Friday, June 29, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Alice Coltrane, by JD

You might like this, you might not. Perhaps too 'far out' even for modern jazz, but there is something about Alice Coltrane's music which appeals to me. I don't know why but it does.

“…Sometimes people put themselves so deeply into sound - so deep into it that they give up everything. It’s like they renounce everything at that moment just to live those moments of music…” - Alice Coltrane (1937 - 2007)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Epilepsy and cannabis, by JD

The cases of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley and the use of cannabis oil to relieve symptoms of epilepsy has had a lot of coverage in the news this past week. Their cases seem to have been turned into a political football with a great deal of heat but very little light being generated by those who oppose illegal drugs and those who advocate legalising such drugs.

Trying to establish some clarity is not easy because journalists, as usual, don't bother to present the facts but concentrate instead on the 'sensational' aspects of the story.

And because of all the fuss the Government has decided to rush through a 'review' of the medicinal benefits, if any, of the use of cannabinoids.

Here is a summary of the various types of cannabis oil currently on the market -

I can offer my own experiences on this subject because I have epilepsy (since 2011) although I have no desire nor need to use cannabis. This is what I wrote in 2012 about my epilepsy.

My first question to the neurologist in the hospital was the obvious one: what is the cause of epilepsy? The answer is that nobody knows. Doctors can tell us what can trigger a seizure, the best known to most people is the strobe effect in lighting. "Contains flash photography" is a familiar phrase in news bulletins. But what they cannot establish is the cause of epilepsy.

My medication is Leviteracetam and when I asked how it worked, nobody knows how it works. All they know is that it works. A further question to the epilepsy specialist in the hospital was "What would the effect be of taking this medication if I no longer need to take it?" Not known or not ever thought about, was the reply. The dosage I take has been reduced and there is a possibility that I may be able to reduce it further.

So that looks like three 'unknowns' so far. A further unknown is that the effects of any drug will not be consistent among all patients. As an example, I had an adverse reaction to one particular brand of Leviteracetam and the pharmacist knows not to give me that brand. All others have been fine so far.

So the use of a cannabis oil to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy may well be effective in some patients and not in others; it may well be effective for severe cases of epilepsy but not for other types of epilepsy and there are many different types as listed here-

There has been the usual knee-jerk reaction to that word cannabis from those who think it should remain illegal and those on the opposite side who think it should be legalised. The former believe that only scientifically researched and proven remedies should be used; the latter group are the libertarians who believe it should be available as a medication (but in reality they are thinking only of their own indulgences.)

Both camps are wrong of course. Because something is illegal, that does not make it wrong and conversely if something is legal, that does not make it right. The law is by and large a matter of opinion and the law, any law, is constantly amended and modified by judges. The law is whatever a Judge says it is; until there be a subseqent challenge to that law.

Ironically a lot of what are now 'dangerous' illegal drugs were once perfectly legal and were available with or without prescription in chemists or elsewhere. Often such things were prescribed by doctors: morphine, cocaine and cannabis were included in a medication known as the Brompton Cocktail as described here by Professor Bruce Charlton-

So, once upon a time 'illegal' drugs were deemed to be beneficial which is what Paracelsus said almost 500 years ago - "Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy." (Paracelsus (1493-1541) is generally regarded as the 'father of modern medicine')

It should be remembered that care of those who are ill is not a science. It is an art and is described as such in the Hippocratic Oath -"With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art."

And Paracelsus again in what is more or less a distillation of the Hippocratic Oath-
"Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art. It does not consist of compounding pills and plasters; it deals with the very processes of life, which must be understood before they may be guided."

Note that phrase 'the very processes of life' - the body heals itself, all it needs is guidance from the physician.

Science plus the art of healing by a sympathetic physician with the old fashioned 'bedside manner' are the best medicine of all.

I suppose it is too much to hope for an outbreak of common sense to allow the use of the clearly effective cannabis oil which will let Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley  and others like them lead a normal life.

Image result for canada flag cannabis leaf
Uruguay, now Canada - who's next?     (Image)

... and for whose benefit? (Image)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

"You wanted it...", by Wiggia

There is a trend nationally to “suggest” that you, the public have asked for something you really haven’t.

The latest is the increased taxes for the NHS. It was suggested that people would be willing to pay more for the NHS back in the annual winter crisis when the usual "there is not enough money" cries first went up. Somehow this poll, which was never as far as I know named, had surveyed a number of the populace with the magic words “would you be prepared...?” and the answer came back yes.
Whether there was anything else asked is not revealed, but if you ask at a time of crisis with all the attendant headlines of death and despair you would likely get an unthinking response if the questioning was put a certain way that would confirm the result.

The government must have either secretly paid to have this poll done or else could not believe their luck and soon rumblings of tax-raising for the NHS were heard and indecently quickly a promise was made to do just that; the Brexit extraction of monies is at this stage wishful thinking.

