Sunday, 6 October 2013


My cat was hit by a car last week. I was at work and my wife called me to let me know. It was one of the scariest calls I've ever taken.

I rushed out and met them at the vet's. Luckily it seems like he's not too badly hurt. His ear is a bit mangled and a couple of teeth chipped, but the rest of it will all heal.

Today we let him out for the first time since it happened. It's scary sometimes, having pets...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Health care

I had an interesting discussion with my mum earlier today about the NHS.

For background, my mum had an aneurysm at Christmas and was admitted to hospital. She was stuck in there for a few weeks while they did scans and decided what to do, then once they'd decided on an operation there were more than a few delays but she eventually had her op and all went well.

We were discussing the changes coming up to the national lottery, and one of her reservations was around the "good causes" that lottery money is sent to. She suggested that it could instead be funnelled to the NHS. I had to disagree.

My mum was quite surprised to hear how much we all currently pay for the NHS (last time I did the maths it was around £2,000 per taxpayer per year -  a little over £150 per month).

My problem with the NHS is not that it's not a good thing, but that it's not efficient and has no need to be. This is one reason I'm all for the idea of competition within the NHS. I'd rather go further though.

The best system I've heard of is the Singaporean one. Everyone pays their NI equivalent into a special account.   If you need serious treatment (such as for cancer, etc) then the government pays, and most other medical costs are taken from your special account. If there's anything left in it when you reach retirement age, you can use the money to buy a pension. This way people who need something can get it, but it discourages frivolous uses of the health service (by making people aware of the cost) while driving efficiency (through competition - if a new clinic will charge less, people will use it).

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Sleepy Sunday

The dog, cat and I are having a snooze. The best way to spend a Sunday!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Doctor Who

I just found this thread on RPG.Net a couple of days ago and have very much enjoyed reading it. It's great to see how people perceive Doctor Who, and reading about someone watching it for the first time reminds me of when I first watched it.

My own take on it was that 9 was suffering some kind of PTSD - he could have done with another season or two to work through his issues, but I guess a regeneration works as well. 10 was ok - he was a little too human for me, and a bit too much of a hypocrite for me to get behind 100%.

All of my favourite episodes in the early seasons were Moffat ones. I've disliked just about all of the end-of-season finishes under RTD. Take season 1 for example - great setup, fantastic situation. Daleks poised to destroy mankind, and the only way the Doctor can stop it is by wiping out Earth. Great stuff! But then he doesn't go through with it, and instead Rose gets super-powers and saves the day. There's a line in there about how a time lord can't look into the heart of the Tardis as he'd get the powers of a god (kinda like Rose just did?). Then how the hell did they lose the time war?

When the Master stole the Tardis and left the Doctor and co marooned at the end of time, I thought it was so he could look into it's heart and become a God. But no, instead he wants to use it to build a really fragile Paradox Machine device, the breaking of which will undo all the stuff he's done. Great plan...

The other big thing that annoys me about RTDs endings is that there's no build up until the last minute. People have already talked about the Bad Wolf thing. It was meaningless - at best it gives a little cue that lets you place the episode within series 1 when re-watching. In Season 1, the first time we learn that the "Heart of the Tardis" is special is in Boom Town, the episode immediately before the season ending two-parter (and it solves all their problems by magic there as well).

This problem is endemic throughout the season-endings. The resolution is always something of a deus ex. Season 2, great situation with Daleks and Cybermen attacking. How do we solve it? Pull a lever... Season 3, a whole lot of people chanting your name give you magical powers? Really? And the whole fobwatch thing that indicates hidden time lords? Only introduced a couple of episodes before, and all because the Doctor didn't want to hurt the poor bad people, instead getting a bunch of innocents killed.

Season 4 gave us the Doctor-Donna fiasco. Never mind that dodging a regeneration shouldn't be as easy as having a spare body part around (and where are the limits? can I shunt regeneration energy into a finger? How about a toenail clipping?) The whole thing where Donna gets all the knowledge and power of the Doctor by touching this energy imbued hand is dodgy as anything (and not just that, but (a) she's apparently better than the Doctor at it and (b) she still only saves the day with essentially meaningless technobabble) but also creating a human clone of the Doctor? I never liked biology, but the repressed biologist inside me is crying out in agony. Still, anything for a happy ending, right? (A happy ending for Rose and the clone Doc, anyway. Kinda sucks for Donna).

I will confess I've not actually watched The End of Time - I fear my heart may give out given what I've heard.

Don't get me wrong - I love the situations and most of the season ending episodes, I've just always been disappointed by the resolution. New things are introduced (such as Heart of Tardis giving Godlike powers) which are then ignored forever-more.

I'd love to say that things got better under Moffat, and they kinda did. The first season under Moffat was genius, and I loved every minute. The next looked promising but then had a crappy ending - how exactly a wedding ceremony is meant to fix the universe I don't really know, and the resolution where River killed the robot seemed a little contrived - it would have been less of a stretch and a better nod to continuity within the series to have the 'Ganger Doc come back. The latest season hasn't really ended yet - but I'm not overly thrilled with the explanation for the Impossible Girl - seems a bit too similar to Rose getting God powers in the first RTD season and spreading messages through the time-stream. GI's motivation seemed a little OTT as well - screwing one person over at the cost of your life seems like too high a cost - better to send a minion to do it, surely?

Have to see what the 50th Anniversary special is like.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Journalists and numeracy

Just spotted this - it's a fairly minor thing, but bugs me.
"...a maximum "lifetime allowance" applies to pensions, limiting the total size of a fund to £1,500m for this tax year (ending April 2014) and down further to £1.25m in the next (2014-2015). "
Seems like a hell of a cut, from £1.5bn to £1.25m...


The whole article is a bit crap to be honest - £2.4m would buy you around (very approximate) £120k of pension, which seems like a hell of a lot more than most people live on while working, let alone in retirement. I suspect they're taking inflation into account, at which point they may be trying to draw attention to the fact that the allowance is decreasing rather than increasing, but they really need to say what assumptions they are making and what that means in today's money. It's just scaremongering