The debates are over so you'll be glad to know I won't be boring you with them any more. Back to mindless posts about stuff in my head. Well today was the first practice session we've had to go over all the skills we were supposed to have learnt over the semester, I say supposed to because a lot of them didn't feel all that familiar. I imagine its going to be a lot more stressful than the exams in January, how nice those multiple choice questions seem now.
I'm okay at most of the stuff but doing it in front of an examiner who's checking every minute detail is gonna be a whole different experience. I've also noticed that they seem to think we're doing a combined medicine/drama course in some of the stations. I have to dramatically act out finding a patient lying on the floor whilst looking around for dangerous items on the floor and then follow it up with talking to a plastic hand about the procedure I'll be doing to take his blood. I'm really hoping I get the station where all I have to do is wash my hands right :)
And why oh why do we have to know so many god damn pulses, I'm fine at finding the main ones but I don't see why you'd ever need a pulse in the back of someone's knee? Its just so much harder than it needs to be, gimme the wrist and the neck all day long please.
It's the anatomy exams I'll really have to do some work for though, the human body has far too many bones, vessels and muscles for my liking! Wasn't life simpler when all you had was arms, legs, a chest and a head.
Friday, 30 April 2010
The debates are over so you'll be glad to know I won't be boring you with them any more. Back to mindless posts about stuff in my head. Well today was the first practice session we've had to go over all the skills we were supposed to have learnt over the semester, I say supposed to because a lot of them didn't feel all that familiar. I imagine its going to be a lot more stressful than the exams in January, how nice those multiple choice questions seem now.
Thursday, 29 April 2010
They're done, the last of three, and it was the turn of the economy, probably the single biggest issue of this whole election. It was better than the Sky one, maybe not as good as the first one on C4. So who won?
They all started with their opening statements, Cameron starting with an attack on people who abuse the benefits system, Clegg with his fairer economy speech and Brown mentioned yesterday's gaffe before saying that he does get the Economy right.
Let me briefly mention the 'Bigotgate' debacle. I'll sum it up in one phrase, 'storm in a teacup'. The press are always going to want to be the first to break the first gaffe of the campaign but they went overboard, they reported it more than they have any other policy that's been mentioned in the election. It was silly of him to say what he did, I won't defend that, but who hasn't made comments in the heat of a moment that they later regretted. She might not be a bigot, but talking about 'flocking' eastern Europeans is getting close to it.
So, back to tonight.
On the economy the party's stuck to what they've been saying all along. Brown attacked with a bit more venom than he has in the past on the Tory's plans to reverse the NI rise and its effect on the budgets of schools and policing. Cameron carried on with his line about not taxing jobs and Clegg pushed his idea of a new system which is fairer to the masses. I've already written about these sorts of things in other posts here so I won't go over it again.
There were other questions going over what's been said before so I'll stick to what's new. On benefits Cameron has taken a much harder line in recent times than he has in the past, sparked by the release of his new poster campaign. They all said what they'd do to get people back to work, with them stressing that there needs to be incentives for people to be back in work and Cameron arguing for stronger punishments. Brown mentioned the future jobs fund which was opposed by the Tory's and Clegg mentioned his plan to scrap tax on the first £10,000 earned. It's been missing from the rest of the campaign so it was good to see it debated.
The things most repeated were the tax credits and the Tory inheritance tax plan. Without knowing who would be affected by the cut in tax credits under the Lib Dems its hard for me to argue against them, in principle I'd agree with Brown (surprise, surprise) that we shouldn't e removing tax credits ahead of other savings. Children are going to be the ones who push this country forward and they have to be supported in the early years, but in some cases I do agree that over a certain income family's simply don't need that extra money to look after the children. And I simply can't get my head around the inheritance tax idea from the Torys, it's simply mad. You cannot justify, at a time when other services are being cut, handing money back to some of the richest estates in the country. Cameron's attempt to defend it was farcical, the way it came across was that only millionaires were considered wealthy, not those estates earning hundreds of thousands a year. In a time of financial belt-tightening that is truly laughable. And I really wish Cameron would stop harping onto about the massage parlour, it doesn't cost the taxpayer money like he claims, it funds itself because it charges for its use.
My verdict, for what it matters, is that Brown came back strongly after a battering from the press, Cameron held his ground on his policies but was weak on substance and Clegg was good at defending his policies but would probably have preferred to tag Vince Cable in for this one. Clegg said that some of the criticisms on him were desperate, and I'd agree with him, which is odd considering Cameron has told he's campaigning on a 'positive' message. All I ever hear from him is negative campaigning on the EU, the jobs tax, the death tax, Trident, the amnesty, the economy, the hung parliament and more. The others have made negative remarks, I accept that, but the others aren't always claiming that they're the only ones not sinking down to that level. Okay, maybe I'm letting my bias come through, but I really can't stand the man, he's a slimy career politician with no integrity who isn't fit to run a corner shop.
I suppose there's always two sides to any view though.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
There's been one thing we haven't heard much of recently that's conspicuous by its absence, what's going to be happening to tuition fees? There's a review going on at the moment which is conveniently being released after the general election, robbing students of finding out what to expect from the various parties in relation to changes in top-up fees.
The Student's Union at Oxford has joined others today by asking why the recommendations being made to the review are being kept confidential. Surely as students we have a right to know what our particular university is suggesting in terms of changing fees? The Russell Group, which includes the more prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and Manchester have refused to release what they have sent into the review and a FOI request has been turned down on 'Public Interest' grounds. I can only assume this means that the Russell Group has recommended raising fees and doesn't want to get into a public argument with students just before an election when they might actually have some leverage.
Do they not realise how hard it is to get through university it is at the moment, with fees at this level, never mind how hard it would be if they were doubled. There was also talk of them charging interest on the student loans. The only reason that those loans are of any use is that students know they can be repaid once their degree is making them money, if they were costing them money in interest then university would be a much less appealing option. How can they expect students to pay interest on loans to the Student Loans Company which is surely the most disorganised, incompetent and ridiculous excuse for an organisation ever to be created? These reviews seem to assume you fall in one of two groups, from a family with low enough income to be eligible for grants and bursaries, or from one with enough money to pay their child through the whole of university. There are plenty of people in the middle, who don't get grants and can't have mum and dad pay for everything, free loans are the only way these people can get through.
