Scottish Independence Pros and Cons and Facts

Scottish Independence Pros and Cons

Scottish Independence Poll and Referendum

I’ve just read this Sky News article on what Scotland may gain or lose by declaring independence.

In this day and age of unity and bringing cultures together in harmony and common purpose, we can’t even keep our little island united. Scottish independence would be a disaster for all involved.

Assuming that Scotland does get the lions share of North Sea oil (and that’s a bit IF if my book), what are you going to do when it runs out? Look at the Middle Eastern countries like Dubai, who have realised this and are ploughing hundreds of £Billions in to building a tourist infrastructure in the hope people will flock there when the oil money runs out and they’re just left with a hot desert.

Can you really see the entire Scottish economy, public services, police, army, NHS, benefits, education, roads etc etc being maintained purely by taxation on salmon and whisky exports and a few golf tourists?

And things this article doesn’t cover is all the debt that Scotland will gain, e.g. the public sector pensions deficit and their share of the UK national debt, and their share of liabilities for the bank bailouts, e.g. the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Scotland may do ok on oil revenues for 50 years say, but it’ll be another bankrupt Greece in your children’s lifetimes. Voting for independence is an utterly selfish move that will doom generations to poverty.

{ 0 comments }

“I put my family first” – Do you really?  I didn’t. post image

Reading this might change your parenting. I had a similar epiphany about 5 years ago.

http://johntomsett.com/2014/01/10/this-much-i-know-about-why-putting-your-family-first-matters/

I ended up working away from home Mon-Fri every week for 3 years straight and my relationship with Jadzia suffered badly. I recall vividly coming home one day, laden down with briefcase and suitcase and brollie and overcoat etc, struggling to get in the door, and seeing my 7 year old Jadzia walk into the hallway to see who was making the noise.

Instead of the anticipated shout of “Daddy!” and her running to hug me, the blank look of indifference on her face as she turned and walked back into the living room left me stunned and has haunted me ever since. I resolved on that day to fix that.

5 years on, I earn about half what I could have if I just chased the money, but I work from home 5 weeks out of 6. I cook my daughter breakfast and eat it with her every day, during which we watch and laugh at crazy videos on the net together, or solve puzzles posted in the Engineering magazine I get, or as it is at the moment make paper aeroplanes from a kit I got for Christmas. And we talk about her life and her friendships and occasionally even boys (oh the horror)!

I’m here waiting every day she comes home from school to hear about her day. I sit and eat tea with her every day. And as happened yesterday, I’m on hand to rush to school and take her to the hospital when she falls and hurts herself, of course administering much needed daddy cuddles along the way. :)

My relationship with my daughter means the world to me, and now is the most important time. It’s alarming to realise but by 12 I’ve already had two thirds of her time at home. All too soon she’ll be off living her life, at Uni or working away or moving in with *shudder* a boy(!), and carving her own niche in this world.

I hope that her poor old Dad will get a look in occasionally, but I accept that it will always be less than I’d want. The time I spend with her now is the most important, as she grows into a woman, and it will set the tone for our relationship for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t miss it for the world… and I won’t miss it for work.

{ 0 comments }

Book Review: Instinctive Fitness by Oliver Selway

Instinctive Fitness Book by Oliver Selway

It’s a weird thing when someone asks you if they can send you a free copy of their book. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as they say, and I anticipated getting hassled for a testimonial, good Amazon review, etc.

So when Oliver Selway asked if he could send me a complimentary copy of his book Instinctive Fitness, I said no!

Some months later he asked me again however. And as I like reading health / fitness / diet type books, when I get the time, and he hadn’t been pushy about it, I said yes this time. And so it was that a few days later a nice shiny copy of Instinctive Fitness arrived in the post, with a nice hand written letter from Oliver (nice touch, marketeers take note!).

Summing up this book is easy; If I were to write a book, it would be Instinctive Fitness. This book is not about fitness, Instinctive Fitness s about how to optimise your life by being healthy and happy, by getting your body to behave and react in a natural and instinctive way.

To be honest, I could have saved myself £hundreds if I’d just bought this book 6 years ago, as it pretty much summarises and replaces my entire shelf of books on health and fitness.

