Thursday, July 31, 2003

More bigoted tripe - from the church this time. Vatican drive to curb gay marriage The Vatican has just issued a 12 page document outlining a global campaign against gay marriage. The document brands homosexual unions as "immoral, unnatural and harmful." I fear that this will have a big impact with some religious groups especially in America with the current debate about gay bishops, and it will provide reinforcement for the recent travesty in the UK. You would think that there were more important things to campaign about within Catholicism especially birth control, domestic violence, poverty etc. But no.... the old purple wrinkly has chosen gay couples as the biggest evil out there.

Read today about a Gay showdown for US church President Bush (how did this man ever get elected?) declined to pass moral judgment on homosexuals (yeah right!) but commented that he was "mindful that we're all sinners". Unbelievable really, we all know he would love to condemn homosexuality full stop, but is fearful of a backlash from more liberal voters come the next election. In the meantime he wants to appease the far right which is comprised of religious bigots, gun lovers, racists etc. I suppose I sound just as extreme, but it is easy to see the potential outcomes from this row.

Checked onto the BT Broadband page as normal this morning to check the trigger level for my exchange and it has disappeared form the list. I am taking this as a sign that we have hit the trigger level, although a date is not yet listed for when the exchange will be enabled. Great news as I did wonder if we would ever hit the trigger level. lets hope BT will start the work soon, although realistically it could be Christams before it is all sorted.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Jamie Oliver can be a real pain. I must admit feeling a little sorry for him yesterday when an email arrived with a full Word copy of his latest book (which of course I forwarded on). It now appears that this book is a fake, and is made up of various recipes that have been gathered from his earlier books and television shows. even so he is such an annoying twat that i didn't have any of his other books. This is a good way to get some of them without giving him a penny towards funding a lifestlye that seems to revolve around running around Primrose Hill hoping that the (low grade) Heat team will take his picture and say how lovely Jules (boring) is.

'Heart share' athletes compete Don't really understand this story - 2 men linked by a heart transplant are competing against each other at the British Transplant Games, being held in Staffordshire. Maybe I am incredibly stupid, but I would have thought that if I gave my heart to someone I would then find it pretty difficult to go head to head in a 50m swimming race!

Had a bit of a restless night last night and really didn’t want to get up this morning. But was still in for 9. Meant I was a bit grumpy with my partner this morning (who is never at his best in the morning anyway!) We need to start going to bed earlier so it is less of a struggle to get up in the morning.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Just testing the Blogger browser link. Just drag onto the toolbar and then have quick access to your blog publisher. Really quick and good when you just come across something you want to talk about.

First post from home - will have to do this more as I have been blogging too much from work! BT exchange is still not broadband enabled at home which is a real pain. The trigger level is 250 and we are up to 229, which is excellent, but BT can then take several months to do the work, before even checking if your own line is OK. In the meantime will have to make the most of my lunchbreak to keep up to date.

A disturbing story from Florida has hit the UK papers today. Apparently a black man was found hanging from a tree in May. The police had investigated it as suicide, but there are concerns that it may have been a lynching. It seems hard to believe that this could still happen. I always believe, perhaps naively, that America has a much greater racist element than the UK, and can’t imagine such a crime could happen here. But in America…..well sorry but it seems possible. The report doesn’t make any firm conclusions, and the investigation has been re-opened.

Watched the penultimate episode of 24 last night. It is hasn’t reached the heights of madness of earlier in the show (Kim and a wild lynx!), and is pretty tense. Tony and Michelle drugging Chappelle, Hewitt dying, Jack about to have another heart attack. What can happen next? I can’t really see how the loose ends can be tied up yet.

Monday, July 28, 2003

New research has shown that some cigarettes are more addictive than others - it appears that the leveles of 'free-base' nicotine can vary from between 1 - 36%, it is the free-base nicotine that hits you straight away. Camel (2.7 per cent), Winston (5 to 6.2 per cent) and Gauloises Blondes (5.7 to 7.5 per cent). Marlboro brand contained up to 9.6 per cent freebase nicotine. Looks like camel are the best of a bad bunch.

