Monthly Archives: July 2012

Wallander – the Swedish tourist industry must hate the series

Watched a couple of Wallanders and not sure if I enjoyed it or not.

The scenery was flat and unpleasant, misty, muddy roads and paths. Houses were grubby, untidy, poorly kept and maintained and the whole thing was totally depressing.

Detectives were unshaven and sullen, no one seemed to converse with anyone and the whole thing was most unfriendly. Is this supposed to be the new dark mystery style?

I am sure the real Sweden can’t be like this, but this was a very poor advert for the country. They should take a leaf out of Midsomer Murders’ book.

Evolution with Him or without Him?

When it comes to religion, the bulk of people finally came to accept evolution and have adapted their beliefs to allow for evolution having been designed by God. This, of course, did not occur until they were forced to accept it by overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and also not before thousands of  people were persecuted, hated and ostracised because of their acceptance or promotion of the theories of evolution.

As usual, when some new thinking comes along which challenges the bible or religious beliefs, every possible effort, twist or turn is taken to avoid accepting the obvious before finally absorbing it within religious belief as if it had always been part of it.

Evolution was anathema to religion, now it is God’s finest idea!

  • This is always the way – Earth is the centre of the universe now it revolves around the sun, organised religion killed people owing to them having promoted the truth, now they have absorbed it within their beliefs.
  • Gradually religions discover that sacrificing virgins does not actually cause the next year’s crop to be better so they drop the nonsense
  • Animal sacrifice to God have almost died out except in the most backward societies yet it is an important part of the bible
  • Some religions believe that cows are holy or pigs are “in” with Lucifer. In the past there were dozens of gods. Gradually through the obvious facts that the gods were not there, the number of gods has reduced, but for some reason, like the Greeks, the human race in general appears to be incapable of accepting the reduction to zero. What is interesting with the Greeks is that they couldn’t understand that something could be nothing. They finally did, but still clung to more than zero gods.

Looking back at religion in the past, horrific deeds were carried out in the name of God or gods, whereas enlightened individuals have never persecuted religion. That is the prerogative of religions themselves – they are forever persecuting each other. In the thirteenth century the pope said it was fine to kill people if they were not Christian, today some Muslim groups still think it is OK to kill people if they insult the prophet, Jews still abuse their male children, some religions in Africa carry out even worse abuse on young girls. It is all done in the name of one nonentity or another.

Enough. Every time religion is proven, absolutely proven to be wrong on any particular subject, it adapts itself and changes its beliefs. What a joke? The difference between a belief and a theory is that the former needs no evidence to support it and when it is proven to be wrong the belief just changes to another unproven course. Theory, on the other hand, is continually being tested by observation and experiment and refined.

However, returning to evolution, there are some groups, mainly  Christian, who believe in Creationism and forever complain that there is no record of evolution occurring that can be seen and measured.

The problem is with these people is that even when proof is demonstrated, they find idiotic reasons to disbelieve it.

Peter and Rosemary Grant have had the absolute privilege to witness and document evolution in progress.

From 1973 they spent six months a year on one of the Galapagos islands and have been studying the finches there. What they did not expect was that the island would suddenly be invaded by a larger finch from the mainland, but the resulting changes in the island finches showed evolution through competition to be demonstrated to them.

The larger mainland finch arrived in 1982 and its larger beak gave it an advantage over the island finches in competition for the seeds both consumed. The larger the beak, the easier to open the larger seeds.

In 2003 and 2004 there was a drought on the island and the larger beaked birds began eating almost all of the diminishing supply of large seeds. Of the original resident finches, those with larger beaks suffered seriously from this competition and started to die out.

However, among the island finches some had smaller beaks and they concentrated on eating the smaller seeds and managed to survive the drought. Island finches now have smaller beaks than they did in the early nineteen-seventies.

Interestingly the Grants also noticed that after an earlier drought in 1977, before the invaders arrived, the island finches with the larger beaks became dominant as they were better able to survive by opening the larger seeds.

This is truly evolution through competition in action on the later case and evolution through adaptation in the earlier case. Both demonstrating changes through natural selection.