I hope the report takes into account the fact that the UK is a small country, the only way we compete on the world stage is through high-tech industry. Without a constant stream of people going through high quality universities our economy would crumble. A little extra input from the government to help subsidise the experience and open university up to the masses would benefit them in the long run.
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
There was no really big thing to talk about today so I thought I'd treat you to some interesting bits and bobs from around the news.
The first pretty interesting thing I found was about a face transplant they performed in Spain recently, possibly the first full and most complex one that has been done to date. I say possibly because every time someone does a face transplant it's claimed to be the 'first' full one, before the next one comes along and is a bit more complicated. Still, I think it's fascinating that they can literally give you a new face taken from a donor and that it could function without massive scarring. Just to clear one thing up, when you get a face transplant you don't take on the appearance of the donor, a lot of how you look is down to your bone structure and other things which mean that you'll look different, no need to worry about the donor's family suddenly seeing their dead relative 'alive' again. There will have been a massive amount of work to attach every single blood vessel and nerve to the new face, and then to hide the scars, it's amazing what surgeons can do these days.
Another tid-bit, I don't usually indulge in these kind of stories but I thought this was pretty strange. It's a story from BBC about a mother whose baby is outgrowing her at the ripe old age of 13 months. The baby's not massive, she's just tiny - 3ft 1in. Now, when I first saw this I questioned one thing, how the hell did that woman give birth to any baby, she must have been nearly falling over from the weight of the foetus when it was growing. I don't want to put horrible pictures in peoples heads but, well, there must have been logistical problems (to put it one way) in getting that baby out of her. Kudos to her for being brave enough to carry on with the pregnancy but that must have been pretty dangerous, especially seeing as she apparently has brittle bones.
And my final bit of the day, I thought I'd bid a fond farewell to Greece. It might not have collapsed just yet but today certainly wasn't a good day for them. They had their credit downgraded to 'junk', very nice of the credit people to put it in terms we can understand. Basically that's the credit agencies way of saying, 'Greece, you're fucked.' As if they didn't have enough problems with debt, now they've been told that it's very risky to invest in them and anyone that does lend to them is likely to demand massive interest, a bit like they got the money from Wonga.com. (See Liam's blog for the reason I referred to them :) )
I'll try and have something meaningful to talk about next time, promise.
Monday, 26 April 2010
No, not in the I've just ruined my whole future medical career kind of way, in the I'm doing the mentor medics scheme next year where I get 12 kids. Sorry to disappoint.
Should be really good, I was sceptical when I first came to university about how good this would be, but basically being a mum or dad is just an excuse to have extra nights out with 12 new people whilst wearing a lot of face paint and ridiculous outfits. Plus, I'll get to relive the medics freshers week nights which should be brilliant. Another chance to get ridiculously drunk and make up witty chants, is there any better way to spend a night?
The other two people in my house next year have their own group as well which should mean massive get together's with all 24 kids, I smell massive house party! Also, James, if you're reading this, you're a moron for not sorting it out with Lauren. I thought everyone should know.
Short post today, got to get back to the clotting cascade, oh the joys.
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Haven't had a post on what's been going on in the land of sports for a while, so now seems like a good time what with a pretty big weekend just passed.
To start with the local team, it was a near perfect weekend for Blackpool, finally pushing their way into the play-off spots with one game to go. It would have been nice if Leicester had lost as well as Swansea to give us more options next week, but it wouldn't really have made that much difference and at least the team they beat was Preston, so every cloud and all that. We've just got to hope the team can hold of complacency and get a win against Bristol, then it'll be into the play-off's and hopefully another brilliant day out at Wembley.
In the big time, its been pretty interesting at the top recently, United were around 30 seconds away from falling out of the title race before Paul Scholes gave them a vital 3 points. After that Chelsea lost to Tottenham to blow the race wide open again. This weekend both got the important points, and Chelsea's 7-0 against a tough Stoke side was very impressive, it bodes well for them going into the game at Anfield.
Should be an interesting few weeks, followed of course by World Cup summer :)
Saturday, 24 April 2010
No, this isn't another medically post, this is about the band Amateur Transplants, well they're sort of a band. They're a couple of students (ex-students now maybe?) that do parodies of various songs, sounds pretty run of the mill but they really are good. Probably the most famous one is London Underground that they did a few years back, but the majority of their parody's are related to medical school or medicine in general. I don't think you have to be interested in medicine to enjoy them though.
Anyway here's a short one they did to give you an insight into the real side of Med School applications:
There are longer and better ones around on Youtube if you have a scout around..I'd recommend this one.
Friday, 23 April 2010
I can't be bothered with as long a description as I gave last time, it doesn't seem as exciting what with the first debate out of the way, but Liam was nice enough to post a link to here promising my spin on it so here goes. This was the turn of foreign affairs, but the real talking points were in relation to the last debate, would Cameron live up to the hype he failed to in the first one, would Brown be stronger and try to add some style, could Clegg really do it again?
In the opening statements the leaders again stated where they stood, Brown went for his traditional 'I'm not stylish, but I have substance' approach, Cameron for his 'we need a Tory government to get out of this mess' line and Clegg did his 'we've let our values go' and 'we need to lead in the EU' stances. So far, all as expected, no-one can really score points when they repeat what we already know about them, but a solid start. Before I get onto the debate, I should let you know, I'm very pro-european and think climate change is a very important issue that we aren't doing nearly enough about internationally, so you may see a slight slant in how I judge the leaders.
The three leaders pretty much went along with what we already knew here. Cameron started with saying we should be in the EU for trade, but that he thought too many powers had been taken away from Westminster which he wanted to take back. Clegg up next said that although the EU wasn't perfect, we needed to be in it in order to compete against other big dealers in the world. Brown said that many jobs depend on being in the EU, and that it strengthens our economy. Both Brown and Clegg attacked the Torie's on their 'wacky' partners in the EU, a reference to the newly formed grouping that the conservatives have joined after leaving the EPP, the new group involves some very dodgy people from the far right. Result: No real winner, although Cameron could be seen as loser, his place in EU is extremely dodgy, staying in the EPP would have given him a lot more clout on this issue. Clegg has been in the EU as an MEP and so knows how it works, he's pretty knowledgeable and Brown seems to recognise the benefits as well.
