Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (4): Preparations
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Darren on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Michael Jennings on Wedding photography (2): Signs
MarkR on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
MNB Achari on Google Nexus 4 photos
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Robert Hale on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Laurence Sheldon on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
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Most recent entries
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
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Category archive: Healthcare
And the first thing I photoed yesterday was newspaper headlines, about Britain’s Envy-of-the-World NHS. Those first three were literally the first three snaps I took yesterday, and the last one was photoed later, at London Bridge Station, more about which later, I hope.
Read, and be amazed:
I honestly cannot remember a day when Britain’s NHS has ever, ever had a worst press than it had yesterday. (The same stories had been all over the telly on Wednesday evening also.)
I hope to write at greater length at Samizdata about these dramas, connecting it to my Alpha Graphs stuff, but promise nothing
The basic idea being that a nationalised industry collapses not when it merely starts deteriorating, but only when it is deteriorating so fast that a switch to the free market, although horrible, would be no worse even in the short run. And of course massively better in the long run. But it’s the short run that matters because it is during that short run that you or your elderly loved one dies, through being left out in a corridor or some such horror.
Libertarians are prone to assume that things like the NHS are untouchable, merely because people continue to swear by them when they are getting only somewhat worse. Brainwashed fools! They will never see sense! But they are seeing sense. And then suddenly, to the amazement of libertarians, they do suddenly see sense. Actually, just a bit more sense, along with the sense they had already been seeing.
See also: collapse of the USSR.
The NHS has a bit of a way to go before it folds, because people are still at the stage, as you can tell from these headlines, of thinking that sacking the Boss and installing a New Boss would turn things around. But, any year now ...
When you want to write a big old piece about Something Important, it’s not a bad idea for a blogger to rip out a little piece about it in the meantime, in a single figure number of minutes. That at least gets the meme out there and gives it a chance to propagate, even if a bigger piece at Samizdata would do that better.
I just did a posting here about Doctor Theatre, which is about how performing stops you being ill for the duration of the performance. But as soon as I stuck it up here, I realised it would also do for Samizdata, so I put it there instead. Perhaps commenters will tell me about the physiological processes involved. Hope so.
I seem to be almost the only person writing for Samizdata just now. This troubles me.
Michael Jennings just sent me a link to a piece by
Joss Voorhees Farhad Manjoo about the recently deceased Man Who Invented Our World. No prize for knowing who that is.
I saw the news of Steve Jobs’ death on a device that he invented - the iPhone - and I’m writing on another machine that he willed into being: the graphical interface computer. I happen to be using a PC running Windows, with generic hardware I put together myself; technically, only my keyboard was made by Apple. But none of that matters. Just like the touch-screen smartphone and, now, the tablet computer, the PC that you and I use every day became ubiquitous thanks mainly to this one man. I’ll go further: Whether you’re yearning for a Kindle Fire or a BlackBerry PlayBook, whether you play Angry Birds on an iPod Touch or Google’s Nexus Prime, whether you’re a Mac or a PC, you’ve succumbed to Steve Jobs’ master plan.
“Willed into being”. That sums up the man’s achievement and way of working beautifully. As I understand him, Jobs was essentially the spokesman for us consumers amongst the great Community of Geeks, which is why he was so loved by so many of us consumers. He was the one saying: “It’s not good enough that you can make it work. It has to be easy for humans as well. It has to be nice. It has to be cool. Do it again.”
Michael sent me the link because, like me, Voorhees uses a Mac keyboard attached to a PC. In fact, I think my Apple Mac keyboard is the only piece of Apple kit I have ever owned. But I enthusiastically endorse what
Voorhees Manjoo says, and here record my profound thanks to Steve Jobs for the profound influence he has had, not just on Apple and its products, but upon the entire world. I didn’t “succumb” to the Steve Jobs master plan. I accepted it with enthusiasm.
