The Doctor

AKICILJ — does anyone recognise this book?

An acquaintance is trying to find a book he read some time ago. He thinks it was published in the early 90s and that it was the author's first published novel. It features:


  • widespread desertification as a result of climate change
  • World War III results from that, as Africa & the Middle East invade Europe
  • aliens appear and do inexplicable things (they are seen as lights on the battlefield)
  • the story is told from multiple viewpoints.
Does anyone have any idea what novel this might be?
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Envie d'un snog?

NHS

I might not have been online much in the past couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean I haven't heard some of the grotesque rubbish coming out of the USA about the NHS. You try to ignore it, but the stupid seems to seep through. Of course, the NHS is not perfect; what large organisation is? It certainly wasn't helped by Thatcher's determination to apply the market metaphor to every aspect of life (I recall a new hospital manager, who had come from a supermarket chain, being shown round the theatres while I was there: he didn't have a clue what was going on, and it reminded me strongly of Monty Python). But a flawed realisation of an idea doesn't mean the idea is wrong....

Having said that, the guff that is coming out of the USA doens't seem to relate to any realistic appraisal of the NHS's[*] characteristics. Even allowing for the low standard of the "debate", it was astonishing that Investor's Business Daily said, People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K. where the National Health Service would say the quality of life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless. Er.... What? (That editorial has now been altered: it says that This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK. This rather misses the point, which is that Hawking, as he has said himself, would not have survived without the NHS.)

Without the NHS, I would almost certainly not be here. I would very likely have died last October without the rapid, free treatment I received, first in the ambulance and then in the Royal's resus. room and subsequently on its medical and respiratory wards. It wasn't as extensive as it might have been, because I responded to the nebulised and IV treatment; but if I had not, and I had needed more aggressive intervention in ITU, I would have gotten it. Thinking about it, without the NHS — which allows me to see my GP as often as I need, and get the medication I need at a reasonable[**] price — it's very likely I wouldn't have lasted until the ambulance arrived, since I might well not have had an inhaler at hand. Of course, all this is assuming that I survived to last year in the first place: without the NHS, without free access to medical care, would I have had the long-term maintenance therapy which kept me largely free from life-threatening asthma attacks, or would I have had a fatal attack sometime in the early 1980s? That's always assuming, of course, that asthma would be the thing which killed me. Without the NHS, would I have died in 1975 of peritonitis and septicaemia following a ruptured appendix?

I simply don't believe that without the NHS I would be here. I'm from a working class background[***], we didn't have a lot of money; private health care would have been beyond our reach. However, with the NHS I got good medical care whenever it was needed, and it's worth noting that I was also able, as a result of the policies of various enlightened governments between the 1940s and 1970s, to go through school and then to university and come out with a medical degree without a crippling burden of debt. The education system which allowed that has been wrecked by right-wing governments of both parties, but at least the NHS is still recognisably the NHS.

[* It's worth noting that there isn't one NHS; the NHS in Scotland is a separate entity from the English one; it operates in basically the smae way, but it is distinct.]

[** And I believe in Scotland the plan is still to abolish prescription fees entirely within the next couple of years.]

[*** I was, literally, born in a Glasgow tenement. And for some years we had no inside toilet. There's a whole Python routine there. You wouldn't believe how my paternal grandmother lived.]


  • Current Location: Biblo
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Satellite 2

I seem to have been pretty much hibernating since the end of Satellite 2. The Dead Dog ended when we left after 1am on Monday morning, I got back and slept for a while, waking up at some point (there was daylight) to snaffle some food and then crawled back into bed. Yesterday, woke up early, got up and had breakfast then crawled back into bed... Bit of a pattern there. While having breakfast, I watched the Lugosi Dracula, a secondhand DVD I got from At the Sign of the Dragon, the dealer we had at the con. (I have a small passion for the Universal horror films of the Thirties/Forties.) Its pacing was ideal for my tired brain; I wasn't too tired, though, to appreciate that Lugosi was actually rather impressive in the role, allowing for the different style of acting of the time. It has been quite some time since I last saw the film, and I had forgotten the way Browning makes it look as though Lugosi has walked through a web without disturbing it: simply done, but very effective. However, I would really like to get my hands on a copy of the simultaneously filmed Spanish version: the actor playing Dracula may be less skilled than Lugosi, but from the clips on the disc's extras, the direction is much superior.

