Irish girls denied cancer vaccine

I haven’t been listening to the news much of late. I’m not sure when that started but even if the news is on in the background, the droning voice of the newscaster usually goes in one ear and out the other.

Unfortunately for the Irish Government, and Mary Harney in particular, Red Mum is making sure that everyone hears about their disgraceful refusal to administer a vaccine against cervical cancer to every 12 year old girl in the country. More on the Irish Times website:

Minister for Health Mary Harney this evening said the economic situation had “rapidly and seriously” deteriorated since the plan was announced in August. The vaccination against strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) would have cost an estimated €9.7 milliion annually.

The decision was immediately criticised by the Opposition and by the Irish Cancer Society, which asked Ms Harney to make a clear commitment to restore the vaccination scheme “at the earliest possible opportunity”.

Gavin has a clip taken from TV3 news featuring John Crown, a cancer specialist denouncing the decision:

So what can you do? Join the Facebook Group or send Mary Harney, the minister for health, pictures of your daughters. Blog about it, contact your TD and tell them you’re very unhappy with the situation. 9.7m Euro is pocket change in the budget of a country, even one in a recession.

While on the topic of vaccines, my wife was told that the area we live in, Blarney, is overrun with cases of childhood measles and mumps. I’m glad my little boy was vaccinated with the MMR.

The end of Homeopathy

The end of homeopathy? – a very lengthy and critical article looking at the alternative medicine of homeopathy. 456 comments and counting. (via Mink Toast.)
After the birth of our son Adam, my wife was told to take Arnica C30 by nurses and doctors. After reading the post above, I searched for Arnica C30. The first result is a double blind test of homoeopathic arnica C30. The summary results aren’t encouraging,

73 patients completed the study, of whom 35 received placebo and 38 received arnica C30. The placebo group had a greater median age and the arnica group had slightly longer operations; nevertheless, no significant difference between the two groups could be demonstrated. We conclude that arnica in homoeopathic potency had no effect on postoperative recovery in the context of our study.

On to the links …

  • Christmas Spirit – lovely photo and story.
  • In the middle of November, Google changed the clickable area on Adsense adverts. Jonathan noticed a large drop in revenue, but I haven’t. Click through rate is much the same as before, although I did compensate by making the advert URLs more prominent.
  • Sometimes bosses misunderstand tech jargon, in amusing ways. Oh, don’t ask an engineer to talk to your class. He might be a bit blunt!
  • Google Analyticator is a small WordPress plugin that adds the necessary Google Analytics Javascript to your blog. It also has a neat JS function to track outbound links in Analytics. Just make sure you create two conversion goals, “/outgoing” and “/download” to do the tracking.
  • How many famous people?
  • Will the real Googlebot please stand? 208.113.160.20, you sit down. You’re a fake.
  • Jeff’s The Two Types of Programmers essay sparked such a response, he wrote a follow up. I definitely know a few 80% programmers. Many of the people I went to college with fall into that category unfortunately. No, none of them read this blog! 🙂

How narcissistic are you?

nar·cis·sism /ˈnɑrsəˌsɪzɛm/ Pronunciation Key – [nahr-suh-siz-em] – noun

  1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
  2. Psychoanalysis. erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

From dictionary.com: narcissistic

If a person displays five or more of the following traits, they are likely to have narcissistic tendencies:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance (eg, exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is ‘special’ and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement, ie, unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, ie, takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes

Does that describe you? Does it describe someone in your life? Taken from The Monster in the Mirror.

When columnists go bad

It’s a wonder sometimes why some bloggers hold journalists to such high standards. Quite often what appears in our newspapers is ripped entirely from press releases, or is poorly researched. Case in point are the two columns by Jeremy Clarkson and India Knight in last week’s Sunday Times (I’ve been away, catching up on my blogging!)

Jeremy Clarkson may be a funny guy, but is he a little thick? In Biggles, you’re a crashing bore he says,

Then you have to spend more months learning how to use a radio. Why? I know already. You just stab away at various buttons until someone comes over the speaker. Then you tell him what you want.

Oh no you don’t. You have to talk in a stupid code, saying “over” when you’ve finished speaking for the moment and “out” when you’ve finished altogether. Why? When I ring the plumber or the local Indian restaurant, I am able to convey the nature of my request perfectly well using English. So why when I’m in a plane do I have to talk in gibberish?

“Hello, it’s Jeremy. Is it all right to land?” is a much easier way of saying, “Weston Tower, this is Charlie Victor Tango on 8453.113 requesting a westerly approach to runway 27.”

