Monday, 28 November 2011

Burzynski Clinic

A young guy called Rhys Morgan is being threatened by lawyers for publishing a blog questioning the effectiveness of the treatments at the Burzynski Clinic in Houston, Texas. He is still at school, yet he has constructed a really well thought out critique of the clinic and has then responded to some fairly daunting legal threats.

You can read his blog and see the responses to it here - Rhys Morgan on the Burzynski Clinic

It is a really inspiring read.

Update - There is another post on the same subject here - another Burzynski blogger receives legal threats. Hopefully the increased activity and interest in this will mean that people become more aware of what the facts are. It is horrible that desperate people who are impacted by the terminal illness of a loved one are putting huge amounts of money into paying for treatments that are not proven to to have any effectiveness. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Youth Unemployment

Figures published today show that unemployment in the 16 - 24 year old age bracket hit a record high of over one million.

Whilst I am sure that there are lots of people out there who are trying quite hard to get jobs, I am also sure that attitudes have changed meaning that this is not a top priority for some despite what may be said.

I live with someone in that age category who does not work. Do they spend every hour of the day looking for a job? No. Do they look at job search web sites before looking at Facebook? No. Do they  look at job search sites at all? No. Do they still manage to eat out, smoke, drink and go out with his mates? Yes. I know this isn't a popular view, but life without a job is too easy and there is no driver to actually get a job. 

If you go to a hotel in the UK then the chances are that a fair number of the employees will be Eastern European. Is this because the jobs in hotels are seen as being too demeaning for a local young adult to do? Maybe the thought process is that I can get food, lodging and money from my parents and the state (i.e. tax payer) so why would I want to get up early each day and clean hotel bathrooms? How many builders and labourers are from Eastern Europe also? Again, could this be that getting up early and doing some hard, physical graft in the cold and wet is less appealing that the alternative of not working?

We really need to change attitudes. By supporting a young adult who does not work you are simply not providing the impetus to get a job. Only by making getting a job (any job) more palatable than sitting at home pissing about on Facebook will things start to change.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Scumbag Ambulance Chasing Lawyers

I just discovered one of the reasons that insurance costs continue to rise.

A few weeks ago someone drove into the back of my shiny new car. It was a reasonably low speed shunt but caused a reasonable amount of damage. Yesterday received a call from a company asking if me or any passengers had experienced 'injury or discomfort' since the accident and wanted to go after the other driver for damages and compensation. On asking how they got my details I was told that the insurance company, the hire company or the repairer would have passed them on. Since I have no injuries (other than almost having a coronary at the thought of a careless driver spoiling my shiny new XF) I told them to go away. So, it looks like someone in the claim process is involving ambulance chasing lawyers who will then encourage people to make spurious injury claims. And the people who pay for this are the other road users who fund the cost through their insurance premiums.

This matter has been debated widely and you can get a flavour of it below
Jack Straw outlines his Bill to crack down on referral fees

The Motor Insurance Regulation Bill will be introduced on 20 January 2012.
The five provisions tabled in the motion are - to make it unlawful and a criminal offence to solicit, offer, or pay referral fees relating to a personal injury traffic claim; to introduce objective evidence for whiplash claims; to half the MoJ fixed fee for road traffic claims pursued through the portal;to prohibit insurers from isolating risk on the basis of a geographic area smaller than a region; and to bring forward certain provisions in Data Protection Act.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said: "Jack Straw is deluded if he thinks a lawyer could possibly give advice to an injured person for the price of £100. In all cases the solicitor needs to talk to the client to understand the symptoms, and the impact of the injury on the client's life, as well as obtaining a medical report. These were the factors taken into account when fixed costs for road traffic accidents were agreed with the insurance industry only last year.
"Mr Straw should also be aware of the Association of British Insurers' own report of 2008. In Tackling Whiplash: Care, Prevention, Compensation it is said that "vehicle bodies have become stiffer since the late 1980s, increasing crashworthiness in high speed rear-end crashes. This helps reduce the incidence of serious injuries, but may increase the incidence of whiplash, due to higher relative transfer of energy in a crash."
It added: "Surely Mr Straw would not prefer to see a return to increased serious injuries? Of course fraud must be discouraged, and we support the Transport Select Committee's recommendation that insurers must take a lead in this. Insurers should be under a duty to inform claimant lawyers the minute that they have suspicions that a claimant is fraudulent. Fraud is crime and claimant lawyers are also on the front line. They can't help to fight it with their hands tied behind their backs."

