Drugs, Brexit Divorce Bill, Elections and Musings

I had not realised that it has been over a month since my last wittering. Many of you will be thankful for the silence especially my own son who’s has managed to embed himself into a political party and start campaigning in the UK’s latest election. I’ll get to that in a moment first lets talk NHS and drugs!

NHS

In the never ending debate about NHS spending in the UK – read across to other countries – let’s get a fact out from http://www.nhshistory.net/parlymoney.pdf

In 1950/51 spending amounted to £11.7 billion in 2010/11 prices, or 3.5% of
GDP. By 2010/11, spending had increased more than tenfold in real terms to reach £121bn, or 8.2% of GDP.
Although it has risen consistently over the period, spending has accelerated in recent years.
Between 1999/00 and 2009/10, real-terms expenditure rose by 92%

The Kings Fund has this for NHS in England in dismissing yet another politicians claim of how big an increase the NHS had received each year

Graph showing annual percentage change in real NHS spending

i.e. there has been a real terms increase in NHS spending in England since the 70s with 3 exceptions – so much for NHS cuts. The counter to that argument is that NHS costs have also increased ahead of regular inflation during this period and that is true in particular costs for new treatments i.e. drugs and they are treating more patients due to larger population size, but this is a pot % of a bigger pot as GDP has grown in the same period. There are within the numbers huge variations of what the money has been spent on – a new hospital, pay for cleaners, more doctors and nurses, radiographers, LGBT diagnosis, car parking executives, etc? But lets stick to Drugs.

Drugs

The drug market has recently been in the news with the perceived failure (in economic terms against improved life expectancy) of the UK’s National Cancer Fund. This was set up with the best intentions of funding nationally treatment that local health authorities could not afford. Thus transferring large amounts of money for very expensive drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly the results have not been as good collectively as everyone hoped. Some individuals have had very successful treatment, unfortunately most have not. This brings us to the bigger picture of drug companies, cures and such issues of the slow failure of antibiotics (due to over prescription and misuse).

Drug companies are not investing in research to replace antibiotics because there is no money in it for them. There is no money in any drug that produces a cure. What drug companies want is a population that is kept well enough to earn a living thus to pay for drugs that do not cure but keep the customer well. There is no cure for diabetes just a lifetime of insulin injections, blood tests and monitoring. Vaccines cure or prevent treatment is designed not to cure. The only answer to this problem is to either persuade leopards to change spots i.e. drug companies to work for the interests of the patient rather than shareholders or Government to be socially responsible. I have quoted before one terrorism incident provokes millions of tax money spent. Thousands of antibiotic deaths and risks of death provokes barely a whisper.

Brexit

Just a brief word on Brexit divorce bill for my European colleagues. Yes there will be a cost for commitments beyond Brexit date. the liabilities, but there is also a share of assets. Therefore, I presume the UK will be paid its percentage share of buildings, systems, IPR, stored wine, butter, grain, computer systems etc. Of course it appears that the rest of the EU want the UK to pay maintenance for the rest of the EU countries lives, like a distraught spouse who wants to stay in the family house and not work for a living.

UK Election

Both the elements above are key UK election issues. I know my pleads will land on deaf ears (or blind readers) but can we have proper facts. If a cut is claimed (See NHS) above please have the Oxford English Dictionary refine what the word cut actually means. I thought after Trump alternative facts might go on the back seat but no such luck. To add to NHS lets look at Education

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GD.ZS?locations=GB

The graph on that link shows a less than 1% reduction in Education spending as % of GDP between 2010 and 2015 since reversed and trending back upwards. This is in turn with a growing GDP i.e. higher % of higher total pot. Again internal inflation may reduce value of increase but it is not a cut. Spending per pupil – another measure may be down overall but that is because we have far more pupils than before due to net population increase, thanks to birth rates, lower death rates and better health care. Immigration may also have an impact but where more children come from is less important than the fact that there are more children living longer – I have covered this before. Normally we talk about age and long life pushing the population numbers up but higher birth rates and lower infant mortality do the same then 70+ years later add to the aging population. Just one example not in my local area and not a hotbed of immigration (unlike London), Somerset County Council had an increase in pupil numbers of 0.8% just between 2014 and 2015. This amounted to 521 pupils i.e. a decent sized primary school capacity needed. Have you noticed all the new schools being built, and the sewage systems, the roads the hospitals the…. You get my drift

