Things to See, People to Do

Now that I'm no longer spending six hours a day snorting derision at powerpoint presentations, I've got time to do useful things... building a computer out of spare parts for a friend. It's four times faster and twice as reliable as the old one. And refuses point blank to connect to the modem. After three telephonic consulations with NTL in India, they recommend...a new modem.

Someday soon I hope to have time to rebuild my own computer. being stood up three times in as many days by a man who says "buy you a beer" to mean "complain about my girlfriend", and "catch up" to mean "give you a blowjob". Maybe I should be the one standing him up? going to a public debate on Iraq and Islamophobia.

Special Branch made sure we all knew they were going to be there, just in case peace campaigners declared war on America The Great Satan. They weren't actually there of course.

The stewards tried to break up the meeting by quoting regulations. They left when someone told them what the regulations actually were.

The main speaker cancelled at the last moment - either because Special Branch called him too, or just because he generally does.

There was the inevitable "intervention" by an inept (though rather cute) rightwinger, who spoke in a stream of unconnected cliches - "What's the price of freedom?", "progress of democracy", "How many more 7/7s?" etc.

There was vague talk of a campaign of civil disobedience - which would require thousands of confident citizens unafraid to go to jail to make a point, whereas what we have is hundreds of people scared they'll go to jail anyway for no reason.

There was also talk of combatting police racism by getting more non-white officers in the force. This is a little like trying to tame hornets by releasing fruitflies into the swarm. letting the internet know what I thought of the latest episode of Dr Who,

...pure runaround. Almost no plot, not much characterisation, just a series of arbitrary problems stacked on top of each other with the clock ticking.

...*I am not interested in people [on TV] being emotional at me*. I don't find it cathartic, clensing or spiritually truthful and I don't think it reveals anything useful about the human condition. And even if it does I don't want it on Saturday evening when I'm supposed to be enjoying myself in front of TV aimed at people 30 years younger than me.


I suspect the thinking behind homeopathy originally looked something like this:

1) Arsenic (for instance) kills in large doses.
2) In smaller doses it doesn't kill, but induces illness. So the "bad" effect is lessened by dilution.
3) In smaller doses still, it can be a treatment for angina, and indeed impotence. So now the bad has flipped over into the good.
4) So therefore if you continue to dilute the doses, the good effects will be further magnified.

(3) is obviously an error, though an understandable one. (4) is a second, seperate error.

One issue is that there are actually two incompatible versions of homeopathy. One uses thinking like that above. The other, which I think derives from misunderstanding the first, and is in a distinct minority, is that the effect of the substance is not reversed but simply increased by dilution.

The first will use caffine as a sedative. The second will use a very small dose of a a strong sedative. The second is the one "verified" by the Bienvenu's "Memory of Water" experiments.

However, I think the situation is even more complicated than that, because a lot of fans of homeopathy have such a vague understanding of its principles that they can flip-flop between the two different homeopathies.

Ann Coulter's eulogy on the late great Reverend Jerry Falwell,

Which is the simpler explanation? Are people like Coulter, Phelps and Robertson really exactly as deranged and hypocritical as they appear, or are they deep-cover agents putting themselves through hell to slowly undermine groups almost as demented as they're pretending to be?

I think Coulter started out as a genuine right-winger who occasionally said shocking things to get attention, and has drifted into being an automatic contrarian.

and how to write bad popular science books.

* Use exclamation marks at least three times on each page.
"...and that's a lot of nothing!"
" holes fulful all the requirements for being the location of hell!"
"...a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion times! Wow!"

* Use units that sound like they give you a feel of scale, but don't.
"...enough water to fill three hundred football stadiums."
"If the earth were the size of the solar system, a string would be the size of a tree."
"A million years - that's ten thousand grandfather's lifetimes."

* Try to make scientists interesting by making their lives sensational.

"Alan Turing (who may or may not have committed suicide by swallowing cyanide because he couldn't live with being gay)..."
"Einstein fled Hitler's Germany as a Jew to the safety of tolerant America."
"Kurt Godel starved himself to death because he became paranoid that everyone was trying to poison him. However, several years before this..."
"The great mathematician Richard Montague, shortly before his violent death at the hands of a crazed prostitute..." getting back to writing.

1 comment: