Monday, 31 May 2010

Freedom Flotilla

I'm not the most knowledgeable on the whole middle east dispute, and for that reason I tend to steer clear of putting in my opinions when they could be so dramatically wide of the mark. But today I'm making an exception because I think the Israeli attack on the flotilla carrying aid to Gaza strip was disgusting, disproportionate and deserves a lot more condemnation than they're being given at the moment.

To block some aid from getting through in the first place is wrong, and that's something the UN agree's with, its all well and good saying emergency supplies like medicines are allowed through but without the other items such as fuel how are the hospitals supposed to run? And now they have actively attacked, and that is the only word to describe it, a humanitarian ship in international waters. That takes the whole thing to a new level.

The idea that Israel is now claiming the ships were intent on violence and that the passengers were putting up resistance is ludicrous. There was only token resistance and I think that that was to be expected when they illegally boarded the ship! To go on with live ammunition to a ship carrying aid can't be defended, people died and no amount of claiming 'we tried to avoid any deaths' will change that fact. If they were so determined to stop the cargo then there were other ways for them to make sure the ship wasn't being used for violence, boarding in international waters is piracy, pure and simple.

If this were another nation, say Iran, boarding humanitarian ships then there would be international outrage on a massive scale. When it's Israel, all we get is calls for an investigation. I wish more leaders would have the spine to stand up and categorically say this is wrong.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Academic Sweatshop

That's what the idea of a two year degree has been called by the University and College Union and I'd have to agree with them. It's nothing more than a convenient way to save some cash whilst appearing not to cut front line education, people will still be getting degrees, but will they really be worth the paper they're written on?

For the life of me I can't see why education seems to be continually seen as a cheap target in the age of cuts and why people from all spheres seem to think that they can get away with scamming student out of their education, their cash, or maybe even both.

The UK is a small, insignificant little island in terms of numbers, the only reason we still have any importance is quality over quantity. Other than the US, we're the only country in the world to have Universities in the Top 10 in the world, and we have many of them at the very top. Our research is at the cutting edge and a lot of high-tech industry is based here, its the only way for a small nation to punch above its weight. Cut education and you take away the knowledge we need to compete.

Two year degrees will aim to cram all the information of a normal course into 66% of its time, it leaves staff overworked, students with burnout and little or no time for research. All you get extra is a bit more cash left over to churn out more and more of these students who graduate without the full experience they deserve. That shouldn't be the way we go. We should be ramping up education, making sure that we stay a world leader in innovation and not doing that by jacking students for all they've got.

It always seems to come down to a choice between education cuts or increasing tuition fees, that's a fallacy of exclusion, those aren't the only two options. What's needed is reform which makes the money the system has stretch further, instead of cutting or hiking costs the government should put on its collective thinking cap and get creative.

Ultimate CCTV

I found this today, it looks insanely clever, to the point it's scary to think what can be done these days. In effect its an automated CCTV system that, without any human control, can pick out unusual behaviour and zoom in and follow it. What's more, where humans can see in 3 wavelengths, it can see in 10, so it can see things which would otherwise be invisible to the human eye. Told you it was clever.

It can spot the difference between the same colour made by nature and human-hand, it can see how far away objects are and other cameras from the company can take pictures of slices in space, practically seeing through walls.

Apparently its intended to be used for counter-insurgency, so if there's a meeting in a deserted area late at night, the camera will pick up on it and be able to follow them, even in the darkness. For all intents and purposes, it may as well have a brain, it sees the norm, and watches anything different from it. That's the slightly scary bit, imagine a dictator or oppressive government somewhere in the world getting hold of that kind of technology. The Stasi would look like amateurs, it would be more like the Thought Police from 1984. But that's not to say they shouldn't make it, just that we should be careful.

Oh, and as if science hadn't given enough to the military with this little gem, they've now made a paint for vehicles which will soak up chemicals and then decontaminate itself, to save those in and around the vehicle in the event of chemical warfare. How nice to see that both of these are coming from the DSTL as well, a UK based company, and that rather than carrying on designing weapons to kill in more efficient ways we've actually got technology to save lives being designed for the military.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Babies 'r' us

Revision is boring me. That explains why I have time to keep writing this despite the fact I really should be working, ah well.

Anyway, I saw on 'Scrubbing Up' on BBC this week they were talking about sex selection in children and whether it should be allowed in the UK (it's currently illegal unless its done to avoid sex-linked disease). In some other countries its legal so long as you have the cash to pay for it and is basically an extension of the ability to be able to ensure your child isn't born with major inherited illnesses.

