Sunday, 30 December 2012

Tautology

I recently hear someone refer, in a BBC news program, to people 'starving for lack of food'


They  might have trusted us to work that out for ourselves!!



Saturday, 29 December 2012

Seasonal Ill-Will

Christians often claim that theirs is the religion of love, yet the Christmas message of the Archbishop of Westminster was devoted to attacking a way of expressing love; he denounced plans for gay marriage.

I'm not sure how closely faces correlate with character, but the archbishop's face suggested to me someone who has rarely felt love.

Perhaps someone should seduce him, but I hope I don't draw the short straw!!



Friday, 7 December 2012

An Exceptionally Bad Bargain

One of the few consolations of the Christmas season is the opportunity to sneer at the various optimistically priced packages of teas, jams, biscuits, herbs, spices, tinsel, tissue paper and confectionery sold as something the desperate might like to give as Christmas presents.

Among this year's selection there was a conspicuously bad bargain. It was called a marinade kit, or words to that effect, and consisted of a graduated glass cylinder and a bottle of Worcester sauce; together they were priced at 14 pounds!!! Last time I bought Worcester sauce a bottle of that size cost less than 2 pounds, I'm not sure what a graduated measuring jug would cost, but imagine one could be had for not much more than a couple of pounds,




Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pe-emptive Repair

Strolling through John Lewis's today I noticed some jackets for sale with leather patches on their elbows.

I recall that in my youth one could buy jacket repair kits consisting of two elbow patches and two cuff reinforcers, but I'm surprised that manufacturers should have so little confidence in the durability of their products that they sell them ready repaired.

I wonder if it is possible to buy ready darned socks?








Friday, 30 November 2012

Ugandan Maniacs

This is the first time I've copied someone else's appeal into this blog, but the homophobia of the Ugandans is particularly revolting, so I urge readers to follow the link and read and sign the petition.

Does Britain still give aid to Uganda ? If so it may be time to stop.















Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Taxing Companies

Politicians think some international companies are avoiding tax by arranging their finances so that their British operations make either implausibly small profits, or no profits at all.

Profit is hard to pin down because it is a number produced by complicated calculations by accountants. I remember a pupil whose father was a farmer once said to me 'A farmer can be doing quite well and still have zero income'.

My solution is to stop taxing profits, and tax turnover instead. As turnover is much greater than profit, a considerably lower rate should produce the same tax yield, or even a greater tax yield.

Apart from clarity, another advantage of taxing turnover is that taxes would be paid by all companies roughly in proportion to the the services they receive from the government. Unsuccessful and badly run companies would pay more than they do now, and better run companies would often pay less.

I think I may have said much the same thing in this blog several years ago, if so circumstances justify the repetition.



Friday, 16 November 2012

Pension Restored

A week after I complained that my pension payments had stopped, the arrears have been credited to my account, though I still have no idea why the payments were originally stopped.

One thing that struck me  as odd is that phone calls to the help line are free if sent from BT landlines, but not if sent from any other phone, whether landmine or not.

I am tempted to complain about that, but fear that if I do annoyed bureaucrats will retaliate by stopping my pension again.

It feels a bit like living in one of Kafka's novels - we are in the power of an unsympathetic, inscrutable and remorseless machine.



Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Our Kafkaesque Bureaucracy

A few days ago I noticed that the usual weekly payments of my Old Age Pension, as it used to be called and as I still call it, were being made no longer.

I telephoned to ask why, to be told that it was because I had failed to answer letters asking for information.

I said I'd received no such letters and asked what they were about, but received no answer. Instead I was told to telephone again, and choose the option about 'change of circumstances'. There was no offer to put me through to the relevant department.

The second call connected me to someone who asked a number of routine questions, none of them involving any information the ministry would not already have, and then promised to restore payments.

When I asked why the payments had been stopped, this chap didn't say anything about unanswered letters, but said that someone must have wanted to check information, and stopping payments is a good way of persuading people to get in touch.

So it may have been a move to save the Government the cost of postage or phone calls. They wanted to check my information, though I can't think why, and wanted to avoid spending money to do so.

I am fortunate in having another pension, and being in good heal;th so that I could deal with the problem. Someone with no income except the state pension could have been in dire straits, especially if payments were stopped  while they were ill in hospital.


Friday, 9 November 2012

A Remarkable Choice of Words

"It's the same; it's just different" said a waitress, offering a substitute after explaining that the wine a friend had ordered was out of stock.



Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Tyrany of the Photographer

Last weekend I attended a family wedding, held in a church on the South coast of Devon.

Afterwards we were at the mercy of the photographer.

At first he treated us gently, ushering us to and fro outside the church. Then, having accustomed us to obedience, he led us up the hill beside the church. First there were steps, then just a narrow path that eventually turned into a muddy rut leading through a gap in a hedge. I found it hard to keep my footing, and I'm not sure how the bridesmaids managed it at all - they were wearing little white shoes with stiletto heels.

Finally we emerged on a bleak hillside sloping down to the sea. I guess the temperature was around 8 C, with a stiff breeze to add wind chill.

Then we were moved about, arranged and re-arranged, and the poor bridesmaides in sleeveless dresses huddled in their diaphanous shawls.

The photographer on the other hand was very well wrapped up.

I wonder what difference it would have made to the proceedings had he been dressed in just a pair of shorts and and a singlet. Perhaps the stripping of the photographer should be added to the frolics associated with weddings.





Monday, 29 October 2012

Puny Egg Slicers

I recently replaced a decrepit egg slicer, only to find that the replacement was too small to cope with an egg - the outer regions of the egg bulge out around the sides of the slicer so the slices are joined together at the edges.

I've taken my tape measure to several shops selling kitchen ware, without finding a larger instrument.

I wonder if those who design such gadgets ever use them.

I thought I'd published this more than a week ago, but have just found it was saved only as a 'draft'.


A 25 Hour Day

On Sunday, when we altered the clocks, I spent the extra hour in bed.

It did me good. I felt much more alert than usual and made great inroads into the sorting of accumulated papers.

If only there could be 25 hours in every day!

Slowing down the earth to lengthen the day could not be done quickly; the quantity of rotational kinetic energy liberated would be enormous, so if there were an easy way to convert it to electricity we might solve our energy problems for a while.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Tyrany of Paper

I've grown used to emails. I can sort them, and search through them for information.

Yet I still have to deal with paper.

 There are guarantees, receipts, instruction booklets, statements of account. I need to keep many of  them, (Inland Revenue requires one to keep documents for 7 years) yet I can think of no satisfactory way of filing them. Files get filled to overflowing, and there is no easy way to search for information.

This afternoon I spent more than three hours sorting through heaps of paper to reduce the disorder.

Perhaps paper could be taxed.




Sunday, 7 October 2012

Laziness Succeeds: Making Lime Marmalade

I make my own marmalade, but find the long drawn out process of slicing the peel gives me cramp in the muscles of my hands.

I recently tried a new technique.

I bought some limes, started in the usual way, cutting them into halves, adding half their weight of water and cooking gently till soft. I then let the mixture cool, bisected the half limes into quarters to make it easier to remove pips - there were none, so I must have got sterile limes.

I then applied a hand held liquidiser to the mixture of  fruit, juice and water.

I heated that mixture to boiling, added its own weight of sugar in two instalments, heated to boiling, and then put the result into heated jars.

It set perfectly and tasted just like the lime marmalade I've made in the paste, without the aching hands.







Monday, 24 September 2012

More Toxic Debt

The Business Secretary has just announced plans to create a special bank to make long term loans to companies, bundle collections of loans together into 'financial instruments' and sell them to insurance companies and pension funds.

That sounds to me rather too much like the activities that bankrupted Northern Rock.



Sunday, 23 September 2012

Kowtowing to Policemen

I'm astonished by reactions to a recent encounter between Mr. Andrew Mitchell M.P. and a disobliging junior policeman.

I gather that when Mr. Mitchell was cycling away from Downing street, the policemen on duty refused to open the gate for him, demanding that, instead of cycling out, as he was accustomed to do, he should instead dismount and wheel his bicycle through a pedestrian gate.

I can think of no security matter that would justify that request; the main gate must be routinely opened for ministers in motor cars.

Perhaps the policeman in charge dislikes bicycles, or dislikes Mr. Mitchell, or was just lazy. Whichever it was, he deserved to be rebuked, demoted and re-assigned to some less important duty.

Much has been made of the word 'pleb' that Mr. Mitchell is alleged to have used. It is a word not much used these days; I think that I should have used 'oaf', 'lout' or 'thug', but people can't be expected to make nice linguistic distinctions in the heat of the moment.

Mr. Mitchell did not need to apologise and should not have done so.

