Just had my COVID-19 first vaccination (Pfizer/BioNTech)

Just got back from having my first COVID-19 vaccination. Started queueing at 10:40, pre-screening questions at 10:50, all done by 10:53 then I poked at my phone for 15 minutes while waiting to check I wouldn’t keel over from anaphylactic shock (I didn’t).

I was first notified that I should book an appointment in the form of a text message from sender “GPSurgery” on Monday 22nd February 2021:


You have been invited to book your COVID-19 vaccinations.

Please click on the link to book: https://accurx.thirdparty.nhs.uk/…
[Name of My GP Surgery]

The web site presented me with a wide variety of dates and times, the earliest being today, 3 days later, so I chose that. My booking was then confirmed by another text message, and another reminder message was sent yesterday. I assume these text messages were sent by some central service on behalf of my GP whose role was probably just submitting my details.

A very smooth process a 15 minute walk from my home, and I’m hearing the same about the rest of the country too.

Watching social media mentions from others saying they’ve had their vaccination and also looking at the demographics in the queue and waiting room with me, I’ve been struck by how many people have—like me—been called up for their vaccinations quite early unrelated to their age. I was probably in the bottom third age group in the queue and waiting area: I’m 45 and although most seemed older than me, there were plenty of people around my age and younger there.

It just goes to show how many people in the UK are relying on the NHS for the management of chronic health conditions that may not be obviously apparent to those around them. Which is why we must not let this thing that so many of us rely upon be taken away. I suspect that almost everyone reading either is in a position of relying upon the NHS or has nearest and dearest who do.

The NHS gets a lot of criticism for being a bottomless pit of expenditure that is inefficient and slow to embrace change. Yes, healthcare costs a lot of money especially with our ageing population, but per head we spend a lot less than many other countries: half what the US spends per capita or as a proportion of GDP; our care is universal and our life expectancy is slightly longer. In 2017 the Commonwealth Fund rated the NHS #1 in a comparison of 11 countries.

So the narrative that the NHS is poor value for money is not correct. We are getting a good financial deal. We don’t necessarily need to make it perform better, financially, although there will always be room for improvement. The NHS has a funding crisis because the government wants it to have a funding crisis. It is being deliberately starved of funding so that it fails.

The consequences of selling off the NHS will be that many people are excluded from care they need to stay alive or to maintain a tolerable standard of living. As we see with almost every private sector takeover of what were formerly public services, they strip the assets, run below-par services that just about scrape along, and then when there is any kind of downturn or unexpected event they fold and either beg for bailout or just leave the mess in the hands of the government. Either way, taxpayers pay more for less and make a small group of wealthy people even more wealthy.

We are such mugs here in UK that even other countries have realised that they can bid to take over our public services, provide a low standard of service at a low cost to run, charge a lot to the customer and make a hefty profit. Most of our train operating companies are owned by foreign governments.

The NHS as it is only runs as well as it does because the staff are driven to breaking point with an obscene amount of unpaid overtime and workplace stress.

If you’d like to learn some more about the state of the NHS in the form of an engaging read then I recommend Adam Kay’s book This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and if you’ve a soul it will make you angry. Also it may indelibly sear the phrase “penis degloving injury” into your mind.

Do not accept the premise that the NHS is too expensive.

If the NHS does a poor job (and it sometimes does), understand that underfunding plays a big part.

Privatising any of it will not improve matters in any way, except for a very small number of already wealthy people.

Please think about this when you vote.

“My IP is blocked by a repressive regime, can I have a different one?”

I asked this question on Twitter yesterday and got a wider range of responses than I expected, although from a limited number of people. So I wondered what others would think.

Say you sell virtual machines and a customer says:

My service allows journalists and others inside repressive regimes to get their stories out. My IP address is being blocked by one of these repressive regimes. Can you switch it for another one?

Would you grant that request?

Assume you have never heard of their service or anyone that uses it, have no independent verification of what whether they are saying is true, and haven’t yet looked for any.

Responses so far could roughly be grouped as:

  • 2x “Yes; it’s a reasonable request and other networks’ policies are their own business”
  • 2x “Yes; once, but check it’s not some global spam blacklisting issue”
  • 3x “Yes; but charge them for your time each time they ask for this”
  • 2x “No; you’ll end up with all your IPs blocked, which may affect other customers”
  • 1x “No; tell them to use a cloud with a constantly-changing IP address” (involves me losing the customer)

What would you do?

