FOWC with Fandango

I just read a post and it led me to this article, which I’m reposting.

I’ve never looked at Christine’s work before, but this is a very heartfelt post written in response to yet another school shooting in the USA. I’m kinda done with heartfelt – people keep expressing heartfelt condolences, but there aren’t even attempts by senior politicians to improve the situation, and the shootings just continue to happen on a regular basis. I’d like to hone in, though, on just one sentence in Christine’s post. Can we find a way to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people?

I’d like to take a step back and ask, How do we know who are the right people, and who are the wrong people?

Sure, we can get an idea. Probably. We can do background checks. But the trouble is, these are checks on a person’s past, not their future. Put simply, I don’t think we can know right and wrong people. Not 100%. Who knows? I could be a wrong person, it’s just that nothing ever happened yet to tip me over the edge. So, I’d argue that you can’t tell the difference between right people and wrong people.

And this is where I differ from many of my American friends – you need to remove the guns from all people, period.

Okay, doing that will not be easy. If you ask me, it has to start with steps to reform your politics – probably legal steps, not just political willpower, but nothing at all to do with guns. But if your end-game is to get rid of guns altogether, you need to think back four or five moves.

One problem I never managed to think through was how you get existing guns away from people. I’m not convinced a buyback would work. People who own guns often have them for ideological reasons – because they have the god-given right to own a gun – so I’m not sure a few dollars would make any difference. On that one, I’m afraid, the USA is on its own, but should probably prepare for more bloodshed.

Stine Writing



Can you believe that there was another shooting? Can you believe there have been 44 school shootings just this year? Can you even try to find a reason as to why this continues to happen? Can you imagine what these people are going through? Can you feel the pain they feel? Can you feel how scared they are? Can you think of a way to stop this? Can you make any sense of this? Can you find a way to keep others safe? Can our kids go to school and be safe? Can we go to work and be safe? Can we find a way to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people? Can we work together to find a solution? Can we try to help the people who are so sick? Can we just stop this violence? Can I do something? Can you do…

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Fandango’s Friday Flashback (15 November 2019)

Yay, it is Friday, which can only mean one thing, Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

It took a bit of searching to pick a post today, for the simple reason that I had several to choose from! That’s where this prompt is so useful to me – I can look back at previous posts, and see the things I was blogging about back then. There are definite trends. Last year, it was very job-oriented, as I’d been looking for about a month and I discussed my initial impressions of the job market quite a bit. Two years ago, I was more into my voluntary work, I wasn’t thinking about getting back to work just yet. Yesterday…well, probably the less said about socks, the better!

This post is about a training session at the local hospital, which I posted about two years ago today. The training course was internal, arranged for hospital staff. They had some spare places, and because I volunteer on the ward, they invited me.

Fine in theory, but when I got there, I met with jobsworth bureaucracy and was messed around, as I describe in the post. The feelings of that day still linger – I know the staff much better now but because of this encounter, if anybody mentions training, something which involves me having to put myself out by just having to get somewhere at a certain time, it is a polite no, thank you. Once bitten, twice shy.

Incidentally, I still visit the hospital, because I think it is important that patients, and particularly relatives, see that it is possible to get some semblance of your old life back.

Mister Bump

The Stroke Association had organised for me to attend a trainig session yesterday, one of those mostly-internal things organised by the local hospital, mainly for ward staff. On the subject of aphasia, the difficulty experienced by some stroek survivors in terms of speech (and, I learned, in terms of muddling up what is heard).

I was aware that I was primarily a guest on the course, and it was a subject I’d like to know more about, so I was happy to be quite flexible to get onto the course, to the point of paying for myself to get up to the hospital (too early to use my pass). It’s the kind of thing that I can embrace as a one-off, but not really something that I want to make a habit of.

Anyway I got to the designated location a good fifteen or twenty minutes early, only to be…

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To charge or not to charge – Fandango’s Provocative Question #48

Wednesday. I am just on my way to do some charity stuff (fittingly at my local hospital) but hopefully I can blast out a meaningful paragrath and come back later. It is time for Fandango’s Provocative Question.

In his question this week, he notes that the USA does not really “do” public healthcare, and asks us whether this is a good or a bad thing.

First of all, we need to be clear on the exact difference between the two systems – where they are alike and where they differ.