On the other hand the police need to be taught that they are our servants, not our masters.




Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What has become of Blancmange

When Blancmange was served on its own as pudding for school dinners I detested it, but in recent years I've found it a useful component in a trifle.

Chocolate blancmange, poured over chocolate cake mixed with raisins, and soaked in coffee and rum, is the basis for an excellent chocolate trifle. I finish it with a layer of cream beaten with a coffee liqueur, and decorate with chocolate flakes.

Raspberry or strawberry blancmange works better than custard in a standard fruit trifle, where the base is sponge cakes mixed with stewed raspberries and covered with raspberry jelly.

Noting that my stock of blancmange powders was low, I tried to buy more, but failed in each of two supermarkets. I wonder if there has been a regulation about the sale of foods that wobble ?






Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Busy Day Offline

Broadband was down to day until around 8 pm.

Free from the distractions of the virtual world I had a most successful day.

I defrosted the refrigerator, did some washing and ironing, made the bottom layer of my birthday trifle (Saturday will be the day), pottered about in the garden, fed the cats several times and frustrated Senior Cat's bid to steal Junior Cat's lunch, and discussed my private pension with my financial advisor.

Now I'm screwing up courage to see how many emails and CIX conferencing messages await my attention!!


Sunday, 9 September 2012

News from the BBC

I watched the BBC 24 hours news channel for a while this afternoon. Scrolling across the bottom of the screen was the following:

"French Prosecutor confirms the 4 year old girl who witnessed her parents shot dead in the Alps has returned to the UK her seven year old daughter is out of an incuded coma"

I checked carefully, watching the message several times. That's what it said !!

I wonder who composed it ?



Friday, 7 September 2012

Testing the System

I've just added Sasha to the email list, and want to test that the change has taken effect, so, although I've nothing special to say, I'm blogging nevertheless.




Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Muddled Heads in High Places

I've just discovered that the new Health Minister, he whose name is so easily mispronounced, believes that homoeopathy works.

Such patent inability to think clearly should debar anyone from holding any high office, but to put him in charge of health is to publicly jeer at rationality.

The Prime Minister is as much discredited as his minister.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Restless Buttocks

When I've shopped in the city centre I catch the bus home from its terminus, so lots of people on their way into town have to alight before those waiting to travel home can board the bus.

I sit patiently in the bus shelter until the hubbub subsides, and then amble onto the bus when there is no longer a queue.

I'm usually the only one to do that. The others, even some tottery folk even older than I am, cluster round the entrance to the bus, obstructing the departure of those alighting, and then stand in line to watch each other enter, their buttocks quivering in anticipation of I know not what.

Are they really people, or just ineptly programmed robots ?



Monday, 3 September 2012

One Dimensional Retail

Shops often refer to categories of goods as 'lines' but never as planes, surfaces, or spaces.

I can understand that some people like to keep their Mathematics simple, but restricting geometry to one dimension is definitely overdoing it.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Strange Pricing

I recently bought a new vacuum cleaner. The price was £399-99 but there was a £200 discount for surrendering a used vacuum cleaner, so I paid only £199-99.

I've been puzzling about the economics of that transaction.

Is the nominal purchase price artificially inflated to persuade people who trade in that they are getting a bargain, or has someone discovered a lucrative use for old vacuum cleaners? I doubt the second. The discount was only a few pounds short of what I originally paid for the old cleaner.

I suppose that the great majority of purchases of cleaners are made by people replacing an old one, who would therefore be attracted by the large discount. On the other hand people buying their first cleaner might be annoyed at having to hunt for someone else's broken down cleaner to get a decent price for a new one.

Perhaps the secret is wedding presents. First buyers of cleaners will often be newly married couples who may have wedding present lists of overpriced household goods at some department store. Those who pay the artificially inflated price may be relatives buying wedding presents.

The moral is, don't give household goods as wedding presents. Write a cheque instead.



Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A Delightful Ambiguity

In a BBC news broadcast this afternoon, there was a reference to a football team with the nickname 'The Cottagers'.

I didn't spot what team it is, but one doesn't need to know who they are to enjoy a snigger.

Since I wrote this blog, one of my readers has given me a link to an explanatory list of football club nick-names.

His attempt to put it in a comment to this message was defeated by his inability to prove he isn't a robot by deciphering some particularly illegible text, so here it is

Thank you Mark.










Wednesday, 22 August 2012

In Defence of Strip Billiards

The game might encourage embarrassing double entendres involving the word 'balls', but the opportunities it would offer outweigh that small disadvantage many times over.

