Saturday, 31 December 2016

Catching Up

My rate of posting here fell be about a half in 2014, the year I bought the present house and started to renovate it. Since then my blogging rate has gradually risen, and I've even started to pay more attention to my sadly neglected web site.

That may be a sign I'm catching up. I hope so. There may even be some pictures of the new place on my website soon.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Beware Emasculated Cough Mixtures

Numerous cough medicines are available. Many are just agreeable fruity syrups, that soothe the throat for at most a few minutes after we swallow them. One easily make such concoctions oneself; glycerine, lemon juice and honey works quite well.

If one is to pay for a cough mixture, one can do much better. Lasting relief  is provided by the medicines that contain dextromethorphan which suppresses coughing for several hours after consumption.

Seeking cough medicine yesterday, I found that several mixtures that used to contain dextromethorphan no longer do so, listing as active ingredients just sugar and glycerine. Yet they were packaged just as before, apart from the change in the list of ingredients.

To get the original mixture one has to ask at the dispensary counter in the chemist's shop. Were I not in the habit of checking labels carefully I might have missed the change and wasted my money on something ineffective. I suspect a great many people will be deceived and disappointed.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A Folk Story Vindicated

Tomatoes are usually disappointing these days.

I remember a time when eating a tomato was a treat, but these days they are usually insipid. That's partly the varieties that are grown commercially. Home grown tomatoes of varieties not on the official list are often better, but I think there's more to it than that.

I try to reduce my salt consumption these days and had stopped sprinkling salt on salads. When I did add a little one day, the flavour of the tomatoes was transformed.

That reminded me of a folk story about a man who stupidly asked his daughters how much they loved him. Feeling unable to compete with her sisters' superlatives, the last daughter to reply said, with the perverse obscurity with which people in folk stories often confuse each other, 'I love you as the fresh meat loves the salt'

She was banished from the house for that, and only reinstated after she somehow infiltrated her way into the kitchen and cooked a salt free meal, the consumption of which shocked her father into an appreciation of her wisdom.

I suspect that that story is no longer part of the primary school curriculum, though if I were a primary school teacher I'd consider reinstating it.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Boxing Day in a Small Towm

I was particularly glad to be in Market Harborough today, because I was able to get our and look round the shops.

In Leicester there were few shops in walking distance, and to get to the rest I relied on buses which, on Boxing Day were few and crowded. Here a short walk in the sunshine got me to the sales where I could buy next year's Christmas cards at half price.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Speculative Genetics

I recently hear someone interviewed on the radio claim to have been born with 'journalist DNA'

I don't believe that the individual in question actually thought they had made a remarkable discovery in genetics, and doubt if he or she actually knows what DNA is. I suspect that 'DNA' is a term perceived to be used by clever people, so people who want to be thought clever like to use it too, without bothering to find our what it means.

'DNA' is often misused in that way.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Invisible Button

I recently bought a new tower PC. In the old days the first thing one taught computer novices was how to switch the computer on. The switch was usually at the back of the computer. Wise, as I thought, to the ways of computer manufacturers, I switched on while plugging this and that into the back of the machine, but it still didn't some on.

Usually there's some sort of on/off button on the front of the case too, but however carefully I searched I couldn't find one. The only button I could find on the front was the one for the DVD bay.

I was on the point of taking the tower back to the shop where I'd bought it, when a kind friend offered to have a look. He eventually found a button. The button was black, matching the black case of the tower, and was flush with the case. Even though I now know where it is, I still can't see it, though I can detect it by touch.

I wonder who designed the case, and what, if anything, went through their minds when they made it like that.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Floriferous November

There are still quite a few flowers blooming in the garden, pansies, campanulas, hardy cyclamen, erigerons, and even antirrhinums that usually expire long before this, but the water lily is tantalising us. It's had a bud just below the water for months, but there's no sign of it opening.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Friday's Colour

Why is cheap Friday called Black ?

