As this blog reaches another milestone (this is the 200th post), I get the feeling I’ve written far more than I set out to. So I thought I’d round up some statistics:

  • 200 posts - approximately 1.6/day since 25th June.

  • 246 comments - approximately 1.96/day, and an average of 1.23/article.

  • 2,958 spam comments caught by Akismet - approximately 167/week - although this is nowhere near my personal email, which hovers more around the frightening figure of** 4,000/week** - I love SpamAssassin.

  • Maximum number of comments for any one post is 15, minimum 0 (unsurprisingly).

  • 28 post categories.

  • Customer Service, SOA & ESB, and Technology are the three categories that have recieved the most interest, according to the Popularity Contest plugin. Mathsis apparently the least interesting. Even such a tawdry category as Sex has managed a respectable 13th place, although apparently there is more commonality between the two than you might think anyway.

  • Ranked 131,144th on Technorati, with 85 links from 19 blogs.

  • Random photo on sidebar selects from 1,135 images.

  • My favourite post is Why Trade is Beneficial - The Ebay Way.

TV Programmes at the Extremes

There seem to be only two types of fiction-based TV programme:

  • The episode starts, everything changes, then everything ends exactly the same way it started. This is typified by comedies, such as The Simpsons, which often have crazy storylines that seem irretrievable, but end up where they began. In fact, more than one episode of The Simpsons has parodied this technique.

  • The episode starts, everything changes, then everything ends up differently at the end. This is typified by soaps such as Eastenders.

The first type of programme reflects the comforting nature of an unchanging world - viewers know it isn’t really going to change, so they don’t need to ‘worry’. Put cynically, it’s unchallenging. The second type of programme appeals to viewers who are looking for a programme that keeps them interested - it gradually evolves and so is guaranteed to be different every time. Put cynically, it’s a ploy to cover for weak plots.

So why aren’t there more programmes that are somewhere in the middle? One of the better examples I’ve seen of a programme that strikes a balance between the two is Arrested Development, but this isn’t too popular. Lost gave it a go for a while, but then began to repeat itself.

Please, TV producers, can we have some more?

Innovating for the Impossible

Here’s a fun thought experiment: imagine what innovations would be necessary, feasible, or useful if the fundamental biological or physical restrictions of our world were different: not generally, but in a specific area.

For example, let’s say that the hair on our heads grew not at the rate it does now - approximately 0.5mm/day - but at 1m/day. It seems clear that hairdressers, as least as they are currently organised, wouldn’t be able to keep up. Either we’d need hairdressers to be everywhere and very efficient, or, more likely, we’d need some form of automated haircutting machine - perhaps with one installed in every bathroom. Brides-to-be would struggle to look just-so at the right moment, so there’d need to be an emergency hairdresser on standby.

Another example, perhaps even more far-fetched, but nevertheless pertinent - what if rubbish expanded in volume in an unbounded way after being disposed of - at a modest rate of, say, 10% a year? We’d already have had to have found a way of either vastly cutting down on rubbish disposal or offloading it to other planets - or perhaps, more sinister, cutting down on the population generating it.

Both of the above scenarios are clearly nonsense given our current understanding of science, but they help in jogging the brain into thinking in a more open-minded mode, and they clarify the consequences of our actions (although rubbish doesn’t expand, we are using more landfill space every year - the scenario merely amplifies the logical conclusion).

Here’s some more to try:

  • The average air temperature at ground level in temperate areas is -50°C.

  • Most insects are fatally dangerous to humans, and almost impossible to vaccinate against.

  • Water cannot be frozen artificially.

  • Paper decays within 2 months.

Is this a new technique? I’ve never come across it anywhere.

Free Hour

Once a year (today is the day) I wake up and realise I’ve been given a free hour. Does anyone else savour that moment?

(Of course, once a year, I lose an hour - but I prefer not to talk about that…)


Maybe it’s just me, but diabetes seems to be a hot issue recently. In my ignorance, I didn’t realise it was so widespread and so important. A recent podcast on the IT Conversations site with Larry Ellingson (former chair of the American Diabetes Association) discussed the disease in detail, and there was a single fact mentioned that took me by surprise: 300 million in the world (4%) have diabetes. However, the prevalence of diabetes in the Western world is considerably greater, primarily because of poor diet and exercise, which exacerbates Type II diabetes. (Type I: not enough insulin produced by the body, Type II: insulin that’s produced is resisted by the pancreas). In the US, 95% of people with diabetes are overweight. If you don’t know someone with diabetes, you are probably in the minority.

I didn’t fully appreciate it when I visited there a few months ago, but Copenhagen is a major centre for the study and treatment of Diabetes. Novo Nordisk, headquartered there (as evidenced by the posters advertising them in Copenhagen Kastrup airport), has diabetes study as its main business. A friend of mine in the business recently attended a conference there on diabetes attended by thousands.

I think I’ve learnt another good reason to try harder at slimming down my waistline by a few inches. But it’s clear that the world is facing a huge challenge in tackling this disease.

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