Had I a body as glorious as Prince Harry's, and access to a secluded billiard table, I should seriously consider playing strip billiards myself.

The delectable prince has nothing to reproach himself with, except perhaps his injudicious choice of friends.

On the other hand I find the false friend who put the pictures in the public domain contemptible. His or her name, address, place of work, photograph, mobile number, home telephone number, email addresses and full medical history should be publicised as widely as possible.




Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The remarkable Correspondence of Railtrack Limited.

I strongly recommend this link

It contains some of the correspondence that followed a sentimental railway enthusiast registering Railtrack Limited as a company, following the demise of the old Railtrack PLC. Many solicitors and public servants were confused, with amusing consequences.




Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Ruler as Impotent Deity: a Strange View of the Cosmos

In a recent BBC news broadcast a correspondent described a conversation with a Russian farm worker. Asked if he blamed President Putin for the hard conditions of rural life, he said no, Putin was like God, too far away to help someone like him.

I suspect that many who would be classed as religious believers are similarly eccentric in their theology.

I must think of a questionnaire to apply to religious folk I encounter. Suggestions of promising questions woukld be very welcome. Please include them in comments to this blog.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Safeguarding State Secrets

Now Ecuador has give Julian Assange diplomatic immunity, I assume that that state's secrets will be safe from exposure by Wiki-leaks.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Extraordinary cost of Corned beef

130g packets of corned beef cost £3-00 in the local Sainsbury. In my youth corned beef was a cheap substitute for 'proper' meat; now it's about the same price as fillet steak!!!


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Puzzle for the Economists

While browsing through the kitchen gadgets in a local department store, I spotted empty jam jars for sale, presumably for people who make their own jam.They cost £1-59 each.

For less than that one can buy similar jars already filled with jam.

Perhaps there is scope for arbitrage - buying jars of jam from a supermarket, eating the jam, and then re-selling the jars at a profit.

I wonder what the economists would say about it.


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Using Three Words in Place of One

I recently heard the phrase 'piece of data'.

The single word 'datum' would suffice'.



Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Temperatures and Colours

The cover of this month's copy of The Garden has a picture of some orange flowers with the caption Hot Heleniums

Reds and oranges are often referred to as 'warm' or 'hot' colours, while blues are commonly considered 'cool'.

The opposite is the case. Within the visible spectrum, blue light is the most energetic, and red the least.

The 'warmth of reds' is a cliché copied by people who don't pause to consider what they are saying.



Friday, 20 July 2012

More fumbling with numbers

This morning's Radio 4 news broadcast mentioned the discovery of about 48 tons of silver near the Irish coast, and claimed it was worth nearly a billion pounds.

That sum seemed implausibly large, so I checked current silver prices (about 17 pounds per ounce) and calculated a value in the region of 29 million pounds. Some people seem unable to tell whether or not numbers make sense.

Incidentally there are three different 'tons' in use; fortunately they differ by only a few percent.

The metric ton (or tonne) = 1000 kg

The imperial ton (long ton) = 20 hundred weight = 2240 pounds, roughly 1016 kg

The short ton = 20 short hundred weight = 2000 pounds, roughly 907 kg

Americans use the short ton

I used the imperial ton in my calculation


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Fear of Precision

I've often noticed that news media prefer vague terms like 'large, 'tiny', to numbers. I may have blogged about this before.

A couple of days ago the BBC television news reported early results of an election in Libya, saying that one group had achieved a 'landslide victory'

I checked on the BBC website and found that the 'landslide' in question amounted only to winning 39 of 80 seats filled from party lists.





Friday, 13 July 2012

Taking Footballers too Seriously

Towards the end of last year, two footballers were rude to each other in the course of a game. One of them complained that the other used especially rude words, so there was a prosecution leading to a prolonged court case, extensively reported on air.

It  amazes me that people could be so solemn about something so silly.







Friday, 29 June 2012

Railtrack Emulates Procrustes

Yesterday I visited Bletchley Park, travelling by train and changing at Bedford.

On the return journey there was a discouraging announcement that we had been relegated to the slow line to avoid another train that had broken down.

As we approached Wellingborough there was an announcement that some passengers must have found even more alarming. We were to use the short platform at Wellingborough, presumably because we were still on the slow line, so there would be room for only the front of the train. Passengers in several of the rear coaches would therefore not be allowed to alight and, those whose destination was Wellingborough were bidden to travel on to Kettering, alight there and wait for a train to take them back to Wellingborough.

