Friday, August 30, 2013

Cycling to school with the CTC - Oxford edition

I read the Alternative DfT's post this week with interest:

http://departmentfortransport.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/cycling-to-school-with-the-ctc

Highly recommended - for both the article and discussion - go there!  Incidentally, Alternative DfT is doing sterling work; I hope they're put in charge of a few transport billions of £££ sometime soon.

Briefly - the CTC website is promoting children's "Right to Ride to School", and lamenting the very low modal share (only 2% of kids ride to school), while pointing to everything but the road conditions as the cause.

To illustrate, they used a heavily cropped picture of some happy kids riding to school.  They initially wouldn't admit to Alt DfT where this picture was taken.  Turns out these kids are happily riding on a segregated cycle track alongside a main road.

In other words, exactly the kind of infrastructure CTC knows gets people cycling, in every country where ordinary people actually do cycle, but which they're not quite ready to commit to.  Or are understandably afraid to support, knowing that in the past when cycling campaigners have asked for high quality infrastructure, much of what they have received has been on the cheap, afterthoughts, not fit for purpose or "worse than useless".

The CTC have a long history of being a club for cycling enthusiasts.  They have a more recent history of being "the national cycling charity".  I believe they are struggling to reconcile the two.

But all of us "cyclists" - we are the low-hanging fruit, the people who are already cycling in the UK, despite local and national transport policies that are deeply flawed or just downright hostile for people on bikes.  We're not the ones to concentrate on right now.

I want to see my children cycle!  I want them to leave the house in the morning, to ride to school, without me being terrified they will die.  And no amount of Bikeability training will do that, if the roads aren't safe.

Being charitable, and taken in isolation, this heavily cropped picture might just be a mistake.

But in context, it's symptomatic of a head-in-the-sand, stubborn refusal to see the truth staring us all in the face - that until conditions are right - until the infrastructure is there - most people wouldn't dream of letting their kids ride to school (and they might well be doing the right thing).


Here's another example, from Oxford, for context:


A while back, CTC came out with "Cycletopia" (hint - a fantastical land of nowhere, with high quality cycling provision, composed of the "best examples" they could find by only looking in the UK.  Because, you know, there's no point looking beyond this little island.  The laws of physics are probably different elsewhere.  Or maybe foreigners have funny little bicycles and funny little cars, so it's easier to fit them all in).

Anyway, in Cycletopia, cycling to school is point 8 of their plan.  Their best practice example?  The Cherwell School, Oxford.

Here's what they say:

Nationally, just one in 50 pupils travels to school by bike, but almost 60% of pupils cycle to the Cherwell School in Oxford – and only 1 in 10 by car.
The school runs cycle maintenance workshops, there’s an active cycling club and they even campaign to improve road conditions for cyclists.

I happen to live pretty near this secondary school.  It's on one of the main arterial routes in North Oxford.

Here's a picture of it; Bill Boaden's photo (CC licensed), found at the Wikipedia page for Marston Ferry Road:

Cycle route under Marston Ferry Road - geograph.org.uk - 1740300

That's the school on the right, on the far side of the road.

Ok, I lied.  It's not really a photo of the school.  It's a photo of a cycle underpass.

But in it you can see exactly why "almost 60% of pupils" cycle to this school.

I'll give you a hint.  It's not the "cycle maintenance workshops".  It's not the "active cycling club".

And to be honest, most of the kids probably don't give two hoots for the "campaign to improve road conditions for cyclists."  They most likely don't think of themselves as "cyclists".  They're just kids getting to school.

This school lies on a main road with cars doing well over the 40mph limit.  But there is also a wide (over 3m?  I've not measured), smooth, bidirectional dedicated cycling route here, so the kids are not on the road.  It's the smooth black tarmac taking up the majority of the bottom edge of the photo.  It  means they can ride without worrying about cars and lorries, and without their parents worrying, either.  There's also a pedestrian route alongside, so they're not even vying for space with walkers, runners, dogs etc.


This is why nearly 60% of these kids ride to school.


Does the CTC seriously believe their own spin?  Are maintenance workshops and cycling clubs more important - for everyday commuting cycling, and trips to school - than proper infrastructure?

I'm sure there are good people at the CTC.  (For example, Roger Geffen at CTC seems to be both pragmatic and committed to proper infrastructure).  And even at the Highways Agency, at your local council, and the DfT.