Black days are usually bad days, so I'd have expected a bright cheerful colour for the day of cheap cat food (we got a wonderful deal from one of the supermarkets)

I suggest Scarlet Friday, though vermilion, lime green or shocking pink might have their advocates.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Pernicious Regulation

I've long been puzzled by the frequency with which people seem to change energy supplier in the hope of reducing their bills, suspecting that many of the savings might be illusory.

I've just heard a discussion on BBC Radio 4 that confirms that suspicion, explaining that the 'projections' of savings usually exaggerate the likely savings of any change. Apparently that error is not the fault of the energy companies, but arises because the regulator 'Ofgem' compels companies to use  an unsound method of calculation that is almost certain to overestimate the savings. Ofgem introduced the relevant regulation in 2014, ignoring representations by people who pointed out the error.


I wonder what disciplinary action will be taken against the incompetents responsible. My guess is none.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Futile Disorder

I doubt the utility of public demonstrations, preferring a lucid, cogently argued complaining writing.

Demonstrations that involve damage to people or property I consider criminal, whatever the cause they are supposed to further.

The demonstrations in America, protesting at the result of the presidential election seem particularly absurd. The only valid ground for protesting at an election is that the election was not properly conducted. I understand that no such complaint is being made in America, but that the protests are just about the result.

There may well be some grounds for complaint once the president elect gets round to doing something, but so far all he's had time for has been to visit the White House to see the outgoing president.

The main effect of pointless, violent protests against the election result is likely to be to strengthen the resolve of the winners and convince them that their opponents are delinquents.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Who is Nick ?

Every few weeks we hear some news item about 'Nick' the false witness who persuaded over eager police officers to conduct an expensive witch hunt against innocent elderly and formerly prominent men.

The targets of Nick's accusations have suffered great hurt, and Harvey Proctor lost his job as a result of the fuss. They should at least have a chance to sue for damage sustained, but it is hard for them to do that if Nick''s identity is secret.

Police justify publishing the names of suspects by saying that it encourages other victims to come forward. It might similarly be argued that publishing the identities of alleged victims might encourage people who know some of those victims to be dishonest or untruthful to come forward with evidence of their mendacity.

In both cases there are also reasons for not publishing the names. A compromise might be to treat accusers and accused alike and either disclose all names, or keep all secret.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Damage Done by Libel Damages

A retired police Superintendent was recently convicted of several cases of child abuse. When the abuse was reported in the press many years ago the abuser sued for libel and was awarded £370 000 damages.

Will he now have to pay it back?

An award of damages for libel does not injure just the person who has to pay; it also injures others who are restrained from discussing the matter.

Even a threat to sue for libel can be damaging. Rupert Murdoch prevented free discussion of the parlous state of his companies just by threatening to sue for libel. After he disappeared and was assumed dead it was discovered he had stolen about £400 000 000 from a pension fund.

Perhaps anyone suing, or threatening to sue, for libel could be required to take out an insurance policy to compensate any person suffering loss as a result of the suppression of free discussion.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ups and Downs

We talk of 'eating up' 'finishing up', 'tidying up', and in recent years some people have even started to talk of 'meeting up' . In all those cases 'up' seems to be redundant. There are no alternative ways of eating or tidying, that need to be distinguished by using 'down'. so we don't need to say 'up' either.

Monday, 31 October 2016

A Precedent for Hypocrisy

It's strange that so many people should be considering voting for a candidate as absurd as Donald Trump, but history offers a clue to one part of the puzzle.
In the first half of the sixteenth century Phillip, Landgrave of Hesse, was a prominent defender of Protestantism. He was also discontented with his wife. When he consulted leading protestant theologians they suggested bigamy. see:

So when evangelical Christians in the American South overlook the vulgar sexual boasting of Mr. Trump, they are following an old precedent.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Do Battered Heads Proliferate ?

Recently there's been discussion of brain damage produced in sports, especially when people hit footballs with their heads.

Anecdotal evidece suggests that teachers of games and what is absurdly misnamed 'Physical Education' are conspicuously less intelligent than their colleagues. If that is so it may be that people who have suffered brain damage are propagating their disability by organising the brain damage of the young.

