Administrative post

You can now make comments on this site easily because I’ve installed the human detector plugin (Scode). Thanks a lot to James Seng for that.
Also I’ve made a pact with my friend Tom Dyson that we’ll write at least one blog posting a week or give 10 Euro to a selected charity (barring holidays to be announced 1 week in advance). So there’ll be a few more posts. I’d like to mention that meta-posts such as “this is my post for the week” (and this post) don’t count. My chosen charities are – Oxfam ( for online donations, if Tom, like me is too lazy to put the cash in an envelope and post it) and Europa Terzo Mondo.
Finally as I’ve had a few requests for personal entries I might start breaking my policy of not mentioning anything personal on this blog.

Why doesn’t glue work

I’d like to know why it is that for things which companies can obviously make work if they want to, they sell things which don’t work. My biggest problems are with:
1. Glue:
I don’t know how many times I’ve bought glue which claims to stick things better than the original, only to have it fall apart on first use. Yet I know that it’s possible to make extremely strong glue because the furniture I bought from Ikea is made up of lots of short lengths of wood which have been glued together. But you can take a 2 metre 4cmX4cm beam made up of 30 cm sections and put it between 2 pillars and stand on it and it won’t break.
2. Car engines:
I know that truck, taxi and bus engines are built to run for 1 million km. So why can’t I buy a car that will do this? Why do companies advertise major advances in reliability (do they?) when they already know they can make a car run for 1 million km.

Ironic Ad

Can anyone spot the irony in the text here? Purpose of ad – to get as many people as possible to buy the car. Message – if you buy the car, you’ll be unique, individual.
Actually there’s another irony in there. The slogan “go beyond” – most people in the target market will probably not go beyond (for a few years anyway) but instead go down to pick up the kids from the school 500 metres away. Or failing that drive around the streets of London.

Comes from:

Really counterintuitive

I found this very entertaining and counterintuitive (the Monty Hall problem):
Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
See the extended entry for the answer plus caveats:

Continue reading “Really counterintuitive”

Medical rant – depression and back-pain

I read in the paper that 3.5 million British out of a population of about 60 million is taking Prosac style anti-depressants. That’s about 5% of the population and some of them are children. My guess is that going out for a run 3 times a week would cure a lot of people. Can a drug really cure you of an emotional disorder? I doubt it very much.
And while I’m on the subject, back pain is another one. Read this book instead of going to the doctor, even if you’ve been knocked out in bed for weeks by it – I pasted the reviews in the extended entry. I totally agree with them.

Continue reading “Medical rant – depression and back-pain”


Signatures can be fun. I was discussing the issue of what would happen if I refused to name a baby with a lawyer. Would they come and lock me up in prison? Would it be given a number? Apparently there are procedures. Then we passed onto this question – how is a handwritten signature defined legally – what happens if I dispute that I signed something. And it transpired that you can change your signature every time you sign something if you like. Also legally speaking, your signature can be anything you can do with a pen in a small box. So I’ve been experimenting – every time I have to sign some stupid bureaucratic thing, I scribble a totally different and unintelligible sign, with some interesting reactions. Reassuringly the bank said it didn’t match my registered signature (but I could change the registered one if I wanted). The next stage is drawing pictures like dogs, cats and stickmen.

Permanent contracts

If you want people to work, don’t give them permanent contracts where they can’t be fired for not working. It’s shocking how many people in such positions are earning money for doing nothing. There is no reason I can see why it shouldn’t be possible to fire someone who does no work (esp when it is in the order of a couple of days of a normal person’s output in 2-3 years.)

Talking about death

I find it upsetting when people avoid the subject of death. Manoevres such as the following seem to be common.
“I’d rather not talk about that just now. Maybe later.”
“I’d rather enjoy my life without spoiling it by thinking gloomy thoughts.” [Are they so gloomy? See below]
“Of course it’s important to talk about death, but I don’t think one should dwell on it.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it so why worry about it.”
Society does the same thing. Old people are shoved in old people homes to be forgotten about. Death is trivialized, villified and stereotyped in drama. Huge numbers of people never get to see a dead body until very late in life, if ever, because the whole thing is just swept under the carpet. People with terminal diseases are seen as strange terrifying beings because “they’re going to die” (i.e. everyone else is immortal). Just say the word “cancer” and most people tremble (me included). Skeletons are seen as a symbol of terror, even though everyone has one. As a child I was forbidden to look at the bodies of my grandparents and when my curiosity led me to buy some books about dying, my mother hid them.
Like love, death seems to be something that one instinctively knows about without needing to be told and perhaps which is a background to living. It is also an everyday thing in that the ending of the body is perhaps not so different to the many other endings and separations experienced.
I find that contemplation of death is far from a depressing thing – it seems to make me feel more peaceful. It gives me a sense of perspective on the seemingly important worries of life. Walking around a graveyard is very peaceful because there are no more exciting or terrifying possibilities there. Death in nature is not such a terrible thing. The leaves on the trees die every year and that is a beautiful and necessary spectacle.
And here’s another thought – the greatest fear for me seems to be annihilation of the person. The terror scenario is always me being crushed to a small point and the lights going out – the end of conscious existence. But this is a paradox. An end has to be experienced to be terrifying. But if it’s experienced, then I’m still conscious – so actually to experience the end of conscious life is impossible.

Leaf Blowers Suck

Those machines for blowing leaves from one place to another may be marginally more efficient than a rake, though looking at how they are used, they don’t seem to be.
But more importantly they pollute the environment with fumes, co2, production waste and noise. There seems to be a craze for them. I counted 3 in operation in a short walk this weekend. Perhaps they are a status symbol.
What’s wrong with a few leaves anyway? I don’t understand.
Here’s a movie I caught this guy doing the blowing and there were hardly any leaves. I suppose it’s a way of appearing you’re doing something important and getting paid for it.