But I'm also sure there are people, even at the CTC, who look at infrastructure like that at Cherwell School, (infrastructure which seems to be working), and turn their nose up at it.  "You don't need that!  It's sub-standard!  Look at the sharp turns you'll have to negotiate!  Just Share the Road!  Come on, it's fun!"

I know this because, when, on my road bike, in Lycra, shoes clipped in to my pedals, tucked forward to present a smaller aerodynamic profile to the wind, I often don't use this infrastructure.  I use the road.  I'm going the same speed (at least) as the rest of the road traffic, I'm in the zone, and the road is quicker.  I turn my nose up at the infrastructure, because it doesn't work for me.

But for the great majority of people on bikes, for those who don't yet cycle (but could!), or even just when I'm towing my daughter slowly to town in her trailer, it works brilliantly.


So yes, CTC, you're right that Cherwell is a great example of how kids can ride to school.  You're just a little confused as to why.



Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rotas, time formats, "XLS", CSV, and Google Calendar

Upload your .xls rota to Google Calendar!  Using my easy .csv template!

This is probably only useful to you if you use Google Calendar (or possibly other appllications that accept .csv imports - ?iCal, perhaps?), and your workplace issues rotas in their own inimitable way - e.g. as an xls file.

This was prompted by a move to work in Acute General Medicine in Oxford.

No problem should ever have to be solved twice.  Therefore, this is my solution.

I wanted my rota info to show up as a calendar in Google Calendar.  Unfortunately, work only provides rotas via a browser, or in an idiosyncratic .xls, using whatever date and time formats that the author personally favours (I assume).

(As an aside - XKCD has covered this topic -  date conventions and ISO 8601 - with the usual authoritative tone)...

I'm indebted to Kevin Burke who came up with much of this solution here.

So:

 - You can import calendars to GCal, as long as they are in .csv format.
 - Oxford Medicine rotas come as an odd .xls, one that seems to be in "Western European (Apple Macintosh/Icelandic)" format.
 - By tweaking column headers and exporting as .csv, you can create a file which GCal accepts!

Disclaimer - I've used LibreOffice throughout - those using Excel may find a few differences.

Put simply, your .csv just needs a strict set of column headings for GCal to accept it. 

 These are as follows:

Subject, Start Date, Start Time, End Date, End Time, All Day Event, Reminder On/Off, Reminder Date, Reminder Time, Meeting Organizer, Description, Location, Private

Every event (every row in Excel) needs to have a Subject, Start Date, and Start Time. The other headers are optional and you can mix and match them as much as you please. 

Because I'm feeling kind, I've supplied a template .csv, which you should edit to suit your needs e.g. in LibreOffice or Excel.   You can get it here, or:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5OjGQrd1AYyWklnVTRKSGNWWHc/edit?usp=sharing

I recommend copying your .xls columns into the right places.  Counter-intuitively, you should put your shift times in under "Location" so you can see them in GCal, on your phone etc.

The actual column "Start Time" is irrelevant as you will be putting "TRUE" in the "All Day Event" column.

Also - Make sure you FORMAT your columns appropriately (by selecting each column, going to "format"... "cells"... or similar).  The formats you need are MM/DD/YYYY for dates (note this is neither ISO 8601, or UK, but US standard), and HH:MM AM/PM for times.  GCal is very picky about this.

Weirdly, in my case, the values in the cells still show as DD/MM/YYYY, but as long as you've set the formatting to MM/DD/YYYY, things will work. 

( Check your dates once you've put this into GCal!  You don't want a mix-up between 3rd April, and 4th March, for example! )

Then - "Save As" a .csv (ignoring the error you'll receive saying some formatting will be lost).

Upload to one of your Google Calendars.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you create a NEW calendar and call it something descriptive e.g. "AGM Rota".  Do NOT import the .csv to your DEFAULT calendar.  By using a separate calendar you can delete the whole thing if you've made an error (e.g. DD/MM/YYYY instead of MM/DD/YYYY) and try again.  If you upload to your main calendar, you'll have to go through and delete each event manually.

 Make sure you tick to display this calendar.

If things have gone well, you should have your rota displayed as all-day events, each with shift times as "locations", along the top of your calendar!  Mine has the letter codes, e.g. DT for Day Take, D for Day shift, O for Off etc, but experiment to find what works for you.

You can even share this with your loved ones / job-share partner / pet hamster / whatever, to make sure everyone knows how hard you're working. 