If you’ve never scratched the surface of mainstream medical and dietary advice and not yet realised that most of what you think is fact (like low fat, high carb diets are healthy, or calorie restriction is the only way to lose weight, or long sessions of cardo are great for burning fat) is really bollox, then this book will leave you dumbfounded.

Or if, like a growing minority, you’re waking up to the fact that sadly (and maybe unwittingly) you’ve been lied to by the media, food companies, dieticians, fitness trainers, and even Doctors, for the last few decades that a calorie, is a calorie, is a calorie (it’s not by the way), then this book will reinforce and probably expand on what you already know to be true.

Do I agree with every last word? No, not quite, but 95% is pretty damn close to perfect in my book. Pun INtended. :) (Here’s where Oliver picks up the phone to bend my ear!)

In summary, I like this book, a lot. If I were to give any book to a complete newbie, I’d give them Instinctive Fitness. And by newbie I mean someone who is just starting their journey of self education into the real causes of why they’re over weight and feel unfit. Come to think about it, there’s a few people I know that could benefit from getting this book this Christmas.

You can buy it today from Amazon here.

{ 0 comments }

Dolly Char Cleaning Agency Problems & Complaint

We recently engaged the Dolly Char cleaning agency to supply a cleaner once a fortnight for a few hours to help round the house, specifically with Marie from the Warrington franchise.

Sadly the whole experience has been poor, resulting in 2 different cleaners in 3 months, cleaners not turning up and calling in sick the morning of the clean, changing the cleaning dates as the couldn’t make the agreed dates, arriving late, leaving early, and finally damaging to our stainless steel cooker hob and hood due to using a scouring sponge!

This last incident of damage is the last straw as Dolly Char’s response was to wash their hands of the whole affair and palm the issue off to an insurance company, a Graham Edwards of the Green Insurance Group. Who immediately said that they weren’t going to pay out as it could not be “proved” that the cleaner caused the damage, and besides, there’s a £100 excess on the policy anyway. The claims they made that their cleaners are “fully insured” then is rather a stretch.

We’ve subsequently discovered that the Dolly Char supplied cleaner who caused the damage, a blond pony tailed scouser called Louise, had previously been sacked by one of our friends on the estate for causing damage in her property too.

A careful read of the Dolly Char terms and conditions reveals that Dolly Char absolve themselves of any liability for the cleaners they supply, in fact claiming that you are engaging the cleaner on a direct contract basis and they are merely introducers, so you bear all the responsibility.

In summary I will never use Dolly Char again and would not recommend them either.

{ 0 comments }

Beware CrossFit’s Publicity Waiver: Especially for Kids

If you have a kid that you think will ever participate in a CrossFit event, you need to read this:

I’ve just signed the nipper up for another charity Teen Gauntlet event, but as last time, I’m very unhappy with the publicity release. I raised this issue back in May and am disappointed that they haven’t decided to make any changes for kids.

In case you (like most of the population) find a 427 word sentence difficult to read, the first sentence of the safety release basically says: CrossFit can use your kid’s photos, images, likeness, voice, and *personal data* (and much more) even using a fake name with your kid’s face. This is for any purpose, including merchandise, marketing and sales.

They can do this not just in your country, or the US, but anywhere in the Universe. Yes it does really say: “throughout the universe”. They don’t have to ask your consent, or even tell you they’re doing it.

You give them this right, on behalf of your child, irrevocably (once signed, you can never change your mind), for life, in fact beyond your life and your kids life; it’s a “perpetual” right.

And of course you give up any rights to any compensation. See here if you want to read the source (brace yourself for extreme legalese!)

The question is then, are you happy that your kid’s face or name being used on CrossFit t-shirts, mugs, skipping ropes etc, or on posters or TV adverts even, in any country, with any of their personal data attached, at any time during their life, without your or their knowledge or say so?

What if your kid grows up to be a rock star, or politician, or sportsman/woman, or renown business person, and CrossFit own complete rights to, well, everything about them? This could destroy their political career, or prevent them getting a lucrative job, or stop them getting a sponsorship deal. If you were Nike, would you sponsor an athlete that some other company had complete rights to?

