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Idioms and Reality

In case you are not familiar with it, the idiom It’s no use flogging a dead horse means that the outcome is already decided and no further effort can change that outcome.

It means, furthermore, that it is blindingly obvious that to continue expending effort is a waste of time.

I read somewhere, and I think it was either in a Philip Dick science fiction novel or one of Oliver Sacks’ books, that people suffering from schizophrenia have difficulty in seeing the illustrative side of idioms.

A schizophrenic would therefore tend to see the situation literally, with someone flogging a dead horse.

What a terrible situation to be in – to fail to see the meaning and therefore lead oneself down a path far from what the other is talking about.

Encephalitis Lethargica

Oliver Wolf Sacks was a British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author.

In Awakenings, published 1973, he wrote about people who had encephalitis lethargica and were in a kind of suspended animation, in some sense disconnected from the outside world and yet able to interact with it in limited ways.

He explained a novel treatment for patients who had been victims of the 1920s encephalitis lethargica epidemic.

The National Institute of Health in the USA describes the disease this way:

Encephalitis lethargica is a disease characterized by high fever, headache, double vision, delayed physical and mental response, and lethargy. In acute cases, patients may enter coma. Patients may also experience abnormal eye movements, upper body weakness, muscular pains, tremors, neck rigidity, and behavioral changes including psychosis. The cause of encephalitis lethargica is unknown. Between 1917 to 1928, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica spread throughout the world, but no recurrence of the epidemic has since been reported. Postencephalitic Parkinson’s disease may develop after a bout of encephalitis-sometimes as long as a year after the illness.

It was by noting some similarities to Parkinson’s disease that Sacks intuited that treating patients with L-DOPA might alleviate their symptoms.

In the book, and in the film that followed, the patients are described as awakening by the treatment using the then-new drug L-DOPA but then heartbreakingly – falling back into the same lethargic state bordering on coma that they had endured for decades before being treated with the drug.

However, in 1982 Sacks wrote:

I have become much more optimistic than I was when I wrote Awakenings, for there has been a significant number of patients who, following the vicissitudes of their first years on L-DOPA, came to do – and still do – extremely well.

Such patients have undergone an enduring awakening, and enjoy possibilities of life which had been impossible, unthinkable, before the coming of L-DOPA.

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sixways-thoughts

A Goodish Amount

‘Goodish’ can mean a large amount (‘add a goodish amount of sugar to the mixture’) and can also mean good but not that good, as in:

That horse has been goodish this season but he has a long way to go before he’s ready for the big race.

The Free Dictionary cites several sources, including this use of goodish from Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge in the person of Solomon Daisy, the parish clerk of Chigwell:

Ay, but then you know,’ returned Solomon Daisy, ‘his house is a goodish way out of London, and they do say that the rioters won’t go more than two miles, or three at the farthest, off the stones.


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GDPR – Complying and Access

You write a blog and someone reads your blog and they comment, or they sign up to read the newsletter you send out occasionally to readers.

Or you sell something online – a pen, a book, a wooly hat, an iPhone case – and you get paid.

You have the name, address, email address, and maybe some other information such as birthday or the customer’s liking for woolly hats.

Surely, none of it is the kind of stuff that the framers of GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulations) are really worried about.

Surely, what they are worried about is people who have other people’s ‘sensitive personal information’ (racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data, data concerning health, or data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation).

What happens in reality is that we all get swept up in the dust storm and have to comply. In the pre-digital age, whenever governments brought out these kinds of regulations, businesses went to see their lawyers and the printers rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of all those reprints they would be asked to do – of brochures and leaflets and notices – all the stuff that would be necessary.

But in the digital age where we do it all ourselves, I just see a pain in the behind for thousands and thousands and thousands of bloggers and small businesses when it is surely blindingly obvious that 99.9% of what is intended to be protected has nothing at all to do with those bloggers or those small businesses.

Double Opt-In In the Age Of GDPR

If your original opt-in was a double opt-in (the recipient signed up with an email address on your site and also confirmed their desire by clicking on the link that arrived in their email inbox) and then you don’t need to get consent again.

Double opt-in has been around for a while and the reason for it and the reason I say you ‘have’ to be double opt-in is that if you are not, then some malicious person could sign up with someone else’s email and you would be sending newsletters to someone who never requested them.

Emailing someone who didn’t request you to email them has been outlawed under the regulations (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) for a long while. GDPR highlights it and makes the penalties stronger.

Steps To Take For GDPR

For the benefit of those who need GDPR advice – this is my take on what you need if you have a website.

You need a page that sets out your privacy policy policy, a page that sets out your cookie policy (or a section about cookies in your privacy policy page) and a means for your visitors to signify cookie consent or an indication of where to go to find out more.

If your site is built on WordPress, you are in luck because the very latest version (4.9.6) practically does it all for you, at least gives you the framework to write out your privacy policy statement. If you haven’t already got a page setting out your privacy policy then go to your admin dashboard, and in Settings, you will see a section named ‘Privacy’ – click on that and choose the ‘Or: create new page’ WordPress will do that for you and set out the sections you need to fill in. You still have to read up on the GDPR requirements (who collects the info, what kind of info, etc.) but the bones of it are there.

Next, you need a page in which you set out your cookie policy. OR, you can put the cookie policy in a section in the Privacy Policy page. The contents are pretty standard, so find a good site (the BBC, Marks and Spencer, WordPress, Google, etc.) and crib the bits you need.

Finally, you need a cookie consent form. You can no longer tell people that you deem their consent by them continuing to use your site, or maybe you can, but it’s easy to be safe rather than sorry. You need a little banner that people can click to say they are alright with cookies. They don’t have to click it – you just have to have it there for them to click. I have tried various plugins and the one I use on our e-commerce site is called EU Cookie Law (by Alex Moss and others). It is in the WordPress repository and it is free. You can style it as you want and place it bottom right, top right etc – and link it to your Cookie Policy page.

Access

Is this the intended consequence of GDPR? Go to a page on a website and be confronted with a popover that hides the content. Don’t click ‘I accept’ for cookies. Instead click on ‘more info’ or ‘preferences’ or whatever is there.

Say ‘No’ to cookies and refresh the page you want to see.

Be confronted again with the same popover that hides the content. You know what to do this time because you have been here before. Click ‘Accept’ because there is no other way to read the article.

So what we have here is a kind of paywall that says ‘If you want to play, do it my way.’ Or to put it another way, it is forcing consent to cookies as the price of reading the content. Surely that is against the spirit of the GDPR?

One thing – Google penalises sites that use popups that cover content – maybe that will nudge webmasters to stop using popups that require consent as the price of access.

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sixways-thoughts

Tales From The Third Dementia

I don’t have anything I want to write beyond that I dreamed up the idea of the third dementia and I wanted to record it somewhere. It’s pure ego.

I also thought of the fourth dementia, but somehow it doesn’t grab me. We, the human race, have lots of experiences in the third dimension, and that seems enough dimensions to work with – so third dementia it is.

If they ever make a pilot, I think someone talking over the poor person’s head would be as dark as it needs to get. Does she like to listen to music? Does he remember where he lives? All those painful sentences.

Maybe there is room for the Fourth Dementia – a space one enters and immediately forgets having entered once one leaves.