Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Healthcare
I have been slightly ill for quite a while now. About three weeks. Not properly ill, just slightly ill.
One of the symptoms of being ill is that I don’t like coffee. Normally, I do like coffee. But when ill, I don’t. And for some reason the experience of being slightly ill has thrown this effect into sharp relief. Every morning for the last few weeks, I have asked myself: do I want coffee? Each morning, I have said to myself: yes, I do. Not as much as I do when healthy, but I still want it, more than I don’t want it.
This is because I am mostly well, but a bit ill. Mostly, I still want coffee, but I slightly don’t. Because I am slightly ill.
Maybe it is the constant decision making which has made me so very aware of this equation, that being healthy means I can drink coffee, but that being ill means I don’t.
What this shows is that there is a definite connection between regular coffee drinking and a healthy lifestyle. But, for me at least and probably for quite a few others, the causal arrow goes in the opposite direction to the one usually assumed.
Every so often, Instapundit does a posting about how coffee is good for your health. Drink three cups of coffee every morning and live to be ninety five, that kind of thing. The clear implication is that it is the coffee that is causing you to live so long.
My surmise is that this is wrong. Your healthiness is what is causing you to be so healthy that you live to be ninety five, and your healthiness also causes you to drink lots of coffee. You drink it because you can. You are healthy!
Sickly people, the sort who die younger, cannot stomach coffee. But it is their sickliness that kills them, not their failure to drink coffee.
I can’t be the first person to say all this. I am slightly ill, and so can’t be bothered to search out all the other people who say such things. But, I bet they are out there.
I’ve been suffering from something a lot like hay fever. Yesterday, the doctor gave me some anti-hay-fever spray to spray it with, up my nose, which I hate. My symptoms are: aches and pains that wander around all over the left side of my head. I knew you’d be excited.
But, from the same doctor who wants me to spray chemical effluent up my nose I learned that if you get something stuck in your throat, which is what set all this off, they recommend: coca cola. I did not know that. So last night, when I went out for drinks, someone offered me a drink, and I though, no I’ve had enough (what with the headaches and so forth), but then I thought: yes, get me a coca cola. Apparently it clears out stuff in your throat by dissolving it. How come it doesn’t dissolve your entire mouth? (Maybe it does.) But whatever, it felt like it worked, and I’m drinking more coke now.
Last night, at that drinks gathering, I heard something else diverting.
We were having a coolness competition. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately? That kind of thing. I contributed the fact that my niece is about to become the published author of a work of crime fiction, which is not bad, and which I will surely be saying more about when this book materialises. It will be published by a real publisher, with an office in London and a name you’ve heard of, which intends to make money from the book and thinks it might. More about that when I get to read it. I usually promise nothing but I do promise that, here or somewhere I’ll link to from here. It would be a lot cooler if it was me who had accomplished this myself, but it is pretty cool even from a moderately close relative.
But another friend from way back whom I hadn’t seen for years trumped this, with something which in my opinion made him the winner, not least because he did the thing in question himself.
Remember the Concorde crash in Paris, back whenever it was, just before 9/11. And remember how the other Concordes all got grounded for ever after that crash. What you may not recall quite so clearly is that the other Concordes were not grounded for ever immediately after the crash. That only happened a few weeks later. And my friend told us that he took a trip on Concorde, on the day after the Concorde crash. How cool is that? Very, I would say. There were many cancellations, apparently, but he was made of sterner stuff, which is all part of what made it so cool.
I know, a bit of a ramble. It comes of me being somewhat ill. Illnesses can be cool, I suppose. But this one, which is just uncomfortable enough to be uncomfortable, but which hasn’t actually stopped me from doing things, merely from doing them energetically and enthusiastically, definitely isn’t cool.
I must have walked past it a hundred times, from Currys PC World and on my way down Tottenham Court Road towards to Maplins, seeking blank DVDs and plastic DVD sleeves. But yesterday I actually noticed it. Above a back alley called Beaumont Place, just before it arrives at the back entrance of University College Hospital, there is a a footbridge:
A rather strange one. Hospitals often have these little footbridges, connecting the Somethingtrics Department to the Somethingology Ward, or whatever, so medics and more to the point patients, don’t have to go down to ground level and into the big outdoors.
