Friday, June 30, 2006

Puppy dogs' tails and all things nice

In my last post, I talked about the problems of boys being in girls' classes, and how awful this would be. I would now like to refute that argument, speaking from personal experience.
I have to admit that twice during my time at Secondary School I was the only boy in a class of girls. What's more it wasn't an unpleasant experience. In one of those classes, it happened by chance. I was the only boy in my year who signed up for higher German. The other class was voluntary.
It was an elective class. We had the choice of Woodwork (or was it Metalwork? I can't remember, I didn't take that class) or Home Economics.
It was one of those moments when I realised I could do what I wanted to do and not what I was expected to do. I didn't fancy a term learning how to make a wooden racing car (I gave that to my little brother as a Christmas present) or a metal teapot stand (Mum's still using it twenty-five years on), in the presence of a group of teenage youths who I had no affinity with, so I went for Home Economics.
I reasoned that learning cooking would be much more useful to me in adult life. Besides, chefs were men weren't they?
So to the great surprise of my teachers, I went with my gut instinct and spent the next term in the...
Sewing class.
(I didn't see that coming.)
This was one of the most useful and practical classes I ever took. Today I darn my own clothing, sew buttons, and take up hems. It was a haven from the stress of school life. The girls were nice. The teacher was nice. I made two glove puppets that term. I didn't get any hassle or teasing. Their may have been an initial reaction of 'how odd, a boy doing sewing' but I was accepted as one of the class.
It must have been a portent of things to come. I now work on a ward where I am the only male staff nurse amongst a team of women. I guess that's the way it was meant to be.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sugar and slugs and snails and spice

You'll have read all about it by now, about how single-sex education is supposed to be far superior to mixed classes, and if we only split the boys and girls up, then the boys will do better in school, and more girls will do physics. Yawn yawn. I read all about this several years ago, and only now is it big news.
See, the idea is this, boys are supposed to do better when they sit in rows and are asked questions, and learn facts by rote. Girls on the other hand should sit at tables and collaberate in course work. In this way teachers can make best use of boys' and girls' ways of learning. That's it. Boy lessons for boys : Girl lessons for girls. Two sizes fit all.
This is stereotyping of the worst kind. What happens to the girls who would actually benefit and thrive being taught the boys' way? And likewise, what about those boys who would benefit from collaberative working? How would you decide which was better for each child before you put them into a class? Is there some kind of test they could take?
Now imagine the dilemma facing a boy who has been told he would benefit from being in the girls' class. He's got to make the trade-off of getting good grades, against the humiliation of being seen as a sissy by the other boys. This would be institutional cruelty, a social engineering experiment victimising children who do not conform to rigid gender roles.
Let's keep schools co-educational and minimise the tinkering. Boys and girls will have to work together when they join the workforce, so the sooner they start, the better.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Hunt for Red Iris

While swimming through blogspace, this article in the New York Times website caught my eye - The Hunt continues for the Holy Grail: A Red Iris.
Seeing this, I thought, Wow! How cool would that be? Then I thought, haud the bus, Deacon, I've heard of designer babies, but with red irises?
So I read the article, and sure enough, it had absolutely nothing to do with eyes, but flowers.
That's the thing when you're in Ophthalmology, the word Iris means one thing only. You forget about it's other uses. Still, it was an interesting article anyway. Click on the link above and check it out.

Cite for sore eyes

I'm a member of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) and I get their magazine Nursing Standard delivered every week. In today's edition, on page 12 is a description of 'turtle' suits which restrict movement and senses in order for a younger person to experience what it is like to have some of the ailments that afflict older people. It's a great idea, but one sentence in the article caught my attention:
Nurses elsewhere in the UK have previously tried to replicate the obstacles faced by older people by wearing gauze blindfolds...
That's me folks!
Last year I had an article published in the RCN Ophthalmic Nurses Forum Newsletter which described an exercise I developed for my Ophthalmic Nursing course using gauze eyepads to blindfold people so they could experience what it was like to be blind.
Of course, I've no way of knowing if the writer of the article was actually referring to my article, in fact they probably haven't, but still, the possibility remains. It's given me a little glow anyway and that's the important thing.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Argus Panoptes was the ultimate sentinel. He had a hundred eyes. Can you imagine how many cataract operations he would have needed, had he lived into old age. Unfortunately for him, he was set to guard Io by the goddess Hera, but Hermes killed him and stole Io.
In his memory, Hera took his eyes, and put them on the tail of her bird, the peacock.
It seems a shame that his name is remembered nowadays as a shop.
Mind you, it's still better than what happened to Ajax.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Blunderpuss, Blunderpuss, where have you been?

