Friday, March 30, 2007

Needle. Haystack. Go figure.

Back in October, Intelinurse at It's a nursing thing, posted about weird interview questions. The first bit is the quote from her blog. It's followed by my response which I posted in the comments.

Weirdest Questions

They asked me to tell them about myself. Then as each took turns asking me questions, things got strange. One guy asked me to
name 10 ways to find a needle in a haystack. Another wanted to know how many gallons of water it took to put out an average house fire. What almost put me over the edge was when one of them asked me how many things I could do with a marshmallow. I couldn't tell her what I was actually thinking!

10 ways to find a needle in a haystack

1. Move every stalk individually and build a new haystack exactly six feet from the original. At some point, you'll encounter the needle.
2. Throw the haystack into a swimming pool. Add detergent to break surface tension. Straw floats, needle sinks.
3. Take haystack to scrapyard. Use industrial strength electromagnet to retrieve needle.
4. Bribe your children with a reward for the needle. Remuneration should reflect how badly you want the damned thing.
5. If you know who was injected with the needle, genetically splice their DNA with a glowworm's DNA and Staphylococcus Aureus. Grow in culture. Spray on haystack. Genetically modified bacteria will latch onto remnants of human biological material and glow in the dark, or in UV light.
6. Send haystack to the X-ray department for an X-ray,
7. Ultrasound,
8. MRI scan. If you hear a 'tink', that's the needle hitting the magnets (see 3.)
9. Bleep the Hospital chaplain. E-mail Bill Gates asking for his assistance. Borrow camel from zoo.Have chaplain preach to Bill Gates. It should then be easy for the camel to locate the eye of the needle for the purposes of walking through it.
10. Set haystack on fire. Toast marshmallows. Use calculated gallons of water for house fire to put out haystack fire. Poke through the ashes and find small metal lump. That's your needle.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A spleen unvented

You remember my friend, the Demon Landlord (aka The Beast of the Borders)? It seems he's been having a bit of legal trouble with an employment agency who were wanting to charge him several thousand pounds for someone who he never employed! Fortunately, the case was thrown out of court. They then objected to his blog post on the case, (Here's the link to his blog, but you'll have to scroll down to March 19th - I can't get a link to the actual post for some reason) and following advice from his solicitors he's had to remove the offending references. He's done it, not because he thought what he posted was wrong, in fact he was willing to stand by his words, but he does have a business to run, and he's self-censored his blog for the greater good of the company.
There is a freedom of speech issue here. He should be able to tell people not to use the services of this particular company and also get in some insults, without being threatened with legal action. It may not be big or clever, but what's the point in having a blog if you can't vent your spleen occasionally?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Little brothers

Tell me if you've heard this one. There were three brothers... and the youngest, contrary to the normal rules of inheritance and primogeniture, gets the kingdom. Sound familiar? It's the basic plot of many folk tales. But where does it come from? Why the reversal of the established order of things? How far back does it go?
Zeus was King of Heaven. He was also the youngest of Cronus and Rhea's brood of godlings, and the youngest brother of Hades and Poseidon. But in deposing his father, he was following the pattern set by Cronus who was himself the youngest Titan, of six brothers and six sisters. Now gods tend to come in trinities. The male Titans divide nicely into two threesomes : Hyperion, Oceanos and Iapetus; and the alliterative Coeos, Crius and Cronus. It is possible that this was an amalgamation of two separate pantheons - the same trio of gods under different names.
Iapetus has been identified with the biblical Japhet, son of Noah, who is himself a third brother of Ham and Shem, and it is he who is the ancestor of every Greek hero you've ever heard of.
It is not hard, therefore to conceive the possibility that the folktales of the middle ages refer back to the mythology of two millenia previously, giving hope to younger sons everywhere that there may be a kingdom waiting for them.
Goddesses, and women in general, in this misogynistic history, don't get a look in at all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