But unlike many such bridges, which were clearly added years after the original buildings were erected, this one looks to have been part of the original design, to attach the new green building to the older dark grey and boxy building. (Form, as is usual with Modern Architecture, is following fashion as well as function.)
What is that strange lump on one side of it, on the bottom? And what’s with the big sticking-out dark grey and boxy bit that the bridge is attached to?
That strange curved pointy thing, to be seen in the left hand picture behind the bridge, sticks out high above over that back entrance. Perhaps the idea was to draw attention to the entrance, but if so, it contributes very little along those lines. Having the words “University College Hospital” and below that, in bigger letters, the word “Entrance” , does that job far better. Aside from being physically pointy, the high-up pointy thing just looks pointless. But maybe it has some other more meaningful purpose.
Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference. Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs. And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:
Conference programme here.
1.1: An attender. 1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden. 1.3: Syed Kamall. 1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides. 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro. 3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook. 3.2: Brook. 3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books. 3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window. 4.1: Anton Howes. 4.2: Howes and Brook. 4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.
A Getting Old thing is that you take longer to get well, after not being well. On Sunday, I dined. I was not poisoned (this has been established), but I did catch a bug (ditto). On Monday, I ate some more, as you do. Early on Tuesday morning the bug, having been operating in a clandestine fashion from Sunday evening onwards, stirred itself into detectable action, and it became clear that everything I had eaten from Sunday evening onwards was … not needed. It was either returned from whence it had come or else fast-tracked through, if you get my drift. So, this morning, I had basically been starving for nearly two days. Today, I consequently felt weak. Had I been young, I would have been up and sparkling this morning. Today I managed to eat something, or at any rate swallow something, and let us all hope that my body is able to make some use of it, because if it doesn’t, I will have been starving for the best part of a week. Are all those noises in my stomach my stomach making use of what I have put into it, or my stomach rejecting what I have put into it? I have to believe that it is food processing that I am hearing rather than food rejection. But even if that’s right, it is taking more time to recover from this damn illness than it was to have it.
A particular result of all this starvation, aside from feeling rather starved, is that my mind/body is seems to have decided to prioritise in the warming department. The upper body is still considered by my mind/body to be worth keeping warm, but my feet are apparently superfluous to requirements and are accordingly being allowed to freeze. If I put on a fire, my upper body stews. If I turn off the fire, my feet freeze. I guess the mind/body figures I’ve not been using my feet much lately, so what’s the point in keeping them warm, given that fuel is so scarce just now?
I am starting to understand why Old People put their feet on top of hot water bottles, or in bowls of hot water.
People probably do tell you this sort of stuff when you are young, but being young, you don’t really take it in.
The good news is that although no fire has been on, my feet have now warmed up. While I was writing this. Do you suppose that my mind/body actually paid attention to what I was saying to you people? There’s a thought.
LATER: No. I cooked an omelette and that was what warmed my feet. This also, it soon became clear, had also stewed my upper body.
Being sick as in feeling sick, and occasionally being sick as in being sick. As in expelling stuff I had previous eaten from my mouth.
Quota photo time:
There is so much light crashing across London from west to east that evening the eastern clouds were lit up pink, like they were a sunset or something. So I know what you are thinking. It must have been one hell of a sunset to do that. And you are not wrong:
If I wasn’t sick I probably wouldn’t indulge in such a lurid sunset, which I photoed last Saturday evening on Tower Bridge. But I am sick. I can do what I like.
Actually, it’s already getting better. But wish me well anyway.
From Rob Fisher, who knows my interest in 3D printing, incoming email entitled:
It’s no longer a rare feat to 3D print blood vessels. Printing vessels that act like the real deal, however, has been tricky… until now. Lawrence Livermore researchers have successfully 3D printed blood vessels that deliver nutrients and self-assemble like they would in a human body. The key is to print an initial structure out of cells and other organic material, and then to augment it with bio ink and other body-friendly materials. With enough time, everything joins up and behaves naturally.
