Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Born everywhere, raised in Britain II

Caroline Irby has kindly given us permission to post these other photos from her visit to Jaime, Kezia and Nanda for the Guardian/Channel 4 Born everywhere, raised in Britain project.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NAO and the NHS CfH

The DoH pointed out the opinion of the National Audit Office (NAO) that the Enterprise Wide Agreement between Microsoft and the NHS represented considerable savings to the taxpayer over normal Microsoft rates and those charged by Microsoft to other government departments.
There are two NAO reports evaluating CfH:

1. "The National Programme for IT in the NHS" (ref. HC 1173 June 2006).

2. i) "The National Programme for IT in the NHS: Progress since 2006" (ref. HC 484-I May 2008)

ii) "The National Programme for IT in the NHS: Project Progress Reports" (ref. HC 484-II May 2008).

These are hefty reports and it will take me some time to get through them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Born everywhere, raised in Britain

The photo journalist Carolyn Irby has been interviewing and photographing children from every country in the world resident in Britain (she managed all but seven) for a Guardian/Channel 4 project. A selection was published in last Saturday's Guardian magazine and all the children, including Jaime representing Sao Tome, can be found on the Guardian's website.

A Channel 4 programme will come out in December/January.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Today Kezia went off-treatment!

Next appointment, Deity-willing, just a check-up in six weeks time!

Joe Orton's Cottage Orgy

The artist Banksy has become famous through his graffiti now sold for thousands of dollars. Last week a Banksy exhibition opened in New York for many thousands of dollars. Not existing works, but a completely new 3-D piece representing a pet-shop where budgerigars are represented by chicken-legs on feet, pigs having sex are represented by hot-dogs, and a monkey watches TV. A visual farce.

I have just re-read the biography, Prick Up Your Ears, of the playwright Joe Orton, the 20th century version of Oscar Wilde, by John Lahr. I am now re-reading the diary he kept during the last year or so of his life before he was killed by his lover Kenneth Halliwell who then committed suicide.

Joe Orton's plays root back through Ronald Firbank, Oscar Wilde (both acknowleged by Orton himself and Lahr) and, even further, to Moliere and the Com├ędie Francaise, and the Italian comic theatre that resulted in the Punch and Judy puppet shows of British seaside resorts.

In early 1960s Orton and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, each earned six months in prison for defacing books in their local public library. They would legitimately borrow or illegally steal books and replace pages and photo-plates with images of classic paintings and sculptures ... and then replace them for future readers.

Later, Joe publically satisfied his own voice in the press media as Mrs Edna Welthorpe who roundly criticised the immorality of his plays.

How times do change ... but they don't as elements of the US Public are offended by Banksy's show..

The following extract from the diaries which reminded me of a couple of my earlier post and, although it had me giggling, it may offend you ... so if homosexual male debauchery is not your cup of tea ... don't read on!

"... popped into a little pissoir - just four pissers. It was dark because somone had taken the bulb away. There were three figures pissing. I had a piss and, as my eyes became used to the gloom, I saw that only one of the figures was worth having - a labouring type with cropped hair and, with cropped hair, wearing jeans and a dark short coat. Another man entered and the man next to the labourer moved away, not out of the place altogether, but back against the wall. The new man had a pee and left the place and, before the man against the wall could return to his place, I nipped in sharpish and stood next to the labourer. I put my hand down and felt his cock, he immediatley started to play with mine. The youngish man with fair hair, standing back against the wall, went into the vacant place. I unbuttoned the top of my jeans and unloosened my belt in order to allow the labourer free rein with my balls.The man next to me began to feel my bum. At this point a fifth man entered. Nobody moved. It was dark. Just a little light spilled into the place from the street, not enough to see immediately. The man next to me moved back to allow the fifth man to piss. But the fifth man very quickly flashed his cock and the man next to me returned to my side, lifting up my coat and shoving his hand down the back of my trousers. The fifth man kept puffing on a cigarette and, by the glowing end, watching. A sixth man came into the pissoir. As it was so dark nobody bothered to move. After an interval (during which the fifth man watched me feel the labourer, the labourer stroked my cock, and the man beside me pulled my jeans down even further) I noticed that the sixth man was kneeling down beside the youngish man with fair hair and sucking his cock. A seventh man came in, but by now nobody cared. The number of people in the place was so large that detection was quite impossible. And anyway, as soon became apparent when the seventh man stuck his head down on a level with my fly, he wanted a cock in his mouth too. For some moments nothing happened. Then an eighth man, bearded and stocky, came in. He pushed the sixth man roughly away from the fair-haired man and quickly sucked the fair-headed man off. The man beside me had pulled my jeans down over my buttocks and was trying to push his prick between my legs. The fair-haired man, having been sucked off, hastily left the place. The bearded man came over and nudged away the seventh man from me and, opening my fly, began sucking me like a maniac. The labourer, getting very excited by my feeling his cock with both hands, suddenly glued his mouth to mine. The little pissoir under the bridge had become the scene of a frenzied homosexual saturnalia. No more than two feet away the citizens of Holloway moved about their ordinary business. I came, squirting into the bearded man's mouth, and quickly pulled up my jeans. As I was about to leave, I heard the bearded man hissing quietly, 'I suck people off! Who wants his cock sucked?' When I left, the labourer was just shoving his cock into the man's mouth to keep him quiet. I caught the bus home.