I'm not sure where I stand on this, but I'd probably hedge towards allowing it within the private sector. I know there is the argument that children shouldn't be regarded as goods which you can customise to suit your needs but I think that if it is possible to shape in a small way a positive thing in your life then perhaps people should be allowed that option. Most people wouldn't take the option to choose the sex, but some families may have reasons why they would prefer to have a girl or a boy, perhaps to balance a family which already has 3 children of one sex?

What I'm most worried about though, the thing that stops me from fully putting support behind changing the law, is the fact that like most steps we take you have to be careful about what will come next. People need to have a proper debate about it otherwise, the second we let this through, there will be pressure to allow more and more choices to be made about the baby before birth, and that could be a dangerous road to go down.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Sticking the knife in.

I wasn't going to make a post tonight, I was going to have a nice chill out now that all my Osce's are done. (It went great today if you're interested) But then this gem popped onto my screen and I would hate to miss out on any opportunity to stick one in the back of this Cameron government. Just for fun I'll give you the whole statement direct from the mouths of the BBC editors, enjoy:

"So here goes. This week, for the first time in my three years as executive editor of Question Time, we were told by Downing Street that a cabinet minister would only appear on the programme if another member of the panel was replaced. According to No 10, a senior member of the cabinet was available to do Question Time but only if Alastair Campbell was replaced by a member of the shadow cabinet.
Very obviously, we refused and as a result no minister appeared, meaning that the government was not represented on the country's most-watched political programme in Queen's Speech week - one of the most important moments in the Parliamentary calendar.

No 10 stated that the objection to Alastair Campbell was that he was not an elected Labour representative or a front-bencher. Not only is Alastair Campbell one of the most senior and influential figures in the Labour movement - an architect of New Labour - but Labour ministers regularly appeared on Question Time panels when the then opposition was represented either by someone outside of the front bench or by an unelected panellist - sometimes even a prospective Parliamentary candidate. It is not an argument or an objection that bears scrutiny.

It is a fundamental principle of our independence that politicians cannot dictate who sits on the panel. It is for Question Time, not for political parties, to make judgments about impartiality and to determine who is invited to appear in the interests of the audience. Parties are free of course to accept or reject those invitations, but they do not have a right of veto over other panellists. Licence fee payers rightly insist that the BBC must be free from political interference.
Gavin Allen is executive editor, Question Time."

Well well, looks like the 'new politics' we're getting really isn't that great after all. I mean, to lose a debate is one thing, but to refuse to take part? That's just poor. You can't claim you want to make politics transparent and then have these cheap tricks.

But I do thank them for it, I always enjoy a good Tory roast :)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Exam Madness

I've missed a couple of posts, but that's because I'm now well and truly into exam time, I had one yesterday and I've got another tomorrow, but my inability to concentrate means I have time today to write this.

My Osce yesterday went pretty well, which was a pleasant surprise after how nervy it got before going in, I swear Manchester have designed the day to build suspense. You get taken through to several rooms where all you can do is sit down and wait before having your quick-fire 5 minutes on each station. Oh, and remember what I said in my post about the mock about how I splashed the angry examiner with a wet lung? Well, luckily enough I had him again at my first station, happy days indeed. (/Endsarcasm)

It wasn't too bad this time round though, I managed to find all the heart sounds and even managed to find the apex beat which was handy because its the first time I've ever felt it that strongly in all my time of practising. I even decided to invent a new bone, for some reason I decided 7 cervical vertebrae weren't enough so added an eighth when I was counting down his spine, 1 mark down is a good result though so I shouldn't moan.

Other than that, the only things I know I'll lose a mark for is one for now finding the Dorsalis Pedis pulse on the examiners foot and I don't think my rescue breaths were great on CPR which is annoying because I can usually do that fine. But a good result all in all, hope I can get through the anatomy one on Thursday now.

In other news, the Queen's speech was yesterday, I'm not going to go into the different bills announced, that can wait. But I kind of like the whole big ceremony of the day. Especially the old traditions they still have like the fact that the palace kidnap's an MP to make sure the Queen is returned from the House of Commons, brilliant stuff.

I also liked the fact that the Lib Dem's are still trying to get the money allocated for opposition parties, you can't have it both ways Cleggy Weggy!

Anyhow, time to go, wish me luck :)

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Premier League, you're having a laugh!

Yes, yes we are.

It still hasn't really hit me yet, I keep getting flashes where I realise what happened but I think my brains trying to stop it because its so insane. Blackpool, the small town with no money, are in the richest and best league in the world. It's just insane. Even writing that doesn't seem real to me, I can't explain what it feels like right now.

They say the best days of your life are the one's that start off like any other day. Well that was proved wrong yesterday.