Right now, the actual structures don’t bear much resemblance to what you’d find in a person - you get a “spaghetti bowl” of vessels. Scientists hope to organize these vessels the way they exist in nature, though. If that happens, you could one day see artificial tissue samples and even transplants that are about as realistic as you can get.
A while back, I worked out that 3D printing was going to be just as huge as everyone is saying, but that it was not going to get “domestic”, in the manner of like black-and-white laser printers for instance, in the foreseeable future (with the possible exception of certain kinds of food preparation). 3D printing is a vast range of specialist manufacturing techniques, and it will, for that foreseeable future, be used by people who already make specialist stuff by other and clumsier means, or who would like to make particular specialist stuff for the first time, of the sort that only 3D printing can do. See the quoted verbiage above.
This is why I receive emails from Google about failing 3D printing companies along with other emails about successful 3D printing activities, mostly by already existing companies. 3D printing is best done by people who already know a hell of a lot about something else, which they can then get 3D printed. Like: blood vessels.
The principle economic consequence of 3D printing will be to provide an abundance of jobs for people everywhere, but especially among the workers of the rich world, who, during the last few decades, have been famously deprived of many of their jobs by the workers of the poor world.
Prediction/guess. Because of things like 3D printing, schools in the rich world will soon become (are already becoming?) a bit more successful, back towards what they were like in the 1950s. This is because, as in the 1950s, there will again be an economic future for everyone in the rich countries, the way there has not been for the last few decades. For the last few decades, in the rich countries, only the geeks (in computers) and the alpha-male super-jocks (in such things as financial services (and in a tiny few cases in sports)) and posh kids (whose parents motivate them to work hard no matter what (this is a circular definition (posh kids are the ones motivated by their parents))) have had proper futures to look forward to. (These three categories overlap.) Accordingly, they have been the only ones paying proper attention in school. The rest have not been able to see enough point to it.
My spell of education blogging taught me, among many things, that when it comes to schools being successful, teacher quality is absolutely not the only variable. Good teachers can get bad results, if the kids just can’t doing with it. Bad teachers can preside over good results, if parents and helpers-out, paid or unpaid, after regular school supply good supplementary teaching, or if the kids were highly motivated and determined to learn despite their crappy teachers.
The one exception to the rule about 3D printers not becoming meaningfully domestic is that they have a big future as educational toys, training kids to go into the bouncing-back manufacturing sector.
On Friday November 27th (i.e. exactly one week from now), my friend from way back, Antoine Clarke, will be giving a talk at my place entitled “Herding cats, or lessons from drunks about organising anarchy”.
These talks happen every last Friday of the month, and before they give one of them, I ask each speaker to supply a paragraph or two about what they’ll be saying, so I can email my list of potential attenders. Antoine has just supplied me with ten paragraphs on his talk:
It would be hard to imagine any more dysfunctional organisation than a leaderless group of drunks promising among themselves to quit drinking and to help other drunks to quit.
And then I realized that there is a similar organisation for narcotics addicts, one for cocaine addicts, crystal meth addicts and even “sex and love addicts” - whatever that may mean.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been described as a “benign anarchy” by one of its founders and manages to organize over 100,000 groups worldwide with between 1.5 million and 2 million members. Its power structure has been described as an “inverted pyramid”.
AA operates by having almost completely autonomous branches, no publicity, no professional class of “charity workers” and no set fees. It has a “12-step program” and “12 traditions” which have been described respectively as “rules for not killing yourself” and “rules for not killing other people”.
The effectiveness of AA at curing or controlling alcohol addiction is not clear cut. Because of anonymity, self-selection and the difficulty of known if someone who stops attending meetings has relapsed or simply found he can lead a functional lifestyle. The fact that over a dozen other organisations have copied AA’s 12-step and 12 tradition system suggests at least some level of success, unlike, say the UK’s National Health Service which has fewer imitators.