I'd like to see research into the intellectual incapacity of 'PE' teachers.

Saturday, 29 October 2016


In the course of purging ancient clothes I went through the pockets of my old dinner jacket, which I haven't used for about 30 years and which I can no longer button up however much I squash my tummy. I found two one pound notes.

I gather that they can still be exchanged for one pound each at the Bank of England,but, if in good condition, may be sold for rather more.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Anomaly in Statistics

In reporting on the American Presidential election campaign the BBC publishes a 'poll of polls' calculated by taking the median of the results of the most recent five polls.

When I checked today's figures I thought there was a mistake.

The Poll of Polls showed Clinton ahead by 5 percentage points, while the individual polls showed leads of 0, 2, 3, 7 7  with median 3.

However taking medians of the figures showing total support for each candidate gives 49 for Clinton and 44 for Trump, with a lead of 5 for Clinton.

So the difference of the medians is not equal to the median of the differences. That may be a reason for treating the median with caution.

In the case of opinion polls based on samples of different sizes, I'd be inclined to use a weighted mean, weighted by the sample sizes. That calculation gave means of 47.47 for Clinton and 44.18 for Trump, a lead of about 3 points for Clinton.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Elusive Spirit

Inspired by Monday's success in finding venison, today I looked for Creme de Menthe. Once widely on sale, that is now very hard to find, much to my regret. It's very calming when administered to effervescent digestive tracts, and, added to melon, makes an excellent starter.

Today I tried Majestic Wines. It was my first visit to the Market Harborough branch, and although they had no Creme de Menthe, the chap in charge was a star. He recalled seeing C de M in Aldi's. Their local branch was only about 200 metres away, so I went there and got it!!

I was so delighted that I survived unscathed the shock of finding that all the shopping baskets in Sainsbury's had turned into pumpkins, a transformation that is supposed to take place only at midnight.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Still Finding my Way About

Every so often I find something new in Market Harborough.

Until yesterday I didn't know where to buy venison then, browsing around the farm shop, I found some. Braised in red wine with mushrooms and a few home grown tomatoes,  it was delicious.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Dim Officialdom.

I've just printed an official form from a government website.

The form consisted of a four page pdf file, and the fourth page contained nothing but the page number.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A Dubious Incentive

I've just had an email from Barclay's Bank offering me free popcorn with my cinema tickets.

If I had any shares in Barclays, I should consider that a strong 'SELL' signal.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Prolific Paralynpics

How many paralympic events can there be? The number of gold medals awarded is huge, at least vast numbers are being won by Chinese and British competitors. I'm not sufficiently interested to check how many other national have won and I shall be glad when the media find other news to report.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Elusive Profits

The remarkable manoeuvres  by which Apple has avoided a great deal of tax are said to go back to 1991. If it has taken 25 years to deal with such an extreme case, it seems likely that more modest strategies of evasion go undetected altogether.

There is a case for basing tax on something less elusive than so called 'profit', the value of which depends greatly on the skill of accountants.

If a little more money were squeezed out of less easily manipulated taxes such as business rates, value added tax, tax on dividends, and employers' National Insurance Contributions we shouldn't need to worry about profits.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Exporting Works of Art

I notice that a temporary ban has been placed on the export of a coronet that used to belong to Queen Victoria.

I find it hard to understand such bans. It makes very little difference to  most of us where such objects are. Their existence is of moderate interest, illustrating the way people used to live, but photographs are all we need. Even if the object is put in a museum, few of us will get round to looking at it.

On the other hand, if the legal owner has found a willing buyer, it seems impertinent for others to interfere with the transaction. If some individual or group of individuals very much want to coronet to stay in Britain, they should offer the owner a higher price.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Innumerates Play with Percentages

I'm frequently irritated by muddles involving percentages, but today's Radio 4 news perpetrated an atrocity worse than anything I recall encountering before.

There was a report that 14% of adults claim to have suffered sexual abuse in childhood. 11% of women report such abuse, as do 3% of men, and 11+3 = 14.

