Pregnancy Tests

There’s an advert for a pregnancy test doing the rounds at the moment, and the small print at the bottom of the screen says the test is 70% accurate. Aside from the 3 in 10 chance of it being wrong apparently making it a pointless exercise, I wonder what percentage of people who take a pregnancy test are actually pregnant. Somebody must suspect they are if they’ve even bought the kit, so you’d expect the majority to get a positive result. Could you sell a test that always gave a positive result, and still claim a 70% success rate?

The Judge

Somehow I’ve ended up watching Judge John Deed for the last few weeks. It’s a weird show. The basic premise is: radical judge takes on authority, while looking handsome and bedding every woman in the legal profession. It’s the kind of programme where all wizened men and attractive women are entirely virtuous, all politicians are schemeing sociopaths, all company professionals are profit-obsessed liars, and all scientists are under the thumb of their employers, incompetent or incredibly arrogant and incapable of empathy (unless they’re actually correct, in which case they’re lone mavericks.) Although it annoys me a little, I don’t really object to any of that – it’s your standard, easy entertainment, and isn’t meant to be taken seriously. I do, however, take issue with the court cases, which are ripped straight from the headlines. Unfortunately, they’re the Daily Mail versions, and it’s just total tat.

Cases in the last few weeks have covered mobile phone masts, the MMR jab, and terminally-ill babies. This wouldn’t really matter, except for the mixture of fact and fiction, and completely bogus arguments.

  • “You can’t prove phone masts do any harm.” was followed with “Well, you can’t prove they’re safe either” and everybody nodded sagely.
  • Doctors wanted permission not to revive a baby that had been in a coma since birth, and had suffered twenty heart attacks since being born. The parents objected because “we asked God to take our child if He wanted him, and He didn’t.” The eponymous Judge then ruled that this was valid, as without faith we’d just have a “horrible empirical society”. Baby then miraculously came back to life, and all the doctors agreed it must have been divine intervention.
  • MMR jabs were linked to all sorts of illnesses, including autism, but in this case the autism scientist was entirely honourable and it was every other scientist in the world under the pay of Incredibly Evil Pharmaceutical Companies, as opposed to the opposite situation in Real Life.

I guess I find it a bit tasteless, especially since these are quite important issues. Or maybe I’m just grumpy ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess if I were actually, you know, out on Friday evenings I wouldn’t have such a problem ๐Ÿ™‚

The IT Crowd

I watched Channel 4’s The IT Crowd yesterday. It’s from Graham Linehan, the writer of Black Books and Father Ted, and I thought it was pretty funny. Interestingly, they’ve released it online before showing it on TV.

Man 1: Did you and this girl, you know, hit it off?
Man 2: [grins]…Well, define ‘hit it off’
Man 1: Did she carry on talking to you once you’d fixed her computer?
Man 2: …No.

It’s a sitcom set in the IT department of a large firm, and I was impressed with the approach. The computer geeks were human and the idea was to laugh along with them than actually at them. It’s like Galaxy Quest was to Star Trek – making fun, but gently and without malice.

A surprise was the appearance of Christopher Morris as the company boss. As far as I know he hasn’t been seen on television since the fracas a few years ago. He made a spoof documentary satirising the hysterical reactions of the public and media to any mention of paedophilia, and was met with a hysterical media and public. He proved his point completely, but it didn’t do much for his career. It’s good to see him returning to comedy.


I was over at Nod’s watching a DVD this evening. There’s always some debate as to what we should watch, and today we ended up with The Notebook. It wasn’t my first choice; nor second, if I’m honest. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. The story was, I suppose, predictable (this isn’t spoiling anything, since much of it is told in flashback) but with this kind of film it’s all in the telling. It really seemed to capture the spark of love, and I don’t think I’ve seen the atmosphere of summer romance portrayed so well on screen before. It was quite beautiful at times. Definitely one to catch, if you’re in the mood ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m doing ok with the house-sitting. Cat is now eating fine and in the late afternoon strolls into the room for some attention. It’s hard to type when your wrists are being head-butted! Today wasn’t so great , though – I was miserable for no apparent reason, and spent much of the afternoon feeling sorry for myself. Were you to ask me now what was bothering me I couldn’t tell you; it was just one of the phases I go through sometimes. One of those days, I guess.

I was happy to discover that despite being here, in the middle of nowhere, in a house that has no burglar alarm, creaks with all sorts of noises and has animals scurrying about the loft, I’m not scared at all. I always used to get easily frightened when I was young, and although it’s decreased as I’ve got older the odd strange noise or passing flicker1 at a window would send my brain into spasms of gore and memories of every ghost story I’d ever seen. But not now. I guess much of it is because I began to reject the paranormal a few years back, and now rate ghosts at the same level as unicorns. Hand-in-hand with that is the awareness of the actual chances of an axe-wielding maniac turning up right here, right now. Whatever the reasons, I’m happy it’s happened.

