Tuesday, 18 September 2018

IGNORANCE IS BLISS



WARNING!
May contain sugar.
A couple of years ago, I was standing in a queue, waiting to pay for the lunch I had just bought from a shop at some English Heritage site I was visiting with Mrs Grump. The woman in front of me was complaining bitterly about the cartons of fruit juice; she was looking down the list of ingredients on the side of the boxes and was unhappy that they all seemed to contain sugar.

"Of course they contain sugar you idiot, it's fruit juice: where do you think sugar comes from? All living material contains sugar, plant and animal; if it didn't it wouldn't work". I didn't say; I must have been in a good mood that day.

This incident leads me on to the appalling level of scientific illiteracy among the general public. Ignorance makes you vulnerable: vulnerable to those who would exploit that ignorance for their own ends.

One popular area of exploitation is in the so-called "alternative food/medicine/whatever" racket. Purveyors of this nonsense will use the fact that you don't know your acid from your carbohydrate in order  to sell you some product with improbable qualities such as an ability to cure cancer with a fruit berry/cannabis/psychic chocolate, etc. 

On a stall in a local craft market there was someone selling something they call Himalayan Pink Salt which, among other unlikely things can reduce your blood pressure. Yes folks, never mind that the entire medical profession constantly warns about excessive salt in your diet and how this can lead to high blood pressure among other things; Himalayan Salt is "magic" so this rule doesn't apply.

Organic food producers warn constantly about "chemicals" that are used in conventional farming despite them having been proved safe to eat, without mentioning the chemicals they use, many of which are highly toxic indeed. Copper Sulphate is one example.

Another group of people who like to exploit public ignorance do so for entirely different reasons and you will often see articles on the internet which offer dire warnings about things which are, in most cases are completely harmless but can be made to seem otherwise. 

Probably the most widely distributed and well known of these is the Dihydrogen Monoxide hoax. Its creators have been campaigning for many years to get the substance banned in food production, citing just how dangerous it is. They even have their own website DHMO.ORG where they warn that 

"Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol."

They go on to warn that 

"Each year, Dihydrogen Monoxide is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions upon millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment. Some of the known perils of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:
  • Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
  • Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
  • Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
  • DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
  • Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
  • Contributes to soil erosion.
  • Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
  • Contamination of electrical systems often causes short-circuits.
  • Exposure decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.
  • Found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors and lesions.
  • Given to vicious dogs involved in recent deadly attacks.
  • Often associated with killer cyclones in the U.S. Midwest and elsewhere, and in hurricanes including deadly storms in Florida, New Orleans and other areas of the southeastern U.S.
  • Thermal variations in DHMO are a suspected contributor to the El Nino weather effect."

Any child having a first world education and who is aged over ten years should know that Dihydrogen Monoxide, or H2O as it's usually called is nothing more than water. Having said that, all the claims made about the dangers of the stuff are absolutely true and without any form of critical examination of the claims made can result in the public fear of something we cannot live without.

This particular hoax doesn't actually have any malicious intent but is intended to show how easy it is to fool people and can therefor be considered more as an educational tool. In 1997, a 14 year old American science student Nathan Zohner, handed out a convincing paper arguing for the banning of DHMO which was supported by most of his fellow students. You can read more about this story here

Since its inception, it has grown into a major industry with its own web site. It has even managed to spawn a counter movement called the "Friends of Hydrogen Hydroxide". The claims made on this site are not to be trusted however as they obviously have financial connections with the DHMO industry.

Elsewhere, in a Hysterical article in the Daily Express (where else) they manage to take time off from warning us about migrants to tell us of a hidden danger hidden in our apples.

The headline warns of a "shocking video" which reveals the truth about wax which is coating our apples and asks just how dangerous is it.

Danger!
If anyone actually reads beyond the headline and the video, they will see that the wax is produced by the apple itself and is actually beneficial as it prevents bacterial infection. Some producers supplement this wax with an extra coating to protect it in storage but this is made from natural sources and is harmless. Wax, you will learn if you enquire further, cannot be processed by the human digestive system so passes straight through. Whether that makes your (now wax coated) turds easier to pass, I haven't managed to learn.

I don't know if the waxy apple hoax is supposed to be educational or a straightforward bit of malicious scare mongering by a tabloid rag to sell more copies, I also haven't managed to learn.

If you really do want to learn more about fruit and wax then click on this link to an excellent article here.

This is a link to the Express scare story as well if you want to read it for yourself.