The Samizdata commentariat is saying what it has to say about Jobs here. I particularly liked this, from Rob Fisher:
Yes, this is terrible news.
It bothers me that even with the resources at his disposal, Jobs could not keep himself alive. I’m attending a conference on Saturday at which life extension technology will be discussed. If the optimists there are correct, one day we’ll all be much richer than Steve Jobs.
Detlev Schlichter also just sent out an emailshot recommending this. Haven’t yet watched it, but will.
Snapped by Darryl:
In a comment on this.
So Trott is injured, is he?
It will not have escaped the attention of the England selectors that two days ago, Ravi Bopara scored a really good, really big, hundred, for Essex against Leicester. Immediately after he had scored it, Essex proceeded to bowl Leicester out for 34 and win the game by a mile with a day to spare. Admittedly Leicester are particular terrible at the moment, but the wicket can’t have been exactly plumb, now can it? Plus, Bopara can turn his arm over, much as Trott can.
Bell (currently 119 not out in England’s second innings at Trent Bridge) at three. Bopara at six or five?
There have been a lot of injuries in, or affecting, this series. Trott. Swann has a bust hand. Zaheer out on day one at Lord’s. Tendulkar poorly during the Lord’s game. Sehwag already out injured. Gambir smacked on the elbow and out of it at Trent Bridge. Tremlett out with a back strain, or whatever it was.
And now, just as I blog, Harbhajan is crocked and is going off.
I don’t call anyone “Doctor” unless they can write me a prescription for drugs.
Quite right. Found in a piece denouncing “Doctor” Krugman, who is only a doctor in the sense that he doctors his numbers.
Not that there should be any such thing as “prescription drugs”, but that’s a different argument.
Last night, on The Big C, a TV show about Laura Linney dying of cancer, the way that some dogs can smell cancer was gone into. Not only do they smell cancer, they like the smell of cancer, because apparently, they follow cancer sufferers around, and can reveal where the cancer is by exactly where they want to smell. Spooky.
And apparently, something similar happens with some cats:
When nurses once placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death, Oscar “charged out” and went to sit beside someone in another room. The cat’s judgement was better than that of the nurses: the second patient died that evening, while the first lived for two more days.
Dr Dosa and other staff are so confident in Oscar’s accuracy that they will alert family members when the cat jumps on to a bed and stretches out beside its occupant.
“It’s not like he dawdles. He’ll slip out for two minutes, grab some kibble and then he’s back at the patient’s side. It’s like he’s literally on a vigil,” Dr Dosa wrote.
Dr Dosa noted that the nursing home keeps five other cats, but none of the others have ever displayed a similar ability.
In his book, “Making rounds with Oscar: the extraordinary gift of an ordinary cat”, Dr Dosa offers no solid scientific explanation for Oscar’s behaviour.
He suggests Oscar is able - like dogs, which can reportedly smell cancer - to detect ketones, the distinctly-odoured biochemicals given off by dying cells.
Far from recoiling from Oscar’s presence, now they know its significance, relatives and friends of patients have been comforted and sometimes praised the cat in newspaper death notices and eulogies, said Dr Dosa.
“People were actually taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass. He was there when they couldn’t be,” he said.
I got to this via OMG facts, who add this to their report:
Editor’s Note: We tried to find a funny, relevant picture to go with this fact, but we couldn’t find any funny pictures of cats on the internet.
Maybe not so many funny pictures about cats who can smell impending death, anyway. Well, no, there are probably plenty of those also. I can smellz deading peoplez, blahz blahz.
Tomorrow I face what may prove to be a rather debilitating bout of dentistry. Basically, the other day, one of my pretend teeth (that was attached to the remains of a real tooth) fell off, leaving only a small stump. Since the pretend tooth was there to enable me to chew with the left side of my mouth, I need another pretend tooth where the previous one was, fast. So, I can’t wait for the Envy of the World to do it. That could take months.