On the motorway down on the morning of the match it was a sea of tangerine coming out of Blackpool, people honking and cheering to each other in bewilderment that we were about to play in the richest game in club football. When we got to London we headed off to a pub where Blackpool fans had planned on meeting before the game and I've never seen anything quite like it, 2000-3000 people stood around clad in tangerine. Once we'd had a couple to calm the nerves we headed down to Wembley and the nerves really started kicking in, I don't think anyone really wanted it to start, our dreams could last just a few more minutes.

The match itself nearly killed me. It was a great first half, but how I didn't have a heart attack I'll never know, I got headaches from the pure adrenaline. Blackpool like to make me panic, as they showed at Forest. Every Cardiff goal felt like a knife to the heart and every Blackpool goal was pure ecstasy. Charlie's free-kick was pure perfection, if you only watch one goal, watch that one. It sounds like I'm exaggerating the emotions, I'm really not, its hard to describe the irrational feelings you get at football, its as if your life was on the line. The final 20 minutes felt like 5 weeks, I just stood there in pure fear. I counted down every second of that four minutes injury time.

When the ref finally blew it exploded, there was plenty of grown men crying, everyone was hugging everyone, I have no idea who the people behind us were but the fact they'd just been through the same thing was enough. It was hard to even celebrate, for about 10 minutes I was stood with my hands on my head refusing to believe what I had just seen, it was beyond a dream.

Back at the hotel, it felt like a muted celebration, for the most part people sat around and wondered what the hell had happened. No-one could celebrate because no-one believed it, it was bizarre. We re-watched the goals, then the whole match, listened to endless interviews and it still didn't sink in. Every so often someone would realise something like 'We're going to be on Match of the Day' or 'Rooney will be playing at Bloomfield Road' and everyone just stared in amazement.

I hope it'll sink in soon, I can't think of a bigger footballing fairytale that's come true in recent times, and it was Blackpool that was part of it, amazing. To anyone who comes back with 'You're going straight back down anyway' there's two things. One, no Blackpool fan could care less, we want our one year of the dream and we'll happily settle back into the Championship £90 million better off, reaching Derby's 11 points would be considered a victory. Second, these same people writing us off now were the same one's who said we were favourites to be relegated this season, now we're in the Premier League, so suck on that bitches.

One more thing. Were you watching PNE? :)

Friday, 21 May 2010

Depression: Apparently it's trendy?

Every so often I think I'm becoming a bit too ready to criticise some areas of the press, after all they're just giving people the information they want, aren't they? But then, right on cue, the Daily Mail shows just what a disgusting rag it is all over again with this monstrosity - Janet Street Porter's column on Depression. First it was Stephen Gately and now this, just how exactly does the Mail choose its columnists, have they signed some kind of pact with the devil?

If you don't fancy reading the whole thing here's a few high(/low)light's:

  • "I find something very repellent about this recent epidemic of middle-class breast-beating. This tidal wave of analysis about why'having it all' isn't what it used to be. [...] Get a grip, girls."
  • "But my life goes on, I haven't retreated under the duvet with a bottle of pills. I refuse to accept this notion that a whole generation of women are being laid low by an unexplained epidemic of depression."
  • [After discussing the issue of depression in men.] "At this point, I'm afraid to say, I laugh out loud. The idea of feeling sorry for a bloke with low self-esteem is frankly, risible. Let's just call it karmic revenge for all those years men have been in charge of everything."
  • I truly believe that illnesses go in and out of fashion - at the moment, trendy women are allegedly suffering from 'depression'

It's nice to know that such an eminently qualified woman - who has doubtless done extensive research into depression - has set us all straight. Her educational establishment appears to be the University of Life, with a major in gut feelings. What doesn't help her cause of course, is that she is wrong.

How dare she belittle such a crippling illness just because she's been fortunate enough never to experience it, how condescending and pompous to assume that because she dealt with tragedies in her life, others should do the same without a fuss.

It seems that she, along with others, imagine that depression is just like being very, very sad. It isn't. Talk to anyone who knows the illness well, be they sufferers or doctors, and they will tell you that depression is a devastating mental illness, one which no amount of Positive Mental Attitude will relieve. It's a mental illness but it has physical effects, once many people get into depression no amount of 'positive thinking' will help, they need professional help. What they do not need is to be told to 'have a brew and you'll be fine'.

People seem to think mental illness is somehow not as serious as physical illness, if its in your head surely you can think yourself better? If there's a problem with someone's mind, it is just as difficult to ask them to 'think it away' as it would be to tell a man with a broken leg to run it off. Doctor's don't prescribe therapy and drugs because it makes their day brighter, they do it because the brain isn't functioning the way it should and until that's corrected it will be very, very difficult to get out of the negative spiral of depression. It isn't severe sadness, it just looks like that.