I wonder what errors may have been involved in the derivations of the 11% and the 3%.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


Last week I joined a party of U3A members who visited our local bell foundry see:

I discovered that bells and their manufacture are both much more complicated than I'd previously imagined.

A bell has five notes and after being cast bells are tuned to get all five notes in the correct pitch. That is done by removing metal very carefully in selected places from the inside of the bell.

Tuning lowers the tone, so bells are cast to be sharp; if a bell is flat the only remedy is to melt the metal and recast.

Molten metal is heated to 1200 C and then poured into a mould made from a mixture of sand and horse manure. The mould is buried in sand to contain any leaks. Before casting the mould has to be dried in an oven, otherwise water in the mould will evaporate explosively when the hot metal is poured in. One such explosion, in another foundry, once killed fifteen people.  After casting the bell is left in the mould for several days to cool.

The metal used makes a great difference to the tone of the bell. Steel is particularly unsatisfactory and the alloy nearly always used is bronze - about 2/9 tin and the rest copper.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Last Box

I've just finished unpacking the last of the boxes I packed more than two years ago in preparation for   moving house, so I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Early Autumn ?

Going outside around 8:30 this morning I felt quite a 'nip' in the air, the sort of stimulating chill one feels in mid-September.

Has Autumn arrived six weeks early ?

Friday, 22 July 2016

A Diminished Buffoon

Boris Johnson seems to have shrunk since he became Foreign Secretary, diminished physically as well as mentally.

He looks like a hunched up old man, ill at ease, stumbling over his words, his old confidence gone.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Odd timetables

I've just collected booklets giving train services between here and London.

One booklet gives trains on weekdays and Saturdays, and another gives trains on Saturdays and Sundays, but I could not find any timetable giving trains on every day of the week.

How odd!!!

Friday, 24 June 2016

A Draw

We have had two referenda about British membership of the EU. The first favoured membership, and the second withdrawal. I make that a draw 1-1 which is no basis for action until a third referendum breaks the tie.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A Triumph for an Aged Brain

When I went shopping today I forgot my shopping list, but nevertheless bought all the items I'd put on the list, without adding any impulse purchases, so I still have a memory !!!

Monday, 20 June 2016

An unfortunate choice of words

Referring to a ten year old boy, delighted to have received tickets for a football match in the Euro 2016 tournament,  the BBC website chose the headline:

"NI stars call boy after seeing Euros clip"

Apparently footballers got in touch with the boy after seeing an online video of his delighted reaction, but when I first saw the headline I interpreted it quite differently.

Friday, 3 June 2016

An Unnecessary Dispute

I'm puzzled by the current dispute about the massacre of Armenians by Turks.

The deplorable events happened more than 100 years ago. None of those responsible will still be alive.

Determining just what happened and who was responsible is a matter for scholarly disputation between historians, not for angry diplomacy between governments.

Why did the German Bundestag vote on the question, and why should the Turkish government be so anxious to protect the reputations of Turkish rulers of long ago who controlled an empire that no longer exists ?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016


Yesterday I wanted to try out a pen that had been given to me, and discovered the only ink I had was green, so I bought some black ink.

57 ml of ink cost me £7-49. As I paid, I remembered that many years ago I bought a pint bottle for about 10 shillings. A pint was about 570 ml. At the current price, a pint would cost 74-90, so the price now is almost 150 times what it used to be !!!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Bogus Biology

I'm very irritated by misuse of 'DNA' and 'Instinct' to refer to traits that are not genetically determined, and to actions that are not instinctive.

The absurdity that goaded me into posting this comment  has just appeared on the BBC website:

" the party hacked down Margaret Thatcher in an orgy of political regicide prompted, naturally, by DNA-deep divisions over Europe."

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Cruelty to Animals

Although I've never met a lion, I'm well acquainted with two smaller felines and know how much they like their food.