One particular problem for AA is that any 12-step program will only really work if it is voluntary, but in the USA especially, courts mandate that convicted criminals attend AA meetings as a parole condition. I think this reduces recidivism among the criminals (compared with them NOT following a program), but it surely dilutes the effectiveness of AA groups (more disruptive attendees, people going through the motions, possible discouragement of others).
I shall be looking at the elements of AA’s structure and organisational culture to see what lessons can be learned about the possibility of anarchic institutions especially at handling social problems.
What interests me is the “anarchy with table manners” aspect of AA and the contrast with truly dysfunctional libertarian organisations, like the Libertarian Alliance.
I’m also interested in the issue of government interference and the ways in which well-meaning interventions make matters worse. I shall also take a look at the spiritual element of AA’s 12-step program, noting that it claims to work for atheists and agnostics as well as for theists.
Hopefully, this is an attractive alternative to binge drinking on a Friday night in central London.
Indeed. There will be no binge drinking at the meeting.
Photoed by me, outside Earls Court Tube, last night:
Click on that to get the bigger, truer, duller, original picture.
Who saw that coming? Not me. Although in my defence, had Haddin not dropped Root on nought when England were 43-3 and would have been 43-4, it would surely have been a very different match (a match which, having not been dropped, Root (134 and 60 and two wickets at the end with his spin) is now presumably the Man of). And, I was definitely not the only one who reckoned Australia to be the stronger team, which they may yet prove to be. Although, this guy hedged his bets and had this to say:
A win for England and the series could be a classic.
I’d settle for a series win for England. Five nil would be nice. (Very nice.)
Meanwhile, as worrying for Australia as this loss is the fact that it looks like their much heralded bowling attack may be falling apart. Harris has retired hurt, and not temporarily. Now Starc is hobbling. Johnson will surely have his moments in this series. (He did today, but only with the bat when it was all over bar Mitchell Johnson having a good day with the bat.)
I started this posting when the ninth wicket fell, in anticipation. The tenth wicket did not cause any delays. England win by 169.
I’ve been giving attention to and often photoing white vans lately, and am starting to notice interesting things about them, of which more in due course. (Maybe. I promise nothing.)
But meanwhile, Fridays here have not, lately, seen much in the cat category, which is a thing I like to do on Friday.
So, a picture of a white van with a picture of a cat on it would seem to be in order.
I have yet to photograph such a thing myself, but I did find just such a picture of just such a white van, here. But alas, the cat was on it for a not very internetty sort of reason:
There’s lots of cat related stuff on the www, but this is an aspect of cats and the keeping of them that typically gets omitted. All is cuteness. Spaying is ... not cute.
Can artists learn about how to do art when they get old, from sportsmen? Can sportsmen learn from artists about how to handle their career twilights? I face my own twilight now, so I read Ed Smith’s piece about such things with keen interest.
The weird aspect of sporting maturity is that it happens so early in life. An athlete’s career is played out in fast-forward. Professional and emotional maturity are wildly out of sync. Andrew Flintoff told me recently that his cricket career was practically over before he felt at his most confident as a person. Many sportsmen feel the same. By the time they’ve grown up, it’s gone. The period of critical decision-making and the exercise of power arrives frighteningly early. Only when they retire do sportsmen become young again as they rejoin civilian time.
Yes, if you leave pro sport but land on your feet afterwards, much as Ed Smith himself seems to have done, it might be like being born again, rather than the slow death that it often seems to be for many sports people. But, no chance of any such resurrection for those artists, or for me. This is it.
Today there was a reminder, for cricket followers anyway, of how sports careers, like lives, can be cut cruelly short. Sometimes, sportsmen only get to have just the one (short) life.
Two cricket fielders, both running for the same catch in the outfield, collided and had to be taken away in ambulances. The match was called off.
I learned about this in an odd way. Cricinfo was doing basic commentary. Just runs, dots and wickets as they happened. No frills. No explanations. And then, the commentary just stopped. What was going on? A complicated run out. Rain? But they usually say if it is raining. Eventually I tuned into the BBC’s radio commentary, and got the story.
