Friday, 29 May 2009

Guinness is good for you....

Guinness has 126 calories per bottle... less calories than a 16oz. glass of milk.

Is a natural semi-laxative, due to the live yeast.

Guinness is thought to be a natural aphrodisiac.

Guinness is very high in Iron, and in Ireland has been given to blood donors, post-operative stomach, and intestinal patients.

The hops used in Guinness prevent excessive calcium build-up, as in kidney stones.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Mash

If you haven't seen it and are not offended by sharp satire and naughty words, check out the daily mash:

It has brightened up many a drab working lunch in my otherwise dull existence!

I am above average

Seeing as this is Paul's blog, I guess I should start with a post about maths. That will make the old chap happy, and also make my head hurt a little. Here goes....
If I ask you what the likelihood is that the next person who speaks to you today has an above average number of legs, I imagine you may say something along the lines of "not bloody likely". However, you would be WRONG. The vast majority of us have an above average number of legs.
How so I hear you say?
Well - lets say for simplicity's sake that a desert island has 500 inhabitants. 499 of these people have 2 legs. However, a retired pirate sporting a peg leg also lives there. This makes a total of 999 legs on our fictional island.
So the average number of legs is 999/500 (legs/people) = 1.99 legs

There you have it me hearties. The moral of the story: always look at the figures! If you want a better explanation, check out asymmetric distributions:

Are you bored yet?

The Bradley Goodwin Super Amazing Guest Blog

Hello all,
So - Paul is off sunning himself or something similar that involves not being at work. Hence, I have been invited to guest blog on grasp the mettle for the rest of the week....
Well, I don't really know what I will blog about; if it will be rubbish, or if anyone will actually read it or care. So I apologise if all my posts are actually just a stream of my strange consciousness....but hey rubbish in, rubbish out as they say.
A little about me, for those who haven't had the dubious pleasure of making my acquaintance. I'm a 27 year old guy who works in the same office as Paul. My favourite things are Guinness, Haribo sweets and penguins. I also like marking things out of 10, foreign films and the band Bloc Party. I dislike spiders, mushrooms and mullets.
Introduction over, I'll blog something later whilst I'm supposed to be doing work!x

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Mathematical Aspirations

The government wants us to value science because "… it creates thousands of jobs that keep Britain at the leading edge."* To help to promote the importance of science it has created a website. It uses some examples of how science can help us do things. Which example do they use to illustrate how mathematics "is the key to our prosperity"? This one.

* Clearly, not at the leading edge of grammar.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

So Gordon Brown believes "that the keystone of any reform must be to switch from self-regulation to independent external regulation". I believe that this would be a monumental folly. What he is saying is that the very people who are charged with running our country are not responsible enough to devise a remuneration system that is perceived to be equitable and fair. The government cannot and should not create a body that is independent and whose remit is to apply rules back to parliament. This is creating an entity that is above parliament. Who will it answer to? It clearly cannot answer to parliament because it is independent.
This proposal also removes accountability. I will have no say on who serves on this independent body whereas I do have a say (too little and too infrequently but that is another story) on who serves in parliament.
The allowances saga is but a symptom of the malaise that has infected parliament for the past forty years. A self-induced illness caused by handing power to the EU which has made its existence increasingly irrelevant. Creating an independent body to oversee MPs remuneration would be yet another step along the way to complete loss of sovereignty of government.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

I Feel Dirty

It is being reported in today's Daily Telegraph that taking a shower during the day helps employees become more productive. The report states that there was a 42% increase in productivity and a 33% increase in creativity. Unfortunately, the original report, by a PR firm called Lucre, does not appear to be on the Internet so one can only speculate on how one measures an improvement in creativity. I wouldn't know where to begin. However, when it comes to productivity I expect that a measure would be along the lines of produced so many Xs in Y hours, the change in the value of X giving a value of the change in productivity. The problem is that the four businesses involved in the study are not easy ones in which to measure productivity.
Three of them, an advertising agency in Leeds called Horne, a company of designers called 3s in London and a company of lingerie designers called Simone Perele in Surrey all suffer from the problem of what product is it that one might one measure?
The fourth place is a restaurant called The Chancery in London. I suppose that the number of meals produced per hour or the average time taken to produce a meal would be a good start. Great care would have to be taken that all other factors such as the number of customers, the type of meal ordered and how many people were working in the kitchen were taken into account.
So, without further information, I feel that the above statistics are dubious to say the least. This is exacerbated by the later statement that "Employees generally felt that they had done a better job during the showering phase, with a 16 per cent increase". A 16% increase in what?
Thus, one concludes, that this is all a PR exercise but PR for whom? All is revealed in the last line of the report which states "The survey was conducted by Lucre for their client Mira Showers". Nuff said.

Mervyn King

Mervyn King is the governor of the Bank of England which makes him a civil servant. He is therefore on a final salary pension scheme. His current salary is £297,920. Having worked at the bank for twenty years he is eligible for a pension equivalent to two-thirds of his annual salary which I calculate as £198,613 but is being reported as £198,200. To support a pension of this size you need a large pot of money so it really should come as no surprise that the governor's pot is a massive £5,356,500. That is the amount of money you and I have paid to be put on one side so that this one civil servant can have a retirement where he receives from his pension in one day what a man on a median salary earns in a week.

Monday, 18 May 2009

A Sign of the Times

I am immensely grateful to the people who look after the building that I work in, for the signs that they put up. There have been a number of times when I have set off to spread rubbish around the toilet and generally make a mess. Every time I have been brought up short by the sign on the door that reminds me to Please keep this toilet clean and tidy.
Today I notice that they have gone further by erecting notices that tell me how to wash my hands and how to sneeze. I am not sure how I managed to do these things correctly in the past without being reminded. My only worry now is that I won't know what to do if I feel a sneeze coming on and I am not near the gents toilet.