I could also hope that people not actually standing in the election but in political parties might shut up for ten seconds so we can view the actual candidates – already a forlorn hope. Farage, Blair, Osbourne, Sturgeon I mean you. We then have the endless comments about voting for May, Crobyn, Farrow etc (other candidates are available) We do not have a presidency. For any one of these they first have to get elected by their area’s constituents. None of these people are standing where I live so I cannot vote for any of them. I can only vote for candidates standing in the area I am registered to vote. I continue to see commentators, media and the general public asked who they will vote for with the answer one of the leaders. All of these discussions are not in the the respective constituencies. Why is this question even asked?

Once elected as an MP, then ,if they manage to be the current leader of the largest political party (or other grouping), in the UK’s parliament, you may be asked by the monarch to form a government. If the numbers do not add up (326 MPS) you may still be asked if with other partners you can form a government as happened from 2010-2015. Sorry regional governments that’s why you still have national elections not regional ones Ms Sturgeon please take note, if you want a say on UK politics please stand as an MP and be accountable to your constituents to the UK Parliament otherwise please stick to running the bits of Scotland devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This specifically does not include foreign affairs, defence, security etc.

France

Of course by the time the UK goes to its national poll (we have local elections before that) France will have a new President. On current polls (can we believe any of them?) the likely winner on 7th May will be Emmanuel Macron and not Marine Le Pen. Here unlike UK they are voting for an individual. The whole EU leadership seems to be behind Macron as he is seen as pro-EU and business. Of course I am certain that no EU funds have been used to support any of the candidates apart from the funding all candidates in France receive from the EU – what you did not know that the EU funds political parties?

http://www.welcomeurope.com/european-funds/funding-of-political-parties-foundations-european-level-180+80.html#tab=onglet_details

It Almost Makes Sense

In the UK there are major restrictions on funding of political parties, hence potential prosecutions over expenses in the 2015 election, meanwhile the EU funds all sorts of groups and clearly the UK currently pays (via its net contributions) for this. Perhaps this is the real reason the EU wants funding to continue post Brexit. All those political parties and institutions are dependent on it just like a drug company wanting unwell patients that are never cured.

Anti-Social Media

I’m a Luddite, a technophobe or just plain old. I don’t get social media. Clearly that is not strictly true. This is social media or part of it, as are Twitter and Facebook. I have accounts at both I just don’t use them. I mean when this blog is published it gets linked to Twitter, Facebook and my Linked-In profile and of course back to my author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. But that is it. If I don’t post I barely use the other means. I do post some limited comments on Goodreads and occasionally re-tweet a like. I have used a small Twitter advert alongside my other woeful attempts at marketing. Other than that the accounts are dormant – I struggle to recall my Facebook log-in

I just don’t fell the need to tell the world what I am doing every minute of every day. I watch the Millennial generation permanently connected and typing text, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. I have no idea why they do it or feel the need to share their now non-private lives with anyone who cares.  They exchange their data with all these companies with barely a thought for what is done with it or where it is or why anyone wants to know.  My wife and daughter constantly update and like others’ streams, timelines and whatever the profile details are called.

As the usual technical support for these and other IT issues, I have no idea how to post a photo onto the timeline. Actually, I do but I cannot be bothered. I don’t want to be tagged in a photo. Actually as a so-called IT professional I feel I should know all about these systems and how they work, but frankly I do not care. I am far more concerned with infrastructure, databases, networks, system up time and performance than I am with how to add a comment to a Facebook post..

At work I have email, Intranet, IM and Yammer. Again I struggle to understand why everyone wants to know what I am doing, where I am and what I am working on or even at work, in a meeting or away. Of course my boss wants to know and he does. Normally we meet or I telephone.

Some people think this is reclusive behaviour, guilty as charged. I just like to think that I like my privacy especially away from formal work. This means that I am doing the role of author all wrong. These days I should be posting and twittering continuously in the vague hope that all this activity might lead to someone reading my book or even better buying one.