Strategies for talking to Labour MPs about the draft Communications Data Bill

Dear Lazyweb,

I’m thinking of having a conversation, face-to-face, with my MP about the draft Communications Data Bill. I’ve already done some research on the logical and moral reasons why the bill is a terrible idea. I feel pretty confident in how I can articulate those points.

My MP is a Labour MP though, so I am wondering what additional points I can bring up that will appeal to the Labour party. I’m hoping that those of you who aren’t going to write to or visit your MPs would instead be willing to lazyweb me some advice.

Most obviously there is the fact that Labour is in opposition so anything they can say to criticise the coalition government is a good thing for them.

On that score, we have the following ace in the sleeve:

Labour have subjected Britain’s historic freedoms to unprecedented attack. They have trampled on liberties and, in their place, compiled huge databases to track the activities of millions of perfectly innocent people, giving public bodies extraordinary powers to intervene in the way we live our lives. The impact of this has been profound and far-reaching. Trust has been replaced by suspicion. The database state is a poor substitute for the human judgement essential to the delivery of public services. Worse than that, it gives people false comfort that an infallible central state is looking after their best interests. But the many scandals of lost data, leaked documents and database failures have put millions at risk. It is time for a new approach to protecting our liberty…

– David Cameron, “Invitation to Join the Government of Great Britain”, 2010

The problem I can foresee is, what if my MP points out that the bill is almost identical to the one Labour tried to introduce in 2008/2009 and therefore is something that she is broadly in favour of?

If this does happen then I could possibly try the angle that although Labour did investigate it, they found it had too much public opposition and was technically infeasible at a sensible cost. In effect I could try to spin this as a further attack point on the coalition that despite a past government having already spent time and money on this and getting an answer the coalition doesn’t like, they are going to do it all over again. If anything in an age when we have even less money and time to be spending on it.

I think my MP is a fan of Harriet Harman. Has Harriet Harman yet said anything that would indicate opposition of the CDB in all its past incarnations? What was Ms Harman’s stance on the CDB when Labour were proposing it? Give me links, people.

Any more ideas why Labour should get their hate on?

(If my MP is reading this, no disrespect is intended and I’m fully glad that you are able to read this without having to snarf it off of a black box on my ISP’s network! I look forward to having a chat with you about it.)


Just after writing this I contacted my MP’s secretary and asked for details of her surgeries. I was emailed back and asked if I would instead like to speak to her on the phone.

I was disappointed at not being offered a face to face meeting, but not wanting to appear to be a nutter I agreed to this and a call was scheduled for 2.30pm on Friday 6th July.

Depending on how it goes I may still try to have a follow up meeting. Whatever the case I will put all my concerns in writing anyway.

Update Friday 6th July:
It got to 3pm and I hadn’t had the call I was promised, so I emailed the MP’s secretary again to ask if it was still happening. The secretary replied immediately that she was sorry and would text my MP to find out what had happened.

Shortly afterwards I received a phone call from my MP, who was obviously in her car, apologising. She said that she had hoped to speak to me between meetings but was now having to rush to another and wouldn’t be able to, and asked if we could re-schedule the call for Monday 9th July.

I have agreed to that.

Update Monday 9th July:

Our phone call had been arranged for 11.30 today. By 12.30 I hadn’t received a call, so I emailed the MP’s secretary again to ask if it was still happening. As of 2pm I’ve received no response and I’m not available on the phone for the rest of today.

I’m rather disappointed that it seems to be so difficult to speak to my MP about this important piece of proposed legislation. I suspect that, as my first query about surgeries was turned into a suggestion of a phone call, that my MP doesn’t hold surgeries (I can find no details of any surgeries she may have held). I haven’t got infinite time to spend on this and am considering just putting my views in writing and calling an end to it.

Update Tuesday 10th July:

I received an email reply this morning from my MP’s secretary saying that she (the secretary) had not been working the day before so had not seen my email querying the lack of phone call. She asked me to confirm if a phone call had taken place. I replied that it had not taken place.

Around 5.45pm someone else from my MP’s office emailed me to ask if I was able to take a phone call on Friday (13th). No explanation of why the previously arranged call hadn’t happened.

I’m unsure at this point whether to suck it up and agree to reschedule the call, or whether to give up. If this were anyone in my personal or professional life I would have given up on them by now. But that doesn’t help anyone does it, and leaves me open to the criticism that I just didn’t try hard enough.