As I see it, this is largely rubbish. The real problem arises because a company that makes money out of spurious injury claims got my number and then called me to encourage me to claim. If I had been slightly more thick/desperate then I would have been tempted to make up an injury, and I'm sure that the scumbag, ambulance chasing company who called me would have encouraged it.

So, the sooner that it becomes illegal for anyone to pass my details or for them to solicit for claims the better.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Google - How to get information from one place to another without passing through the brain

I just read a Twitter post by the very smart Darren Ewing (follow him - he's an interesting guy!/sadknob ).
Do you "know" the answer? does not mean you can "google" it, fucking punk idiot kid retard. Anybody can google it fucking lazy idiot kid.

This reminded me of something that I used to say when I noticed that kids' homework had been copied from a piece of text that they had Googled. My mantra was that they had moved information from one place to another without it actually going through their brain. It is possible to put together an article without understanding half of what is written simply by Googling a subject and then copy and pasting the resultant text. At no point does that information pass through the 'writer's' brain.

Recently I looked at a review of the latest Harry Potter movie. Not because I give a rat's arse about Harry Potter, but because I was told that the review on a blog was an example of the author having created something. What I found was some original writing liberally sprinkled with passages that had been copied from other reviews. Googling the passages revealed that there are dozens of similar reviews out there all using the same words. While some of them are probably syndicated there are a whole lot more where the 'writer' is simply too lazy or too thick to write something original and containing something worthwhile. And, what do you do if you're too lazy or thick - you use Google. This reminds me of the quote - "Your work is both good and original. Unfortunately the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good...".

As an example, try Googling the following passage from the review that I read -
"Rickman is captivating in the role, with his droll, deadpan delivery that oozes condescending menace".
When I checked there were 2,350 occurrences of this phrase found by Google (I guess it'll be 2,351 now that I have wriitten this). So that is one original thought and a whole lot of copying.

Now, I love Google and I love the power of the internet, but only when used as a way to increase knowledge. If all that is happening is that one original thought is being plagiarised then we're doomed to degenerate into a society of lazy idiots.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Apple - Are they the new IBM?

It is very hard not to smile when reading that Apple have brought out a new version of their operating system (called Lion for some strange reason) which does not allow access to many Network Attached Storage devices. There are many plausible excuses for this, but at the end of the day Apple have changed the way that their OS does things and completely cocked up remote disk access in the process. I find it amusing because Apple enthusiasts generally give the impression that they consider Microsoft to be run by the devil and that they don't give a toss about the consumer. However, Microsoft have a great track record of backward compatibility. I am reasonably confident that I could run 10 year old programs on my new Win 7 box (whilst using my shiny new NAS drive for storage) without issues. But good old Apple have just made it impossible for some programs that were released last month to operate.

The real parallel here is with IBM. At one time they got so big and powerful that they could impose changes which impacted users' ability to use their old software with the latest versions of their OS's (how do you write the plural of OS?). I'm thinking of zOS where features just disappeared from one release to the next.

I'm no lover of Microsoft, but I would be REALLY PISSED OFF if I had just updated my OS only to find that it wouldn't now play with my networked drives. So, please allow me to feel slightly smug while Apple attempt to explain why it is everyone else's fault that their new OS means that lots of software just stopped working.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Scumbag Journalists

There has been much written about the unfolding story of the News of The World journalists hacking phones. There has been much written that makes a lot of sense, and lots of it has come from real journalists who are appalled at being tarred with the same brush as the tossers who thought that the depths that they stooped to were acceptable.

I also think that part of the problem is that 'journalism' now encompasses writing rubbish about talent-less 'celebs'. And the arms race to get more and more salacious content has led these journos to push the boundaries to a wholly unacceptable level. Whilst I really couldn't give a monkey's about Katie Price, Cheryl Cole, et al you could argue that they're fair game because they court the media and need to be in the papers to sustain their 'careers'. 

