thinking outside the tank

Archive for February 2009

Happy birthday dear central retinal vein occlusion

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This blog entry celebrates the second birthday of my central retinal vein occlusion. It shows the diary entries I made two years ago including diagrams to record what was happening to my vision. Although it was scary at the time, I’ve learned to live with it and in fact I feel as though I’ve had a lucky escape. There are forms of occlusion that get worse rather than better, as mine did, and there can be complications like the growth of new veins that interfere with sight.

If ontology recapitulates phylogeny then the human eye was previously: a sprite, a praying mantis, cotton wool, a monocle, a tropical fish, a dag, and a bushy eyebrow. These are all the phases through which my eye passed.

Monday, 19Feb07 – An Ocular Event


“0640 – ocular event. 0810 – Westway. Dr. Hulme suggested go to St.Paul’s. 0930 – St.Paul’s. First noticed ‘droplet’ that moved as I looked right-left. BP 164/90 Central Retinal Vein Occlusion”

At 0640 on the morning of 19Feb07 I was sitting quietly with a cup of tea watching the BBC News. I felt relaxed and still had 10 minutes before I needed to set out for work. For the previous two weeks I had suffered from a heavy cold but on that morning I felt well.

Quite unexpectedly, two things happened to my right eye; a halo of light appeared around its periphery and shortly afterwards, at the centre, I could see a pattern of white lines. I had recently started to learn Kanji – one of the sets of characters used in Japanese – and for all the world this pattern looked like a couple of Kanji characters. The halo lasted for 5 minutes but the central pattern persisted. I’m not normally one to panic and as an IT Consultant on contract who only gets paid when he turns up for work, I set off. The 15-minute journey was uneventful and I settled at my desk, computer on. It didn’t take long to realise there was something seriously wrong which needed investigation. The Kanji characters were still visible and, looking at the computer screen, all vertical lines were chopped into sections offset horizontally from each other. I logged off and went home. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by netkingcol

February 16, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Posted in diary, health, medicine, personal log

Tagged with , , , , ,

Measles, MMR, and herd immunity

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This morning the Health Protection Agency blamed the rapid increase in the incidence of measles on the parents in the 90s who refused to have their children immunised with the MMR vaccine. It’s not quite that simple. 

Prior to use of MMR a high proportion of children received a couple of single vaccinations against measles and the incidence of the disease was very low (I think 56 cases was the number reported, compared with 1,348 in 2008). So why change? Well, the reason was cost. This was masqueraded as a convenience to the parents and a mercy to the infants who would suffer fewer stabbings, but really, the thinking was it would be cheaper to deliver multiple vaccines at once. That’s undoubtedly true, but the policy makers and advisors were too slow to react to the events of the day.

When Doctor Andrew Wakefield raised his suspicions of a link between the MMR jab and the onset of autism, no doubt given maximum coverage in the media, parents were quite naturally hesitant to take the risk. Here was a new injection and somebody saying it might be dangerous. What would you do? Many parents decided not to take a risk that they didn’t have to and the uptake of MMR fell dramatically.

Herd immunity is achieved when a sufficiently high proportion of a population is immune to a disease so that an infected person dropped into that population suffers the illness themselves but is unable to pass it on. For measles, that proportion is 95%.

The trick that was missed by the authorities was the recognition that preserving the herd immunity of the 80s was more important than proving themselves right about the safety of MMR. They failed to take into account the attitude to risk adopted by parents who had to compare the possibly immediate consequence of the positive act of injection with the far off, uncertain consequences of a bout of measles. At the time, science was giving contradictory results in the way that medical statistics often do, so parents rejected MMR in droves.

Rather than digging in with their insistence that MMR was safe and as soon as it was realised that herd immunity was jeopardised, the government should have acted by offering the single measles jab, about which there were no comparable safety concerns. Herd immunity would have been restored and we wouldn’t have this upward trend in the incidence of measles.

The Health Protection Agency should not only blame the parents; they should also learn about their own mistakes and accept that they have the responsibility to act as an Agency to Protect Health – and to do so by whatever means are available.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst 2009

Written by netkingcol

February 6, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Quantitative Easing and Not For Profit – The Perfect Match

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So, throwing taxpayers’ money at the banks didn’t work. We saved them, admittedly out of necessity, but they still don’t feel like reciprocating by releasing some of those billions to the real economy in the form of loans, overdrafts, and mortgages. You can’t really blame them; they share the same fears as everyone else – while the economy is in recession houses, jobs, and savings are at risk. But, if they don’t want to be part of the solution, I suggest that we ignore them – and don’t give them any more money.

The main problem in the economy is the supply of money. In normal times making money cheaper by lowering the interest rate is the tool of choice to stimulate the economy, and by and large is the only tool you need. But these are not normal times. The cost of money is lower than ever, but you can’t wheedle any out of the banks. The next tactic that might be tried is called ‘quantitative easing’. We musn’t call it ‘printing money’ in case people go to their garden sheds to service the wheelbarrows they would need to carry the money about. It won’t be real money; it will be money given, again, to the banks to pad their balance sheets in the hope that this time they’ll do the decent thing. Fat chance.

We need more money circulating in the economy and the confidence to spend it. Here’s my suggestion:

target the quantitative easing on the not-for-profit sector

This would have several beneficial effects. The beauty of charities is that they are very keen to spend the money they receive; it would go straight into the economy. Charities buy goods and services and they provide employment; they pay for research, direct aid, helplines, field-workers, and much more. Even better, rather than creating wealth they create well-being. They spend their cash working hard to solve fundamental social and medical problems, and they are very effective drivers of social change. So, instead of priming the banking pump, again, why not open the flood-gates of not-for-profit spending? A mere £10 billion, a trifling sum compared to the trillions glibly quoted in the media, would be a good start.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst 2009

Written by netkingcol

February 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

Google, #googmayharm, and the power of viral networking

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I understood but didn’t really feel the power of viral networking until yesterday when Google confused the world with its “This site may harm your computer” message which appeared against every search result. If you still don’t know about this, take a look at:, which is Google’s explanation of what happened.

If you did know about this already, how did you discover it? Perhaps you were googling and it started to happen. If so, how did you react? I wonder how many people believed what they read and didn’t try to access the search results. If you mainly listen to the radio then, in the UK at least, you wouldn’t have heard about it until Sunday morning. However, if you were logged in to a micro-blogging site and you have a reasonable number of connections to other users, the chances are you read about it within minutes of it happening. My own experience was as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by netkingcol

February 1, 2009 at 10:59 am

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