Health For Sale:

February 18th, 2014

I’m not going to go on about the ongoing, immoral creeping privatisation of the health service here, though that’s disgusting. If you agree, please take a look at the NHA.

I’m instead wanting to make sure you all know about the effective selling of your medical records to all and sundry. I don’t know about you, but I expect my medical records to be something confidential to people treating me.

What might surprise you is that there are plans to start uploading your medical data to the HSCIC, The national provider of information, data and IT systems for health and social care.

From (a website written by a concerned GP):

GP practices nationwide will soon be required to supply patients’ personal and confidential medical information, on a regular and continuous basis, to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, GP practices have no choice but to allow the HSCIC to extract this information.

The Act removes any requirement to seek the consent of either patients or GPs before extracting and uploading the data.

This project, called, is administered by the HSCIC using software and services provided by a private sector company called ATOS.

The HSCIC states that extractions will start from GP surgeries in March 2014*.

The HSCIC will administer the data, and states it intends to use it “for planning health services and for research”.

This is known as secondary uses of your medical records.

Medical staff treating you in GP surgeries, hospitals, A&E, pharmacies and GP out-of-hours centres will not use, or be able to use, this database. is not about information sharing between healthcare professionals.

The data will be available for sale to people such as:

Pharmaceutical companies
Health charities
Universities and other academic organisations
Hospital trusts
Medical Royal Colleges
Information intermediaries
Commercial companies
Insurance companies

and may include:

Your NHS number
Your date of birth
Your postcode
Your gender
Your ethnicity
The date you registered with your GP surgery
Your medical diagnoses (including cancer and mental health) and any complications
Your referrals to specialists
Your prescriptions
Your family history
Your vaccinations and screening tests
Your blood test results
Your body mass index (height/weight)
Your smoking/alcohol habits

Do you fancy that? Imagine if you’ve had a drug habit. You’re now clean, but data that you had a habit is for sale.

I don’t think that is on. Neither do many other people, from concerned GPs to the Open Rights Group, who sent me this:

This is a guest email from Phil Booth, Coordinator of medConfidential – the campaign for confidentiality and consent in health and social care.

You may have heard in recent weeks about something called ‘’ – a new scheme by the arms-length body that is now in charge of the NHS in England, which will soon begin uploading confidential information from your medical record held by your GP. will involve some of your most private, sensitive information being uploaded, processed and passed on or sold in various forms to researchers, pharmaceutical companies, commissioning bodies, insurers, think tanks, ‘information intermediaries’ – basically any organisation or company that can make a plausible case for access.

The decision has already been taken. If you don’t act now, you’ll lose control of your medical information for ever – because once uploaded, your data will never be deleted.

You can now opt out of your medical records being uploaded to using Contact your GP here:

You have a right to opt out, but the people in charge of the scheme have made it seem as confusing and as difficult as they can. It’s not difficult, but you do need to take action pretty quick. You can opt out here:


Phil Booth

More on this at The Register.

Please, read the linked sites, and make your mind up. Consider opting-out.

*This date has now been delayed due to pressure.

Sun (roof)

February 17th, 2014

Today was an unusually bright, clear, pleasant day for lately, so I thought I’d finish the sunroof fixing.

A bargain from ebay got me a complete sunroof assembly: glass, motor, rails and trim. While the manual suggests removing the glass to change the assembly, I elected not to, as the adjustment’s a bit tedious, with fiddly trim pieces and awkward screws. This means a bit more weight to lift in and out. First though, out with the aforementioned expensive grease, so expensive it can only be made from the semen of virgin unicorns. This goes on the plastic slides, and I suspect it’s nothing flasher than a non-sticky silicone grease, designed to avoid picking up muck.

Removal is shockingly easy: disconnect the motor cables, and undo the bolts, leaving one in at the front to take the weight. This stage nearly went wrong- someone had been here before, and one bolt had a half-stripped torx head. I put it back in a more accessible place, in case it ever needs grinding out, but also leaving it a little looser than the others. It would have been nice to get a new one:

Someone had butchered this bolt: I was lucky to get it out, but a good quality bit helped.

Someone had butchered this bolt: I was lucky to get it out, but a good quality bit helped.

but it would be a special order part.