If only trains still had doors passengers could open at will, those inconvenienced could just have jumped down onto the track and walked to the platform.



Sunday, 24 June 2012

Summer Heat

This is the first year I've needed to switch on my heating at Midsummer. I'm using only one heater, the one in the kitchen where I have breakfast, but it's still a first.



Sunday, 17 June 2012

'Black' Market

What is called a black market is the result of a failed attempt to avoid a market.

One of today's news items was about a so called 'black market' in tickets to Olympic events.

Had tickets been auctioned there would have been no black market and the proceeds would have been greater diminishing the final loss (or increasing the profit, in the unlikely event of there being a profit).



Thursday, 14 June 2012

Our Versatile Police

I notice that undercover police are now allowed to have sexual relations with those they are observing, to help maintain their 'cover'

see:this article in the Standard

I wonder if the bishops will have anything to say. Perhaps they are so obsessed with the spectre of gay marriage that they haven't noticed.



Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Profligate Economics

Listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning I heard an economist suggest that we needed higher inflation to revive the economy.

The Keynesian remedy for recession is a combination of budget deficit and inflation. However we have both, and the economy is still in recession, though only just.

It does appear that what stimulates the economy may be not deficit and inflation per se but increasing deficit and inflation, so the proposed remedy risks precipitating hyper inflation.



Sunday, 20 May 2012

Jumbled Languages

News broadcasts keep referring to an entity they call 'Bayern Munich'

I suspect that the name is actually 'Bayern München' Rendering that into English would give 'Bavarian Munich' Either the German form, or the English, would be acceptable, but the mixture of languages irritates me.


I wonder why the umlaut was followed by a change of font and ink colour.



Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Google Analytics

I was alarmed by the EU restrictions on the use of cookies, fearing that without Google Analytics I should have little idea how frequently my site is visited.

I checked the statistics collected by company that hosts my website, and realised that everything I need to know is available there. I also found that Analytics seems to have been detecting only about a third of the visits to my site.

I guess that many people set their browsers to reject cookies, so that their visits are not recorded.

Apparently I shall be better off without Analytics.

Monday, 30 April 2012

An Expensive Way to Produce Books

I recently asked a bookshop if a particular book was available. After some investigation, they assured me that it was available only by a procedure called 'print on demand', at a price of 90 pounds, which seemed a lot for a 310 page book originally published at 20 pounds.

It would be better to offer it in digital form.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Innumerate Journalism

I've just looked at the BBC web site to see the results of the first round of the French Presidential Election.

I gather there were ten candidates, so I hoped to see a list of the candidates stating the vote won by each.

I couldn't find anything of the sort. There were long chatty articles, with a percentage thrown in here or there, but there was no systematic treatment.

It often appears that journalists dislike precision.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Abuse of Monopoly

I've already blogged in complaint at the increase in postal rates, but I find the attempt by the Post Office to prevent people stockpiling stamps especially infuriating.

The post Office has a (partial) monopoly of the handling of small items, and that monopoly is not something that has emerged from the operation of the market; it is enforced by the law.

An excuse for maintaining the monopoly is that, were competition allowed, competitors would concentrate on the easy wok of delivering in urban areas where houses are close together, and neglect isolated houses in the country. As it's much easier to deliver to houses in rows, it seems to me reasonable that post to urban destinations should be cheaper.

The monopoly should end.

Meanwhile I shall use the post only for communications that I cannot make in any other way. I shall send no more picture postcards, Christmas cards or chatty letters.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

My First Simnel Cake

I'd often heard of Simnel cakes, but until two days ago I'd never tried one.

Noticing some in Sainsbury's just before Easter, I reflected that they'd be available at half price after Easter. They were, so I bought one.

I found it quite agreeable, but a little too sweet.

I'm glad I waited till after Easter.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Lingering Moment

"This moment may last for several months yet" I heard someone say on the BBC Radio 4 news.

When I hear such comments, I wonder what may be going on in the mind of the speaker.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Postage

When I bought some first class stamps a few weeks ago, I was astonished to find that 12 stamps cost more than 5 pounds. Before I got round to blogging about that, I learnt that there is to be further price increase, this time to 60p.

When I worked in Lincolnshire an occasional treat was the five course dinner at the Grand Hotel in Lincoln; it cost 12/6, only slightly higher than today's first class stamp.