Have fun.  




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Doctors, 'nyms, social media, Good Medical Practice, an impossible standard and the GMC




The future for doctors on the internet?  I kind of hope so...



The GMC (the UK's General Medical Council) has today published its updated version of good medical practicewhich comes into effect on 22nd April 2013.

Doctors rely on this document as a description of the standards expected of them.  I hope that most of us will find that most of it comes as no surprise.  The areas it covers are below:

Knowledge, skills and performance
Safety and quality
Communication, partnership and teamwork
Maintaining trust
All areas where we should aim for the highest standards.


Those that know me may know that, while I find good medical practice to be extremely helpful guidance overall, I have always taken issue with the very first standard it sets.

According to GMP, doctors should:


  • Make the care of your patient your first concern.

This is, of course, an impossible standard, and often an inhuman one.  Many doctors trying (consciously or unconsciously) to meet this standard over the years have lost perspective, or "burnt out".

But I believe it is reasonable, commendable even, to set a standard for yourself that you know is unattainable.  Therefore I would restate this very first standard:


  • Aim to keep the care of your patient foremost; 
    • Be mindful of situations where you may find this difficult.  
    • Take appropriate action, if your situation may put patient care at risk.  

This is a more sustainable and human approach, and I think, a compatible one.  

The accompanying standard in the "Knowledge, skills and performance" section that GMP provides is this:


  • Provide a good standard of practice and care.
    • Keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date.
    • Recognise and work within the limits of your competence.

To my understanding, this should encompass some very real limitations of doctors as human beings, whether they are biological (e.g. hunger, sleep), personal (e.g. illness or responsibilities outside of medicine), or wider concerns (e.g. organizational failings, unsafe working practices or shift patterns).  

Encouragingly, therefore, the GMC has spelled things out, or "added some new duties, or made existing ones more explicit", and has restructured the guidance under the four headings used in appraisal ( licensed doctors must have an annual appraisal based on Good medical practice) - 

  • ensuring continuity of care – for example, checking that a named clinician or team has taken over responsibility when your role has ended
  • taking prompt action if a patient is not receiving basic care to meet their needs
  • taking part in structured support, such as mentoring, if you are new to practice or in a new role
  • mentoring less experienced medical and other colleagues.

My rephrasing of the first standard, then, would fall well within point 2, "taking prompt action if a patient is not receiving basic care to meet their needs".  

I wonder if anyone from the GMC is reading this, and if so, whether they would consider rephrasing that first standard in the next edition?



Social Media:


As well as the revised Good medical practice, we also receive explanatory guidance for certain specific issues.  

One of these, "Doctors' use of social media" (headlined as "The benefits and pitfalls of social media"), is particularly interesting.  Any doctor who blogs, or tweets, or uses facebook, google+, myspace or orkut... etc etc should read it.  

It all boils down to, of course:
"You are personally accountable for your professional practice and must always be
prepared to justify your decisions and actions."
That's the last line of the summary slide of good medical practice, and probably the best principle doctors could stick to; with a little imagination, you'd then know how to act.  

But the theme today seems to be making things explicit - perhaps to spell things out to colleagues whose imaginations are exhausted, perhaps to cover every eventuality ahead of time, so the GMC can say "you can't say we didn't warn you" when someone next pleads ignorance of basic ethics as a defense to Facebook-stalking their patients (or some such transgression).  

Read it, please - I won't cover it all.  


Some selected points, and my take on them:

"The benefits and risks of using social media", 
or 
"To support you in getting the most out of social media and online working, without compromising yourself or your patients, we have introduced the guidance Doctors' use of social media."
YES!  It's a complex area!  With benefits and risks!  But we're going to tackle it!  Yay, go GMC!


"As well as this guidance, you should keep up to date with and follow your organisation’s policy on social media."
NO!  Boo to this!  Have they even read any organizations' policies?  

For example, from my Trust's "Internet Use Policy" - "No member of staff is permitted to access, display or download from internet sites that hold offensive material". 
 
So I mustn't go to Wikipedia, because it probably has a page about [insert something which offends you here] [if you can't think of anything, I suggest the article about the Daily Mail] [No, I'm not hyperlinking that for you, because it might be offensive, I haven't checked]?  Offensive to whom?  

Actually, having said that, the Daily Mail offends me greatly, but I will defend your right to read its bilious nonsense about underage celebrity immigrant house prices, if you must.  Just don't expect me to link to them.  