The USA does private healthcare to a very high standard, probably the highest. So, it’s not a difference in quality. Rather, the difference is a case of how we pay for it – whether we pay through taxes or through premiums. So, all we’re really talking about here is just the funding model.

I say just – because we’re not really talking about healthcare at all, we could apply our argument to many different areas – healthcare just becomes an example. Public healthcare is funded every bit as much by people, because a state’s only assets is its citizenry, except in the form of taxes, not in premiums.

Also, each system has a beginning and an end. Some things are covered, others not. We can argue about whether certain treatments should be available – a common example is IVF, but that same debate might be had under both systems. Even in the UK, smaller than many countries, there are variations about what is funded and what is not, so different people have different ideas about what makes the best health service. That’s true also when you compare the public and private systems. There’s no guarantee that one allows you to offer more than the other.

One aspect of difference, however, is how much we pay. Certainly, in the UK model, what you pay is pretty flat throughout your working life. And because it is out of taxes, it is a certain proportion of what we earn, just like income tax. With a private system, one would expect premiums to be much more bespoke – there will be times when you’re a lesser risk, others when you’re a greater risk. So there will be fluctuation in your premiums.

I prefer the flatter model, simply because none of us plan to get ill. In my own case, I had my stroke at forty-eight, unusually early. I was at the hospital yesterday and heard of a woman, thirty something, five children already, pregnant with her sixth (six!), who also had a stroke. More unusual still. None of us plan to be ill, and a flatter model takes us less by surprise when it does happen.

Private health insurance can also cover unplanned illnesses, I hear you say. Of course it can, provided you have bought sufficient cover. And that’s the heart of the debate. In a private system, you pay for the cover you can afford, or, if you’re lucky, the cover you wish to pay for. Whereas in a public health system, your “premium”, obligatory, is a percentage, is based more on your ability to pay. And when you’re covered, you’re covered, period.

So, it boils down to your overall politics in the end. You might wonder about a system where one person pays thousands, and the next person pays nothing, for the same cover. Or you might recognise that the reason somebody pays thousands is precisely because their income allows them to do so. I say again, this is just like income tax. People who question the use of tax dollars to pay for healthcare, they probably also question the use of tax dollars to pay for education, roads, defense etc. If they claim that healthcare is different, we should ask why they think it’s different.

I can only really finish this piece with a personal anecdote. Once upon a time, I was in the top few percent of UK earners. It was never silly money – it was a good salary, but not really any more than hundreds of thousands of other people. I saved my money, I built a stash. I decided to take a break and set myself up as a bicycle mechanic. You know, Lance Armstrong and all that. Boy, that was hard, trying to pick up something new in my forties, especially when (as I realised later) my eyesight was going. So the stash got smaller. Then, the stroke. Almost four years, and I haven’t had a “proper” job since. The state has made it quite clear that it desn’t really expect me to work again. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. And that stash is now almost gone because I still have to pay the bills. And I’m only in my fifties. Now, I don’t want this to be a sob-story, but my point is that circumstances do change. Whilst people might be healthy and paying what they consider to be way over the odds for their healthcare package, they should be aware that this is a lifetime committment, and that there might well come a time when the tables are turned.

Groundhog Groundhog Day

Friday. Fandango’s Flashback. A chance to post something from this day in years gone by, to see what we thought back then.

I have been ready to jump back into work for over a year now, and even a year ago, I posted about the frustration of finding a job.

This post, from 9th November 2018, talks about my frustration with the job boards.

I hear politicians talk about record employment in the UK. At the same time, I see record numbers using food banks, and wonder which world those politicians are living in, because employment certainly doesn’t equate to affluence. I don’t doubt that the USA is exactly the same, because we take our lead from you in most things.

Another thing that politicians will tell you, is that there record numbers of jobs available. This too is a sham. What happens is that the same job is reposted over and over, as if it were a new job each time, just to keep it near the top of the pile. I can imagine if I made the same post every day, you’d soon be fed up with me. So I am seeing new jobs that I first saw posted maybe eighteen months ago.

The net effect? Well, I look at job boards less frequently, maybe weekly instead of daily. Some boards, I have given up altogether, so the advertisers shoot themselves in the foot. And, of course, the boards themselves don’t mind, presumably they’re earning their fee for every time the job is posted in any case. Anyway, I don’t want to just repeat my original post again now. So please enjoy my flashback.

