Thursday, 2 August 2018

Who Uses a Strawberry Huller

I'm intrigued by kitchen gadgets, and spent several minutes browsing the selection when I went into a kitchen gadget shop to buy a pair of cook's scissors.

Despite my enthusiasm, some of the devices offered did puzzle me a little. I could understand that someone might occasionally use a mango stoner, though I don't need one after watching a televised Agatha Christie mystery in which Poirot stoned a mango using a dessert spoon. My attempt to duplicate his triumph was not as neat as his, but was still successful.

However I can't imagine why anyone might need a strawberry huller. Any reader who have ever used one, please testify here!!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Life and Death

The Home Secretary has been criticised for agreeing to provide US authorities with information that will help the prosecution of two captured IS terrorists, without demanding an assurance that they will not be in danger of execution. That incident following other acts of terrorism, and cases of intimidation by groups of criminals has made me rethink my opinion on execution. Former IS fighters are dangerous, and I should feel much safer if they were dead.

I have long had doubts about what is usually called 'capital punishment'. That is partly because I doubt the concept of punishment, partly because I have some sympathy with murderers who for many years were the only people executed in Britain, but mainly because I was worried about the impossibility of making restitution for miscarriages of justice when the victim of the injustice has been executed.

Tha danger of miscarriage of justice is greatest when someone is charged with an isolated offence. Quite a lot of muderers are honest people who just once give in to the temptation to elimininate someone trying. I do not support capital punishment in such cases.

However there are cases where guilt is manifest. The two captured IS fighters videoed their atrocities and posted the evidence on the Internet. We need not appeal to the rather dubious notion of punishment in such cases. Executing gangsters is the only way of stopping their criminal carreers and making the rest of us safe. Imprisonment offers little security to the general public as architects of crime seem able to organise further misdeeds even while imprisoned.

Discussion of crime and punishment often neglects something very important: restitution. It seems to be rare for criminals to compensate their victims, or to compensate the taxpayer for the cost of apprehending them. One form of compensation has been possible only in recent decades. When criminals are executed their organs could be used for transplant surgery. It is unlikely that such surgery would often help the victims of the criminal concerned, but it would benefit many people my reducing the waiting lists for transplant surgery.

This possibility is rarely discussed, and when it is people often express a horror that is not supported by any reasoning. There seems to be a primitive taboo. We should  try to overcome it.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Fuss About Fur

There was recently a strange news item about real fur being sold as fake. Reality is usually regarded as an advantage!

In the course of the discussion it was mentioned that it is now illegal to produce fur in Britain. I hadn't realised that. I vaguely remember that quite a while ago hooligans used to attack people wearing fur, but I hadn't noticed that their hooliganism had been adopted as government policy.

I would understand a prohibition of using the fur, or any body parts, of endangered species. However that would not prevent the use of the fur of mink, rabbits or foxes. Mink were often farmed, and animals that have escaped from mink farms seem to have survived and bred successfully in the wild.  Foxes are often shot as pests, and we often eat rabbits. I can see no objection to using the fur after eating its contents.

My maternal grandmother used to have a fox fur. I was intrigued by the way it was fastened, so that it looked as if it were biting its tail.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Embarassed or Ungrateful?

The British cave divers who helped to rescue a group of Thai schoolboys from flooded caves were recently shown being congratulated outside 10 Downing Street by the Prime Minister. I was surprised that no representative of the Thai government was involved. Perhaps Thailand's military rulers were embarrassed by the involvement of foreigners.

The Thai lads have now been concealed from public view in a monastery. I wonder how they will fare there. A Vietnamese refugee, an orphan who was brought up in a Buddhist monastery, told me that when he and his contemporaries were supposed to be meditating, they were supervised by young monks armed with canes to discipline anyone whose meditation seemed insufficiently tranquil. I hope the young footballers are better treated.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Unreasonable Severity

Two fifteen year old boys were recently sentenced to long periods of detention, 12 years and 10 years, for planning a terrorist act.

Their actions seemed to amount to no more than gathering information, and discussing how such an act might be carried out, without actually making preparations to do anything.

I doubt whether severe punishment was called for. It might have sufficed to talk things over with them, and find out what aspects of their experiences at school made wholesale slaughter of their contemporaries seem attractive to them. At the most incarceration for just one year without Internet access should have sufficed to break the habit of morbid speculation.

Long imprisonment, the latter years of which will be spent in adult prisons, is likely to leave them under educated and ill suited to honest work, while introducing them to many dishonest ways of making a living.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018


Sir Cliff Richard has just been awarded considerable damages against the BBC. The damages, and the much larger sums in legal costs will be met by taxpayers, not by the BBC employees whose incompetence and irresponsibility created the liability.

I think that the Governors of the BBC, who are at present nominated by some arm of the Government, should instead be directly elected, bringing the Corporation under public control.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Noxious Nick

I'm pleased that the man referred to as 'Nick' is at last to be charged for making false accusations of abuse, but puzzled that his identity is still keep secret.

Those he unjustly accused were named even though they had not been charged. Naming an accuser could prompt other people who have been falsely accused by the same individual, or have other evidence of that person's unreliability to come forward to discredit them. Secret testimony is unreliable testimony.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

There's still some life in an antique brain

Without referring to any text book I recently constructed the deduction of Snell's Law for refraction from the assumption that light traveling between two points follows the path that minimizes the time taken.

It is reassuring to note that my brain still works, to some extent.

Saturday, 30 June 2018


Browsing through the local branch of Waterstones I came upon an intriguing volume called 'Quantum Mechanics The Theoretical Minimum'. Following a reference in that book I discovered a website with a series of lectures on theoretical Physics with various supporting materials.

The object is to explain basic physical ideas as simply as possible, avoiding both the superficiality of the popular books that avoid Mathematics and therefore explain very little, and the obscurity of the texts that use quite abstruse mathematics without making any serious attempt to explain what they are doing. What I have read so far seems to be quite a good attempt. Two things that had been puzzling me are now clear, and I look forward to more enlightenment.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Stray Hairs

I can't abide feeling hair over my ears. Now and again an obstinate strand drifts over an ear and resists my attempts to push it away.  I reach for the nearest pair of scissors and snip it off.

Most women and many men style their hair so that it completely covers their ears. How can they bear it!

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Linked Numbers

I've just realised that, to quite a close approximation, the mass of the earth in kilograms is given by

M = pi2*A  where A is Avogadro's Number

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Remembering Mini-Skirts

The current discussion of 'up-skirting' has reminded me of the days of mini-skirts.

In the late 1960's I was teaching a class of FE science students, all boys aged 16 or 17. Their 'General Studies' was taught by one of the teachers of English, a young lady who wore very short skirts and, to the delight of the students used to sit on one of the desks while she taught, so after each class the lads would announce the colour of her knickers, though without mobile phones they had no corroborative photographs.