The citation during the Balzan prize they won states, “Peter and Rosemary Grant are distinguished for their remarkable long-term studies demonstrating evolution in action in Galápagos finches. They have demonstrated how very rapid changes in body and beak size in response to changes in the food supply are driven by natural selection. They have also elucidated the mechanisms by which new species arise and how genetic diversity is maintained in natural populations. The work of the Grants has had a seminal influence in the fields of population biology, evolution and ecology.”

The Creationists will either dispute the findings by quoting hoaxes like Piltdown Man or by stating that God had caused the effect in order to show man that he was interfering in matters he is not able to understand.

Regarding those who believe in evolution being one of God’s gifts to the world, it does, of course mean that in the bulk of instances, He did not get his designs right first time and has proven Himself to be not just incompetent, but also far short of perfect.

Why people should be subservient to, prostate themselves before, pray to and be totally ignored by this invented God is a mystery to me.

It is time the human race grew up and faced that final barrier. We gradually reduced the number of gods to one, is it not time, as the Greeks finally realised, to accept the true number. Zero!

The Image Has Repercussions On A Personal God

I placed this image on my FaceBook page with the comment “Every single smudge in this image, in addition to the face-on spiral and oblique spiral behind it, contains one hundred thousand million stars and this makes up a tiny, tiny proportion of the night sky. And all of this was created for us? Who is kidding who?” and I got one or two rather interesting comments which make it worth returning to the subject in a little more depth.

Two galaxies imaging over each other in a galaxy field

One comment was, “Interestingly, Tony, that is exactly why I believe in some sort of ‘God’. I’m not saying that I disagree with evolution, more that stuff is sometimes just too amazing to think that it is all just random…” and the other was, “The more we see of this universe, the more wonderful it gets, and the more it speaks to me of a glorious divine hand behind it all. I happen to think that evolution is God’s most creative idea!”

Firstly a little more description of what you are seeing. The Milky Way, best seen in the southern hemisphere, is our own galaxy. We are located part way along one if its spiral arms and because we are in its plane all we see is a “milkiness” which is some of the hundred thousand million or so stars which make up our galaxy. The face-on galaxy above is much smaller than ours, but has roughly the same shape so you can imagine the location of sol part way along one of those starfish like arms.

To get an idea of size, it takes a light beam 50,000 years to cross the milky way, our own galaxy, but it is only one of many. There are several in the local group of galaxies and M31, the most distant object visible to the naked eye is shown below left. We can’t see much of our own galaxy owing to vast amounts of interstellar dust obscuring our view along the axis. This dust is still forming new stars.Our local sister galaxy. M31 or the Andromeda Galaxy

M31 is about 2,750,000 light years away from us, but there is still work going on to finalise the distance  and it may well be as close as 2,500,000 or as far away as 2,900,000 light years. Now before anyone jumps on the fact that we don’t know exactly as being a failure of science, the distance will be more exactly known when a few more particular stellar incidents have been observed. But the important point is that the light has been travelling to us for 2.5 million years. What we see above left is what it looked like more than 2.5 million years ago.

It might sound as if these distances are vast, but what is being seen in the first image is mind-bogglingly further away. Just look at the tiny smudges around the edge of that image. Each of those is also a galaxy similar to the Milky Way or M31. If you look closely you can count dozens of them yet that image represents less than one millionth of the night sky.

Estimates, because, Barri, no one has yet had time to count them all, indicate that there are more than one hundred thousand million galaxies containing an average of one hundred thousand million stars. If you find the concept of these numbers in words difficult, then let me put it as a figure – 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

Because of the nature of light, we are also able to work out how far away those galaxies are and the answer is that they can be seen in all directions for some 10,000,000,000 light years. Beyond that the largest telescopes are looking back towards the big bang and galaxies then were still in the process of being formed. High energy objects are seen which it is thought eventually became galaxies. The explanations of this are rapidly growing more clear owing to the Hubble telescope and other new instruments.

What is the point of this post?

Well the first comment at the top of this post seems to suggest that there could be an all powerful being which created everything. There is no way of proving a negative so I must accept that as a possibility. Extending that possibility into a being which, is interested in each of us as individuals has no basis in fact and is such an arrogant belief that we should seriously fear the holders of such beliefs, very much indeed. People with these same beliefs, in the past, burned witches, stoned those they thought evil, murdered those of other beliefs and still damn anyone, who does not share their insanity, to eternal punishment in hell and to be forever damned with Lucifer. When they aren’t on crusades and murdering Islamic people, they are having their sky scrapers blown apart by their opposite numbers. Nice people with a nice God!

