Friday, December 08, 2006

This blog has now moved...

This blog has now moved, holus bolus, to

All the posts from here are there, as well as a whole collection of new ones, so please come over and comment at our new URL:

Cochlear implants and deafness

The Cheerful One mentioned in a post that she got herself embroiled in Cochlear implant debate at a recent Christmas party.

I started posting a comment on her post, but my anger ran away with me, so I moved it here instead of turning her comments box into a debating zone.

I respect the views of the anti-implant debate, and I sympathise with their fears that "curing" deafness - which implants don't do by any means - will destroy their culture. But personally I think the deaf culture is far stronger than that. But their tactics make me furious. The worst story I have heard is of non-implanted children slapping implanted children in the side of the head in the playground in an attempt to destroy their implant. (Don't - you will dent the child before the implant.)

The victims of these assaults are children who are not wearing their speech processors - the devices that send the sounds to the implant - implant because they're at deaf school, trying to participate in deaf culture. Can you imagine anything more likely to turn a child against the deaf culture than bullying it out of a school for the deaf - can you imagine anything more likely to attach negative connotations to signing?

One of my colleagues was deaf (without an implant) and, naturally, attended events with lots of other deaf people. He refused to put a company parking sticker on his car because he was afraid of the car being vandalised when he attended events with lots of other deaf people who didn't know him.

Children need to learn to hear and understand speech as separate from background noise and their ability to learn this skill is direct correlation to how soon they can be implanted. The main anti-implant argument is that children should be able to make an informed decision about whether they want to be part of the hearing culture, or the deaf one (as if it's an all or nothing choice) and thus should wait until they are around 12 years of age before being offered an implant.

But at that age their ability to learn to hear speech, and speak themselves, is severely compromised. However, if the child is implanted in its first year of life, and grows up signing, hearing and speaking, they are able to make an informed decision by either wearing or not wearing their implant. Not implanting them until later in life is taking away their right to learn to hear and understand speech.

And honestly, if they had met some of the amazing implantees that I have met, the anti-implant lobby would not be so anti.

One bubbly, vibrant explosion of a woman who went deaf overnight in a nightclub, in her fifties, describes her implant as a lifesaving device. She lives to talk and interact with other people - she is 100% extrovert. She became suicidal after a week of the loneliness of not hearing, and spent a month in deep depression before her implant restored some semblance of hearing.

Another woman in advanced old age (in Australia) had been going progressively deaf over the years. She was implanted and within a week of returning from hospital (that's a ridiculously fast recovery - it's usually longer) was able to ring her oldest friend in the UK - a woman who she had not been able to speak to for seven years, and who she had given up on ever being able to speak to again, because their respective ages made travel difficult. Once the crying was over they talked for three hours, and when I met her, were talking weekly.

How can someone deny that sort of miracle to a person?


On a more cheerful note, my deaf mate was heading off to travel in Vietnam. I asked how he was going to handle the language barrier - because there is very little crossover between Asian languages and English.

He looked at me incredulously, and wrote on our conversation pad, "I don't speak English, and I do OK here."

I wrote back, "Oh yeah, good point there. I forgot!"

Monday, December 04, 2006

Impotent, and with a small penis

It must be great to be impotent.
It must also be great to have a tiny penis.

I say this, because I am constantly emailed by people enquiring about the state of my potency, and the size of my potentate. There must be millions of people out there who genuinely want to help me, and are only thwarted by the fact that my bishop stands unaided, and performs on cue.

On my lonely days, however, I wish things were not quote so functional. On those days I could reply to the emails by saying, "Actually, things aren't so great in the pants department. Can you help me?"

I would be immediately surrounded by love and joy as these thousands of people rush to my aid with sidenafil citrate, pumps, patches and plungers. There would be a mass laying on of hands - it would be like a group hug from the centipede family. It would be lovely.

But alas, by gusset filler functions perfectly normally so I will go on my lonely way, wishing for a little pop gun that only shoots blanks.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A proportional response?

In my last post I mentioned, in passing, that Israel had invaded Lebanon. Of course in the Orwellian doublespeak that is the dialogue of modern warfare it was not called an invasion - euphemisms like "conflict", and "proportional response" were bandied about - even when the Israelis blew up a UN observation post that had been there for eighteen years - not months, years. Eighteen years!

The term that most offended me was "proportional response". The response was not proportional, it was paranoid, reactionary and totally out of proportion, as the coffin counter shows.