That’s not sarcastic and witty. That’s plain dumb.

On the same page India Knight states that many people suffering from allergies and food intolerances really don’t have allergies at all and are simply rude. Try telling that to me after I’ve had a cheese covered pizza.

Millions of people have imaginary allergies and food intolerances, according to a survey last week. Many of them have diagnosed themselves online; one in 50 says they only noticed their “problem” when a friend had similar symptoms; and 39% of people questioned think it is “trendy” to claim a food allergy. Twelve million people claim to suffer from allergy or intolerance, of which less than a quarter are medically diagnosed.

The mind boggles. I love cheese and milk. I would love nothing better than to drink a cool glass of milk with a spicy curry, or homemade brown bread with a thick slice of cheese on top. It’s not bloody trendy to have a stuffed up nose and phlemmy throat a few hours later. Poor Ms. Knight lives in a very black and white world.

Good to know I’m not the only one to think this way about India Knight’s article. Actually, India Knight was never good so she couldn’t go bad. At least Clarkson’s articles are mildly entertaining!

The strange tale of the Brita water filter

It was a dark and stormy night. Thunder rolled over the land and lightning shot from the sky incinerating trees, cars and unlucky people caught out in the worst storms since records began. Out of the dark came a hulking shape. It was transparent, and water sloshed from side to side as it moved down the road, but no! Disaster struck, a little pebble made a small crack in the jug and it’s life force, the magical water seeped into the ground and the transparent walls of the Brita jug finally fell silent.
The thunder rolled on …

Well, I had to make a post about water filters exciting in some way eh? Now, here’s what I really wanted to tell you.

We’re on our second water filter at home. The first one was a Brita jug, which worked perfectly fine until a small crack appeared in the bottom. Filters lasted slightly less than a month before it became obvious the water wasn’t as pure.

My litmus test is my bedside glass of water. If it’s still drinkable in the morning then the water filter works! Without a filter, water in Blarney where I live tastes fine out of the tap, but left overnight it has a distinctly metallic taste.

As I said, the Brita jug was fine, but water leaked out of that slowly but surely and it was time to replace the jug. Little did I know how much the Brita was costing us ..

A few days later we were shopping in Tesco and I remembered the water filter. We made our way to the hardware section of the store, and discovered quite an array of shapes and sizes, not only from Brita, but also Tesco’s own brand. I compared prices and the Tesco filters were half the price of the Brita ones, so buying a Tesco branded water filter jug was a no brainer.

Back home, the Tesco jug works great. The filter seems to last longer and my glass of water can still quench my thirst in the morning a month after installing it. If you’re going to buy a water filter, go do yourself a favour and buy the Tesco one. It’s cheaper and works just as well as the Brita one.

If on the other hand you still have a Brita jug, the Tesco filter may fit it if your jug uses the long and round filters. That’ll save you about €3 a month and as they say, “every little helps” 🙂

No, I’m not paid by Tesco for this. I think it’s too good a bargain to pass up if you use a water filter at home! Normal WordPress, tech and “popular culture” blogging will resume shortly!

PS. ‘course the Brita filter might have been doing more work because the water was leaking out of it, and thus clogging up the filter more quickly!

Health food firms told to "Prove it!"

It’s about time for this to happen. Food companies have been claiming X, Y and Z about their products for long enough. An article in the Sunday Times goes on to say that, “FOOD companies that make false or unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of their products will be forced to withdraw them under a new European Union crackdown.”

One of those products listed in a table that accompanies the paper version of the article is the baby food Aptamil. There is very little proof that it helps a baby’s immune system. Looks like Milupa were quick off the mark changing their packaging.

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The prominent label, “Supports your baby’s natural immune system” is now missing on the new packaging. Score one for consumers!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Adam needs annother feed. Typing one handed takes ages!

While on the subject of feeding babies, there is an Islamic Fatwa that says adult men can be breast fed. Strange, but read more here

More fun at the hospital

We spent over 2 hours this morning at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH). Little had changed since last week. Appointments were still impossible to make so Jacinta was told to come in early and wait.

It was crowded last week, but if anything, it was worse today. Most seats were taken but it’s a funny thing about some people – even when there are seats to sit on they’ll continue to stand. Even heavily pregnant mothers. I can’t figure it out. Martyrs?

This last week has seen Ireland sweltering under a blistering warm sun and conditions in the hospital were as stuffy as before. I stood near a radiator in the corridor and was shocked to find it was lukewarm. Expectant mothers looked on in disbelief when I mentioned this!