Don't ever judge how serious a mental illness may or may not be until you experience it first hand with either yourself or someone you're close to.

Oh, and never ever read the Mail if you want serious journalism.

And here's the view from someone in a better position to describe exactly what it's like:

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Scrapping the Human Rights Act?

What a bad idea. Pretty much sums it up really but amazingly it was one of the Tory plans for government and now they've set up a review of it. The whole thing came back to life after this story broke the other day and there was the normal outrage from the likes of the Daily Mail and the Sun about how you could protect someone's rights.

Whenever something like this comes up there's a predictable knee jerk reaction against the act and people will start bleating that it's only useful to terrorists and criminals. That just isn't right. If you haven't had to use the Act to defend your rights it doesn't mean it doesn't work for you, it just means you're lucky enough to live in a country where fundamental rights are rarely challenged. Just because an Act isn't used constantly it doesn't mean it's irrelevant, its just there as a safety net in case your rights are ever challenged. The rights in it are things that I think most people would consider important defending; the right to life, to liberty and security, to a fair trial, to a private family life. And then there's prohibition of torture, of slavery, discrimination and of punishment without law. It also gives freedom of thought, expression and of assembly. To do away with an act as wide-ranging in favour of a narrower Bill of Rights is a terrible idea. The human rights act means that we can defend our rights in Britain, without having to go to a European court.

I can see why the press finds it so easy to whip up dislike for the Act but you have to carefully read the stories. If you look at how the story earlier was reported, the headlines imply that these two terrorists are allowed to stay in a cosy house in the countryside, when actually they will be in prison (with one on bail and having his movement monitored),  neither are convicted of terrorist offences.

Do I think that terrorists are worthy of the same respect as law-abiding citizens? No, they deserve to pay for their crimes and be punished. But everyone has the right to protection against torture. I know people will disagree with me on my desire to stop terrorists being deported, but there comes a stage when you have to decide on fundamental rights that apply universally regardless of how much you dislike someone's actions. Whilst these are terrible crimes, we have to retain our moral authority and say that certain things can never be allowed lest we come to crave pain as much as those we seek to punish. We scrapped capital punishment on those grounds, and torture should be given the same prohibition. Deporting them would have been tantamount to being involved in the torture by association.

When you talk about Human Rights, don't let knee jerk reaction rule your thoughts, but try and think about just how important it is that whilst so many things change, we have a set of rules that will stay the same and protect us.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Immigration: The great minefield

There was one thing that people seemed to think was absent from a lot of the past few months of campaigning, and some peoples reactions to this story made me think about it again. Immigration, the great minefield of politics and everyday life.

Just to be clear, the story above has been blown massively out of proportion, they asked (note not ordered) some landlords in areas where there had been trouble after World Cup matches to think about how they were decorating. They didn't do it because it offended anyone and they weren't taking any down. Also, before I get started, here's some ground rules because people always seem to say the same things to me:
  • First person to say or even think 'I'm not racist but...' loses all rights to read this.
  • Anyone thinking that the above point isn't relevant because racism doesn't influence opinions on immigration, hang around and I'll show you why you're wrong.
  • Anyone thinking that I'm just being 'politically correct' in what I say, you're welcome to leave.
  • If I disagree with you, it doesn't mean I'm naive.
So, back to immigration. 

We're supposed to be in a progressive, modern country but in so many ways we cling to the backwaters of olden times when it was acceptable to treat people based on how they look. You only have to look at the BNP to see the face of racism still alive and kicking in the UK (Yes, that picture is Griffin at a NF rally, they're like the BNP on speed). 

If you ever get the pleasure of meeting or talking to people like this they seem to be universally ignorant of so much, its not that they're all necessarily as evil as the BNP, they've just been given the wrong facts. So lets clear a few things up.

Everyone's the same and everyone's different. That makes no sense does it, what I mean is we're all human, we all deserve the same rights, but at the same time everyone is an individual. So when you say that Polish people are more hard-working or some other group sponges off the state or that another tries to force their beliefs on you, it means nothing. There will be people of every group who are hard-working, and others in the same group who might try and get as much as they can in hand-outs, you can't just label a whole bunch of very different people in the same way just because you think they look the same, it's plain ridiculous. Let everyone prove their own merits, don't take the easy route of labelling them before they get their shot.

'Send them all home.' I should probably have included this in the ground rules because it pisses me right off. Often the people that are being told to 'go home' were born in Britain, home is 10 minutes down the road you ignorant buffoon.  And before anyone launches into pathetic spiel about them not being native British or god-forbid 'indiginous British' you should probably know that there isn't a single person on this planet who is 'indiginous British'. At some point or other in your ancestry every single person reading this will have a relative who emigrated to another country, even the Queen has German roots! The name only changed to Windsor because they were worried having a name from the German Saxe-Coburg family wouldn't be the best idea during WW1.

