresses on first reading! Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Och high the noo!

Now I've heard everything - a spaceport on the Moray Firth! It's in the Scotsman so it must be true. Richard Branson is hoping to use RAF Lossiemouth or RAF Machrihanish in Argyll as launch sites for his Virgin Galactic space tourism flights - cost £110,000 per ticket. Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic says that the north of Scotland has the right conditions, especially in summer when the weather is quite good. - Translation: when the rain is falling vertically instead of horizontally.
Mr Whitehorn goes on to say that RAF Lossiemouth is an ideal location - "There is relatively little overflying by aircraft and fewer people on the ground who can get injured."
Injured by what exactly? This statement does not fill me with a great deal of confidence. Let's see, a big tank of liquid hydrogen and a big tank of oxygen in close proximity, sitting on a launch pad at RAF Lossiemouth with a thunderstorm raging overhead. Nope, can't see any problem with that whatsoever.
Surely the reason that space launch sites are near the equator, is to make the launch easier, by using the Earth's own angular momentum to help the ship into orbit? The latitude of Lossiemouth is two thirds up towards the north pole. Will it not be harder to launch at that latitude?
It seems a bit like the early railway companies of the nineteenth century; remember what happened there?
Oh great railway bridge over the silvery Tay...

Monday, July 03, 2006

I am an Anachreees!

I've just taken the test on Political Compass, and found to my shock that I am a left wing libertarian! My scores were -2.75 (left wing), and -5.54 (libertarian). The world leader I'm closest to in outlook is the Dalai Lama.
Now I've never seen myself in these terms, but they do seem right somehow. I certainly feel comfortable with the result, though I feel I should be a little bit more towards the centre on the left/right axis.
But minus five and a half on the authoritarian axis? Hoo baby, that makes me an anarchist in anyone's book! And now I'm a blogger, that's going to push me even further down the line.
It's good to know where you are politically, and where I am is as far from the main parties as it's possible to be. Only the Green party is in the same quadrant as me.
Take the test yourself, and tell me how you did!

How the other half thinks

In AMERICAblog today, a report on a Daily Telegraph/Yougov poll on British attitudes to America. Here's a few of the responses:
The US is a beacon of hope for the world - 77% disagree.
Do you trust them to act wisely on the global stage? - 12% agree
The US doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks.- 83% agree
President Bush is a great leader. - 1% agree
President Bush is a poor or terrible leader - 77% agree
70% like Americans.
Include me in the 70% who like Americans. I read a lot of American blogs. All of them loathe Bush and his ilk with a passion. Bush's approval rating is currently about 30%. That's low. The problem is, the mainstream media is in thrall to the Republican administration. If they fall out of line, like the New York Times recently, they are savaged. If you want to find out what's really happening in the US, you have to read the blogs. They're about the only avenue of free expression left.
And they're starting to become a force to be reckoned with.
This November, the US is having mid term elections. The blogs are going to play a vital role in getting the Democratic vote out, and hopefully win both houses, thus emasculating Bush. The Republicans may control the television news and the papers, but they don't control the blogs.
And the Blogwar has already started.
If you are a British reader of my blog (American readers already know this), the best way of finding out what Americans are really thinking, is to click on some of the links I've posted over the last month, and give them your support.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Talking telephone numbers

Is the telephone system in the UK FUBAR? Not the physical wiring and equipment, but the administration of it? Austringer thinks it's being abused to extort us customers, instead of providing a cheap and universal means of communication.
In Britain, as far as I know, the Telcos consist of BT and a number of cable and mobile companies, all regulated by Oftel. Calls to and from mobile phones cost much more than landline calls. Everybody offers special rates for local and off peak calls. They all have overheads and they all have to make a profit. That's the basic economics of the system, the devil is in the details - what numbers are applied.
I know that every month I pay so much to AOL for my internet access, and a bit more to BT for my phone. The amounts are not excessive and I can easily afford them. I don't have a mobile phone (gasp!). I don't know whether I am a typical user of the system, or a dinosaur. (I do have a blog though!)
How much should we pay for our telephones, given TANSTAAFL? Is the system FUBAR or merely SNAFU?

Abbreviations glossary:
UK : United Kingdom
FUBAR : Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition
BT : British Telecom
AOL : America On Line
TANSTAAFL : There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
SNAFU : Situation Normal - All Fouled Up
(NB: The Fouled in FUBAR and SNAFU may be replaced by an appropriate expletive.)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Austringer's Complaint

My thanks to Austringer for today's subject - internet access in hospital.
He took his computer into hospital two years ago, and was not allowed to plug it in to either the mains or the phone line. I've left a comment explaining that Health and Safety regulations take priority, so electrical equipment needs to be tested before it's plugged in to prevent the risk of fire.
Most hospitals were built before the internet revolution. A lot were built before computers were invented. A few were built before there was even electricity. So internet access was not high on their list of priorities when construction took place. It's different with the new PFI hospitals, where there's a phone line at every bedside, where patients can be charged a fortune to phone, watch TV, and, presumably, access the internet at several pounds per hour.
Hospitals are boring. (Well not if you work there. In fact they sometimes get too exciting at times.) The long hours between meals and medicine rounds can drag interminably (I am not speaking from personal experience). Being able to blog, or generally wade around the internet seems to me to be a therapeutic way of convalescing. But not if you are aware of the ticking meter racking up the ££££.
Maybe something can be done to make computer access easier and cheaper for patients, after all, most people pay a flat rate for internet access, why shouldn't it be the same for patients?