Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Bald Facts

A wise Irishman once said:

"A hair on the head is worth two on the brush".
I haven't made it public until now that the great Son of Groucho is marginally thin on top!

However, help may eventually be at hand. Boffins at Johns Hopkins University in the USA have managed to regrow fur on bald mice by correcting a gene mutation. From the article on the BBC Health website it sounds as if application of the new findings in humans might be too late for my increasingly feeble follicles, I'm afraid!

My other favourite hair-related quotation is actually from George Burns. I noticed it in the local salon when they were attempting to cut my flowing locks without increasing my risk of hypothermia too much. It read:
"Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

E-nose You Know

It seems that scientists have developed an “electronic nose”, or “e-nose” to detect the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. This is important because drug-resistant strains of the bug (MRSA) are an increasing public health problem. The e-nose is not exactly pocket-sized, being the size of two desktop pc’s, and it’s not cheap (yours for £60,000!), but it is quick (15 minutes). The device can’t yet distinguish between ordinary Staph aureus and its drug-resistant variant, but it is a useful screening test for infection with the bacterium.

I note that the food industry uses similar machines to root out rotten ingredients. With the well recognised tendency for these electronic gadgets to get smaller and cheaper, I wonder if parents could eventually use an e-nose to detect hidden malodorous socks, forgotten half-eaten pot noodles, and other detritus in their teenagers’ bedrooms?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Now We Are One....

Well I never thought this day would arrive: I have now been blogging for one whole year! Although I appear to have regressed recently in evolutionary terms from a Crawly Amphibian to a Flippery Fish in the TTLB Ecosystem, I did manage to cross the 6,000 visit barrier by my first year, so I'm reasonably encouraged!

I still am not sure why I do it, though! Over the past 12 months I've come across a few blogs that have bitten the dust, and I've also seen the situation where bloggers threaten to give up, but have their spirits raised by their erstwhile silent fan base, gird their loins and carry on. I'm sometimes tempted to threaten to pack it in, but I think if I did suggest it, and it became apparent that nobody out there cared one way or the other, it would be too savage a blow for my fragile ego to withstand!

And so for now I'll carry on. I'm sure the birthday cards are in the post....

Monday, September 26, 2005

Is It Kosher?

Regular readers (You Know Who You Are) will be aware of the fact that I'm not a religious sort of guy. It may surprise you, therefore, to discover that one of my best friends is a religious education teacher, and another converted to Judaism and moved to Israel. The second friend was in Glasgow a few months ago, and Wosog and I met up with him one evening. It was interesting to hear his point of view on the Palestinian situation, and to learn a bit about what his life in Israel was like. When I heard we were to meet in Glasgow, I immediately suggested that we went for a curry: only to be reminded that curries weren't Kosher!

At Easter we were in Rome and our hotel was near the Jewish Ghetto. When we're on holiday, partly out of laziness, if we find a restaurant that we really like we tend to go there several times. This time it was the Trattoria da Giggetto, which was a Kosher restaurant. The food was excellent, but I would never have know it was Kosher and the staff had no way of knowing if we were Jewish or not!

The basic details of Kosher food are given here, and I must say it all seems a bit complicated to me! I suppose if you live in a country where everyone is supposed to be eating only Kosher food it's a lot easier. I really don't think I could follow a religion that dominated my life to the extent of telling me how my food should be prepared, and what I was allowed to eat.

On a lighter note, have a look at (now that URL must have cost a pound or two!). I'm not sure what the food's like, but the animation's a hoot!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Home Alone....Or Not Quite

Wosog has gone with her two sisters and her mother to Barcelona for the holiday weekend (IE from Friday to Monday). Fortunately (?) this is my regular weekend working during the day for the local Out of Hours Service. One of the other GPs who I work with says that this is the start of a slippery slope. His wife once went on an outing to Edinburgh with friends while he was working. She now jets off regularly to various exotic locations while he is soldiering away "Puting Death and Disease to the Sword". Funnily enough, she's a teacher, like Wosog: it's easy to see why females tend to live longer than males!

