Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taxing times

Why does this not come as a surprise? Apparently income tax was first introduced in Canada in 1917 to finance the First World War - and it was levied at different rates - based on a man's marital status with single men taxed more - 4% of all income. It became the welfare state's greatest revenue source - which no doubt explains why some country's have a personal tax rate of well in excess of 40% for high income earners. Of course tax has been around for much longer - in 10 CE in China, professionals and business were taxed 10% of profits; the UK introduced it in 1798 to fund the Napelonic wars, and the US adopted an income tax in 1861 to help out with costs of the American Civil War!

Monday, April 25, 2011


Finally I have started posting Samagrams puzzles again. A new puzzle is posted each day Monday to Friday! Give them a go - but don't forget to read the instructions on how to play before you begin,

The colours of ...

Why is it that when you have coloured shower gel or shampoo it always lathers white rather than its original colour? The same with toothpaste - especially the striped variety - why does it always come out as white? Where does all the colour go?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Never Thought About It

America's Only Humor Site Since 1958, Cracked.com, recently carried on item titled "7 Hotly Debated Movie Questions That Totally Have Answers". It was interesting partly because I didn't know whether or not to believe it but also because I hadn't actually given the "questions" any thought until then and still haven't really except for the one about ''Groundhog Day". Why did Bill Murray's character have to relive that day? It had never occurred to me to ask that, I've always just accepted it as a plot device to get him to become a "better" person. Does it matter why? Well, according to Cracked.com, in one of the early drafts, his ex-girlfriend of four dates is responsible for casting the spell that keeps him trapped (for 10,000 years?) until he is awoken by the kiss of the (right) fair maiden. Other plots have been made from less but you would have thought she would have had some return for her investment! Two other movie questions addressed in the item: what was in the Pulp Fiction suitcase and did Tony Soprano die?

Just browsing

What does a person's browser history tell you about them - working on the assumption that they haven't used one of these browsers that allows "private" browsing - ie deleting your browsing history lest it be discriminating in any way. When I started writing this blog item some time ago, I was planning to list what was on my browser history but having looked up a few sites over the last week, that may be wise ... for example I looked up Adolph Hitler on Wikipedia to confirm a friend's birthday (she was born on the same day ... really). Some could see this as less than innocent ... especially if it was linked to another URL or two. It's amazing that after any kind of killing spree happens and the media (and investigators) look to make sense of it, they dredge up their history: who they were friends with, what they read, what movies they watched, what sites they surfed, what they posted on their Facebook page or on other social media, how old were that when they killed their first puppy, what the neighbours thought of them. It's unclear if this approach is helpful - does it offer any insight or possible warning signs to help someone to prevent it happening again? Hopefully some good comes of it.

Crisis - choke or panic?

I read a very interesting article today by Malcolm Gladwell about failure - specifically about people choking or panicing in times of crisis - and he used, among others, a couple of sports stories to illustrate his point. One was of particular interest and told of the time a few years ago when golfer Greg Norman lost the 1996 Masters tournament to Nick Faldo. This is often used, in other circles, to illustrate "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory". Even though Norman had started the day well ahead, he had "choked" - which means, in general terms, that he was overthinking his shots and playing like a beginner rather than being able to rely on the internalisation of the learning of golf that had stood him so well over the proceeding years - enough to have earned him the nickname of "The Shark". (The other side of the crisis coin is "panic" where you "don't" think.)
What was really interesting was what happened after Faldo had won the game, which, according to Gladwell's account was this: When it was all over, Faldo wrapped his arms around Norman. “I don’t know what to say—I just want to give you a hug,” he whispered, and then he said the only thing you can say to a choker: “I feel horrible about what happened. I’m so sorry.” With that, the two men began to cry.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The "face" of evil

While they seemed to be fairly primitive in appearance from the start - was that really a bathroom plunger for their ray gun? - the Daleks from the TV series ''Dr Who" have struck fear in the heart of we mere mortals. Why is it so? Why should some robots who go around saying "exterminate", especially when they are totally incapable of negotiating stairs (wheels for feet, remember?), be cause for such terror? Thankfully someone has taken time to consider this and believes we fear Daleks because they are "evil". Dr Robin Bunce believes they represent what we ourselves might become if we let science and technology triumph over our humanity. They are, he suggests, more evil because we recognise they were once "good". And recognise them we do: a Study by the UK's National Trust in 2008 reported that while only 53% of children could identify an oak leaf, 9 out of 10 could recognise a Dalek - although this should not be taken as proof that people really do know danger when they see it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On the spot (almost)

Ever had trouble telling your zebras apart? Well, that may be a thing of the past now that Stripespotter has been developed by a team of US computer scientists and biologists. It works a little like a barcode scanner (you can see how that would work with zebras) to allow the recording and tracking of a variety of different animals - not just the obvious.

Too much to do!

Over the last few weeks I have noted about 30 articles which have seemed blog-worthy but as yet I haven't found or made the time to write them up - which is a shame given the topics range from gut flora and how it affects the way we think - through to how prejudice evolves! There's also been some interesting work-place related items. Ah well, Easter is almost upon us - so there's a chance for a catch-up. Watch this space!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

On the case

I admit it - given a choice I would prefer plain packaging for cigarette packets - plain brown that is - leaving off all the "scare" images. I don't think pictures of mouth cancer or eyes or anything else is going to deter a person who really wants to smoke. Maybe it just fosters an "it won't happen to me" attitude. If the Government does legislate here and brings in plain or scare packaging, I wonder how long it will be before someone brings out a line of cigarette cases - or the cigarette manufacturers start giving cases away.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

High price of (some) food

When shopping this morning I was stunned to pay $3.69 for four apples but flabbergasted to pay $2.98 for one not-very-large banana. I think I knew bananas were going to be expensive but this seems to be exceeding the cost we were paying after Cyclone Larry decimated the banana crops a few years back. Hmmm ... may have to save half for tomorrow.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Oh the pane ...

Just when you thought there was some great information available via the web on your smartphone comes this: We're sorry, this story relies on some features that aren't currently available on your mobile device. I may now never know "How to Build A 'Magic' Window".