One story has caught my eye today - Huge erection causes blushes on the eve of Royal visit
You can’t really ‘beat’ a story like this. Apparently “A giant statue of a naked man with a two-foot erection has caused a row in Salzburg after it was unveiled on the eve of a visit by Prince Charles.” The statue is called the Arc de Triomphe and shows a naked man bending over backwards with his hands on the ground and a two-foot erection thrusting into the sky. Pretty cool really!

I finally finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night, and I am sorry to say that it has been a bit of a disappointment. I know it had been hyped to buggery, but the story was protracted, and just tied up too nicely at the end. Also the death of a key character didn’t really bother me too much (won’t give the name in case you haven’t got there yet!). I think I have read too many fan-fics while waiting for the fifth book to come out, which has offered some excellent storylines – maybe JK Rowling should have a look at a few. I suppose HP is also mainly aimed at kids, whereas many of the fan fiction sites deal in more adult themes

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Weird story doing the rounds today about Kylie Minogue and a fake kidnapping. It appears that Channel 4 staged the kidnapping as part of a programme about Ms Minogue. A distant cousin was bundled into a car and Kylie’s neighbours, thinking it was real, called the police. Seems a bit stupid really.

You have probably seen that the house used in Harry Potter films as the Dursley’s residence failed to sell at an auction this week. It was on the market for £250,000 and the final bid was £249,000. You would think that the bidder could have stretched to another £1,000. I am surprised really that Warner Bros. didn’t buy it and transfer it brick by brick into storage to await the inevitable Harry Potter theme park that they must have planned. I know I sound cynical, especially as I would probably visit the park!

IT guys at work have upgraded my PC, finally good-bye to Windows 95, and hello to Windows 2000. Still way behind the latest editions in the market place, but it is beetter to work with. Even so, I am on XP at home and it seems that loads of people are working on faster, better equipped machines at home than they are at work. In effect we are using our own free time and money to learn new IT skills that will ultimatley benefit our employers.

Having said that I am updating my blog from work, so perhaps we are even!

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Decided to lighten the tone today. There are plenty of news stories around that I could rant about but thought I would talk about Harry Potter. I am about 500 pages through Order of the Phoenix now. I must admit to finding it a bit slow to begin with and rather drawn out in some places. It is getting better now and I am beginning to ration myself to a maximum of one chapter a day. I know some people bought it and read it in 15 hours or so, but really what is the point! If you have waited so long you may as well get enjoyment over a few weeks form reading it.

While we were waiting for Phoenix to come out I did download a few stories from the fan-fiction sites Schnoogle seems to be the best. There are some great novel length stories there with a real attention to detail and style. The interesting thing is often the small details or characters that JK Rowling has mentioned any the way fan-0fic writers develop these. I am also a fan of the slash fiction This involves same-sex couplings and often feature Harry/Draco or looks to the past with Lucius and Sirius etc. Definitely something you won’t see Rowling pen, but equally don’t assume this translates as porn. My favourite story is ‘Unthinkable Thoughts’ by Aidan Lynch. For an introduction to fan-fic and slash, you can’t do better than this. Sensitive, well written and developed characters in a believable story.

Also read today that Vietnam is big on Harry and has just translated the last book into Vietnamese
for the kids (and to avoid piracy/unofficial translations). What I like about this is that it has been released in 15 smaller sections so kids can afford to buy it bit by bit. Also a great way to stop you reading it all in one sitting.

I do fancy having a go at writing a fan-fic myself but don’t really have the time at the moment. If you want to do it, it needs to be done well – fancy a go yourself? Then head to Schnoogle or Lumos Dissendium for more info. Lumos provides a section for tips and tricks on writing and other fandom activity.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Have had a great weekend – but very busy. Ready to go straight to bed now – although I have still got a full days work ahead of me. We were at the Baltic for dinner again on Saturday with my partner's parents. Another great evening. It was a bit of a late night and some friends who were staying last night were delayed in traffic and didn’t turn up until 10.30 pm for dinner. A week off just to sleep would be great!