I told Kenneth who said, 'It sounds as though eightpence and a bus down the Holloway Road was more interesting than £200 and a plane to Tripoli.'

Monday, October 20, 2008

Microsoft and the DoH - Random Thoughts

What do you and I think of this?

Here are some of my random of my thoughts ...

1. It was passed up from the NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) Freedom of Information Officer (FIO) to the Department of Health FIO. Does this say anything about DoH planning and contract awards? Or does this say something about the control of information in the NHS/DoH? The implication is that the contract is between NHS CfH, not the DoH, and Microsoft. However, it may be that the DoH administers the contract on behalf of NHS CfH.

2. The answer to my Question a) raises a number of issues. We are told that under the terms of the Enterprise Wide Agreement (EWA) with Microsoft the government is not allowed to reveal its cost – hardly seems to be in the spirit of open government.

In the first paragraph of this answer we are assured that the National Audit Office (NAO) considers the EWA good value for money compared to contracts between Microsoft and other government departments – this does not say much for these other contracts. Are they also subject to non-revelation of price clauses? Was the NAO's opinion declared publically?

The lack of openness seems to be in direct contradiction of all the government's hype about the free market and open competition.

With twisted logic it is argued that the non-revelation of the contract price results in a cheaper price and thus a lower burden to the taxpayer. What if Microsoft had to compete transparently? What price Freedom of Information?

This rather seems to mirror the European Union's concerns at Microsoft's monopolistic practices. Was the original EWA an open tender? If so, were there any other bidders? What were the terms of the 3-year extension clause? Is Microsoft undercutting, at a loss, potential competitors in order to gain a monopoly in the NHS? By the time this renewal (2007-2010) of the EWA is up, then the NHS will be so intricately tied into Microsoft systems that it will be obliged to renew again and again ... and Microsoft will have the NHS by the short-and-curlies and be able to charge whatever it wants.

3. The answers to my questions b) and c) are somewhat surprising and inadequate. From the Microsoft NHS website I have since learned that Microsoft has an EWA reseller programme divided up by Strategic Health Authorities.

The SHAs are distributed among three companies hence:

Bytes Technology Group

North West SHA,
West Midlands SHA,
London SHA
South West, South East and South Central SHAs

Please contact Bytes Technology Group at:
0208 786 1570

Computacenter Ltd.
East of England SHA
East Midlands SHA
Or as part of any Arms Length Body

Please contact Computacenter Ltd at:
0800 055 6661

Trustmarque Solutions

North East SHA
Yorkshire andtThe Humber SHA
Department of Health

Please contact Trustmarque Solutions at:
0870 121 0322

Clearly, Microsoft's criteria for the selection of resellers and their remuneration are not going to be in the public domain.

I also discover that, as stated in the FIO's reply, that individual NHS entities, can enter “individual contracts” with Microsoft under its Select Licensing programme, without reference to CfH or the DoH. This programme is also administered through Microsoft resellers (generally the same ones as under the EWA) who are administratively organised by SHA. Surely the EWA should cover all NHS Microsoft needs? If CfH/DoH does not know how many of these contracts are held and what they are for, how can it plan for the EWA? How does it know whether the EWA is covering NHS needs?