I've just found out, via today's Metro, that bats are related to horses. In other words, the Chiroptera, and Perissodactyla, as well as the Carnivora, all form one big happy family. What's interesting, is that it brings certain mythical and fictitious animals closer to reality.
I don't mean that they are real, I mean that they are animals, who might have existed, if the path of evolution had moved in a different direction.
A horse with bat wings could be some kind of hellish pegasus. Winged wolves would be the Empusae. And of course there's the Blunderpuss.
You'll have heard of Rupert the Bear? One of his adventures is called Rupert and the Blunderpuss. The story goes that Rupert's friend the Conjuror mixes up the spells that produce a bat and a cat, to produce a cat with wings - a Blunderpuss. It escapes and Rupert tracks it down and gains its trust by flattering it, and telling it how beautiful it is. Of course anyone who says it looks funny makes it fly into a rage. Anyway, Rupert manages to bring it back to the Conjuror who sends it back to its own domain where it will be happy.
The Blunderpuss itself, as drawn by Alfred Bestall, is absolutely cute. He gets the expression just right. It heads my list of creatures that should exist even if they don't at present.
So if there's any rogue genetic engineers out there looking for a project to while away those cold winter nights, bats and cats are related, and the world needs a Blunderpuss.
Hmm, I wonder if this explains the chemistry that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Interacademy Panel on international issues, a scientific group made up of scientific organisations, including our own Royal Academy, has issued a statement calling for the teaching of evolution in schools as opposed to other unscientific hypotheses about the emergence of life and mankind in particular. And it's about bloody time!
Of all the areas of science taught in schools across the world, the theory of evolution is the only theory where students are asked to critically examine the theory, and assess alternative explanations for the creation of life. Newtons Laws of motion are not subjected to the same rigour, nor his laws of optics, nor Einstein's theory of relativity, nor Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism, nor QED, QCD or String theory, and some of these are rockier than evolution! Newton's laws break down at near light speed, to be supplanted by Relativity, which , in turn, is incompatible with Quantum theory - and don't even start on String theory!
No, all these are given to the student as is, with no expectation of critical examination, but Evolution, because it directly contradicts the Word of Gawd-uh, has to get special treatment.
Mind you, if there had been a verse in the bible which went:
And the Lord said, I will know the whereabouts and the movement of every object, yea down to the smallest mote.
And the Lord said the days of your life shall proceed at the same measure, no matter where in my creation ye reside.
you can be sure that Quantum theory and Relativity theory would get the same treatment.
Fortunately, the writers of the bible didn't see these theories coming, and so weren't able to write the counter-arguments in.
Mind you, if it weren't for the Theory of Evolution, the fundies wouldn't have anything to expose their nuttery, and might therefore be more able to hide their more frightening ideas for public policy. ie stoning/burning adulterers, gays and athiests.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

If looks could kill

The Fomorians once ruled Ireland. Their greatest king was Balor of the evil eye, because he could kill those on whom he looked in anger with his one eye - an early version of the X-men's Cyclops in fact. When he was old, his vast eyelid drooped, and had to be lifted by ropes and pulleys by his men. Now that's what I call a treatment for ptosis! Nowadays we just do a blepharoplasty.
Balor seems to be just one of a number of fearsome individuals with the ability to slay with a glance, like the basilisk (or cockatrice) and the gorgon Medusa. There's also Dracula who mesmerises his victims so that he can partake of their blood.
There seems to be an underlying fear about meeting a foe who can kill in this way. Think how helpless you would feel if faced with such an entity, unless you were Perseus, armed with a mirrored shield allowing you to fight your enemy without looking directly into their evil eye.
Balor is described as having a single eye, but this is a badge of godhood. Odin and Horus both lost an eye. The heiroglyph for Osiris is an eye above a throne, and the depiction of God on a dollar bill is an all-seeing eye above a truncated pyramid.
Thunderbolts were made by the cyclopses - another connection between the single eye and destruction. And let's not forget the most evil eye of all, Tolkein's Sauron.
The eye has often been described as the window of the soul, and I suppose that if the soul is evil, the the eye is too.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Liver Bird

Brothers and sisters, today I want to tell you about the Creator of mankind who so loved us that he sacrificed himself so that we might live - a noble being who suffered great torment so that we, his creation would never know unending cold and hunger. Praise his name, for he delivered us from tyranny. Praise his name! Praise his name!