Pretty boring in all honesty, for the most part there isn't much the parties can say differently on this issue, they all want to fight against terrorism wherever it appears in order to keep the country safe from threats. Interesting point cam when Cameron and Brown teamed up (I know, crazy!) to attack Clegg on Trident. Everyone could see this coming before the debate but I think Clegg struggled getting his point across. I have sympathy for his position, it seems crazy to renew an ageing deterrent which is going to cost so much money, but people won't accept this until they see the alternative.
Stupid question, shouldn't have been about what they do personally but about their policies. Cue the leaders bigging up their insulation and wind turbines. Then they got back into their squabble about Europe and the relationship with the US. To get anything done on climate change we need to get it done worldwide, that's why we need the EU. We can punch above our weight in the EU and put some serious pressure on America and China that just wouldn't be at all possible if we were isolated. Pretty disappointed we didn't get to hear more about the parties green policies in this bit.
All supported the visit, but said the church had serious questions to answer, pretty run of the mill from all three. Clegg was interesting, he openly admitted he was atheist. I've got a lot of respect for him for this, in plenty of other places (Im thinking US in particular) saying this would be political suicide. He openly said it on national TV, kudos to you Clegg.
Then they went on to a few other topics that weren't as interesting such as faith in politics and pensions, nothing major came out of these. Cameron came out with his line on a hung parliament being dangerous, Clegg accused him of scare-mongering. Cameron attacked on the leaflets issue, Brown claimed he hadn't authorised them. I think the spinners after the debate tried to make a massive story out of a small one here, and the Tory papers (Sun, Telegraph, Mail) will have carried it big time I imagine.
Overall, no major winner like we had last time, all the polls had different opinions, some with Clegg, some with Cameron, most giving Brown a boost on last weeks performance. I think this won't cause a major shift in the overall polls like last week did, each leader will just solidify there own support base. Much bigger spinning effort from the Tories than last week, Osborne was all over the place, they seemed to have learnt their lessons. I though Brown had a lot of substance on the issues, but I'm not going to claim he will have won over all that many voters who didn't like him previously, he knows that style isn't his strong suit. Clegg had a solid debate, it was tough for him coming under so much extra pressure, but he handled it okay. Cameron was more like the debater people expected, improvement on last week, but weak on substance in my opinion. He must be getting pretty pissed off with spoof posters by now though :)
Oh look, this has probably turned out longer than the last one, not shorter. Ah well, next up, the Economy, more expectation on Brown here, lets see what the polls do over the next week to see who the real winner was last week.
Here's a different look, if you don't like my spin on it: http://are-you-reading.blogspot.com/2010/04/election-debate-2.html
Thursday, 22 April 2010
So I watched a new series on BBC that they did recently where they follow people around Great Ormond Street hospital, which is one of the leading children's hospitals in the UK and Europe, and it showed the kind of decisions and procedures that doctors there could make and perform. It was actually really good and pushed me a little bit closer to wanting to be a Paediatrician in the future. I already had an idea that it was something I'd like to do, but with five years before I have to make a firm choice its not something I'd really set in stone, a lot can change in that time. You'd just hope this kind of thing doesn't still happen. Silly welsh people.
And then there's the debate about whether to go into surgery or not? My decision on this tends to change depending on how much Grey's Anatomy I've been watching recently.
Whatever I do, I know I don't just want to go through as an average doctor doing average things. I know that reality isn't all going to be cutting edge procedures and dramatic moments but I want to do something special. If you don't keep pushing at the boundary during your career then you'll end up leaving the profession like you entered it. I'd prefer to know that when I retire I'll have left some kind of mark, however small, on the future.
That's what I liked about Ormond Street, they always kept the children as the priority, but at the same time they pushed that little bit further than they had in the past. Every new patient was a chance to learn and make things better. I'd love to be involved in something like that, I can't think of anything I'd want more in the world.
I always get asked about how I'd cope with the amount of children I'll see in pain and die if I do go into Paediatrics. I'd hope that even after decade's in the job each child still mattered, if that stopped I'd seriously consider quitting. But the joy you'd get from giving a young person the chance of having a life, I'd just have to hope that would make it all worth while. I've used 'hope' a couple of times, because that's all I can do, there's no way of knowing before I get on and do it. Deep eh? :)
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Nearly a week has gone since the last debate and before the next one tomorrow one thing seems clear from the first debate, it was a massive win for Clegg, bigger than anyone predicted. Not big enough to put him in Prime Minister territory, but big enough to make sure he has an influence on this election. The polls have gone from showing a conservative majority or at least most seats, to showing a hung parliament with Labour having the most seats. This might seem pretty weird considering Labour have slipped into third place in many polls but it comes from the fact that whilst Lib Dems are gaining seats they are taking more from the Tories and the Tories aren't taking any from Labour. Its because of our voting system that Lib Dems could easily get the most votes yet still have less than half the seats that the other two parties have. But it is important for the Lib Dems to get as many seats as possible, the more they have the more power they have in trying to push through electoral reform, which could even up the system in the Liberals favour.
So how have the leaders responded to this massive upheaval? Cameron's tried to stress the damage that a hung parliament would have on the country, warning that we might need IMF payouts like we did in the '70's. Brown has tried to put pressure on certain Lib Dem proposals to highlight the weaknesses, but stayed away from the talk of the danger of a hung parliament, whilst obviously maintaining that a Labour majority would be the best outcome. Nick Clegg has just tried to keep himself from smiling too much, and who can blame him. His win certainly sent the right-wing papers into a state of frenzy and ridiculous accusations, he must have touched a nerve.
I think the idea that a hung parliament would be disastrous is simply scare-mongering, it may not be ideal, but it could well pave the way for electoral reform which will get us out of this FPTP system. A lot of people like the idea of hung parliament, it seems to be a shift away from the top-down approach and means the parties will actually have to work together. It's frustrating when perfectly valid ideas can't be looked at because they come from a party outside the government. Other places in the world manage perfectly well with coalition governments and if it doesn't work out, we'll just do the whole thing over again.
I'm still a Labour man, but I've got to admit, the idea of a Lib-Lab coalition is quite appealing. I've always thought the Liberals had some good ideas but just lacked in others. Hopefully, some of the better ideas could be used as leverage to get government bills through.