However, the claims that the Israelis are not targeting civillians surprises me to. I have seen footage of Israeli asassins destroying one single apartment in an apartment block in order to eliminate a military target without taking out any civillians. At that time the world was caught-up on the legalities of Israeli military helicopters going into Palestine (or Jordan, depending on your politics) and destroying said single apartment. Whatever the legalities, it proved, beyond doubt, the surgical precision that Israeli agents are able to achieve when they want to. Which is why the scenes of entire streets blown to pieces makes me think that the Israelis wanted that to happen. If a group that can destroy individual cars on the road, and individual rooms in buildings suddenly destroys a neighbourhood, it is disingenuous for that group to expect us to believe them when they say that it was unintentional.

If this is how Israel responds to eighty casualties, I would hate to see how it responds to its road toll.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned

The main trick to negotiating with someone is to get as much information as you can about them, and their situation, their pressure points and their pleasure points. Armed with this knowledge you can push towards a satisfactory resolution for both parties.

If you think your negotiation will end in an unbalanced resolution, where the other party may not be entirely satisfied with their lot, you also need to consider your own pressure points once the negotiation is over, because an opponent with nothing to lose will see only up-side in attacking you - and suddenly the negotiation is not over.

If you have been paying any attention to the blogsphere, or the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Times or CNN in the last week you will know that Israel has invaded Lebanon and that Petite Anglaise was fired from her job for bringing disrepute on her employer. Petite's account indicates that her employer spent a weekend reading her blog. She says quite thoroughly, though I suspect he just clicked the "working girl" category to read the work posts - a great example of poor preparation, and an indirect cause of the subsequent media storm.

You see, if you read Petite thoroughly, looking at the profiles and blogs of those who post comments, you will discover that Petite is read widely by media types. She would be within six degrees of separation from almost every Newspaper editor in the English speaking world. Being her boss you would also have noticed that she is articulate in two languages, intelligent, very good looking, and a single mum. Having read her blog you would know that she writes beautifully, and sensitively, about her daughter - you are not firing Petite, you are firing Tadpole's mum - and has ambitions beyond the secretarial. Having seen the book covers in her right sidebar, you would know that she admires bloggers turned authors, and you could assume that she wants to join their ranks. And if you fire her, she will have a lot of time on her hands. She is, in short, a media darling in waiting, willing and able to step up to the plate.

And still he fired her. According to Petite's timeline he read the blog on the weekend and she was out by the end of the week. It looks to me like a hasty decision, made without considering all the angles. A more cunning person would have discussed the matter with Petite, given her a written warning, and requested that she not identify her workplace or use company facilities for blogging. A wise person would have given her the warning, then moved her into corporate communications. By firing Petite they have given her no option but to take her plight public. It is simply the path of least resistance - she has no job, nothing to lose by publishing, and 3000 readers per day who she habitually uses as confidants. What else would she do?

The employer's subsequent media management has been even more short-sighted. So far it has been media relations by "No comment" and not returning phone calls; giving Petite complete control over the story without, surprisingly, ever mentioning the name of the company. The company appears utterly discredited, either by its unfair treatment of a staff member, or the inadequacy of its HR policies in the face of such a challenge. (May large, conservative companies now require staff to sign a contract prohibiting them from blogging, or blogging about work). The company's cold, unsophisticated and reactionary media strategy - so favoured by the archly conservative end of British society - was utterly discredited by its disastrous impact on the British royal family's reputation following the death of Princess Diana. A more evolved organisation would have put its own side of the story, stating why it believes it behaved rationally and reasonably. And if it cannot come up with a plausible explanation, it should recognise that it is in an indefensible position and begin remediation before the media storm becomes a tornado.

Media relations aside; the most potentially damaging fallout for the employer will occur if it wins against Petite at the industrial relations tribunal. Because all Petite did was talk, abstractly, about work in a public forum, a victory would set the precedent that discussing work in a public forum not controlled by your workplace - regardless of whether you identify your employer - brings discredit on your employer.

This would prevent anybody from discussing their job at after work drinks with friends; it would prevent students from discussing their work during continuing education - as is required to become a chartered accountant; and it would ultimately mean that the man who fired Petite should lose his own job for his presentation at the meeting of the International Tax Planning Association in Lausanne last month, or at least for any comments he made about work between sessions.