Imagine if Tiger Woods’ Dad had signed such a document when he was 12 years old and CrossFit had “perpetual and unrestricted rights” across the “universe” to his image, to be used “with and without my knowledge” for commercial exploitation including “marketing, goods, products, services, courses and seminars”? Do you think he’d have got hardly any of the sponsorship deals that he has?

I believe all criticism should be constructive, so here’s a simple solution: if they would just limit the publicity release to apply for 12 months from the date of the event, then that would be completely reasonable, but as it stands, when it comes to kids taking part in CrossFit events, this publicity release is unjust, unethical and just plain wrong.

The purpose of this post is to raise awareness of the issue, in the hope that if more people bring it up, a new publicity release for minors (say those under 21), will be brought in for CrossFit events.

{ 0 comments }

Detecting and Recovering a Hacked WordPress Blog

My wordpress blog has been hacked

For both personal and professional use, WordPress blogs are all the rage at the moment, especially in the CrossFit and PDR communities and not without good reason. They are trivial to install, easy to use and pretty simple to customise to give your own unique look and feel, without any programming knowledge.

As any WordPress owner will tell you though, they are also prime targets for spammers. Most of this comes in the form of comment spam, where typically “bots” (automated programs) or armies of Indians / Chinese / Philippinos post fairly short, pointless or plain random comments, just so they can get the link back to their site from the “url” field when you enter a comment.

The reason for why they do this is that the internet currency is hyperlinks. The more links you have to your site (generally) the higher up the search engines your website will appear. The fact that the search engines all got together years ago to stop this with the introduction of the “nofollow” tag (which is applied by default to all WordPress comment links) means that their efforts are mostly pointless, but lets not stop something as trivial as the facts get in the way of a determined spammer huh?

One of WordPress’ strengths is it’s plugin model, where you can get extra bolt on bits of code that upgrade its performance. The main anti-spam plugin is Askimet, which comes pre-installed on virtually all WordPress blogs. It’s vital to keep this up to date with the latest versions though, using WordPress’ very simple Automatic Update function (listed next to the plugin’s entry on the plugin page, if an update is available).

Realising this, some spammers go a step further however and actively seek to hack into the administrator screens of a WordPress blog so that they can surreptitious insert links of their own directly onto the site. There are lots of ways to attack a site which are out of the scope of this article (Google “SQL Injection” for an example if you are interested), but what is important is that it is not always obvious that you website or blog has been the subject of a successful attack.

Why? Because hackers go to some lengths to hide the evidence by hiding the links they create, either by printing them in white on a white background, or explicitly making them hidden with a “style”. This only works (in their minds perhaps) because the search engine programs that scour the internet (typically called “spiders”… see what they did there?!?) don’t see any of the fancy formatting that’s in place on websites to make them look pretty to the likes of you an I, they see just the raw text only (it’s a bit Matrix if you ask me). So the search engines’ spiders will see a link that’s been hidden from you.

If you don’t know your blog’s been hacked and you can’t see any evidence of it, how do you ever tell then? My own blog has been hacked twice and each time I spotted it in a different way. The first time, I started getting automated emails from my web host warning that I was approaching, then exceeding my bandwidth limits. But when I checked the stats, I wasn’t getting any more visitors. Investigation discovered that my home page had grown to 900kb, just in text. The result of 2000 hidden links inserted at the bottom of the page! You can check this by right clicking on your blog and selecting “View Page Source” (in FireFox) or “View Source” (in Internet Explorer) and you will see your website how the spiders see it.

The second time, I noticed a significant drop in the number visitors to the site, it dropped about 3/4 over night (you do use Google Analytics right?). Also using the excellent and free “Google WebMaster Tools” service (as with Google Analytics, you must use this for all your sites, it’s invaluable) it started to give a hint that suddenly bandwidth was going up. I was getting that deja vu feeling. Sure enough, checking the source again, there were about 500 hidden links this time. Pesky hackers! The reason my traffic had dropped was that Google had identified my site as being hacked and dumped me out of their index, and that was that.