Mister Bump

It is an interesting conundrum. I see the same job, for the same salary, posted again and again. I can see, if you’re a poster, that you might assume that someone, who might be perfect for the role, might not have seen the job that time around, so it might be worth advertising the same job again.

But I’m seeing jobs that are just being re-advertised for months on end, at the same salary. If someone were looking for that job, don’t you think they’d have seen the ad by now?

It leads me to an interesting question – at what point do you, as a recruiter, throw your hands up in surrender and accept that there whilst there might be nobody sufficiently skilled to do the job, there might also be something wrong with the job which stops people from applying. It might be the job description itself, the…

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Fandango’s Provocative Question #47

Wednesday. I have been interrupted most of the morning and it is almost lunchtime [in fact, I have been interrupted again, and it is now almost evening!] anyway, so what the hey! Fandango’s Provocative Question.

In a nutshell, this week Fandango asks whether there will come a time when we’re screwed by technology? He calls that point a singularity.

I don’t think technology, in itself, will screw us. I think technology is amoral. But all technology has a purpose, or multiple purposes, which might be good or bad. Take nuclear power. For good, we have electricity. Put to one side how clean or cheap this electricity is. For bad, we have Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and so on.

A lot of these incidents, we could rightly pose the question, how far can we move forward technologically, without human beings screwing things up?

Plus, of course, as we get more advanced, our technology might require some scarce resource, so fighting over that might screw us. Oil here is an obvious example. Wars have already been fought over oil.

So I don’t think from that that technology will screw us, but human nature has a much better chance.

But even if you do assume a singularity (I’ve never heard that before in this context – a point in time where a step backward might save us, and a step forward might end us), would we recognise that we’re at that point?

I’d argue not. I’d draw parallels with climate change. Sure there are noisy protests what we are about to, or have already, fall over the precipice. But most govrnments, and people with financial interests, continue to believe that it is something we need to worry about, but not just yet. And they’ll still be saying that when the waves are lapping over their feet. Some just don’t worry at all – I guess they think that if there ever is a problem, well, they’ll be long gone by then. Or that by then, they’ll have amassed sufficient collateral that they can buy their way out.

So I’d say technology progress will be something similar. Would we ever get to the point where we collectively say, we’ve gone far enough? I doubt it.


It is Friday once again, and Fandango has unveiled his Friday Flashback. He just uses this as an opportunity to repost something that he first posted on this day in some year gone by. Just to give more of a flavour of the person behind the name. Or, he could be a Russian bot, you decide!

Anyway, it’s a great idea so I try to follow suit. Certainly when I started blogging back at the start of 2017, I wrote purely for myself, when I felt like it. So you won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t have anything from the actual day.

In fact, my post today was first posted on November 6, 2017, almost a week later. It is only interesting because, two years down the line, I had those exact same thoughts just the other day, I could have written that exact same post yesterday (if I’d been bothered!).

Especially with my background as a cyclist, I learned to push myself. There is always farther to go. Or faster, or whatever. There is always some way in which I can improve. In fact I have to be very conscious of the flip-side to this, i.e. realising (or rather, not realising) when I accomplished some big deal.

But I could rewrite my post word for word. I’m generally of an age where I’m settled in my body. I am what I am. I’ll think things through for myself, and if people like my view on a particular subject, fine. If they don’t, fine.

And yet, this aspect of how other people perceive me was a factor then, and is frankly a factor still. I’ve kind-of accepted that, for me, the stroke will always be there, that there will always be farther to go, but getting to the point where nobody else notices is a definite milestone, something to aim for. I know it will happen bit-by-bit, because for lots of things, already, no-one would ever know. It’s a milestone in itself to realise that while stroke might be front-and-centre for me, it isn’t for anyone else.

But I’m my own worst enemy for seeing progress. I see myself every day, if there is any progress, it is backwards! as I do one dumb thing after another. That was the single most important reason for blogging in the first place – to record progress with that all-important little timestamp in the corner. But, for most of us, life is just one dumb thing after another, so am I any different? I wonder if you, or anyone even, would see any progress between then and now?

