Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The End of Home Chemistry



There are proposals to prevent people younger than 18 from buying corrosive substances.

Such a restriction in my youth it would have been a serious impediment to my intellectual development.

I received a chemistry set when I was about nine years old - I don't remember whether it was a Christmas present or a birthday present. It was made up by a colleague of my father's and contained several substances too poisonous to be permitted in a modern chemistry set.

For a year or two I just performed the experiments recommended in the instructions. When I started at the Grammar school, just before my eleventh birthday, I began to learn some chemistry and started to extend the chemistry set so that I could duplicate what we did at school. Chemistry became my hobby and I read well beyond the school syllabus, and by my fifteenth birthday I was studying Chemistry Physics and Mathematics at A Level, and had converted the small third bedroom to my 'laboratory', in which lethal substances abounded without ever causing me any injury.

Gradually my interest in Mathematics grew at the expense of Chemistry and I eventually became a Maths teacher, but it was Chemistry that led me to Science and Maths in the first place. What would have become of me without that stimulus ?


Sunday, 31 December 2017

Shrinking Intellect



I once read a science fiction story about an alien species of which the children were humanoid, and showed a lively intelligence and curiosity, but when they matured they grew roots and turned into non sentient shrubs.

I was reminded of that by a news item about the death of human brain cells as children mature.

I've often thought it sad that so many lively inquisitive children turn first into sex obsessed teenagers, and then into dull adults with very little interest in new ideas.

Apparently quite a lot of  brain cells die during pregnancy. That might explain the blinkered pre-occupation of mothers with their children. Their capacity to deal with other matters being restricted in favour of a concentration on successful reproduction.

We tend to see ourselves as the thinking species, vehicles of enlightenment in a world where other creatures are governed by instinct. Actually we are primarily successful breeders, outbreeding other species to the point where many are driven to the point of extinction.


Tuesday, 19 December 2017



I bought some bathroom scales yesterday and was alarmed at what they told me.

I used to have two bathroom scales until I moved house almost three years ago.  I assumed that the scales were somewhere or other in one of the many boxes of chattels I brought with me, but eventually, when all visible boxes had been unpacked without revealing any scales I concluded they'd been lost somehow or other.

Meanwhile I noticed it was getting harder to squeeze into trousers and eventually has to start buying trousers with larger waists.

Having weighed myself for the first time for about three years I resolve to eat less.

I haven't been stuffing myself recklessly, and avoid dreadfully fattening stuff like fried food and pastry, but I have started to allow myself an occasional cake or potato.

There is a mechanism of self deception behind weight gain.

A perverse sense of 'justice' bids us compare our eating with other people's 'He/she eats chips every day without gaining weight, so why shouldn't I?' The answer is that the lucky chip eater may have a different metabolism, eat less of other things, or may take more exercise.

It is also tempting to cite one's own previous eating  habits as a precedent. I used to eat a lot more than I do now, but for whatever reason, I can't afford to eat as much now.

If one weighs too much, one is eating too much.


Saturday, 16 December 2017

Senior Cat Died Today



She was over twenty years old, and had been suffering from various aliments for a while so we realised she wouldn't be with us for long, but we are all very sad. Until a few days ago the various pills prescribed by the vet kept her going and she pottered about happily. The house seems empty without her.




Friday, 15 December 2017

Adolescent Drinking



I note that we are being discouraged from allowing anyone under the age of 15 to drink any alcohol at all.

Web searches have produced copious material about the dangers of what is called 'heavy drinking' on the part pf the young but little material about the occasional sip.

When I was a child I was given small quantities of alcohol on the rare occasions my parents drank it. The main alcoholic events were Christmas, New Year and my parents' birthdays. On those occasions I was usually given a little cowslip wine.

About once a month my father would buy a bottle of cider for consumption with Sunday lunch. I was then allowed a little in a wine glass.

I wonder if even that very modest level of consumption was dangerous?

Children don't like to feel left out, and that is a good reason for allowing them a little alcohol when their elders are drinking.  The sensible approach is for parents to consume alcohol no more often than it is safe for their children to join them. If it is never safe for children to drink, we should all give up alcohol on occasions when children are present.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Floriforus December


Yesterday I counted fifteen different species of plant in flower in my garden, including a hydrangea with a solitary head of blue flowers long after hydrangeas usually hibernate.

This morning the garden is covered in snow, so I fear that the number will be much diminished by the time the snow melts, but I'm still encouraged by the fact  that so many flowers persisted so long. That would not have happened in the much colder Winters of my youth.



Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Flitting in and out of reality


The existence of my house has been challenged by Amazon..

They were supposed to deliver three parcels yesterday. Two were delivered but when the third did not appear their phone answering robot claimed that no one had answered the door, so they'd left a note, and in any case they couldn't make a delivery because they couldn't find the house so we must have given the wrong address.

The robot persisted in those claims, even after its attention was drawn to the inconsistency of the claim to have delivered a card to a house they couldn't find and to the fact that two successful deliveries had been made to the same address the non existence of which was used as an excuse for the failure of the third delivery.

Whoever programmed that robot should be reprogrammed themselves.




Thursday, 30 November 2017

A Mild Autumn

Today I wore my Winter overcoat for the first time this Autumn. In most years I'd have been wearing it for a week or two by this time, so while others deplore the cold weather, I treat its late arrival as a sign of a mild Autumn.

Another sign is the profusion of flowers still in bloom, including the zonal pelargoniums - the plants we often wrongly call 'geraniums'. They are moderately sensitive to cold weather and have usually given up much earlier in the Autumn than this.



Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Don't be Distracted by Nectar Points.


From time to time I'm offered 250 bonus Nectar points in exchange for spending £60 in a fortnight.

Checking my expenditure carefully I found I usually spend rather more than that so the offer looks like something for nothing. 250 Nectar points are worth £1-25, so the bonus is worth having but is not enough to justify disrupting one's shopping habits.

I suspect that some people don't check their expenditure carefully and are lured into extra expenditure when the points could be theirs with no special effort.

250 points can sound quite a lot to someone who forgets that each point is worth only half a penny.

I recall once visiting a model railway exhibition where one exhibitor sought to deter meddling fingers by displaying a notice that said 'DANGER 5000 MILLIVOLTS'



Saturday, 25 November 2017

Praising the BBC World Service


I'm considering adopting the BBC World Service as my default radio channel.

For many years I've relied mainly on BBC Radio 4, or the Home Service as it used to be. The World Service was hard to find with a radio set, and when it could be found reception was usually poor, so listening to Radio 4 became a habit.

Now, however, I usually listen to radio broadcasts through a television set fed either by cable or by Free View, so reception of the World Service is excellent, and I enjoy calm and lucid reporting of current affairs.



Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Philistine Thought

The Leonardo painting just sold for 400 million dollars struck me as distinctly uninspiring.

There is historical interest in something so old, but I found nothing to admire in the depiction of a depressed looking androgynous figure, apparently making a rude gesture towards the cosmos. Was Leonardo really a good painter?