PC Pro published an article this month (I’m a subscriber to a physical magazine – as I said a Luddite) stating that ‘eBook sales were stagnant and the technology underpinning them was dull.’ It then listed some stats on UK sales from the top five publishers, forgetting about the rest of the world and independent writers in the process. Certainly the biggest e-book retailer seems to be having few problems. Perhaps the premise was wrong

I bring this up not just to comment on the article, I might write to them in a handwritten stamped addressed envelope delivered by Royal Mail. They appear not to have a web site not one the magazine lists anyway – they do. They have email, Twitter and of course Facebook. I have dispensed with a dedicated web site. I still have a name and page but my web site is now this blog. A sign of the times or just the sheer effort needed to keep all these systems going. I’m blogging today when I should be writing. I’m reading Goodreads’ forums rather than reading a book or better yet trying to write one.

We go to restaurants for company and the food to find our companions still telling the world that they are in a restaurant and interacting with people that are not there. Still one thing I would have loved when I was a single dating person (neolithic age I think) is Tinder. I used to hate asking a girl to dance or to buy her a drink, because I was scared of the big No rejection. Now I would just have to swipe. Not that I have. I have just watched how it works. Mrs H need have no concerns. This is not an Ashley Madison confessional.

You see I do know about these things I just don’t use them. They are like a drug and a I saw a news article this week about IT Detox. Yes it was on-line and had hundreds of comments, likes rather missing the point I thought.

Please of course like this, re-tweet it – I’m not that anti.

A Tinfoil Hat – Data Protection and Security

For those of you that know me in my regular life, you will recall I can get a bee in my bonnet about data protection. Partly this is due to my previous professional roles and responsibilities. A frequent comment is that tin foil hats are needed as if my concerns and others are exaggerated. Using the Internet and any part of modern society means that your personal data is not personal or private it belongs to big corporations and government agencies. I do not believe that governments will deliberately misuse the data. That is the way of conspiracies and tin-foil hats. The scope though for data loss, data selling to third parties (who will misuse it) and data errors will grow. Then there are the criminal risks. If the security services need a backdoor through encryption then that back door exists for anyone that can find it. Ashley Madison anyone, to name one hacking case.

This also goes to some of my more reclusive tendencies. Reclusive? I hear you exclaim, a sometimes writer with a twitter feed, email, Facebook page as well as this blog. However, when it comes to data, this tendency can become overactive. I do not have a personal Facebook page and my on-line activities are covered by occasional blogs and comments on Goodreads. I have author profiles on Amazon and other sites, I have a Linked-In profile but my other personal details do not appear. I do not share my birthday or medical details on-line and I would prefer it if the companies I interact with did not either. Nor my financial details, spending patterns or other marketing led data. But we are in the era of big data. Having worked for one of the big credit reference agencies, I am aware of just how much data is known about me. More interesting is the analysis applied to that data to be sold to other companies which then results in marketing.

I recently received a mail shot from a marketing company offering me contact details on 5 million company directors. My details are probably in that list. How did they get that data (It might not be accurate of course, but how? I did not give anyone permission to give my data to this company. But of course I probably did when I forgot to tick or un-tick a box on another web site opting in or out. Of course I could have just wanted to run something and hidden in the EULA was an explicit clause along the lines of “We may use your data with selected third parties, if you do not wish this to happen etc….” To use the product you have to agree. Next thing you are offered US Car loan deals in Wisconsin – I kid you not. Not helpful in rural Englan not New England – the original.

Why is this relevant? Well last week saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rule that one of the data safeguards used by many companies, including Facebook and many cloud providers, the so called Safe Harbor (US Spelling) rules, were not worth the paper they are written on. Under that scheme the European rules on data protection are upheld in the USA where most cloud providers and social media companies reside.  This comes not just on the back of the Eric Snowden revelations about security service activities but also due to the USA’s Patriot Act. Under the act a; American companies are effectively obliged to hand over all data.Then there is the ongoing dispute involving Microsoft being asked to hand over data by the FBI held in an Irish data centre via a court order in a US Court without going through the existing legal agreements with the Irish authorities.

For cloud providers including WordPress what does this mean. In legal terms it means that no European citizen or company can handover data to a US company and know that the data is legally protected from misuse i.e. selling on or using for a purpose other than which it was provided. Something that US companies do not seem to understand. The UK’s Information Commissioner Office (ICO) provides a very simple set of principles for managing data which meets European requirements but they too have been relying on Safe Harbor and other contractual protections called Model Clauses when data is processed outside the EU.