"Many doctors use professional social media sites that are not accessible to the public. Such sites can be useful places to find advice about current practice in specific circumstances. However, you must still be careful not to share identifiable information about patients."
Hmmm.  Having never used these sites (disclaimer - I have a doctors.org.uk account, but have never used their forum), I'm not the best person to comment, but I do view these with suspicion.  Light is the best disinfectant.  


"Doctors’ use of social media can benefit patient care by:
a engaging people in public health and policy discussions
b establishing national and international professional networks
c facilitating patients’ access to information about health and services."
YES! Actually, can I pick d, all of the above?  Oh, I'm sorry, that wasn't an MCQ?



'Nyms:

Regarding anonymity:

"content uploaded anonymously can, in many cases, be traced back to its point of origin"
YES!  You dun goofed!  Because I BACKTRACED it!  The consequences will never be the same!  (possibly NSFW, link is to reference i.e. knowyourmeme.com).

"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."
YES!  Anything less is not good enough.  



I'm GMC 7140564, Dr Patrick James McNally, by the way.  I have a rubber stamp with that on and everything.  

(Pseudonyms are all well and good, but posting things anonymously should be the rare exception, not the rule).  

Trip to Genetica is a track by Tonic on the seminal 1998 Adam Freeland breaks album, Coastal Breaks II.  A name I use online where unique usernames are required, because usually no-one else does.  

Comments welcome.  



Monday, February 18, 2013

Active Travel Bill for better walking and cycling (for Wales)


This is one bill that will pay for itself...


News today that the Welsh Government's "Active Travel Bill" aims to make walking and cycling safer and easier is very welcome news indeed.




This is excellent news!

While still at university I wrote a dissertation on active travel. I would be first to admit that I did focus on England (and Benelux) to an extent. So it's a pleasant surprise to see Wales coming out with legislation.

The medical community, particularly the Royal Colleges which represent the different specialties, need to support this loudly, and not let governments water it down.

Also - why just Wales? Can we expect the Coalition Government to come out with something at least as strong?


Now - let me reproduce the "mission statement" bit of the article:


The Bill, which is a key commitment in the Programme for Government, is aimed at making walking and cycling easier and safer by requiring local authorities to plan fully integrated active travel networks. The legislation will require local authorities in Wales to:
identify and map the network of routes within their areas that are safe and appropriate for walking and cycling;
identify and map the enhancements that would be required to create a fully integrated network for walking and cycling and develop a prioritised list of schemes to deliver the network;
deliver an enhanced network subject to budget availability and following due process;
consider the potential for enhancing walking and cycling provision in the development of new road schemes.

http://wales.gov.uk/newsroom/transport/2013/120218-active-travel-bill/?lang=en




I'm all for high quality segregated infrastructure - and I believe that's the only way we'll get significantly more bums on bikes - but this bit has me worried:

"The legislation will require local authorities in Wales to identify and map the network of routes within their areas that are safe and appropriate for walking and cycling"

My concern here is, if you are riding from A to B on the only realistic route - eg rural A roads such as the A4165 from Oxford to Banbury - and the local authority has not identified that road as "safe and appropriate for walking and cycling", then if you are injured (or worse) by a "careless" or dangerous driver, are they and their insurer going to argue that you shouldn't have been there in the first place?

These concerns are probably ill founded. They state further duties to:

"identify and map the enhancements that would be required to create a fully integrated network for walking and cycling and develop a prioritised list of schemes to deliver the network;"
"deliver an enhanced network subject to budget availability and following due process;"
"consider the potential for enhancing walking and cycling provision in the development of new road schemes."

Therefore it's unlikely an insurer could argue that you shouldn't have been on a particular road, when there is no realistic alternative. I've no great love for vehicular cycling - it's a stop-gap solution for a few fit young cyclists like me - but it looks like it's safe for now.


The further undertakings are vague, but promising. Once there's a document showing the network we SHOULD have, it will become increasingly difficult to put off building it. And the "enhanced network" they mention could be all talk and no tarmac, but could be an example of "aim for the Netherlands, get Denmark" in terms of improving cycling infrastructure.


Most of all, it's nice to see politicians (and others) taking seriously about bikes!


This Bill is a great first step in the right direction; now let's see the rest of Team GB (and Northern Ireland) commit to it, and more.

BNF simplifies advice - today on paracetamol poisoning, tomorrow on..?


