We shall call her Daisy. It suits her. Even though she doesn't have a yellow face and white hair.
Friday, October 27
Thursday, October 26
I had no idea induction could take this long. I thought it would probably be quicker than natural labour, thanks to Science. Shows what I know.
We're looking at either a caesarian or a birthday of the 27th. Don't know which yet; it'll depend on the next round of tests. Mind you, it was going to depend on the last round of tests, too, so maybe it won't.
Vic is fine, thanks to the miracle of epidurals. As one of the midwives remarked, trying a birth without industrial-strength painkillers is all very well if you actually go into labour yourself, but for being induced, you need an epidural. I think she may be right.
The next post should contain the word "boy" or "girl". But what do I know?
We're in the delivery suite! Well, I'm not -- I've been sent to eat food, since, unlike Vic, I'm not on a glucose drip and might actually collapse of hunger -- but Vic most certainly is. As well as the glucose, she's on at least a hundred other drips of various types, and is comfortable and well and fairly happy now she's got an epidural. (Some women disapprove of epidurals, and they can sod off -- if they don't want one, they don't have to have one, but I think we could all do without any sanctimonious down-nose-looking at those who do have one, thanks.) In fact, it's not just for pain relief, anyway: the obstetric consultant wanted it put in to control Vic's blood pressure, which tends to go a bit wild in the presence of doctors.
Waters are broken. Waters are broken! WATERS ARE BROKEN! Amazing.
But we've been told that nothing's likely to happen for at least another four hours, probably more like six. So off I go to eat food. And blog, obviously. Addicted to the Interweb? Me?
All the staff are continuing to be brilliant, by the way. We know from experience that there are one or two dreadful doctors and nurses in this hospital, but no-one's letting them anywhere near Vic. Senior consultantant obstetricians, senior consultantant diabetic doctor, consultantant anaesthetist, and bloody good midwives and nurses. It'd be nice if everyone got this treatment from the NHS, not just the high-risk pregnancies, but hey: for us, right now, they're pulling out the stops, and they're unfaultably great.
Next post should contain the word "boy" or "girl".
You know, I'm finally starting to feel excited.
Wednesday, October 25
The migraine may have been a blessing in a bloody good disguise. The maternity wards are now completely full, and Vic overheard one of the staff saying that they're going to have to delay a scheduled induction due to lack of beds. Coming in a day early, then, was a Good Thing.
Vic's OK, apart from chronic impatience. As her sister said to her, it is a bit like having to stand and look at the noose for two days prior to being hanged. Not the analogy I'd have chosen to reassure a worried mum-to-be, but hey.
Tuesday, October 24
They've done various tests and decided that Vic's basically fine, apart from, you know, the agony. So there's no reason to bring her induction date forward. However, they do want to keep her in for observation, mainly in case of rising blood pressure. So far, nothing's telling them that they need to do a C-section, which is great — nowt wrong with caesarians, but, if Vic does have one, she'd rather it be because she chooses it than because she needs it.
Another major cause of migraines is misalignment of the neck. Vic's been needing about twenty pillows to get to sleep lately, which hasn't been helping. So an electric adjustable hospital bed should give her the best night's sleep she's had in ages tonight. Excellent.
There'll be more updates tomorrow. Probably not exciting ones, though: we expect to spend the day playing cards. It'll all kick off on Thursday morning. (Dead early Thursday morning. Very uncivilised, if you ask me. I thought this birth business would be my chance for a decent lie-in, but no. No wonder fathers look so harassed in labour wards.)
Thanks from the both of us to everyone's who's been wishing us well.
Monday, October 23
A quick recap of the rules for those who weren't here last week: I provide a description of a band or other flavour of musician. You then guess who I'm talking about, in the comments. There is no grand prize. Sorry. Budget cuts.
Bored Cockney lass meanders through ancient reggae collection.
The euro may have been assembled in a flawed way — I agree — but that is not to say that the idea of a common currency is of itself wrong in principle.
After all, if it's better for each country in Europe to have its own currency, how much better it would be if each county in the United Kingdom had its own currency too... or each town... or each street... or each house... After all, why should the Central Bank of 25 Typical Street hand over control of the 25 Typical Street Groat to the Central Bank of Typical Street and their Typical Street Groat?