The EU and the USA are negotiating new data protection rules but the bottom line for all of us is that if you use any cloud based provider that has any connection to a US company for any corporate or personal activity you cannot expect any privacy. You cannot expect that any of your data will not end up in the hands of the US authorities or sold on at the whim of a company. Expect more spam and more targeted marketing built on analysis of everything from your inside leg measurement to who you discussed fashion with on a social media outlet.  The terms of service issues by the providers with all their associated privacy policies are worthless and overriden by the activities of the US agencies and corporations.

A tin foil hat won’t help.

Post Election

I’ve put off commentating on the UK General Election for a few weeks. Firstly, because I was on holiday when the results were being counted and secondly, because I wanted time to collect my thoughts. I have written before, about the Scottish Referendum, and my thoughts on how this impacted democracy and now we have another set of results to ponder.

Let’s skip over the compete inability of the professional commentators and pollsters failure to predict results. There is a collective ignorance across much of mainstream media about how voters interact with pollsters and focus groups. You get this in all sorts of surveys and its hidden in the small print (not in this blog) when they say 8 out of 10 WHO RESPONDED, liked so and so. Political pollsters use their already collected results to distribute the don’t know and go away responses across the existing results i.e. if 35% is the rating for party x then they assume that 35% of the don’t knows or won’t tells will vote that way. In other words the extrapolate the results based on current and past numbers and therefore confirm their own prediction. Me I bet money on the result, for non-Conservative supporters, sorry yes I did bet on a Conservative win. Even I did not expect an overall majority via the first past the post system. Of course what the pollsters wanted was 650 surveys featuring a high number of respondents. They had to wait for the actual election to get an accurate forecast. Even the exit polls were incorrect. Now it is believed that the split in the don’t knows and won’t tells was actually heavily in favour (in England anyway) of the Conservatives. Who knows? The don’t knows and won’t tells will get another chance in five years for the general election. By which time we will have had another referendum, euro-elections, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections and numerous local elections. All of which will give the pollsters something to discuss.

Meanwhile I can turn my attention to the major democratic deficiencies highlighted by the election. Lets start with facts. I’ll use the BBC’s results page for ease of look up, I’m not dismissing NI and Wales but concentrating on England and Scotland and I’ll gloss over the fact that only 66% bothered to vote at all

  • Con 331 seats from 36.9% of the vote
  • Lab 232 from 30.4%
  • SNP 56 from 4.7%
  • LibDem 8 from 7.9%
  • Green 1 from 3.8%
  • UKIP 1 from 12.6%

So democracy in action meant that with 37% of the people who voted for UKIP, the SNP ended up with 56 times the number of MPs. The Labour comparison is also interesting 6.5 times the number of votes for only 4.1 times the number of seats. The Conservatives won an outright majority with 36.9% of 66.1% or 24% of the possible voting public. Before the other parties get on their high horses only 20% voted for Labour and 3% for the SNP. We can then argue about combinations voting against i.e. which is a nice way of saying no outright majority voted for anybody. Yes I know SNP had 50% of the vote but that is actually 50% of the 71.1% that voted i.e. 35.5% of the eligible voters.

Aren’t numbers great! percentages are even better allowing all sorts of conclusions to be drawn or statistics manipulated depending on what headline the writer wants to create.

What is clear is that two parties are massively underrepresented in the UK Parliament UKIP and the Greens on shares of the vote they should have 81.9 and 24.7 MPs respectively. The Lib Dems should have 51 and the SNP 30.55. If we limited SNP to Scotland they should only have 50% of 59 i.e. 24.5.

Various proportional representation systems would have produced various different results. If single transferable votes were used then who knows where it would end up. Lists (like the Euro elections) would get a different outcome again.

What does this mean? If you don’t vote you can’t complain. If you do vote you can complain all you want but we had a referendum on changing the system from first past the post and barely anybody (OK 41%) bothered to vote and 67.9% voted to keep the current system. Can’t complain about that either.

