A clinic that got me thinking.

Sad to say, much of my time in college is spent sitting in a corner listening to what is happening hoping for some small manna of teaching, recently I was in an infertility clinic, and it was a pretty shameful excuse for a teaching exercise. However, as the hours passed I had time to muse a bit about the situations that were being retold in front of me.

1) Some aspects of the NICE guidelines are grossly unfair: Currently couples are eligible for one round of IVF on the NHS, this was intended to reduce the regional variation, however there are various criteria that need to be met for the NHS to pay.One of which is a couple is ineligible for treatment if the male has had a child in a previous relationship. This to me seems grossly unfair to the female partner. Considering that infertility is a rare occasion when you consult and test the couple as a couple, it’s sad that should the problem lie with the woman, she is denied a child of her own because of her partners past. Considering that separation is common in the UK, this will effect many couples and seems to ignore the fact that the man may have little to do with this previous child, let alone his new partner.

2) IVF is not as expensive as I though: Its not cheap, granted, but its about £4000 a cycle at Harley St. I understand that few people have a spare 4 grand, and that multiple rounds will be probably be required, but that still strikes me as a reasonable price when you consider cost of a car (especially new) and other costs of big events (say a wedding). Also, if you participate in egg sharing the price plummets to a few hundred quid, that makes IVF pretty affordable if you’re comfortable with the idea. 

3) Some people are hopelessly naive about the cost of children: The clinic illustrated that I am terrible of judging BMI or the area I was in has serious weight issues and that I’ve become normalised to people being overweight and judge the obese as “ech, you’re not that fat”. The obesity epidemic is a pubic health problem as much as a personal one and requires interventions from all areas, and I know losing weight is hard. High BMI has effects on fertility (and exacerbates other problems) and increases complications in pregnancy for both the fetus and the mother, so losing weight is of great benefit. Its also a requirement for eligibility for IVF, and other treatments to help with conception, either to increase the likelihood of success or reduce complication risks. Yet, several of the women I saw were obese, and on being told of the need to lose weight gave costs and time constraints as a hindrance to losing weight. I know it costs to lose weight, but so does having children, even the target of being clinically overweight seemed an impossible task for these women, and didn’t appreciate the recommendation of gym membership, but I couldn’t help think that while weight loss regimes are costly in time and money, maybe the cost isn’t much greater than the costs of a child and is a really good idea.


Infertility is a problem that effects many couples, and it clearly effects both members deeply, and these were the things I was thinking about on the ride home. Generally I approve of NICE guidelines, but the denying IVF to new couples because of children from previous relationships seems terribly unfair and old fashioned, and people need to lose weight, and maybe councils should make their gym facilities affordable.

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Measuring the distance between me and hard things.

I wont lie, when I bought the arduino I was thinking about doing something with it and cycling, my initial idea was to make an air quality monitoring thing, to see levels of pollution on my daily commute. I also really want to make a map of “my” London, with a horizontal Thames with the bridges plotted on and then how this all relates to the places I go, as its mainly by pedalling, putting it on the bike seemed a good idea. Also, funsies.

I also wondered about making something so that a camera would be set off when a car gets too close to get its number plate so I can be a whiney bitch about it all. After getting linked to Alex Warrior’s setup I thought more about it and so I put together the arduino, adafruit datalogger with RTC and a maxbotix MaxSonar ultrasonic range finder.

However, so far it doesn’t so much measure overtaking distances as how far I am cycling to solid things, or how close solid things come to me cycling.

Then I wondered what to put it in and settled with a margarine tub and after unsuccessfully trying to tape it the rack, taped it to my saddle bottle mount rack. Then I set off on a roughly 15 mile trip. Every now and then at a red I’d check to make sure the sensor was poking out and when I got home to had me a look at the files. Weirdly, there were 90 odd files, most of which with almost no data, as a new file is created when the thing is reset this led me to believe something had gone awry.