Friday, 7 September 2018

AFRICAN VISIT LATEST



Prime Minister finds time to "Strut Her Funky Stuff, 
Sho' Nuff" during intense trade negotiations with 
African leaders. "It's not just 
that Boris Johnson 
who can dazzle those flag waving 
Piccaninnies" 
she announced.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a lucrative new deal with Nigeria after returning from trade talks with African leaders.

Speaking to Parliament she said "I have been in negotiation with senior African politicians and legal experts including Barrister Williamson Robinson, a solicitor from Lagos, Nigeria and we are in the process of settling an arrangement whereby he will transfer 50% of his client's assets to the UK for just a handling fee of £195 payable by Western Union".

"This is 100% risk free and all modalities have been taken care of", she announced.

Describing this as only the first of many deals she has set up. She has also agreed to accept on behalf of Mrs Edwards Doris, widow of Engr Edwards Edwards and who is sadly now dying from long time cancer of the breast, the sum of $26,000,000 (twenty six million USD) which will be used to pay for Churches, motherless babies and the NHS.

"Who needs £350 million pounds from Brexit when we can strike deals like these?" said Mrs May.




SPEAKING OF BORIS


Boris Johnson has just announced the result of his marriage referendum and claims a victory for common sense as his partnership with Marina Wheeler ends on 29th March 2019. Boris claims that the result will be much better for him now he doesn't have to listen to the opinions of a completely un-elected Wife, and that the £350 million a week in savings will be put to better use.

Claims that he had already been in negotiation with another party for a better deal while still officially committed to his first one have been vigorously denied by himself. 

He has announced that he and his ex partner will be continuing to support their four children but hasn't given any details about how he intends to do this although he has rejected all suggestions made so far as unworkable and a betrayal of the people.








Friday, 31 August 2018

AND ANOTHER THING......................


Don't start every sentence with the word "so"; it's bloody annoying.

Don't pronounce "g" as a "k"; it's "something", not "somethink".

When you are talking?
Try to be more positive about what you are saying?
Up talk makes you sound like a foreigner?
Or even American?
Which is even worse?
Try to learn the difference between a question and a statement?

Geography not joggraphy. Write this out 50 times.

Hand a trusted friend a large stick and ask them to hit you with it every time you say "ya know" during a sentence.

It's a "chest of drawers" not a "chester draws". I actually saw it written like this once and I laughed so much I nearly went to the lavatory in my trousers.

Don't send me inspirational posts by David Avocado Wolfe because I will be very rude about it.

Likewise, inspirational posts that show someone standing on a rocky outcrop in a teapot pose with the legend that suggests that people would stop dying from wars, famine and natural disasters with positive thinking, crystal healing or by becoming a Vegan.

Likewise, posts telling me I can't fly the English flag because of immergrants; especially when you say it's not aloud. And don't tell me it's been band.

Likewise, Tommy Robinson: just - no, don't.

Don't call me a grammar fascist; it's not my fault you are only semi-literate. 




ROCK ON, PRIME MINISTER


In the novel "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman there is a piece explaining how Demons dance. It the UK edition of the book, Demons dance like the British group at the Eurovision Song Contest. US readers would not understand this so their edition describes them as dancing like the white group on Soul Train.

After watching this performance, we will only ever imagine Demons dancing like the British Prime Minister.

Jeremy Corbyn, eat your heart out.







Wednesday, 29 August 2018

SIXPENCE


Following on from my last story, I thought I would tell you another tale from Wickham Lane. 

In 1934, my Grandparents Bill and Ivy Wray moved into No 59 with their two young children Eileen (my Mum), aged 6 and her younger Sister Betty, aged 4.

If you look at the house today, you will see that a large housing estate backs onto the garden, blocking any exit, but before the War, it was all open land and allotments and you could walk through them and up to Bostal Woods.

One day, Eileen (my Mum) decided to take herself and her younger Sister for a walk in the woods; something she did quite often. Now at this point, you are all probably wondering how her parents could have allowed her to go wandering alone in the woods with her little Sister but in those days, it wasn't at all unusual. In fact, even by the 1950s, I can remember as a small child being allowed to ride my tricycle out of the back gate and along the road unsupervised. This included going up onto Wickham Lane itself: a busy bus route.

Anyway, back to the 1930s and there are two little girls aged around 8 and 6 wandering around in Bostal Woods without a care in the world when they are approached by a man riding along the path on his bicycle. He stopped to speak to them and they exchanged a few pleasantries then he offered my Mum sixpence if she would look after his bicycle while he took her little Sister into the bushes to look for butterflies. 