Once the bolts were out, with an assistant helping, the whole assembly comes forward, down, and is free to come out through the tailgate. The new unit goes back in the same way.

With the drain tubes and electrical connections reconnected, 2 tests: first, does it leak, and second, does it work. A pass on both items means it’s time to refit the headlining.

First step is to clean your hands: it’s an irritatingly light grey colour. Rescue any of the clips that came adrift and replace them onto the (scrubbed clean) headlining:

Clips that retain the headlining to the sunroof frame.

Clips that retain the headlining to the sunroof frame.

Then revove the rear headrests, and pass the headlining back in via the tailgate. You have to bend it into place into the recess a little. make sure the interior lamp cable and sunroof switch cable drop through the hole, then Refit the grab handles- note they are handed, and the back ones are different- and the sun visors. If, like me, you broke or scratched the little sunvisor hooks getting the impossibly tight covers off, part numbers 380 857 563, and 380 857 561A are what you need :-/ .

Apply some contact adhesive to the headlining and the plastic supports where the original glue was (bonus point if you can name the CD in-shot on the parcel shelf):

Where to apply glue. There's a corresponding support fixed to the roof.

Where to apply glue. There’s a corresponding support fixed to the roof.

Let it dry for a few minutes, push the lining against the supports, and refit the C-pillar trims.

Finally, refit the sunroof switch and interior lamp, squeeze the clips shown in the second photo on to the sunroof frame, and bask in the joy of a clean refitted headlining and working, non-leaking sunroof, pausing only to order the damned hooks.

Result- a fixed sunroof for less than £100, even with the unicorn-bollocks-depleting grease.


February 16th, 2014

Some of you may have noticed I like pubs. I also quite like restaurants, and indeed, one of my favourite pubs is both.

Yesterday, we went out for a Valentine’s night meal. Very nice too, at a well-respected local Thai restaurant. We went by taxi, as, quite frankly, there was no way I was driving and the weather was grim, plus we’d had to book an early table.

A great meal. Good price too, but there’s no bar to sit and drink in, so we went round the corner to The Crown to get a drink, and order a taxi.

It struck me how much I dislike this kind of place. It’s no longer a pub: it’s a “restaurant” that happens to serve beer, and at a price. You just know the food will be microwaved, and while it’s 2-for-1, the prices are inflated to take account. The staff are pleasant enough, but it doesn’t sound sincere- it comes from a manual, with an air of faux obsequious tone that jars with me: I’m not a sir, please don’t patronise me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK, if you’re happy with that kind of place, but this sort of homogenised, corporate, bland, marketed, formulaic approach to food and drink just depresses me: It’s like a thin parody of a pub or restaurant. It would be better were it not pretending to be a traditional pub: it falls into the same bracket as other “restaurant” chains like Frankie & Benny’s, etc, which is why the new cinema and leisure centres in town aen’t thrilling me greatly. A cinema will be nice, but it seems that I’m in a minority in not wanting more identikit chain restaurants.

Raindrops Keep Falling on Your Head

February 8th, 2014

Well specifically, it wasn’t raindrops, but a good splash of water, and not my head, but my dear Stymistress’s. Warning: long post…

Her car is now approaching it’s 14th birthday. It’s still in fairly good nick (and very low mileage, given she doesn’t like driving unless absolutely necessary) but a recent cornering move resulted in an inpromtu dousing, and the amount of condensation inside didn’t look good either.

Being nearly 14 years old, it predates air-conditioning as standard, and has a sunroof. Not a cheap, nasty aftermarket one, but a factory-fitted electric one. You might at this point think the sunroof is leaking, but you’d be wrong: many people don’t appreciate that a lot of seals on a car are not designed to actually seal water, and this is the case here: water is meant to get past the glass panel, drop onto a channel below, and then drain out through a pipe. Many similar sunroofs are OEM’d for other marques, by Webasto.
Read the rest of this entry »

A Trilogy in Five Parts

February 3rd, 2014

After many years, I’ve finally got to listen to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show, from the original 1978 episodes to 2004-2005′s Quintessential Phase. I’ve heard it all before, but as the timespan was several years (from borrowing the original two series CDs and then hearing the Tertiary-Quintessential phases on the radio) spanned several years, I bought the entire set in 2012.