Nick Clegg did exactly what he needed to the other night. Before the debate the Lib Dem's were the party that had a great chancellor in Vince Cable but nothing else. Now they've got a leader to match. Let's just see if they can keep the momentum going through these next two debates and actually get people put an X next to them on polling day.
Monday, 19 April 2010
Uni life has officially returned, along with truckloads of work no doubt, but first the three weeks before revision time that I can enjoy with little stress. I wish med school was like it is on the new Scrubs, they seem to spend the majority of their time messing around the hospital and generally having a work-free time. In reality there's about 5 different things I have to check and make sure I don't miss or risk the wrath of Ioan Davies, the silver fox. And then tomorrow we have E4Med. For those who don't know I'll give you an outline of what E4Med is.
Several years ago the university staff came together to find the most effective way to waste students time whilst teaching them absolutely nothing and ruining their single day off. Its all about statistics in medical research and entails sitting in a room for about an hour and a half, staring at a screen full of words you're supposed to understand but no-one actually does. Revise a few definitions an hour before the exam and you should be fine, the other million hours of your life it feels like you've spent doing it have been for nothing.
I also realised today that we only have three weeks left as a PBL group before we change over next year. It feels like we've barely just got our new groups and already we're near the end. I'd slag them off but I know some of them read this :) I'm hoping I get another good group next year but so far I've had 2/2 really good groups so chances are it could be a let down.
For now, time to return to the fascinating world of haematology, oh the joy.
P.s. The picture's from our paint anatomy session we had, out of 12 people I don't think anyone was left without some bizarrely large, small or discoloured organ from where we'd painted wrong.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
I got some very bad news yesterday, very bad indeed. It turns out that, according to Zach Braff himself, Scrubs isn't being renewed for another season. I've entered a time of mourning. According to his personal page:
"Many of you have asked, so here it is: it appears that "New Scrubs", "Scrubs 2.0", "Scrubs with new kids", "Scrubbier", "Scrubs without JD" is no more. It was worth a try, but alas... it didn't work. zb"
Why didn't they end it after Season 8 when JD left the hospital, it was a great finale and then they had to ruin it by bringing out a new one which they're only going to keep for one season! I'd just got used to the fact that JD had gone and now they do this, I hate American TV networks, damn you all.
In other news, today's the last day of the holidays, Pbl returns tomorrow and I'm weirdly kind of looking forward to it. During term time the work seems like a bitch but I've kind of missed it over the holidays, although not enough to have bothered starting revision. I really should do that. I can't wait to get back into the swing of normal uni life, and no doubt in about a week's time I'll be complaining I need another break. Three weeks of learning left before the revision period begins, I could really do with getting some practical revision done for the OSCE's but I'm not as worried as I was for the last exams, I know what to expect now. Roll on the next 3 weeks of chilled out happiness before the real worry kicks in! :)
Friday, 16 April 2010
Before I start, I should put a disclaimer, this isn't a political post, it's more general thoughts on how to solve a growing problem. Everyone knows that we have an ageing population and that this is costing the country a lot of money to provide long-term care for them all as life expectancy after retirement has rocketed. This is a major success story for the NHS but it does leave a problem in need of solving, how do you care for all these people?
What's really needed is a universal system that covers the entire country, where taxpayer supported aid is available to the most needy. Much like the NHS before it, we need to join a fragmented system of individual carers and provide a standard of care that everyone across the country, regardless of wealth, can expect to receive. I don't think you can do it on a voluntary insurance-based system, for it to work everyone has to chip in.
We have, in effect, a chance to create a new kind of NHS which cares for the elderly, with all the knowledge of what went wrong in the past, and to make it work. A good level of care will not only help those elderly people who need it, but take the strain off carers and a lot of strain of the healthcare system as preventing accidents in the elderly will save a substantial amount.
It won't be easy to get a system everyone's happy with, but start with the principle that everyone is entitled to care in old age, and that we should share the cost we will all benefit from, and we could well end up with something special. Decades later, we might love the NCS like we love the NHS nowadays.
Thursday, 15 April 2010
To be completely original lets have a look at the debate. It was fairly long but I don't think it got as slow and sterile as Cameron thought it might. No-one had a really game changer tonight, there was no moment of genius and no awful gaffe that will have changed things dramatically. I think supporters of each will come away thinking their guy came out on top because there was nothing drastically new bought out, just what we've heard. As for the instant polls that are coming out, they all say completely different things and don't matter anyway. What matters is the impact the debates had on the marginal seats and there voters.
The major thing that tonight bought was what everyone expected but more dramatically, Nick Clegg seems to be getting a lot of support for his part in it. From Lib Dems point of view it was perfect, their guy was up their with the big dogs, with no pressure and no one daring to challenge him seriously in case they needed the support in a hung parliament. I think a hung parliament might be more likely after tonights debate if the other two go to form as marginal seats could go Lib Dem and leave no party with a majority. I don't think that Clegg's performance has done enough to win him PM, but barring the other two resigning on stage I don't think anything was ever going to do that.
Here's a quick look at the various topics, it would be too long to do massive detail:
Crime - All three wanted more police on the beat. Cameron talked about stripping away the bureaucracy to let police do what they needed to do. Brown talked about the increasing numbers of police over the previous years. Clegg wanted an overhaul of the system which would stop people in prison from re-offending, no support from other parties on this, think that might be a mistake on their parts. Brown made his first joke, possibly this year, about him smiling on the conservatives posters, in fact he looked pretty cheery throughout most of it. He's obviously been putting in his practice.
Education - The question was really good for this, it talked about the grades driven nature of schools in the UK which stops genuine learning. Gordon Brown started by talking about how we need to keep up competitiveness to keep in line with the rest of the world. Cameron pretty much agreed with this by saying he wanted to keep all external marking. Clegg talked about scaling down the curriculum to get away from central control which would leave more control with teachers. Cameron stressed the importance of discipline in schools and that headteachers should have the right to over-rule appeals panels. I don't agree with that policy, those panels are there to stop bad mistakes as a knee-jerk reaction. I think all of them were guilty of descending into talk of spending rather than talking about the important issue of how to get real education rather than this target-driven system.