The first file was the biggest the others being either empty or containing only one or two data points, as there were 96, I didn’t check and as they weren’t time stamped there was little context in it all so bleh. Anyway this is a graphical representation of the data recorded from that first nice file:

Where to start? Well the rangefinder worked, and the y-axis is cm. It clearly took me ages to tape it to the bike after connecting the battery. At which point all its detecting really is the bike next to mine and showing about 30cm. Then the RTC stopped, before that it was giving the date and time out by a few days, then jumped forward a hundred years then stopped altogether. Poop, maybe it was because it had been bashed about in a bag on the way to school, maybe it was because I had it set up upside down, or maybe crap soldering (it was working before, and is again now): any advice would be appreciated.

Then, very shortly after I began cycling, everything went to shit, in terms either the power was going off and on, or it was resetting as I cycled. Looking at the peaks, and how few data points were recorded (and how many files made) I reckon I got about 200m before it went haywire. Not sure why.

Anyway, good things: it worked in a mediocre fashion, and if we ignore my faff time we see this:

Which looks about right considering I rode down a short ramp to a go along a cycle lane by a queue of cars, and I was passing them and they were apparently close at quite a few being under a meter. The maximum the sensor can detect is about 6m (6.37m apparently) so the top points aren’t so much a parallel obstacle as far away things, which I’m slightly surprised by because 6m is quite far and I thought it would bounce off parked cars, but this ties into me needing to properly test the sensor.

To do:

Sort out the sketch so it prints the timestamp properly (the date isn’t really required).

Better fitting box, that’s easier to switch on and off.

Ride again to see what happens with the RTC and datalogging (maybe with the arduino the right way up)


Moar sensors D:



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Wasting time.

Reading about the Raspberry Pi got me thinking about how little I took from ICT at school, and how I approve of attempts to teach people how to do something with computers / programmes as opposed to badly teaching of microsoft office applications. From this and loads of projects on the internet using arduino boards etc led me to buy one and some LEDs to play about in the evenings. Having made them blink and blink at certain temperatures, I followed instructions to make an intervalometer and attempted to photograph some star trails in Richmond park during the rutting season which was cold and terrifying, and limited success due to light pollution.

There a couple of projects in the works, most of which involved some sort of data logging so I bought a data logging shield for SD cards, and because I don’t know how to solder I made it badly and while the real time clock worked, SD cards weren’t being detected. New shield, now working and logging temperature and distance from an ultrasound sensor.

Here’s a graph of the temperature of the room 5ish in the afternoon as I waved the sensor about.

The companies I’m buying this all from seem keen on giving free gifts in their packages and today my mind was blown by the wonder of RBG LEDs and also the excitement of being able to use the board without the computer near by through the wizardry of a 9v battery. I’ll spare you all a video of that… Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll see how close cars come to me as I cycle along.

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Blackfriars walk-out:

Yesterday a motion was brought to the London Assembly about the speed limit of Blackfriars Bridge, as the motion came to be debated, the Conservative members rose and left the Assembly. The Assembly became inquorate and so the debate didn’t occur. What an utter shambles of democracy, instead of doing their jobs the entire party flounced off. Oh, this annoyed me, so I looked up who represents me in the West Central area and e-mailed them, I got an out of office reply, which is surprising, I wonder where Kit Malthouse was, he certainly wasn’t sitting the chamber… So I followed the instructions and e-mailed one of his assistants, and also got an out of office reply, good to know for a while no-one in West Central constituency were being tended to.  Here follows my e-mail and reply from Claire Swienton:

Dear Claire Swienton,

I have received an out of office response to an e-mail I’ve sent to Mr Malthouse, I would appreciate you passing on the details of this e-mail or if possibly answer on his behalf:

