About me

Get new posts by email.

About me

Hospital to treat pets to reduce debts?

From the Press Association:

A cash-strapped hospital could open its doors to dogs and cats in a bid to raise extra funds, it has emerged.

Ipswich Hospital is proposing to use its state-of-the-art radiotherapy equipment, which lies dormant at weekends, to treat family pets with cancer at special Saturday morning clinics.

It’s like something from The Thick of It. When the NHS is so cash-strapped that hospitals are thinking of treating animals, things aren’t going well. Why do I suspect the hand of Mad Pat in this? Just to remind you, other proposals she’s come up with include closing unpopular hospital departments, making those who spread MRSA face criminal charges, announcing that the doubling of NHS debt means the financial crisis is “stabilising”, and, perhaps most famously, announcing that this year was the NHS’s “best year ever”. Compared to those gaffes, suggesting that NHS hospitals start treating pets seems relatively sane.

How is this woman still in her job?

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

Torture or interrogation?

Essential reading, part one:

Dick Cheney, US vice-president, has endorsed the use of “water boarding” for terror suspects and confirmed that the controversial interrogation technique was used on Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the senior al-Qaeda operative now being held at Guantánamo Bay… Mr Cheney was responding to a conservative radio interviewer who asked whether water boarding, which involves simulated drowning, was a “no-brainer” if the information it yielded would save American lives. “It’s a no-brainer for me,” Mr Cheney replied.

Essential reading, part two:

The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt. According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in.

Essential viewing (disturbing scenes).

These sources certainly don’t show the USA as a flag-waving leader of the free world, ever going to new lengths to promote freedom. They look like the works of a barbaric mediaeval dictatorship. As they say, if it has feathers and quacks like a duck…

Waterboarding and other forms of torture should be outlawed. Full stop. Whether we call them torture or not is irrelevant – stop doing them. We might be suffering Jack Bauer syndrome, but we should stop taking it out on others. It is unacceptable, and needs to stop now.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Can 12,000,000 people be wrong?

This spoof of Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” has been viewed over 12,000,000 times, according to Google Video… So maybe they can…

[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/shakira.flv” /]

This post was filed under: Video.

Funeral music… Top ten and my picks

The release of a top-ten chart of funeral music requests got me thinking morbid thoughts a few weeks ago. The top ten, for those who missed it, were:

1. Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt
2. Angels – Robbie Williams
3. I’ve Had the Time of My Life – Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley
4. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
5. Pie Jesu – Requiem
6. Candle in the Wind – Elton John
7. With or Without You – U2
8. Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
9. Every Breath You Take – The Police
10. Unchained Melody – Righteous Brothers

There’s not a one on that list that I’d want at my funeral. And it seems I’m not the only one. The blogging world has been abuzz with suggestions, from Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien and Always Look On The Bright Side of Life to Where Eagles Have Been and See You in the Next One.

But what would I want? Well, I’ve come up with a list of three. I know that’s pushing it a bit, but hey, it’s my funeral… It’s not as if I’m going to be too bothered if it drags on…

Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah:
It’s the defining death scene song of a generation – anybody who’s anybody in anything dies to this song, to the point where it’s almost a meaningless cliché. But it’s a nice song, and kinda sets the mood for a funeral, I think.

My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade:
Pushing the boundaries of acceptable funeral music… It’s a new release, so a new one to add onto the list (bumping Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars off, I think). It says everything I’d want to say I my own funeral – remember me for who I was and what I did in life, not for how I died – however that might be! And ‘carry on’ without me.

Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now:
It seems so appropriate… I think I’ve wanted this ever since Jonny Kennedy had it at his funeral, so I guess it’s a tribute to him in a way. It would serve as a reflection on a happy life I’d enjoyed living. And it’s kinda upbeat, which would be nice for the end of a funeral, I think. Leave people celebrating life, not dreading death.

So there you go. That’s a cheery thought and a half. Hopefully, I’ll have an awful lot of time to be rethinking and rejigging this list in the future…!

Oh, and I’ve probably broken a gazillion copyright laws in this post, so if any record company wants anything removed, feel free to get in touch. And then I’ll write to the Daily Mail and tell them that the big bad corporation wouldn’t even let me tell people what music I wanted at my funeral. Or maybe not.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

The Blair speech that should have been

[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/blair.flv” /]

Credit to rx2008

This post was filed under: Politics, Video.

Christmas Number One? Just for me?

Peter Andre and JordanSome are supporting The Hoff to become Christmas Number One – but I’m tipping Peter Andre and Jordan. Yep, the duo have recorded ‘A Whole New World’, from Disney’s Aladdin. Click on the play button if you’ve got four-and-a-half minutes to waste.


Now, if you’ve stopped listening at the Peter bit, you’ve finished too early. Keep listening. He might be cringeworthy, but at 1:11, she starts. Earplugs at the ready.

At the moment, it’s only destined to appear on an album of covers. But I beg of the producers, please release it!

This just has to be Christmas Number One.

Read the full story in the Australian Daily Telegraph.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

No longer a user of Writely

Up until yesterday, I was a very active user of Writely. This was no particularly for the collaboration aspect of the service, though that was occasionally handy, it was just for making academic notes, and having the convenience of being able to access and edit them, securely, both at home and at uni. I have occasionally been known to blog from the application. It’s a really useful service, and I find myself using Microsoft Word less and less (though Writely’s not nearly advanced enough to replace some of the more technical and involved Word documents).