Gdog is home briefly because she hasn't managed to get a job on Glasgow yet, and she is still working at one of the local supermarkets. I saw her briefly last night, and was surprised to find that she's supposedly staying in tonight (though I'll believe it when I see it). We might actually have some "quality time" together (to use the jargon).

Gsog has just got a job in the same supermarket as Gdog. It's only since he started his job that he seems to have noticed the hours that I work! He describes my hours as "insane", which I suppose compared to his 14 hour working week (over and above school) is a fair description.

All in all, the house seems helluva quiet!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is There A "Neurotics Anonymous"?

I decided to do the Advanced Global Personality Test at The rather depressing, but fairly accurate, results were summarised as follows:

"Stability results were moderately low which suggests you are worrying, insecure, emotional, and anxious.

Orderliness results were moderately high which suggests you are, at times, overly organized, reliable, neat, and hard working at the expense of flexibility, efficiency, spontaneity, and fun.

Extraversion results were moderately low which suggests you are reclusive, quiet, unassertive, and secretive."

As you might have guessed, Wosog's results were almost exactly the opposite!

How on Earth do I get through the day?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Great News For Music Fans?

It was with the some dismay that I read on the BBC site that rumours that Sir Cliff Richard was going to stop recording music were unfounded. I knew that the old duffer periodically ranted about the reluctance of radio stations to broadcast his efforts, and apparently on Tuesday he was quoted as saying he would not waste time on "a record that no-one will play". However, unfortunately, he seems to have had a change of heart since then!

Elsewhere on the site we find that Sir Cliff's new album will be released on 1st November, and features two collaborations with that other wizened old has-been Barry Gibb. Why can't these folk spend their twilight years frittering away their ill-gotten gains on fast cars and faster women? Their music was crap even when they were in their prime!

Haven't the listening public suffered enough?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The New Skates

Gsog's birthday is just before Christmas, but his skates always fall apart long before then, and the emotional blackmail to get his birthday money early begins. To be fair his most recent set of skates lasted longer than average, but the other week I was told that they were becoming unsafe. Various cracks in the frames were pointed out, with the subtext that no responsible parent, far less a medical man, would let his beloved offspring jump off various unlikely objects wearing such potentially lethal gear.

Two hundred and fifty of your English Pounds were dispatched to sunny Wales, and after a slight delay the high tech wellies on wheels arrived. Unfortunately, there was some difficulty attaching one of the frames to the boot, and, at further enormous expense, we had to send the offending boot back to Wales to be fixed! Gsog received the second boot yesterday, and plans to test drive the new beasts today.

I decided to upload a picture of one of the boots to Flickr with explanatory notes for the uninitiated. Some newly acquired Flickr friends chose to put their oar in as well. Thankfully the boy did see the funny side.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Life on the Ocean Wave

Just got back from a course in rural Argyll. The course was on intermediate care: a rather vague, but trendy, term that means different things to different people. Basically the principle is that GPs may become more involved in doing things that were traditionally done by secondary care doctors. The hope is that intermediate care may overcome the problems created by increasing centralisation of medical services for the significant slice of the Scottish population that are unfortunate enough (?) not to live on the doorstep of a large teaching hospital. One of the difficulties is deciding exactly which services GPs will be able, and willing, to provide on a long term basis. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and I will be exploring the subject further.

We had two free evenings, and on the second of these a GP colleague, whom I've known for years took me, and 3 other GPs, out in his yacht which is, I think, around 30 feet long. I've never really appreciated the attraction of sailing, but it was amazing how "away from it all" I felt even 30-60 minutes from casting off. We headed towards Jura and I took some pictures of the sunset as well as the "rib" of the course director, who joined us at one point. We came back in the dark and I was amazed how Patrick, with knowledge of the area going back over 20 years, safely threaded us between fish cages, boys, rocks and small islands on the way back to the marina. Maybe there really is something to this "life on the ocean wave" business!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Oh to be nineteen again!

Today is Gdog's 19th Birthday: God that makes me feel old!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Pick an number, any number....

Isn’t the Wikipedia amazing? Did you know that it even has entries on numbers as well as its numerous other topics. My attention was drawn to this by a link to 43 (number) on Why someone should choose to look this up far less save it as a bookmark is a mystery to me, but as of today 2 people have done so! I’m not sure if Wikipedia has entries on every number, and I’m not inclined to spend the day finding out.

