Old folk at lunch

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Praise of New Zealand



As we all know, New Zealanders hate Australians -- just as Canadians hate Americans and Scots hate the English.  Big brother is rarely popular.  But I forgive them.  They can't help it. So I am going to perhaps make them feel a little better.

For a small population, they have done remarkably well in business.  Take wines.  Australia has long had a lot of success in selling wines to the world.  The Poms buy twice as much Australian wine as French. So the idea that anybody could sell much wine to us is improbable. Yet the Kiwis have done it.  Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region is now a big seller in Australia.  The one I sometimes buy is under the "Giesen" label.

And New Zealand chocolate?  Not Belgian, not Swiss?  Yes.  For a long time Whittakers of NZ used to export small bars of milk chocolate filled with nuts to us.  Then they managed to get a big order from Australia's biggest supermarket:  Woolworths.  Now they have on offer everywhere a great range of all sorts of choolate.

And New Zealand cheese?  Australia has many dairies that make cheese but more or less forever New Zealand has been selling us a cheese called Epicure.  It was what you bought if you wanted a strong-tasting cheese.  Then a few years back they started selling us "Mainland" cheese in a number of varieties.

But here's the latest.  Australia is a big market for pre-sliced cheese.  And the odd thing is that sliced cheese is the only cheddar cheese that you can buy.  Presumably cheddar slices more easily.  The "national" Australian cheese is "Tasty".  From the look of the supermarket shelves "Tasty" is what 80% of Australians buy.  Lots of dairies make it.  It is basically a cheese that is made as sharp in taste as possible without becoming crumbly.  It is a compromise cheese and, true to their British heritage, Australians like to compromise.  It's less hassle than the alternative.

So when I was looking yesterday for a pack of sliced cheese I saw a newcomer there, a brand called "Hillview" that was cheaper than any other.  Being born frugal, I bought it.  When I got home I tried it and found it to be perfectly good so I wondered why it was so cheap.  So I studied the pack.  And there in small letters was, "Made in New Zealand". They have now invaded our big market for sliced cheese!  They will do well.

UPDATE: My trip to the supermarket this morning yielded a big surprise.  Hillview has really invaded the market. Today there was a big new display of Tasty cheese by them.  They have obviously stitched up a good deal with Woolworths and are here to stay.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hooray! I have been censored



I was beginning to feel neglected.  I frequently write relentlessly factual things about race, IQ and social class -- and they must be the big trifecta of political incorrectness.  If those topics don't get me censored what would?  Actually there IS one thing more likely to get me censored:  Praise for Donald Trump.  And I do a lot of that.  I am as Trumpian as you can get.

And I think that is what lies behind the ban that has been placed on me.  I spend more time than I should reading the questions and answers on Quora.com.  Most of the questions there are puerile but some of the answers are interesting.

The answers I have myself been putting up there have all however been very brief, usually only a few words.  For instance, in answer to the question "What would you do if someone threw a basketball to you?" my answer was "Dodge". And in answer to "Who is the most influential person in history? Why?", I wrote "Hitler. People will never get over him".  And in answer to "If first contact was established with aliens, what one person, dead or alive, would you use to represent the human race?", I answered "Trump. He speaks in simple sentences"

And in my answer to "Why does Ernest Adams hate social conservatives so much?" I wrote "He was born that way".  And that seems to have torn it.  That answer was apparently so incorrect that I was banned from putting up any more answers or asking any questions.

For background Adams is a Quora heavyweight and a very supercilious Leftist.  He is absolutely full of himself and conservative Quorans do criticize him for that at times.

So why was my answer so bad?  It is a common research finding  that political dispositions are highly hereditary so my answer was highly factual.  It's not the political opinions by themselves that are inherited so much as the underlying psychology that determines those positions. Basically, conservatives are the contented people and Leftists are the angry people.  And that has a big impact on your policy preferences.  Leftists want to attack whatever they are angry about and conservatives want stability.

And where you stand on the happiness/contentment scale has repeatedly been found to be very much inborn.  Some people will be happy no matter what and some will be miserable no matter what.  So both the actual opinions and the underlying psychology have been found to be hereditary.

So Quora penalized me from giving a scholarly and well informed comment.  To them it was so wrong that it couldn't be right.  I have no idea of the details of their angry thinking but I suspect that their objection was really a pretext.  My constant praise of Trump would undoubtedly have jarred them.  It was that which really lay behind my banning, I suspect.  It is a very Leftist site.

I won't protest my banning. Matthew 7:6 tells you why.

Footnote:  If you doubt that Leftists are the angry people and conservatives are the contented people, just ask any Leftist what he thinks of Mr Trump!  And if you doubt that conservatives are the contented people ask yourself why the Congressional GOP has done so little to give Mr Trump the changes he wants.

Friday, September 8, 2017

How bureaucracy destroys research in U.S. hospitals


I originally wrote this for one of my other blogs but I think it has a place here too

There is a long article here which gives a blow by blow account of a doctor trying to get permission to do a research study -- a study that seemed to need doing.  He spent years dealing with the bureaucracy only to be defeated by all the nitpicking in the end.  He was not able to do a perfectly reasonable study.

The article had a particular resonance to me because what he wanted to do -- a questionnaire survey -- was something I did many, many times in my research career.  And I never asked ANYBODY for permission.  I just did it.  So how come the difference?  Several possible reasons:

I did my research in the '70s and '80s.  Things may have tightened up more by now.

