Category Archives: Blogging

My Last Shift

I would like to start with an apology.

A little while ago, I asked the question 'What is it that makes an ambulance'. I then went on to inform you that the only equipment that an ambulance requires is a defibrillator and a bag-valve-mask. I may have made the suggestion that this shows the priority that the LAS has on patient care.

But I must apologise, for I made a mistake.

You don't need the defibrillator.

—–

Yes, on my final shift I found myself on an ambulance without a defibrillator, going to calls of elderly patients with chest pain. Then our tail lift stopped working, so there was no way to use the stretcher.

We we refused our request to go 'unavailable' in order to return to station in order to get replacement kit.

So the last shift continued my tradition of trying to give good healthcare despite management policies.

—–

The patients were also a fair mix of the normal sorts of patients I've spent the last eight years going to – a fall, a drunken and abusive alcoholic, a homeless chap with chest pain, a runny nose, and two hospital transfers.

My last call was for one of those transfers, an elderly chap that the doctors at a local hospital suspected was having a heart attack that we blue-lighted to the heart-attack centre.

They didn't think that he was having a heart attack, but given his long, complicated and somewhat obscured medical history I still think that the local hospital did the right thing.

—–

So, no bangs, no whimpers, just a continuation of what my shift has been like since I joined the service.

I'm going to hold off on writing about my new job for a while until I get settled in a bit, I think that it's important that I get the lay of the land, and besides, it's better to reflect than immediately report.

I've still got a few things to write about the ambulance service sitting in my notepad, so that will keep me going for a bit.

(Plus I need to work on a new banner for the blog, maybe a new layout and who knows what else…)

Back From Cumbria

Just got back off my holidays, a week in Egypt and then three nights in Cumbria. I now have a few days before I head back to work and the grind of driving to people's houses and telling them to hop into the back of the ambulance for a nice taxi ride to hospital.

In those few days I aim to do some writing, including planning for a series of longer form blogposts, but first I need to clean my flat from top to bottom.

What I will leave you with is my new website, upon which you can find a job offer.

Notes on Nightjack

Notes on the Nightjack verdict, written in haste, in anger, and unedited (because I'm knackered and I have no time to do it justice. My apologies – I think I made more sense when speaking to a Guardian journalist about it)

—–

When I started writing this blog I made some effort at remaining anonymous, it wasn't a big effort mind you, but it involved writing under a pseudonym and not shouting about it in the messroom. When my real name was found out I discovered that I was very lucky, that the communications department of the LAS didn't want to come gunning for my job.

There are laws that protect you should you wish to 'whistleblow', if someone is doing something illegal or immoral then you can be protected if you brig it to someone else's attention. Of course, in the real world, that 'protection' is only as good as the lawyers you can hire to fight for those protections.

A lot of what bloggers bring to light is the chronic state of the their day to day life – a classic example would be police bloggers letting us know about how much administration that they must fill in whenever they make an arrest. Part of what I write about is to highlight the flaws in the governmental running of the NHS. Other bloggers do this more than me.

What bloggers do is humanise and explain their section of the world – public sector bodies do well to have bloggers writing within them, after all these are the people who care about what they do, about what improvements should be made and about where the faults come from. They highlight these things in the hopes that, in bringing this information into the public consciousness, they can effect a change that they would otherwise be powerless to bring about.

Anonymity provides a protection against vindictiveness from management who would rather do nothing than repeat the party-line, or lie, that everything is perfect, there is no cause for concern. Having seen management do, essentially illegal things, in order to persecute and victimise staff – anonymity is a way of protecting your mortgage payments.

It is not just for bloggers this protection of anonymity – consider a support forum for people with mental health problems, anonymity allows these user to perhaps be more open, more honest and more themselves then they would do were they forced to reveal their own identities. It is the nature of the internet that our identities are fluid.

Perhaps that can be the Times next 'scoop', tracking down the people behind anonymous forums in the cause of 'public interest'.

Journalists work to protect their sources, some ending up in prison over their refusal to breach the privacy of their sources. This is right and proper.

So – when Judge Eady told the Times that they could breach the privacy of the police blogger Nightjack, it has lead to a very real fear of what this means for the rest of us.

The thought that Nightjack breached laws on writing about criminal cases (when the details are all in the public domain post-trial) seems petty, and if he did indeed compromise trials then why is his force only giving him a written warning rather than prosecuting him?

I won't dwell on the 'public interest' of unveiling bloggers, they have done it before in utterly despicable ways and for some reason it seems to be their 'cause' – were I vindictive I'd be looking into their expense accounts right now for some justified retribution. Or googlebombing them as a bunch of tossers.

Instead I'm mindful that a lot of exceptionally interesting, thought-provoking blogs might now come to an end. What is to stop companies and public bodies from hunting down people who may have been negative about them. What blogger, with bills to pay and mouths to feed, is now going to take the chance of lifting the lid on mismanagement, badly though policies or idiotic governmental decrees when there is the very real chance that their identities can be revealed for nothing more than a lurid headline on someone's chip wrapper.