The second comment that evolution is God’s most creative idea takes us down the same path. If we call the creator “God”, for the sake of argument, then the comment might well be correct, although we’d really need to know a lot more about everything else in the universe before we could be sure that evolution on Earth is the most creative idea in the universe. It is also an interesting comment from the point of view that it makes no claims for God’s personal interference or interest in our lives and therefore carries some credibility for the rest of us.

So, both of the people who made comments have stated credible views.

Sadly, though, there will be people reading this (although they probably stopped long before this paragraph) believing that the earth is only six thousand years old and that all the evidence to the contrary, including the universe which surrounds us, was created at the same time to add some mystery to our lives. I can’t help but get angry with these people even though I am normally a most tolerant person. I don’t like to call people with strange beliefs “stupid”, but these can certainly be catalogued along with flat-Earthers.

I intend to come back to this subject in the future …. God willing of course?

Archers – don’t read if you are not up to at least 1st July

I have followed The Archers since the late eighties and it is the only “soap” I follow.

However, I am really unhappy about the new storyline involving David & Ruth Archer and their family.

David is the main witness to an assault on his cousin and the gang involved are intimidating him to not give evidence. So far they have mutilated their lifestock, obtained the children’s mobile numbers and threatened them, shot out security lights, cause a stampede on an open farm day, opened gates allowing lifestock out, interfered with farm equipment and so it goes on.

While such things might be normal goings-on in Albert Square, this is NOT Ambridge. The storyline is unreal.

I have no problem with the original assault on Adam, but the intimidation is ridiculous.

Threats to witnesses happen to fewer than 1% of people and, even then, are firmly dealt with by the police and usually defused once and for all. Systems are also put in place by police to identify the culprits and further more serious charges brought. See police crime statistics.

This storyline is giving the impression that intimidation actually works and David has been put in the situation where his own mother and wife are pleading with him to cave in to this bullying.

What message does this send out to criminals – who also watch and listen to soaps, incidentally?

I don’t know whether there has been a change in writers for the Archers, but this is all way off normal Archers stories and someone needs to do something about making this particular storyline end quickly and effectively. To think that this nonsense might drag on until the September court case is anathema.

I cannot be the only person who feels like this. BBC take note. You are changing the character of your programme for the worse. There are a multitude of interesting rural and agricultural storylines which could be followed without inventing something so rare and so unrealistic as this.

Dare say the writers will do what they want anyway. Criminals must be getting some great ideas from this particular storyline.

Levy, Villas-Boas & Rednapp – reflections

They say that time heals, but I sit here some weeks after Rednapp’s sacking and find that I still cannot reconcile Levy’s decision with good football sense.

Levy fired Martin Jol after a poor start to a season, he brought in less competent foreign managers on other occasions and fired one of those after only a few weeks. Tottenham is one of those clubs who seems to thrive on having a consistent management regime. Jol got that going and Rednapp proved it was correct.

I was very critical of Rednapp’s end to the last season when he had not concentrated on improving set-pieces and allowed too much freedom to Gareth Bale who is obviously better suited to be a winger, not an inside-left. Bale might like to think he is the next Ronaldo, but he is not that good in that way. He is brilliant on the left and Gareth Bale should concentrate on being himself, then others will be called the next Gareth Bale!

Rednapp allowed the season to drift away. Third place was lost to our arch rivals, Arsenal, and then our other main rivals, Chelsea, managed to steal our Champions’ League spot at the last second.

That could have infuriated Levy to the point where he made the irrational decision to dismiss Rednapp for a short period of uncharacteristic inconsistency. Short sighted, indeed.

Now we have another foreign manager. What can Villas-Boas do for Tottenham that Rednapp could not?

I have dreadful fears that 2012/3 will see us drop out of the top four or worse and that we will see yet another change in the next off-season to try to correct matters.

Levy, you have made a mistake. I’ll apologise for saying that if you prove me wrong, but know that you will not apologise when results show that I have got it right. That is because owners, these days, are so powerful they answer to no one, not even millions of fans worldwide who support this club.