As a country we've done some great things in making equality an important issue but we haven't gone nearly far enough. The new parliament is a shining example of how under-represented some groups are, women who would probably feel pretty equal these days, only make up 22% of MP's and only 4% are black or ethnic minority. That really is shocking under-representation.

But why is all this related to immigration? Because invariably when someone says immigration is out of control and you ask why, they'll reply either that all the jobs have been taken, that they're becoming a minority in their own country, that the immigrants are getting all the jobs and houses or that they're being treated worse because people are too politically correct and stand up for the rights of immigrants more than they do other citizens. 

I hope I've shown why each of these just isn't a valid reason and that we still have a lot more to do. Now isn't the time to shut up shop and rediscover the backwards island-nation state of mind that we fought so hard to get rid of. We need the best of the best to help our country become the best it can be, regardless of colour, race, sex and religion. We should never loosen our grip on morality.

P.s. The last picture obviously isn't from the UK, but it's brilliant nonetheless.

Mediums: Trampling over mourning families for decades

So, I know I'm late to the party but I just watched the first week's episode of the new 'Derren Brown Investigates' series.

Derren Brown is one of my all time ultimate heroes, he's got more knowledge of people's thought processes than a lot of academics and even better he's completely open that nothing he does is in any way super natural, although its proof of how good he is that some people will still insist he is psychic. And so we come to this week's 'investigation', he looked at whether people who talk to audience members dead relatives could actually be genuine.

Personally, I'd put psychics in a nice group of wacko ideas that can be dangerous along with religion, alternative medicine and anyone else who mentions the word 'energy' or 'aura' without having the foggiest what they're on about. Fair to say I'm a sceptic then, I'm not going to pretend to be open-minded about this, but that doesn't mean I don't like to look at the evidence for it. Like Dawkins said, 'If you open your mind too much your brain will fall out.'

So anyway, back to the programme. He followed this guy around for some time, watching his readings and his shows and at every stage showing how it could be done without any need to be talking to 'spirits', he even did a pretty good reading himself at one point. The whole cold reading is something he's said before and its amazing how personal people think a generic statement is if you word it in a certain way. Needless to say the guy, Joe Power or something he was called, wasn't impressed and got pretty agitated whenever his mask seemed to be slipping. He also refused his one stonewall opportunity to prove that he was for real, a scientific test which didn't allow him to read cold reading or other tricks.

This is why I don't believe psychics or any of the rest of that 'wacko' group I mentioned. It's not some kind of ideological problem I have with them, it's just that they shy away from any chance to really prove themselves. If I'm supposed to believe things without evidence what's to stop me believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? All the excuses they come up with to explain why they can't be tested are utter rubbish, if you can't prove it, then either find a way to do so or stop pretending to have some kind of monopoly on the truth.

The other problem I have with psychics is that they destroy the memory of loved ones that have been lost. To trample into someones grief and pretend to bear a message is just plain disgusting. It's one thing to lie to make money or be famous, but why choose a way that is so low and ugly, leave the dead to rest and the family to grieve.

I guess that its possible some people reading this will believe in the things on my 'wacko' list, I'm not going to force my opinion on you, but if you'd like to argue your point you're more than welcome. Or else you could just call me a heathen and wish me luck in hell :)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Drugs to make you smart.

So my few days rest for my birthday celebrations are over and now its back into the realities of revision for exams, the first of which is tomorrow. (It's only the progress test tomorrow, an exam which is the same standard for all five years to check how you've improved, which means at this stage it's pretty much 95% guess work.) But before diving back into notes, I thought I'd write a blog on something interesting that was in the news recently.

Apparently, there's a new fad at several universities (the ones mentioned were Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester) where students have been taking Ritalin to help them concentrate whilst they're revising. You may easily have heard of Ritalin, it's a drug given to children with ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which helps them concentrate and be generally calmer. So the thinking among students was that if it helps children with attention deficits have normal attention spans then why couldn't it increase the attention span of people with no disorder. If you could concentrate longer then you could revise longer without being distracted and you'd take more in. It's the equivalent of an athlete taking EPO.

