All posts by John B

BBC channels Anti-Saloon League

A BBC article on alcohol consumption statistics features a stupid comment:

The figures also suggest that alcohol consumption is increasingly a problem among the middle classes. Men and women in “managerial and professional” households drank an average of 15.1 units a week.

The same study also shows that men drink, on average, twice as much as women. Hence, the average professional man drinks around 20 units and the average professional woman drinks around 10 units.

So, even based on the insanely low guidelines of 14 units per week for women and 21 for men (a man would have to drink 63 units a week to reach the same risk of death as a teetotaller), the figures actually suggest that alcohol consumption is not a problem among the managerial and professional classes.

(yes, I also believe the strong libertarian case, that even if someone is downing a bottle of gin every lunchtime, that’s only a problem to the extent that it causes them to inflict misery and suffering on others. However, I’m not impressed by the view that this is only relevant when applied to feckless chavvy teens and not also, say, surgeons to the royal court – especially as incidents like Gary Newlove’s murder are extremely rare whereas violent domestic abuse is extremely common…)

Spam filters and paranoia

A very long time ago, I had a blog whose software platform I wrote myself. It was pretty ropey by the standards of WordPress and Moveable Type, although it beat Blogger’s offer in those days (for really dull reasons, the only server I had access to ran Windows and Access; no existing blog software supported this setup, so I had to write some).

I learnt a lot about Access, IIS, and databases and scripting in general. And for ages I was relatively immune to spam, because automatic spambots were configured to deliver the right form data to work with Blogger, MT and WP. But after a year or so, blog comment spamming was sufficiently big business (and my old blog sufficiently popular, he said self-aggrandisingly) that – presumably manually – the droves of spam started coming.

Continue reading Spam filters and paranoia

Entertaining iPhone theory

Article: O2 (UK) has shifted 190,000 iPhones in its first two months of sales, just short of its target of 200,000.

From the comments: “190,000 surprised me at first – given that we and the Europeans understand mobiles far too well to buy an outdated overpriced paperweight like the iPhone, I thought the number sold in the UK should be closer to 19. Then I remembered that there are Americans in Britain too. Some rigorous intertubes research later and I find that there are 220,000 Americans living in Britain. Mystery solved.


I’ve got a new piece up at the Sharpener on the myth that London is a crime-ridden wasteland that anyone in their right mind would do well to flee before they get their throat slit. Enjoy…

Also, Burning Our Money has a slightly silly piece on the Cheap Booze Menace – it highlights that you can buy a tin of dubious 3% lager at Asda for 22p, which works out as about 0.6p at retail pre-tax.

The piece goes on to link this to the Feral Teen Menace, which is dubious given that I’ve only ever seen street-drinking youths on strong lager, strong cider, wine or spirits, and that supermarkets are by far the best retailers at not serving booze to kids. Still, it’s always amusing to see professed free-marketeers calling for restrictions on a trade that they find distasteful…

Relatedly, can anyone think of a good reason why alcohol tax shouldn’t be levied on a “X pence per ml of ethanol” basis, rather than making pointless and arbitrary distinctions between different types of grog?

Half-arsed fallacy

This is a great logical argument:

1) A pretentious man claims that CDs aren’t as good as vinyl, despite the fact that they are;

2) If you compress a song to MP3, it doesn’t sounds all that great compared to an uncompressed song. People increasingly listen to MP3s on their personal music players, instead of, err, tapes;

3) Overproduced records by mediocre bands can sound quite good, but aren’t as distinctive as great records by great bands. There are more of the former than the latter;

THEREFORE: music is dead as an artform.

What was wrong with the old bloody virus?

This, basically. Blech.

Update, Tuesday evening: well, those were a rubbish couple of days. I’m now more or less confident in my ability to go more than 10 seconds away from a toilet, although I’m not quite up for vindaloo night just yet.

In the meantime I was sufficiently bored that I followed my own advice and read all of Dan’s archives starting from the beginning, which has left me jaded, cynical, statistical, argumentative and mildly jealous.

(yes, this also explains my original link, rather than merely having a disturbingly good memory of bloggers’ illness records from five years ago.)

Update, Wednesday: yes, I confused “noro” and “novo” in the headline. I was a bit distracted at the time, in my defence.

The only good communist…

Very sad to hear that Marxist economist Andrew Glyn, who had the dubious honour of teaching both me and Chris Dillow, has died.

As a not-very-socalist, I’d second Chris’s view that:

He never gave those of us who shared his views an easy ride, and was never less than generous to those who didn’t share his views; his conservative and liberal students held him in as high regard as I did.

…which isn’t a bad (professonal) epitaph for an academic.

International house of stupid comparisons

In a Computing Which? survey, Bebo has been rated the best social networking site, ahead of Facebook because its security settings make it harder for unwanted ‘friends’ to get user information. Yahoo Groups was rated as poorest, due to its lack of social networking features.

Relatedly, in a Sarcasm Which? survey, C-BBC has been rated the best TV channel, ahead of Channel 4 because its content guidelines make it unlikely that users will see adult-oriented content. Radio 4 was rated as poorest, due to its lack of visual content.

Look, computing-Which-people: Bebo is a networking site for kids, so it makes information sharing harder (note: this is a bad thing per se) so that weirdos can’t stalk them, groom them or nick their photos and post them on pervy websites (obviously, this is a good thing that outweighs the bad thing). Facebook is aimed at grown-ups, so it doesn’t. And Yahoo Groups isn’t a networking site at all.