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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Telling the truth

22 Sep 2008 Leave a comment

For the record, I am not a big fan of spending a Trillion dollars on bailing out financial companies because they got it wrong; if had a business and it was close to collapsing because I made mistakes would any government come running to help me? NO! How much of a free market is the free market. Thank you, rant over.

Categories: Activism, Opinion Tags: ,

Beer harms science

19 Feb 2008 2 comments

The report (or hypothesis) goes something like this…

One of the most frequent social activities in the world is drinking alcohol – around two billion are thought to partake – and Dr Tomas Grim, who is a behavioural ecologist at Palacky University, Czech Republic, decided to investigate, reporting the discovery that it harms science in the prestigious ecological journal Oikos.

It continues…

In Europe, most alcohol is consumed as beer, according to the World Health Organisation. “Based on well known negative effects of alcohol consumption on cognitive performance, I predicted negative correlations between beer consumption and several measures of scientific performance,” Dr Grim says.

The results being…

Using a survey of the publications since 1980 of avian ecologists from the Czech Republic, which has the highest per capita beer consumption rate in the world (157 litres each year, or 176 pints), he discovered “that increasing per capita beer consumption is associated with lower numbers of papers, total citations, and citations per paper (a surrogate measure of paper quality).”

(Source: The Telegraph)

In my opinion, this study falls into the “WTF” category, or even the “Total watse of research money” bucket. Whilst I accept that this report has probably been distilled and edited for the benefits of the newspaper’s readers, the hypothesis that nations drinking more beer produce less scientific work, or at least work of questionable quality, does not take into consideration such factors as social changes (Czech Republic got rid of communism at the start of the 90s), it does not question the number of scientists withing the country (how many have left to find better paid jobs elsewhere in Europe), or even the number of research papers being done on avian related subjects (the study of birds is surely not a top priority in this part of the world).

I can only conclude that this study hits those areas the study itself is looking at (i.e. quality) and this should be held up as another example of questionable science. It is almost self-analysing – “why is this study so bad”.

Categories: Beer, Opinion, Science

Customer Services – again

22 Oct 2007 Leave a comment

It takes just one week away from Prague, and a Pizza delivery, to put into perspective the poison that is the cult of a bad attitude “service” workers have. It contrasts greatly that even the, albeit somewhat superficial, attitudes that store clerks or waiters have in Chicago compared to Prague, I can even compare the attitudes favorably in the Western parts of Czech Republic, those areas that are directly under the imported, pleasant attitudes that influence that German tourists demand (i.e. in the Spa Towns). My point is the simple fact that it is so refreshing to experience a pleasant attitude when parting with my hard earned cash.

The waitress in the restaurant deserves the tip, she works hard for it, the store clerk has a pleasant two minutes passing the time of day, the people in shop don’t have the dejecting “I’d rather you weren’t here” look on them. This is what you get outside of Prague, so what is it about this place that makes them conform to the rigid requirement of general unpleasantness. The highlight of my first day back in Prague is the Pizza delivery girl muttering at me in disapproving terms because she had come to the wrong floor and had to go up one more floor to deliver the pizzas and in some way it seems to be my fault because I answered the door.

There is simply no need for this. It isn’t like this everywhere you go in the country so it is not a social attitude of the people as a whole. Yes, the day might be crap, but there is no need to share this feeling with everyone else. It doesn’t even apply to all major cities in the world – at least in my experience. So why does it have to be this way here. I take a deep breath and move on. It doesn’t have to be this way, stop it now people!

It looks like its not just me who has noticed the lottery based customer service experience, The Prague Post has a fabulous article all about this – so its not just me 🙂

The Prague Post (via Capharnaum)

Categories: Opinion, Travel

Times Atlas

3 Sep 2007 Leave a comment

02_09_2007---11_53__204241aWhilst I am not a great believer in pinning the blame for everything on global warming, the new imagery in the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World is interesting from the point of viewing changes in the natural world. It is all too easy to simply look at the Aral sea, for example, and say with total certainty the shrinking water levels is only to do with global warming. How do you factor in bad resource management, for example, or the diminishing supply of water to the lake. But these arguments aside, the atlas imagery is interesting to view the changing world.

Categories: News, Opinion

A bad case of self-rightousness

25 Aug 2007 Leave a comment

There are, supposedly, a number of internet sites that are increasingly turning to desparate measures to alienate users who decide to visit their websites. They are banning, outright, the use of FireFox. Why? Simply because of a plugin called Adblock plus. What Adblock does is removes adverts from webpages, essentially making the whole web page experience a damn site better. Now this does not seem to happen if you visit, for example, Google. Google Ads are still there regardless of where you are. However, these self-righteous idiots who decide to employ a wholesale ban on the use if FireFox users seem to miss the point.