According to individual stories it works well, keeping people awake, alert and focused for long periods of revision. There's even academic research into whether it works by researchers at Oxbridge. It might have long term effects and I certainly wouldn't recommend it but I think its pretty interesting that there is a drug out there, and others along with it, that can in essence make you smarter. Are we seeing a new era of mind -altering drugs not for those who are ill but to increase the ability of everyone? It might be a bit sticky in the ethics department but its certainly going to be interesting to see where it goes.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Seeing as its my birthday I can't be fussed to write a big long blog post, but in the spirit of giving here's a link to the previews of all the tracks on Pendulum's new album, t'is pretty mint and I can't wait for Leeds now :)


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

ConDem Nation

Well it's official, the UK has a new PM and its first coalition since the war, the first between the Tory's and the Lib Dem's ever. I almost predicted it right, I thought Brown would resign but I didn't think that the Liberals could honestly make a full coalition with the conservatives, in fairness I don't think anyone did. It looks like the lure of power was just too much for Nick Clegg and his team and they knew this would be their shot to have a seat in cabinet. I'm not sure whether to be glad it's a coalition or upset that the Tory's don't have to struggle through a minority government.

The positive of this is that at least we don't get untempered Tory rule like we did in the '80s and which would cripple the country, hopefully the Dem's can keep them in check when they try to do anything too insane like pull us further out of Europe or pull the rug out from under the economy. I just have to hope that they're strong enough to stand up to Cameron on these things.

On the other hand, Cameron now has a get-out clause in that he can look like a great reformer by piggy-backing Liberal plans and if they fail can just say it wasn't his idea in the first place. And then there's the fact that while it might be a coalition, the cabinet has an eerie look to it. Let's just see what it looks like:

  • PM: David Cameron - That was a given but it still doesn't change the fact that when other country's look to us all they'll see is his his smarmy, shiny face. I'd hate to think he was representative of modern Britain.
  • Deputy PM: Nick Clegg - A high position for Clegg, but will he really be able to control the whim of Cameron or influence any other departments that aren't under his control?
  • Chancellor: George Osborne - Need I say more? This man has been so wrong on the decisions needed over the last couple of years that it's actually a pleasant surprise when he gets something right. He has no real experience and the idea that our fragile economy will be in his hands is terrifying.
  • Home Secretary: Theresa May - She's also equalities spokesperson, which is odd considering she's voted against over 100 equality measures in her time in office. Maybe Cameron just needed his token woman in power.
  • Foreign Secretary: William Hague - The staunchly anti-European Hague is going to be our spokesman abroad, oh yippee. Britain can only be strong as major player in Europe, we can punch above our weight when we're in it. We should be pulling the strings along with France and Germany, not stupidly sticking to our little island mentality. This man will ruin our relationships in Europe.
  • Schools: Michael Gove - An advocate of free schools, opening up schools to the forces of the market by letting just about anyone set one up. Because the market's been great in the recent past hasn't it? Even the first adopters of this, Sweden, have since turned against it because it only ups standards in a minority of schools and everyone else suffers. A truly stupid idea.
  • Health: Andrew Lansley - Wants to put performance data online and I've heard in the past that he supports putting outcomes for individual doctors in the hands of the public. Does this man have any clue whatsoever? If doctors are having there outcomes published it doesn't mean they will up their game, it means they won't take on risky procedure's and patients will suffer. They do this in America and we all know how great their health care system is don't we? (To be taken with copious amounts of sarcasm.)
Fill you with hope for the future? It certainly doesn't fill me with anything but despair. Maybe now people will see what I've been harping on about, you didn't just vote for the shiny PR machine that is David Cameron, you voted for all the incompetents on this list.

As for Labour, they can now get cracking on the leadership campaign and provide a strong opposition ready to jump back into power at the first time of asking. My hope at the moment is that David Miliband is the next leader, he's a strong speaker with a great track record who holds his beliefs very firmly. He's got good backing in the party and I think he'd be able to handle the pressure of leading in opposition and putting together a strong general election bid. I'm open to other candidates though, Andy Burnham is an outsider but I really think he'd be a great future leader, and Ed Balls will want a crack at the leadership as well. Then there's the question of whether Ed Miliband will challenge his brother, he's another approachable politician which could play well with voters. For the time being, my backing is firmly behind Miliband though (Of the David variety :) ).

"We're going to Wembley, you're going to Burnley!"

Well, the dream lives on, in fact dream doesn't quite describe it. Chelsea fans will tell you they 'dreamed' of winning the league, Spurs 'dreamed' of playing in the champions league, Forest 'dreamed' of getting back into the Premier League. Their dreams aren't quite of the same level as this, they were all half expected and possible, Blackpool being in the play-off final just wasn't even possible at the start of the season.

You can see how well we're doing by the fact that I, as a long-term season ticket holder, was accused of being a glory supporter. Its not so much the stupidity of the idea I'm a glory supporter that was strange, but the idea that any Blackpool supporter was a 'glory' seeker. It was only back in 2001 that we were in the fourth tier and I was still making my way down to Bloomfield Road.