So who did you think I was talking about?
I think it's a shame that this titan doesn't get the credit he deserves. He created mankind from mud. When he saw them hungry and unable to keep warm, he stole fire from the gods. For this he was chained to a mountain for thirty thousand years while an eagle gnawed on his liver.
Thirty thousand years! Compare and contrast with the three hours on a cross by another self-sacrificing deity. Not even close. Even Odin managed to hang for nine days on Yggasdril.
It's time we got back to worshipping gods who are truly worthy of the honour, and Prometheus is my candidate.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kentucky Fried Blog II

Twenty four hours later and the bandwidth is still humming about the censorship in Kentucky. No comment yet from Governor Fletcher. It's still unclear whether this is deliberate blocking, or unfortunate filtering by the IT department. It's not blogs in general which are being blocked, plenty are still getting through. Whatever the cause, this is turning into a PR disaster of mythic proportions, possibly even biblical. Governor Fletcher could become infamous as the governor who brought censorship openly into state government. He's toast!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Kentucky Fried Blog

Breaking news! Over in Kentucky the Governor has censored blogs critical of his regime. Ernie Fletcher, who seems to be a rather disreputable fellow, has brought down a firewall on a local blog - Bluegrass Report - which has been reporting the scandals and corruption surrounding Fletcher's administration.
It's not a blanket ban. Right-wing blogs are unaffected. There is the possibility that they're blocking websites that have a large number of hits from state government computers, in which case it is a testament to the popularity of the blog. Or it's blatant censorship of inimicle blogs. The jury's still out on the motivation of the ban, but however you look at it, the administration come up smelling of meadow muffins.
The power of the blogs is in action at this very moment! Click on over and take part. How it will end, I don't know, but freedom of speech is at stake. Each little victory the blogosphere gains, pushes back the repression of tyranny. We'll follow this one and see what happens.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Multiplication is vexation

I found this from the Guardian by way of Gorette at Daily Kos about an anti cancer drug called Avastin which is being used by ophthalmologists to treat wet macular degeneration. The problem is, Genentech, the manufacturers want to market a variant of this drug, which costs about £10, in smaller individual vials which will cost £1000! That's a hundredfold difference for, essentially, the same drug!
Now I know there can be a price difference in the same drug depending on whether it comes as a tablet or an infusion - Ciprofloxacin is a case in point. A packet of Ciprofloxacin 250mg tablets costs a few quid. One bottle of Ciprofloxacin in 250ml of saline costs about £25. Here there's about a fivefold markup, which is why pharmacists insist that oral treatment be used in preference to intravenous treatment.
But a hundredfold difference? Is this justified? It would cost the NHS £40 million to give Britain's 20 thousand ARMD sufferers two injections each. The battle over Herceptin pales into insignificance.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) cannot licence Avastin for treatment of wet macular degeneration (at £10 per vial), because Genentech won't apply for a licence. Instead they want their specially formulated (£1000 per vial) Lucentis to be licenced for eye treatment.
Now don't get me wrong, Drug companies spend a lot of money developing these medicines, and they deserve a fair return on their investment. The question is, is a hundredfold mark-up fair?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Google I's

Woo-hoo! Fame at last! This blog's been name-checked by Unintelligent Design. It's in response to my previous post about MMR. It's pushed my real name up to page 7 of Google. Only page 7? How's this for a bummer, there's only three Christopher Dallmans on the planet, and I only make page 7! It's because the American Chris is way more famous than I am, he's a singer. The other Chris, just to be fair, works for a well-known pharmaceutical company.
How do I know there's only three of us? Well some years ago I bought The Book of the Dallmans, which is basically an address list of all the people in the world with the surname Dallman. Well heads of household anyway. I'm in it. Chris the chemist is in it, but Chris the singer must have still been living at home, because he's not in it. I only found him, when I Googled my name, and found pages and pages about him.
Now there may possibly be a few more in existence, but they're not on Google, so they don't count.
The masterplan now is to get myself onto page 1 of Google, under my own name. I've done it with Deacon Barry! There I am, second from the top.
Bwahaha! Today Google, tomorrow the world!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Birthday!

I was flicking through the blogs by clicking the 'next blog' button (blogs aren't lined up side by side I found, the button just takes you to a random blog) and I came across that rarest of rare creatures, a newly born blog. Honest, I kid you not, first post dated today. So I left a comment, welcoming it to the world, then left it to fend for itself, as any responsible blogger should. You mustn't bring wild blogs home to keep as pets.
Anyway, if you want to ooh and aah over the new arrival its name is I'm kind of a big deal, and it lives in Canada.
In a way, it's my birthday as well. This blog is exactly three weeks old today.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Not in my backyard

Once upon a time, or so the legend goes, we used to live in little gardens, where everybody knew everybody else. You could chat to people who had the same interests as you. It wasn't very exciting but it was all you knew and it seemed perfect at the time. Then you heard there was a place outside the garden - a big place, where lots of exciting stuff happened, so the people opened the garden gates, and as if by magic, the gates dissolved and the gardens were open to the world beyond, and it was so much better. And the people lived happily ever after...
OK, I'm talking about the internet, as if you hadn't gathered. The gardens were severs like Compuserve and AOL, and you could only talk to people who were in the same system as yourself. But that was a long time ago. You wouldn't want to go back to those days, would you? And you don't think you're likely to?
Wake up and smell the napalm! There's a war being fought for control of Cyberspace - and we're losing! The American Government have voted to end Net Neutrality. This rebuilds the gates that were dissolved, and gives control of them to the telecoms companies, who can sell access to your computer to the highest bidder (if your computer is in the USA), making it difficult for you to log on to your favourite websites.
But don't take my word for it, read what antifa has to say in her diary on Dailykos entitled Well of course you can pee in my pool.
At the moment this is an American problem, but there are ramifications for we Europeans. Unless we pay the US Telcos, our websites and blogs will be stuck in the slow lane as well. And how long will it be before our Telcos start getting similar ideas about controlling access. Something needs to be done now, otherwise...
The old man gazed wistfully at the steel gates of the garden. These young ones, they didn't believe there was a time when you had access to the whole world beyond. There used to be, what were they called? Ah yes - bloggers! They would tell you a tale or three about what the government were really doing. Nothing like that nowadays, only Happy News Netfeeds, who only tell you what they say you need to know. And all you need to know is:
everything in the garden is lovely.
every garden is lovely
everything is lovely
thing is
verythin is lovely
every gard is lovely
gard is love
ever n
ever n

i is lo

Friday, June 16, 2006

To infinity - and beyond!

You make one lousy comment, and all hell breaks loose. I left a comment a few weeks ago on the Panda's Thumb, and forgot all about it until last night, when I was passing through the site again, only to find that my comment had started a long discussion about infinite numbers and the reality of the universe. My comment had been fairly tongue in cheek, but I couldn't believe how serious, and how higher mathematical, the resulting discourse had become. By the time I returned, the thread was over. I wish I'd known sooner what was happening so I could have joined in. Anyway, here's the post and comments for you to enjoy. Scroll down to comment # 104233 - it's the only comment in the entire thread with my name on it, the grit that forms the oyster's pearl. Be warned, there's a lot of high-falutin mathamajinkies coming up, as well as the other discussion which takes place simultaneously, just to make things complicated.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mea culpa - mea maxima culpa!

I've found out people are reading this blog - the hard way! In my previous post: A series of links, I was mouthing off about the MMR controversy, and I've given the impression that I'm opposed to the vaccination. I asked for information about research - and got it!
My thanks to Clark Bartram of Unintelligent Design for sending me a link about the research. I'm posting it here, so that the information can be shared.
I cannot stress too strongly the importance of getting children vaccinated. I don't have any kids myself, but if I had, I would have no hesitation in giving them the MMR vaccine. And I wouldn't ask for the single vaccines either. There are very good reasons for insisting on the all-in-one vaccine, and the Government were correct to insist on it. Sometimes the right thing to do is not popular.
My problem is not with Government policy. Good vaccination cover will prevent the spread of these diseases and the misery they could cause. It's the presentation of that policy that is the problem. The public do not trust the politicians. When the politicians start insisting that the public follow a particular course of action (ie use the MMR vaccine), the public assume the politicians have a, as yet unrevealed, hidden agenda. And the more the Government insist, the more the public resist. When the public agree to compromise, by taking single vaccines, and they are rebuffed (for perfectly valid reasons), it only confirms their belief that the Government has something to hide.
The Government strategy, in short, is flawed.
Now I'm speaking from hindsight, a luxury the Government didn't have at the time. They were also up against massive public irrationality which is a powerful force (take religion for example).
It's easy to say they should have done something different, it's a lot harder to say what they should have done. To be honest, I would have probably gone for the same hardball approach they did.
But the problem still remains, and now Dr Wakefield is up before the GMC and faces being struck off. This will bring the whole controversy back into the news and may possibly affect the vaccination programme again.
What should the Government do?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