... After all, what is money? A national totem? No, it's just a medium of exchange: a tool.
So here's my cunning Euro policy what I would enact was I in charge.
I would legalise the use of the Euro in the UK but I would maintain the pound. I'd stick a cap on what banks could charge their customers for switching between the two currencies and allowing them to deal in both with minimum effort, and perhaps a cap on the maximum time they could keep money in limbo between currencies when a customer asks them to change it. (In an ideal market, that wouldn't be necessary, but British banks act as a cartel whenever they get half a chance. Unfortunately, they need the occasional legislative kick.) I'd require British businesses to accept either currency — though they'd be allowed to offer incentives if they wanted — 10% off if you pay in Euros; that sort of thing. And that's it.
Those people who hate the Euro wouldn't have to use it. Those who love the Euro could use it as much as they liked. The rest of us — which I reckon would quickly become most of us — could just use whichever was the most sensible at the time. We'd get lots of the economic advantages of having the Euro, with few of the disadvantages (I reckon — I'm not an economist). The public would generate money out of nothing as they'd start to watch interest rates closely and switch currencies whenever profitable. And everyone in the country would get much much better at mental arithmetic. Lord knows the schools aren't teaching it to them.
Anyway, back to the legalities. The reason for this apparent paradox is helpfully explained over at The Anglo Saxon Chronicle:
Lord Campbell-Savours was able to do this because he is protected from legal action for comments made in the House of Lords by Parliamentary Privilege.
That Privilege is granted to him in law by the provisions of the Bill of Rights 1689, which states: That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament.
That's pretty clear wording.
Mr Chronicles has decided to go for the law with a full frontal approach: he's named the woman, as the Bill of Rights clearly says he is every bit as entitled to do as Lord Campbell-Savours, and is daring the authorities to prosecute him. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Good luck to him.
But I'm going for a slightly different approach: merely demonstrating that the law, even if enforced correctly, is useless on its own terms. I mean, look at this post. I haven't broken the law; I haven't named this bastard of a woman; and yet I have legally linked to Hansard, who have legally published the transcription of Lord Campbell-Savours legally naming her. This is ridiculous.
Friday, October 20
I shall provide a snappy, music-journalistesque description of a band or popular beat artiste. You may then, excitingly, use this Web-log's modern commenting facility to guess who the hell I'm talking about. If I'm any good at this, it won't take you long. First person to get it right wins a prize, that prize being the knowledge that they were the first person to get it right.
So, here goes.
Slade team up with Chas and Dave to work on the Bugsy Malone soundtrack.
Back in March, I mentioned one of many problems with the NHS:
NHS hospitals are now insisting that no patients be allowed to administer their own medication, and that includes diabetics giving themselves insulin. When a diabetic is admitted to hospital, they are expected to give their insulin to the staff and rely on nurses to check their blood sugar and inject their insulin. This is a Bad Thing.
In our experience, the trouble is not merely that your average nurse or even doctor knows very little about diabetes, but that your average doctor or nurse is so keen on ignoring or overruling their absent colleagues. So, when you're on a hospital ward, the advice of your diabetic specialist consultant who's been treating you for years really carries no more weight than the opinion of the duty nurse who's known you for twenty minutes, because the nurse is there and the consultant isn't. This isn't a huge problem when you're injecting yourself, because you can in turn choose to ignore the idiotic advice of the ignorant nurse and do what your consultant advised you to anyway. But that, apparently, is no longer allowed. The people who don't know what to feed you, how much insulin to give you, or whether to put you on a glucose drip are now solely in charge of feeding you, injecting your insulin, and deciding when to put you on a glucose drip.
It will come as a surprise to no-one with any experience of the NHS to learn that this approach has so far killed two people in Northern Ireland alone.