I read that in Chile a naked man climbed into the lions enclosure in a zoo, and when the delighted lions started to eat their naked lunch, people shot them. Apparently the man was trying to commit suicide, so it would have been much kinder to all concerned to let the lions enjoy their meal.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

One sided contract

There is talk of the Government 'imposing a contract' on junior doctors.

That doesn't make sense to me because I think of a contract as a special type of formal agreement between two or more parties.

The Government may well eventually impose working conditions on junior doctors. Determined governments can impose almost anything on their subjects, but what is so imposed is not a contract ! Perhaps we should call it an imposition.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Accelerating Computers

Although I know how fast computers are getting it's only very recently that I've fully registered how far things have gone.

I recently downloaded Microsoft's 'Small Basic' and have used it for a few mathematical investigations. Yesterday I ran a program involving nested loops which would have involved carrying out a calculation and performing a test a million times. It took barely a second to finish !!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Private Parts in Public Places

Recent debates about who should use which public lavatory have set me thinking about what reasons there might be for segregating the sexes.

Urinals seem to be the key. They must be cheaper to construct, and are certainly quicker to use, than cubicles, and yet are only useful to those who have functioning penises. On the other hand, those using urinals might be shy if observed in the act by others without penises. Freudians used to talk about 'Penis Envy'; perhaps some men are afraid of that even if few women are actually envious.

It therefore seems sensible to have urinals, and to restrict access to those able to use them.

Cubicles, on the other hand, may be used indifferently by people of any physical configuration, except that women sometimes complain that men who use cubicles standing up can make a mess.

That suggests public lavatories with three area: a common area with cubicles anyone may use, an area with urinals only open to those equipped to use them, and a third area with cubicles accessible only to those unable to perform standing up.

Converting existing lavatories would take a while, and a rule segregating people according to their possession or lack of a penis would be most inconvenient to enforce,so the only sensible interim solution is that people who look like women use the ladies' and those who look like men use the gents, which is what already happens most of the time.

Absurd legislation to the contrary in at least one US state appears to me to be just irrational spite by vindictive ignoramuses.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Abolition of Women

I've just read that Young Greens no longer refer to female members as 'women', preferring to call them 'non-men'.


I suspect that is biologically unsound. I gather that the 'basic' human form is female, so there would be a stronger case for referring to men as 'non-women'.

An amusing possibility would be to combine both neologisms to produce an infinite regress.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Second Choice

As the election of Police and Crime Commissioners approaches, I note that we shall be allowed a second choice.

That is a feeble approximation to the Alternative vote which the Government felt unable to introduce  in parliamentary elections without holding a referendum, yet there was no referendum about the election of the Commissioners, nor, so far as I know, has there been any demand for such a referendum.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Suffering in instalmants

Putting the clocks forward an hour has always left me disorientated for a week or more after the event. This year I tried making the change in instalments. I changed the time my alarm clock wakes me in the morning in four instalments of around a quarter of an hour each, and have come through the change quite well.

I can only get away with that because I've retired. I suspect that offices, schools and  other places where people work would find it hard to do anything so sensible. I conclude that most people's lives are far too organised.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Evil Genius or scapegoat?

Radovan Karadzic has been sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for atrocities committed by people responsible to him.

I have two reservations. People who appear before international courts on such charges are usually former leaders of small countries, never the people still in charge of large countries, though it is the latter who orchestrate the most harm.

Second the people who actually kill and torture usually get away with it, claiming that they were taking orders from the token boss who appears in court. I don't  believe in that denial of responsibility. It is the people who use the guns and instruments of torture and really have blood on their hands and uniforms, and often on their penises as well, who have suppressed any feelings of compassion and schooled themselves to ignore the screams and pleas of their victims. The leader just endorses some vague abstraction like 'free the city of *** from alien interlopers'.

Without cruel minions the evil leader could do very little harm, and while there are people willing to follow orders without question, there will always be someone willing to give them orders.

It is those minions we should target.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Worried about Werewolves ?

"It's no silver bullet" an EU functionary said recently, referring to a plan to deal with refugees.

