Thursday, September 10, 2009

GPs; Generally Pointless?

Whenever I go to see my GP I leave feeling like I've just given a seminar on one ailment or another - and most worryingly - to an utterly inept audience. How is it I'm the expert in this scenario, and did they sleep through all nine or ten years of medical school?

In a typical consultation, after explaining the problem at great length I'll pause to allow them to interject with some sort of advice, only they don't. They sit there in awkward silence looking like vulnerable newborn kittens waiting to be spoon-fed. I've even had one doctor ask, "well what do you expect me to do?". I don't know how to answer that civilly.

I've come to the stage where I'll do my own research online, and then visit the doctor with a particular medication in mind I want to try and just ask him or her to prescribe it. They seem to appreciate the fact that I've totally lost faith in their competence because it means they can still get paid £100k+ a year without having to do anything other than scribble on a pad, which must reassure them no end.
If you're lucky you'll get one that's willing to refer you to a specialist for tests, though if the results come back negative they'll glibly inform you, "the computer says no" and point out the location of their office door.

This leaves me wondering, who still goes to their GP for advice these days. Those not acquainted with The Google? The illiterate perhaps? Would it not be cheaper and more convenient to replace them with drug vending machines?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Feeding the hand that bites you

Not content with ringing you to talk about the weather and remind you they haven't gone bust (yet), they're now blatantly fishing for new-lead-generating information saving them doing the legwork themselves. Often they'll dispense with the convivial preamble of pretending to be working on your behalf, and cut straight to the chase; "so, which companies have you applied to?", "which agency recommended you, or was it a direct application?". This is purely professional curiosity of course, that and an exercise in keeping their writing wrist supple. "Jane Taylor is in charge of recruitment there isn't she?", they'll say exuding that smug I'm-in-the-loop vibe, then pausing with baited breath for you to interject with a correction. "Oh really? She must have left the company since we last spoke". Yes, that's it I'm sure.

For my own entertainment I've decided I'm going to be as vague as they are when posting their fictitious vacancies. I helpfully informed the last consultant to ask this question that I've "applied for a position with a well established, prestigious, market leading, multinational, blue-chip, progressive, dynamic and fast expanding company in the commercial services industry, who have a venerable history of providing efficient commercial service solutions to clients in many private and public sector organisations", and also that I'd sourced the vacancy with the assistance of "a trailblazing global recruitment specialist dedicated to - who excel at even - placing professional candidates in permanent, temporary and interim positions".

I hope they found the exchange as useful as I did.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Thank you for not garlicing

It's heartwarming that smokers are now forced to stand outside public places shivering their bits off in the depths of winter if they want to light up, but what about people who insist on engaging in other anti-social behaviour? Eating garlic for instance. Shouldn't they be banished from civilised society too?

It's a stinky, vile, disgusting habit, and subjects innocent passersby to olfactory assault, otherwise known as passive garlicing. Why are no laws in effect to protect the vulnerable public? Why are garlic eaters allowed to walk the streets without the aid of some kind of full-body isolation unit, or at least a high-vis toxic breath warning sticker?

What is it about the stuff that makes people shovel it into every single dish by the bucket load as automomically as blinking, and why don't the same people experience similar compulsions to douse themselves with, let's say, horse manure or arm pit sweat?

Employment agencies

While I realise the world economy is currently corkscrewing the toilet bowl, recruitment consultants have always been slippery characters. 99.99% of vacancies are filled via agencies, but how many of the adverts they swamp the job search sites with are genuine?

Try applying for one and you'll be lucky to get a response within a week. If they do contact you, you can be sure they'll have no idea which job in particular you were interested in, probably because its generic description is nothing more than a hook to reel in your personal details which are then neatly packaged and delivered into the laps of marketing companies with a glittery bow on top. Why else would they be so keen to register you as a candidate when they have no work available?

If anyone has any inside knowledge I'd be curious to know why it is that agencies ring you to ask questions they already know the answers to. Silly me, I thought the arrangement was that recruitment consultants would call when they have a job to run by you, not just to mull over the dire state of the market, and to ask you how your search is going. Hang on a minute, isn't that your job? If that wasn't the basis of the relationship our paths would probably never have crossed. If I find work elsewhere that's your commission up in smoke so please don't pretend you care. My best guess is that they have so little to do they spend most of the day making fruitless phone calls in a desperate attempt to look busy and cling onto their livelihoods.

Not that I'm bitter. I'd hate for you to get the wrong impression. :|

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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The Unpodcastables

Update: Cor blimey gov'ner, would you Adam and Eve it? The iPlayer Downloader now works with listen again audio - in other words, it downloads the MP3 file without the conversion headaches or real time capture delays. When did that happen and where was my telegram? Thanks Lawrence, you're a genius!

If you're a Mac user and enjoy listening to radio shows via the BBC's iPlayer you'll know there's still no application available for OS X which allows you to download rather than record the audio streams, and on a flakey wifi connection this makes capturing them in their entirety problematic.
I've come to the conclusion that there never will be so I've taken to experimenting with the WINE-based CrossOver Windows emulation software instead. This works surprisingly well for simple Windows software and games and requires no knowledge of Terminal commands or the WINE emulation layer which forms its backbone.

When you 'install' it (pretty much by double prodding its icon) and run through the unsupported software installation wizard, a new 'bottle' is created. Bottles are simply fresh Windows setups minus the desktop environment; applications integrate with your OS X dock and run alongside your native software. You can get by with a single bottle, or setup a new one for each individual piece of software if you have reason to believe they may conflict.

I had Flashget up and running within a minute, and soon after was able to begin downloading a Real Audio 'listen again' radio show to my pseudo c:\ drive (located at /Users/Username/Library/Application Support/CrossOver/Bottles/winxp/). You can find the link to RTSP streams by opening an iPlayer playback window and right-clicking in your browser to view the source code. Search for '.ram' and copy the web address into Flashget. The download manager will automatically interpret the file, decipher the actual address of the Real Audio stream contained within and begin to download it.

Once you've transferred a .ra file you'll need to convert it to the mp3 format using something like Audacity or Switch. These are available for either platform so get whichever version you like, install the Real Audio player and LAME encoder so you have the necessary codecs in place and begin converting.