Friday 30 July, 2021

Quote of the Day

”Edith wholly ignorant. She said that port was made with methylated spirit: she knew this for a fact because her charwoman told her.”

  • Evelyn Waugh, writing of Edith Sitwell, in his diary.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Mendelssohn | Song without Words | Jacqueline du Pré


A recording I’ve never heard before. Lovely.

Long Read of the Day

The thermocline of truth by Rob Miller.

In organisations, reality is not always what it seems. Why is it that often things look rosy right up until they fall apart?

Among other things, this is the best piece I’ve seen about one of the biggest miscarriage of British justice in at least 50 years — the way the UK Post Office prosecuted, bankrupted and destroyed the lives of hundreds of innocent postmasters by accusing them for theft while all the while the ‘missing’ money was an artefact of a bug in the Post Office’s accounting system.

It also provides an analytical way of explaining why those at the very top of large organisations often have no idea of what’s going on until it’s too late.


Thanks to Charles Arthur, who alerted me to it.

Chart of the Day

FT comment:

The three brought in combined after-tax profits of almost $5bn a week. At $56.8bn for the quarter, the total was almost double the year before and 30 per cent more than Wall Street had predicted. They generated a combined $189.4bn in revenue — 39 per cent more than the same period the year before, and some $15bn more than Wall Street had been expecting.

Sweating (contd.)

Further to the item yesterday about the lethality of humidity and the role of sweating in protecting humans, this lovely email arrived from Jonathan Rees (Whom God Preserve):

You have between 1 and 4 million sweat glands. In a sense they are like a distributed mini kidneys for pushing fluid across a membrane and reabsorbing some ions. More sweat glands than nephrons (some say…)

Max output is said to be 4 litres per hour (more than your kidneys). You can’t maintain this without constant fluid. When I taught medical students — in days when you could ad lib more — I used to make a comparison with how much beer you could drink in the bar and how often you had to visit the loo.

Humans are sweating machines. As we moved from the forest to the savannah — dry heat — we lost body hair to facilitate sweating because we became very energetic primates. Humans are better at losing heat than any other mammal.

The evolutionary problem then became how to protect the skin from UV (past-middle age bald professors of dermatology know hair is a great sunblock). The solution was re-badge melanins, molecules that absorb in the visible spectrum, but also absorb in the 290-400nm region (skin cell DNA damage max in 290-310nm). Old wine, new bottles. This is why blogging is good for autodidacts (like me).

Funny also how ’sweating’ became viewed as a vulgar term in Victorian times. (As in “horses sweat but ladies merely perspire.”). This was doubtless because the upper classes did no work. Paraphrasing Bertrand Russell’s great definition:

”Work comes in two varieties: the first involves altering the position of matter relative to the earth’s surface; the second is telling other people to do so. The first is agreeable and well-paid; the second is not.”

Gillian Tett on Trump and professional wresting

Very interesting podcast in the Media Masters series. The interviewee was Gillian Tett who’s now Editor-at-Large (whatever that means) at the Financial Times. Something she said about reporting Trump caught my attention. Here it is:

Well, I think that Trump is a symptom of many things, a growing level of polarization. But not just politically, also in terms of epistemology, in terms of how you process information. And there’s a lot of soul searching that needs to happen in the media world around this, because as journalists we’re trained to assume that command of language and words equates to credibility and respect and because we are trained to think and linear sequences, then everybody else must basically respect that and aspire to do the same. And of course the reality is that’s not the case at all. Much of the time, many people communicate in different ways, not through literal text-based analysis like journalists do, and Trump’s genius in some ways. And I use that word in a descriptive way, not in an admiring way, to tap into the kinds of communication styles that journalists were often very ill-equipped to understand. I write in my book about how I went to a world wrestling ring once because a friend of mine had told me if I wanted you to understand Trump, I had to go to a wrestling ring because the reality was that most of the American population knew him through wrestling, not through The Apprentice on TV.

But because wrestling is mostly a mass market, not elite sport. Most of the elites who were writing about Trump didn’t even realize that. And when you went into wrestling, when you realize that the performative aspect in terms of the crowd chanting and the fake aggression and the name calling and the staged contests and all of that were exactly what Trump had borrowed lock, stock and barrel for his political rallies. And elite journalists were very poorly placed to understand that because not only for the most part, are they not been to wrestling matches, but they tended to take him literally, but not seriously to quote Selena Zito, the journalist, as opposed to the crowds who were taking him seriously, but not literally because they were seeing it through the kind of performance and style of wrestling.

And I think in the aftermath of the whole Trump era, journalists need to really think about the degree to which not only are their perceptions of the world shaped by their own tribalism and that defensiveness in the face of the attacks by Trump, but also the way that they communicate and think, they often extrapolate that to other people where they look at how they think the world should work, rather than actually trying to ask other people humbling quietly, how other people think the world works. And that’s the lesson that I need to learn about to anybody else. You know, I got the Brexit vote completely wrong because I’d slipped into a period of rather lazy arrogance of looking at the UK from a distance. And after that, that was one reason why I remembered, you know, why I thought I’ve got to relearn my anthropology and go back to listening rather than just imposing my own assumptions on people.

I am thinking of replacing my electric car with a petrol car and have some questions.

From Reddit

  1. I have heard that petrol cars can not refuel at home while you sleep? How often do you have to refill elsewhere? Is this several times a year? Will there be a solution for refueling at home?

  2. Which parts will I need service on and how often? The car salesman mentioned a box with gears in it. What is this and will I receive a warning with an indicator when I need to change gear?

  3. Can I accelerate and brake with one pedal as I do today with my electric car?

  4. Do I get fuel back when I slow down or drive downhill? I assume so, but need to ask to be sure.

  5. The car I test drove seemed to have a delay from the time I pressed the accelerator pedal until it began to accelerate. Is that normal in petrol cars?

  6. We currently pay about 1.2p per mile to drive our electric car. I have heard that petrol can cost up to 10 times as much so I reckon we will lose some money in the beginning. We drive about 20,000 miles a year. Let’s hope more people will start using petrol so prices go down.

  7. Is it true that petrol is flammable? Should I empty the tank and store the petrol somewhere else while the car is in the garage?

  8. Is there an automatic system to prevent gasoline from catching fire or exploding in an accident. What does this cost?

  9. I understand that the main ingredient in petrol is oil. Is it true that the extraction and refining of oil causes environmental problems as well as conflicts and major wars that over the last 100 years have cost millions of lives? Is there a solution to these problems?

  10. I have heard that cars with internal combustion based engines are being banned to enter more and more cities around the world, as it is claimed that they tend to harm the environment and health of their citizens?? Is that true??

I may have more questions later, but these are the most important ones to me at the moment. Thank you in advance for your reply.

(Many thanks to Gerard for spotting it.)

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