That'll teach 'em

I love teaching. I know I'm a nurse, but teaching is one of the skills necessary in my job. I have to explain to patients what their operation involves, and I mentor student nurses on their placements in my ward. Now, I've been asked to do a seminar on retinal detachment surgery for the ophthalmic nursing course part 1, in November.
I'm thrilled of course, but also apprehensive. I know I can do it, I once taught a night class on stage lighting. It's amazing how quickly the time goes once you launch into your speil. I hope I can guage the content right, I don't want to have so much stuff that I have to leave some of it out, on the other hand I don't want to run out of material.
I did my blindfold exercise the other week for the new diabetic retinopathy screening people. This consisted of me sticking eyepads over their eyes and making them walk through an obstacle course of buggies and empty water containers, to give them an idea of what it's like to be blind. It's an exercise I developed as part of my ophthalmic nursing course. I'll have to dig it out and post it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Oh Ruby II

Now the previous post makes no sense. There was a delayed reaction when I tried to delete one of the posts. I thought it hadn't deleted, accepted it philosophically, wrote the last post, published it only to find the post which I thought I had deleted but hadn't, had. Clear?

Oh Ruby!

Gaaagh! I've accidentally published the same post twice. This was not the intended result I assure you.

The moving finger writes, and having writ
Moves on, nor all thy piety and wit
Can call it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears erase a word of it.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
translated by Edward Fitzgerald

Transwarp snails and big rulers

Here's a remarkable coincidence. The number of inches in a mile is 63360 : the number of astronomical units in a light year is 63367.31...
I'm using a tropical year of 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes & 45 seconds. Other measurements of the year will obviously give a slightly different result.
I also admit this would be way more impressive if the two numbers had been identical, but still, only a difference of seven and a bit between the two is impressive to me.
But what's the use of this tittle of trivia?
It's a wonderful way of visualising the scale of the universe for anybody who knows what an inch and a mile are.
Imagine a circle two inches in diameter. That's the orbit of the Earth round the sun. The Alpha Centauri system, our nearest neighbour, is over four miles away. Sirius is six miles away. The centre of the Galaxy is about a tenth of the way towards the moon.
At this scale, even a snail would be travelling at several times the speed of light.
The one thing that bugs me about Astronomical units is the fact that they're only 498 light seconds long. Make them 500 light seconds long! Countless astronauts of the future will bless us for making their calculations simpler.
I know the AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth, but do we have to be so Geocentric? After all, G, the acceleration due to gravity, is not 10 meters per second squared, but slightly less. Now is the time to make the change before we get out into the Galaxy and start measuring it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Macha's curse : the Debility of the Ultonians

Macha was the fairy wife of Crundchu, a wealthy Ulster farmer, who she could only stay with as long as he told no-one about her. Unfortunately at the Great Fair of the Ultonians, he forgot her Injunction, and mentioned her running ability to the Ultonian King. The King ordered her brought before him and demanded that she prove her swiftness by racing his horses. She was heavily pregnant, and begged leave to seclude herself to give birth before the race. The Ultonians refused and the poor pregnant woman was forced to run aginst the King's horses. She beat them, and gave birth on the finishing line to twins. As she screamed in agony, the Ultonians were likewise gripped by labour pains, and lay helpless. And Macha prophesied : "From this hour the shame you have wrought on me will fall upon each man of Ulster. In the hours of your greatest need ye shall be weak and helpless as women in childbirth, and this shall endure for five days and four nights - to the ninth generation the curse shall be upon you."
And so it was that the Debility of the Ultonians afflicted the warriors of the province periodically.
The events of this legend are reckoned to have taken place over two thousand years ago, but the Debility seems to describe some kind of fatigue syndrome, where the sufferers, all men of Ulster, lie in their beds, moaning and writhing, unable to lift a spear. What's interesting, from a medical viewpoint is whether these legends are actually describing a real condition - maybe chronic fatique syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome, or even myalgic encephalomyelitis?
It would be an interesting exercise in forensic pathogenicarchaeology, to test the present day descendents of the Ultonians, to see if their immune systems carry any antibodies to these syndromes, or whether they are more prone, or more resistant to them.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A series of links