In order to recover from the hack in both instances I was lucky, it simply required an upgrade to the latest version of WordPress (which over wrote the hacked files). Not doing this trivial activity as soon as upgrades become availabe is the reason most blogs get hacked in the first place. It works like this:

  1. WordPress discover (or are told about) a security vulnerability.
  2. WordPress fixes the security hole and issue an updated version.
  3. Hackers get the new code, compare it to the old code to see what’s changed, and so work out how to hack older versions.
  4. Hackers write a program to exploit the security hole and go looking for WordPress blogs that haven’t been updated yet, to crack open with a security exploit that they didn’t even bother to work out themselves. Simples.

Tip 1 then is: keep your WordPress install bang up to date if you want to keep it hack free. It’s a simple process to do with the automatic upgrade facility WordPress has. Though do use the built in backup tool (which just does the WordPress database), as well as ensuring your website host or cPanel admin is backing up the whole site too (which includes all the files you’ve uploaded, like images), just to be sure.

*** WARNING: Now for the science bit. If you’re at all unsure what you’re doing DON’T DO IT. I’m not responsible if you make things worse by following and advice here without understanding the consequences. This article is a guide only, not an instruction manual with guarantee. There are many places on the web you can recruit a competent WordPress dude to help you for a modest fee; do that if you unsure. I’m afraid I simply do not have the time to help you out if you get stuck. ***

If you have been the victim of a hack though, it’s important to take some other steps to make sure the hacker hasn’t left another doorway into your blog:

  1. Check the WordPress Users list, specifically you are looking for other admin accounts that you haven’t created. Delete them if you find them.
  2. Check your hosts ftp accounts (e.g. in cPanel) to make sure an ftp account hasn’t been setup for the hacker. Watch out if you find one, when you delete it DON’T click the option to also delete the ftp accounts files, you will likely delete your entire blog. I know, I did this once by accident!
  3. Check the MySql database users (usually via the hosting program: phpMyAdmin) to again see if there are extra accounts here.

If however your site has been hacked badly and defaced for example and files are missing or the blog is not working, then a full restore from back is in order (you are backing up, right?). This is the fastest way I’ve found of restoring from backup, but it’s a bit scary if you’ve never done it before and you need to be sure you have a full WordPress database and full site (file) backup. If you aren’t completely confident that you know what you’re doing, you’re better off paying an expert to do it for you:

  1. Use cPanel’s Fantastico to remove the WordPress installation. This removes all the files and database!
  2. Use cPanel’s Fantastico to re-install WordPress. This creates a new clean database. (In new versions of WordPress you get to pick the administrator username. DON’T use “Admin”, use something else. This adds an extra layer of protection.)
  3. Login to WordPress and update it to the latest version (which should match your backup’s version if you’ve been backing up properly).
  4. Using an ftp client, find the file called wp-config.php and copy it to your local hard disk. This file contains the login credentials for WordPress to access the database.
  5. Use phpMyAdmin to “drop” all the tables in the WordPress database (don’t delete the whole database, just remove everything it contains).
  6. Use phpMyAdmin to do a restore of the WordPress database from your backup, which will recreate all the tables and the content.
  7. Again using an ftp client, copy over the new installation’s files with the files from your site backup.

That process has so far (touch wood) never failed to put my blog back to the state of my last backup. It also has solved other common WordPress problems like the infamous Blank Screen of Death and the truly terrible Internal Server Error 500 but I sincerely hope you never have to use it!

{ 0 comments }

The Greatest Engineering Feat of the Century

Mars Opportunity Rover 10 Years Old

The Opportunity Rover on Mars is one of the greatest engineering success stories of the 21st century. Originally designed for a 3 month mission and still going 10 years later, it’s performed 40x longer than planned!

It’s saddening that a feat of engineering that in my mind equals that of say Brunel’s Clifton Gorge bridge, is not publicly recognised. Have you ever seen a show detailing it’s design or build? Do you know the names of anyone in the team that built it? The 10,000 word wikipedia page doesn’t even name the team involved in its design or construction, let alone any individual.

Actually that’s not strictly true, in the “Honors” section it says:

> “Honoring Opportunity’s great contribution to the exploration of Mars, the asteroid 39382 has been named Opportunity.”

And it then goes on to name 3 individuals: Ingrid van Houten-Groeneveld, Cornelis Johannes van Houten and Tom Gehrels, who found the asteroid. So yes the article does name some people, but they found a rock in space, one assumes the 39,382nd rock to be found in space!