Then left it on the shelf, unplayed, along with the MP3 rip I took. The problem is, you need continuity. There’s 13 discs, plus a bonus one, and each disc is around an hour.

My ongoing hate of most radio, and the fact I’m unable to choose a music CD in the morning, has meant that my commute has tended to be accompanied by a Pump-Duse engine and tyre and wind noise, as while VAG’s PD is not the smoothest or quietest, it’s better than the breakfast show. Seems like an opportunity.

So the last few weeks have been filled with Vogons, Marvin, and the Total Perspective Vortex. It’s been great; taking some of the tedium out of the commute, showing just what a genius Douglas Adams was.

The only problem now is that I’m back to diesel knock and tyre roar, with HHGTTG back on the shelf for a few years. Oh well: Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can’t like it.

Castle Miranda

January 30th, 2014

Castle Miranda is otherwise (more properly?) known as Chateau Noisy. It’s a long way from here, in Belgium, but was designed by the English architect Edward Milner. It is, to vastly understate things, a beautiful Neo-Gothic building that has been terribly neglected. You can read all about it in an account on David Baker’s excellent site here. It’s also very popular with urbexers.

David’s a professional photographer, and has taken some beautiful images of the chateau- you can visit the gallery by clicking the image below:

Castle Miranda

Castle Miranda. Image courtesy of David Baker: click to visit his gallery.

The bad news is that the owners want to demolish it, despite many offers to purchase the site over the years. See Dave’s post here, and a petition site here (hint, use Google Translate if you can’t read French).

Braking the Gears

January 8th, 2014

This might bore some, but I guarantee one or two people will find this interesting.

My car is now over 7 years old, and approaching 100k miles. That’s not the magic figure it used to be, but you have to accept a few things will fail- so, outside of the consumables, I’ve had a (surprisingly pricey) gear lever, a similarly pricey blower motor, a few suspension bushes, a dual-mass flywheel, and now, a sensor with a surprising symptom.

The surprising symptom was the DSG gearbox getting increasingly reluctant to change up when in D (full-auto) mode, back in October. No codes stored, and a manual change avoided it.

The fear at this point is a mechatronics failure- the unit is pricey, even refurbished, but that seems unlikely, given the change works manually, and a mechatronics failure is usally a bit more obvious.

Fortunately, someone had been here before, and I remembered his post on good old usenet, describing the symptoms, and dropped him an email. His answer:

I’ve got no fault codes but the symptoms sound a bit similar. In my case , the problem turned out to be a corroded sensor ring on one of the rear wheels.

Replacement wasn’t cheap though. It seems that wheel bearings etc also had to be replaced. Still, a lot cheaper than a gearbox repair.

For some reason the defective sensor input to the gearbox was screwing up it’s speed assessment but wasn’t triggering any warning lights.

Changing them isn’t cheap, as he said: a quality part is around £100, and the fault was very intermittent, so I left it, changing manually if needed. I had to wait until today- when the gearbox suddenly decided that 1st was appropriate at 15-20mph (1st being very, very low in DSG cars), got all confused, decided it wasn’t again, then; finally, lit up the ABS, stability control, and tyre pressure warning lamps, then drove normally. Code stored was:

Address 03: ABS Brakes Labels: 1K0-907-379-MK60-F.lbl
Part No SW: 1K0 907 379 AA HW: 1K0 907 379 AA
Component: ESP FRONT MK60 0102
Revision: 00H13001
Coding: 0006786
Shop #: WSC 06441 785 00200
VCID: 71E3A0F868F54B966BD-8024

1 Fault Found:
00287 - ABS Wheel Speed Sensor; Rear Right (G44)
003 - Mechanical Failure

This is odd. ABS causes no upchange? Previous searching had thrown up this (read post number 4).

The gearbox, in collusion with the ABS and stability ECU, will refuse to change up if the speed signal from the rear wheels (which it gets over CANbus) seems odd, or confuses it into thinking you’re cornering (because you don’t want an unexpected upchange half way around a corner). Sane enough, I suppose, but very unexpected, and, of course, not going to show up on a manual car- it seems the gearbox starts getting confused way before the ABS controller decides the input is dodgy, so a manual car would drive normally until the dash lights appeared.

