Thursday, 8 March 2018

An Undiplomatic Diplomat

It was most unwise of our Foreign Secretary to hint in public that the recent use of nerve agents may be the responsibility of the Russian Government.

That possibility may have occurred to many of us, but official pronouncements on the question should await the collection of evidence. If the responsibility eventually turns out to lie elsewhere Mr. Johnson's remarks will be a great embarrassment. If investigations do reveal Russian involvement, the Foreign Secretary's premature comments will make it easier for the Russians to dismiss evidence by saying that we intended to blame them all along and manufactured evidence accordingly.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Expensive Tickets

From time to time there are media reports of high prices charged for tickets to sporting events and concerts.

The organisers appear to sell all their tickets rather quickly, but tickets are still offered for sale by secondary suppliers that charge much more than the nominal charge.

That suggests to me that the organisers of the events do not charge enough in the first place. Raise the official prices and the 'tickets touts' and internet re-sellers would no longer flourish.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Neglected Lavatories in Newham

A few days ago there were news reports that Newham Council had appealed to shopkeepers not to sell corrosive materials such as lavatory cleaners to anyone younger than 21.

The lower age limit for marriage is 16, so I imagine Newham has married couples both younger than 21, and some of those may have their own accommodation. There may be other households in which someone younger than 21 does the shopping for relatives too dilapidated to shop for themselves.

I do not envy them their unclean lavatories!

Friday, 23 February 2018

Making Education Fun ???

I note that the President of the USA considers arming teachers so that they can defend their pupils against armed attack.

How would the president respond if some teacher, infuriated by a disorderly class, shot them all?

Perhaps children would then be armed so they could protect themselves against berserk teachers.

Schools might then be as exciting as those computer games in which players try to shoot as many individuals as they can, and children could be judged by the number of their kills.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Facts of the Matter

Inspired by seeing an Internet posting suggesting that there might be no such things as facts, I wrote a short note on the subject. here it is

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Puritanical Over Reaction

I have reservations about the fuss over Oxfam staff employing prostitutes in Haiti.

The affair is being treated as if it were on a par with child abuse, or senior staff abusing their authority by making advances to subordinates.

The employment of a prostitute may be a straightforward transaction between consenting adults, in which case it is a private matter between the two people concerned.

There may well be other factors, but if there are they have not so far been explained.

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.