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Dixons: At it again

Dead TVs
Photo by chriswatkins, modified under licence
My thanks to Nick Freestone for pointing out that Dixons are at it again, issuing the sixth iteration of virtually the same press release.

That’s now analogue radios, 35mm cameras, video recorders, the computer game Manhunt, CRT monitors, and now analogue TVs of which the Dixons Group have issued press releases with exaggerated reports of impending demise.

Keep your eyes peeled – if they manage to get national coverage of virtually the same story a seventh time, I’ll have to send their press department some kind of prize. At this rate, I’m going to have to have a regular DixonsWatch feature…

This post was filed under: Media.

National Fetish Day

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

MPs’ salaries

Shortly, MPs are to vote on how big a pay increase they should give themselves. Even asking such a question of MPs – essentially, how much money do you want – seems crazy enough, but this is British politics, and so craziness is par for the course.

So, happily, that’s not where the craziness ends.

See, Gordon Brown wants MPs to limit their pay increases to 1.9%, since that’s what other public sector workers are getting.

This totally ignores the fact that MPs are currently earning £60,675 – or more than double that for cabinet ministers – compared to £22,000 for a nurse, £20,000 for a police officer, or £15,000 for a soldier. Limiting the increase to the same relative value as these people has no real meaning. Perhaps limiting their salary to the public sector average would have some meaning, and may focus minds a little more – although still, with the number of perks received by MPs, the figures would not be truly comparable.

Where is the justification in paying MPs so much more than other public sector workers? Their job is to represent the views of their constituents – something few of them actually seem to do these days – and such a position should be seen as a privilege, not an arduous task for which financial recompense needs to be comparatively extreme.

Looking at things this way makes Daniel Kawczynski comments seem loopy:

I can’t look into the eyes of my constituents who are police officers and say ‘you will stick at 1.9% but I, as an MP, should have more than that’.

…but apparently he can look them in the eyes and say ‘Hey, I sit in a cosy office all day, you risk your life on the streets, I deserve thrice your pay!’

Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster: RNLJ&C, modified under licence

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

Medicine for Medical Students by Marc Crutchley

Medicine for Medical StudentsAbout a month ago, Dr Marc Crutchley sent me a copy of his new book, Medicine for Medical Students, and asked me if I’d review it on here. Clearly, that’s not something I’d normally do – I don’t think I’ve reviewed any sort of medical textbook of any description on this site ever… but I’m raving about this one.

I’m struggling a bit to come up with a way of describing the book without it sounding crap. Essentially, it’s written by a recently qualified doctor, and aims to be everything you need to know as a medical student condensed into 118 pages, so that readers no longer have to spend a fortune on 600 different textbooks. And it works really, really well.

I’ve seen books like this before, and never really liked them – I’m sure most other medical students have too – but this one is just great. It’s brilliant not only for revision, but also for those mornings when you wake up, realise you’re on some other speciality that day and can’t remember a thing about it – flick to the relevant section, and you can get a thorough but quick reminder of most things you’re likely to see and do before you’ve finished your cornflakes.

The content does require a fair amount of prior knowledge, and wouldn’t be great for someone learning things for the first time, but as a revision aid it is just fabulous – primarily because it assumes a basic level of knowledge, and also doesn’t go into complex depth – it’s pitched at exactly the right level.

I’m currently so enthusiastic about this book and its ideology that I think I might still be raving about it in a decade’s time, much like I still rave about QBasic by Example despite the fact that QBasic is now a relatively archaic programming language and that I haven’t written a program in it for almost a decade.

My writing is getting more rambling by the day, isn’t it?

Dr Crutchley also has a lecture series available for sale, and is in the process of making a clinical skills DVD.

You can get the book and the lectures from his website – TheMedicalStudent.com – both come very highly recommended.

As there’s no way on Earth that I’m going to give away my review copy of this book, a donation has been made to charity to keep this post in line with my ethical review policy.

This post was filed under: Reviews.

Automatic organ ‘donation’

This decision over one’s own body is for the conscience – the conscience of individual citizens in this country. It is not for this Parliament, by free vote or other vote, to impose upon them a requisition of their bodies after death for the state.

So said John Reid, a little over three years ago. It would appear that Gordon Brown now disagrees. And, for once, I agree with Reid.

I have no moral, religious, or ideological issues with organ donation, and have been a registered organ donor for several years. I do, however, have a strong objection to the proposed suspension of the idea of informed consent – a guiding principle of modern medical practice.

There are so many deep practical problems with the idea of presumed ‘consent’ – not least of all that presumed consent in such a context is realistically no consent at all, and that once a mistake has been made, it cannot be undone.