Vic, my wife, is diabetic, so, as you might imagine, one of the things that has been worrying us both about the impending birth is her being killed, put into a coma, or otherwise badly damaged by a nurse giving her an insulin overdose. It's not as unlikely as you might hope. We've had first-hand experience of exactly the arrogant idiocy I was writing about above. A couple of years ago, she was admitted to hospital the night before a minor operation so that she could be put on a glucose drip — you have to fast before being given a general anaesthetic, but fasting, obviously, is dangerous for diabetics, so they get brought into hospital the previous day so they can be given a glucose drip and have their blood sugars controlled without eating. This is entirely sensible. On being admitted, Vic was faced with a ward nurse who refused to give her the glucose drip on the grounds, when you get down to it, that she thought she knew better than the surgeon, the anaestetist, and the diabetic consultant, and it was her opinion that mattered because she, unlike them, was there. The drip was the only reason Vic was even in hospital — were it not for that requirement, she wouldn't have come in till the following morning. So the nurse in charge refused to give her the only thing she was in hospital to receive. The next morning, unsurprisingly (to us), Vic had a hypoglycaemic attack — ideal preparation for an operation. I'd love to say that this experience was a one-off, but it wasn't. It's the norm.
So the prospects aren't good, even before you take pregnancy into account. Pregnancy, you see, does a couple of things to diabetics: firstly, you need lots of extra insulin to convert sugar into a baby's body; secondly, your insulin resistance increases dramatically — a lot of non-diabetic women, in fact, become temporarily diabetic during pregnancy. Both these things mean that your insulin dose increases — by the end of the pregnancy, by a factor of about three. What this means, for those of you who don't know much about insulin, is that a heavily pregnant diabetic woman is injecting herself four times a day with what would usually be a lethal dose. As soon as she gives birth — within minutes, in fact — the required dose goes back down, not only to what it would be usually, but, as sugar is now being converted into milk instead of stored as fat, even further down that that.
So, you have nurses who know sod all about diabetes and are arrogant enough to overrule the instructions of diabetic consultants and the protests of experienced patients, in charge of giving insulin to a diabetic whose required dosage was about thirty-six units a couple of hours ago but who would now be killed stone dead if injected with even twenty units, whose ideal dosage is far lower than anything that has ever been recorded in her medical records, and who, on a drip and having just given birth, is in no condition to resist being given the medication. Really, it's amazing only two people have been killed.
So it was a great relief to us when, earlier this week, Vic's diabetic consultant told us that he has "an arrangement" with the nurses and midwives at our hospital whereby his patients are allowed to medicate themselves. He says they're all under strict instructions to allow his patients to inject their own insulin and to bow to their expertise over what dosage they should be taking. If there's any argument, we're to tell the nurses to call him, and he'll tell them that the ideal dose is whatever Vic says it is. Which is great.
For his patients.
For this is sheer luck. If we had a different postcode, Vic would have a different diabetic consultant, who might not have decided to overrule NHS policy and whose patients would therefore have to run the gauntlet whenever they went to hospital. If we move house, even if our new location is perfectly convenient for visiting the same consultant, the NHS might still insist that Vic be assigned to a different clinic, and there'd be sod all she could do about it. They did actually try to change her consultant a year or so ago, due to a bureaucratic reorganisation, but luckily that one was semi-optional — "semi" because they don't tell you it's optional unless you protest, as Vic did, thank God. This is how the NHS works: thanks to her address, Vic's chances of surviving next week are slightly higher, and her chances of not being a victim of negligence or malpractice are much higher. All the diabetics in our area who simply accepted that reorganisation when they were told about it — that's probably most of them — do not have that advantage.
I did rather get the impression that the two deaths are something of which the consultant is well aware, though he didn't mention them. He did tell us what the reaction used to be when his patients attempted to refuse to take the insane dose of insulin that a nurse was trying to give them: the nurses would call for a houseman to come and harass and bully the patient into taking the dose. The attitude was that patients who refused to take their medication were bad, and needed to be told off; patients who asked nurses to double-check with diabetes specialists were just being difficult.
Think about that. I don't know the details of those two deaths, or of the other deaths in other parts of the UK brought about by the same NHS policy. Maybe the patients were asleep, or senile, or delirious, or otherwise unaware. Or maybe they knew that the dose they were about to be given would kill them, and so kicked up a stink, and appealed for a diabetes specialist to give a second opinion, and did all they could to stop it happening, and were calmly and professionally overruled and sedated so that the nurses could get on with their job.