I expected the news to be full of the story of Dr David Kelly’s death and the mystery surrounding the BBC’s involvement so I won’t go into detail here.

I am more interested in the way that George Bush has had the White House website changed to make it more difficult to email him. Previously you could just email direct, but now you must also provide your full name, address and e-mail address. To ensure the president gets the submission, people must finally reply to a confirmation message sent to them. According to the BBC, “White House officials have described the new system as an enhancement, designed to improve communications and help government staff deal with the huge numbers of e-mails sent to the president everyday.” Sounds like George wants to avoid his democratic responsibilities as you must state on each message whether it is a "supportive comment" or a "differing opinion". If you want to take a more direct approach, then you can still send an e-mail to George W Bush at president@whitehouse.gov or Vice President Richard Cheney can also be contacted directly via vice.president@whitehouse.gov

Also in the headlines in the UK is the release of Archer from prison. He has only served two of his four years sentence for perjury, and not been without all his privileges during that time. I should recognise that he has served his time, but I think he is such a smarmy, cheating, selfish, arrogant little bugger that I would have liked to see him stay in prison indefinitely. I hope that there isn’t a media circus to pay for his story. He should disappear from the public view forever and take his sanctimonious and narrow-minded wife with him.

One weird thing is that it emerged last week that Archer had asked probation officers to register his multi-million pound Thames-side flat as his home. The move was unexpected because Lady Archer spends nearly all her time at their country residence, the £1.5m Old Vicarage at Grantchester, near Cambridge. Looks like they aren’t rushing to be back together or is he determined to get back into politics and wants to be near Westminster. Ian Duncan Smith should have back in to the party to sign the final death warrant for the Tories. Well that is my rant over! For a less aggressive view read this.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Another row on the ‘Today Programme’ about NHS funding. It is true that increasing medicine costs, staff pay rises (especially nurses and doctors) and waiting list targets have swallowed a large part of available funds. If you speak to anyone working in the NHS they would have to agree that there is much more money than ever before available, but the pressure to meet nationally defined targets has not allowed for local decision making to influence the agenda. In my local area the PCTs have very little money to allocate to local priorities. You could argue that the increases in staffing, drug budgets and new hospitals benefit local communities and this is true. However, this is not the same as having additional funds to respond to defined local needs. I imagine the impact of the new GP contract and consultant contract will stretch resources even further.

Thankfully a US plan to allow widescale computer snooping of all residents looks unlikely to proceed. According to the BBC the programme aimed to “collect as much information about every single aspect of everyone in America as possible, from doctor's records to bank deposits, e-mail to travel tickets, phone conversations to magazine subscriptions. The aim was to used advanced data-mining tools to look for patterns of terrorist activities in the electronic data trails left behind by everyone. “ A blow for sanity against the efforts of the US to watch our every move.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Another bizarre story for you - apparently "Masturbating more than five times a week between the ages of 20 and 50 could protect men against prostate cancer, Australian researchers claim today."

Anything that proves more wanking is good for you has to be good news! the Guardian agrees that a "helping hand" will promote good prostate health. Seems that having lots of sex is not as effective as the risk of sexually transmitted infections may increase the risk of prostate contact. Whereas, a few sessions of self-love each week flushes out the prostate reduces the risk of a build-up of chemicals.

So guys - full permission to wank everyday - it's good for your health!

Just got a mail about the House Gymnastics event in Switzerland this weekend. would be excellent to be ther - but no way without a bit more practice. Think I get a bit more done this wwekend. there are some moves that I cannot master. Don't even try the XXX without plenty of practice and a crash mat!

Went bowling last night for a friend’s birthday. Really enjoyed it, but had forgotten how bad I am. I came last and second last (just). Overall the 3 girls played better than the 3 boys – we sucked! Definitely need to practise more.