Military - I don't want to go into the various comments here because they all talked about the same things. The thing that came out of this was Clegg's despise of the trident deterrent which he repeated several times. This is a dangerous line, even though I agree with it. The general public have fear of terrorism and they won't give up Trident lightly, I think it was a brave move.
Elderly Care - All the parties here seemed to want cross-party agreement on this and all supported respite for carers. I did particularly like the Labour policy here for free care once a person has been in care for 2 years.
No-one scored here as they all agreed with each other.
Closing Argument -
Clegg - 'Give real change a chance'
Brown - 'Money has to be in the economy this year to maintain growth'
Cameron - 'Choose hope over fear' (Soundbite of the night for the papers I'd imagine.)
As for my spin on the whole thing, I think Clegg did excellently and Brown did much better than expected. On question time afterwards there seems to be a lot of waivering support for Cameron, he had the most expectation and it hurt him as it was difficult to live up to. John Sergeant made a telling point, of the three Clegg had the most style but Brown looked like the prime minister. He looked stern and serious and made his points well without being as stylish as the other. I thought it was interesting that Cameron talked about how great the country was when much of his campaign has focussed on 'Broken Britain', has he had a change of heart. This will give a bump up to Labour and the Lib Dem's but the Tories have a lot of work to do. Especially considering the fact that the Tory spin doctors are lightweight compared to the other two parties, the others have well-oiled machines. We'll see how the polls over the next few days have to say on who the winner was.
Want a different look? http://are-you-reading.blogspot.com/2010/04/election-debate-1.html
A little while ago I wrote a post about 'Settling it with science' talking about chiropractors wanting to sue Simon Singh for calling them bogus. Well I've just seen that the whole case has been dropped which made spurred me to write down my opinions on 'alternative' medicine.
Now most of you would probably assume you'd be able to spot alternative therapies a mile off, they're easy to spot aren't they? Not at all. In fact, some of them are genuine therapies that are just being used to treat things they have no business in treating. So here's some alternative medicine that I'll talk about here: Chiropractic, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Naturopathy.
What annoys me most about these things is that they rarely try to complement traditional medicine as they'd like to claim, they actively suggest that traditional medicine doesn't work and that they alone have the master cure. Anyone who says, 'These things can't be tested using traditional science but they work because they made me/a family member/friend feel better', take the time to slap them across the face for me please. It's utter rubbish. If treatments don't work in a controlled trial with a placebo control, then they don't work, simple as that. Lets look two of the big ones:
Chiropractic: Possibly the most mainstream, even people who would consider alternative medicine to be rubbish still consider this to be somehow separate from the others. The truth, having your spine manipulated is no better a treatment than gentle exercise. The fact that bad back is such a hard medical problem for practitioners maybe makes chiropractors a appealing option, its a get out jail free card for a doctor who can't think of any further treatment. The patient feels like something is getting done, you assume that the clicking noise is your spine being fixed, it isn't, it has no medical benefit. Chiropractors say they fix 'subluxations' of the spine which cause all sorts of illness. Can you see a subluxation, say on an X-ray? Nope, they're invisible apparently. This is utter clap-trap, if you currently get chiropractic, stop, you're paying for a very expensive massage.
Homeopathy: Truly a ridiculous idea if ever there was one, yet the NHS shells out good money for these treatments, so what is it? Basically, homeopaths treat like with like, they use substances that give the same symptoms as disease for a cure. The twist, they say that water has memory, it remembers what you put in it, and if you dilute the substance to a ridiculous degree then the treatment is more effective. Of course water has no memory and you are in fact being sold treatments with no active ingredient. Interestingly, as opposed to the others, if homeopathy were to be true not only would medicine be wrong, but the entirety of physics. And yet around a quarter of Europeans use homeopathic treatments despite no research supporting its use, it makes no sense. You're healing yourself with water.
In general, if anything promises to 'heal your energy' or 'look after your aura' its garbage, stay well away. In the wise words of Dara O'Briain: 'Just because science doesn't know everything doesn't mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairytale appeals to you.'
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
A lot of people have probably already heard but Pendulum have got another album coming out at the start of May, going to be called 'Immersion'. I'm pretty excited about this, I hope its as good as In Silico. You can find the first single from it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEPB7uzKuh4
Some people like it, others don't, I think it sounds pretty good, hopefully there will be lots of other great tracks on it. It makes them playing at Leeds that much better, not that it wasn't going to be amazing before this.
In other news, I'm now back in Fallowfield and its completely dead around here, I saw like one other person walking around earlier and that was it, its got the feel of a horror movie set. When I was out before I saw someone going around on rollerblades. This isn't as great as the time I saw someone ride down the street on a unicycle, but it did make me really want to get a pair of rollerblades. Maybe when the loan comes in :)
The thing people are most interested if you talk about university seems to be one room more than all the others put together. The dissecting room. Before I got to Manchester I've got to admit, it did seem by far the most interesting, I was kind of wondering how I'd handle it as well. I've never been squeamish but this was a whole other level to watching Saw.
But now that I've been there a few months, I've got used to it and I've discovered a few things which I thought I'd share about the DR:
- You can instantly gross out any non-medic with stories from the dissection room.
- Being in the dissection room makes you hungry. Ask anyone, they'll vouch for this, it's not just me :)
- The DR will turn many normal people into masochists that just want to cut shit up.
- Insides don't look like you'd imagine, with everything easy to see, they all blend into one.
- Being able to swipe into a restricted room makes you feel powerful.
- Nobody's a surgeon yet, cutting is harder than it looks.
- Anatomy demonstrators tend to have terrible communication skills, they deal with the dead for a reason.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
I noticed before some weird stats about how good or otherwise Manchester is as a university that didn't seem to go together. The good news is that in the Times 'World University Rankings' the University of Manchester comes 26th, up three places from last year and the seventh highest coming from the UK. That all sounds pretty impressive, especially considering its a relatively new university (since the merger) and is still getting better. But then looking at the 'Good University Guide', from the same paper, we're down in 26th in the UK. Why the difference?
I really can't see where this comes from, everyone I know on the course seems pretty satisfied, some might not think its the greatest thing ever but they certainly wouldn't say it was bad. Maybe it's because the National Student Survey (where the data comes from) is only for final year students to complete. With PBL being a pretty new way of learning at Manchester there were bound to be some problems when the present fifth years were in pre-clinical and there are still minor teething problems to this day. Hopefully, enough is being done that the people coming through now will be a lot happier than they were in the past. Student satisfaction is the major thing holding us back from really being considered among the elite, everything else is working well, so cheer up Manchester!