Actually, it already has taken months. Around last October, I became aware that the pretend tooth was probably about to fall off, any month now, and I told my dentist this. My dentist said he could do it quickly, at a price (and at a price which did not strike me as unreasonable). But at my request, my dentist instead told the Tooth Surgery Department of the Envy of the World, and the Envy of the World was asked to tell me when it could make me another pretend tooth, at no cost. Then, I felt able to wait.
But apparently the Envy of the World has delayed sending out a whole clutch of letters to people in my kind of predicament (telling us all when it might be able to do things like make us new pretend teeth), a fact I was told about at my dentist yesterday, when I went there to tell them that things had become more urgent, but that no, I had indeed heard nothing yet from the Envy of the World. Could it be that The Envy of the World wants to keep me waiting to get onto the waiting list, so that I will only stay on the waiting list for a very short time (having waited to be on it for a long time) thereby enabling the Envy of the World to crow that I was treated by the Envy of the World with great speed (when actually the Envy of the World kept me waiting for months)? Obamacare enthusiasts - and I just know that you read this blog in your thousands, let this be a lesson to you. With nationalised industries of all kinds you get what you pay for, and by and by not even that.
So anyway, what with this dentistry, probably happening tomorrow afternoon, I may not be in a very blogging mood tomorrow, or even the next day, or even the next or the next. So, a longer gap than is usual here, between this posting and the next, may transpire. I promise nothing. I don’t now promise not to put anything up here for the next several days. I merely speculate in advance that this is how it might be.
Early last year, in connection with my (still totally excellent) Apple keyboard, I wrote this:
My utterly casual and probably quite worthless opinion of Apple is that as soon Steve Jobs stops being their boss, they’re doomed. While Jobs sticks around, everything they make will look and feel great, because this is what Jobs does insist on and can insist on. He has total power and impeccable taste, which is, if you think about it, an extraordinarily rare combination of circumstances. He knows exactly what we all want, years before we do, and he screams like a horrifically spoilt child until he gets it. A few years back, Jobs did abandon Apple, or maybe it was vice versa (what with all the horrific spoilt child screaming), and Apple did then nosedive towards inevitable doom. Only when Jobs returned did the Apple glory days resume. Without Jobs, Apple will become just another clunky computer company with a glorious past and a ton of money to waste that they made in the glory days. Which they will waste and that will be that. Apple keyboards will duly degenerate into being no better than any other kind of keyboard.
Which in my opinion is the single big reason not to buy, which means to commit to, Macs.
Later, Michael Jennings wrote more optimistically (in a comment on this) about what a Jobsless Apple might be like:
Steve Jobs was not in charge of Apple in the 1970s and 1980s. He was the co-founder, but outside management was brought in to actually run the company. ("Adult supervision”, as it is often called in Silicon Valley). He did have a big hand in product development, but he fell out with management and was fired in 1985. However, a lot of the technical and product development people he had worked with stayed for a time and kept the company culture for a time, and Apple were still producing good products for quite some time after that. (System 7 of the Mac operating system was probably the last really good version before Jobs came back and Apple produced OS-X, and Apple more or less invented the laptop in its present form with the first Powerbooks. Both these things happened in 1991). After that, management completely lost the plot and most of the good people left, but with Jobs not there and people who had been opposed to Jobs in charge, it took five or six years for things to go wrong completely.
These days, Jobs is CEO and the management team consists completely of people he has put there. If he died, my hunch is the company would keep its culture longer this time. It would probably produce fewer innovative new products, but existing products would be improved and refined well for quite a long time. In short, I think the company would continue to be run at least as well as most other companies are run, even if it did lose some of the things that make it unique.
Jobs had not died yet, and here’s hoping he doesn’t any time soon. But he has stepped down, for medical reasons. So now, we may see.
Well it’s been an unpleasant and frustrating last few weeks, kicked off with a terrible cough that took about a month to go away. But after a brief spell of less cold weather, we’re now back with the very cold stuff, and I’m back coughing, again, and presumably for about another month.
