Archive for November, 2007

I’m going on a phone hunt.

I’m going to catch an iPhone.

It costs almost £1000!

I’m not scared.*

In truth, I am scared because I have never bought a Steve Jobs product directly, except things like the movie Toy Story. That doesn’t count because I think it is true to say that Pixar got successful when Jobs was looking the other way trying to recreate Apple at NeXT and only partly succeeding. iTunes is free, so that does not count either, and I would have bought the two album downloads and two individual tracks anyway.

My current MP3 player is in my Windows smartphone, so unfortunately I have to be geeky enough to figure out Media Player and its odd syncing protocol. I am, for now, an iPod-free zone.

For a long time I operated what you might call a “Best Nokia Heuristic”, i.e. just buying the best phone that Nokia makes. This was a business decision that started when I bought the earliest GSM phones to equip my team of reporters at Opec meetings (there goes another Opec reference, folks!).

It had been preceded by another heuristic — the “It Must Work in a Lift Heuristic”. Only Nokias did at that time. Eccentrically, I would also test them by descending into the basement area of the Espree Health Club behind Fleet Street. The staff at Charles Dunstone’s Carphone Warehouse, still in the early days of its emerging success story, was always very obliging with demo product. This particular rule of thumb derived from a most extraordinary moment Continue reading ‘i’m going on a phone hunt’

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stopping time

19Nov07

There is an expression in probability theory that I’m not qualified to explain with perfect accuracy: “stopping time”. It is used to describe the uncertain length of a gambler’s sojourn at the roulette table when he is determined to double his money; stopping time arrives when either the target is reached or the gambler runs out of money.

In a way, a blog’s lifespan might be defined by such a period. How long to devote to it? Is there a target audience or revenue to make it worthwhile before interest or ideas run out? Perhaps too, the offline period (as the Knackered Hack has just experienced) might be defined by stopping time… each day goes by… the reader checks… no new updates. When will it reappear?

I haven’t found many intermittent blogs, but I think the concept has merit. The problem is that they are bound to be less discoverable as they will be less aggressively part of the so-called “conversation”. We really should prize those who write only when they have something to say.

The reason for this blog’s absence is more deeply personal, and starting again was akin to that feeling in a marathon when Continue reading ‘stopping time’

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Among the reasons why blogs stop updating, bereavement is unlikely to be high up on the list. But that is why the Knackered Hack fell silent these past few weeks.

Spending an extended amount of time in limbo in hospital brings to the fore all sorts of extraneous thoughts about time and uncertainty, not to say the complexity of information that tired, exhausted relatives have to absorb and sometimes make important decisions from.

Hospitals are all about corridors, lifts, stairs, inadequate eating facilities, irregular food and drink, and not a lot of fresh air. That’s especially true if you are there for a long-term vigil and not just popping in during visiting hours. There was a moment when I realised that it had some of the hallmarks of the Opec meetings I was required to cover professionally in my early 20s. They involved endless days in hotels in Geneva or Vienna, chasing important-looking men speaking English with thick foreign accents, the majority of whom were under the mistaken impression that they were in control of things. Time was completely elastic. In fact we even called it “Opec Time” because nothing ever happened when it was meant to. When the Hotel Intercontinental in Geneva gave us watches with the Opec logo on them we all laughed.

But the business of how to manage your own expectations in hospital — and how your expectations are being managed by the medical authorities — is a serious one. There are definite differences between junior doctors and the more senior consultants. The key qualifier, in my recent experience, is frankness. Hope in a hopeless situation is very confusing, but I guess the younger you are as a medic, the more idealistic: the closer you are to your original motivations to help and do good. You are less used to death and less practised in the application of those heuristics that permit the cutting through all the possible treatments that a modern hospital has to offer to the more simple need for palliative care, which, where it involves ever larger doses of morphine, is itself terminal.

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