Of course in this dirge I haven’t tried to answer why the vote went the way it did. To quote the Bill Clinton 1992 US Presidential campaign “The economy stupid”

Using Scheduled Post

Aside

I’m supposed to be something of a techie so I have just surprised myself by using a feature here on WordPress for the first time. I’m referring to scheduled Post – why I had not used this before is beyond me. I should have used this before to link a post which is automatically tweeted, repeated and posted around other social media.

In this case I have used it to coincide with a book promotion starting – all done whilst I was safely tucked up in bed snoring away. I then awoke this morning to find re-tweets, new followers and so on. – Now what else can I do on WordPress that I’ve not used until now?

Smashwords Deals

To celebrate the forthcoming launch of Landscape I have some coupon codes via Smashwords to grab my existing books at special discounts for a limited time only!

Simply add the coupon code at check out

An Agent’s Demise – AC79Z – Special Offer with the code $1

An Agent’s Rise – WT3H – Special Offer with the code $1

To The Survivors – BN59T – Special Offer with the code 50% off

The Persuasive Man – YE67W – Special Offer with the code $1

The Observer Series-Part One-The World of Fives – LP55E – Special Offer with the code $1

Keeping Up Appearances

All the marketing advice in the self-published space states, that building a following and regular posting is essential. This creates an audience that might, just might read a book. To achieve such a following the marketeer (the author role has disappeared for now) has to use the various social media outlets and/or advertising paths to raise awareness.

Now alongside being a writer, the skills of social commentary have to be added. In addition, the writer has to become technically familiar with all the different outlets. These vary from a simple blog like this on WordPress to Twitter, PinIntrest, YouTube, Facebook, Google+Instagram, etc,etc. Then there are the sites like Amazon’s forums, Linkedin or Goodreads. I’m sure there are lots of how to books and site FAQs that can explain the best way of using a particular platform but who has time to read them!

If you are like me you will stumble through and try to figure out the best way to make use of the different functionality. You may link sites to each other as I do so that this blog appears on Linkedin and Goodreads whilst a link appears on Twitter.

Now that I have created a wonderful commentary even if limited to Twitters’ few words, which will enthral the world, people will flock to my site. As my latest offering goes viral the sales will naturally follow and soon I will have to hire a publicist, web-master etc. just to keep up. One tiny, tiny problem with this plan. The cat or dog or baby video, celebrity trending tweet, scandal or my own problem.

I simply do not have enough time in the day to read or watch all this stuff. At work I now have email, Intranet, extra-net, Instant Messaging, conferencing and a Facebook replacement called Yammer, occasionally I get some work done but normally only after responding to the email, and IM message asking why I haven’t responded to the Yammer comment.

At home when I should be writing the next chapter of my book I am reading Goodreads, occasional other blogs and trying to follow some Twitter and of course updating linked in writing and professional forums all in an attempt to get me noticed. To keep up the appearance of activity and interest in the hope that this will be reflected back. Then comes the killer blow. Nearly everyone I am in contact with is another author trying to do the same thing. Yes we are all readers too so we try and read and review and offer helpful comments.

Somewhere out there is a true reader that might write a glowing review. What? They write a review, but now they are a writer too. There are hundreds if not thousands of review blogs, all this writing and communicating all this social commentary and interaction is overwhelming. Yet this week I had one of the most pleasing and odd experiences a personal appearance at a book club. I talked to my readers! Whatever next direct social interaction the next thing you know people may use there electronic devices to phone someone. Now I need to get this published and word spread, it will go viral if I add sex or a picture of a kitten won’t it!

Kitten-prays

From http://catsinflats.com.au/adopting-kitten-cat/

 

Translations

I have been looking into getting my books translated. This seems to be another minefield for the self published or indie author and yet another potential drain on funds with little possibility of recovery or a return..

So far I have tried Babelcube and now Fiverr without luck. Babelcube has a risk share approach to creating foreign editions which at least is more attractive from a financial point of view but so far I have received no offers. Fiverr as discussed in the comments on my last blog allows buyers and sellers to join up. Sellers or buyers bid or request gigs. I requested a gig for translation services into French or Spanish for my books. I have received 20+ notifications all straight forward unadjusted offers to translate approx 1,000 words for $5 or variations of such. Some offers of work have reviews some don’t.