Update Wednesday 11th July:

Yesterday I was rather frustrated by the whole thing, but after a night’s sleep I’ve had chance to calm down and I’ve decided that in the interests of getting my point across I will swallow my pride.

I’ve again asked if a face to face conversation at a surgery is possible (because I think this is a complicated subject that isn’t best discussed on the phone), but if not then I’ve agreed to reschedule the call for Friday.

Around 09:45 I received a phone call from Mary Jo (secretary) who apologised unreservedly for how I had been treated and promised to sort it out today. I’m now glad that I didn’t lose my temper yesterday.

It’s since been arranged that I will have a face to face meeting with my MP on Friday 13th, so that’s great news.

Update Friday 13th July:

I think the meeting today went well. Ms Malhotra gave me plenty of time to discuss my concerns, seemed to genuinely take many of them on board and offered me some very useful advice for how I might like to take things further. She apologised for the initial problems I’d had in getting to speak to her. Overall I’m very glad that I persevered with this.

Of course there is much more to do, but making my views known to my MP was a necessary step.

Legal in UK to refuse to employ smokers?

Martin, yes it is legal:

I consider myself a non-smoker but this sort of policy would actually put me off working there. If they banned smoking breaks on work time, that would be okay. If they encouraged people to quit smoking, that would be okay. But this seems like an unwarranted intrusion into the employees’ personal lives.

I do wonder how they define “smoker” also. As I say I consider myself a non-smoker but I have probably smoked about 6 cigars in my life and probably will continue to do so at the rate of a couple per year at special occasions and such.

Boris Johnson’s George W. Bush quote

Beau Bo D’Or has come up with this amusing poster in preparation for George W. Bush‘s visit to London (which it seems only anti-war groups are taking an interest in), and it’s bouncing around the blogs at the moment.

Much as I do harbour a dislike for both Bush and Johnson, it seems unfair to take this quote so massively out of context.

The Spectator article (from 2003) that it comes from starts like this:

“What has brought so many folk on to the streets, however, is a much broader case: that the President is a cross-eyed Texan warmonger, unelected, inarticulate, who epitomises the arrogance of American foreign policy, and who by his violent and ill-thought-out actions in Afghanistan and Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place.”

i.e. he is attributing this viewpoint to the protesters, not stating his own opinion.

It also contains the following:

“As they bawl and wave, they might bear in mind that this was precisely the kind of behaviour forbidden in Iraq these last 25 years. It is no thanks to the marchers, or their supporters, that the Iraqis now have the freedom to demonstrate without being shot or tortured. It is thanks to the man whose visit they deplore.”

I do not agree with the latter viewpoint either; I’m just pointing out that this is his actual opinion from the same article. It’s the complete opposite to that which the poster above suggests.

Update: As you can see from Beau Bo D’Or’s comment, he has now found a direct quote from Johnson saying something similar. It seems that Johnson had a complete change of heart in the space of just under one year. Still it seems much better to use this new (if not as amusing) quote that represent his own views and not those of another group.

Not everything is an issue of liberty

Andrew comments regarding Dog-lead goths ‘hounded off bus’:

Now whilst I am not for/against the Goth lifestyle – it’s not something that I’d personally get into. However, just because it’s seen as a bit ’strange’ or ‘weird’ to the majority of us does not mean we should prevent it.

Andrew, if you take the bus company at their word they were not stopping it because they deemed it “strange” or “weird”, but because they deemed it unsafe, i.e. they did not claim to be taking a position on the Goth lifestyle. Being libertarian (or indeed anarchist) does not mean “everyone can do anything they want.”

I have a little difficulty in seeing how these two being chained together really affects anyone else’s safety though..!

Ubuntu’s Launchpad and releasing source code

Uraeus, correct me if I am wrong but as far as I was aware Launchpad is not released software i.e. no one but Canonical uses it. Therefore IMHO there isn’t really a big issue about whether its source code should be released or not, since there is no one actually running it to take advantage of that. This assertion of course only follows if you believe that the main point of Free software is to empower the people running it, and not simply to share coding techniques.

If Canonical were to package Launchpad as a general purpose issue tracker, support tool etc. and other people were to start using it then yes I believe it would be extremely important for the source to be available, but as it stands I see it as an internal project and piece of infrastructure. Freely distributing its sources may enable faster improvements to Launchpad itself, but that would probably be hard work for someone outside Canonical and people inside presumably have access to its source anyway.