I can't actually explain how amazing the atmosphere was down at the City Ground last night, I would have rather been there than any other place in the world. I had hope before the match, I believed it might happen, but I certainly wasn't expecting it. When the first Forest goal went in that bit of hope really dwindled and despite playing very well in the first half we went in behind. And then came the half to end all halves. First we equalised, which you can imagine was pure ecstasy. Then they equalised which had equal despair. Just when you thought nothing more could surprise you Blackpool scored, and then scored again, and then again. At that point it was just party time and euphoria took over.

You have to remember just how amazing an achievement this is. No-one has won at the City Ground since we did back in September, no-one has even scored there in a good while. Our record signing was Charlie Adam for £500,000, a fee that most in the play-off's look at as a bargain but which was a massive risk for us. Our budget is tiny and we have a maximum capacity stadium of 12,000 compared to around 30,000 at Forest. We're about as underdog as you can get, and yet we're 90 minutes away from getting into the best league in the world. Amazing doesn't even nearly cover it.

The fairytale continues, now we just need a fairytale ending.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Sky News, have some dignity.

Please, watch the clips before deciding this is the post of a mad man.
It appears that the Sky presenters have suffered nervous breakdown's after the election results, there's a new story about one of them almost daily, headed by the venerable Adam Boulton and Kay Burley. I never really had much of a problem with Sky in the past, I knew it wasn't exactly the greatest source of news but it was at least mildly (very mildly) respectable. But as of 7th May 2010 they seem to have lost all pretense of trying to be an impartial and professional news agency.

Now I know I'm going to be told that I'm just sore about Labour's bad result, maybe that I'm a left wing nut or even a 'commie', but if you don't believe me, please watch the clips, they aren't edited or taken out of context, this is exactly as it was shown on TV. So what am I whinging on about? I'd say there were three clips that pretty much sum up what Sky has become since the election, the first with Burley, and the others both from Boulton yesterday. Lucky for you I've got the links here:

So, the interview that kicked it all off, Kay Burley tears into a protester for daring to demand a fairer voting system. She starts off by telling him that marching isn't going to make a difference and then descends into continuously interupting him and asking him 'Why don't you just go home? Go home and watch it on Sky News, you aren't going to make any difference here.' It really is shocking that a journalist can claim this shoddy intimidation of a protester could be called 'news'. Here it is. (The sound isn't as good on this one but it gets better after a few seconds)

As if that wasn't bad enough, on the 10th May Adam Boulton gets into a bust-up with Alastair Campbell in an interview, which he wasn't even conducting to start with! Notice how he seems to be in the interview to advocate the Tory position, surely a Tory MP would have been better suited to that? He, like Burley, continually interupts and doesn't let Campbell finish an answer, how can you have an interview where the interviewee isn't allowed to reply? He then launch's into a hysterical tirade telling him to 'stop telling me how to think, I'm fed up of you telling me what I think!' It really would be very funny if it wasn't supposed to be serious news. Just look how wound up he gets. The whole thing is here, the fighting gets nasty at about 4:23 but if you have time watch it all because you really need the context to see just how ridiculous it was.

After that it was hard to imagine Sky continuing to sink much further, but they really pulled it out the bag not a few hours later. Adam Boulton, seemingly still hurting from the Campbell interview, launches into Ben Bradshaw, again acting as the man putting across the Tory position. This time he tells him 'no, I'm not going to take this from you!' before carrying on putting across his side. And then off air he said to Bradshaw 'Don't you dare talk to me like that.' The man is clearly losing it. It seems to be a very sore nerve whenever someone suggests that the Tory's didn't win the election, no-one did. Have a look here.

That's all fact. Now it's the turn of opinion. I think its clear that the Murdoch empire (namely Sky and the Sun) are very sore that despite their very public backing of Cameron he failed to win a very easy election against an unpopular PM and on the back of a massive recession. He even got his son James to bulldoze into the Independent's HQ and verbally harangue their Chief Editor for daring to go against their message. They appear to be losing it whenever it looks like their man might not get into power and its really starting to show. If Sky don't get it together soon, they're on the fast route to being Fox UK, giving a biased and argumentative representation of the world,  and that doesn't bode well for their reputation. Sorry for the rant, but this really pissed me off.

I think Sky as a group should take to heart what Campbell told Boulton, ‘Adam, this is live on TV. Dignity, dignity.’

Monday, 10 May 2010

Wet Lung

Well I had my mock OSCE today, turns out it was just that, a mock. I think I got a bit overly worried about it, I wasn't terrified but I'd at least done some cramming yesterday which it turns out I really needn't have done. It did at least make it a bit easier to know what would happen in the real thing.