On tonometers

Tonometry is the measurement of the internal pressure of the eyeball. It's an important diagnostic tool. High Intraocular pressures (IOP) are damaging to someone's sight.
Here is an overview of the different tonometers used to measure IOP:
  1. Thumbs : (Don't panic, we're not going down that road again!) By gently palpating the orbs (ooh missus!) the experienced Ophthalmologist can detect differing IOPs between the two eyes.
  2. Schiötz : A purely mechanical device, now consigned to history with the sextant, the astrolabe and Windows 95. It doesn't require electricity, so it might be useful if you're holding a clinic in a tent, miles from civilisation. Normal location is in an eye hospital cupboard with other arcane items of long unused pieces of equipment (such as the big disc with concentric black and white rings on it.)
  3. Pneumatonometer : Only ever found at the opticians. It uses a small measured blast of air to obtain the reading, thus there is no contact with the cornea, and no risk of infection or abrasion. Of course, it means that patients who visit us screw their eyes up in anticipation of that puff of air!
  4. Goldmann : Applanation tonometer attached to a slit lamp. Uses a disposable plastic split prism, that, when pushed against a flourescein-stained eye, under a blue light, displays two offset green semi-circles. You turn the dial to move them into position, then read the pressure reading off the dial.
  5. Perkins : Like the Goldmann, only portable. Now superseded by :-
  6. Tonopen : It's new. It's totally portable - you can use it on all those patients who you can't get to the slit lamp. You hold it in your hand like a dart, and gently tap the patients eyeball, each time getting a little feedback click until it goes beep, and there's the reading. To prevent cross-infection, it comes with a supply of little rubber sheaths which you unroll over the tip of your magic wand ... okay okay, if they look like condoms, and they feel like condoms, then they are condoms - if you're a hobbit!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Change of Shift

Change of Shift is up over at Codeblog : Tales of a Nurse. It's a good one, all the introductions are limericks, even my post, which is the one about ... "No no no!" I hear you scream with your hands over your eyes, "not the one about early cataract surgery? The images - they hurt!"
And I've just opened up the hurt to a whole new audience.

SBS review

My copy of Shaggy Blog Stories was waiting for me when I got home from work yesterday. It was worth the wait. I'm dipping into it slowly to get the maximum laughter value from each of the 100 posts. It's a very funny book. Personal highlights so far - and I've only just started - are Up my Street, Hospital (for obvious reasons) and The Night the Goats Got Loose.
Being one of the first run of copies printed, mine has the all important typos which will make it incredibly valuable in years to come. We've now sold 400 copies, making it the publisher's third most popular title! If you click on the banner at the side, you can order a copy for yourself.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Today is our wedding anniversary. We've just been to our favourite mexican restaurant. I had the usual Chicken Caesar Salad - gorgeous!
It's our fifteenth anniversary, but we were together for about three years before that, and we met nearly twenty four years ago, so we know each other pretty well.
We met at a writers' workshop in Leith. I'd joined it a few weeks previously, but I had done so because I had seen the notice in the community centre when I had gone along to join the art group. The art group clashed with something else, so I ended up going to the writers' workshop. If the art group hadn't clashed, my life would have gone in a completely different direction entirely. That was a real Sliding Doors moment.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I quite like this Blogger upgrade. I've just discovered how to place a banner in my sidebar - see? Yeah yeah, of course it's for the blook. The only thing that bugs me is having to sign in to my Google account with e-mail and password every time I want to post or tweak the template. Before the changeover - forced if you recall - I could get right into the posting page without having to sign in. Now, it's a pain in the gluteii. If it would only remember the e-mail - that's the one that's such a fingerful (note: I was looking for a synomym for mouthful as applied to typing. Digitful? Dactyllous? {Hey that's a good word! I must remember to use it in a future post.})
If any of you technophiles out there know how I can get Blogger to do that, or failing that, if I could construct a macro to type my e-mail when I press a certain key combination (eg. CTRL E, or ALT C, or something similar), I would be grateful.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

How was your weekend?