Monday, 12 April 2010
So organ donation has been back in the news, and not for the best of reasons. It seems that there's been a mix-up in the transferring data from the DVLA which means that some people had been signed up as organ donors have had organs removed which they did not specify. Whilst this is obviously an unfortunate incident, I don't agree with the minority of people who use this small story to cast doubt on the whole donation system. I think it's a small story for a few reasons. It affected a small number of people, all of whom had agreed to some form of organ donation and all the families were consulted at the time of death. No-one has been hurt in this.
As for the system, I think the issue being back in the news could help focus attention again. The fact of the matter is that there are not enough donors available to save the lives of those on the waiting list, and its not due to disgust at the idea, but to lack of information or perhaps simply laziness on behalf of people who would consider donating. About 90% of people think organ donation is a good idea, yet under 30% are registered donors, somewhere along the line the importance of this is getting lost. A lot of this is the fact that people rarely want to think about their own mortality, no-one wants to be planning for their death. And the other major reason is that at the moment you actually have to make the concious effort to put yourself on the register, something a lot of people just don't get around to doing. So what's the answer?
There are a lot of advocates of introducing presumed consent, where you would donate organs on your death unless you decided to opt-out of the system. This gets around the issue of having to make the effort to put yourself on the system and think about your death whilst still leaving the option to not donate organs. I think the whole thing is a bit more complicated than that though.
This might make people fearful of state control over their body and damage the relationship with doctors and the confidence they have in the system. Also, not all presumed consent initiatives have led to much higher donation rates. On the flip-side you have to weigh these facts up with the knowledge that not doing anything is condemning people who could be saved to death, surely their rights as a person should be taken into consideration.
Overall, I think that more information needs to be given to people about the benefits of organ donation and the process needs to be made as easy to access as possible. Its no use making initiatives if the public aren't on side. It's also time we had a proper debate about whether an opt-out system is a good idea for our country without letting wild emotions drive us off course. We need to remember the rights and feelings of the donors, their families and the people who desperately need these transplants.
Organ donation is miraculous, and we need to make it as available as possible. And in the hope that this will do a little bit of good in the world, take a few seconds to sign up here: http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ukt/default.jsp
It doesn't take long and while it might be scary to think about death, it's a whole lot scarier to need a transplant and not be able to get one.
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Time for election update. I heard the other day two things from the Tories, one seemed a reasonable idea, the other was utterly terrible.
To start with the positive, they announced their National Citizen Service scheme. Now this isn't as terrible as it sounds, its dangerously close to sounding like National Service, but rather is a voluntary experience where teenagers get to go away, work as a team and come up with ideas to help the community. I like this idea purely because it looked like a lot of fun for the most part. I'd be up for going climbing and canoeing if it was coming courtesy of the government. :) Boris Johnson (how the hell he got into a position of power I'll never know) didn't help the cause when he suggested it should be compulsory, that would be completely the wrong way to go about it. If you make it fun then people will want to go, and in turn that will mean the community will benefit from the various schemes that come as a result of it. All in all, I'd say this was one of the better ideas to come from the conservative's in a very long time.
Saturday, 10 April 2010
Well, the trip to St. James' Park didn't go quite as we hoped, but it was still a good day out. Believe me, if we'd lost 4-1 to most other teams, I'd be pretty pissed off right now, but we went into the match hoping rather than expecting and everyone was just glad to have had the opportunity to go to such a great stadium.
The Blackpool fans made a hell of a lot of noise considering how far away from the pitch we were and for the first half we looked a good side. Their first was just a stroke of bad luck and after that we controlled possession for long periods. Then we conceded a soft free-kick which flew in and after that you really didn't see any way back into it. Gutierrez, who looked so poor in the Prem, literally tore us to shreds and I'd say the one difference between the teams was that they were much more clinical.
Still, when we scored our single consolation the stand literally erupted, everyone had just been waiting for an excuse to go crazy and so followed a great 10 minutes of chants including "We're going to win 5-4" which made the day pretty much worthwhile. It felt like we'd just scored the winner. A win against Forest will get us back into the play-off hunt and who knows, we might end up playing them again next season :)
Friday, 9 April 2010
I was reading something the other day that was looking at what we know about how our mind influences our body, and in particular our health. The immediate reaction to hearing something like this for many is to say 'What a load of rubbish' but there are many things in medicine which show this connection. I'm not talking about psychic healing or other such mumbo jumbo, but well known phenomena. The placebo effect isn't just people being fooled, there are actual physical changes which occur simply because someone believes they have taken something that will help. We've known about it for decades, but little is known about how it works. So how can thinking make us better?
The key is remembering that while we might talk about mind and body as separate things for ease of language, they aren't actually separate at all, the mind is just a part of the body. It controls many of your natural defences, including your immune system. For example, people who are stressed have lower immune cell responses and high levels of adrenaline after a stressful event can be fatal - dying of a broken heart isn't a myth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takotsubo_cardiomyopathy So if certain things can make you ill, would it be such a stretch to suggest others can make you better? If you can tweak the immune system through certain thought patterns then all sorts of things are possible. Reducing immune system inflammation could even cut your risk of cancer.
This is definitely an area that we need to research more to find out exactly what's going on and when the mechanisms are eventually found a whole new area of medicine will be opened. The mechanisms that are used by the mind could be altered with drugs, and it would give whole new emphasis to using psychological treatments in many diseases at the same time as physical support.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
There's been a few busy days of campaigning going on, I thought I'd have a look at the various things that have been said.
Without doubt the biggest argument of the campaign so far has been over the planned NI rise that Labour set out in the budget. A whole host of business leaders have come out against the tax increase and the Conservative's have said the 'tax on jobs' will endanger the recovery. Then there was anger over Labour claims that the leaders had been deceived. I think first of all people should remember, these are massive employers, they know about business, but given the choice of tax or no tax I think there position is always going to be the same, regardless of whether it is in the country's interest. No employer wants to pay more, that doesn't mean it will hurt jobs, the last NI rise was followed by a rise in employment. Times may be different but lets not assume that we're all market experts and can accurately predict how employment will be affected by one tax or another. Rather than look at the opinions of business leaders with their vested interests, I think the opinions of economists are more relevant here. If you look at what they say there is a much more even split between supporting Labour and Tory plans than the one-sided business opinion.
