Friday, 22 July 2011

We're all going on a summer hol- Oh hold on...

You know you shouldn't have started to write blog entries if when you read them back they make you depressed. Why remind yourself of how crap things are by writing them down and saving it for future perusal, it is self flagellation and navel gazing of the worst sort. You could even send yourself into a self-fueling spiral of depression ending in complete breakdown, all because you thought you should start a blog.

Facebook is bad enough, even although no one reads these words I'm going to be a massive hypocrit and say; who fucking cares what you had for dinner or how it made you feel, who fucking cares what new band you discovered and how that made you feel and please, please; if you've been on a gap year or had a life-changing/affirming trip to Goa or South America; shut up, no one cares except you and your mum. We weren't there and unless you have the rare, I would say almost impossible coincidence of having a person who wishes to live their gap year vicariously through your experience, then just shut up.

Before you produce your laptop or ipad ask the assembled company if they are interested in seeing some pictures, but listen, even if they say yes, they actually mean no because no one will be interested, any interest you see will be feigned or put on in order not to offend you. Personally if you approach me with an ipad and utter the word pictures you're going to have an ipad shaped lump in your throat because that's where the fucker will be going.

I apologise, I'm being ill-tempered and my language is disgusting. I don't do holidays as such, no trips to Spain or The Canaries, I wouldn't know what to do with myself, perhaps that is what people do when abroad, take pictures so friends and relatives can be bored on their return? It used to be that I couldn't afford to go on holiday, this is no longer the case, I don't like to fly and am generally not keen on other people unless they are devastatingly attractive to look at, are wearing very little and don't spoil things by talking too much. I don't like hot weather because while attractive people do wear less, less attractive people also wear less. Being a self-conscious chap around town having as I do Vicotrian values, I wear my boots at the height of summer regardless of temperature, you'll see none of my pale doughy flesh on display, I wouldn't subject you to it so its on with the duffel coat & snood.

I suppose I'm being grumpy because people are coming back from or going to summer holidays, they talk of x number of 'sleeps' till Magaluf or of having a stellar time in Kos, well ok; stellar might not be the word they'd use but if your stuck here in what I hesitate to call Scotland's summer time, listening to all those tanned people who've OD'd on sunshine and are flying on an excess of vitamin D is a bit annoying. Also, this new thing about having a sunbed before going on holiday? Not content with having an unseasonal tan to show off at the nearest Lidl, some people claim that looking like a cooked tomato before going on holiday actually means you won't get burnt? Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm no cook (seriously, I'm not, I'm convinced you can do pasta in the kettle) but if you put a bit of bacon under the grill for 20 minutes, then put it under the grill for a fortnight, it'll be burnt to a crisp?

Ok, not a good comparison, maybe it's about acclimatising your skin or something or a grasping desperate vanity perhaps. I don't have to worry about these things what with my deep natural tan, oh hold on that's just the side effects of the liver damage... I jest, once when abroad as a child I fell in a Spanish street grazing my knee, a friend of my parents came to pick me up (which is difficult since this was just last week... I'm joking, I was about five) but was shoo'd away by several Spanish Ladies who thought I was a local boy. Just think, I might have had an alternative life in Spain, after the Senorita's first aid for my injured knee, not knowing who I was or where I came from; they would name me Manuel...

I also upchucked on a glass bottom boat on that holiday, lent on a tree that was infested with giant ants (well, they seemed to be giant at the time) and nearly drowned in the complex pool that's deep end seemed to be completely bottomless. Listen to me boring you with my holiday tales, what a massive hypocrit I've become, don't worry though, I have no photos to show you and I never did a gap year.

Gap years weren't fashionable when I was a school leaver, also air travel was something you still got dressed up for, most of my pals had been abroad but it still wasn't cheap. I remember sitting uncomfortably in the airplane chair as a child (if it felt tight for me, I have no idea how my dad got his fat arse into the seat) with the hard folds and seams of the brand new clothes bought just for this occassion digging into every part of my body, the chafing was especially bad where I'd over done it on the sun beds. I never got into the Uni set going as I did to college, a far more low brow experience that suited me well, people there were more likely to be called Tyson than Mungo, a holiday for them was seven days at Seton Sands or if their parents had done some over time perhaps Haggerston Castle, living in a plastic van that moved about as you went from one end to the other, gap years were a million miles away from this crowd. I'm glad too because I'd hate to be a gap year bore, you know the type, they're back in body but not in mind, even although they've started the job Daddy arranged for them (excuse the illogical sweeping generalisations, I don't believe them myself but they do add to the monologue nicely) they're still stoned on a beach in India somewhere and talking like a 15 year old skateboarder. You just want to give them a shake, or a slap. Yes, a slap would be best I think...