This oddity is going to be common to cars on the PQ35 platform- my correspondent above had a VW Touran:

Audi A3 Mk2 (8P)
Audi TT Mk2 (8J)[1]
Volkswagen Touran (1T)
Volkswagen Caddy (2K)
SEAT Altea (5P)
Volkswagen Golf Mk5 / GTI / R32 / Rabbit Mk5 (1K)
Škoda Octavia Mk2 (1Z)
Volkswagen Golf Plus (5M)
SEAT Toledo Mk3 (5P)
Volkswagen Jetta Mk5 (1K)
SEAT León Mk2 (1P)
Volkswagen Tiguan (5N)
Volkswagen Scirocco (13)
Volkswagen Golf Mk6 (5K)
Škoda Yeti (5L)
Volkswagen Jetta Mk6 (1K), (16)
Audi Q3 (8U)
Volkswagen Beetle (16)

and maybe others, with a DSG gearbox and that design of rear hub (it seems the wheel bearing, sensor ring, and hub are one assembly).

It does say something (again) about the complex, networked nature of modernish cars. The concept of a sensor in the braking system affecting gearchange is a bit non-obvious, but when you have sensors there anyway, required for (legally mandatory) ABS, and a network to talk over, may as well use them, huh?

Slide Rules

December 31st, 2013

Yesterday put me in a good mood: My continuing investigation of my late father’s slides had come to a halt: the over-40-year-old projector mentioned in this post frankly was too unreliable and too scary to leave switched on for any time, and had limited magazines, and the more modern one broke its changer mechanism. While I have a slide scanner, and a battery-powered viewer, they’re very inconvenient ways to deal with hundreds of slides.

I’d purchased a replacement projector- identical- via Gumtree, but unseen. When it arrived, it failed to light, and the seller was, shall we say, uninterested- caveat emptor. A brief attempt at repair or perhaps creating one worker out of the 2 failed: I’m usually quite good at getting things apart and back together, but the sheer quantity of pingfuckits in the device and reluctance for the case to open when I got the first one apart told me that way was madness.

I considered everyone’s favourite online tat bazaar, but unless one came up locally, so I could see it working, that was a non-starter, so I made a post on the Walsall Freecycle group- and it was a matter of hours before a kind benefactor in Rushall offered 2 projectors, with magazines, that both work after very minor fiddling. While the idea of Freecycle is, well, free, I’ll be making a charity donation in recognition of someone’s generosity, and the fact that otherwise I’d have risked money again. In the spirit of this, can I suggest joining the Walsall Freecycle group (or your local one if you live elsewhere)? You might get rid of stuff you need to and help someone out.

I’ve now spent a few happy hours looking through old slides: I know in there there’s one or two that may interest people: they’ll get scanned and posted when I find them.


December 31st, 2013

This blog, is believe it or not, 10 years old today. Will no-one thnk of all the bandwidth wasted?

I’m in a slightly better frame of mind than last year, thankfully, having had my faith in humanity restored to some degree in the last few days: the local online world proving that it is a genuine community if you’re bright enough to take note of the social in social media.

The local blogging world is, if anything, healthier than ever at this point: There’s all sorts from trivial (but very human) online diaries to serious catalogues of local history, and all points between. The oft-predicted death of the blog seems to be pure fallacy, as quality increases and those that want to be part of the community keep it going. There’s too many to mention, but you can find them via theyamyam or my links.

I’m still not sure where this load of tat sits in that spectrum. It has become less of an online diary (probably because Twatter fulfils some of that, but on reflection, I should blog more, as this is my space alone, and I control it), but after 10 years it’s still going, and I have no intention to stop, There’s too much going on.

Happy New Year, all.

Happy Christmas

December 24th, 2013

A bit earlier in the day for my Christmas message: the way the season has fallen means that everything seems to e sorted early. I’m sat inside, watching my neighbours put up our lights, which seems the good way to do it. I’ll maybe buy them a pint later.

Once again I’ve managed to put faces to a few new people from online in the last year, and very pleasurable it was too. There’s still friends to meet, but Brownhills Bob has already listed them, as usual.

We’re looking forward to Christmas with 2 pussy cats for the first time, rather than burying one :-/, and so far, we’re not ill.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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