But, most of all, we’re skipping steps. We’re going from a situation of maintaining a relatively little-known and little-promoted organ donor register to presumed consent, without trying anything in between.

For appropriate candidates, it should be made a legal requirement that relatives are asked about organ donation as part of the death certification. This would immediately increase the number of donations, as doctors are poor at asking such questions for fear of embarrassment, insensitivity, and upset. As a standard legal question it would be unavoidable.

This would be a simple, non-controversial measure that could be put in place very quickly and would increase the number of viable organs available for transplant.

Why don’t we give it a go?

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

Peter Hain’s forgetfulness

Surely Peter Hain can’t keep both his ministerial posts for much longer?

‘Forgetting’ to declare over £100,000 twice – once to the Electoral Commission and once to the register of Members’ Interests – is stretching the boundaries of belief, but forgetting even when already hiding where the money is coming from by setting up dodgy think tanks which have never actually met is simply unbelievable.

And then seemingly publicly endorsing donors… Surely he’s pushed this too far.

Besides, it seems a rare thing for a minister to publicly say they won’t resign and then manage to keep their job – see Blunkett, Clarke, et al.

This post was filed under: Politics.

Clinton’s New Hampshire win

I know I’m weeks late – that’s life, I guess – but may I remind you of what I said after Iowa:

I’m no expert on US politics, but I don’t see how you can write off a candidate who is nationally polling at 41%, versus a nearest rival at 24% … Perhaps the results from Iowa mean less than many pundits suggest

I just felt the need to gloat, there – I know it’s not pretty.

This post was filed under: US Elections '08.

Shock: Media Studies to include media studies

iPod Touch
iPod Touch: Joits, modified under licence
I was amused earlier this week to find the Daily Mail in it’s usual shocked state with the screaming headline ‘The iPod A-level’.

It turns out that in a newly redesigned A-Level Media Studies course, pupils will have to engage with new media and submit some coursework in the form of websites, blogs, podcasts, or DVDs – all of which are relatively challenging media, and all of which are highly relevant to the new media world.

The coursework that has to come in this form is an analysis of the bigger coursework project which makes this even more of a challenge: They effectively have to put across a commentary on their work in an engaging, new media way. I’d rate that as a much greater challenge than a simple commentary essay.

As with anything remotely new, though, the Daily Mail doesn’t like it. It claims that such methods fail in certain areas:

Students must be able to concentrate for more than five minutes and produce a piece of work on their own.

They must be able to put arguments together and put a series of linking paragraphs together which express and develop an idea.

Well, certainly such projects will take far more than five minutes’ concentration, and will require the construction of detailed, engaging arguments about their idea. If doing this through a website or blog, then linked paragraphs will be necessary, and if doing it through a podcast or DVD, a clear script will be required – in many ways, more challenging.

The Daily Mail goes on to suggest that this new coursework requirement means that students will no longer need to be literate. Quite how it expects them to pass their written exams if they can’t form comprehensive and detailed written arguments and analyses is not mentioned.

And, as the Daily Mail should know, it’s impossible to produce a podcast using an iPod, so it’s hardly ‘The iPod A-level’. Oh, except, maybe they don’t know that, because unlike the Guardian, Telegraph, or the Times, it doesn’t publish podcasts. And it only launched a proper website in 2004. And in 2005, it’s editor said that giving away free CDs and DVDs was ‘madness’. So maybe the journalists just feel a bit threatened by young talent.

This post was filed under: Media, Technology.

Jeremy Clarkson: Idiot

Jeremy Clarkson, publishing his bank details in The Sun after half the country’s bank details went missing:

All you’ll be able to do with them is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I’ve never known such a palaver about nothing.

Jeremy Clarkson, after someone set up a £500 direct debit on his account using his bank details:

We must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick cocktail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.

There’s no better way to start the week than with a healthy, juicy, oh-so-lovely dose of schadenfreude.

This post was filed under: Media.

Thank you, kind readers

I’ve just heard report from Amazon that more of you than ever before did some of your Christmas shopping through sjhoward.co.uk/shop – thank you for your support. You’ve provided enough cash to fund the upkeep of the site for several months.

I also wanted to point out that I’m making a concerted effort to credit all pictures published on the site from 2008 onwards – it’s a bit of a New Year’s resolution, I guess, and is really something I should’ve been doing for the past four-and-a-half years, but haven’t been consistently good at. I’m now making a renewed effort, as I hope you’ve been noticing.

Thanks to all of the people who licence their pictures so that I can feature them on the blog. Creative Commons is a great thing – something I believe in strongly enough for the material on this site to have been Creative Commons licensed from the start.

This post was filed under: Blogging, Site Updates.

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