Search This Blog

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NHS Indirect

If I was sick, I certainly wouldn't take any advice from the staff of NHS Direct who, it transpires, take an average of 23 sick days per year each. I'm not saying that if I had to listening to members of the public calling me about their nauseating ailments I wouldn't fancy a couple of days a month on the club, but this is more than twice the already too high day a month sick average for all NHS staff. Actually, if I was sick, the NHS would be the absolutely last place I would call. I'd call a taxi instead of calling them.

Dr Tracey Leigh, the out-of-hours GP who was on call, diagnosed the boy with swine flu after following a flowchart to help identify his symptoms... However, Louis was actually suffering from a rare form of diabetes which had not been diagnosed, and was experiencing symptoms of kidney failure related to that disease. When his mother found him in bed the next day he was cold and had stopped breathing.

[From Boy died after NHS staff wrongly diagnosed swine flu | Society | The Guardian]

Basically, if you get really ill, don't call anyone. Go to hospital and get some real attention.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eruption of memory

What with all of the news about the volcano, the newspapers and TV have repeated many times the story of the British Airways jumbo jet that lost all power when it flew into an ash cloud created by the eruption of Mount Galunggung in Indonesia in 1982. You'll remember the story of the heroics of the pilots who, having lost all four engines, decided to glide the plane into the sea but (after it had fallen from 36,000 feet to 24,000 feet) managed to restart the engines and land the plane safely. The point is that you can't see volcanic dust clouds on radar and that's why they've grounded all of the flights in Europe, because if the jets flew into the clouds then their engines would clog.

The events around one British Airways flight in 1982 reveal the potential dangers of this sort of dust... The passenger jet effectively turned into a glider... When all four engines on the Boeing 747 being flown by Captain Eric Moody shut down at 37,000ft, he hadn't a clue why.

[From BBC News - When volcanic ash stopped a Jumbo at 37,000ft]

This story always reminds me of my experiences on the ground. I was living in Bandung in central Java when that volcano went off. And when the ash cloud reached us, it was honestly one of the most unusual days of my entire life. We'd been told that the ash cloud might come but I don't remember that having any connotations. I don't remember thinking anything about it, other than that I'd never seen a volcanic ash cloud. When we woke up in the morning it was pitch black. I mean absolutely black, not like dark at night when there's still a little moonlight or starlight to see by. I mean it was absolutely pitch black, the ash blocked out the sun completely. Visibility out in the streets was maybe 50 feet maximum. You couldn't see the dust in the air right in front of your face but you couldn't see 50 feet. It was like being in fog where you can't see the fog right in front of your face.

Since we didn't know what else to do, we got into the car and slowly navigated our way to the office. Everyone was driving very slowly with their headlights on. I can't remember ash on the ground. It wasn't like snow where it was piling up on the side of the road, I don't remember that at all. I just remember a coating of dust on everything. When we got to the office, we were issued with face masks. They just covered your nose and mouth with a sort of cotton pad which was held in place with an aluminium frame and some elastic. I actually hadn't found it difficult to breathe but it was really shocking after you put the masks on because after no more than a few minutes you could see a red film building up on the face mask where the volcanic dust was building up on the cotton instead of, presumably, going into your lungs.

It was a really strange day to spend a day, a whole day, in the pitch dark. And I can still remember how it felt sort of other-worldly to be walking round in total darkness in the middle of the day. The volcano didn't seem to affect anything in the sense that it didn't seem to stop cars from running or computers from operating. We were running some DEC mini and some early PCs (XT?) with Microsoft's now long-forgotten version of Unix called Xenix. Perhaps equipment was just more robust in those days, jet-engines excepted.

While in a reminiscing about volcanoes mood, I've also upload three pictures of my visit to Anak Krakatoa ("child of Krakatoa") in 1983. It had erupted a couple of years earlier but was quiet when we got there so we just made our way up it! It was hot, but not intolerable, and it was quite exciting to stand on the top.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, April 17, 2010


That was fun -- we went over to see Rory Bremner at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford. It was part of Rory's Election Battlebus Tour 2010. The first part of the show was him doing "stand up" commentary on the election, the second part involved the Lb Dem candidate for Guildford (a marginal), a wonk from the Lib Dems (the Tories were invited by didn't come) and Edwina Currie. It was actually jolly enjoyable: he's a good MC, being a) clever and b) quick, but there could have been a few more questions from the crowd. I wanted to ask a question (about immigration) but didn't get picked, so I'll ask it here: "You don't have to be a member of the BNP to be concerned about uncontrolled mass immigration to the UK, so could the panel bypass their metropolitan, liberal and faintly patronising statements about immigration from the first half of the show and give us their honest opinions on the topic? Specifically, given the revelation that uncontrolled mass immigration was a deliberate New Labour policy, how they would answer the concerns of the good burghers of Peterborough about the collapse of their civic infrastructure under the strain of it?"

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I was reading a blog post by Great She Elephant and it mentioned in passing something called "Copyscape", in a context that implied it was some kind of anti-plagiarism tool. I'd never heard of it, so I was curious to take a look because I wondered how it might work. It invited me to see if any of my work had been plagiarised (by someone other than me, since I "repurpose" material all the time. I put in a random blog page, and was shocked to see that the system threw up four cases of plagiarism, on sites that I didn't recognise. The system then suggested that if I clicked on the page link, Copyscape would highlight the words that had been copied from blog. Outrage rising up my gullet second-by-second, I clicked.

The copied words?

View an alternate. Post a comment If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In You are currently signed in as (nobody) . Sign Out (URLs automatically linked.)

How dumb is Copyscape? There must be millions of pages with these words on them.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]