Apparently They Do

know who I am. 7 days after the incident in the Post Office I received through the post a nice shiny new Passport with my fat face in the back of it.

I feel like a trip to the Post Office just to gloat.


Do you know who I am?

There can't be many levels of embarassment and self-pity below where I sank yesterday.

I went to renew my 10 year passport at the Post Office; they do this "check and send" service, where you get the application form checked for you and a guaranteed two-week turn around. I got myself some nice new pictures taken and queued like a good man. I stepped up to the counter and presented my documents; one valid passport as ID, one application form and one set of new pictures. Whilst the counter staff are whizzing away on my application I switch-off.

"Excuse me, but you haven't had these counter-signed", says the man. He's referring to the new photos of my, which don't need to be counter-signed for a renewal if the existing passport is valid still. "But I don't need to because this is a renewal", I reply. "That's true, but not if your appearance has altered significantly from 10 years ago."

"What do you mean?", I ask. "Well you've put on a bit of weight and I don't believe that you bear any resemblance to the passport photo." Oh, excellent. In public I have been told that I'm fat and that my passport application won't be processed. I calmed myself slightly and responded with, "I don't have them counter-signed and I want to apply. And anyway, how come no one in the US, Canada, New Zealand, China and most of Europe hasn't said this to me as I cross their borders?"

Anyway, to cut a long story short, he agrees to put the application through, but says it may be returned, I may lose my application fee and he can't guarantee the two-week turn around. Basically all the reasons I used the Post Office have gone, but I'm there, need the passport for work and so I go through with it. Watch this space. I can't believe anyone would think a bit of fat changed your appearance.


Who put the ming in Menzies

Why is Menzies pronounced Mingis?

Thank you to the BBC for helping clear up why Sir Menzies Cambell has such a strange pronunciation of his first name.

There are some notable comments at the bottom too, my favourite is this:

"... Jean Harlow was at a dinner party and kept on addressing Margot Asquith (wife of prime minister Herbert Asquith) as MargoT (pronouncing the 'T'). Margot finally had enough and said to her "No Jean, the T is silent, as in Harlow"

Oh you don't find it funny? Then stick two fenzers up your ass.


Shock news - journalists sensationalise stories

I read this story and listened to and read other supporting news stories today. As a scientist, I am all for accurate reporting. It frustrates me to listen in to talk shows or read posts by misinformed, opinionated, but ultimately wrong people discussing science stories on the news. Take the MMR furore, millions of babies have now not been vaccinated and may catch some of the diseases it prevents while waiting for the singular injections, which in turn will probably increase the rates infection of a preventable disease. The cause? One article suggesting a slight correlation between the MMR jab and autism. The news reports blew it out of proportion and at no point was any hard fact put up to inform people. So there is a risk associated with a vaccine? So what! There is a risk associated with crossing the street, but many people do it and with out crossing the street they can not carry out their daily lives. It's not about risk it's about acceptable risk.

Anyway, I'm not writing this in order to argue for or against old news. What is new news is the recommendations for science journalism:

* Newspapers and broadcasters should employ more science graduates
* Scientists and science graduates should be encouraged to undertake media training
* Universities should offer multidisciplinary science degrees which include issues of ethics
* Policymakers need a better understanding of public perceptions of risk

This is all well and good when a story is being covered by a science correspondent, what this doesn't address is what happens when a science story moves from the science correspondent to the political correspondent as the news story gathers pace and becomes a full scale political story. You can't keep the facts from being sensationalised because the political correspondent sees his/her spin on it and also they are not formally trained in science. Seriously, would you read political or economic commentary from a person with a chemistry degree? No, you'd expect a politics or economics graduate with experience in the field otherwise the story isn't credible.

The other side of this is that censoring the news or regulating the news is either wrong or right, but never in the middle. If you censor science stories, what about the stories that get the facts wrong in other areas. You either censor them all or none. The stories that ruin people's lives based on rumour and conjecture or take down political careers could equally be censored. Personally I feel that love them or hate them the journalists bring the stories to our attention and do provide a source of information about important news that may otherwise pass them by. Hell, it may even save a life or benefit others if someone goes to the doctor or whistle-blows on their employer based on information in the news.

What we really need to do is not focus on the journalists, but on the readers. If the average member of the public isn't science savvy enough to question something and do their own research or can't stop themselves from believing everything put in front of them it's them that needs help.

Don't censor the media, enlighten the people.

The Infuriating Case of the Vanishing Funds ad infinitum

If anyone reads this blog, which in its infancy is unlikely due to the sparse population of posts and the monotony of the subject matter thus far, they will no doubt be familiar, perhaps even avid readers of, the credit card fiasco. This will be the last post on this matter unless something very dramatic happens because as you will see this post can be read over an over again until all I have to say about it will be done.

Picture me calm and composed receiving my credit card bill and not really paying attention; then picture me enraged, spitting fire, eyes bulging, red in the face spouting the most colourful expletives I know and a few I made up (which were rather funny actually and good for another blog post). Well these are the scenes in my lounge before and after I noticed that I had not been credited the charges I incurred reclaiming my bank account and the further interest incurred from the original credit card fraud.

So, I ring up the credit card company, explain the situation and I am told that my account is in credit and that if I wish to receive the money I merely have to pay it in to my bank account using the credit card. But, that'll incur a further charge I say, well thats the deal they say. Sigh.

I'm currently pending some settlement at a higher source within the company, but in reality I expect to be repeating the following process gradually reducing the amount I owe expending much time and energy until I feel comfortable writing off the loss:

1. Pay money in to my bank using credit card to claim back credit card refund.
2. Incur charge for using credit card in step 1.
3. Receive credit card refund.
4. Go to 1.

Fucking hell.