But it doesn’t name a single engineer responsible for actually building a robot that flew to another planet and has spent 9 years and 3 months longer than planned, and certainly longer than anyone could have dreamed of, exploring it.

I know that engineers are not considered cool etc, but when something really remarkable happens, it’s a shame more effort is not made to recognise the achievement.

Colin
Chartered Engineer

{ 1 comment }

How to Buy a House in 6 Weeks

House Sold Sign

We’ve finally moved house, to just outside sunny(?) Warrington, and the piles of packed boxes in every room are slowly diminishing.

Moving house is always a stressful affair, but it was made somewhat easier by only taking 6 weeks from accepted offer, to walking in the front door with keys in hand, our fastest move to date. I thought it would interesting then to detail the timeline of what happened when, then at the end I’ll share my tips for moving house quickly, starting on the 3rd April:

  • 03/04 – Offer submitted to estate agents
  • 04/04 – Offer accepted via estate agents
  • 05/04 – Appointed solicitors
  • 09/04 – Mortgage approved in principal after receiving proof of income
  • 09/04 – Paid for Valuation
  • 09/04 – Arranged survey
  • 09/04 – Instructed solicitors to start searches – they’re waiting for the contract
  • 09/04 – Received vendor’s solicitor’s details
  • 10/04 – Returned our ID to the solicitor
  • 11/04 – Vendor returned ID and property details form
  • 12/04 – Received memorandum of sale
  • 12/04 - Valuation carried out
  • 12/04 - Survey carried out
  • 15/04 – Mortgage company approved mortgage based on valuation
  • 15/04 – Contract received by email from vendor’s solicitors
  • 16/04 – Searches started
  • 17/04 – Standard Valuation received by post
  • 17/04 – Formal mortgage offer received by post
  • 18/04 – Written survey received by post
  • 20/04 – Posted mortgage offer back
  • Various queries raised with vendor’s solicitors and answers flowing back
  • 30/04 – Mortgage company confirmed receipt of signed offer and waiting for completion date – needs 3 days notice to supply funds
  • 30/04 - Called to arrange quotes for removal
  • 03/05 – 1 of 3 removal quotes in
  • 07/05 – Still queries with solicitor outstanding, e.g. room details, road adoption certificates, retrospective approval for the new chimney etc
  • 08/05 – All removal quotes in.  All within 15% of each other.
  • 08/05 – Started moving deposit money to the solicitors (the bank needs original posted letter authorising a CHAPS payment so was 3 x BACS over 3 days)
  • 09/05 – Visit solicitors to sign the contracts
  • 09/05 – Called insurance company to arrange cover before exchange
  • 10/05 – Exchanged contracts for a completion date of 16/05
  • 10/05 - Called removal company to arrange removal, had to go to our 3rd choice company to get the date we wanted
  • 10/05 - Called telecoms provider to arrange phone line and broadband
  • 11/05 – Called bank to let them know to expect the solicitor to request funds and check funds delivery time
  • 13/05 – Called solicitor to ensure he was requesting funds today
  • 14/05 – Called bank to check they’d received the solicitor’s funds request and check the amount requested was right
  • 15/05 – Called solicitor to check funds had been received from the bank, they hadn’t!
  • 16/05 – Removal packers arrived to pack the house
  • 16/05 – @ 9:30am Called solicitor again, funds had arrived 5pm on the 15th and they were sending it on that morning
  • 16/05 – @ 11am – Completed!  Went to house to pick up the keys
  • 17/05 – Moved in, hurrah.

There you have it, 6 weeks from accepted offer to completion.  We’ve moved house a modest 6 times now and the first move took 3.5 months, so getting it down to 6 weeks I think I’ve learned a few things along the way.  Here are my 2 key tips for moving house quickly:

  1. Exchange mobile phone number (and land line preferably) with the seller and use it often.  All solicitors and estate agents involved are working for you two, but ultimately it’s a deal that’s being done between you and the seller, so communicate.  Often solicitors blame each other for issues or create delays in their formal communications, issues which can easily be resolved just by picking up the phone and calling the other party.  I called the seller probably 15 times over those 6 weeks, and he called me about 10, i.e. we spoke directly about 4 times a week.  Note also that I didn’t speak to the estate agent once we’d had the offer accepted, there’s usually little point.
  2. Don’t assume your solicitor and bank are infallible and will do what they say, when they say it will be done.  Keep on top of what’s happening and when; check everything and chase when you need to.  Great questions to ask you solicitor are:
    1. “What happen’s next?”
    2. “When will that get done?”
    3. “What are we waiting for right now?”