Why should bloggers put their careers at risk, over subjects that they are evangelical about, when the simpler, safer option is to fall back into the horde of people who grumble under their breath yet risk nothing to change things for the better. The world can then continue with less public scrutiny because people are scared to speak out.

If it is so important to know a bloggers name so as to better judge them as a source, then I think that it is time to do away with the journalistic practice of protecting sources. After all, without producing the source, the journalist could be (gasp) making up lies. I think we should also know, for definite, what enticements a journalist has had to write a piece for a paper – that 'holiday in France' piece, was it 'bought' by the holiday company that receives the good review?

(The answer is that this does go on – I've seen it with my own eyes)

I wonder if Judge Eady reads blogs, or even has any idea what a blog is. I wonder if he has any idea of what a door he has opened for witch hunts and the reduction of our knowledge of public services to bitesized PR fluff. I wonder if he realises that anonymity is one of the strengths of the internet, not a weakness.

And as for the Times – I wouldn't wipe my arse on it.

—–

I am exceptionally busy this week, with a 60 hour work week, two days of conference and numerous other things dotted around the place. I barely have time to sleep, let alone eat or write.

—–

Photograph by Robotson licensed under a CC license.

Blue Lights And Long Nights

I consider myself very lucky. Since starting this blog I've had a couple of people send me books to review, something I'm more than happy to do.

The latest book that I was given (and I have another one on the review pile) is Blue Lights and Long Nights by Les Pringle.
Les is an ambulance man through and through, he joined the Birmingham Ambulance Service in the early 1970's. This book is the story of his first eighteen months in the job.
I was immediately struck by Les' writing, full of humour, wit and self examination it reminded me of all the thoughts and feelings I had when starting the job. Even including the worlds crappiest van for the driving test.
It's a very easy read and I read it in one sitting. He tells a number of stories and gives you all the interesting details without ever leaving you thinking that the story has gone on too long.
What is shouting out from almost every page is that the job hasn't changed since the 70's – sure, we have better equipment and more drugs to play with, but the messroom culture, the sorts of patients we go to and the problems with management are all the same as they are now. One story from more recent times its told, and it is only the 'insider' in me that had me noticing the small difference between the past and present.
Les' writing is so good that, even though I know the material inside out, I was still drawn to read more – he's a very engaging a writer. If you like this blog, then you will also like this book and I cannot recommend it enough.

—–

You also might want to buy mine at the same time – More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea. It should be in all good shops (and some dodgy ones I guess) by the weekend. As soon as I've the details for the download version I'll throw them up here. Also, for those interested I did a scrap of radio yesterday – you can listen to it via iPlayer here for the next week, my bit starts around the 17 minute mark (and thanks to @jamrock for pointing that out, thereby making my life easier).
Disclaimer: All my Amazon links make me a bit of money from stuff that is bought from them.

Missing Images

Some people have pointed out to me that the 'Contact Me' link just redirects back to the main site. There should be a quick fix in the next three hours or so, basically what happened was that I own the Domain Randomreality.org – at the moment it is used to store the 'Contact Me' page and the image that normally appears at the top of the page.

When I went to the PR conference two days ago I noticed that they had my blog's address as randomreality.org, not the actual working domain.

To be honest I forgot that I hosted my images and contact page on this domain so I quickly set up a domain redirect so that if you typed randomreality.org into your browser address bar you'd be directed automatically to here. Unfortunately this had the effect of breaking the links to the images and contact page.

I've (hopefully) quickfixed it back, but when I have more time I'l have to put in a more permanent fix. While I'm at it I my brush up on my design skills (*ahem*) and have a look under the hood to see what might be improved here.

But before then, I have a manuscript to edit – so all distraction are being turned off.

Reynolds Elsewhere

A little while ago I took part in a fun little cookery competition. Needless to say my partner and I were hampered by the fact that I'm the sort of person whose cooking knowledge ends at the kebab shop door.

However we did get to blog about it, and so if you go to the Food2.0NomNomNom website you can find out more about the fun time I had.

There is also a little competition between the teams who took part, so have a look at this list of participants, read their stories and look at their pictures and vote for your favourite.

You can see my entry here, but please don't vote for me just because it's me – do read them all and pick the best web experience.

My Views On Comments

Only a quick post today as I'm in an extremely busy part of my life at the moment.

Reading the comments on my last post reminded me that I haven't really commented on comments. Here is a rough FAQ.