[Petite and her erstwhile employer have been invited to comment.]

Thursday, June 22, 2006

It's little wonder really...

In the wee small hours this morning, somewhere between the alarm going off and waking up, I was listening to the radio. The BBC man and his reporter were discussing a new report into parking in London and three facts leaped out of the burble at me:
  1. That one in five parking tickets is challenged successfully
  2. That one in three parking officers is assaulted - some with baseball bats and other weapons
  3. They are thinking of increasing parking fines in some places to £160
This, in turn, inspired three thought streams:
  1. So what they are actually saying is that one in five parking tickets is an extortion attempt that fails. Given the number of dodgy parking tickets that people don't bother fighting, the proportion of fraudulent parking tickets must be immense.
  2. People are violently objecting to parking officers illegally ticketing their cars. Or parking officers are violently objecting to people who try to stop them illegally ticketing their cars. I mention this flipside, because the violence is not always one-way. Our porter challenged the parking inspector in our street and the parking inspector hit him with his parking ticket machine. So the parking inspector took a weapon to a concerned citizen who pointed out that he had not waited the statutory five minutes before writing the ticket, and that he would act as a witness. It ended happily though. About a nanosecond after the parking inspector hit our porter, he discovered - the hard way - that our porter is a retired middleweight boxer. I bet it wasn't written up that way in the inspector's log though.
  3. It costs more to park illegally than it does to speed, or to drive through a stop sign
Even in my slightly befuddled sleepy state, having had these thoughts, I had a revelation. An epiphany even.
Perhaps less of 1 will lead to less 2.
I was wondering if anyone else shared my revelation when, outside Bayswater Tube this morning, I saw a parking inspector hiding behind a phone box on Queensway while she typed a car's details into her computer. The car was in the side street, driver in the driving seat, engine running, while the passenger hopped out to catch the tube. The passenger didn't take more than a moment to get out, so really the car was stopped at a stop sign and the alighting passenger was a coincidence. Essentially, the parking officer was about to fine a driver for stopping at a stop sign. (Which makes sense, given that the fines tell us that it is more important to park properly than drive properly.)

So I smacked her head into the side of the phone box.

[Actually, I didn't. I stopped walking, did a double take, walked into the station, walked back out again to see if I actually saw what I thought I saw, then someone approached her to ask a question and the car drove away.]

Monday, June 12, 2006

Just how secure is Guantanamo Bay?

A MILITARY investigation into the suicides of three inmates at Guantanamo Bay was under way yesterday as American officials sought to counter international condemnation over the deaths, dismissing them as a “PR stunt” aimed at discrediting the US.
It worked.

The US now looks ridiculous and insecure. It's pathetic.

Or perhaps I'm being heavy handed here. It seems that modern warfare is all about PR and I might be hopelessly out of fashion when I see tragedy in a person so tormented that death looks like their best option.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The ludicrousness of animal rights zealotry

Last weekend I was sheltering from the wind and rain at Damo's Spring barbecue when I got chatting to a couple of Australian vets, who are living and working in London. Vets are on a good wicket here - especially Australian ones. This couple were in the enviable situation of having two cars and two flats because both had jobs which came with a car and accommodation. Given that they actually wanted to live together, this had led to a strange decrease in their quality of life, given that no matter which flat they are living in they have to be up and out by 8.30am to move the other car out of the resident parking zone, or feed the parking meter. But that's not my point.

They were telling me that Australian vets are very much in demand in the UK becuase they have been trained to do surgery on live animals. There was a slight pause in the conversation at that moment - which they seemed to be expecting, I think they were used to it - before I said, "I'm sorry, are you telling me that an English vet student can be a vet without any surgical training." Yes they said. English vets never do surgery on a live animal until they are let loose on the world and people are paying for their services. I asked why, and they explained that because of the animal liberation movement, British vet students don't do surgery on live animals. Australians do, therefore, people running veterenary clinics like to hire Australians, who have surgical experience, over English, who do not.

So, I said, it's concievable that a caring animal liberationist protester could accidentally run over a fox on the way home from terrorising some poor farmer. They could carefully lie the wounded animal on a blanket - covering its eyes to keep it calm - and gently place it in the back of the car, and drive it carefully to the local vet. Once at the vet they could discover that the vet has never actually done surgery on a live animal before, and thus may be more dangerous to the fox than its original injuries. The couple nodded in agreement.