Read more…

Categories: Activism, Opinion, WTF

More ill-conceived ideas of our time

6 Aug 2007 Leave a comment

The BBC iPlayer.

I signed up. I received my ID a day later. The website looked good. I was excited. I could watch BBC TV at home, catch up on the last seven days. Fabulous.

The first problem. What is there to actually watch? After going through all the programs available, I could only find one thing to watch. Being an ex-pat, it has been a long time since I was able to watch something on UK TV, the list of TV shows meant nothing to me. A few factual, documentary style episodes did look appealing, but most lasted an hour and I wanted instant gratification.

The second problem. Being an ex-pat.

You can only watch TV shows from the last seven days if a). You are currently connecting in UK and b). Ideally have a TV license. Requirement B can be overcome quite easily, one way or the other. Point A raises the following questions:

  • If you are tech-savvy enough to go through the registration process, download and install the player, go through the second registration process and get to the point of actually wanting to download a show, the chances are that you already have a recording device at home. If there is something you want to watch you’d have set up the device to record.
  • If you have a device to record then you can watch it anytime, maybe in a year or two when there is enough time.
  • If you are in the UK and really want to watch TV on my laptop, then you would probably have a digital tuner for the machine. With one of these things it is possible to record the show directly on to the laptop and watch any time that is convenient.
  • If you were still living in the UK, but went on holidays (or even worked) outside of the UK, then even though you are a resident, have a TV license, you can’t watch the show where you are because the BBC knows the computer is located outside the UK. Its part of their conditions.
  • The chances are that if you knew you would be away and really wanted to watch “The Weakest Link” then you would buy recording device or you’d have Sky+.

The likely audience who will want to jump on to such things are either residents of the UK who are desperate to watch TV shows from the past seven days on their computers, or ex-pats, like me who seem to have this idealized vision that BBC TV is still the best since we haven’t actually watch any British TV for at least the last five years. Except we can’t. And that’s the strange thing, the audience is likely to fall into one of these categories and half can’t watch it. Most ex-pats would be willing to pay the license fee to watch BBC TV wherever they are.

At the end of the day we are probably being spared the torment of finally realizing that those “good old days” of BBC TV are best left as happy, deluded memories. Of the shows available, the good documentaries will be available on BBC World, the comedy will come to DVD and the rest are best left unwatched (or downloaded from other sources). How long will it be before the service is part of the digital Freeview boxes for the next generation of domestic viewing, or as a downloads to the mobile phone. Then the whole of idea of watching on the computer will becomes somewhat pointless. Except for us ex-pats who just don’t care how much it costs because we really would like to watch something different.

**Update**
Then the next problem is forseeing ISPs trying to extort money to cover distribution costs. I am not sure about this argument since the BBC is utilising a distribution system that already exists and the same argument can be applied to any popular website/service. If people are already paying for a distribution service they expect to be able to use this service as they like. If they need more bandwidth they pay for it. I am still not convinced that distribution of content using the internet, within the UK, is the right way to go. Using current broadcast systems can be leveraged for this purpose.

Categories: Culture, Entertainment, Opinion

Read the sunspots

21 Jun 2007 Leave a comment

I love science. It is so wonderfully abstract and hypocritical whilst at the same time trying maintain a veneer of respectability (see also theology). As Charles Fort observed, science argues according to their own beliefs rather than the rules of evidence, inconvenient data being ignored, suppressed, discredited or explained away.

And so it is that the current apocalyptical vision being touted by all is that our world will end because we are heating it up. Science tries to back this up. True (and I accept) that humans are affecting the world they live in and needlessly wasting resources that should have been used more conservatively, even the use of alternative resources for power, fuel, heating, etc should never have been as overlooked before the current "crisis" came along. My take on this is that we still need to think more about conservation and reduction in emissions and moving away from the dependency on fossil fuels, but at the same time it is always worth challenging these currently held beliefs and understandings (not just in science but for everything) especially if they are being used for political and popularist agendas.

The Canadian Journal "Financial Post" is running a series of articles about deniers (scientific heretics), and in this particular article the suggestion is that the bigger climate picture is being ignored, that climate change is and always will be changing. I haven’t yet come across a suitable explanation of why the ice ages started or even finished or even why no one is suggesting another one is on its way again some time soon – again if we really don’t know why or how these things started who is to say there isn’t another one heading our way again. On this very subject, R. Timothy Patterson writes about what he found at the bottom of a fjord in British Columbia and how the evidence his research team has uncovered challenges the popularist idea that we are heating up.

Categories: Opinion, Science