Is Andy Murray in the final, or is it just a dream?

After 74 years Britain has a tennis player in the men’s singles’ final. It is one of those horrible records which seem to go on forever. I remember a period when Spurs had not won at Liverpool for some 60 years. Once they did, it opened the floodgates and they have hardly lost there since.

But what pressure on Andy now? We all know that he can beat Roger Federer, but on Friday the man was simply incredible against Djokovic. I had been willing Federer to beat Djokovic as I though he would be the easier opponent if Andy did reach the final, but part way through the third set I realised the old saying that you should be careful what you wish for. Federer took Djokovic to pieces in his semi-final and suddenly I realised that he wasn’t the easy option by any means.

Whatever happens on Sunday, I’m sure the whole of Scotland will be rooting for him. Even the presenter who said on BBC that it was “a wonderful day for England” when Andy won, will have got over the tirade of criticism from Scots and be all for him in the final.

Go on Andy, do your best, the record you are now trying to beat is 78 years old – to win the Championship … and in shorts!

Banks, Bankers & Executive Pay

I have been watching recent events with great interest. The Libor matter is difficult to understand and follow, but almost everything else is straightforward.

So, Libor first. It is quite obvious that there has been collusion between banks in fiddling the interest rate to their own advantage. Within hours of this becoming public the bankers are trying to pin the blame on government. Whether ministers or civil servants were involved is a total red herring. What the banks did was possibly illegal and definitely immoral.

Bob Diamond and other CEOs say that they were not aware of what was happening, yet it had been going on since 2009. These guys, with their multi-million pound salaries and even larger bonuses are supposed to be running the banks. Of course you don’t micromanage everything, that is why you delegate.

So these incompetent, cheating captains of banking did not properly delegate.

Whoever was fiddling the rates must have been someone’s responsibility. Why did he/she not stop it and report it upwards? The chain of command is there for just such eventualities and, in today’s world of unfair dismissal, no one is going to get dismissed for a single mistake, but where it involves the corruption of the system as outlined here, there should be a whole raft of dismissals and, hopefully, prosecutions too. I fear we will get neither and those who have fallen on their swords have spent the last several years building up reserves for themselves equivalent to multiple lottery wins. How good of them to resign and live the rest of their lives in luxury. Chance would be a fine thing.

So, executive pay. How did it get to this state? We all know, expect and probably don’t object to CEOs earning a lot of money, but it is the differential which seems to have gone mad. These guys seem to just vote themselves whatever figure they pluck out of the sky.

A consultant surgeon earns around £120k. Would we object to someone running a 10,000 person business earning double or treble or even quadruple that amount? Probably not if he/she did a great job, but that is not close to the £3,000,000 per annum being paid to these guys. It is silly money and also often linked to millions in extra bonuses and share options. OBSCENE is the only word.

So who will replace Bob Diamond? Someone currently earning 200k? So why not pay him 500k? Why offer millions? It does not make sense. They are playing with shareholders’ and clients’ money in setting these remuneration packages.

How does someone become a Bob Diamond? They are only ordinary guys who have a talent for performing well, but the difference between his ability and also-rans abilities are probably only marginal.

Somehow, executive pay must be capped and Britain should lead the way.

The NatWest saga: well this is just incompetence. When introducing a new or updated computer system what do you and I do? Unless we’re stupid we set up a restore point. So why did these idiots at the bank not set up a restore point.

Then all inputs and outputs are in their own individual files and, with storage costs could be kept for years, separate from the balances. That is how it is done. It means you can go back to the restore point and start again, adding in all the inputs and outputs after the system has been corrected.

Yes banks are big and yes, they have large numbers of customers and millions of transactions, but input and output files are always manageable. They are only data lists and should be independent of any account balances. That is the WHOLE idea!

Somewhere, someone installed that update without taking the precaution of ensuring the system was backed up and could be reinstated. There is no excuse for this and any CEO earning millions of pounds should be tearing heads off the incompetent idiots who allowed all of this to happen.

Frankly, of course, nothing any  of us say or do is going to improve the banks attitude to their customers, that they are just statistics and not real people.

Thanks, banks!