Sunday, 17 April 2016

Skepticab Blog of Randomness to 15 April 2016

Things that arose as I drove my cab this week:

Monday 11/4

Monster Munch

Today I drove past a cat in a window with a Monster Munch bag on its head, to much hilarity in the car.  I went back to make sure the cat was okay and to get a photo- it wasn't in distress and got the bag off a couple of minutes later.

An easy mistake

Anna (a regular customer) won't thank me for this but she did confess that she found a dead cat at the weekend.  After asking her neighbours if they recognised it she took it in a blanket to the vet so that the microchip could be scanned and the owner informed.  Very commendable of her.  The vet opened the blanket and announced that the poor cat was unlikely to have been microchipped as it was actually an otter.  Ooops!  A very red-faced Anna.
Should have gone to Specsavers

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Woo?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, podcasts and BBC iplayer programmes as I work.  Today I gave 'How to Take Charge of Your Life: the User's Guide to NLP' by Richard Bandler.  I was expecting to be irritated by it as being woo (see link for definition) but I was pleasantly surprised that it was just a book of motivational techniques that seemed to make sense.  I like the idea that we should be able to tap into whatever makes the placebo effect work, although I can see potential dangers in this.  NLP seems to be all about the power of positive thinking.  Not my cup of tea though.

Tuesday 12/4


Doris is the loveliest lady in the world.  We had a lovely chat and she bought me some shortbread from M&S, just because.  Made my day :-)

Wednesday 13/4

Harlow's horses

The subject of the many horses around Harlow often crops up.  Many local children think it's lovely to see them all on the green spaces around the town but I am concerned about how they are being kept.  They are always tethered, often without shelter, fresh water, enough food or the ability to exercise.  I have heard that they are travellers' status symbols.  If so, there seems to be little incentive for them to be looked after well.  Here's the Council's information page on them, which basically says that unless they are in dire need it is not their concern.  What to do?  It's not nice seeing so many seemingly neglected animals like this.
A horse on Katherines Way


I've been wearing shorts since Easter.  Yesterday I was told I had started 2 weeks early.  Today it was bright sunshine and 18 degrees.  I feel justified now.

BTW- these are shorts down to the knee, not the shorts as shown when we discussed the issue in episode 109 of the Skepticule podcast (see photo in shownotes).

Left v. right

A mobile hairdresser has difficulty distinguishing left from right.  I told her about the primary school trick (for right-handed people only) of using the phrase "I write with my right hand".  This was no use to her as she is naturally left-handed but was forced to use her right hand in childhood because being left-handed was not considered acceptable where she came from in Africa.  

Top Gear

Paul delivers Suzukis to and from journalists and others to review.  Today his colleague got the plum job of taking a car to/from the Top Gear Amazon Prime team in some secret location, whereas poor Paul got the somewhat less exciting job of being driven by me to pick up a car from North Weald.

Green fingers

Thanks customer Sandy for showing me how to grow a cutting of rosemary.  I really appreciate your time, and I was inspired to take some cuttings from Staple Tye.  After thinking about it I turned the cuttings into rosemary powder for culinary purposes and bought some ready-grown plants instead.

Thursday 14/4

Dodgy diet advice, spurious correlations and pirates

This is serious.  I've been eating low-carb since August 2013 and have lost 5 stone so far, although I haven't really lost any in the last year.  The main reason for the weight gain in the first place is my type 1 diabetes and my resistance to insulin.  That's just my back story.