I also did my work mostly in Australia, a much less uptight country than the USA.  Many of my fellow academics, including the head of school, would have had a pretty good idea of what I was doing but trying to rein me in would have needed effort and they just could not be bothered with that

But perhaps the key factor was that I did not ask.  I did not set the bureaucratic machinery in motion. The bureaucracy just did not know of me. I was below their horizon.  I had not foolishly set their rumbling machinery into motion.  "Just do it" was an old piece of Hippie advice from the '60s and I was there in the '60s.

So with my experience I read with great horror what this guy experienced.  But he makes the correct point that bureaucracy does that.  The job of the bureaucracy is to say "No" to anything that might conceivably be dangerous in some conceivable world and it takes a lot to get around that.  And sometimes you can't.

And the end result?  I had 200+ academic journal articles published whereas this guy had none.  What a waste!

I think his final comments are worth reproducing:


"I sometimes worry that people misunderstand the case against bureaucracy. People imagine it’s Big Business complaining about the regulations preventing them from steamrolling over everyone else. That hasn’t been my experience. Big Business – heck, Big Anything – loves bureaucracy. They can hire a team of clerks and secretaries and middle managers to fill out all the necessary forms, and the rest of the company can be on their merry way. It’s everyone else who suffers. The amateurs, the entrepreneurs, the hobbyists, the people doing something as a labor of love. Wal-Mart is going to keep selling groceries no matter how much paperwork and inspections it takes; the poor immigrant family with the backyard vegetable garden might not.

Bureaucracy in science does the same thing: limit the field to big institutional actors with vested interests. No amount of hassle is going to prevent the Pfizer-Merck-Novartis Corporation from doing whatever study will raise their bottom line. But enough hassle will prevent a random psychiatrist at a small community hospital from pursuing his pet theory about bipolar diagnosis. The more hurdles we put up, the more the scientific conversation skews in favor of Pfizer-Merck-Novartis. And the less likely we are to hear little stuff, dissenting voices, and things that don’t make anybody any money.

There are so many privacy and confidentiality restrictions around the most harmless of datasets that research teams won’t share data with one another (let alone with unaffiliated citizen scientists) lest they break some arcane regulation or other. Closed access journals require people to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees before they’re allowed to read the scientific literature; open-access journals just shift the burden by requiring scientists to pay thousands of dollars to publish their research. Big research institutions have whole departments to deal with these kinds of problems; unaffiliated people who just want to look into things on their own are out of luck.

SOURCE

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A reunion


I sometimes nearly forget that I have a sister.  She lives quietly in Rockhampton and it is many years since I have been to Rockhampton.

She is however a very vivacious woman so I was greatly pleased that when she was briefly in Brisbane this evening, I was able to shout her a dinner at the "Sunny Doll".  Her equally lively husband was with her plus her daughter Katie.  Katie is rather quiet.  Maybe she could never get a word in edgewise when she was growing up with two very chatty parents.

My brother Christopher was also in attendance as was Jenny.  Joe had to work back so arrived rather late but everyone was pleased to see him when he did arrive.

Roxanne was in good form and many things were discussed.  I was updated on why and how Rox was "bumptious" during her schooldays and we decided that she got it from her very independent mother.  Her mother was also a great talker. We decided that there should be more bumptiousness.

We also mentioned my Aunt Maude.  Yes. I did have an actual Aunt Maude!  How oldfashioned can you get?  My mother was a very critical woman -- I probably get my irreverence from her -- and I recollect that there were only two people she normally spoke well of -- her niece Shirley and her sister Maudie. Stefan said that when he met Maude, she dismissed him as "blue collar".  That would have been Maudie.  She was a toughie.

In her youth Rox was something of a hippie.  Yet now she is a contented wife and mother.  How come? In her youth she found most of the males she met to be too shallow.  But then along came Stefan, who was just right for her. He is intelligent, very verbal and with a very positive outlook.  And they have been together a long time now and still seem to greatly appreciate one another.  The pretty little shop assistant met the tall slim telecom technician.  And that was it. Roxanne is a teacher these days.

Joe had a few chats with his cousin Katie and it was an amusing contrast to see them together.  Katie is rather short and slight and Joe is 6' and well-built so he rather towered over her. Her father Stefan is about 6' tall so her height is a little surprising.  Roxanne is also rather slight so Katie seems to have taken after her mother entirely.

At one stage I mentioned that I am a great fan of Mr Trump!  Both Rox and Stefan could see that the constant barrage of negative comment about him from the media was biased and unbalanced

The food was good as usual and we had coffee there afterwards

Monday, September 4, 2017

An informal Fathers' Day


Joe and I went to the pie shop for our usual extended Sunday brunch yesterday morning.  I had not kept any awareness of when Fathers' Day was but Joe informed me it was that day.  So before we left, he bought me a creamy cake with Fathers' Day lettering on it.  We took it back to our place and Kate joined us on the verandah to cut and try it.  It was quite good but a bit rich.

Then that evening Joe came in and said we should have a Fathers' Day drink together.  I of course agreed and he poured each of us a dram of his Islay single malt:  A very respectful drink. We then chatted on for quite a while  -- in part about Mr Trump, of course. Mr Trump keeps everybody on the hop. So it was quite a congenial Fathers' Day.