Like I said, knowing that we will not be subject to standard NHS policy on this issue is a great relief.
Thursday, October 19
Tuesday, October 17
David was certainly furious. He was also hysterical. He directed me, without delay, to order staff back into the prison. I told him that we did not, at that time, have enough staff in the prison to contemplate such a move but that many more staff were on their way from other prisons. I insisted, however, that although I was determined to take the prison back as quickly as possible, I could not, and would not, risk staff or prisoner lives in attempting to do so. He shrieked at me that he didn’t care about lives, told me to call in the Army and “machine-gun” the prisoners. He then ordered me to take the prison back immediately. I refused. David hung up.
I'm one of those people who believes that prisoners have fewer rights than the rest of us and should not be mollycoddled; prison shouldn't be all that nice a place to be. I don't, however, think that Home Secretaries should be allowed to gun them down. Call me picky.
A rather difficult personal issue in 1985/6 saw me disappear into the underbelly of Glasgow, emerge driving a minicab at night in Peckham, S.E. London, then reappear, with a surprising number of extremely colourful acquaintances, working for a spy equipment shop in Mayfair. I left and set up my own "security" business in the Borough, just south of London Bridge, in partnership with an ex-armed robber called Tom.
You can probably picture the next couple of years: bug sweeps, body armour, unofficial meetings with the Foreign Office, ex-SAS soldiers, hidden video cameras... and there were less predictable things ...
Americans think Chevy Chase is funny.
Just think what a great film Spies Like Us would be had they cast anyone else in his role. Anyone at all. Ava Gardner would have been an improvement.
As if that weren't bad enough, it turns out that Americans love that Chevy Chase thing, whatever it's supposed to be, so much that they just can't do without it. And his recent and blessed lack of film appearances has therefore created, rather than a gigantic sigh of relief, a gap in the market.
Step forward, Will Ferrell. Great.
I was very pleasantly surprised by how good Wedding Crashers was. It was excellent, in fact. I was really enjoying it till Will Ferrell entered and, even with just a tiny cameo role, proceeded to shit all over the film. Like Chevy Chase, not only is he not even slightly amusing at his best, not only does he nevertheless inexplicably exude the smug certainty that he is the funniest thing alive, but he also has no ability to appear even vaguely realistic. It is impossible to maintain any suspension of disbelief while watching a gurning twonk who might as well have the words "Look at me! I'm in a film! Acting!" emblazoned on a large puce hat.
I have a request. I do not wish Chevy Chase dead — that would certainly be unreasonable — but the fact remains that, one day, contrary to the impression given by the look on his face, he will die. Chevy, when you go, could you take Will with you? Cheers.
But they say her comments afterwards raised further concerns, for example allegedly referring to the students as "blacks" — something she denied yesterday.
I think I've mentioned before that, when I was at school in South London in the Eighties, it was considered borderline offensive to describe black people as "black" and polite to describe them as "coloured". Forward to the Macpherson Report, and one of the damning pieces of evidence of the police's institutional racism is the fact that many of their officers described black people using the offensive term "coloured" instead of the polite "black". If I could bear to spend more than about ten minutes in London, I could find myself being condemned as racist as a result of trying to use non-racist terminology. Which would be annoying. But now it looks like it's changed again. That a girl used the word "black" is now considered by some as an excuse to arrest her, and the suggestion that she did so is considered such a serious allegation that she feels it worth bothering to deny it.
Personally, I'm not superstitious about language, and don't care which words people use as long as they don't say "wacky" or "zany", but I'm perfectly willing to accommodate people who are deeply offended by certain words: I don't say "fuck" within earshot of my grandma, and I won't say "nigger" around black people. What I'm not willing to do is to waste my time reading press releases from victim groups so that I can keep up to date with which words I'm allowed to use this year and which I'm not. Make up your minds, please.
The consensus convinces because there is no good reason to suppose that so many eminent scientists are lying or deceiving themselves when they say climate change is happening. But if you give me cause to believe that departure from the consensus gets a person ostracised, then there is a good reason.
Thank you, Natalie.
Thursday, October 12
Tory MP Philip Davies said of the attack: "This is outrageous.