Anyway, not really what I set out to write about. After all my banging on about it to everyone I met for the better part of eighteen months, we finally got Satellite 2 to the launch pad on Saturday morning. There was an odd moment when I looked at the registration desk — laden with leaflets and booklets — and thought, Oh, shit! I haven't brought any Satellite 2 flyers! And then I remembered this was actually it...

The opening ceremony started with a film of Apollo 11 launching to the accompaniment of Also Sprach Zarathustra[*]; then a big pink foot came down and the Python theme started[**], which is when we walked in and took our places. The Python bit seemed to go down very well, as did the choice of a white waistcoat to mark the DCM: a fair number of people got that.

And then we were into the con, with a programme which seemed to be well-liked. Certainly there were times when it was hard to get gophers because everyone wanted to go a programme item, and Ken MacLeod commented on how much of the programme he wanted to see. Iain M. Banks was a superb guest of honour, approachable and enthusuastically taking part. (With him and Ken at Satellite 1, we have been very lucky with our guests of honour.) The oddest comment about the con I have heard came from someone who did not come to it. I am told that someone was attempting to persuade a media fan to come along and got the response that it was a space advocacy convention masquerading as a science fiction convention. Um, no, I don't think so. Yes, there were some items in the science stream which could fairly be described as space advocacy (and I don't see a problem with that at an SF con), but it wasn't by any means a majority of the programme. Of the programme items I saw (either whole or in part), the ones which were highlights for me were Inadvisable Rocket Science[***] and Iain Banks's Room 101. I particularly loved his diatribe against Michael O'Leary, the boss of Ryanair. He referred to one of the ships in Matter, The Hundredth Idiot: the source of the name is a quotation. ‘100 idiots make idiotic plans, and carry them out. All but one justly fail. The hundredth idiot, whose plans succeeded through pure luck, is immediately convinced he’s a genius.’

When I read Matter, Michael O'Leary was exactly the sort of person I thought of at that point.

I'm not quite sure exactly how the balance falls between scary and gratifying, but there were quite a few people asking about a Satellite 3.... Gulp.

I feel like going back to bed... I lasted quite well through the con, despite that awful bout of neck pain last week (it really buggered things up, although I got a lot of rest I was trying to catch up from quite a spoon deficit because of that). Admittedly, I had to use some Red Bull, but I lasted the con. Flopping at the Dead Dog was needed, though. I am hoping that by tomorrow I will be back to something like a normal sleep/wake ratio. Friday morning, of course, I need to get my father to the Beatson. (He's eating much better, by the way: the stent has really helped.)

Oh, while I remember: if you have any con reports from Satellite 2 (or see any), could you point me to them? (No, I haven't caught up with DW/LJ. Don't be silly.)




[* Which brought back memories: the BBC used it as the theme for their Apollo 11 coverage.]

[** This year is also the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of Monty Python's Flying Circus, if you didn't know.]

[*** A nuclear ramjet, planned to fly at low altitude at Mach 3 with an unshielded nuclear reactor spewing a radioactive trail behind it? As Phil Wellings said, the capacity to delivery nuclear bombs would have been almost redundant.]

Envie d'un snog?

T minus 2 days

Two days to go until Satellite 2; I was digging out something for the con last night and came across my folder from Satellite 1, with my notes for the closing ceremony at the top. (Most of the notes are on the lines of Thank X.) That was a good day; I expect Satellite 2 to be much better.