4. I am somewhat relieved the planned Personal Care Record database will be stored on Solaris Unix servers using an Oracle database rather than Windows servers using MS-SQL database server software. With and by whom is/are the Solaris/Oracle contract/s held? What are the effective dates of such contract(s)?

The DoH FIO's reply seems to raise more questions than it provides answers.

Dear Readers - should I pursue this with a further FOIA request? If so, what should I request? Suggestions please in the comments or by email.

Friday, October 17, 2008

FOIA - Microsoft and the DoH

The reply ...

Our ref: DE00000356344

15 October 2008

Dear Mr Gascoigne,

Thank you for your request for information, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’), about Microsoft as a supplier of IT products and services to the NHS, and as a supplier to NHS Connecting for Health in connection with the Summary Care Record (‘centralised patient record system’). Your request was received on 7 October and it has been passed to me for reply.

Please find answers to each of your requests in turn below:

(a) How much the NHS is paying Microsoft for licensing of Microsoft's Operating Systems and any support services directly provided by Microsoft?

The terms of the Enterprise Wide Arrangement (EWA) negotiated between NHS Connecting for Health and Microsoft on behalf of the NHS preclude our revealing the pricing details to parties outside of Government. This proviso reflects the fact that the information is commercially sensitive information, and as such is exempt under section 43 of the Act, which exempts information whose disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person. However, I can confirm that the National Audit Office have accepted that the prices the NHS is paying under the EWA are lower than those available under other agreements with Microsoft negotiated by the Office of Government Commerce on behalf of Government departments.

Section 43 is subject to the public interest test. Considerations I have taken into account in deciding the balance of public interest in relation to your request are that disclosure would b e consistent with policies for open government and accountability for public expenditure. Disclosure would also illustrate value for money in the context of the National Programme for IT. Considerations for withholding the information are that disclosure is likely to mean that Microsoft would not give the NHS such preferential pricing in any future arrangement. Furthermore, other suppliers are likely to become wary of offering NHS Connecting for Health or the NHS (and potentially other public sector organisations) exceptionally favourable terms in future if they perceive the risk that they too may have their lowest prices revealed in response to ad hoc requests for their disclosure. Hence, the net effect of revealing these particular price details is likely to be to increase future costs for the public sector/the taxpayer.

(b) How many discrete contracts does the NHS have with Microsoft? If more than one, what products/services are provided under each contract and what is the cost of each contract?

(c) If 3rd-part vendors are contracted to provide support services for Microsoft products, how many such contracts exist, how are they administered, and what is their total value?

Neither the Department of Health nor NHS Connecting for Health collect information about the number, nature or value of any such separate agreements.

I should explain that the NHS is not a single organisation or legal entity. In addition to contracts held centrally on behalf of the NHS as a whole, each NHS organisation is at liberty to enter into further bilateral agreements with Microsoft or its commercial partners for products or services to meet their local needs without the knowledge, or need for approval, of either NHS Connecting for Health or the Department of Health.

(d) What operating system is planned to be used on fileservers hosting the centralised patient record system, and with which core-database software is it being implemented?

I can confirm that the Summary Care Record sits on servers running the Sun Microsystems Open Solaris 10 ("Unix") operating system, in an Oracle 10g database.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to the Section Head of the Department’s Freedom of Information Unit at the following address:

Freedom of Information Unit

Department of Health

Room 334b

Skipton House

80 London Road


If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner (ICO) for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the Department. The ICO can be contacted at:

The Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane




Yours sincerely,

Stuart Craig

Department of Health

Room 317

79 Whitehall

London SW1A 2NS

Friday, October 10, 2008


... is on!

I wrote to our social-workers and consultant and he quite happily agreed to a delay of the next "inspection" for a week as long as Kezia doesn't take her weekly dose of oral methotrexate - to let her blood-count recover.

Pete is taking them over to Blackpool on Monday afternoon. There is no direct public transport route (even though relatively close in distance) back home the following Sunday, and Pete and Paula, and our friend Margaret, are all unable to collect them. Public transport with no direct connection, with luggage, two young children and language difficulties would be difficult.

Paula's son, Stefan, has offered to go all the way to Blackpool via Hebden Bridge to meet them.

Thank you to all who have helped us on this.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


It seems my Freedom of Information request to NHS Connecting for Health has been passed on to the Department of Health as I received this email today ...