Interesting also that I talk about memory, and it is true that some people can walk you through their stroke minute-by-minute. I couldn’t and can’t. I can piece together dates by looking at a calendar, but I don’t bother. I know I was admitted on a Wednesday, and that they ballsed-up my admission, as I describe in the post. When you think that the NHS is brilliant, think again. Your experience might have been good, but it’s not across-the-board. It was just before Valentine’s – because I gently teased a young nurse. I was in about five weeks, all told. Among my nurses were two Italians. I wonder what happened to them, because of Brexit? They certainly don’t work on the ward any more. A casual observer might point out that nurses are the type of people we can least afford to lose…

But, you see, none of this is important now. It’s all past and I have other tenses to concentrate on.

Mister Bump

A mate of mine (both online and real-life) posted today that it was the sixth anniversary of his stroke. He hides the effects well, although he says that even now, every day is a struggle somehow. I suspect it will always be so.

It kind of makes me think, “how do people perceive me?” I mean, if I’m just sitting there having a coffee, it’d probably take a keen observer to work out that I was only using one arm. I suppose when I’m moving about it is far more obvious, as I walk both jerkily and with a limp. I lose my balance quite easily (but am able to take remedial steps). I’d expect this to get smoother over time. And hopefully I’ll be able to use the arm for more.

Interesting also that he has a clear memory of when his stroke was. Lots of people do…

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Fandango’s Provocative Question (30 October 2019)

We’re at Wednesday again, and Fandango has posted another Provocative Question, where he asks us to ponder an issue each week. This week, he’s asking whether the phone call has become obsolete.

At the outset, I have to say that I don’t have a clear-cut answer. I read about Fandango’s own use of phones and it is quite similar to my own. Hardly makes any, hardly receives any, and very judicious about the calls he does and doesn’t take. All those things apply to me too, with the added twist that for 90% of my online activity, I use a traditional Windows laptop. No phone was even remotely involved in the creation of this post.

So, just considering my own scenario, I can agree that yes, phones calls are way past their prime. But I can think of two examples to the contrary.

Last night, I picked up the phone to wish my aunt a Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday, Auntie Margaret. She has a mobile phone, but has never even used a computer. So whilst I guess a text message is an option, the internet certainly isn’t. As it happens, neither of us are big users of text messages.

Also, I did my telephone volunteering session yesterday afternoon. By definition, that is using the phone to speak to people. Some of the clients view the telephone as just another method of communication, but some of them only have the phone. It’s quite scary, when I myself use computers so much. But nevertheless, true. I think nothing of looking up the movies at the cinema, or what time the next bus goes, but for them, it isn’t an option.

The one thing my auntie and my clients have in common is age. My auntie is almost eighty and my clients typically range from seventies to nineties. So, perhaps it is a generational thing?

Probably. A lot of people think that the computer is going to meltdown when they hit the wrong button. When I hit the wrong button, I tend to blame the program, for not making it obvious which button I was meant to press. So, a whole different perspective. But I can think of an example which even shoots down my age-related argument.

My daughter is twenty. She’s quite close to my wife, but not to me. They both have Apple tech. They use Facetime video quite a bit to speak to each other. As you might guess, my daughter is remote. Thank goodness!

But there are also a surprisingly large amount of voice calls mixed in. (My daughter will usually want to speak to my wife two or three times per day. It seems weird that somebody should be that dependent, but there we go. I’m a cold fish.)

I mean, my daughter is different to me. I have a landline, used mostly now for internet, and regard my cellphone as something I must remember to take out with me. She, on the other hand, does everything though her cellphone. So, there might well be a discussion to be had on whether the landline has become obsolete. But fundamentally, she still relies on that voice communication, and at least fifty years younger than my other example.

Fandango’s Friday Flashback (25 October 2019)

It is that time of the week again, and Fandango has posted his Friday Flashback. He uses his post to re-blog something from this day in a previous year, and I try to follow suit.

My blogging is purely spontaneous, I write when I feel like it, and in previous years I have gone days or weeks between posts. This week, I can just about get within a few days of the anniversary.

A very short post from a couple of years ago. Don’t worry – I have long since reconciled myself to it being a topsy-turvy world – that people having dumb ideas earn a lot more than I ever did!

Mister Bump

I was up at the hospital the other week. All the signs there are that NHS white-on-blue, with the exception on those to the Eye Clinic, which are bumble-bee black on yellow. Great, must make it easier for people with vision issues to find the place.

And then you think, “what if they’re not going to the eye clinic?”

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