Medical guidelines have a habit of becoming more and more complex with time.  

Doctors are quite good at adding complexity to any given situation, but not so good at recognizing when things have become a little too complex to be really useful.  

I can think of any number of examples, even over my career so far.  E.g. when I started out, acutely unwell people were to be given oxygen, and lots of it, to make things easier for their metabolism.  Except some people with COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), who shouldn't be given too much oxygen.  Then we find out that one large group of acutely unwell patients - those having a myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome or "heart attack" - shouldn't be given lots of oxygen after all, as it might mean a worse outcome for their heart.  Now it seems that oxygen therapy has become so complex, that nurses and other staff are sometimes afraid to give the patient any oxygen at all, for fear of doing the wrong thing.  

Two more examples - hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus - have also undergone this change.  Both these conditions used to be simple to diagnose, and we had a few simple treatments for each.  Now the diagnosis has become complex - with ambulatory blood pressure monitoring for hypertension, and use of HbA1c for T2DM - and the treatments even more so, with many competing drugs offering little in the way of comparative data or data on real-world outcomes.


This is why the latest BNF (British National Formulary) update is so refreshing.  Paracetamol overdose is common, and the guidelines for its management can be hard to follow.  

For example, there were helpful graphs for "high-risk" and "low-risk" patients, showing at what level of paracetamol you should get excited and start giving the antidote, depending on how many hours have elapsed since your patient took the tablets.  

But consider the common case of an overdose taken over a few hours, with perhaps 8g of paracetamol taken the previous night, and another 8g taken the next morning.  How do you plot this patient on the graphs?

Or imagine that you have plotted your patient as being below the threshold ("treatment line"), assuming they are in the "low risk" group.  But if you consider them "high risk", they are over the threshold.  They tell you they didn't have much to eat for a day, maybe two - what will you do with that information?  Are they now "high risk"?


The new guidelines eliminate the old "High risk" and Low risk" categories, drawing a single treatment line and expecting you to use your judgement. I have reproduced the basis for having a single line below:

"Although there is some evidence suggesting that factors such as the use of liver enzyme-inducing drugs (e.g. carbamazepine, efavirenz, nevirapine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, primidone, rifabutin, rifampicin, St John's wort), chronic alcoholism, and starvation may increase the risk of hepatotoxicity, the CHM has advised that these should no longer be used in the assessment of paracetamol toxicity."

New graph:



Old graph:



In addition, they have made the following change:

"For ease of use, recommendations on management have been categorized into:
acute overdose;
'staggered' overdose, uncertain time of overdose, or therapeutic excess"

There then follows clear management plans for each category.  

The BNF should be commended for these changes, which will help clinicians and provide greater confidence in treating this common problem; I hope this represents the start of a realization that "more is not always better", particularly where guidelines are concerned.  



Update: The MHRA Drug Safety Update for this topic is from September 2012 (before I subscribed to their RSS!) and forms the basis for the updated info in the BNF:

http://www.mhra.gov.uk/Safetyinformation/DrugSafetyUpdate/CON185624

I reproduce their summary below:

Summary

New simplified guidance on treating paracetamol overdose with intravenous acetylcysteine is now in place. This includes an updated treatment nomogram. The new guidance is as follows:

- All patients with a timed plasma paracetamol level on or above a single treatment line joining points of 100 mg/L at 4 hours and 15 mg/L at 15 hours after ingestion should receive acetylcysteine (Parvolex or generics) based on a new treatment nomogram, regardless of risk factors for hepatotoxicity
- Where there is doubt over the timing of paracetamol ingestion including when ingestion has occurred over a period of one hour or more – ‘staggered overdose’ – acetylcysteine should always be given without delay (the nomogram should not be used)
- Administer the initial dose of acetylcysteine as an infusion over 60 minutes to minimise the risk of common dose-related adverse reactions
- Hypersensitivity is no longer a contraindication to treatment with acetylcysteine




Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This is why you should get better tyres.

Tyres? Tires? Anyway.

Stock tyres - the ones that come with your bike - are rubbish.


They don't get a lot of attention when you're choosing a bike, so manufacturers, dealers, bike shops etc spend the cash on shiny components instead (which attract your attention - chainset, brakes, and rear derailleur, usually). Then they make a saving by using lower spec components where you're less likely to pay attention. Like the tyres.