I hope your next move goes as quickly.

{ 5 comments }

Do Power Lines Cause Childhood Leukaemia

We’re moving house, and whilst writing it down like this sounds crazy, the estate we’ve picked is a few miles from a power station and has a set of main power lines and a few pylons running through it. (There are lots of plus points too, honest!)

Now everyone’s seen the “shock” headlines that power lines cause cancer right? I did someone tell me that? Or maybe I just thought they might? Anyway, I figured it was about the right time to properly investigate this and see whether it was true.

As a Chartered Electrical Engineer my first port of call was my governing body: the Institute of Engineers and Technicians (used to be the IEE) who have a working group to look at this exact issue (and that of mobile phones, tv and radio transmitters etc): the Biological Effects Policy Advisory Group. Here’s their latest policy statement, here is a fact file they’ve published on power lines and mobile phones, and here is a much more detailed fact sheet that looks at the whole issue: The Possible Harmful Biological Effects of Low-Level Electromagnetic Fields (EMF).

In summary the IET has been looking at this issue for 20 years and has been continually frustrated it seems in the fact that every time there’s a study that appears to show a link, it’s not able to be reproduced. I quote:

“… attempts have been made to replicate key studies, which have often been selected because of their apparently sound methodology, robustness and potential significance of findings… These attempts have been unable to confirm any of the original reports… the identification of even a single robust effect which could be used as a starting point to determine such factors as dose-response curves… has yet to be achieved.”

The issue is then that there are some studies that show links between power lines (what I’m interested in) and cancer rates, but that they are typically unreproducible, and as any scientist will tell you: if you can’t reproduce your findings, you haven’t found anything!

Actually I should be more clear, the studies that I’ve looked at don’t show a link between power lines and cancer, but specifically leukaemia, and then specifically only childhood leukaemia. That sounds bad right? Will maybe not as bad as you might think. Let’s look at one.

This study is published here in the British Medical Journal and is called: Childhood cancer in relation to distance from high voltage power lines in England and Wales: a case-control study. This is an epidemiological study which means they look at statistics and try to draw conclusions without any understanding of any science or mechanism behind it. You have to be very careful with epidemiological studies, as you constantly have to remind yourself that correlation and causation is not the same thing, and correlation does not mean causation. If you’re not convinced of that, ask me about pirates and their relationship with global warming some time. ;)

Anyway, back to the study. This UK study found that there was a 69% increase in leukaemia risk in kids who were born within 200m of power lines, and a 23% increase risk for those born between 200m and 600m. Those rates are relative to those that were born >600m away. What it didn’t find was any link with adult leukaemia rates. Nor did it find any increase in risk of other forms of cancer, including central nervous system (CNS) and brain tumours. If you’re so inclined, here’s some raw data that shows the distance of address at birth from nearest National Grid line for cases and controls in each diagnostic group, and estimated relative risk (RR):

LeukaemiaCNS/brain tumoursOther diagnoses
Distance /m Cases Controls RR Cases Controls RR Cases Controls RR
0-49531.67370.44761.17
50-9919111.79460.6915160.91
100-19940251.6426320.8237450.81
200-29944391.1638281.3566760.87
300-39961541.1535301.1979651.21
400-49978651.2340420.9680970.82
500-59975561.3654411.3386851.01
≥600 (ref group)937894471.00640564191.0012 40612 3861.00
Total970097006605660512 77612 776

 

The problem with statistics is you can draw all sorts of interesting interpretations from results. For example you could say that living within 200m of a power line actually decreased your chance of getting a brain tumour! But you’d never see that in a newspaper headline of course.