Google “Burns Henriques” and maybe also “Surrey” during the next few hours and days, and you’ll get plenty of hits. Rory Burns and Moises Henriques are the names. Surrey is their county. At first I thought Surrey were maybe looking at another death (to add to this one, which caused havoc at the club). So, I imagine, did everyone who was at the ground and who saw it happen. But now that seems unlikely:
One piece of misinformation circulating was that Henriques was receiving CPR. Thankfully, rumour was quickly replaced by the sight of Henriques and Burns both sitting upright and giving the thumbs up as they were lifted into ambulances and taken to nearby St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.
So, can you get hurt, do a thumbs up, and then go to hospital and die? What do I know?
Get well soon, gentlemen, and hopefully well enough to play again, also soon.
More sports news, old sports news, from a movie I’m watching in the small hours of tomorrow morning on the TV. I know - how does that work? - time travel. The movie is Secretariat, about a champion horse in 1970s America. So, the horse’s champion jockey, the usual diminutive jockey size, walks into the Belmont Ball on the eve of the big race, with a tall and gorgeous blonde on his arm. He is asked how he convinced the tall and gorgeous blonde to attach herself to him. He says:
“I told her I’m taller when I stand on my wallet.”
Old joke? Maybe so, but first time I heard it.
I had no idea how Secretariat would end. But I know the end now. Secretariat won Belmont (on June 9th 1973, by the way) by thirty one lengths, a Belmont winning margin never seen since. Even I know that’s a lot of lengths. I did not see that coming.
LATER: Burns (a confusing name in a story when injuries are being listed): facial injuries. Henriques: seriously broken jaw. Nobody died or is going to.
LATER STILL: One man’s facial injury is another man’s opportunity. Arun Harinath, playing for Surrey for the first time this season in place of Burns, has just scored a century against Glamorgan. Such are the downs and ups of sport.
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
Truly, that’s a glorious headline.
Indeed it is:
The drone was not hostile. It was part of the show, as was Iglesias attempting to handle it. It was just that it all went rather wrong:
“During the show a drone is used to get crowd shots and some nights Enrique grabs the drone to give the audience a point of view shot,” the statement read. “Something went wrong and he had an accident. He decided to go on and continued playing for 30 minutes while the bleeding continued throughout the show.”
Iglesias was semi-treated immediately after the accident.
Definitely a future trivia question in a pop quiz. But the worst that could have resulted from this would have been a couple of missing Iglesian fingers. This ("NY-bound plane nearly collides with drone, FAA says") could have ended far more grimly.
There will be many, many more drone dramas. They are colossally useful, and accidents buzzing around begging to happen.
Photoed by me a few days ago, in the Houses of Parliament area:
Like so many photographers these days, this lady is using a smartphone, and like so many smartphone users, she has a smartphone in a pretty case. I try to collect these, photographically I mean.
I like how I manoevred my way around this lady to make her face unrecognisable - at least, I hope, to a face recognition system. And I like how she’s wearing a pair of spectacles, by which I mean two pairs of spectacles. (A pair of pair of spectacles doesn’t sound right at all.)
But now, I want to ask about another pair that this lady is wearing. What I want to know is, what are those rubbery things on her hands? Are they something to stop her thumbs moving too much? That there are an exactly matching pair of these devices says to me a condition, rather than a pair of coincidentally matching injuries. But what might that condition be? Something like arthritis? Or am I way off with this guess? Anyone?
I only saw these rather strange manual additions when I looked later at the picture. As so often, my camera sees more than I do.
I took this snap of a sign, in Chinatown (London manifestation of), just off Charing Cross Road:
What I like about it is how they had to add the English language explanation of what hair “magic” actually involves. Presumably the oriental characters make it clear to orientals what’s on sale here. But at first, the English weren’t buying. I mean, “magic”? Could be anything or nothing. Hypnosis? Pills? Herbalism? Magic mud of some sort? Clearly the English needed further elaboration, however much it spoiled the original splendour of the original sign.
But alas, the nature of the service on offer, once explained, descended in one word from the transcendental to the commonplace.