I think I am almost back at where I wanted to be this week in terms of preparation. I got seriously knocked down by neck pain (much the worst I have ever had) on Tuesday night, which left me out of it for most of yesterday. Bit of luck it hit after I got the new analgesic prescription; it definitely helped.

Anyway, I have now spent five minutes doing this, which is long enough; I have more to do, so better get on with it.

  • Current Mood: excited
Envie d'un snog?

T minus 4 days

It's 4 days until Satellite 2, which is definitely going to be the best con in Scotland this year! Latest news is Ken MacLeod is definitely coming; he was the GoH at Satellite 1, and frankly the sort of GoH a concom dreams of, really throwing himself into it. He'll probably be having a deservedly more relaxed con this time. It's good to see him coming back.

Among all the various con preps, CAPCOM asked me a while ago if I'd mind being on one of the panels. I said OK, not thinking too deeply about it, only realising in the past week or so this is going to be a panel on the Culture, on the main stage, with Iain M. Banks on it. No pressure, then. (I had already snaffled a copy of A Few Notes on the Culture for my PRS, probably a good thing.)

One of the good things about not being directly involved in the programme organisation is that I can look at what is being lined up and honestly say this is a con I would good to even if I weren't involved in organising it. There is some interesting serious stuff, and some fun silly stuff. 2009 is not just the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's flight, there's another 40th anniversary this year, too, and we're going to be nodding (or possibly, stomping) towards that.



Apart from the con....

I may have mentioned this before, if so, apologies. My father's got his date to be admitted to the Beatson for assessment: a week on Friday. This is going to be fun, since he has to go to the Western first to have a cardiac monitor fitted, then go to the Beatson (which is no longer on the Western site, of course). The good news is the stent is helping him eat and it seems to be benefitting him.

I have had a very rough few days, so I managed to see a GP today. I have new analgesics (which may or may not make a difference) and some antibiotics; there's a possibility of oral steroids if I need them. I guess I'm not going to be taking much of the real ale at the con.

Interesting DVD releases just now. Carl Sagan's series Cosmos has just been released; it says, digitally restored and remastered, but not sure if this is new restoration, etc., since the copyright info on the box suggests this was produced in 2000. A completely different release, about which I can only say it really is about bloody time, is Tutti Frutti (which is now more than 20 years old, hard as that is to believe).

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Meme

From [info - personal]geekgirl 

The Rules:

Step 1: Put your music player on random.
Step 2: Post the first line(s) from the first 15 songs that play.
Step 3: Post and let everyone guess the song and artist.
Step 4: Strike out the songs when someone guesses correctly.
Step 5: Cheating is discouraged.


  1. "I've seen you in the mirror when the story began"
     
  2. "Welcome we love you"
     
  3. "When my dreamboat comes home"
     
  4. "Here today the red sky tells its tale"
     
  5. "Slim lined sheik faced"
     
  6. "I'm here to testify"
     
  7. "I'm living without you"
     
  8. "In the deserts of Sudan"
     
  9. "So, it's how the story goes"
     
  10. "She was born to be my Unicorn"
     
  11. "Lost am I in this world of timelessness and woe"
     
  12. "Light up your face with all the love within you"
     
  13. "Well the key to my survival"
     
  14. "Oh, show me. The way. To the next whisky bar"
     
  15. "Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far"
     
  • Current Location: Bed
  • Current Mood: tired
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This neighbourhood's going downhill

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8088381.stm

[ETA: Not a lot more to say about that. From a very cursory reading of the news, it seems likely that this results from a slump in the Labour vote rather than a rise in the BNP vote. Labour voters do seem to just not vote when pissed off with their party rather than voting for anyone else. But even if that's the case, even if the BNP vote actually fell, it's still depressing. To lift the spirit slightly and spread a bit of actual, you know,  knowledge around, here's a link to an excellent piece by feorag: The pernicious influence of immigrants in the UK.]
  • Current Mood: depressed depressed