I've never known a weekend like it. First I win the Green, Green hills of Earth poetry contest. My guest post is now up at UDreamof Janie - go read it! Second I find I'm a Shaggy Blogger, and I'm helping to raise money for Comic Relief. At the moment, we've sold 307 copies of Shaggy Blog Stories, making over £1400 for the charity - and that's just in the first 40 hours!
I want to appeal to all my readers across the ocean. Lulu, the publishers, are quoting the price in dollars, which suggests that the book may be obtainable in the USA. Be the first on your block to possess this work of literature. I know it's British humour, but so is Monty Python and Benny Hill. But I ask you, please blog about it. There will be other charity blooks (blog books) in the future. But this is the first - it's special! We'll never get an opportunity quite like this again to show the world that bloggers can make things happen. We are the only truly international medium of communication - even more so than television or radio, and if all of us act together, we can do a lot of good.
All you have to do is press a few keys on your computer. If you can afford to give $16, even better. Half of it will go to help people in Africa, and you will get a book that will put a smile on your face. Just don't be drinking soda at your computer when you do read it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Turn up for the book

Press Release

Bloggers publish book for Comic Relief.100 bloggers have published a book to raise funds of the BBC's Comic Relief appeal on Friday 16th March.'Shaggy Blog Stories' features hilarious contributions from Richard Herring of 'Fist of Fun' fame, BBC 6Music presenter Andrew Collins, comedian Emma Kennedy, and James Henry, scriptwriter from Channel Four's 'The Green Wing'.Authors Abby Lee, David Belbin, Catherine Sanderson and The Guardian's Anna Pickard have also contributed pieces to the book.The vast majority of contributions, however, are the work of many of the lesser known and unfamiliar heroes of British blogging; going under pen names such as Diamond Geezer, Scaryduck, Pandemian and Unreliable Witness. Also contributing to 'Shaggy Blog Stories', and hoping to raise funds for the Comic Relief Appeal is Deacon Barry! The book is the idea of blogger Mike Atkinson who writes the 'Troubled Diva' weblog. 'Shaggy Blog Stories' features comic writing from not only the cream of British blogging, but also the best up-and-coming and undiscovered writers publishing their work on their own websites.Giving himself a "ridiculously short" seven days from idea to finished product, Atkinson admitted that he was overwhelmed with the response, which gleaned over 300 submissions for publication.With a pool of talented writers, and the latest publishing-on-demand technology, Shaggy Blog Stories bypasses the usual snail-paced publishing industry, and offers a mail order service to customers who will receive their finished copy within days of placing their order, and only a couple of weeks after the original idea."Blogging creates complex, worldwide networks of friendship and contacts on the internet", says journalist Alistair Coleman, one of Shaggy Blog Stories' contributors. "By creating a buzz about this book, we can reach out to hundreds, thousands of readers who'd be willing to part with a few quid for this very good cause. Mike's got some excellent writers on board here whose work deserves a wider audience. Everybody wins."For details of how to order the book, visit For the background story on the creation of Shaggy Blog Stories, take a look at

Yes, I've got a post included in the book. If you want to know which one, you'll have to buy it. Go on! It's for a good cause. And you get a hundred of the funniest blog posts in the British blogosphere. I've ordered my copy. It should arrive next week. I'll post a review once I've read it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The prize is right

I've won first prize in a poetry competition. It was over at UDreamOfJanie. The challenge was to write a poem ending with the lines "Oh how I long to long for the green, green hills of Earth. The prize is a guest post on the blog, so now I've got to come up with a suitable topic. Anyway, here's the winning poem.

When Man first felled and burned the trees, I began my rise.
Then coal was king, and chimneys belched
More carbon to the skies.
Along came petrol engines,
And how emissions grew.
(Solar power was in the dark,
And windmills spoiled the view.)

The polar ice-caps melted in a great freshwater dump,
The Gulf Stream slowed and halted as it stopped the saline pump.
The rise in temperature was paused
And people thought they’d freeze,
Then tons of melting methane pushed it up by ten degrees.