The internet is one of mankinds most powerful inventions. It gives easy access to information that would be nearly inaccessible by any other route, and allows you to make connections that would otherwise be never made.
F'rinstance: as mentioned earlier, I have Tourette's syndrome. In the last few days, I've been looking round for information on it. I've found out that it's genetic (dominant), and affects more boys than girls by a ratio of 3:1 .
Now what's so special about the ratio 3:1 in relation to genetics?
Can anyone say recessive gene?
But Tourette's is dominant. A child has a 50% chance of receiving the gene if their parent has it.
Therefore, there are girls who have the gene, but do not have the symptoms of Tourette's. Which suggests there's a gene on the X-chromosome that protects them.
Another f'rinstance: I've come across a hint that TS may be triggered by a viral infection. I've had mumps and rubella when I was little, and I was vaccinated against measles.
That's M, M & R - and I've got TS.
Now TS is one of a number of related conditions: ADHD, OCD, Asperger's syndrome and Autism.
And MMR has fallen under suspicion with relation to Autism!
But the Government and its scientists say there is no link - MMR does not cause Autism.
Well obviously it doesn't cause Autism, otherwise every child who received the vaccine would be autistic.
But what if a child genes predispose them to having autism, or Tourette's, or the other syndromes. Does the vaccine act as a trigger?
I do not know.
I also do not know if any research has been done linking MMR with these other syndromes.
If you know, tell me!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

They shoot nurses, don't they? - part two

Okay, okay, it's a computer game - Left Behind: Eternal Forces. It's probably no more violent than many other shoot-em-ups, and just as fun to play. That's not my gripe. The point is it's a christian shoot-em-up, you know, "Love thy neighbour", "Turn the other cheek", "Blessed are the peacemakers"! Not "Eat lead, Antichrist!" or "Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!"
What rating are they going to put on this game, given that there is graphic representation of corpses piling up in the street, and satanic imagery. If they give it an 18, then that's OK by me. It means adults only will be playing - except maybe their younger brothers (or sisters) who'll sneak a shot while they're out. But if they're that independently minded, there's hope for them.
What I'm worried about is a lower rating, which will encourage fundamentalist parents, who've read all the Left Behind books, and regard it has future history, to allow their good little kids to play the game because it's good christians versus bad satanists, and it's good preparation for the last times which are now imminent.
It also subliminally indoctrinates players into the eschatological worldview that the UN is evil, and that anyone who works for it is fair game to be blasted away.
We await the responses of church groups with anticipation.

Friday, June 09, 2006

They shoot nurses, don't they? Part 1

"The Christians outflanked me and started firing, immediately taking out several of my nurses" Joel Stein : Los Angeles Times

Talk To Action broke with this story. Personally, I take a dim view of people taking pot-shots at members of my profession.

Coulter's candy

Whew! Yesterday's post actually made it through last night. I thought I was going to have to post it this morning. All clear on the road this morning.
Guilty secret time. I've taken to watching Fox News. I know it's totally biased and partisan, but in Scotland we only get whatever Sky is willing to show us, so if I want to know what's happening stateside, I've not much choice. Don't worry, if you're worried about my news watching diet, I balance the unhealthy chips (on the shoulders) of Fox with the healthy vegetables of the blogs.
It gives me a handle on the colourful characters the blogs are talking about.
Like Ann Coulter.
Is she for real?
For those of you who don't know her, she's a very right wing media pundit with long blonde hair and a prominent Adam's apple, who has just written a book called Godless, which lays into the anti-religiousness of liberals. She has managed to upset a lot of people, by criticising the widows of 9/11 who have been criticising the government.
And yet, on the segment this morning on Neil Cavuto's show, she got an easy ride. He asked her about it, sure, but there was no sense of outrage, no "How can you say this?" She was allowed to state her case which was that these women were challenging the government, so the fact they had lost husbands in such momentous circumstances should not exempt them from criticism by government supporters (like Ann Coulter).
Now while it may be true that widowhood should not protect one from criticism, to claim that these women, who by the way got the government to instigate the 9/11 comission, were glad to be widows, and would have been divorced anyway, is not criticism, but an insult.
I fortunately have never lost a loved one in such tragic circumstances, but I know how devastated I would feel, and how angry I would be if someone suggested I enjoyed my bereavement.
Is she for real?
This is what some people are beginning to wonder. The things she is saying are so outrageous and inflammatory, that you start to think that maybe she's putting on an act; pretending to be this ultra-right mouthpiece so that the wingnuts will agree with her. At a certain point in the future, she'll turn round and say "Fooled ya! Look how stupid you were to agree with me!"
I just don't know, I think she is for real. I also think she is a woman, but that's another story altogether.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What's the hold-up?