This did two things: (1) it gave the government the pretended right to raise taxes as if it was the will of the people, without ever asking them; and (2) it made them look caring. After all, successive governments have thrown money at the NHS when it was appropriate to do so, not necessarily when it was needed and never with any quid pro quo such as the total overhaul of the NHS which is desperately needed.

So no way do the government have to get their hands dirty and the people are happy, they asked to pay more and the real problems are once more kicked down the road.

But enough of the NHS, reams of paper are not enough to describe its many shortcomings; though I will highlight just one from this week, one could highlight one every week but this will do. It is a classic, a “senior lead” (whatever that is) defending diversity:

 “NHS wastes £46million on spin doctors, diversity advisors and a third sector environmental lead”.

The opening paragraph reads, “We can reveal that the NHS wasted over £46 million last year on 1,129 unnecessary jobs.”

The words that held my attention were "diversity advisors" and "unnecessary.”

Only diversity advisors are defended. She then goes on to say that the £41k-plus they get is entirely reasonable. Well she would because without them she would be out of a better paid job. The answer to all this nonsense is simply to employ the best people of whatever colour creed or religion apply but you can’t have that today and you end up with this nonsense.

A couple weeks ago I got a phone call from Anglian Water my supplier of water - well it was actually on behalf of Anglian Water. When told it was a survey I said no, but something about their business model being discussed and an Amazon voucher for ten minutes of questions intrigued me. Needless to say it was around thirty minutes in the end but that was partly because I started asking questions and surprisingly whoever was doing the questioning was in sympathy with what I said and took my my answers at face value, or seemed to.

In effect once the opening “how satisfied are you?” questions were dealt with the survey was about Anglian Water's business model for the next ten or so years. Anglian Water despite the very English name is now owned by a consortium of mainly Australian and Canadian pension funds and investment vehicles.

The survey continued and it became obvious quite early that the questions were asking me the customer about how I would be paying for the upgrading of facilities in the short medium and long term. It all seemed reasonable until the penny dropped that what was being asked was how much you were prepared to pay over what time for new facilities to be built.

There were flaws in the questions such as the longer term suggestions did not take in inflation or rising costs; somehow I think that was deliberate as once implemented the company could simply blame outside influences.

I also pointed out that Anglian Water has spent bugger-all since 2008 when the consortium took over despite a rising population, and the fact that unlike other water companies their infrastructure is less than those others as they rely largely on aquifers not reservoirs. All was said to be duly noted !

The bottom line on all this is that Anglian Water is a private company yet they are asking how you the customer would like to pay for their upgrading of facilities and infrastructure. The last time I looked private companies raised funds in the market and from shareholders for that but not any more: we are being asked would you like to pay now and which way and when the light comes on and people realise they have been conned the company can say well we asked you what you wanted and you said yes.

Up the road from me we have a reverse example, an imposed fee for a private enterprise that is not very popular and has had a dampening effect on the business, and quite rightly. Norwich airport imposes a £10 development fee on every passenger taking a flight from there. No one was asked and no one if they have a choice - and they do - pays it: they use Stansted or another airport. Norwich doesn’t go anywhere and is unlikely to in the near future, a private company charging the public for their expansion with - no other word for it - extortion.

We are starting to see a whole new way of extracting money from the public. Will they see through all this? No, unless someone starts calling out these practices in deception; and no one has yet.
It brings a whole new slant to interest free loans - or gifts, in this case.

Will we, the little people, fight back?

Friday, June 22, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Cécile Corbel, by JD

Whenever my musical soul needs 're-grooving' I go back to my roots and revisit the music of my heritage. Here is Cécile Corbel who is an excellent Breton singer/composer who also plays the Celtic harp.

The harp is possibly one of the oldest musical instruments dating back to 3599BC and probably earlier. It features in many musical traditions around the world. The modern Celtic harp, as used by Cécile Corbel, began to appear in the early 19th century in Ireland, contemporary with the dying-out of earlier forms of Gaelic harp.

Friday, June 15, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Highwaymen, by JD

The Highwaymen were a country music 'supergroup' comprising four of the best singer/songwriters of the genre: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

Cash and Nelson have featured on this blog previously so a few words about the other two. Waylon Jennings is probably best known for being the Balladeer of the TV series 'Dukes OF Hazzard' Before then he was one of the artists in the (in)famous package tour of 1959 during which Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. Jennings gave up his seat on the light aircraft in favour of J P Richardson (the Big Bopper) as J P had flu and the tour bus was freezing cold. For a long time afterwards Jennings, by his own admission, felt a sense of guilt about what had happened.

Kris Kristofferson is something of a 'renaissance man' He was a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College where he earned a Blue for boxing. and played rugby for his college. He later joined the US Army and became a helicopter pilot and then flew helicopters servicing the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico but all the while he wanted to be a songwriter. There is a famous story that he landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash's lawn in order to deliver some demo cassettes of his songs. Cash eventually recorded "Sunday Morning Coming Down" the first of many Kristofferson songs and the rest, as they say, is history!

Friday, June 08, 2018