"If there's anybody who should f*** off it's the Muslims who are doing this kind of thing. Police should pull out the stops to track down these vile thugs."
I do believe that this is the first time I've seen an MP use the phrase "fuck off" in an official statement. And a Tory, too. My, my.
Forward to today, and... oh, for crying out loud.
Since when is five years and one month a special, significant, momentous anniversary? Anyone celebrate their five-years-and-a-month wedding anniversary? Anyone mourn the five-years-and-a-month anniversary of the death of a loved one? Anyone remember their five-years-and-a-month birthday party? Anyone?
The incident occurred exactly five years and one month after terrorists flew two planes into New York's World Trade Center, bringing down its landmark twin towers.
In other words, the incident occurred on the eleventh. Of a month. So fucking what? Is every minor disaster that occurs on the eleventh of some month or other going to be given this stupid coverage from now on?
Yes, of course people were reminded of 9/11 because a plane hit a building in New York. That's a genuine parallel worth reporting on, obviously. Had it occurred on the eleventh of September, again, it'd be stupid not to mention it, even if it were mere coincidence. But the eleventh of any other month is not worth mentioning. We have eleven of them every year, and stuff happens on those days. Get over it.
And what's so special about a month, anyway? Are months really more significant than weeks? What if this had happened on, say, the 18th of September? Would it have been reported as "exactly five years and one week after terrorists flew two planes into New York's World Trade Center, bringing down its landmark twin towers"? Probably, sadly, yes.
So, to recap, any disaster that could possibly look a bit like a terrorist attack and occurs on the eleventh or twenty-fifth of any month, the first or eighth of January, February, April, June, August, September, or November, the second or ninth of May, July, October, or December, or the fourth or (in a leap year) the third of March, is likely to be reported as some sort of significant anniversary of 9/11, and therefore scarier than if it had happened on the dull old nineteenth of June.
All because of an attack by people who use a different calendar.
Monday, October 9
So anyway. The Gauntlet is a seriously good film — strangely little known for one of the great Eastwood films. So I was interested to hear that a remake was underway. And then I heard the big idea behind it: instead of having to get a witness safely across a couple of states while the mob and the entire police department try to kill them both, the hero was only going to have to go sixteen blocks. That seemed to me like a very nice idea: concentrate and intensify the action. Bruce Willis playing the Eastwood role — another good idea. This film was elbowing its way to the top of my must-see list. And then I discovered that Richard Donner was directing. Hmm.
It's not that Richard Donner's a bad director. He's made some very good films. But he's made some dodgy films, too. And, even in his good films, he has this penchant for conveying action and excitement by getting the whole cast to shout at each other at once. It kind of works in the Lethal Weapon films, but combine it with high-pitched voices — as in The Goonies — and you get a noise that never fails to induce a migraine. And the Lethal Weapon films, though great fun, are kind of frivolous — not a tone that suits The Gauntlet. He likes a bit of silliness, a bit of slapstick. On the other hand, he's great at conveying camaraderie, making actors really seem like they're the best of friends, and he prefers a good honest explosion and a squad of stuntmen to CGI any day. So he might have been right for this film. And might have been quite disastrously wrong.
So I bought it. And it was a great relief and pleasant surprise to me to discover that 16 Blocks is by far the greatest film of Richard Donner's career.
I just cannot fault this. Willis gives an astounding performance as the washed-up alcoholic cop: looking totally hungover most of the time, then occasionally flashing into bright-eyed alertness, like his younger self is fighting to get out. David Morse is as good as ever, if not better, completely underplaying his character's menace to seem like a genuinely reasonable guy. Mos Def, who up till now I'd only known as a rapper, is excellent too. The script is superb: it takes the essence of the original and retells the story on its own terms, coming up with new motivations for the characters, a different back story, and a better ending — the weak ending being the only real problem with The Gauntlet. And the direction is perfect: the photography's beautiful, the pacing and tension are just right, and Donner hasn't asked his actors to conduct half their conversations shouting over gunfire — in fact, everyone's very quiet most of the time. I cannot think of any way in which this film could be any better.