Euro Quiz Answers

1) How many Members of the European Parliament (MEP) will represent the UK after these elections?
There will be 72 MEPs representing the United Kingdom. This is a reduction from the 78 we currently have.

2) What constituency are you in?
A difficult question for me to answer since I do not know where you are but the constituencies in the UK are:
South East England
South West England
West Midlands
North West England
North East England
Yorkshire and the Humber
East Midlands
East of England
Northern Ireland

3) How many MEP are elected to represent that constituency?

ConstituencySeatsPop.per Seat
South East England108m800k
South West England6*4.9m817k
West Midlands6*5.2m867k
North West England8*6.7m838k
North East England32.5m833k
Yorkshire and the Humber65.1m850k
East Midlands5*4.1m820k
East of England75.4m771k
Northern Ireland31.7m567k

* One seat less than in 2004.

Compare this with the table at Wikipedia

4) How many votes do you have?
If you are eligible to vote then you will be able to cast one vote.

5) What will you see listed on the ballot paper?
You will see the names of the parties that are fielding candidates. Unlike national and local elections you will not see the names of the candidates.

6) How do they determine who will represent you when all the votes have been counted?
The system is known as the d'Hondt method, d'Hondt being the surname of the Belgian mathematician who devised the technique. The best way to explain the method is to work through an example. Don't be put off it is really quite simple.

Click on image for larger version.

Nothing New Under the Sun

I have seen it quoted a number of times recently in various blogs, see here, here, here and here. I was thinking of using it myself but I have been trumped by no less an organ than The Sun. It is of course Oliver Cromwell's speech to the rump parliament which goes thus:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd; your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse the Augean Stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings, and which by God's help and the strength He has given me, I now come to do.

I command ye, therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. You have sat here too long for the good you do. In the name of God, go!

Apposite, definitely but do we really need another Oliver Cromwell?

Friday, 15 May 2009


There are European elections on June 4th. I wonder how well you will get on in this Euro-quiz?
1) How many Members of the European Parliament (MEP) will represent the UK after these elections?
2) What constituency are you in?
3) How many MEP are elected to represent that constituency?
4) How many votes do you have?
5) What will you see listed on the ballot paper?
6) How do they determine who will represent you when all the votes have been counted?

I look forward to seeing your answers.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Give and Take

The current rates for the national minimum wage are listed on the HMRC website as follows:

· £5.73 per hour for workers aged 22 years and older
· A development rate of £4.77 per hour for workers aged 18-21 inclusive
· £3.53 per hour for all workers under the age of 18, who are no longer of compulsory school age

These will go up in October 2009 to the following values:

· £5.80 an hour for workers aged 22 and over
· £4.83 an hour for workers aged 18 to 21
· £3.57 an hour for workers aged 16 to 17

Now that is all well and good isn't it? This modest increase of 4p, 6p or 7p per hour depending on your age shouldn't hurt anybody. That is what I thought until I read the Low Pay Commission Report 2009 on the national minimum wage which, at point 8.97, states "We estimate that in total the Government will gain around £100 million from the 2009 minimum wage upratings". Table 8.4 on the next page lists the estimated exchequer yield and savings as follows:

Income tax £38,000,000
National Insurance £20,000,000
Working tax credit £22,000,000
Child tax credit £6,000,000
Income support £3,000,000
Housing support £3,000,000
Council tax benefits £9,000,000

Quite apart from the fact that these figures add up to the nice round figure of £100,000,000 I think it shows quite nicely why the government brought in the national minimum wage in the first place. After all, every little helps.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

My Mother

My Mother was in hospital earlier this year having suffered what was initially thought to be a heart attack. Naturally, I dashed up to see her the moment I knew. It turned out that she hadn't had a heart attack and she was discharged a couple of days later. Whilst I was there I had little interaction with the nurses but those that I saw appeared to be smiling and coping. I am glad in someways that I hadn't read Militant Medical Nurse's blog, in particular her latest missive, Militant Medical Nurse: Ginny did not get her pain medication on time. Not good. I urge you to read it and encourage others to read it as well.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Some are More Equal Than Others.

Harriet Harman, the Equalities Minister, has been talking about the Equalities Bill. In particular she has been talking about the gender pay gap. In my ignorance I thought the gender pay gap referred to the difference between what a woman was paid for a job and what a man is paid for doing the same job. It seems I am wrong. This is what the Office for National Statistics has to say "The gender pay gap refers to the difference between the hourly earnings of men and women. It is determined by calculating women's overall average pay as a percentage of men's." It is that second sentence that is new to me. It is a comparison of average pay.
Let us assume that there is a computer software department that consists of
2 project leaders, one male and one female both earning £65,000;10 developers, 8 male and 2 female all earning £50,000 and2 ladies in charge of configuration management cum software building who earn £30,000. In this department the mean male wage is £51,666.66 whilst the female average is £45,000. The median wages are the same at £50,000. If a junior programmer was taken on at a wage of £25,000 the females' average would reduce to £41,666.66 and the median to £40,000.
With the median value in particular you can see that the lower value occurs because there are more women in the lower paid jobs. Is this what you thought of when you heard of the gender pay gap? Me neither.
Is it wrong that there are more women in the lower paid jobs than men or that there are more men than women in higher paid jobs? Do we need legislation to correct it? I don't know at the moment so I will go away and ponder it. Do let me know what you think.