I was very disappointed to hear today that Mr Malthouse and the other Conservative Assembly Members walked out today making the plenary meeting inquorate. As a resident of West Central constituency I would like to know why Mr Malthouse did so and why he felt that this was not an issue worth debating?
Further, I would like to know Mr Malthouse’s opinions on the proposals of the Blackfriars redesign and proposed retention of the 20mph speed limit on the bridge.
Yours sincerely,
Dear Mr Gibbons,
Thank you for your email about the motion calling the Mayor to re-think his decision not to retain the temporary 20mph speed limit currently in place on Blackfriars Bridge.
I am afraid that you have got only part of the story from the media coverage on this issue – thank you for taking the time to interrogate the matter further. Conservative London Assembly Members walked out of the Chamber yesterday because Labour and Green Members refused after several invitations to condemn and disown Labour candidate Ken Livingstone.
Ken Livingstone last week described, in a most offensive and unacceptable way, Edward Lister, the Mayor’s new Chief of Staff and former long-time Leader of Wandsworth Council, as “the Radko Mladic of local government” at a public event last week. Livingstone is challenging successor Boris Johnson at next year’s Mayoral elections. Yesterday, after questioning Lister on his past policies at Wandsworth and the advice he’ll provide to the Mayor in future, Assembly Members passed a motion condemning Livingstone’s remarks. The motion which also welcomed Lister’s appointment to his new role following the death of Sir Simon Milton his predecessor. The motion was backed by Liberal Democrats on the Assembly and while Green Party AM Darren Johnson said he condemned Livingstone’s comments he was unwilling to back the uncritical description of Lister’s past record in the motion. Labour AMs voted against the motion which was passed 13 votes in favour to 8 against with one abstention.
The Conservative Members did not walk out to avoid the Blackfriars debate and are still in direct discussion with the Mayor and his Transport advisors about the situation because it will ultimately be the Mayor who has the final decision. Yesterday’s events have not however, removed the possibility of the motion (which was proposed by Jenny Jones, a Londonwide AM for the Green Party) from re-appearing on the Assembly’s plenary schedule in future.
I do hope this explanation has made the position a little clearer for you.
Best wishes

Let’s first deal with the obvious point, that once again I’ve asked the opinion of my representative, and not been answered. Sucky, Andrew Boff, another Tory Assembly Member has come out and said his opinion that he supports 2omph, must be nice to to know what your representative thinks.

Now the rest is largely condescending, if I knew about the walk out, I’d clearly know a bit about the surrounding issues. But let’s deal with why our representatives walked out: Someone got insulted in politics. Fuck me sideways I have never heard of such a thing ever happening before.

Other reports are coming in that they walked out because the Conservatives are under represented on committees, firstly they are present as chairs of several, and furthermore they do not hold overall majority of the assembly, so Labour, Lib Dems and Greens are greater in number and so a “progressive majority” have formed.

Secondly, what the fuck does this have to do with Blackfriars? Absolutely nowt, I am embarrassed by such petty behaviour. This is wasting everyone’s time, as the motion will have to be re-proposed and debated, and again they can walk out. I wonder what caused them to arbitrarily choose this debate to invalidate, or is it indicative of the contempt over this particular issue.

My response:

Thank you for your swift response, however, I am still unsure of Mr Malthouse’s opinions on the matter.
While the final decision lies with the Mayor, a show of support by the Assembly would show further support for the motion, and this is an important matter to many Londoners.
Ken Livingstone’s remarks have been well reported and I knew of them, however, I fail to understand what they have to do with the Blackfriar’s debate. As the Conservative’s seemingly waited for this debate it shows a general air of contempt about the issue which I find deeply disturbing. It seems the Assembly welcome’s Mr Lister’s appointment through the motion you referred to, which further begs the question why the members felt the need to leave over what, while insulting, is to mine and many other constituents, a petty political matter.
Further it seems to be wasting the time of Assembly Members, as the issue is now being dragged on and while it could have been debated on Wednesday it will need to be re-motioned. Considering the high salary of the members, as well as the inherent costs of running the meetings, I feel embarrassed by the behaviour of my representative, and I would appreciate you forwarding these sentiments to Mr Malthouse.
Kind regards,
To be continued… (another out-of-office reply, where the hell are these people and why do they come into the office once a week)
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I got my red Dawes Fireball frame powder coated RAL5001 and affixed the pipe smoking whale head badge. It was delightful to be back on the fixed and took it for a quick spin around Battersea Park. I’m really pleased with how it’s come out, while the respray draws the eyes instantly to the dents…

and a close up: might remove and reattach with araldite.