My computer life is also in a mess, because I’m getting a new one. In the course of fiddling about with the old one, getting hard drives out to put in the new one, and so on, my Computer Guru contrived to stop the old computer working. Something to do with the power processor, or the power something. So now, until the new Lamborghini computer arrives, I’m using my bottom-of-the-range Smartcar laptop not as a mere adjunct but as It, the One, the Fountain of and Repository of Everything.
Trouble is, when it’s on my desk I can’t get close enough to the screen of my Smartcar laptop to read internet stuff. When all I do with the laptop is word process in coffee bars, I just beef up the size of the font and carry on, but that’s harder when reading internet stuff. So, as you can see from the above snap, I have raised it up to eye level, on an improvised platform. That, however, means it needs a separate keyboard back down there at desk level. But that makes sense anyway, because I so much prefer my regular Macintosh keyboard to any PC keyboard I have ever known, and certainly to the keyboard on the laptop. This arrangement also means I can fit food onto my desk without any bother.
I could have added a screen to the laptop, as well as the keyboard, but the truth is I like nothing better than a very small screen very close to me, rather than a bigger screen a bit further away. This upheaval has definitely influenced the redesign of my Entire Desk that I have been plotting for as long as I can remember. The superstructure of the New Desk has just got much bigger and much nearer to my face, turning the desk surface into something more like a shelf for my hands to do stuff, rather than a surface open to the elements.
I knew you’d be excited.
I am well aware of what a crap blog posting this has been, but I set myself very low standards here. All a blog posting here has to be is a blog posting.
By the way, the photo on the screen in the photo is of a sign I saw at Embankment tube station on the night of the big demo in favour of continuing higher education free riding. It’s quite funny, but it doesn’t really mean anything, does it?
Well, that was one weird weekend.
If you dislike blog postings which ramble on and off in all directions at excessive length, then you had perhaps better stop reading this one now, because as I start writing this, I have a lot of things in my head that I now want to ramble on about.
For starters, I’m back being ill. A sort of permanent throat distortion, that makes coughing a constant thought. It never accomplishes anything, but I keep wanting to do it. More troublingly, I am starting to have mild stomach pains and headaches. A combination of the flue bug that is doing the rounds, and mild hypochondria, probably. (Although, a friend has now suggested that Lemsip might also be the culprit.)
Next up: my sleep patterns are shot to hell. Despite not having left London for about a year, I am now jet-lagged. The recent see-saw cricket match between England and Australia in Australia put the tin lid on that tin, but the tin was already there and filled with nocturnal wakefulness, put there by the extreme difficulty of getting to sleep when in bed, hugely exacerbated by that throat thing. Sleeping in my armchair early in the evening, with the television as likely as not blaring away, easy. Getting into bed, switching off the light, and then sleeping, not so easy. Hence the temptation of not even trying to go to bed until I really am very, very tired, and confident of getting quickly to sleep once the light is switched off, in other words very, very late. And once you do that a few times you’re stuck.
In the small and getting bigger small hours of Saturday morning, I decided to (a) attack the problem of non-productivity during the wide-awake dead-of-night and (b) thereby stay awake so long that I could solve the jet lag problem by adding another huge gob of it and cancelling it out, instead of vainly trying to subtract from it. Sleep all day Saturday, starting as late as possible, and get to bed at a proper time Sunday evening. That was the plan.
So, at about 5 am on Saturday morning, instead of going to bed, I wrote a (though I say it myself) ripsnorter of a posting for Samizdata called They are not liberals and they are not progressives, and then added what seemed to me to be a pertinent SQotD for good measure. In an early comment on the liberals/progressives posting, I expressed the hope that I might get lucky with linkage in the USA.
Meanwhile England had been taken apart in the cricket. This was the night (i.e. Australian day) when Hussey and Haddin were making their 300 stand. The blogging was partly an attempt to take my mind off that horror.