Here, however, is the entry for 666 (number). I thought I would look this one up as I found it tattooed on Gsog’s neck just below the hairline….

Sunday, September 11, 2005

No thanks, Sunshine!

My regular reader knows that I have certain reservations about the European Union. This article details another example of attempts by the EU to impose The Nanny State. Apparently, there was a proposal that employers should be made responsible for their employees’ exposure to sunlight!

Opponents have pointed out that this legislation might have lead to barmaids avoiding wearing low cut blouses, which seemed, self-evidently, to be a bad thing. It might also have lead to builders wearing shirts (so what?), and covering their bum-cleavage: actually a good thing. Nobody appears to have considered the potentially disastrous effects on the pornography industry!

Fortunately, it appears that the proposal has been defeated, at least for now, and we hopefully won't have to live with the consequences of another wacky idea from Brussels. Reducing the increase in melanoma would be nice, but surely this falls into the area of individual responsibility? People who have higher occupational exposure should be educated about the effects of sunlight, and encouraged to take steps to reduce their exposure, but employers have enough red tape to grapple with without being held responsible for this as well.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Cushy Number

When I was a junior hospital doctor (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as Gsog would say) we worked ridiculously long hours, often while distinctly sleep-deprived. You would be involved in medical receiving, clerking in multiple admissions, have about 1 hour's "sleep"; have to take all the blood samples from the patients that you had admitted (phlebotomists hadn't been invented); then present them to the nicely rested consultant on the ward round. Surgical house jobs were not any better, and I well remember almost falling asleep standing up while assisting at an emergency cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal). Although these working conditions were deplorable and in some cases downright dangerous, they certainly made sure you knew what was happening to your patients: primarily because you rarely left them! There was also a definite camaraderie, a "war time spirit", engendered between juniors on the same team.

I was interested to read this article about how beneficial the reduction in junior doctors hours has been, and there is no doubt that, in many ways, it has been A GOOD THING. I think it is true, however, that continuity of care is less good with juniors working a shift system, and I don't think there is the same team spirit that we had in our day.

Old fogeys, like myself, tend to feel that juniors these days have a pretty cushy number compared with what we had in our day, but in general they don't seem any happier than we were!

Friday, September 09, 2005

There's Critics Out There!

I’ve been doing this strange business of blogging for almost a year now (look out for the Birthday Message on 27 September). I’m quite pleased with my apparent audience, as indicated by visits on Site Meter. I’ve managed to reach the lofty status of a Crawly Amphibian in the TTLB ecosystem, which is roughly half way up (or down, depending on how you look at it) the “food chain”.

Like many “jobbing bloggers” I don’t get as many comments as I would like, and the vast majority of those I do get are from a pair of fellow bloggers with whom I seem to have become friends without ever meeting either of them! As you might expect, these comments, and others from bloggers whose blogs I comment on from time to time, are universally positive and often much wittier than my posts.

I was, however, surprised recently to find a couple of rather irate comments from someone who clearly disagreed quite strongly with what I had written? Not being used to this scenario, I was somewhat taken aback. Why did this person apparently care what I wrote? How should I respond to his comments, which were not abusive, carefully argued, and indicated that he may know more about the subject I was writing about than I did?

In fact, the two posts concerned were primarily links to other sites rather than original statements made by me. The reader was effectively disappointed that I had “lowered the tone” of my site by agreeing with these other writers, and giving them publicity (however minor!).

In the end, I replied to the reader’s second comment saying that, at the end of the day, nobody forced him to read The Voice of Reason, but I did concede that he might have more extensive knowledge of the subject concerned than I. I suspect his political affiliations are quite different from mine! I have no intention of deleting the posts, but I won’t delete his comments either.

I am still intrigued that he cared enough to comment at all. Blogging: it’s a funny old game!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nothing gets in the way of shopping....

I note on Dr Menlo and elsewhere that Condoleezza Rice was spotted recently shopping for expensive shoes in New York while hundreds of her fellow Americans were basically fighting for their very existence in New Orleans.