And now, with agriculture gone,
And arid deserts burning,
My happiness is incomplete,
I still can feel a yearning.
Though I sit triumphant
As the world regrets my birth
Oh how I long to long
For the green, green hills of Earth.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Boiling Point

It has been confirmed. Us Scottish nurses are getting the full 2.5% pay award up front, on the dot, in April. English nurses will have to wait until November for the second part of their staged award. I bet Gordon Brown is fizzing. This really puts the pressure on him to do the same down south. I would expect the RCN and Unison to seriously turn up the heat in their campaign for a fair wage. The message to the Government should be clear : If you can't pay the staff, you can't have your targets met!
It would make our life simpler. We could concentrate on patient care without having to bother about ticking the Government's boxes. Target the targets, not the patients!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Have you seen this pay award?

Am I imagining things? I was in a book shop in Princes Street this afternoon when I heard over the radio that the Government are going to give us nurses the full 2.5% pay raise in April, and not stage it as they said they were going to.
You can imagine how pleased I was, and I was looking forward to seeing the reaction on the news. Only trouble is, there's nothing I can find about it. Nothing on BBC news, Sky news, Google news, Yahoo news and even AOL news. Come on, this is major! This is Government climbdown in the face of possible militant action by nurses. But apart from that radio bulletin - silence. Not even a denial. It feels so weird. Does anyone out there know what's going on? Anyone?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sound stuff

I once worked for American television. (Say what?) That sounds a whole lot more impressive than the reality.
It was in the summer of 1987. I was working for a video project at the East of Scotland Society for the Deaf. This was long before I became a nurse. And yes, I did pick up the basics in sign language while I was there. We were at the Royal Highland Show, videoing it for the project, when my boss met up with some of her friends, one of whom had been asked by Channel 5 Philadelphia to also film the Royal Highland Show. Or maybe he had pitched the idea to Channel 5? He had a broadcast quality camera and a large sound box, and he asked me if I wanted to give them a hand. So I ended up as the sound man on a very small, all Scottish, camera crew, filming the sights and sounds of Scotland's biggest agricultural show. We interviewed a chap selling tractor equipment. We filmed cows. Best of all, we got to enter the press lounge for a cup of tea.
I have no idea to this day if the stuff we shot ever appeared in Philadelphia, and I've never been involved with television production since then, but it was a fun day while it happened.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Clocking all over the world

This weekend, America is starting summer time three weeks early. The idea is to save on fuel bills by making it lighter in the evening. (I think that's right. Let me see, Spring forward, Fall Back. I'm sure that puts the extra daylight at the end of the day.)
There are no worries about the change affecting computers. Not like the panic over Y2K. I don't think we're likely to see planes falling out of the sky.
It'll be interesting to see what happens in the Blogosphere. It is truly international. Even my small blogroll covers Australia to California (via Scotland - natch!) For three weeks then, American bloggers will be one hour closer in time. Then our summer time kicks in, and we're back to the status quo (cf blog title).
Now summer time is a much bigger issue in Scotland than it is in the US. We're further away from the equator, so in winter the sun rises appreciatively later than it does in London, whereas the difference between Texas and Dakota is probably not so noticeable. This means that once again, somebody is proposing to make it summertime all year round. This would mean that it would still be dark in Aberdeen at ten o' clock in the morning in December! Bad idea!
By the way, I wonder what Alaskans think of this?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Blog against Sexism Day

Today is blog against sexism day. It's a day for stopping and thinking about how one half of humanity treats the other half. It's a day for sweeping out the stale stereotypes that impede communication between a woman and a man. If you make a judgement about someone of the opposite sex today, stop and think if you are relying on a hackneyed piece of received wisdom such as ' men only think about football and sex' or 'women don't do maps'. Remove the filter of sexism and try and see your friend or workmate in an objective light, untainted by whether they are female or male. Judge a person by their actions, and not by the characteristics they were born with. If you get to know them better, they might surprise you.
Hat tip to JanieBelle.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bringing light to the Dark Ages