Yet they're super important, as they make a huge difference to how your bike handles and feels. Good tyres make your bike fast, reliable, and inspire confidence in the corners or in the wet. Poor tyres can drag the whole experience down.

Like these ones.

They're a Kenda 700x23c model, but this isn't to say the whole Kenda range is a dud. Just that these ones weren't very good.

(N.b. you'd usually struggle to buy the same low-end tyres that come with a bike; pretty much all aftermarket tyres are more upmarket. I have had good Kenda tyres in the past).


Several punctures in the first 500km means they're not worth your time or money. This is a common experience with cheap, low-end tyres.

What isn't so common, but was alarming to see with these, was the bulges.

A first look at that photo and you'd think the wheel is out of true. That's what I thought - it's my front wheel, and it's obvious even when riding.

In fact, the tyre has a couple of worrying bulges. Looking closely, there's a zig-zag appearance as it deviates first to one side, then the other.



On inspection both tyres had suffered this, but the front one was worst. Looking inside, the threads were starting to separate from the rubber, and spread - allowing the tube to bulge.

Braking on a descent or taking a corner at speed, this could have meant a nasty blowout, and loss of control. AKA, a crash.


These tyres did no more than 500km, probably less. Commuting and leisure riding, sub-65kg rider. Panniers, occasional shopping, rider and bike never weighing more than 90kg maximum. I've never seen a tyre wear out in so little time.

Avoid!


The solution?


- Check your tyres regularly.
- Bin them before they let you down.
- Consider replacing stock tyres early (you'll enjoy the bike more as a result).





Ironically I have replaced mine with a set of Hutchinson Flash tyres - described here as wearing out and developing an "S Curve". Sounds familiar! Although he did take two Winters on a turbo and one Spring on the open road to achieve that. I'll report back later.

Android, tethering, Orange, Panther, Eurosport on Linux!!


Just thought I should share this / document this, in one corner of the net at least. I'm quite pleased with my implementation.

Might be of interest if you have an Android, are on Orange, have the Panther PAYM plan, and want Eurosport on your PC!

I'm using GNU/Linux but imagine this would work on most OSes.

So, as you might know - with Orange's "Panther" plan you get 1 or 2 "Swapable"s, for mobile multimedia services eg Times Online, Sky TV etc.

But - one service - "Mobile TV" offers a few good channels inc British Eurosport 1 and 2.

This is great - I can watch cycling this year, without listening to those ITV4 blokes..

But - it's on the little phone screen. I have a big PC in the living room - so I thought - why not put it on there, when I'm at home?

You access Swapables via Orangeworld.co.uk. But if you go there on your PC, the site can tell you're not on your phone, and won't offer the Swapable services.

So I thought - why not tether my phone to the PC, effectively "wrapping" the PC in the phone's connection, so the site would see it as the phone?

Did this - didn't work.

Went to Orangeworld.co.uk - it said it couldn't tell which phone I was accessing the site from (!!!), and to key in my phone number to authenticate by text.

Did so - text received - has a link to click to authenticate. Forward that link to the PC (e.g. email it to yourself). Click it, on your PC.

Still doesn't work.

Then I realized - Swapables aren't compatible with even every Android phone, never mind PCs. E.g. officially my Motorola isn't compatible - but it is, I just had to set a custom user agent in my browser, so the website "thinks" you're browsing from a compatible handset.

In my case, I'd set the phone to "be" a Samsung Galaxy with Android 2.2.

You can do the same on your PC.

One easy way to do this - get the Firefox extension "User Agent Switcher".

In this extension, import a library of user agents - eg the XML available at http://techpatterns.com/forums/about304.html

Select your user agent - e.g. Samsung Galaxy, Android 2.2, Mobile Safari...

Now head over to Orangeworld.co.uk through your tethered phone - and you can open your Swapable - Eurosport on your PC!

Disclaimers -

- Worked for me, might not for you.
- I'm not responsible for anything you do.
- This might work without the tethered connection - but we don't have Wi-fi yet for me to test that out (new flat, wifi starts tomorrow).
- Orange has a fair use policy for Swapables eg Mobile TV - I think it's about 20 hours per month...

Have fun!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Air pollution in Sri Lanka - a rant

 
Posted by Picasa

Something burning, 24 hours a day.

I need to get something off my chest. Haha. We all do, even if we don't know it yet.

It's hard to know where to start - there are so many things wrong in this picture. But let's start with those chimneys.

