Thursday, 25 December 2008

A cheerful post

Reviwing my posts on this blog, I notice that a great many are complaints. I've decided to try not to sound like a grumpy old man, even though that's proably what I am.

So here's a cheerful post.

I think I may have discovered an osmotic cure for toothache.

Last weekend a tooth started to ache, especially under pressure. It felt disturbingly like an abscess. That was worrying because I feared my dentist might be unavailable until after Christmas, and possibly till the new year. I feared I might eventually have to pull the tooth out myself with pliers - abscesses unattended can be very painful.

Then I remembered my Rinstead Pastilles, pink antiseptic disks recommended for gum infections. I wedged one between my check and the part of the gum containing the root of the recalcitrant tooth and let is dissolve slowly overnight. A bit of it was still there in the morning, and the tooth was a little less sensitive,

Thereafter the toothache gradually went away. It might have gone away anyway, even without the Rinstead pastille, but I have a theory of how that could have helped.

I don't think  it was the antiseptic soaking through the gum into the infected tooth. Much more likely is movement of water in the opposite direction.

I guess that the surface of the gum is a semi permeable membrane. In between the gum and the pink pastille would be a saturated solution of whatever the pastille is made of, and that solution would almost certainly have a higher molar conentration and hence a lower osmotic pressure than the fluid inside the gum, so that water would diffuse outwards in the direction needed to remove the difference in pressures. That would have dried out the accumulated fluid causing the toothache.

Perhaps a sweet would have worked as well, except that it might have dissolved faster instead of lasting all night, but I like the idea that sucking a sweet might cure toothache.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Peanut Panic

Peanut Panic

Follow this link for the whole story.

As I'm not sure how long that link will be available, I've quoted some of the highlights. 
"A peanut on the floor of a US school bus recently led to evacuation and decontamination for fear it might have affected the 10-year-old passengers."
"Professor Nicolas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School ....  said the number of US schools declaring themselves to be entirely "nut free" - banning staples like peanut butter, homemade baked goods and any foods without detailed ingredient labels - was rising, despite clear evidence that such restrictions were unnecessary. 
"School entrances have signs admonishing visitors to wash their hands before entry to avoid [nut] contamination." 
He said these responses were extreme and had many of the hallmarks of mass psychogenic illness (MPI), previously known as epidemic hysteria."

"John Collard, nurse consultant and clinical director of Allergy UK, said people in Britain were also going overboard in their reaction to allergies.  "I heard a similar story in the UK about a school making children wear gowns over their clothing during meal times so there would be no contamination fear from milk."

I'm inclined to giggle at much of that  especially the peanut on the bus, and the ritual hand washing enjoined on those entering schools, but the ban on home baking appals me.

If home baked food is held to be a danger when taken to school, it may soon be thought dangerous even at home, so we might eventually be forbidden to eat cakes or pastries unless they come stale and  in labelled supermarket packets. After all, might not some otherwise be eaten by a visitor allergic to some of the ingredients?

Legitimate visitors could with an allergy could ask about the ingredients, but what about illicit intruders ?  

These days we are supposed to make our houses safe for burglars, and the secrecy with which they ply their trade makes it hard for them to ask what snacks they may safely nibble to fortify them while ransack our houses and steal our valuables. While I should be delighted to hear of a burglar dying in the act, many influential people show a perverse determination to prevent poetic justice whenever they can.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Annual Letter

As I receive annual letters from quite a few people, I've written one myself, but instead of sending it out by post or email, I've put it on my website.

It consists mainly of links to entries in this blog, and to a few pictures, so most of the contents will be familiar to the conscientious few who visit here regularly, but for the benefit of anyone who wants to take a look, here's the link 

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Santa Clause revealed

I had never suspected that Santa might be a mere grammatical abstraction until today, when I read a notice  displayed by an unusually knowledgeable shopkeeper advertising 'Santa Clause Figures'. I was too shocked to notice the price.

If Santa is a clause, seasonal festivities are imperilled, for he would only have to mislay his finite verb to become a mere phrase. I very much doubt whether Santa Phrase would be capable of negotiating those chimneys that remain, never mind about insinuating himself into the interstices of  a central heating system.

The possibilities are most alarming. No wonder that The Powers That Be have conspired to conceal the truth. The expedient of just omitting one letter was brilliant psychology. Who thought of it?

I wonder if the Official Secrets Act has been broken. Will the anti-terrorist police be involved?

I fear I may already have said too much for my own good, so I shall say no more.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Fund managers and their sponsors.

The latest financial scandal seems to involve a pyramid scheme, a type of fraud that is so well known it should deceive only the most naive and inexperienced, yet it seems to have deceived the fund managers of numerous institutions, not only relatively soft targets like local authorities and pension funds, but even Santander, the supposed saviour of much of the British banking system.

The poor performance of fund managers is a matter of public record. Their funds usually under perform stock market indices, so that they do worse than they would if they invested at random. Why then is so much money entrusted to them ? Part of the answer is that our government recruits many of their customers, or perhaps it would be better to say conscripts them.

Most people are required to place savings in pension funds, where, of course, someone 'manages' them. Not only does the government thus prevent people from managing that part of their savings themselves, it goes further and places obstacles in the way of any who try to manage the remainder. The principal obstacle in Capital Gains Tax. Any investment policy accumulating sufficient assets to replace a pension would incur some liabilities under the tax, and as that is based on money value not real value there could be a tax liability without there being any gain. Even when no tax is liable, it would be necessary to keep complicated records and to perform involved calculations to prove that, probably requiring employment of an accountant, whose fees would further diminish the fund saved.

Don't believe the people who say our financial ills require more regulation by government. Government regulation has long been part of the problem.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Pure Evil

A few days ago  a policeman was quoted as applying that description to Karen Matthews, who had kidnapped and drugged one of her numerous children in the hope of sharing a reward for finding her again.

I'm not sure whether the term has any meaning, because I suspect that whatever horrors anyone might perpetrate, it would always be possible to imagine worse, but suppose we don't insist on the precise meaning and treat the phrase as singling someone out as a prominent apostle of the world of darkness, to what sort of person should we apply it?

I envisage an evangelist of evil, inspiring others to forsake the good (whatever that is) and embrace the evil, a person sinning with flair and imagination, and seducing others with  saturnine charm.

Karen Matthews is quite the opposite; it is hard to imagine anyone following when she beckons. I certainly find her most unpleasant, but in a trivial way. I should like her to die from some undignified cause, like a boil somewhere it would be too rude to mention.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Mixed feelings about Chrstmas

Christmas cards have started to arrive. I used to be excited to hear from people I hadn't heard of for a long time, until I realised I had quite a lot of acquaintances I don't hear from at any other time.

I used to keep the Christmas cards containing little messages so I could reply to them, naively expecting that my letters would elicit replies, and that old friendships would be revived. The replies rarely came. People would scrawl a tantalising scrap of news in their Christmas card, but just ignore my letter supplying my news and asking for amplification of theirs. Next year they'd be another unrelated snippet of prattle, but never any reply to my message.

Last year I made the usual selection of cards with messages, intending to reply, only to discover them still awaiting attention a few days ago, when they were mostly consigned to the shredder. I still can't bring myself to stop sending cards to those people I hear from only once a year. We used to have more to say to each other, and I can't bring myself to abandon the hope that we might still have something to say, though I fear that is probably wishful thinking.