I think Labour's words that the business leaders were 'deceived' was badly phrased, they don't want to be seen to be attacking the business that has been so key to New Labour in the past. However, if you look past the wording, you can see what was really meant. All along the Tories have been the party that will cut the deficit immediately and that was their central concern. The first chance they see a vote winner, opposing the NI rise, they jump straight into tax cutting mode. If you want to keep NI the same, you have to spell out how you're going to save the money elsewhere. So far, all the savings have been 'efficiency savings', something David Cameron had previously said were the cheapest trick in the book, you cannot keep pulling more out of the public sector without someone along the line feeling the pinch. Vince Cable the other night took the opportunity to attack both parties, he told Osborne that he was planning to fund his NI reversal by using the same efficiency savings outlined by Labour which he had earlier attacked. He also told Darling that the efficiency savings he had planned were fanciful and that a real plan to cut costs was needed.
This election was billed as the time, like none that has gone before, when politicians could gain votes by spelling out where they would cut and how deep. This hasn't happened to a great extent with any of the major parties, the Lib Dems have broken the mould and are in fact the ones with the most detailed plans. The reason is this, people say they want to know where things are cut, but as soon as any cuts are announced there's a backlash. Politicians are not going to spell out cuts if it's going to lose them votes, they're not stupid. The general public needs to come to terms with the fact cuts are going to be made, and not immediately go into frenzy whenever a politician spells out where they are likely to fall. Maybe then we'll see some announcements about real cuts rather than all this drivel about 'efficiency savings'.
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
A good bit of news I noticed, turns out the woman who refused to take off her crucifix whilst working as a nurse has lost her appeal against discrimination in the workplace. She claimed being told to take off the crucifix 'offended her religion'. Personally, I couldn't give two shits if it offended your religion, rules are rules and you can't get out of them because your particular invisible friend might get upset.
The reason hospital staff can't wear necklaces is that some patients may grab them and hurt the staff, the hospital even compromised and said she could wear it so long as it was taped down so that it couldn't be grabbed. I did think this was good news for common sense when she had her appeal rejected, until I read the last line. 'Mrs Chaplin ... said she would continue to wear her crucifix on duty.' What an idiot.
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
It's official, on 6th May there will be a General Election, over the next week parliament will shut down and the business of selling the parties will begin. It could well be the hardest election to call since 1992, although I can't say I remember that one seeing as I was 1 at the time. This being the first election I can vote in makes it more interesting. So what are the choices to take us forward?
Then there's the incumbants, Labour, led by Brown. There big point is that the country needs to carry on supporting the economy to stop the possibility of a double dip recession and save jobs. They will be looking to rally the core vote which has become pretty quiet recently in light of the expenses crisis which was always going to hurt whichever party was in power more than the opposition. In contrast to the Tories presidential style campaign Labour will likely appear as a team, having strength in numbers as there leader isn't as big a selling point as Cameron without the Tory leaders flair and charisma. I think to win they need to play on the experience they have in their ranks and try to highlight the successes they've had over the years on crime and health. It will be tough for them to get an outright majority but there's certainly a good chance off them being the second party in a hung parliament.
And likely to finish 3rd place is the Lib Dems, led by Clegg. They will of course say that they have every chance of winning, but I think there role will be limited to determining the likelihood of a hung parliament and being king-makers if that is the case. There biggest selling point is Vince Cable, a man respected by almost everyone around the political sphere and by much of the population. If they can use him to gain votes from people who didn't previously think they were a serious enough party for government then they have a great chance of doing very well in this election, the debates are a great opportunity for their leader to be arguing with the 'big boys' of the other two parties and score some points without much pressure.
The smaller parties have got a good shout of gaining some seats this year due to the disillusion with mainstream politics. The sane of the country can only hope that the BNP won't gain any seats because for the good of the country their racist, bigoted views should not be allowed the time of day in a modern society.
As for myself, it might be a secret ballot but I can tell you now that I'll most likely be voting Labour, for several reasons. I think they made the right calls on the economy during the financial crisis, mistakes have been made in the past but the present government went in the right direction and are respected around the world for their handling. I think there future plans to cut the deficit, whilst not fully spelt out yet, are sensible and don't put jobs at risk and there plans for a National Care service are well overdue. I won't be going Tory because there ideas on the financial crisis were wrong, to put it bluntly, and there plans to reduce the deficit faster are short-sighted. Everyone would love to cut the debt as soon as possible, but if the economy suffers as a result of cuts then our ability to pay will be restricted and rather than lower debt we may be in a worse situation. There plans for education are perhaps the most worrying aspect, allowing parents and other groups to set up schools and have them operate on a free market system will be massively damaging to this countries education. They point to Sweden as a success story but look closely and although some Swedish schools have improved, many have been damaged, to the extent they are considering scrapping the idea. As for the Lib Dems, they have some great ideas, and I hope that this will be an election where they grow into a bigger party, but I just can't help feel that they aren't quite ready for government yet, they need to use this election as a springboard to launch a more likely campaign next time around.
Monday, 5 April 2010
Although this site seems to have been around for a while I haven't heard of it before today, when it was in the news for its latest leaked video. WikiLeaks is essentially a site where people can post information that traditional media such as newspapers wouldn't be able to publish because of injunctions. The reason it was in the news today was that it has just posted a video from an appache helicopter in Iraq showing American soldiers firing on news reporters and others, including two children. Its pretty shocking and some people would think it's awful to even show it, or perhaps that if you watch it its because of some perverse nosiness. But I think it shows the truly horrific side of war, with innocent people getting caught up in the crossfire. It doesn't look too good for the Americans either, their gung-ho attitude to shooting on people who posed no immediate threat to safety is extremely disturbing.
These days its pretty taboo to speak ill of the military, you can be against the war but you have to support the troops. Yes, some of them may be fighting for the right reasons, but this video demonstrates that you can't unquestionably assume that everyone in the military is a good person, they're only human. Someone has to be watching, to make sure that protecting the country isn't used as an excuse to cover up the incompetencies of military strategy.