I can't believe it! Roadworks on the Information Superhighway! Blogger 's been down all evening, preventing me from posting the next thrilling instalment of this blog. It's probably affected other blogs too. Expect a typhoon of protests once they get past the traffic lights.
I suppose even websites and blog servers need to do maintenence every so often. I wonder what the problem was?
Could it possibly be the increasing number of bloggers? After all, I'm finding it quite addictive, writing a couple of paragraphs every day, getting my opinions out into the blogosphere. I know it's being read, because I've had a couple of comments. Not a lot, but I only started blogging last week. The big boys, have been blogging for a couple of years, and they're getting hundreds of comments. Unfortunately there's no counter to tell me how many visitors I've had. Comments are my only yardstick.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

FMA stalls in the US Senate

Good news. The US Senate has voted by 49-48 to stop the debate on the proposed Family Marriage Amendment. It will not go forward to the House of Representatives, and the Constitution will remain unchanged. This iniquitous piece of legislation, if allowed, would ban forever, same-sex marriages in the USA.
The Republicans, who proposed it, didn't expect it to pass. It's just a political tool to help them win votes by painting the Democrats as being against the family.
Some question the Democrat strategy of cloture (it's not a misprint, that's the word for what they've done, and I'm still not sure if I've got it right). They think it should have been allowed up to the other house so it could be finally killed. As it stands, it could be brought up again. Mind you, the Right are in meltdown. The Democrats have a good chance of taking both houses, giving them a decade to emasculate the religious right, who are the real poison in the chalice of American politics.
Trouble is, once defeated, they're likely to return stronger than ever. If America becomes a theocracy, how long will it be before we in Britain are forced to submit to their (self) righteousness.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Automatic CPR

Just seen on Fox News (yes we get it here on Sky) , the automatic CPR machine. It's a belt that you wrap round the chest of a patient having a heart attack which will compress the chest every 1-2 seconds to maintain blood flow in the body until the heart can be restarted. Hopefully, more lives can be saved using this technology.
Question is, how long will it take for one of these machines to appear on my ward in Scotland?
Remember, this is an american device. One year? Five years?
Tell you what, I'll give you an answer when it appears in years, months, days, starting from now.
Assuming of course that I keep blogging that long. Mind you, we do have an automatic defibrillator. I do have the feeling though that the machine will only be available to A&E departments and paramedics. If I see one anywhere in the Lothians I'll let you know. OK, start the clock!

We've got your number

It's the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year - 666, the number of the beast! (Oh Fortuna. Velut luna. Semper crescis et decrescis.)
Seen any demons flying about yet? No? But there is a Dr Who two-parter about the Beast! Coincidence or what?
Apparently, a recently discovered manuscript of Revelation states that the N.O.T.B. is actually 616. This, again apparently, is the Gematria number for Caligula, who I must admit fits the idea of an antichrist much better than Nero, given that he was a contemporary of Jesus, and way more sociopathic than his nephew.
However, I think 666 is a way cooler number to have as N.O.T.B. And as it's the one everybody knows, I think we should keep it that way, after all, what difference does it make? John of Patmos was obviously tripping on some heavy ergot when he had his dream. If he hadn't written it down, we wouldn't be freaking about it today.
So have a nice day folks.

(Was that a demon I just saw flying over Arthur's Seat?)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Veni vidi blogi

If you've had a peek at my profile, you'll have seen as my only entry for favourite book, The Glass Teat. You may not have heard of it. If you have, then all respect is due. It's by Harlan Ellison - name ring a bell? Of course it does - famous SF writer who wrote for the original Star Trek, and was a production consultant on Babylon 5.
The Glass Teat is a collection of his TV reviews which he did for the Los Angeles Free Press. It covers the period 1969-70, and mentions some shows you may have heard of: Gilligans Island, The Mod Squad, and Rowan & Martins Laugh In, among others.
I consider it one of the most important influences on my writing.
Now here's the thing, the column was written on a regular basis and was about a page or two in length, and although it dealt mostly with TV shows, it was liberal in tone, managed to regularly knock a certain Republican president, and was finally banned for mentioning the Vice-President and self-abuse in the same sentence. Does that sound like anything familiar to you?


I put it to you, members of the jury, that one score years and ten (plus six) years ago, Harlan Ellison did write an early version (sans web) of what we call a blog. If you want to find out for yourself, get the book out of the library. You'll find much of what he wrote still relevant today. The shows may be different, but the themes are the same. Hint: for Gilligan's Island substitute Lost. For The Mod Squad, The Mod Squad?
Harlan also identified the genre cycle where cop shows were replaced by hospital shows which were replaced by Sci-Fi/Fantasy shows which were replaced by the gritty reality of...cop shows.
So there you have it, literary paleantology, the ancestor of the blog: Videns Ellisonii.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Common myths about eyes

Wearing glasses does not weaken your eyes, neither does wearing the wrong ones.