Either way, this doesn’t look great. A 69% increased risk of getting leukaemia if born within 200m of a power line. So adults are ok, and other forms of cancer have been discounted, but the problem with this headline grabbing figure is that it’s a relative percentage. Relative to what?

lightningGolf

We all take relative risks every day. In the USA for example, 400 people out of 310M population get struck by lightning every year (1.29 per million). But not all 310M are likely to stand outside in a thunderstorm, unlike golfers. Now if we assume 1/4 were playing golf (I can’t find the exact stats) and there are 29M golfers in the USA so you could say (and you could cut the statistics many ways to get different figures, and I realise this is too simplistic but this is just an example to prove a point) that playing golf increases your risk of getting struck by lightning by 267%. But that doesn’t stop people playing golf, because getting hit by lightning is rare.

Just like you’re far more likely to crash and die if you ride a motorbike, but that doesn’t stop people doing it. Coming back to childhood leukaemia then, what does that 69% increased risk mean? Well there 2 figures that are really relevant:

  • There are about 400 cases of childhood leukaemia each year in the UK (ironically the same number of people struck by lightning in the USA!)
  • The number of incidents of childhood leukaemia that can be attributed to living near a power line is if five.

5!  I was astounded when I saw that number.  All this research and worry and the risks we’re talking about is 5, out of 400 cases.  So power lines (assuming this study is accurate) cause just over a 1% increase in leukaemia rates in children.

Taking that further, the overall survival rate for childhood leukaemia is now 80%, which means that whilst very very sad, only 1 child dies each year from this.  Assuming as I say, we believe this study.  I say that because even Cancer Research UK say that there’s no proven correlation with power lines.

I will conclude then by saying that I have no concerns about living near power lines, what flimsy and inconsistent evidence there is for a link with childhood leukaemia represents such a small risk, it’s not worth bothering about.  One child dies every 3 days on the UK’s roads, a death rate  that is over 100x higher than that due to the possible and unproven increase in leukaemia deaths, but we don’t stop our kids going outside.  I’ll leave you with the conclusion from the IET working group:

“Given the uncertainties about whether there are health effects or not, it is understandable that people may wish to reduce their personal exposure “just in case”. The Institution agrees with this approach, although this should only be as a stopgap until research delivers firmer answers one way or the other. But in view of the weakness of the scientific evidence for harmful effects, the Institution considers it would not be justifiable to take any measures that had a significant impact on lifestyle, or that were costly, or that affected the undoubted and major benefits to society of a reliable electricity supply and of widespread mobile communications.”

{ 2 comments }

Why I Won’t Shop in PC World

Why I Won’t Shop in PC World post image

It’s been a while since I used this blog for what the internet invented blogs for: having a rant about things that pee you off! And as I woke up this morning thinking about this, I figured a bit of rant-therapy was in order.

I went into PC World in Stockport on Sunday to buy some DVD-R disks so that I could take a backup of my work’s Laptop. I don’t normally shop in PC World for the very reason that pee’d me off on Sunday, but Staples had shut and PC World was open, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else to buy DVD-R’s at 4:30pm on a Sunday.

It’s changed a lot since I was last in there, it’s become what Dixon’s used to be: and general peddler of all things electrical. Which is ironic as Dixon’s has disappeared from our high streets. Though not a lot realise that Dixon’s, PC World and Curry’s for that matter, are all owned by the same company.

Anyway, I eventually found the DVD-Rs and after drooling at the 60″ TVs for a bit, went to pay. As these were for business use, I asked for a VAT receipt. This is where it got messy, as the shop assistant then asked me for my name, physical address, email address and phone number. Which I refused to give.

Even after getting her supervisor, they refused to budge and wouldn’t give me a VAT receipt without be giving them my personal details. At one point the supervisor even said to me: “Well then you don’t need a VAT receipt!” To be fair, she did apologise later. The issues here are this:

- As a VAT registered company, PC World are obliged to give a VAT receipt if asked, that shows the tax component of the transaction.
- For retail sales under £250, a VAT invoice/receipt does NOT need the customer’s details.
- The Data Protection Act protects personal data from being collected, where it’s not necessary to collect it.

Knowing the law is on my side, and as I get enough junk mail, junk email, junk automated phone calls, I refuse to give out my personal details, just because someone asks for them. Realising that my Sunday afternoon didn’t need to be completely ruined by a blood pressure elevating episode in PC World, in the end just chose to walk away.

But it will be many more years before I step foot inside another PC World.

{ 1 comment }