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.