Sixpence being about two week's pocket money, she readily agreed and things would have ended badly at this point if it hadn't been for the fact that the Police had been watching him for some time and when they saw him leading a little girl into the undergrowth, sprang into action. All my Mum says she remembers is that there were suddenly a lot of people running about and shouting and she couldn't understand why they were all being so horrible to this nice man who had just given her sixpence.

I don't know what the outcome of all this was; I would have assumed it would have finished up in court and I have tried to find any record of it in the local paper archives but with no luck. I don't recall Mum saying what happened to the sixpence either. Perhaps the Police took it as evidence; she never said.



Tuesday, 28 August 2018









My little Brother posing next to the
famous Abbey Wood Berlin Wall.
In 1950, my parents along with their 11 month old baby (me) moved into No 63 Wickham Lane which, for those of you who don't know, is in South East London.

When we first moved into the property it was in a pretty sorry state. Although it was only around 40 years old, it had been built to "property speculator" standards which meant that, even though it was built in the bed of an old stream, there was no damp course. There was also no electricity, bathroom or indoor toilet.

We did have a large garden though which was a great bonus when you were a small child; and if you wanted to explore even further, there was an alley at the bottom of the garden which took you out into the street. The street in question was a small cul-de-sac called The Dell. (More of which later).

Prior to 1945 there were no buildings between the houses in Wickham Lane and the local woods and you could simply walk out the back door and cross into them (I will tell you another story about that at a later date).

There was a narrow footpath called Bastion Road which ran from the bottom of Bostal Hill, along the East side of Bostal Woods, finally emerging in Wickham Lane and the whole area contained allotments. Shortly after the end of WW2, all of this area became one large housing estate. A number of small roads were constructed between Wickham Lane and Bastion Road and houses were built along them.

When the Dell was built, it ran along the back of the gardens in Wickham Lane and would have cut off access to them except an alley way was left between the Dell gardens and ours so we could get access from the street.

All this was fine until one strange day in 1961 when we awoke to discover the occupants of the Dell were building a wall along our garden fences so we could no longer get out.

This caused much consternation as you can imagine and no-one seemed to quite know what was going on. I was only 11 at the time so much of it went over my head  but as far as I was able to understand, The Dell occupants had decided that the alley had been constructed out of what was their gardens so belonged to them exclusively.

All this happened at the same time as the Berlin Wall going up and you can imagine, it didn't take long for a connection to be made and we started putting up signs to that effect. 

My Mum contacted the local paper and a reporter came down with a photographer and made quite a story out of it. A picture appeared in the next edition featuring my Mum standing by the blocked up gate and for a while we all became something of a local celebrity. People would actually come and ask if they could see the gate and have their picture taken in front of it.

(We kept a copy of that article for many years before it finally got lost and I've never been able to find it again. I've looked through archive copies of the Kentish Independent for that time but it still remains lost).

It's still a mystery why they ever did this; there were never any neighbour disputes or anything like that and up to that time, we were (what we thought) on perfectly friendly relations with them.

This Google Earth image shows Wickham
Lane (left) and the Dell (right). Our house
was the one with the slate roof, (top left).
You can clearly see the garage, still at an odd
angle after the owner had to move it.
When one Dell resident built a garage for his car in his garden and discovered he had built it too close to end of the garden to turn his car into, the Wickham Lane resident actually moved his garden fence back a few feet so he would be able to get in. Once the wall went up, he could no longer do this and had to take his garage down and rebuild it at an angle: it's still there today as you can see from the Google Earth image.

We were never able to get any meaningful explanation as to why they had done this and they were impossible to talk to; the Kentish Independent reporter who went round to ask them was physically attacked.

Looking at the area now, it doesn't look like the alley is there at all now. All the gardens seem to have been extended to back onto the Wickham Lane ones.


This is a view from my back garden in Wickham Lane, featuring the famous "Abbey Wood Berlin Wall". It looks out over the Dell, Glendown Road and with Bastion Road in the background. Behind that is Bostal Woods. After the construction of "the wall", which can be clearly seen in this picture, if we wanted to visit the woods, we had to go the long way round.

You can also clearly see where my neighbour's garden fence was moved back several feet to allow his neighbour opposite to get his car into the garage he had just built in his garden. Their new wall prevented him from doing this any more and he had to move it.

The shed belonged to "Smokey Joe", so called because he was always building bonfires and smoking the whole area out.