More than anything I'd hope that since this event the rules of engagement have been changed, the military presence might be necessary, but it shoudn't be used to excuse the killing of people who did nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It finally happened, after years of being a huge fan but somehow never being able to get tickets for live gigs I've got a ticket for Muse's Wembley gig in September, this is going to be awesome :) I was pretty upset when I realised they weren't going to be playing Leeds fest but this makes up for it, especially with the brilliant support acts they usually have when they play big venues.
And with Blackpool winning again today, who knows, I may be at Wembley sooner than that if we can reach the play-off finals :)
Sunday, 4 April 2010
Well it was a pretty interesting weekend of football in the Prem and the Championship.
The big one being that Chelsea have gone back top of the table after a win at Old Trafford, United really seem to have a problem with coming back after an away fixture in Europe. There was a fair bit of controversy, two good penalty shouts turned down, a clearly offside goal and a possibly hand-balled goal but all in all I think its fair to say the better side on the day won. They were excellent in the first half, controlling the game well, Malouda in particular was excellent. United had the better of the second half without ever looking like they were posing a serious threat to the Chelsea goal. Elsewhere in the fight for top-spot Arsenal were saved by a late Bentdner header (again) to give them the 3-points at Wolves to keep them in the race.
City were the weekends big winners in terms of the 4th spot contest, not only did they crush Burnley 6-1 but they also saw the nearest rivals for a Champions League spot lose in what was one of their easier games in the run in. Things don't bode well for Tottenham now that they're in 5th spot and yet to play Chelsea, United and Arsenal.
It was also a great result for Blackpool this weekend, a good 4-2 win away at Scunthorpe. Incidentally, Scunthorpe's ground was horrendous, it made Bloomfield Road look like the Nou Camp, 20 rows with breeze block and corrugated sheets. The signs were ominous for Scunthorpe when they took a look at our bench, Bannan, Vaughan, Bouazza, DJ Campbell, four very good strike options just sitting on the sidelines. The introduction of Vaughan gave us back control of a game that was starting to even out after the penalty, Bouazza gave some much needed width and DJ topped it off with two goals, not bad substitutions really.
The rest of the play-off hopefuls didn't fare as well which leaves Blackpool 1 point off the play-offs with a five-point gap to 8th place, things look pretty good. If we can get something out of the games at Newcastle and Forest then we can really start dreaming of another day out at Wembley.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
I didn't think my opinion of religion could sink much lower, but it definitely has after yesterdays speech. The Pope's personal preacher likened the stories surrounding the Vatican about the child abuse scandal to the "collective violence suffered by the Jews.' At best, he has a horrible way with words and is completely out of touch with the modern world, at worst, the remarks are offensive and insolent to the abused and the victims of the holocaust.
Far from being humble and apologising unreservedly for any past abuse caused by its priests, the church seems happy to pretend people are making a big fuss about nothing and sneer at those who 'gossip'. Surely this is one of the most morally bankrupt organisations that pretends to be in the business of 'saving people'. I'm not a fan of religion in general, but this pope is bad even by their low standards.
Friday, 2 April 2010
Something else from the world of BBC News that I thought was interesting:
It looks like the advisory council is fast becoming a joke which has no scientific reasoning for its existence, its just there to play to the whim of politicians looking for a way to appear tough on drugs for the sake of the morning papers. The latest being the farcical way Mephedrone was dealt with.
Seven members have resigned since the resignation of the previous chair and all have said there was too much interference from government in what should be a purely scientific and public health forum. Why do people always assume that you can solve a drug problem by banning it? It hasn't worked for decades and it won't start working now.
I don't think every single drug should be legalised, but I do think that every drug should be looked at individually not just at its effects when taken, but also at how banning the drug is likely to affect behaviours. When you ban one drug you open two doors, firstly, you hand control of it over to criminal groups who have no problem cutting it with cheap, toxic ingredients and secondly, you leave a gap in the market for a new, potentially more harmful drug to take its place.
Why should people who have no relevant qualifications in pharmacology or public health be in charge of the law of any drug? The general public blows any issue to do with drugs massively out of proportion, and still fails to solve the problem. For weeks people in favour of banning have been harping on about it being implicated in four deaths. The key word being 'implicated'. It wasn't even found to be the sole cause of death in these people. Yes it might have affected people and it may be dangerous, but we should investigate whether that's true without letting emotions rule decision-making. The governments desire to always 'act tough' on drugs is costing more lives than it is helping.
And what is the alternative that the Tories offer us? Well they just think Professor Nutt should have been sacked earlier and that the government doesn't have enough control over the council. So there position is we'll get it as wrong as Labour but do it more often and quicker. This is another one of those times when the Lib Dems seem to be the only party with any sense. They want the council to be independent and only be interested in the scientific basis for drug policy, surely that should be obvious to everyone? In the meantime, criminals are getting more and more money from banned drugs whilst making them more dangerous at the same time. Surely, being able to regulate a drug which is legal would be a more sensible approach for so many substances which are illegal right now?
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Here's one of those important bits of news that may have slipped under many a radar.
You might think this sounds pretty unimportant but it basically means that in future when people complain about all those quack theories like chiropractic and homeopathy they can't be sued just because the chiropractics or whoever else it may be don't like it. Instead, these comments will be settled with research and science. A good day for reason, another nail in the coffin for alternative medicine.
There isn't much going on in the world at the moment so I thought I'd update you on what I think is the greatest TV show around, Scrubs.
I've watched every episode at least a couple of times and it still doesn't get any less funny, if my life turned out to be a replica of JD's, I'd consider it a great success. The new Med School series isn't quite as good but it's still worth watching, if for no other reason than to see the cameo's of the old cast.
There were two reasons I thought about writing about this, the first being that I discovered a site which morphs faces together and theres a few around now of people I know mixed with scrubs characters, including Me and JD:
And then there's the fact that I've realised I still somehow have several bruises from when I was dropped whilst doing the 'Eagle' on the Scrubs Pub Crawl into a lamppost. For those who don't know, an 'Eagle' is basically a glorified piggy back whilst holding your arm out and screaming "Eeeaaggllleeee!!", It's pretty fun especially done whilst running straight through a drunken crowd :)