You can't strengthen your eyes by not wearing glasses when you need them - you just don't see so well.

There are no exercises that will improve your sight. The only effect rolling your eyes has, is to strengthen the muscles that move them.

You cannot wear your eyes out by using them. If you lose sight in one eye, there is no extra work or strain on the other. As you get older, there is no way of delaying the need for reading glasses by limiting your reading.

Remember your mother warning you against reading under the bedclothes by torchlight, because it would affect your eyesight?
She was wrong!

Watching television cannot damage your sight, neither does sitting close to it. The same goes for VDUs and photocopiers.

Sunglasses are not bad for your sight.

Contact lenses cannot get lost behind your eyes.

And finally:
(And this is the most common myth of all)
During an operation, the eye is never taken out onto the cheek and replaced afterwards - it is physically impossible! (The optic nerve is not elastic.)

(Taken from Eyes Their problems and treatments by Michael Glasspool FRCS: Martin Dunitz 1984)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

We'll always have Paris

Is it my imagination, or does Paris Hilton have a ptosis of her left eye? In all the photographs I've seen of her recently, it seems to be half closed compared to her right eye. She also has Maurice Chevalier's mouth. Contrast and compare.
Oh dear, I hope I haven't caused a run on Hello magazine.

Tic followed tock followed tic

May I state, that I do not watch Big Brother. But that doesn't stop other people at work talking about it. Apparently one of the house mates has Tourette's syndrome. Opinion is divided as to whether he should be applauded for highlighting the condition, or Endemol should be castigated for turning him into a freakshow.
What I say is: Stop bloody talking about it!
I've got Tourette's. I've lived with it every day for the last thirty-three years - not the last three weeks like the rest of the population. It made my childhood a living hell of tics, grimaces and head shaking. No profanities fortunately, though I did get urges to make V-signs.
The BBC showed I Claudius at that time. I couldn't watch it. It was too painful to see Derek Jacobi twitching away in cruel mockery of my condition.
As I've grown older, the symptoms have lessened so much, that they're hardly noticeable. It's only when I'm under stress that it starts to return, or when people talk about it!
Talking about makes me think about it. When I think about it I feel the urges nagging: release us, shake your head, move your arm, your fingers, twitch your nose, you know you can't resist us, you know you want to, just one tic, we'll never bother you again, we promise, one twitch, that's all it'll be, to release the tension, just one...tic...just one...tic...just one...tic...just one...tic...just one......

Friday, June 02, 2006

Dazzled by the light

Does anybody involved with ophthalmic medicine ever consider having LASIK corrective surgery? I know I wouldn't.
I'm myopic. I wear glasses. Have done since age 11. I never considered wearing contact lenses, but I might have been tempted to go for laser surgery. It's that word 'laser'. It's a magic word. It suggests shining a beam of light into the eye and healing it in seconds. No pain. No needles, no scalpels. I get patients coming for cataract surgery who think it's going to be done by lasers. I tell them we use ultrasound. They smile and nod knowingly - it's another type of laser!
Funny how the adverts on TV for laser surgery don't mention the slicing away of the front of the cornea.
How should one advise patients who ask about having it done. I tell them, as above, that I wouldn't personally, but is it ethical to say to them "there's only half a millimetre of tissue between the conents of your eyeball and the outside world, which is going to thin as you get older, and you're wanting to chop out half of it now?"
(I'm not sure how much cornea they remove, but half sounds most dramatic.)
In twenty years time, are we going to see a rush of corneal perforations, and an upswing of corneal graft surgery? I just don't know.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Condoms condemned.

Although the American christian right's abstinence-only policy, with regard to sexuality has failed abysmally to halt the spread of STDs amongst young people in the States, they are, nevertheless, trying to force the same message onto the African continent with tragic results.
As reported in today's Independent, American evangelical groups have increased the spread of HIV infection in Uganda, by refusing to promote the use of condoms in favour of their abstinence and faithful-within-marriage agenda, thus undermining the governments efforts to fight the spread of HIV.
This is cultural imperialism at its most malignant.
Religious imperatives are taking priority over life-saving precautions. The christians have power in the form of aid money, and they are abusing that power. They will only give aid to persons and organisations who are 'on message', and damn the rest.
Even the Vatican is now reluctantly admitting that condom use will reduce transmission of HIV. It's a painful admission. It means reversing centuries of teaching and is a threat to Papal infallibility.
Why can't they get over their obsessive hatred of recreational sex? Or would they rather have people die, just to prove that sinful sex leads to death?