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This Blogging Month: February

Another exciting blog update bulletin – this time for February.

First, the stats. I surpassed four hundred posts this month, which could be either exciting or depressing – I can’t decide which! I’ve had more hits and more unique visiters this month than ever before, so it really is a record-breaking month. I’ve had visitors from sixteen different countries, as diverse as Japan, Australia, Israel, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The most popular post (according to the number of hits on the individual post parge) was my little observation about political party websites. Advertising and Amazon referrals have performed strongly this month, with a 29% profit over and above the cost of maintaining the site.

Now for what’s happened this month. First and foremost, I’ve had a major software upgrade. I’m still using WordPress, but I braved the upgrade to version 1.5. This creates no inherent changes to the ‘look’ of the site, but it means I can do a lot more behind the scenes – for example, you should notice that the ‘Beyond the Blog’ pages are now much more closely integrated with the main site.

In terms of changes that I’ve made to the look of the site, you’ll have noticed that we now have bilateral sidebars, which allow for easy access to more content, with the useful side effect (pun intended) of shortening the post line length slightly and thus (theoretically) making it easier to read. I’ve also tweaked the header bar, so that the design is slightly less abstract, which has also led to the colour scheme having the tiniest of tweaks. The picture in the header bar will probably be updated as time goes by, to keep the site design looking fresh without it looking disorientatingly different.

I’ve added a whole load of new links, including ones to lots of my favourite sites; I’ll be trying to add to these regularly.

I have made feeds of each post category available individually – just click the ‘RSS’ after the category name, and a count of the number of posts in each month or category has now been added next to the link as well. As with the individual post comment feeds, category feeds are only available in RSS 2.0 format; the whole site feed will continue to be made available in RSS 1.0 and Atom formats, in addition to RSS 2.0.

The MakePovertyHistory white band has been added to the site – see this post for more information on that, and so has the Red Nose Day button (see here).

In preparation for the upcoming General Election, you can now access all Election posts via a special page at sjhoward.co.uk/election2005. An RSS feed exclusively for election news is now available. You can also find a new Tsunami retrospective page (‘retrospective’ seems a poor choice of word, given the on-going crisis and potential for new posts, but I don’t know what else to call it) at sjhoward.co.uk/tsunami2004. You can find links to both of these new specials under ‘Special Coverage’ in the sidebar.

The Search function has been vastly improved, so that it outputs proper results instead of just a page of posts containing your selected term – unless, of course, only one post contains your terms, in which case you’ll be taken directly to it.

My Medical School work has been cut from the site this month – for more details as to why, please refer to the relevant page.

Finally, you should also find that using File -> Print on your browser now works properly again, too, instead of including the left-hand sidebar.

And that was February.

This post was filed under: Site Updates.

Email blunder sends AIDS patients’ names to 800 staff

The government would like to know why some doctors are not keen on the idea of computerising medical records. Here’s a good example of why they are less than happy.

This post was filed under: Technology.

Fathers group in Downing St stunt

It is exactly this sort of thing that makes me uncomfortable with the idea of the proposed new terror legislation. The security services could detect that they were planning to ‘attack’ the foreign office, but clearly would not have the necessary proof of this being a destructive attack. Without the burden of proof being upon them, the police could have then placed these men under house arrest, without trial, and not even telling them why this measure has been taken. This would have a huge psycholigcal impact on the individual and their family, and would, now we know the full facts, have been completely unjust.

And this news is too conveniently timed for most people. They tend to think that Mr Blair has annoucned this because there’s an election round the corner. Which is either a reflection of the cynicism people feel towards the Blair government due to their extensive spinning in the past, or just a true reflection of a dishonest and deceitful government. Either way, they shouldn’t be elected again this time round.

This post was filed under: Election 2005, News and Comment.

Snow hits the East Coast

My 400th post. That is incredibly scary. How have I ever found the time to write all this junk?

Anyway, here are some pictures from Ian Britton’s blog of this place I call my second home (Stockton) in the snow, as it was last Sunday. When I was trying to drive here. Which consequently took much, much longer than usual. Lucky me.

Well, it was something a little bit different for the big 400.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.


Richard Ingrams:

I pointed out last week how Mr Blair had been publicly humiliated when he appeared on Channel 5 to answer questions from members of the public. One young man asked him how, in view of all the disastrous consequences of the Iraqi invasion, including thousands of deaths, he was able to sleep at night.

My colleague Andrew Rawnsley, however, saw it in a different light. Was it not possible, he asked, that Blair’s humiliation was something that had been deliberately encouraged by Alastair Campbell and his fellow spin doctors? The idea would be that the public, when seeing the Prime Minister under fire from all quarters, would feel sympathy welling up and thus be more likely to vote Labour come the general election than they were before.