How old is cataract surgery? Twenty years? Thirty years? Actually, a form of cataract surgery was being performed over a thousand years ago!
[Warning! This post is not for the faint-hearted!]
It was in India during the eighth and ninth centuries, that special practitioners of the art of cataract removal wandered the highways of the subcontinent. The only thing that differentiated them from all the other indigent travellers was their extra long thumbnails. When they came to a town, they would advertise the fact that they could cure blindness. In those days, the major cause of blindness would be cataracts. Very very mature cataracts.
The healer would settle his down, probably say something like, " Now this might sting a bit," before plunging his sharp thumbnails through the patient's corneas, and pushing the hardened, opaque lenses through the posterior capsule and into the vitreous, where they would fall to the bottom of the eye, out of the line of sight.
Once the screaming had subsided, the patient would eventually open his eyes, and for the first time in years, be able to see again. The vision would be blurred of course, but it would still be a definite improvement. The healer would receive his fee and then depart as quickly as he could without causing suspicion.
Now thumbnails are not the most hygienic of surgical instruments. Introducing them to the inside of the eyeball is never a good idea. It wouldn't take long for a raging infection to set in to the eyes, and the darkness would return permanently. By this time, the healer would be long gone with his money, and out of the reach of retribution.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Professor Deacon Barry II - preview trailer

Remember my stint as a one-off lecturer? Well there's going to be a sequel. Part two of the Ophthalmic Nursing Course starts in April, and I've been asked to follow on from my scintillating lecture on retinal detachment with a lecture on the complications of retinal detachment. Which means it's back to the books to read up all I can find on the subject. Fortunately, Mary, the course tutor, has sent me a power-point presentation made by one of our ophthalmic registrars. It's pretty basic, not much more than subject headings. So I'll have to expand a bit.
In part two, students are expected to do a group presentation. (Ours was on diabetic retinopathy.) I so have to go along and see theirs. I don't know why people get so worked up about standing up in front of a room of other people (most of whom they already know) and delivering a pre-planned and written down speech for five minutes. In April, I'll be doing an hour, off-the-cuff, with only notes for back-up.
Sympathetic? Moi?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Spocko's letter

Spocko's got this letter to President Bush posted. He's asking all bloggers to post it as well. As he puts it:
"BTW, even if you are a 5th tier blogger with 2 readers still post this. Why? Because the main stream press look at stuff in aggregate. As in "200,000 blogs wrote about New Orleans rebuking the President." It's a simple step. Do it. Don't cost ya nuthing."

Mr. President: Katrina Survivors Do Not Welcome You, We Rebuke You!
We live in a devastated city and you are a big part of the reason why it sill sits in ruins. Your administration has abandoned our children by savaging their public schools. Your administration has tortured our working class people by refusing to reopen the city’s public housing developments. And your administration is fully complicit in placing our uninsured in harms way by ruthlessly pursuing the privatization of local public healthcare in the aftermath of Katrina. And, finally your administration is guilty of sending our sons and daughters of to war for oil and empire just when we need them most to help us rebuild our community.
Mr. President, we, Katrina Survivors all, do not welcome you to our city, we rebuke you!
Sponsored by Survivors Village, United Front For Affordable Housing.
(504) 587-0080

If you have a blog please consider posting this today.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Station vistas

I thought I'd let you see where I work. This is our Nurses' Station, the hub of our operations (pun not intended). The top picture is a view of the desk from the chair of command. The switches control the ward lighting. You can see the ward diary under a report sheet, and one of our telephones. The second picture shows the same desk from the other side. The computer terminal is behind the partition. You can see the chair we sit in. Through the door, you can see the front door of the ward and the stairwell beyond. I took the pictures during the Christmas period, which explains the presence of a decoration on the wall. The poster beside it is a cross-section of the eye - well it is an ophthalmic ward!