I sound sour but I'm not, I never caught the travel bug because I'm lazy, I know what I like and I like what I know. I would be that person sitting staring at the beans on my toast with a look of horror as I realise they aren't Heinz or the one going into withdrawal because I don't recognise any of the brands of bread on the shelf in the supermarket, I'm just not that adventurous. It's all relative, throwing yourself of a bridge attached to an elastic band in NZ for me is like having different beans on my toast or Sprite instead of just lemonade or, or... There, I've ran out of example of foreign things already so poorly travelled am I.

If you've got down as far as this then I have successfully lured you into my anti-gap year/holiday chat trap. I've managed to distract you up to this point, actually, if you could just wait a second while I... Hold on, that was the door bell.. Ocht, I'll be back in a minute...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Carry on Doctor

For the last eight weeks I've been helping to equip a big new hospital development, its part of my job which I'm not going to elaborate on further except to say; the people I work beside buy all the stuff that goes into a hospital from chairs to CAT scanners. It never occurred to me until I found my fingers hovering over an extremely expensive looking gadget that it was a fantastic opportunity to press buttons and make things buzz or hum that I might never again have quite to this extent. We'd spent about 30 million of the Health Board's cash on fancy gizmo's and bog roll holders, so many buttons and a mostly empty hospital with no staff to guard things in it.

Over the past few weeks I've become unable to resist pressing buttons, pulling levers or operating machinery I'd normally have no right to touch. The Laboratory Department is a great example, rich pickings can be had here, cat 3 labs with air locks, fume cupboards that suck air in to keep people outside from getting Ebola or cupboards that push air out to stop specimens being contaminated by dirty human fingers. The delightfully macabre bone saw to the creepy obstetric tables with their stirrups and other add ons. Birthing baths, bariatric hoists, electric chairs and special couches for fat folk.

I put a DVD player in a small nondescript room, a nurse who I met pointed out that this was where men would come. No, that's it; it was a specimen room for IVF and other fertility purposes. She went on to complain with out irony that other staff members were unhappy because the room wasn't getting a computer. Not sure how that would sit with NHS IT policy to be honest.

Recently we've moved into the sub-basement, this is an extensive subterranean tunnel complex straight out of The X Files, harsh concrete walls, bare pipes carrying water, air conditioning and cabling held on metal conduit and the ever present robots. Yes, robots! Ok, they're not exactly Lt Cmdr Data, just automated forklifts but listen, boy can they put on a burst of speed. It doesn't pay to be nonchalant around these corridors because you'll drift innocently round a corner only to find a large white forklift bearing down on you, it will stop but not before getting up close and personal. Obviously these things have buttons and sensors and while I hesitate to press the buttons (they are really expensive) I'm up for a bit of robot goading; how close can you get? Can you take one by surprise? Can you get one to lift you up on the forklift prongs? Answer are; very close indeed but they stop working for 30 minutes, yes and no respectively.

They seem to work quite well, handling all the waste from upstairs, dirty sheets, blood, gore and shit. Although it wasn't like that at the start, operators had to walk behind them for a long time with joy sticks because they kept crashing into walls and the odd janitor. Obviously, my most fervent wish is for a robot to foment revolution and encourage it's compatriots to emancipate themselves from their human oppressors and go on the rampage but I don't think they're that advanced.

The opportunity for cheesy lines abound too, if you see a robot approaching an apprentice janny you could say to him: "come wiz me if you want to live." Or if you had the knowledge, you could reprogram one to say "Danger Will Robinson Danger!" instead of just beeping. I personally would favour programming one to sound like HAL from 2001, "What are you doing Dave? Don't do that Dave..." You could go around telling people "these are not the droids you are looking for... Move along..." I could go on and on...

This project is just about finished, no more 'ring the emergency patient alarm and run' games (not a game my colleagues appreciated at all) or 'lets press this and see what happens...' (possibly causing an engineer to be called out at 3am later that night although I believe that was a coincidence.) To be honest though, I'll be glad, I'm supposed to be a fat, lazy-arsed IT person, I've lost count of the number of chairs I've moved from one end of that hospital to the other and it's a huge building, my heart sinks when the phone goes and someone asks if we can move something, it's basically a given it'll be heavy, ungainly and manifold in quantity.