Listening to the BBC's excellent More or Less programme on the Great Cabbage Myth, my interest was raised why so much research into what is supposedly good for you to eat is so flawed.  The programme is based on this article from the excellent  The upshot is that the whole subject of what is good for you is really flaky as it is difficult to get an accurate picture of what people actually eat, and it is also difficult to make links between different foods and lifestyle choices.  They were saying that all sorts of spurious correlations could be found with enough data, such as the statistically significant link between those who trim the fat from their steak and atheism, and an even stronger correlation between those who like cabbage and those who have innie bellybuttons.  Of course the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster's correlation between global warming and the number of pirates is altogether different.  As ever, correlation does not mean causation (somebody please tell me what this is in Latin so I can pretentiously have it tattooed on my arm) but it's important to bear in mind that correlations are sometimes spurious.
From the Church of the FSM
Just as I was listening to the podcast and thinking of the above I got an unusual job to take five pirates and wenches in full dress, complete with cutlasses and rum, at 10 o'clock in the morning to the train station.

Friday 15/4


I always think of my friends Rick and Tracey, friend-of-a-friend Fran and the other 93 innocent people who lost their lives 27 years ago today at my beloved Sheffield Wednesday's football ground.  I feel the club should take more responsibility for what happened.
Rick Jones
Tracey Cox

No particular day

Blossom update

Lots of cherry about now.

Not sure what this is- big white flowers, very dramatic.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Blog of randomness- 2 weeks to 8 April 2016

A quiet fortnight as I only worked 4 days as I was celebrating the pagan holiday of Eostre.

Thursday 31 March

Pampered cat

Pat's cat has his own double bedroom and double bed.  Her dog and cat take turns to have the downstairs in her house during the day- the dog in the morning, the cat in the afternoon (or maybe the other way round).  Otherwise they fight like, er, cat and dog apparently.

Lovely Lister

I took a lovely guide dog and his trainer from a pub just outside Harlow.  I was intrigued to learn that the trainer doesn't drink but goes to a pub once a month with the dog and has about three pints.  This, he argues, is not for the pleasure of it but is part of the dog's training, for it to become accustomed to the owner having had a bit too much alcohol.    It makes sense when you think about it.  The trainer explained to me what the dog was doing as we went along- he looked for dangerous obects within reach of the trainer, he rested when the car was moving and woke up when the car came.  I fell in love with Lister.
[Google photo similar to this one]

Friday 1 April

Flying high

I took two young gentlemen within Harlow who had clearly had a very late night, had not had much sleep but were going to work as high as kites.  Although people in this mood can be very friendly there was something that I felt was wrong, possibly a little dangerous.  I just do my best to placate them and not find out whether my sense was right or not.

No particular day

My stupid superstitions

In the last exciting episode of this blog I wrote about my lack of superstition, yet feeling the need to avoid wearing red at Sheffield Wednesday matches as it might cause the team to lose.  Obviously I don't take this last statement seriously, but is just a bit of fun (to pretend to believe it) and football tradition.  I can see that the tradition element is comparable with some religious traditions- surely nobody actually believes that the taking of some bread and wine REALLY means that it turns into human flesh and blood in your mouth?  A fairly revolting concept, by the way, but people go through the ritual anyway.  I can't resist keeping the tradition.
My car mascot with NO RED, not even underpants.

I used to have many superstitions- not walking under ladders, crossing my fingers when I passed someone on the stairs, touching my left collar when an ambulance went blaring past, and probably some others.  As with the football one I never believed that bad things would happen if I didn't follow them but it always seemed more comfortable if I did.  I think I've dropped all of these other ones now.

Who am I?

During the day customers usually call me 'driver' (or 'Mr. Driver' usually only by polite Afro-Caribbeans), 'Paul' (if they know my name) or 'mate'.  In the rare evenings I work I seem to become 'geez', short for geezer.  Is this just a Harlow thing?


A few new ones coming but not fully out yet.  This is another one I don't recognise, near Potter Street.  With Pippa's tail.

Chaz and Bill

Last time I wrote about the 2 finger puppets in my cab, William Shakespeare and (I'm sure you knew) Charles Darwin.  A Canadian medical student recently said that she was going to get a tattoo of 'I think' in Charles Darwin's handwriting on her arm, from his notebook when he came up with idea of the tree of life.  I like her idea.