Finally, at about 9 am, I went to bed, the video set to capture all the rugby during the day on the telly, ...
To be awakened at about 10 fucking am by fucking banging in one of the very nearby, probably right next door flats. Someone was getting rid of a bookshelf or hacking away some plaster or some pipes or some damn thing. For two hours I lay awake, hoping it would stop. I gave up and got up. At which point, of fucking course, Sod’s Law cut in and it stopped and never resumed. But I did not know about that, did I? By the time I realised that the banging was over, I was wide awake again. This is the absolute only time that there has been such banging in the morning in the last three months. None before. None since. Bastards. Total, total, bastards. And yes, since you ask, I was very tempted to use full stops there.
Further albeit metaphorical hammering followed when England then got hammered at rugger by South Africa, despite having promised so much against Australia. In retrospect, what the rugby pros always say about how if you play behind a winning scrum attacking with your backs becomes massively easier ... well, that’s true. Australia have a weak pack. Genius backs but a weak pack. South Africa have a very strong pack, and very decent backs. I videoed the highlights of this game but have yet to watch them. So, England hammered at rugby and in the process of being hammered at cricket. The only two sports I really care about.
But, while I was sleeping or perhaps while I was later lying awake in bed cursing the universe, Instapundit had linked to They are not liberals and they are not progressives, adding extra punch to the title by calling it They Are Not Liberals And They Are Not Progressives, quoting the key paragraph, and adding, getting the point totally: “So what do we call them?” I could tell that something like this had probably happened even before I looked at Instapundit, because in my email inbox was a flood of emails resulting from a flood of comments on the posting, including many from people with totally unfamiliar names, and almost all of them intelligent and getting the point of it all. I had hoped that Instapundit would oblige, what with my point being about what American politico-obsessives of my persuasion call their local enemies (which is his kind of topic), if only with a one line posting, but of course you can never assume you’ll be Instalaunched. A posting with the money quote quoted was ideal. So, England are crap at rugger and cricket. These are mere games. This is the future of mankind, and my contribution to that future. My opinions are now echoing around the USA, and I haven’t even been there!
Some time Real Soon Now, I want to do another Samizdata posting about Instapundit and the difference he has made to life, the universe and everything, both a personal thank you and a thank you on behalf of the universe. People often do thank him, as here, for noticing this posting or (as here) a previous posting. People often digress about what a fine fellow he is, before getting stuck into some particular thing he likes to say, and how very true that is of how things are here in London or Toronto or Phoenix or Timbuktu or wherever. Not so often does anyone focus directly on the man himself and the man’s considerable achievement, with that being the point of the piece. But, has anyone - anyone - had more impact on the current political landscape of the USA, and hence the entire world, than Glenn Instapundit Reynolds? Name someone else. Seriously, think about that. And if you have any thoughts about this (I think) fascinating individual, please write them down as comments here. This even (in fact especially) applies if you do not share my very high opinion of Instapundit. Boring plonker, is he? Tell me why. You won’t convince me, but your inability to understand this person will flesh out my understanding of him, just a little. Because he is a bit boring, but only in the same kind of way that a quite complex machine, that is fantastically productive and which never, ever breaks down, is also boring.
A good global financial system would be boring too. But also, like Instapundit, it would be a very good thing.
Okay so on Saturday night and then Sunday morning, and having had pretty much no sleep the “night” before, I had a chance to clobber that jet lag by going to bed at a proper time. And I did, but then I wake up far too early, to have a piss basically, and I clock into Cricinfo just to get the bad news that will confirm how totally cricket is only a game, and England are ... 238 for 1 at tea on the fourth day. 238 for 1. Nearly level. This is too good to ignore. Cricket, after all, is an important matter. More than just a mere sport. It’s central to the way of life of two great nations at opposite ends of the earth, Britain and Australia, especially Australia. By the time England (as Britain’s cricket team is known (it has twice been captained by Scotsmen (most notably Douglas Jardine))) had reached 309 for 1 - 309 for 1 - at the close of play, I was wide awake again, and jet lag remained horribly undefeated.