The contact mechanism was broken on two of the offers when I wanted to make contact. Not one of the offers addressed the request i.e. to translate a book the shortest of which is over 95,000 words. Based on the offers that is $425 minimum per language per book. At Kindle 70% royalty of $2.99 – my normal sale price that is 203 sales of that edition to break even. Then there would be foreign blurb, foreign descriptions, cover art, author profile and marketing – what would be the break even point then.

Is this a risk worth taking. It is impossible to know, will foreign readers flock to my tales that I have kindly arranged to sell in their own language.  Advice is split, and of course it is likely that not all the translations will be perfect, recommendations are one thing but I as a non-speaker I will not know until the dreaded review. Of course if the review is in a foreign language I won’t be able to read it. Yes I know I should have studied harder at school to take my limited French further or carried on my Spanish classes, my few words of Russian and most embarrassingly off all my lack of Dutch despite a Dutch mother. There are still language courses and of course Google Translate. These have helped for odd words in the books I have written. No one has told me I have those little elements of French (mostly) incorrect. Perhaps I have put of every French bi-lingual reader on the planet with my offering – who knows. If I really wanted to expand my market I would translate to Chinese.

As with editing or proofreading there is no way of proving a negative. If I invest will I get a return or is this just more vanity on my part?

Now if there is a bi-lingual person out there who would like to help – let me know

I Must Not Check My Sales Figures

It’s nearly three weeks since I launched my latest two attempts at world author domination. Three weeks of trying to stop myself going on Amazon KDP site to see if anyone has noticed that I have not just three but five books out now. Not just noticed of course but purchased a copy. Oh the joy of that first sale! Then waiting for the storming up the sales charts and rankings. Then there would be the interview with local press, perhaps  a national newspaper and an interview on Radio 2 as the latest greatest Internet phenomena. I mean do we really need to know about another cat or a baby on YouTube or that some Celeb has done something, potentially breathed or uttered a meaningful syllable.

I have books out pay attention to me!

Shortly after my email and phone would be inundated with demands and offers for publishing rights and of course that film deal. Just a couple more sales and it will happen. Look yesterday three copies were sold, I must be edging up the charts now. I’ll do some more adverts that will generate interest 200,000 views, 2 clicks, no purchases.

My hope is gone faster than an elephant sitting on a helium congratulations balloon. Delve into writers forums – it takes time to build an audience, I have less than you, I’m sure things will pick up the usual supportive platitudes from my fellow writers. Plus the other ones, I only had 4,000 downloads last week I wonder what I am doing wrong!

I’ve emailed and twittered, I’ve added my Goodreads folder comments, no spamming – I hate that. I’ve listed my books on sites, added to web sites and blogs. Told family and friends. I haven’t read the first one yet, I don’t have a Kindle, I’m reading war and peace, I don’t read books. Nothing like support when you need it.

Look another sale! Nearly seven billion people on the planet and I get one sale. Unfair of course on the 99.99999999% of the population who couldn’t care less. I’ll run a promotion, give it away, done that before and… That’s not a sale that’s just a statistic a free download, no reviews not even sure if anyone reads the freebies, they just collect them. Don’t log in again, don’t click on the reports dashboard to find out how many. That graph is infuriating surely it means 100’s or thousands not ones and twos. It must be more than that. Log off. Don’t look. Months of effort, hours of drafting and redrafting. On page 36 you used new instead of knew. Damn, damn, damn, correct, upload new version. Did anyone notice? Why have I found out now? After editing, beta readers, more editing, how can that happen? Is that why no one is buying the book, they try the sample and see new instead of knew glaring at them.

It’s been an hour, I haven’t checked. I can’t check at work, I don’t want to check but the bookmark is right there, I can find out in less than twenty seconds. Someone at work says, “I must give your book a try.” I check the report, nothing.

I can’t very well go and shout at them “I thought you were going to buy my book!”

I check a few hours later, one sale! Was that them, no it’s not in the UK unless they are buying from another ID on another site. I must stop this, I’ll check the reviews instead….

This way lies madness.

I need to write instead. Write something different, something better, don’t use the word knew, edit it another time or three. Spend more on advertising, blog more, comment more, tweet more. That next sales rank is just out of reach just a few more downloads away.

I’d better check the numbers I could have sold a million whilst I was writing this. I’ll check the going rate for that Hollywood deal. Log in, no change.

Repeat – ad-infinitum…