Category Archives: Culture

What is it with Puritans and Witchhunts?

salemI never been a great fan of religion, let alone missionaries. Among Christians, the Catholics are particularly unwelcome; by large, the Protestant puritans have generally caused less trouble. But bizarrely, puritans do go in for witchhunts. Famously, of course, it was Salem, but it certainly hasn’t stopped there.

Take Oxfam for example, which has recently been in the press. The offence? It turns out that some of their people have been using prostitutes in Haiti, and other disaster struck places.

Now, I am not an expert in prostitutes, by any means, but I imagine that if you have chosen that particular profession, a major natural disaster – the sort of thing that will get Oxfam turning up – is likely to be very bad for business. I’m not saying it’s a good business, or something that we should encourage. I am simply saying that if a particular young woman – or even a somewhat older woman – chooses to earn her income by offering sex for money, then she will be among the many people adversely affected by a national disaster. So, a natural disaster happens. Business dries up for this young woman. That’s bad. After a little while, the aid agencies turn up, with their cardboard boxes full of food and their white SUVs full of earnest do-gooders.

And here’s the thing. If you happen to be a prostitute, and if one of these do-gooders in a white SUV is willing and able to be a good customer, that is not bad news. On the contrary, it is Continue reading

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Flopsie Black

UCL and the Natural History Museum has done some work on the DNA of “Cheddar Man”, a UK resident of around 10,000 years ago who has been remarkably well-preserved in a cave, rotting only slowly. They have concluded that he was probably quite dark-skinned with blue eyes. They might or might not be right about that. They got the talented Dutch identical twin modellers – the Kennis brothers – to a 3-D representation of what he might have looked like according to that view before he started rotting. Here is the result, as it appears on the Kennis and Kennis Reconstructions website:

Kennis blackNow the flopsies, of course, just love this story. Here is the picture as it appears in the Guardian Continue reading

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Grid Kids are Creepy

seb gridOne of the sillier things about F1 motor racing is the grid girls. They have been a feature of the sport for many years, standing around smiling, but doing not a lot.

Their excuse is to hold lollipops to show who is who on the starting grid. Continue reading

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The English are Best

Strava heatmapThe Strava heatmap, which tracks where people run around with fitbits on their wrists,  might or might not tell us something interesting about the location of military bases around the world.

But the UK picture suggests that the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish are pretty lazy buggers, compared to the English.

Either that, or Continue reading

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There is no Accounting for Google Tastes

Google accountsEither Windows has recently done something really tedious to stop Gmail working in Outlook. Just to annoy Google? Or Google has recently done something to the same effect. Just to annoy Microsoft?

I have four main email accounts. My personal one, which is a Microsoft-hosted one, which works fine and is easy. My chambers one for work, which involves a weird and wonderful exchange system which is German and therefore requires a degree in computer science and a certificate from the EU to do anything useful with. A Gmail account, to which all my exchange server stuff gets automatically sent so I can actually read it, even if I am using my tablet or my phone.  And finally, a groovy family one, set up by my son Charlie, which ends in “io” instead of “com”. That is supposed to be for “Indian Ocean” apparently, but since there is relatively little demand for localised email addresses in the Indian Ocean, it has been adopted somehow by clever people on dry land with a quirky sense of style.

Anyway, after a considerable amount of faffing around, I eventually worked out how to fix the Gmail one. It turns out that buried within Google there is another password regime. Not your normal Google password.  Oh no. A specially annoying second one. With 16 letters. I found the following advice. After five very annoying steps, here is the key to whole Continue reading

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Why Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Why Feminism Widens the Divide between Rich and Poor

MarilynThere is a theory about why gentlemen prefer blondes which started as a sort of academic joke. It goes like this. It is much easier to tell whether a blonde woman is healthy or not.  Sick blondes look red and blotchy, whereas illnesses in brunettes, with their darker skin, are harder to spot. But then evolutionists tended to take the theory a bit more seriously; after all, there is indeed an evolutionary advantage for a man in choosing a healthy-looking blonde as a mate, since he can be better assured that she will be able to bear and look after healthy children.

Not all that far up the road from this theory is one about feminism. Before feminism, there was relatively little opportunity really smart men to meet really smart women. They would meet the children of their parents’ friends, of course, and their neighbours. They really wouldn’t meet many women at all at university, because there were very few women at university. If they qualified as young doctors, it would meet nurses, and if they joined an office, they would meet secretaries.  Some nurses and secretaries are smart, but not all.

Now, there is much more opportunity for really smart men to meet really smart women. As fellow students at university. As colleagues in their professional life. And in every Continue reading

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Vale Posgate

Posgate 14It was very sad news that my old friend Ian Posgate died last week.

Personally, I am not very good at being told what to do by people I regard as less clever than me; such instructions tend to bring out the anarchist in me. As soon as I met Ian, it became apparent that I was a mere amateur in this regard: Ian had elevated this sort of insubordination into an art form. And since Ian was markedly clever, he had plenty of grist for his mill.  It brought him considerable success, and also some hurdles.

I first came across him some 30 years ago, after his first marriage had collapsed.  He took up with my lovely friend Sally, who lived in the flat above me in Notting Hill.  Ian would cheerfully wander down to the local newsagent on a Sunday morning in pyjamas and dressing gown, delightfully oblivious to more conventional social mores. Not only was he great fun, but he had very wide interests, and we became friends. Happily, he and Sally soon got married.

It was only after I got to know him that I discovered that he was really quite famous: dubbed “Goldfinger” by the press as by far the most successful underwriter at Lloyds. His success was built in part, I think, on his whole approach to life.  He would make snap judgements about everything from politics to art, business, and people and those initial judgements were usually pretty accurate. And he would act on them.  But he was never tied down to those judgements: if his ever-sensitive nose smelled anything on the wind of change, he would promptly make the appropriate adjustments.  That being his method, he was ever keen to share intelligence with people from Continue reading

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The Real Nigger in the Woodpile

The_Nigger_in_the_WoodpileAnne Marie Morris, the MP for Newton Abbot in Devon, has been disciplined for saying, in the context of a discussion about Brexit:

Now I’m sure there will be many people who’ll challenge that, but my response and my request is look at the detail, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Now we get to the real nigger in the woodpile, which is, in two years what happens if there is no deal?

Well, the American expression “nigger in the woodpile” (meaning an important issue that is being overlooked) is somewhat antique, and probably best avoided in public speech. But it is really less offensive than many other epithets that are regularly thrown around, like imperialist pig, pakeha, bog-trotter, breeder, red-neck and Continue reading

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Mr 50%

Sadiq Khan has condemned the London Bridge attack as ‘deliberate and cowardly’.

Well, it was plainly deliberate. But cowardly? I do not think so. The perpetrators must surely have known that there was a very real risk that they would be killed. And they were. Cruel? Yes. Irrational? Yes. Deplorable? Yes. Cowardly? No.  So Mr Khan is only 50% right.

Sadiq Khan is not the only one who has been talking pious nonsense about this. Several statements have been made to the effect that these terrorists are out of line with Islam. Well, actually, they are Continue reading

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Recap

CrosswordThis weekend’s Times Crossword was unusually easy.

Except 1 down. What has “recap” got to do with playing-fields? I cannot see it, for the life of me. It fits. But it is right?

Anyway, if you send it in before Wednesday night, you might find out. Or even win £20. But only if you live in Great Britain.

Which Continue reading

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