Heard on the news today that action-figures of Blair aren’t selling very well in America, but the figures for Saddam or Osama are flying out. Don’t think Bush is selling too well. It is pretty bizarre really that our politicians are made into dolls for kids to play war games with. I know we all played with action men when we were young, but they usually involved imaginary foes and settings, not re-creations of recent wars that had high levels of military and civilian deaths. Also available: osama toilet paper and Bin Laden stress doll!

Also there is an interesing story in the Guardian about the beginning of a trend for UK MPs to start their own blogs. There are only two so far, so there is a long way to go. Could be a really useful way of quickly seeing how your MP votes, or what issues arerocking their boat at any given time. I would be surprised if Blair didn't insist on vetting them before they go out to ensure they are on-message.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Working in the health service, the star-ratings have been on everyone’s lips today. The ratings are based on a whole bunch of indicators, some have absolute targets and some are based on where the hospital falls compared to its peers. The hospital I work at has got a 2 star rating, which is pretty good really. The next few days will be full of rhetoric about the relative merit (or not) of the star-ratings, usually dependant upon the number of stars a hospital has got.

I think that target setting in itself is a good idea. The 12 month inpatient wait target has made a big difference to the length of time people wait. Even 2 or 3 years ago it wasn’t uncommon for people to wait 15+ months for an operation. That has reduced to a maximum of 12 months and many hospitals are aiming for 6 month waits from March 2004.

The only problem with the targets is the sheer number of them and the timescales are often overlapping. This means you are trying to manage several important targets at the same time, and often cannot give 100% to each one. Unless there is proper time to plan, consult, implement and monitor service improvements it is hard to get the best possible outcome.

I don’t imagine there will be any change with John Reid as the new Sec of state for Health, but we can hope!

Monday, July 14, 2003

Just been reading about a new art project in newcastle called House-City. Two 3-storey house will be built and demolished over 3 days starting today. They are being built next to grey's Monument and will be built around the clock. Two groups of builders will simultaneously construct and de-construct the two identical shells of HOUSE-CITY during the four days. 6.3 m high shells will be built out of lightweight blocks up to third floor level and juxtaposed with each other in rotational symmetry.

The process will be synchronized so that the construction and de-construction is choreographed sequentially: The opposite segments of the two shells will slowly move around each other until HOUSE-CITY is completed. Two separate houses will appear on the same spot at the same time.

Looks worth a visit!

Quite a lot to update since last week. Really enjoyed Royksopp. The concert was in the courtyard at Somerset House and it was a really warm evening, almost too hot. The support act were a bit weak, but Royksopp were excellent. Our MTV tickets got us into the guest bar which was on the terrace overlooking the Thames. It was a really elegant setting and we had a fantastic evening.

The whole visit to London had been a bit of a whirlwind trip, down on Thursday and back on Friday to get the house ready for my partner’s birthday. Still being warm, we were able to have the party outside, which is the first one in the new house and was an excellent evening.

Saturday we were off to the rooftop restaurant at the Baltic for a birthday dinner. It is a year since we were last there at the opening night, and I had forgotten what a great restaurant it is with views along both banks of the Tyne and excellent service. The food was great with a really excellent rack of lamb and fantastic desserts. May be there again next Saturday which is a great excuse to try more of the menu.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Finally got the tickets!! They were loitering around the post office, who required about a dozen pieces of ID as they had gone to the wrong address. The tickets were courtesy of Galaxy Radio and I will report back after the gig.

So - down to London tomorrow and a few drinks before the gig I think. The tickets include VIP passes, not sure what this gets us into, but be cool to get to the MTV after-show party if possible. Not going to take my camera, but got my picture-phone, so will snap any celebs who come my way. You can see the gig live this weekend - I'll be wearing a green t-shirt (!) and a big smile.

Still waiting for my Royksopp tickets to arrive - looks like there has been a bit of a mix-up with addresses. Hope they can get sorted in time as I am very keen to see the band. I have booked the time off work already and not planning to go in if the tickets don't arrive. A couple of days break is just what I need, even if it is just lazing at home.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I have been reading about all the furore regarding the un-appointment of Canon Jeffery John as Bishop of Reading. There is a useful summary of the national paper’s editorials in the Guardian, which bar the obvious Telegraph, are far more sympathetic than I would have imagined.