  1. it feels oddly awkward to type flicker with an e []

Alternative Medicine: Acupuncture

Just watching a BBC2 documentary on acupuncture. The primary exhibit is a girl undergoing heart surgery without a general anaesthetic. Certainly sounds interesting, yet…

Although sedated by drugs, and her chest numbed, [the girl] will go through the operation conscious.

Ummm…sedated by drugs, and her chest numbed (presumably by drugs), but it’s all done by acupuncture. Oooook.

I’ll reserve judgement on this show until the end ๐Ÿ™‚

West Wing to end

I’ve just seen that my favourite tv show, The West Wing, is to come to an end after seven series. Although this makes me sad, it’s not too much of a surprise. I think the series currently being shown in the US is the seventh, right? Seven series is certainly a good total, and winning four Best Drama emmys in a row is unmatched in TV history afaik. Plus, I think the series has a natural end once two presidential terms are up (although I haven’t seen all of series six yet, so don’t know how this is resolved) and changing president would alter the dynamic of the show considerably.

It’s a shame that the show was actually axed because of falling ratings, and it wasn’t a decision on the part of the writers. To be fair, it was apparently moved to a different slot and the ratings fell subsequently. Such is the logic of the networks! Hopefully it will end in an appropriate fashion, rather than a cliffhanger. It’d be great if they got Aaron Sorkin back to write the final episode, since he created the programme in the first place (plus, it was his writing that earned the show its four emmys).

The good thing about The West Wing is that I can watch past episodes over and over, and still catch new details, jokes or political commentary. I already have series 1-6 on DVD, and asking for more than ~160 episodes would be somewhat greedy ๐Ÿ™‚

Lost Finale

I picked up the DVD set of Lost this morning, and I’ve just finished watching the episodes I missed. I managed to avoid the spoilers, and many thanks to those who deliberately kept quiet – I appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚ I was very impressed with the finale! It’s one of those shows where you desperately hope there’s a grand story that’s slowly being unveiled. Unlike, say, the X-Files. I watched that damn show through nine(?) series, even when everybody else had abandoned it, and I don’t think it spoils anything to say that it became apparent they’d been making it up as they went along1. Given the Lost writers’ pedigree, though, I have high hopes. It’s certainly intriguing enough to keep me watching – roll on series two!

  1. I think everybody else realised this after series two ๐Ÿ™‚ []

Caught up with Lost

After an hour of playing with weird file formats, and even weirder command-line video players that can’t rewind1 I’m finally caught up with Lost. Thanks, Nod! Finale on Wednesday apparently. Much excitement. I’ve spoken to at least two people who don’t like the slow-burning nature of the show and stopped watching after a couple of episodes, but I think it’s inspired. Certainly the classiest programme I’ve seen in a long time2, and it’s hard to believe there’ve been over twenty episodes already.

  1. oh, was that annoying []
  2. with the exception of The West Wing, of course ๐Ÿ™‚ []

The Root of All Evil

Tomorrow at 2000 Channel 4 are showing the first part of The Root of all Evil?. In it Richard Dawkins puts forward his case that religion is to blame for much of the world’s problems. I first read a form of this The Blind Watchmaker and found the argument very compelling indeed. Of course it’s Dawkins making the claim, so the onus is on him to provide the evidence. That he has, with arguments from history, psychology, biology and anthropology. With his case made, I’ve read the counter-arguments and found them always severely lacking. They’re always either personal attacks, or ‘that’s obviously wrong’. This show should be compelling viewing. Nick Cohen explains further:

In The Root of all Evil?, Oxfordโ€™s professor of the public understanding of science uses the very Darwinism fundamentalists reject to explain why they are so keen to โ€˜abuse childhood innocenceโ€™ in religious schools. Children canโ€™t follow the scientific method and test everything their parents say. If they decide to find out whether it is truly dangerous to walk off a cliff, they will be in no position to pass on their genes when they grow up. Evolution has preprogrammed them to believe what adults tell them.

With a shockingly irresponsible Labour government preparing to use sectarian schools to divide our country by religion and race, Dawkins is giving us a warning as well as an argument. Channel 4 dramatises it by sending him to confront fundamentalists of all faiths. He treats them with donnish puzzlement rather than aggression.

You can’t say the same of his interviewees.

Definitely one to watch. Christian Voice1, a fundamentalist UK organisation who seem to have the ear of the major media, will undoubtedly have something to say about it. Mind you, it’ll probably be that we’re all going to hell, or something similarly productive.

Update on 16th Jan: There are follow-up posts here, here and here.

  1. I’m not increasing their pagerank by linking to their website []