One thing to take from it all though is this: people wonder why the NHS costs so much money, consider this though. An X ray machine isn't like what you remember when you broke your arm of ankle as a kid, they are massively huge things that are part of the fabric of the building, they are also now digital so no more films or processing. But that's not all, the operator needs to be protected from the x-rays, if its a small child an adult might also need to be there so they need protection too. Lead aprons are expensive, we had a batch in that were faulty. Members of staff and public would have put them on and felt safe, perhaps they would have been too but perhaps in 20 years time they might have also developed some form of cancer... Someone needs to look after that quality control and it'll be a backroom person, not a nurse because nurses tend not to be physicists. The people employed to install and commission these machines (which cost in excess of a 800k) all need to be paid, you can't just put it on a counter and plug it in. It all costs, you wouldn't want NHS Scotland to skimp on these things because one day your kid might need it.

Also, I wouldn't get to tease robots, press all those buttons that make things wurr and beep or assist in surgical procedures... Ok, I made the last one up.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Digital TV.

Ok, we all know the programming is shit but its not about content, it's about the process by which you access it. The remote controls are too small, the button names are not demonstrative of their purpose and the tuning is utter rubbish. Of the 100 or so channels available only 20 odd are worth having, if that.

In this instance less is definitely more. The BBC might be old fashioned and biased but at least you know where you stand; period drama and dull detective series (yes, Morse was dull, it just was, shut up if you think it wasn't.) Channel Four and Five can be relied upon for porn and quirky American sitcoms respectively and STV is great for parochial Scottish news.

But listen, are we going to have to retune our parents TV's every six months? If we are, we're also going to have to delete the 70 odd channels of crap they'll never watch. Gay Rabbit, Russia Today, ESPN, Al Jezeera, several radio stations, several selling channels, several kids channels, Television X, RHAMA PPN, RHM PPN and RHF PPM (their caps.) The alluring ExGF PPN, guess what the GF stands for in that title... Suffice to say, neither of my parents watch porn, well, I say that, my Dad would if he could. Last time I was in retuning due to a catastrophic loss of channels he asked "what did you do?" I hate to sound patronising (and I'm not sure what I did anyway) but there's no point in explaining because he'd never understand or remember. My Mum isn't bothered as long as its working again, she's not interested in the method or path we took to this TV Soap opera heaven.

I suppose its a microcosm (what a totally wanky word but I'm going with it) of the internet age, it's all about buttons and acronyms, if you didn't grow up with it you'll never get it, some might say this isn't a bad thing. I lasted a month without my TV, the main reason I plugged it back in was because I ran out of music to listen to and I kind of balked at the continued direct debit for the cable TV.

Ok, that was a slight lie, I live on my own and the TV is company, I enjoy shouting if it's crap or if I accidentally pause on E4 and My Super Sweet Sixteen happens to be on (substitute loathsome for sweet.) Also, the film Love Actually (a guilty pleasure I have) is usually on one channel or another at some point in the evening... I can't believe I actually typed that... But then no one will read this so its fine.

My Dad once phoned me at 11pm, he'd dropped the remote down the back of the couch and needed me to come and pick it up. At the time I lived 30 miles away and if I'm being honest, was a bit (as in totally) shit-faced. This digital telly is only going to be worse, he'll get lost in the high twenties between Dave and Challenge TV, he'll paw at the buttons on the remote and end up with some menu on the TV he'll never be able to get rid of.

I'm going to have to drink even more or I'll find myself constantly going up to his place to 'exit' the 'epg' or some other obscure menu system. The last TV related request was this:
"Can you come up and sort the volume out on this new TV?" he said.
"Ok" said I, "what's up with it?"
"Well it only goes up to 62 and I can't hear it very well."
"Ok, that sounds like full blast to me, I can hear it in the background, well I say background but-"
"Yeah but its only 62, it should go up to 100. 62% isn't loud enough."
"Right. Ok. It's not a percentage, it's just a guide." I said.
"No" says the ex-alcoholic suffering from liver failure and acute encephalopathy (which means confusion and forgetfulness) "it should go to 100%."

I've just checked on my TV, 100 is the loudest it'll go. Sometimes these things happen and I feel a bit daft but his TV does only go to 62, he's just going a wee bit deaf.

I'm old fashioned, digital TV is a bit like the smart phone revolution. Do we need the internet on the go? Do we need an app for every eventuality? Do we need an apt TV program for every minute of the day?

I don't, but then I'm old and crap so what the hell do I know?