Basically, for those who don't know, our OSCE's our the more practical exams we have to do. So there's an anatomy part where we have to point out and name things on pro-sections, there's a skills part where we demonstrate the procedure's we've learnt so far, and there's a communications part where we have to talk to an actor who pretends to be a patient and get certain information from them.

Today's was the anatomy part and wasn't really that bad in the end. The only thing that made it a bit more stressful was the fact that the examiner I had wasn't the friendliest of chaps, I won't put his name on-line but we gave him a nickname last semester of 'Angry Man' which should tell you all you need to know. So I got to my station and before I'd even had time to put my gloves on he was firing questions at me resulting in me fumbling my gloves on whilst trying to think about the answers. Then I picked up the lung to point something out that I'd been asked, only to realise it was wet from the preservative spray and managed to splash some of that onto his legs. Always a great way to start.

It went okay, I'd hope to do quite a bit better in the real thing because my cramming yesterday was mostly on the limbs which wasn't even on my station (bloody typical) but I think I'm more confident about the real thing now than I was beforehand.

Two lessons: Put gloves on before I go in, Don't pick anything up until I look to see if its wet.

Anyway, back off to the library soon, oh the joy.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Wisdom from God

I know I said I was busy but I wanted to leave this for people to read. It's Stephen Fry's blog (wisdom from the hero himself) about proportional representation but he manages to make it about a million times more interesting than anyone else could. Give it a read, its really good stuff.

Here's a sample for you:

"Cameron will spring an obvious trap by saying, “We’ll see. We’ll look into it. You can have concessions on schools and hospitals.” Children who want an ice cream know that when their parents say “We’ll see, but you can have a banana” it means no ice cream. The Lib Dem and PR pressure groups are perfectly aware of that too. Any talk of “an independent enquiry … a Royal Commission … a committee to look into it” will be treated for what it is. Fudge."


End of the Road & Living Wage

Like I said yesterday I don't have much time to write at the moment with all my revision for tomorrow's mock OSCE (it's going well if you're at all bothered) but I thought I'd take a second out to bid farewell to the football season.

After a great first leg for Blackpool we go to Nottingham on Tuesday with a 2-1 advantage, its not the biggest lead ever but its something to defend and we have every chance of getting to Wembley which I'd never have dreamed possible at the start of the season. We were battered in the first half but turned it around brilliantly in the second and might even have ended with a bigger lead if we'd have converted our chances at the end.

And then today Chelsea completed the weekend by winning the title in style with an 8-0 drubbing of Wigan. You'd find it hard to argue they didn't deserve it, Drogba had golden boot, Cech shares the golden gloves and Chelsea have the highest ever goal difference in top flight history. Not a bad season. John Terry lifting the trophy, glorious moment.

So, before I get back to work, I'll leave you with this. Its about the living wage, basically trying to bring the minimum wage in line with what it actually costs to live in different areas. Gordon Brown talked about it in the last few days of the campaign and its got a lot of backing recently.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Doctor vs. Pilot

Before I write the rest of this post, this seems to be popular around the web right now,, (sound gets better after a few seconds) watch it and then try telling me that Sky News isn't an absolute joke. It gets a little more like Fox with every passing day.

I should also start by apologising if I don't write as often in the weeks coming up, I've got exams soon which will squeeze my time but I'll try and write as often as I can, if for nothing else than to give me a break from work.

Anyway, back to the actual point of this post. I was reading BMJ on the train back to Manchester today (anything to pass time) and it was saying about how hospitals are taking advice from airline companies on how they can improve safety and get lower mortality rates. At first it might seem a bit strange that medicine and flying would have anything to do with each other but apparently this has been happening for years, and with good results.

The problem was that in medicine a mistake can often lead to death, obviously not a favourable result, and that mistakes were blamed solely on the individual. If you blame mistakes on the individual then you have to assume that there's very little difference you can make by changing any kind of system.

Airlines also had the problem that mistakes could lead to large numbers of deaths in certain circumstances, and anything that could be done to change it would be done as fast as possible. Unlike medicine though, they realised that changing the system and making it harder for mistakes to happen meant that individuals were less likely to make them. So checklists and drills and all sorts of stuff was introduced to reduce mistakes, and it worked, it worked spectacularly well.

That's when doctors took notice and started making checklists of their own. Hospitals introduced airline style checklists for care, different chronic conditions and for before surgery. They all worked and helped make hospital visits considerably safer. This has all been done in the last 10 years or so.

Maybe the lesson is, when you see a mistake, don't just ask who made it, but ask why were they able to make it and what could be done to make it harder for them to repeat it in the future.