  1. I like reading comments, it lets me know that people are reading this site as I don't pay much attention to site statistics any more.
  2. I value almost every single comment.
  3. All comments, no matter how far back into the archives they stretch get emailed to me. I read every single one.
  4. I delete all spam, just as a matter of principle.
  5. I don't delete comments with three exceptions – If the person who wrote the comment emails me and asks me, if it breaches patient confidentiality, or if they are nothing but abuse.
  6. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, I like having to change my mind about something I've written or having to defend myself. It gets what tiny spark of academia I still have burning again. Just try to be polite and if you can bring evidence to the discussion I'll thank you for teaching me something. (See my post on Home births for example). I may completely disagree with you, but we can still be civil. So far I am so incredibly happy and proud that almost every comment thread has been reasoned and calm, even when discussing quite controversial subjects.
  7. If you write utter twoddle then other commenters will stamp on you. I tend to ignore the trolls but others won't. The verbal beating you get will make me laugh.
  8. You cannot insult me in the comments, nor upset me, nor cause me harm. I spend my day job being verbally and physically abused. Words on a website do not bother me in the least. If I have a sleepless night it won't be because of something you've written. I have no dark secrets in my past that you can bring to light and embarrass me. If you are a fool I will laugh at you.
  9. I may use comments as inspiration for further posts. Sometimes far in the future.
  10. If comments get silly (like calling other commenters Nazis) I will shut that thread down.
  11. I try to answer direct questions, if I seem to have forgotten and it's important do feel free to send me an email – I'm awful at answering emails but I will get to it eventually. The timing depends on what shifts I'm working. Likewise if there is a good comment thread I'll get involved, but unfortunately I have little free time so please don't feel I'm ignoring you.
  12. I love comments, I really do.
  13. If you want to leave a comment you need to 'create a reader account'. This was put in place to stop the frankly astounding amount of spam I was getting (over 500 a day).
  14. If you have a long comment to make and a blog of your own, post a précis of it here and direct me to your own site – we can continue the conversation between the two blogs, just like the good old days of blogging. I like getting comments of all sorts, but this means I can send some linky-love your way.
  15. Keep commenting I really do love it. When I was promoting the book a lot of people asked me my favourite thing about blogging, and each time I answered, “my commenters”. Really, each time I get even the slightest glimmer about packing in this blogging lark it's you folks that keep me going.

Yes, pretty much most of that list can be boiled down to, “I like comments and read them all, but don't be an arse”, but it sometimes needs stating.

All comments gratefully received.

UPDATE: And then I hit my Bloglines subscriptions ands see that Diamond Geezer has posted a much more entertaining view on the same subject.

How Not To Market To Bloggers.

Having just spoken on how to market an idea to bloggers to MSF (short version, we like truth and we also like stickers to put on our laptops), I received an email.

Hello,

I was reading your blog and I see you have a very impressive way of describing things. The information you provide is very helpful. So I was wondering if you could take a look at our product *Pseudoscience deleted* and write a review about it.

this is a link to my site: www.*utter-twoddle*.com

I would really be interested to know if you could do an unbiased paid review for us.

Bad enough, but here are two other tips.

1) Don't use CC:, us BCC: when you send the email, then I won't see the twenty odd other bloggers you have sent this exact same email to.

2) Don't send it to someone who actually enjoys debunking fake science. Not me but the superb Black Triangle. I think they missed a trick by not also sending it to Dr. Ben Goldacre as well.

So – let's see what happens if I answer their email. The first thing I'll wonder about is if they'll have even read this blogpost.

The second is if they pay up when I test them and find them to but utter rubbish*

That's unbiased isn't it?


More seriously, if you really want to learn how to market to bloggers talk to Gia. She's my friend so it's an utter pleasure to mention her stuff on my blog – especially if it brings back memories from my past.


*Assuming they are – I have a scientific mind and am prepared to be surprised.

MSF

Days in the MSF clinic can veer between hectic – seeing hoards of outpatients; over 4,000 a month) and unreal – truck upon truck of patients with gunshot wounds arriving within hours of each other. But the staff we work with here, who have unfortunately seen all this before, carry on with such continued compassion and determination that one can only feel strengthened by their example.

“The biggest challenge I've faced so far has been with the acceptance and stoicism of the people of Sudan. Recently I saw a boy of 13, with a horrendous dilated cardiomyopathy [disease of the heart muscle] who I could only encourage to go home and enjoy what remained of his life.”

On Monday I was given the pleasure of speaking to Medicins Sans Frontieres at their meeting of their 'webby people'. I'd been warned that, based on the meeting last year, they were all rather sceptical of the use of blogging.

Unfortunately for me (who'd prepared for a fight), they appear to have come round to the idea nicely, there was a general agreement that social networking and blogging wasn't in fact a huge terror.

Also at this afternoon session was Karina Brisby of Oxfam and Tom Mansel of Justgiving.com (who have helped people raise more than £240 million for various charities). I was there as someone who (a) blogs, (b) has turned out to be quite sucessful about it and (c) has managed to do so without getting fired.

The general gist of the chat was essentially that you *can* trust people to blog responsibly, that people are more interested in what individuals have to say rather than PR departments and that blogs enable storytelling which interests people more than dry accounts of situations.

And that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

They are a good bunch of people, and the stuff that MSF deal with makes my problems (and the problems of a lot of the people I go to) pale into insignificance.

They certainly gave me a lot to think about.