Donner could, though. The DVD includes the alternative ending that they shot but didn't use, providing an object lesson in how people capable of true excellence are often incapable of quality control. Donner and Richard Wenk, the screenwriter, introduce it by explaining that the ending in the film is what was in the script, but that, while shooting, they saw an opportunity to improve the ending, offering, they say, more empathy. Empathy? The alternative ending, in the space of a few seconds, turns Morse's character from a thoroughly believable bad guy into a silly plot-driven caricature, turns the ending from a beautiful bit of understated realism into an over-the-top cartoon, and is not even as well shot. Looks like it took some disgruntled preview audiences or pushy producers to tell these guys to stick with the work of genius and ditch the poorly-thought-out hackery. Funny old world.
In short, watch this film. If you didn't already, six months ago.
So it's nice to see this example of climatologists using some seriously impressive science to get some proper results:
A team at the Danish National Space Center has discovered how cosmic rays from exploding stars can help to make clouds in the atmosphere. The results support the theory that cosmic rays influence Earth's climate.
The experiment called SKY (Danish for "cloud") took place in a large reaction chamber which contained a mixture of gases at realistic concentrations to imitate the chemistry of the lower atmosphere.
Ultraviolet lamps mimicked the action of the Sun's rays. During experimental runs, instruments traced the chemical action of the penetrating cosmic rays in the reaction chamber.
The data revealed that electrons released by cosmic rays act as catalysts, which significantly accelerate the formation of stable, ultra-small clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules which are building blocks for the cloud condensation nuclei. A vast numbers of such microscopic droplets appeared, floating in the air in the reaction chamber.
"We were amazed by the speed and efficiency with which the electrons do their work of creating the building blocks for the cloud condensation nuclei," says team leader Henrik Svensmark, who is Director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research within the Danish National Space Center. "This is a completely new result within climate science."
Now, this result is going to get jumped all over by some very enthusiastic people who think that global warming is complete bollocks but know very little about science. I'm not one of them. This is a very new result, and it would therefore be foolish to go drawing too many conclusions from it. For all we know, for various reasons that no-one has even thought of investigating yet, this makes it even more likely that man is catastrophically heating the Earth and needs drastic action to save future generations. (For the record, my main disagreement with the global-warming crowd is over what that drastic action, if it prove necessary, should be.)
No, I'm drawing attention to this news for two reasons.
Firstly, we now know for a fact that every single climate model ever developed, from the basic ones to the very best of the best, omitted a major and significant piece of information about what shapes our climate. It was omitted simply because no-one knew it. It would be very surprising indeed if more scientific discoveries about what affects our climate aren't made in the next century. That doesn't mean that there is no point in using computer models in science — they are very useful indeed. But it does remind us of how rash it is to make a prediction of the future based on a model of a system that we do not fully understand. This isn't a criticism just of the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming, either: all those climate models that showed that the Earth was cooling down, that it was staying the same temperature, that it was warming up but not because of man... all those models are now every bit as obsolete as the ones which blamed America for plunging us all into a fiery death, or something.
Secondly, this is a great example of a proper climatology experiment. What's happened here is that a group of scientists have discovered what happens when the gases of the lower atmosphere interact with ultraviolet light and electrons, and they can be confident that they're right because the way they did it was to take the gases of the lower atmosphere, some ultraviolet light, some electrons, and mix them all up and watch to see what happened. And here's a thing: we know enough about electrons to model them accurately, we know enough about the various gases in the atmosphere to model them accurately, and we know enough about light to model it accurately, yet no-one got this result from a mathematical model. In fact, if this result had come from a model, it would still be regarded, quite rightly, as a hypothesis, albeit one with a little more evidence in its favour; it is only once the result has actually been replicated in reality — as it has — that it attains the exalted status of fact.
Over the years, climatologists have often used similarly robust methods to develop the theories behind global warming — how do you think we know that carbon dioxide contributes to the Greenhouse Effect? — and those theories are generally solid and sound. At other times, climatologists have used computer models to make predictions about what will happen a hundred or more years in the future. There is a reason why some of us place a lot more trust in the former and cynicism in the latter, and that reason, thank you very much, is not ignorance of climatology, ignorance of computer modelling, or ignorance of science itself. On the contrary, it is scientific ignorance that leads the general public to give both types of result the same weight.