In those days a modest cheap and cheerful three course 'business lunch' could be had for less than 4 shillings.

Even allowing for inflation, sending a letter is becoming a serious expense, and one that can usually be avoided by sending email or telephoning.

Had I not largely abandoned Christmas cards last year, I should have resolved to do so now.

I wonder how long we shall have a Post Office ?

Monday, 26 March 2012

After the Arab Spring, the Arab Winter.

Various Arab states seem to have disposed of one set of obnoxious rulers only to get another set not conspicuously more virtuous than the first lot, and less capable of maintaining order.

We are urged to intervene in Syria to help bring about a similar change there, so that a new government can set about the popular task of persecuting minorities.

I very much hope our Government will not intervene.

For once I'm glad of the Russian veto in the UN Security Council. That it is self interested does not prevent its being useful.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Cheerful Pensioner Refuses to Sulk

Some politicians discussing the budget tell me I ought to be discontented because my personal income tax allowance has not been increased while other people's allowances have been.

Yet I have lost nothing. My personal allowance has not been reduced. I just had an increase a few years earlier than other people; now they are being allowed to catch up.

There are several consolations for being a pensioner. One need not work, one doesn't make National Insurance contributions, and bus travel is free.

I refuse to feel aggrieved just to feed the ambitions of unscrupulous politicians.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

In the Service of God.

I've just seen this in the Daily Telegraph:

"The Dutch government has promised to investigate "very serious and shocking" allegations that hundreds of teenage boys and young men were castrated while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church as a treatment for homosexuality in the 1950s."

there's more at:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/7j495ge

Apparently there were cases of young boys being castrated after complaining of sexual abuse at the hands (or should I say penises ?) of priests.

Now that they are on the defensive Priests confine their homophobia to whining about the meaning of the word 'marriage", so it is instructive to recall what they were capable of when intoxicated by the servile adulation of a gullible flock.

Human employers are held responsible for the misconduct of their employees, yet theologians never apply that rule to God.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Right Man for a Bad Job

John Yates, formerly of the Metropolitan police, was interviewed recently about the phone tapping affair. It was he who decided that no further investigations were justified even though the police held voluminous records of profligate wrong doing.

I noticed that Yates was speaking from Bahrain, where he now works with the local police.

Given the recent record of the Bahraini police, he seems the right man for the job !

Friday, 24 February 2012

Non-Verbal Communication

'Can you sum up in words...' I just heard an interviewer ask an interviewee in the BBC 24 hour news program.

How else might he have summed up ? telepathically ? by farting in Morse Code ?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Freudian Slip ?

I've been reading Freud's Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis and finding it very tedious. I suspended reading of it for a few days while I finished another book, and when I decided to return to Freud I couldn't find the book anywhere.

There are several places where I'm likely to put down partly read books, but it wasn't in any of them !

Freud would have found that most significant.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentines Day

I've never felt any interest in Valentine's day, I've never been inclined to send a Valentine's card, and have never received one.

I understand that the custom is for cards to be anonymous. As one of the obstacles to romance is a shyness that prevents people declaring love, anonymity seems absurd.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

False Economy

In Sainsbury's today I noticed a 'special offer' of two packets of cherries for £3-00. Each packet contained 200 grams, so that was 400 g for £3-00.

In the market similar cherries were being sold for £1-00 per pound, that is £1-00 for 454g, instead of £3-00 for 400g.

Sainsbury's profit margin must be huge!!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Rare Talent and Huge Salaries

In an earlier blog I doubted whether the ability to run a large business is rare enough to necessitate the vast salaries many directorships attract, and suggested that people were often mistaking good luck for business acumen.

I’m now having second thoughts.

Even if running a business does not require any single very rare skill, it might still still require a rare combination of common skills.

I’d expect the successful captain of industry to be well above average in each of the following.

Intelligence (1/10)

Power of concentration (1/5)

Stamina and perseverance (1/5)

Co-ordination - ability to avoid muddle and confusion (1/2)

Memory (½)

Ability to assess people (½)

Ability to manage people, to delegate, supervise adequately without overdoing it, to judge when to listen, and when not. (1/3)

After each I’ve put an estimate of the proportion of the population who meet the standard.