The Anglican Church here seems to be at risk of becoming more like some of the right-wing American churches every day. One of the things about living in the UK that I respect is the apparent separation of the church and politics. In the US it amazes me that politicians benefit so strongly from religious affiliation and can often incorporate a whole religious dogma into their campaign, effectively stopping intelligent debate on a range of issues from abortion, gay rights, racial segregation to censorship. This revolt is being led in the UK by a range of small, often Evangelical, churches who seem to have forgotten the original teachings of Jesus being about love, respect, tolerance and community. One church group that particularly offends me is the Christian Institute. Visit their website for reactionary, narrow-minded tripe!

Monday, July 07, 2003

Just read a great Harry Potter spoof on the Guardian website. 'Harry potter & the Stoned philosopher' shows a lighter side to harry and Hogwarts. I am currently reading 'Order of the Phoenix', only about a third of the way through and although I am enjoying it, I am finding it a little slow.

I have had a great weekend, my parents were visiting and it was great for them to se the new house. I cooked for them on Friday night and we managed to get through quite a bit of wine! On Saturday we went to the Baltic to see the Anthony Gormley exhibts. We really liked the exhibts, especially 'Domain Field', which is wire framed figures based on local people and 'Allotment', based on the residents of a village in Sweden. Saturday evening was into town for dinner, great evening.

Also got the chance to demonstrate House Gymnastics for my parents. If you haven’t yet checked this website, then you really should. It is a totally addictive way to spend your free time, and once tried you will become hooked. I have now mastered the ‘One-handed starfish’ move, which looks pretty cool!

Now back at the office, got loads to do this week as I am off to London on Thursday to see Royksopp at Somerset House. Won the tickets in a competition with travel and hotel covered, and really looking forward to it.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Happy with the decision about the job. feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my mind. Now I can concentrate on finishing my application for a MSc in Health Economics, for this autumn. I have been looking forward to starting this course and knew it would be too much to take on with a new job. It is about 3 years since my last formal study and the time is right to start studying again.

New bed arrived last night (finally after 2 missed delivery slots). Super king size, which is massive and fantastic! Plently of room for stretching out. It took about 2 hours to assemble, after a trip back to IKEA for missing parts. Not too pleased with IKEA for this purchase. Delivery was late, bed damaged on base and parts missing. But a lot cheaper than the similar bed in Habitat. Now got to think about the rest of the bedroom furniture!

Thursday, July 03, 2003

The link for Rob Parsons book should read: Blogger.

Have had the time to talk to a few more people about the job and have decided not to apply. It is the right job but the wrong time and I have taken consideration of a quote from 'The Heart of Success' by Rob parsons (see )

In the book Parsons describes how the phrase that 'no-one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office' had a tremendous impact on him as he changed his life to free up more time for those closest to him.

The book talks about being time-rich and money-poor. Not something I want to happen. There is no point being able to afford an expensive holiday twice a year if the rest of the year allows no time for relaxation.

So decision made!!! I feel liberated already, no pressure to redo the CV or start interview preparation and no need to start planning a presentation.

First post on my blog. What's going on today? Main dilemma is whether to apply for a new job within my current organisation. Promotion and more cash, but at what cost to the work/life balance. I have recently moved into a new house with my partner and I am beginning to think that that building the relationship is more important than advancing my career at this point in time. Sure, the extra cash would be great but not at the expense of a 60/70 hour week and being too tired to enjoy the little free time left. Probably sounds like I have made my mind up already! There is still part of me that wants to apply as it is a great opportunity. Will need to take the weekend for a final decision.

There are some similarities (for me) to the position Milburn took resigning as Sec of State for Health. I work in the health service and appreciate the difficulties of meeting tight deadlines and targets. It can place a strain on home life. At the end of the day I love my job, buty not as much as my partner!