It is when these same tactics are applied to people who have not asked to be scrutinised that the issues occur. Again, some deserve it. I'm all for intruding into the private life of MPs who defrauded the tax payer over their expenses, but not the majority of MPs and other public servants who are doing no wrong and are doing the best that they can.    

The most shocking examples of the NOTW hacking is where it was used against people who are thrust into the public's consciousness simply through a horrible bit of bad luck (the Dowlers, the 7/7 victims, etc.). There can be no public good in prying into the private affairs of any of these people.

Hopefully the British pubic will start to realise what a monster they have created and start to reject the comics (NOTW, The Mail, The Sun, etc, etc) who have got information illegally and who serve no useful purpose.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Bloody Politicians

So, Ed Miliband was asked for his view on yesterday's public sector strikes and made a complete arse of himself in the interview. This is despite the fact that he was heavily directed and coached by his media handlers. The interview can be seen here on the BBC News site -

I wish that he could be clearer, but I get the impression that he's saying that strikes are wrong while negotiations are ongoing and that the government has been reckless and provocative but I'm not entirely sure.

Damon Green of ITV conducted the interview. His comments on the whole episode can be found here -
I have copied them (below) just in case they disappear from this link  ;-)
Damon's story -  

"To a TV reporter, political PRs can seem incredibly fussy, often to the point where it takes vast tact and patience not to pick them up bodily and hurl them off the nearest tall building with a joyful shout. Common sense, they say: you could be laying a trap, hiding a loaded question, trying to make us look silly. But occasionally a politician needs no help at all to look silly. And that is how it turned out with Ed Miliband yesterday.
Buggins’ turn for me was a round of interviews at Westminster, hoovering up political reaction to the public sector strikes. Ministers drift like smoke around the corridors of 4, Millbank where the broadcasters have their offices, and you grab them on the stairs or the landing. We found Francis Maude and he said his piece obligingly, but we had to be quick: at nine was a sit-down interview with Ed at his office in Portcullis House and we scampered across to find him. The interview was a `pool’ arrangement - to be shared by the three main broadcasters to save time and resources - and I’d been named to do it for ITV News.
There is an etiquette involved in pooling, which everyone understands. Ask the obvious question, and get the obvious answer. Don’t try to be too clever or esoteric, either with your questioning or your camerawork. Make sure the material is usable by everyone (reporters: stay out of shot) and relay it as soon as the interview is done.
To me it seemed simple enough. But I hadn’t bargained with the team of three handlers waiting for me in the Opposition Leader’s office.
They demand control of the interview location. Well… OK, we are in Ed’s office, fair enough. They want him in front of his bookcase, with his family photos over his left shoulder. Er… sure, is he going to be long? We are running late.
It isn’t that unusual for political PRs to demand control over the composition of an interview shot. I gather that David Cameron’s people will never let him be filmed in front of anything expensive, or ornate, or strikingly Etonian. But it isn’t until our shot has been checked by all three press officers – all peering into our viewfinder and offering helpful advice about framing and depth of field (a term they turned out not to understand, as my cameraman Peter Lloyd-Williams triumphantly established) that we turn to the topic: `What questions are you going to ask?’
I hate being asked that. Partly, because it is none of their business. But mostly, if I am honest, because I don’t really know. I don’t have an interview `technique’, and this lack of technique has been honed constantly since my earliest days of not using it at the Bermondsey News. Its absence never troubled me until yesterday. You see, getting a `grab’ for a television report is a simple enough business. You say the first thing that comes into your head. The interviewee responds with the first thing that comes into his head. And you take it from there. Almost like, well, a conversation.
But when your interviewee has only one answer, and repeats it back to you whatever you say, things go downhill very fast.

Ed Miliband thinks that the strikes are wrong at a time when negotiations are still underway. The government has acted in a reckless and provocative manner, but it is time for both sides to set aside the rhetoric and get around the negotiating table and stop this from happening again.