An interesting theory, but I doubt this is the case. People want a strong leader who can stand the heat, not someone who looks, as Kirsty pointed out, like he’s being tortured. Still, I’m no political strategist, and who can say what Campbell and Co are up too?

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Family’s hell at bird flu deathbed

Nguyen Thi Ngoan grasps the surgical mask closer to her mouth, stifling a sob. In a nearby hospital bed, behind a door marked ‘quarantine’, her younger brother lies prostrate, his feet curled up in agony as he struggles for breath. The only thing keeping him alive is the hose leading from his mouth to a ventilator.

‘The doctors told us he had bird flu on Friday,’ Thi said yesterday. ‘We are really scared because we know it is a very serious disease. He has pains in his chest and his back. Every now and then he asks me to give him a massage. We are praying he will recover.’

Unfortunately, doctors in Hanoi’s tropical diseases institute do not expect Sy Tuan, 21 – the eighteenth person to be infected with the deadly bird flu virus in Vietnam this year – to live through the weekend.

That is not the worst of it, however. In the bed beside him, observing his death throes, lies his 14-year-old sister, Nhung. The day after he was transferred to Hanoi from a hospital near their home in Thaih Binh province, 100 miles south-east of the capital, she succumbed to a high fever and has joined him in quarantine.

Now imagine this millions of times over. Only the hospital services won’t be able to cope, so people will be dying at home, struggling in agony for their last breaths without the aid of a ventilator.

It’s a horrific image, but if (when?) the next bird ‘flu pandemic hits, it could well become reality. And it’s looking increasingly likely that it may happen sooner rather than later.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Blair is election liability, warn Labour aides

Tony Blair risks becoming an electoral liability, according to government ministers as the Prime Minister faces fresh accusations that his ‘presidential style’ is starting to affect Labour’s support.

If it’s taken them this long to work it out, I rather suggest that Mr Blair should get some new aides.

Another Blairite minister admitted he had been taken aback by the hostility to the leader on the doorsteps: ‘There are people shouting “if you get rid of Blair we’ll vote Labour”, although I think a lot of that is bluff.’

They were surprised at this? Have they no idea whatsoever about what’s going on in this country? Tony Blair is deeply unpopular with many, many people.

‘Is Tony less popular than he was eight years ago? … yes. Does that mean he’s no longer an asset? No, he remains a huge asset.’

This ‘senior strategist’ has completely lost his or her marbles if they think that Mr Blair is an assest through his popularity. There are precious few people who like Mr Blair (though I admit there are still some). But he is, by no means, a ‘huge asset’ to his party. If Gordon Brown were currently at the helm, as I’ve said before, the Labour party would win the next election with a huge majority. But it’s a bit late, now.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Church objects to TV royal wedding

It has been agreed that the civil ceremony, to be held in the Guildhall at Windsor, will not be broadcast. Informed sources conceded this weekend the prospect of live or recorded coverage of the St George’s service was no better than “50-50”.

This is a mistake. If the service is not shown on television for all to see, then the public will never accept it, and Camilla will never become Queen, no matter how much Charles might want it. Unless we can actually see the romantic wedding, and have the library footage there to dig out at every given opportunity, we’ll never be able to get used to the idea of them as a married couple, no matter how many events they appear at as such.

I can understand the thinking behind not broadcasting the civil ceremony, and I have no problem with that, but the blessing should be a way round that – it should be the fairytale, fluffy, romantic bit of the day that we all remember. A royal wedding which is not shown on TV will scarcely be a wedding at all in the eyes of the public.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

End of the road for Little Chef

FOR nearly 50 years the tubby, smiling figure on its signs has held out the promise of fry-ups for motorists. But Little Chef, the roadside restaurant chain, may be about to hang up its famous white hat.

The chain, once part of Sir Rocco Forte’s hotel and catering empire, is being broken up and the brand name seems likely to disappear forever.

This seems a shame, but it all went that little bit gross when they started using microwave food instead of actually cooking. And it was never exactly cheap, and they rarely had what you wanted. I always preferred Burger King anyway…

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

The classroom revolution is now a reality – all 360 degrees of it

An interesting idea, but – and I may just be a cynic – wouldn’t the kids get bored and just start using the desks-on-wheels as bumper cars? And don’t moveable desks give disruptive pupils more freedom to disrupt, as well as teachers more freedom to teach? And doesn’t constant group work mean that everybody must move at the same pace, with the brightest getting bored and the slower pupils getting left behind?

I’m all for modern new teaching ideas, and if this one is working then we should go for it. But I’ll be more interested in how it’s all working out after the novelty has worn off.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

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