And the next night was just as bad. When once again I should have been attempting an early night and many hours of slumber, England proceeded until near to tea time, reaching an unprecedented score of 517 for 1 wicket, which rather put Australia’s second innings of 481 (for 10 wickets) in its place, didn’t it? Would there then be a clatter of Australian wickets, perhaps even a sensational England win? Well, as it turned out, not. But how was I supposed to know that beforehand?
It is now Monday evening, and tomorrow I face the self-imposed obligation to be at the British Library at 1pm, to attend a lecture by Alex Ross, which will no doubt plunge my throat into a state of even worse ... worseness. Also, no chance of spending tomorrow in bed either. Also, I will have to venture out for food.
At least tonight there will be no cricket in Australia to postpone sleep. On Thursday night, it starts again, but tonight, and tomorrow night and the night after, there will only be darkness.
Yes, answer me that. I am getting better, and today I did have a bit of coffee, but am not back to my full minimum-of-five-a-day habit. In other words, I am not fully recovered. This evening, needing to stay awake for a visitor, I had a glass of Tesco Own Brand Not Red Bull. Usually: delicious. This evening: not so good. Again with the caffeine resistance. Why? What is about ill people that makes them unable to drink coffee properly?
I’m not in the mood for personal blogging just now, so this will be it for today. Last week, I ate some past-its-eat-by-date pineapple, and I fear it may have triggered another dose of shingles. The signs of that, once they materialise, are unmistakable, but so far: no signs. Wish me luck. But, I’m going to have an early bed tonight to try to sleep it off.
If you think I’ve been a little remiss here of late, how about here? After a flying start by the Norlonto Review, nothing for nearly 72 hours. Antoine has definitely not died, because he left a very Antoine comment here yesterday. Here’s hoping NR is back on song very soon.
Driver swerves to miss cat, hits vet clinic
Seriously, what are the punctuation rules for headlines? And if I find I don’t like those rules, what do I think that they should be? I suspect my answer is: dashes. Only dashes may be used. And quote marks provided there are dots before the closing quotes.
When I wrote the above paragraph, I was also watching a dreary television play based on a poem, the kind of thing where they get charismatic actors in (Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson on this occasion) to rescue it, and to provide an audience. And it definitely affected my mood.
It was about a drunken self-pitying failed writer (now slaving away as an editor for a small publishing company) and the woman who had wisely abandoned him but had unwisely come back to see him again. It was presumably autobiographical. At one point Rickman was up on the roof, and I hoped he might either jump off or fall off, and die, dramatically, interestingly. But all he did was stagger back downstairs to find that Emma Thompson had, wisely, gone. (They had been having lunch.)
If only Bruce Willis had been on the roof as well ...
I only recently realised how very much I like the big photo at the bottom of this posting. I wonder what kind of camera it was taken with? (I must ask in a comment.) It’s a bit too narrow for me to steal and put here, and I tried reducing it so I could write around it. But it needs to be big. Smaller and it loses something. Very small and it loses everything. So you’ll just have go to there. For me, this shot is a classic in the London Things seen in an unusual way genre, Westminster Cathedral (the catholic one, Victoria Street, red brick) being a favourite. It’s very near my home and I photo it often.
There are five comments on Kristine’s posting. No-one comments on the beauty of the photo. Most talk about how a horrible, cheap London bed hurt Kristine’s back. I apologise on behalf of London. A friend offers a better alternative, next time Kristine comes to London. But, there are cats. Is Kristine allergic to cats? No. She looked after a cat just recently.
I was going to offer a Kit-Kat chocky bar to whoever can spot the “feline connection” in Kristine’s posting. But those cats in the comments rather spoilt that. Oh well, a Kit-Kat (must be claimed in person) to whoever can spot the other feline connection. (Clue.)