I know this because he told me six times. His PR must have known that was what he was going to do. And yet he still went through a convincing charade of pressing me on my line of interrogation, urging me to keep my questions brief, and even – this was a macabre touch – placing a voice recorder on the table beside me as a kind of warning not to try and misquote his boss.
As it turned out, the first take was drowned out by a passing siren on the Embankment, but seemed like a thoughtful and precise position for a Labour leader to take. Clear in his condemnation, hopeful of a negotiated settlement. Not partisan, but engaged. Detached, but not aloof.
The second time it seemed like a less original statement. The strikes are wrong… the rhetoric has gone too far… parents across the country…But then, I’d heard it before and it was useful to have a clean version, unspoiled by a siren.

The third time… the third time I was struggling a little bit. I’d asked him how his opposition to the strikes fitted with his position as leader of the Labour movement. I thought it was quite a clever question. Silly me. The strikes were wrong at a time when negotiations were still underway. The government had acted recklessly. It was time for rhetoric to be set aside.
Some reporters like to have their questions written on a piece of paper, and tick them off one by one as they are asked. It’s something I’ve never done, but at this moment I wished fervently that I had a piece of paper in my hand, just to give me something to look at, and scratch away thoughtfully just buy some time.
I asked another question. Something about Francis Maude, and his tone of conciliation. Not very good, I know, but the best I could manage. Get him to say something about Francis Maude, I was thinking… his hairstyle, his glasses, the way he peers over the top of them as he drones on, anything, just stop already with the strikes are wrong while negotiations are underway, and the rhetoric has got out of hand…
I’m not sure what I asked next. Frankly I was in danger of losing it. On my own, with the eyes of Ed Miliband and his three handlers boring into me but apparently oblivious of my presence, I was getting twinges of what I can only describe as existential doubt. So I said some words. And Ed told me that the strikes were wrong, and the rhetoric was out of hand, and both sides needed to sit down…
That was the worst one, I think.
If news reporters and cameras are only there to be used by politicians as recording devices for their scripted soundbites, at best that is a professional discourtesy. At worst, if we are not allowed to explore and examine a politician’s views, then politicians cease to be accountable in the most obvious way. So the fact that the unedited interview has found its way onto YouTube in all its absurdity, to be laughed at along with all the clips of cats falling off sofas, is perfectly proper.
Afterwards, I was overcome with a feeling of shame. I couldn’t look him in the eye.
But before I dried up completely, and had to be led out of Westminster with my mouth opening and shutting, I had an opportunity to ask one last question. I had an urge to say something so stupid, so flippant that he would either have to answer it, or get up and leave. `What is the world’s fastest fish?’ `Can your dog do tricks?’ `Which is your favourite dinosaur?’ But, of course, this was a pool interview, and I had no wish to feed out the end of my television career to Sky and the BBC.
I realise now, of course, the perfect question to ask, to embarrass him and to keep my job. I should have asked was whether the strikes were wrong, whether the rhetoric had got out of hand, and whether it was time for both sides to get round the negotiating table before it happened again.
Because that was the only answer I ever got."
Where is Malcolm Tucker when you need him?
What I think this does show is the total contempt that many / some / all politicians have for the electorate. Sure, a proportion of the electorate is as thick as shit, and some are just interested in personality politics, but wouldn't a great tactic be to actually engage in real dialogue and to show that there is a bit of originality and intellect behind the media sound bites? Instead we get treated like a bunch of idiots by someone who is hoping to get our mandate to run things on our behalf. If I didn't recognise his face I would swear that the whole episode was something from 'The Think of It' - I almost expected Malcolm Tucker to burst in afterwards and explode.

Whilst it is clearly right to ridicule Miliband for this episode (he is the boss after all), I guess we should also feel sorry for him. We should feel sorry that he was allowed to make a complete dick of himself by a bunch of (hopefully soon to be unemployed) media advisers who are so inept and out of touch that they actively steered him into doing this. Hopefully they all got the bollocking that they deserve and hopefully politicians will learn that real debate (or at least real conversation) is a good thing.

And we never did get to find out whether his dog can do tricks, but I suspect that that would be wrong at a time when negotiations were underway, blah, blah, blah, blah.