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Manifesto: Vote for Reuben

The Union court may not be well known but it keeps Council and officers are in check, Court Advocate is a young position to provide an opinion on what the Court would think of matters in front of Council and other constitional issues as well as being a contact for students wanting to know more about Court matters and the Constitution.

This year I have sat on Representation and Welfare Board as Environmental officer and been involved in various Union activities in the last 4 years at Imperial. Outside college I’ve been involved in various grass roots movements as well as larger political movements.

Dependent on e-mail like a back alley junkie, I would be easily obtainable for advice on how to make a case to court, be they Union memer or not, as well as increasing student knowledge of court.

I look forward to bridging the gap between council and court and to be approachable to all students and can assure you I would be a perfectly adequate advocate.

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Thou shalt not quill.

I am on the final stretch of the Dawes Fireball project. I had a custom headbadge made by a very nice and reasonably priced etsy seller. Having received it I took a few moments from staring blearily at my project write up to dissemble my bike.

It took a lot longer than I thought: wheels, cranks, saddle, seat tube and bottom bracket came out like a delight. Undoing the stem was fine, but the quill was stuck in. Frustrated by this I put the handle bars and brake to one side and removed the headset and got ready to use my new special tool, the headset cup remover. Poised with mallet in hand I inserted it into the shaft of the steerer, the steerer was too big. So I resorted to slowly working around them with a screw driver and aforementioned mallet. One set of bearings were in a polite race, the others loose and I promptly ended up scrambling on the floor finding some, and losing more. Cutting my losses I went to see if the bearings from the last time I dropped a headset on the floor were the same size, they were and with a sigh I moved onto the crown race. In all this took maybe 45 minutes of taking my time.

Back to the quill, I put the rest of the stem back in and hit it repeatedly with a hammer to no avail. WD-40’d it for gold and more hitting. I then tried to heat it up hoping the forks expand more than the quill to allow easier hitting. To no avail, not least as the quill is aluminium and expands more than the steel forks so that was stupid. As was doing it in the entire I did.

Still no good, I used some ammonia to try and dissolve the aluminium oxide and hope for the best with more hitting. If you’ve never smelt ammonia, I guess you’re lucky, as the stench quickly permeated the house from outside, I tried to reduce the problem.

This did little despite being left for over 24 hours and repeated poundings with the mallet. Getting more angry and beginning to consider that it would be easier to get a new frame set than continue with this, and wondering whether I could freeze the inside I read that in an end-game circumstance, I could just dissolve the aluminium in caustic soda.

So I did.

And so I had a nice bubbly day, stirring the sodium hydroxide solution with the forks and the stick and repeatedly trying to push the quill out with the stick and watching the gasses form and spiral out from the tube and sometimes sludgey foam would pour out the top. After a few pints at the Union, returning home and putting the bike out back I tentatively moved my feet around where I thought the bucket was but it had been moved. Bike safe and sound, I groped around for mr pokey stick and in the dark found my forks and after blindly stabbing with mr pokey, sweet release and out the quill came.

The lye worked much faster on the paint but you can now see what took me a week to remove. And I only burnt my hands once properly on the caustic soda (though my fingers got a bit soapy more than once).

Crop and zoom of the quill?

I am proud of myself, and the paint work doesn’t bother me too much as it was going to be blasted off anyway, but I do need a new stem, but for £6 I’m pretty chuffed.

Have a photo of the other nights faff of a dinner where I tried to put mushrooms larger than the bore of the pasta into cannelloni.

It was as delicious as faffy.

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