A shopper was so incensed by the insensitivity of this that she berated the no-doubt stunned Secretary of State. The latter had her ejected from the shop!

That's the caring face of the Bush administration for you!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Healthy Lifestyle?

The headline read "Special K taking over from ecstasy among clubbers". How nice, I thought, those vibrant young people have turned their backs on mind-altering substances, and have taken instead to consumption of Kellogg's breakfast cereal (presumably to help in their calorie-controlled diets).

Imagine my surprise when I realised that the Special K in question was not the Kellogg's variety, but the anaesthetic drug ketamine? Effects of the latter include hallucinations, out-of-body and near-death experiences (!) as well as coma. Flash backs can occur a year after use and death can occur with 1 g of the drug. Now doesn't that sound like the basis of a good night out?

Call me old fashioned if you like, but the propensity for these idiots to swallow potentially toxic substances with unpredictable effects supplied by shady little shysters never ceases to amaze me! What's wrong with a few pints of lager and a packet of crisps? It might not give you the same "high", but at least you can be fairly sure your brain will come through the experience unscathed.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Too Big for their Boots

A while ago I posted a link to a video called EPIC 2014 which detailed, in a rather apocalyptic way, how major Internet players (principally Google and Amazon) could theoretically come to dominate “news provision”, in the broadest sense, and put the traditional Fourth Estate (the Press) out of business.

I was interested to read a recent piece in The Onion that outlines a supposed plan by Google to destroy any information in the world that it couldn’t index! Obviously, this is satire, but it does illustrate the sense of paranoia that can be generated by the relentless rise in the influence of these large high tech companies in an increasingly interconnected world.

A taste of this, in the real world, is provided by the reaction of certain members of the website Flickr following the takeover by Yahoo! some time ago. The announcement that, as from next year, people who want to continue to be members of Flickr will need to use a Yahoo! Password seems to have generated all sorts of anxieties, as well as the formation of a Flickr Group called Flick off. The members of Flick off are apparently planning to resign from Flickr if the proposed changes go ahead. It’s not quite clear what these folk are frightened of, but there is certainly a more generalised feeling in the “Flickr Community” that the takeover by Yahoo! may eventually destroy the ethos of the site.

Obviously Yahoo! wants to capitalise on the phenomenal success of Flickr, but making the site too big, many members seem to feel, runs the risk of destroying the very reason for its success.

As I’ve commented before, if these Internet Giants are not careful they run the risk of becoming as unpopular as Microsoft!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Photographs

I found the link to this collection of photographs on Bifurcated Rivets. They really give some feeling for the scale of the disaster and the awful human consequences....

Friday, September 02, 2005

Tourist Class

Cheap air flights are all very well, but unfortunately lower prices mean that one increasingly encounters, well it must be said, riff-raff on one's travels. Fortunately, technology is at hand to provide products that make sharing a plane with the proles bearable.

First we have the Ultra-mini air supply. This ingenious device ensures that no matter how malodorous your travelling companions are, your air supply has "substantially reduced" germs and odours.

A visit to the loo is probably unavoidable on a long haul flight. If this proves to be the case we recommend toting a large box of "wet wipes" in your hand luggage. However, what about the possibility that some unrefined oaf without the benefit of a private education has been sitting in your seat on the aircraft before you come to occupy it? Enter the SeatWrap All-Inclusive! This fabulous product totally prevents contamination of one's designer gear by unsanitary substances deposited by The Great Unwashed.

So there you are, inexpensive air travel can be a viable option for the posh as well as the poor! Isn't that a relief?

UPDATE: It appears that some of my readers have felt that the above implied a certain degree of elitism on my part. Most of the posts on this blog are supposed to be humorous. A few are supposed to be serious. Here's a clue: this is not one of the serious ones....

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Jokes From The Fringe

Sorry to steal from Gordon McLean again, but he has some excellent jokes from The Edinburgh Fringe on his site.

My personal favourite (from Colin & Fergus at The Pleasance) is

"The dodo died. Then Dodi died, Di died and Dando died....Dido must be sh*tting herself"
----clever, but admittedly in very poor taste!