Saturday, December 14, 2013

Flying for Freedom

The British Antartic Mircrolight Expedition are aiming to do something that's never been done before; fly flew-wing microlights to the South Pole. You can follow their exploits at A group of ex-servicemen who have suffered significant injuries are striving to do something that has never been done before and demonstrate 'what is possible for often severely disabled people to achieve.'


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Raspberry Pi

So I have begun my adventure into the world of Pi. I suppose it was inevitable really. In case you are not familiar with the world of Pi here’s a brief history and overview (more details here):

A group of computer scientists – including Eben Upton from Cambridge became aware that students were not getting the opportunity to play with computers – to learn how to program and the huge potential for hardware manipulation there is – in the way that children who grew up in the 80s and 90s did. Whilst home computers had got ever more powerful, they also have become very domesticated. Given the low cost of components they realised that it would be possible to construct a low-cost computer, just the size of a credit card with amazing functionality. And what they came up with was the RaspberryPi. The basic model is priced at $25 and $35 for the more advanced version. So a charitable company makes the devices and a huge community of enthusiasts develop the operating environment(s) and software for the device. It really is impressive.

The Pi has been out for about a year and is loved by educationalists and computer-DIY-enthusiasts like me. The huge array of uses that Pi’s have been put to is really impressive and so it’s about time I joined in (for example...). I suspect I will end up with several Raspberries but this is the story of Pi_1.

Pi_1 – Media Centre Extender

I have had a MediaCentre PC for about 8 years now. It runs the projector which replaced a TV in my lounge. Sometimes, however I want to access media in locations other than my lounge. There are several ways to do this but I wanted the subtly of a Media Centre Extender, rather than having to fire-up a computer every time.  This is unbelievably simple with a Pi. Not least because so much of the work has been done already.

So here it is, powered directly from the TV and networked by mains-ethernet I had a fully functional MediaCentre Extender in less than an hour. The XBMC distribution of Linux is excellent; very functional, user friendly and (of course) freely available.(It will be completely hidden once I've finished playing)

It is important to note that to playback most video file types, the purchasing of codecs is necessary but given that it’s £3.60 for both, I didn’t feel that was too much of a hardship.

The only thing I haven't quite settled on is how I will control it... A lot of modern TV can communicate via the HDMI cable and hence you can control the Pi from the TV remote. I haven't managed to set that up yet but in the meantime there is a neat Android App for my phone... 

Next… well for Pi_2 I have some more advanced ideas.

Pi_1 Specs:
Raspberry Pi Model B 512MB DRAM RASPBRRY-PCBA
7dayshop Professional High-Speed SDHC Memory Card - 8GB - Class 10 CD Card
Raspbmc (XBMC for Raspberry Pi)

Monday, September 09, 2013

Vincent and the Doctor

According to the news, A previously unknown van Gogh has been discovered. Am I the only one secretly hoping it looked something like this?

Surely not?


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Gospel According to the Daily Mail

I have written much in the past about my thoughts around the tabloid press and one publication in particular. If you are bored of this then I have good news and bad news. The bad news is I've started a new blog on the theme. The good news is it might just mean I talk about it less here. Maybe.

The Gospel according to the Daily Mail came about from a conversation with a Pagan friend of mine. She was teasing me for being quite conservative in many ways. She suggested that having a faith - as I do - was archetypally conservative (note the small 'c'). I challenged this with the notion of how deeply radical Jesus was. And it occurred to me to suggest that the way the Mail might have reported the occasion when men broke though the roof to lower a friend before Jesus would illustrate this contrast.

Thinking about it afterwards, it occurred to me there could be a rich vein of both comedy and hopefully meaningful comment. The Mail likes to style itself as on the side of Christianity whilst really what they stand for is hypocrisy, hate, bile and some romantic notion of Christendom. There are - sadly - some in our society who think that's what Christianity is. Well, this is my response.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

GMC guidance....

According to this recent publication by the General Medical Council, I'm not supposed to mention on my blog that I'm a doctor because I am anonymous on here:
If you identify yourself as a doctor in publicly accessible social media, you should also identify yourself by name. Any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely.
 Any thoughts?


Sunday, March 03, 2013


One of my favourite books of the bible is Job. In part because I'm an awkward person and most people see it as challenging and I like to be different. That, however is not the only reason. It is indeed challenging but that is part of its richness.

Job was a man who was very blessed. God then allowed him to lose everything, including his children. But Job refused to curse God. Job was then afflicted with the most appalling body sores such that his friends on seeing him were speechless - for a week. And still he did not curse God.

For the majority of the book we have the conversations between Job and his three friends, before in the end Job is healed and restored. Throughout these conversations we are hit with a big theological problem; how can such a horrible thing happen to a good man? I don't intend to answer that question here, except to say that part of the message of Job is that bad things do happen to good people. And sometimes really bad things happen to really good people.

The problem for Job's friends is they cannot conceive this. They recoil at the implied injustice of it. Also, however, I think their problem is more deep-rooted than that. Firstly it confers on them a responsibility, if Job is not to blame for his inflictions - if the ups and downs of life are not determined by what we deserve then surely our responsibility to each other is so much greater. Secondly they fear for themselves - they sense they are secure in their wealth and health because they are good people and hence have control of that. Job's stubborn denial that his afflictions are his fault mean that this foundation of their self-belief and self-worth is eroding beneath them.

In the UK today, we have a significant problem of poverty. More worrying to me is the attitude to said poverty, like Job's friends we desperately need to believe that the poor deserve to be poor. I came across an excellent report today: The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending Comfortable Myths About Poverty. A report from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church. I would encourage everyone to read the executive summary, if not the entire report - it's not very long. 

The authors take six of the common myths about poverty in the UK: 
  1. ‘They’ are lazy and just don’t want to work
  2. ‘They’ are addicted to drink and drugs
  3. ‘They’ are not really poor - they just don’t manage their money properly
  4. ‘They’ are on the fiddle
  5. ‘They’ have an easy life on benefits
  6. ‘They’ caused the deficit
If you don't believe these are 'common' then they give the survey results of what the British public think. All of these are pervasive received wisdom. And as the report shows; all of them are false. As they put it:
The myths exposed in this report, reinforced by politicians and the media, are convenient because they allow the poor to be blamed for their poverty, and the rest of society to avoid taking any of the responsibility.
Job's friends were wrong. And so are we. The poor are not to blame for their poverty, the factors are far more complex than that.  Our responsibility to each other means seeking justice. Enacting policies that are both just and effective will only be possible when we face up to the reality and stop scape-goating the victims.

Job-lessness is the real problem for our society.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Those Pesky Kids...

Today's entry is for a wise and good friend of mine.