Delightfully simple, or far too difficult?

where-we-export-to-graph_0Having  listened to a great deal of commentary about the complexity attach it on to the Brexit negotiations, I have come to the conclusion that there are two separate projects underway, one which is comparatively straightforward and the other being very complex.

The straightforward project is leaving the European Union. As the Prime Minister has said “Brexit means Brexit”. And so the answers to all sorts of questions ought to be very easy Continue reading

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Quiz VII

quiz-viiSame general drift as Quiz VI.  But the answer is not the same . Oh Continue reading

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Quiz of the Day VI

quiz-viNo one was able to answer Quiz V. So I have made this one dead easy.

What is denoted by this map? You have to click on the image to run the animation.

I composed this largely to try out the new Excel mapping facility, which is quite fun.

To make it just a shade harder, turn off Continue reading

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Swimmingly Bad Lies

swimmingI have remarked before that the stock response to skin cancer – slap on more sun screen – actually causes more skin cancer, not less. A fact which is bad news for the huge industry of producing and selling the stuff, and so rarely reported.

Recently, there has been a spate of drownings in Australia. Predictably, the stock response – take more children to swimming pools and teach them to swim – is equally fallacious. See for example Good swimmers drown more often than non-swimmers: How openwater swimming could feature in beginner swimming Torill Hindmarch and Mats Melbye Norwegian Life Saving Society at

It is commonly said, “The best insurance against drowning is learning to swim”. But the figures tell us something else. While approximately two-thirds of those who drowned where considered ‘good swimmers’ (2), almost all drowning accidents take place closer than 15 meters from possible rescue and more 50% closer than three meters from possible rescue. Why couldn’t they swim to safety?

One might assume that good swimmers to a greater degree engage in water related activities, equally, the figures say nothing about how many survive due to good aquatic skills. Figures from a Survey made by Norwegian Swimming Federation indicate that only a half of the Norwegian population can be classed as ‘competent’ swimmers. Combining these figures one can conclude that learning to swim in fact doubles the risk of drowning.

Research shows that certain age groups and genders have a higher incidence of drowning. It also shows that although it is no significant difference between the self estimated aquatic skills and the real aquatic skills, in the exposed group there was a low estimation of the risk in specific situations (3).

The reason is not hard to see. Non-swimmers do not go swimming. The better swimmer a person is Continue reading

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Seriously Obese Cats

fat-catsI am no believer in the notion that Jack is always as good as his master. Just occasionally, he might be. But far more often, the captains of industry are smarter, have trained more and now work harder than most. I have no problem with them earning, say, 20 times what the person sweeping the floor in their business earns. Or even 20 times what their average employee earns. As my old friend Will Hopper noted in his excellent book The Puritan Gift, that was pretty normal among the great companies of the Western World as they were becoming great.

But 200 times? No. That is obscene. No one needs 200 times. Not only is it grossly unjust, but it is bad for business. But it is happening, in the USA, and also in the UK. The Spectator Continue reading

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Ivan would have been Terrible

ivan-rogersThe resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers as the UK’s ambassador to the EU is both welcome and appropriate.

This is not criticise his professional abilities. But to have a Remainian in post during the Brexit negotiations would be like having a fascist as PM during WWII, or a communist as head of MI6 during the cold war, or a member of the KKK in charge of race relations.

We need as our ambassador someone who wants in his or her heart to get on with Brexit, and to do it promptly, properly and thoroughly.

A particularly striking need for the UK to escape the EU emerged a week or so ago from the Government’s consultation document Technical consultation on motor insurance: consideration of the European Court of Justice ruling in the case of Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav d.d (C-162/13). It does not sound very exciting, but it is a real Continue reading

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The Trouble with Occam

ciceroSome things, course, obviously either true or not true. “The atomic weight of carbon is 14” is not the sort of fact which admits of very much argument. Neither is it a fact which is very interesting to most people. Most people are much more interested in questions which admit of a great deal of argument. Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for the United States. Global warming is an existential threat. The European Union does more harm than good. Hmm. Maybe, maybe not.

I have always thought that a version of Occam’s razor is quite a good place to start. It is the general notion that, where there are competing explanations of something, the simplest is the more probable. Or as Bertrand Russell put it:

Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities

One application of all of this is the cui bono rule, which is often attributed to Cicero, although Cicero himself ascribed to Lucius Cassius[1]. A court should ask itself who is likely to benefit from a particular crime; that person may well be the criminal.

It is not an infallible rule, of course. Nor is my variant, which goes something like this:

Where there are competing versions of the truth, the one most infected by cognitive bias is the one less likely to be true.

Putting flesh on the bones of Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation as to why someone thinks something is true is often that Continue reading

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Deep water

2016_mirage-outback_studio_3-4_ivory-dune_shadowedA friend of mine was kind enough to let me try his Hobie kayak yesterday, off the beach of Hove.

These are clever. Instead of using your arms, you use your feet. They have paddle efforts, a bit like a turtle, so you can use the big muscles in your legs to cut along, instead of your arms. Brilliant.  After a while, I had not a twinge of backache, which is my usual problem with kayaks.  I thought it was great.

One of these chaps would be a good way of getting to the many coves around here which are inaccessible from land. They even have Continue reading

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Holiday Congestion in the Air


My internet connection, always a shade dodgy, gets terrible during the Christmas holidays, almost certainly because there are people around here who have holiday shacks, to which they bring their children, who spend their days downloading “entertainment” via Spotify and other things.

The little rotters should be outside running up and down sand dunes imho.

My chap at Telstra has emailed me with what his technical Continue reading

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Boxing Daze

rainyIt was 40.9 degrees C here at Myponga Beach yesterday, according to my weather station. But I woke up today to wind, rain and a less balmy Boxing Day 18.

There is something a bit odd, for someone brought up in the Northern Hemisphere, about Christmas happening mid-summer.  In the North, Christmas was of course the pagan mid-winter festival of Yule until it got highjkacked by the Christians.  The silly red Father Christmas suits look even sillier than they did at home when their synthetic threads sparkle like Babycham in the sun. Reindeers are not the sort of thing one finds in the wild around here. And of course, a big roast bird with lashings of brussels sprouts and walnut stuffing, followed by Christmas pudding with brandy butter, is not really Continue reading


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