Acknowledgement of case DE00000356344 received by the Department of Health.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Biting the Bullet

Tom Reynold's post on the NHS IT Connecting for Health consultation finally inspired me to sumnon up the courage to make the following Freedom of Information request ... watch this space.

Dear Angus

Thank you for your email.

Your request has been forwarded to Mr Paley and you should receive a
response shortly.


Peter Cavanagh
Information Officer

Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Directorate
NHS Connecting for Health

-----Original Message-----

Subject: FOIA request

Dear Mr Paley

I wish to obtain the following information about the NHS Connecting for Health programme under the terms of the FOIA.

a) how much the NHS is paying Microsoft for licensing of Microsoft's Operating Systems and any support services directly provided by Microsoft?

b) how many discrete contracts does the NHS have with Microsoft? If more than one, what products/services are provided under each contract and what is the cost of each contract?

c) if 3rd-part vendors are contracted to provide support services for Microsoft products, how many such contracts exist, how are they administered, and what is their total value?

d) what operating system is planned to be used on fileservers hosting the centralised patient record system, and with which core-database software is it being implemented?

If my request needs to be submitted in a different format, please advise.

Best regards

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tajen Samak bi Tahen

My favourite local Lebanese store has finally started selling Tahini. I have been using it exclusively for making home-made houmous. I shopped there earlier this week to buy another tub and chick-peas, and Fred (yes that is really his name) on the till asked me if I had ever tried fish with a tahini sauce ... I never have. “Delicious” he says. So I go home and dig out Alan Davidson's "Mediterranean Seafood" - there are two Lebanese recipes for white-fish served with a tahini sauce. In the first, "Tajen Samak bi Tahen", a good whitefish, such as a grouper, is baked in a the tahini sauce consisting of lemon, salt, water and tahini. It is accompanied by rice cooked with onion and pine-nut kernels, The second recipe, "Samkeh Mechwiyeh and Tartor Sauce with Pine-nut Kernels", bakes the same fish, but serves it with a separate tahini sauce and can be served hot or cold. In this the pine-kernels are pounded into the tahini sauce.

I bought the pine-kernels on Thursday – fuckin' hell 10 Euros for 100 grammes!

On Saturday Hamilton and I went shopping for fish - I was looking for merou (grouper) or maybe barracuda - after scouring the fish-market (slowly - chock-a-block on a Saturday morning) unsuccessfully - there were only sailfish, tuna family (yes your mouth is watering - but the taste of tahini must not be overwhelmed by the fish - it must have white meat) or "poor" fish, so we went down to the small quay on the city's bay where the middle-sized fishing business' (small trawlers or motorised 10m open fibreglass boats as opposed to a dug-out tree trunk) sell their catch. No merou or barracuda. So I dubiously bought an "alada" - an amberjack (of which Alan Davidson tells me there are are various around the world) - it has a yellow stripe along its side. Then off to Fred's shop to buy some good rice rather than EU/Japan rice rubbish-bin rice found on the market! Fred recommended a 5 kg bag of Egyptian rice but it was short-grain and clearly meant for paellas and risottos (there was an illustration of a prawn on the packaging) so I opted for a 2 kg bag of Pakistani Basmati rice (packaged in Lebanon in a rather nice cloth bag with a zip). Hamilton really couldn't understand why I was spending good money on such expensive rice, rice being rice after all, but I wasn't going to be a spendthrift on EU or Japanese rice-mountain rice when I was spending a fortune on tahini and olive oil. Hamilton cleaned and filleted the fish and then I followed Alan Daividson's instructions as best I could. It was superb! But I burnt the pine-nuts!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Resizing PDFs

Geek stuff ...

I recently scanned some multi-sheet technical drawings to pdf format and then used Adobe Acrobat 7.0 to combine the individual pdfs into one enormous pdf file.

The result would take forever to render in Acrobat/Acrobat Reader. I tried the Size Reduction tool in Acrobat but this resulted in no file size reduction (presumably as the file was already in the most recent pdf format).

Yesterday I found somewhat of a solution ...

In Acrobat save the pdf file as a JPEG. This results in a jpg file of each page of the pdf. Close the original pdf. In Acrobat click on Create PDF, select Multiple Files, select the jpgs, give it a filename and then it will create a new pdf approximately half the size of the original with no apparent loss of resolution.