Sri Lanka has a few things to sort out, and the air people breathe in Colombo is a good place to start.

Did you know this country has emissions rules? And vehicles get emissions-tested? Hard to believe, when you see the exhaust from the average minivan. I've heard that vehicles sold here constitute "Japan's dumping ground".

This country needs nuclear power. The whole world does. We have to stop burning diesel and all other sorts of lazy polluting fuels, not just for the biosphere but - being purely self interested - for us, for people.

I say nuclear because i think it's the feasible option. Renewables could do the job too if we can get enough of them. Whatever, we need electricity to replace petrol, diesel etc, and we have to get it without burning hydrocarbons. No-one wants to be energy-poor again (people haven't listened to Illich). Fossil fuels have been fantastically cheap, easy energy - just try to cycle at 20mph, then do the same in a car or on a motorbike - and we need to make sure electricity is there to take their place).

I cycled home from Colombo tonight, and my snot is blackened by all the god-knows-what in the air. (I'm almost the fastest thing on the main road, because the traffic is so bad, at standstill mostly, but confident motorbikes - and me - can go up the inside, where the tarmac stops. Dirt surface, no pavements, somehow they can afford 4 or 6 lane highways, but no pavements, it's appalling. Yay for suspension though).

Why do we put up with this? The black stuff in one's snot at the end of the day, i mean. We wouldn't put up with someone pissing all over us, and that might be healthier. Or do rich people who matter just hang out only where the air is clear?

They have some Thorium here, but not the skill or commitment to use it yet. I saw a newspaper headline (one of the english ones) that was effectively "Government rethinking nuclear due to OH NOES NUCLEAR GONE WRONG IN JAPAN". Not v encouraging.

On that subject - the way I see Japan is:

OK, bit silly putting a power plant in earthquake area, and right on the coast. But all of japan fits that description (or is mountains) so they had little choice.

And then, what happened is actually a great ad for how safe nuclear is. Plant runs merrily for decades, then is hit by a R9 earthquake and tsunami, and just about melts. There's time to get out. Some deaths, workers at the plant, which is thankfully mostly automated.

Take any other power plant, most of all coal, and you'd have more deaths over those decades (from massive piles of coal falling on people etc), then more deaths on the day in March. Plus deaths at the coal mine. (I know uranium mines aren't safe either, but they're smaller).

So why the resistance? is it the cognitive bias, to avoid the possibility of "dread" events - rare terrible catastrophes - even if it means being subject to more everyday harms that far outweigh the dread possibility?

Yes, nuclear can be a catastrophe if it goes wrong. But burning fossil fuels is a catastrophe even when it goes right - it's just a fundamental component of doing it. When we grow up, we have to get past our irrational fears - of the dark, of spiders - and it's time we do the same about nuclear.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cargo bikes, trikes... Why not a trailer?


I’m a medical student, about to be a doctor. I move house annually, I don't have a spare £1000 and have no garage – so a dedicated cargo bike or trike is out of the question.

Last summer, I remember being asked, by a local cyclist of a certain age, “what’s a student doing with a bike trailer”?

However, a simple trailer (one of those £80 “avenir mule” jobs) works fantastically for me. At the risk of sounding clich├ęd, it just fits into my lifestyle.

It cost the same as filling a 4×4’s tank, but it’s lasted me 3 years now, and still going strong.

I do the weekly shop with it. I’ve moved furniture (a butcher’s block) with it. I’ve transported nearly 40kg of commercial espresso machine and grinder with it. I’ve shifted gym weights with it. When my partner arranged a medical student event in Oxford and needed to transport refreshments (crisps, snacks, fruit, and at least 20l of drinks), she took the trailer.

When it’s not being used, it folds up and lives on top of the big freezer in our utility room.

I find it’s quite welcome on the roads – maybe Oxford’s drivers are used to this sort of thing, or maybe the yellow tarp over the top is a help. People tend to give me plenty of room! There’s the odd cycle path that clearly hasn’t thought about people with more than two wheels, but you can manage.

My point is – doing this is entirely normal, not extraordinary. I don’t have room for a car, nor do I feel like spending thousands of pounds, just to move me and my stuff around.

For exactly those same reasons – space, and a lack of a few thousand quid or so – I don’t have a cargo bike (or trike). It’s just not practical.

But a trailer – now that just does the job, and tidies away when it’s not needed. So, why wouldn’t I have one?