Did he think the refugees were werewolves?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Long-winded Duplication

I keep hearing 'two times' for 'twice', never in conversation, nor in writing, but quite often on broadcast news.

That made me reflect that 'thrice' seems to have fallen almost completely out of use and tempted me to revive it, until I realised that I hardly ever encounter 'three times' either.

I wonder if there's an equivalent abbreviation for 'four times'

Saturday, 5 March 2016

More Danger in Sports

Today's Economist reports on research into concussion. Apparently the resulting impairment of brain function can be permanent, and frequently lasts for several years.

As the Economist remarks, this is most serious when injuries are sustained by children for whom sports at school are not voluntary, and are organised by people who favour the cultivation of the 'stiff upper lip' and minimize the severity of injuries sustained in the course of what they consider to be 'fun'.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that PE teachers are conspicuous for their stupidity. Perhaps they are suffering from the same brain damage that their arrogant folly is likely to inflict on many of their pupils.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Compulsory Injury

I've just heard a discussion of a proposal to ban tackling in Rugby football when it is played in schools. Neither participant in the discussion mentioned that it is usually compulsory to play games in school, and that it is also compulsory for children to attend school.

Many recreational activities involve some risk of injury, and we often tolerate that because we think that  people should make up their own minds whether the fun is worth the risk. However that argument does not apply to unwilling participants for whom compulsory games are not fun - after all if they were fun there would be no demand to make them compulsory.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Very Cheap Salt

I noticed that in the local supermarket tins of salmon without added salt cost 15p more than otherwise similar tins of salmon with salt, suggesting a negative price for the salt.

Perhaps next time I want a packet of salt they'll pay me for taking it away !!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

An Image of Cream Cheese

A poster about diet in the Cardiology Department of Kettering General Hospital urges us to avoid cheeses such as Cheddar and Stilton, and to eat cream cheese instead.

That reminds me of my childhood in the 1940's. Refrigerators were rare, so milk often went sour in warm weather, but people were reluctant to waste food in a time of scarcity.My father used to convert curdled milk into cream cheese. He separated the solid curds from the whey by pouring the milk into an old sock, which he left hanging from one of the taps over the kitchen sink.  After a while he'd squeeze the sock, extract the contents, and eat them while mother and I watched in horror.

If you are ever tempted to eat cream cheese, just visualise father's sock hanging from the kitchen tap !!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Augmented Ancient

There's now more of me than there used to be.

On Friday a very charming cardiologist put stents in two of my coronary arteries,  so I'm no longer entirely organic.

Does that make me a cyborg ?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Afraid of Numbers

Reporting of the New Hampshire primary results has been copious but irritatingly  vague. There are comments to the effect that someone did better than someone else and someone else did even worse than yet another person, but there there is no clear statement what happened.

A table giving the votes of each candidate would make all the waffle redundant.

I've often noticed that the media are reluctant to be precise, and suspect that many reporters and editors are afraid of numbers.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Surplus Insulation

I have two Winter overcoats, the default overcoat, and the heavy one reserved for specially cold weather. It struck me that I haven't worn the heavy one for several years.

I can't remember details of previous Winters, but I'm sure that this Winter there has never been a frost severe enough to last until noon.

Is that a sign of climate change, or just an instance of the chaotic variations in our weather ?

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Who Counts as a Child ?

I've just spotted an article about unaccompanied child refugess. It was illustrated with a picture of children who appeared in the age range six to nine.

What proportion of the refugees admitted as unaccompanied children will be in that age range, and what proportion will be thugs aged seventeen and three quarters, or even 20 year old thugs pretending to be seventeen and three quarters ?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A Cafe with an intriguing name

Making a virtual exploration of the local amenities I discovered a cafe  called Totty teas in the nearby village of Lubbenham I wonder if the proprietors are aware of the resonance of that name.

I plan to visit in the Spring. Shall I be brave enough to ask about the name?

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Where are a Fish's Loins ?

I've just seen an advertisement for cod's loins.

Loins are where the legs join the body, fish have no legs, therefore they have no loins !!!