You’ll meet all sorts in the hospital. All races and creeds are represented in those hallways and unfortunately Irish racism is alive and kicking. A man at the end of the corridor was heard to say, “I should learn a foreign language and get an interpreter. We’d be seen sooner.” Shortly afterwards, his partner commented on the pronouciation of a foreign doctor saying that it was hard to understand him.

Good news however, I’ll be a dad within the next 7 to 8 days (hopefully). Due date is tomorrow but if nothing happens, Jacinta will be induced by the end of next week.

In related matters, Justin provides a transcript and commentary on Green Party candidate Patricia McKenna’s assertion on national radio that there’s a link between MMR and autism. That link has been discredited and I’m following this closely, but all it takes is one comment from the parent of an autistic child to make me doubt my convictions. Conor has more to say on the matter too.

He also reported a few weeks back that children in a Cork creche were found to have Tuberculosis (TB). Munster, the southern region of Ireland, does not have a programme in place to vacinate babies and children, but after the recent outbreaks, the HSE will introduce it later in the year. The vaccine is called BCG and has been administered in all other parts of the country. The Wikipedia page on Tuberculosis has a lot more information on the disease.

More and more bloggers I read are becoming parents. Maybe I’ve become more aware of the announcements, or maybe it’s simply that they are at that stage in life when they’re starting or expanding families. Remember when you and all your friends were celebrating your 21st birthdays?

Harney forces Cork midwives to resign

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The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has a lot to answer for. Nurses, midwives, consultants and other staff in the newly opened Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) are stretched to the limit coping with the pressure of expectant mothers and babies from the original three maternity hospitals in the city.

Cork University Maternity Hospital

We spent over two hours in a stuffy, crowded and very warm waiting area to be seen by a midwife and a consultant this morning. It was in stark contrast to the empty hallways and calm of the hospital just two weeks ago when we were given a tour of the facilities and offered a glimpse of a gleaming high-tech maternity environment. Pregnant women, partners and children waited in the sweltering heat while staff were run off their feet. The waiting area was unfortunately too small, there weren’t enough seats, and pregnant women had to make do by leaning against the walls of the corridors while waiting to be seen.

Despite the pressure, staff were as nice as always. Midwives were considerate, helpful and professional, but when asked about how things were going I heard that 2 had resigned and 4 had taken sick leave. As well as being short staffed to begin with, the remaining staff are even worse off now. Some workers are pulling 11 hour days.

Did I forget to mention that this 75 million Euro hospital doesn’t have air conditioning? Can you imagine the heat and mood in a small area where the only air comes from 2 slightly ajar windows and from internal corridors? It wasn’t nice. At least the two expensive flat screen LCD screens on the walls kept us occupied with day time TV courtesy of TV3. Oh yeah, that’s what we need.

Thanks to Mary Harney’s bullying tactics last week the hospital opened a week late on Saturday last. She had threatened to find a different use for the building if midwives didn’t accept her terms and move to the new hospital. Midwives and consultants protested that staffing levels weren’t high enough and I bore witness to that shortage this morning. Even the computer system there is broken and not expected to be working until this evening. No appointments could be made so women had to come on a first-come-first-served basis to the morning clinic. One woman we met there had been there since 8.30am. We arrived at 11am. Apparently it was even worse on Monday.

Teething problems with a new hospital? Perhaps, but if Mary Harney wanted the hospital opened a week previously shouldn’t those problems have been sorted out then?

Truly, healthcare is a vocation. I couldn’t do it. The midwives and staff deserve all the support they can get.

Self diagnose with Google

Everybody and anybody who has an illness, a pain in the leg, a hurt somewhere, will use Google to find out what ails them. There is an inherent danger in that, but if you use a search engine that way, and believe the first result, then good luck to you, The Darwin Awards may need another category.

The rest of us go to the doctor, the dentist, or whatever health professional is appropriate. What if your company health plan depended on using Google to diagnose? That’s what Catbert, the evil director of Human Resources did today in this Dilbert cartoon. Arc Welder anyone?

If by chance you do suffer a tooth ache, then a Google Search could pay dividends, at least for short term relief. My toothache post has been insanely popular for a couple of years now and a few people have learned something about dealing with the pain. I found that swishing Vodka around in my mouth helped a lot. It says it on the Internet, it must be true!

I wonder what Britney Spears Googled that told her to shave her hair off? Poor girl.