Assuming independence, the probability of someone qualifying in all respects would be the product of all those probabilities, namely:

(1/10)*(1/5)*(1/5)*(½)3*(1/3) = 1/(6000)

Senior posts are usually taken by people in the age range 40 to 60, who I guess amount to less than a third of the population, so the proportion of the population qualified by both age and ability is at most 1/18000.

The population of Great Britain is around 60 million, so the number of people is between 3000 and 4000. That number must be further reduced to remove people of the requisite abilities who have not chosen business careers - some will have chosen instead to be doctors, lawyers, academics, journalists, computer programmers, soldiers or civil servants.

How many people are needed to run our large companies? I’m not sure how many companies are involved. 1300 companies are quoted on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, though not all those a British. All companies in the FTSE 350 index have their primary listing in Britain, so I guess that at least 350 companies need directors of high ability and each company will need several. With fewer than people 4000 available, leadership talent may be rare after all.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Terrified by Batch Files

Recently several emails have not reached their destinations, though they were sent to valid addresses, and I received no error messages.

All the messages had a particular attachment, consisting of a file created by zipping a folder containing instructions for connecting to a web site that I manage. There were three files in the folder. A batch file that opened a DOS window to make an ftp connection to the site, a text file that contained information required by the batch file, and another text file giving instructions. I needed to send all that to other officers of the association that owns the web site so they can operate it in the event of my sudden demise.

Other emails, including ones in which I assured intended recipients that I’d sent the information, were delivered promptly, but the messages with that attachment disappeared without trace; they weren’t even in the recipients' spam traps.

The destination addresses unable to receive the emails in question were on either Google, or ntl. When I sent a copy of the problem message to my icuknet mail box it arrived safely.

Eventually I renamed the batch file by changing its extension to ‘txt’ and changed the instructions to include a specification that the name should be changed back again before use, and the message was safely delivered with its attachment.

Google and ntl seem so terrified of batch files that they are even peering inside zipped folders in case one should be lurking there, and they hide the evidence afterwards.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Faith and its Consequences

The Archbishop of York recently objected to proposals to allow marriage between people of the same gender.

As reported in the media, his argument stressed the linguistic impropriety of using the word ‘marriage’ in a different sense from the customary one, but I suspect that his objection was not primarily a defence of linguistic usage. It is in some places the custom for one man to have several wives, so there is an established use of ‘marriage’ in which it does not imply the monogamy that I’m sure the Archbishop favours.

I think his primary grounds for objecting are religious. That raises the question of the grounds for religious belief.

It is common for religious people to say that religious belief should not be assessed according to the same criteria we apply to other beliefs. Faith, they say, is at least as important as evidence. It is common for religious people to extol as a virtue having faith in what cannot be justified by evidence.

Insofar as religious faith reflects a personal choice of a world view that someone finds reassuring, that is all very well, until that world view affects the way the people of faith deal with others who don’t share their faith.

The Archbishop was not just advising members of his flock not to marry partners of the same gender, he was objecting to anyone at all contracting such a marriage, whatever their faith or lack of faith.

That is an example of a systematic intellectual dishonesty found in much religious thought. The evidence put forward to support belief is weak, but once the belief is considered to be established it is used to justify conclusions much stronger than the original evidence justifies. Thus can an personal whim be magnified into a moral imperative.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Temperature Inversion

While I was in town this morning, it seemed very cold, but when I returned home it seemed relatively mild, suggesting that the City centre was colder than the Eastern suburbs - quite the opposite of what one would expect.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

More early flowers

I spotted some crocuses in flower today, they looked as though they'd been out for several days but they were in a tub tucked away behind a shrub where they weren't easily spotted during my brief January incursions into the garden.

I wonder why 'crocuses' doesn't have a double 's'.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Why doesn't God hold a Press Conference?

It suddenly struck me that if there were a God, he'd have no need to communicate indirectly through the ambiguous words of ancient revelations, but could just call a press conference.

As there's no divine press conference, there is no God. All the poring over sacred texts, and puzzling over metaphysical arguments, are quite useless except perhaps as exercises in linguistics and logic.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Noisy Celebration of an Abstraction

I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of fireworks, and noticed it was 4:20 am.

I thought it strange that people should show such enthusiasm for celebrating nothing in particular. That a new year begins today is a mater of convention, an artefact of our measuring system. I don't find it at all exciting.

It makes sense to have a few parties to relieve the gloom of the long nights and short days, but we had parties for Christmas. Another set a week later is excessive. The second lot of celebrations would do us more good around the end of January, when the effects of Christmas euphoria have warn off.