But this morning, I woke up to find that I was no longer a Writely user. I’m now a user of Google Docs and Spreadsheets. All the same functionality is there (and, crucially, all of my documents), but it doesn’t look nearly so pretty now the Writely green has been removed – and the amount of screen space taken up by the toolbars has increased. There’s frankly odd changes, too, like the spell checker now highlighting incorrectly spelled words rather than using the familiar wiggly red line, and the fact that you’re no longer prompted for a document title when starting a new document. There’s nothing disastrously wrong with the new setup, but the interface feels like a bit of a retrograde step for some reason.

It’s not so bad that I’m switiching away. But it would have been nice if the new interface had been trialled in a Beta of some kind before being forced upon me, maybe offering both interfaces over a transitional period, or even if I’d been given some warning that this was going to happen in the first place. I realise this is Beta software and liable to change or disappear at any time, but I’m a demanding consumer and expect Beta software (especially from Google, where almost everything is Beta) to evolve, not to wake up one morning and find everything completely different.

Anyway, I just thought all of that was worth ranting about.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Terror exclusively Muslim? In the media, yes.

An interesting piece of comment from The First Post, today. They point out that two men appeared at Burnley Magistrates’ Court last week, charged with holding “the largest amount of cheimical explosives of this type ever found in this country”. One of the accused was a BNP council candidate, and the other was a local dentist. The dentist was also in possession of a rocket launcher and a nuclear biological protection suit, and the two were accused of “some kind of masterplan”, as yet unknown.

But what is striking about their court appearance (they were remanded until October 23) is the failure of any mainstream newspaper or media outlet to report it at all.

It is not difficult to imagine what the response might have been had two Muslims been involved. There would have been banner headlines, police statements celebrating the prevention of another apocalyptic plot, suggestions of a wider conspiracy with nebulous ‘linkages’ to al-Qaeda. There would have been a collective shudder at another averted outrage, experts holding forth on the dangers of dirty bombs and homemade WMD. There would have been warnings of the ongoing threat to our ‘values’. Above all, there would have been fear, all of it magnified by a credulous media, fed by inside information from nameless intelligence sources.

Instead there was total silence. In a week dominated by Muslim ‘stories’ in which veiled women and an unpleasant taxi driver constituted evidence of the alien, dangerous subculture in our midst, two white men accused of having explosives, a nuclear protection suit and a ‘masterplan’ fell outside the frame of the ‘war on terror’ and therefore did not get mentioned beyond local papers.

It’s quite a difficult argument to counter, given that the only mainstream national media I could find the story in was the Sunday Times – in the ‘News in Brief’ column.

It is quitely burning away in the blogosphere – generally with the same kind of spin The First Post (and, to be fair, I) has given it. We’re talking posts like When it’s a white terrorist, no one notices…, White people are terrorists too!!!!!!, The Wrong Colour Bomb – and this post from The Void, who seems even more cynical than me.

The original article that sparked all this speculation – from the esteemed Burnley Citizen – contains this intriguing line, which may help to explain away some of the lack of media interest:

However Superintendent Neil Smith moved to reassure residents and stressed: “It is not a bomb making factory” and added that it was not related to terrorism.

How does he know? And what exactly was Robert Cottage doing with a huge amount of explosives, a rocket launcher, and a protective suit? And, ultimately, would the same line have been trundled out if Mr Cottage’s skin had been a different colour?

This post was filed under: Media, News and Comment.

Shock revelation: People enjoy taking drugs

Graham Norton’s in the firing line today, for saying that he’s taken drugs in the past because he, erm, enjoyed taking them:

The only time I took ecstasy was years and years ago. It was absolutely amazing. It was just fantastic – really, really fun.

This put the wind up the National Drug Prevention Alliance:

We’re appalled, it’s absolutely mind-blowing that somebody has said that.

Of course, to suggest people enjoy taking drugs is heresy. Nobody who takes drugs can possibly enjoy it, mainly because they’re all crackheads going nowhere in life who will end up on the streets and probably dead by the age of thirty. Nobody – repeat nobody – could possibly take recreational drugs for enjoyment, so Graham Norton is a big fat irresponsible liar, and his pants are, indeed, flaming.

At least, that’s what I think the National Drug Prevention Alliance must want us all to think.

Perhaps if we were to take a more reasoned approach to drugs and their various uses, then some of the drugs education might actually get through. Perhaps something more along the lines of David J’s story, summarily (but well worth reading the full thing):

I had a great time on drugs. But I’m happy to be clean.

The way we seem to be educating kids about drugs these days is roughly the same as the “Don’t have sex, or you will get pregnant and die” method of sex education. The longer it takes to bring us into the real world, to actually openly discuss the real issues with the kids on the frontline of the “Drugs War”, the longer it will take for the problems to be properly addressed.

One final thought: Perhaps we all just misheard him.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Breaking news: Cure for hiccups discovered

A cure for hiccups has won one of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes. It involves fingers and bottoms – and probably funny looks if undertaken on public transport. Read more here.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment.

The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. Information about cookies and the handling of emails submitted for the 'new posts by email' service can be found in the privacy policy. This site uses affiliate links: if you buy something via a link on this site, I might get a small percentage in commission. Here's hoping.