confidence and women

July 13, 2016

It is said that you can just get beautiful women just by being confident and funny.  Not true.

Confidence may get you a few dates but ultimately they will not go anywhere.  If you doubt it, look at the partners of people like Alice Eve, Jennifer Lawrence, Sienna Miller, Rebecca Romijn, Nicole Kidman.

some notes

July 27, 2015

I am a British guy.

I did some phone calls for Mark Udall in 2014. He was seeking re-election as US Senator for Colorado. I did this mainly because he seemed to have some principles, particularly with respect to the dragnet collection of personal communications. It was an experiment but not one I am likely to repeat as I found there was little interest in discussing issues over the phone. As a result, I am doubtful whether this kind of campaigning is the way to go.

Political discussion can be driven more by passion than logic and reason. I am a wonk so I do not find this very satisfactory.

Some people seem happy to post comments but are less happy with the idea of a detailed discussion. Rather than having superficial discussions with people who then decide to terminate the discussion, I prefer to meet up in a chat room. It is my hope that this will limit my discussions to those who really feel that they have good evidence for their conclusions, rather than those who are just political junkies.

As black lives matter, I would like to see the US pass the PRIDE Act [1], amended to make reporting mandatory.

I would also like the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act [2] to go forward, amended so that people cannot work as a lobbyist within ten years of holding elected office.

I am less convinced about the Too big to fail Act [3]. Splitting a bank in two may have some benefits but it seems to me that two banks can act as recklessly as one.

I would like the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act [4] to be passed.


economists and intuition

April 23, 2015

I do not trust economists in general.

The reason is that they cannot provide evidence for their views. So they fall back on intuition and say things like “we are like doctors” as if doctors are a special case. In my mind, doctors are not at all a special case and I support efforts to stop providing things like homeopathy in the NHS precisely because the evidence for its effectiveness is poor.

I link to a blog post [1] which talks about the failure of one particular GDP prediction.

[1] here

minimum pricing for alcohol

April 20, 2015

Further to my previous post on this topic, I wanted to give this quote “Although we consider minimum pricing to be a useful lever, we believe its effect to be limited” from Michael Perron (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse).  I obtained this quote from [1] and it encourages me to think that changes to price have little impact.

[1] here

chess puzzle

March 31, 2015

White to play and mate in 2


NHS should reform to take more account of evidence

November 6, 2010

You would think that a high priority of the NHS would be to make people better. However, just as the banks seemed to move, en masse, to risky behaviour, there seems to be at least potential for a similar group-think amongst health providers.

I have just found a very interesting article [1] about how Prozac does not work. It is understandable with so many people suffering depression that doctors feel pressure to offer them something. We all like to feel that we are making a difference and providing a fix would fit that. However, this pressure should not lead to people to provide a treatment because of a “general perception” that it might work.

Drugs are big money. Big money and group-think make a bad combination. I am not saying that doctors cannot do experimental work but please let it be labelled as such.

If Prozac is being used and does not actually work, this is diverting money away from things that might be better.

We need to learn lessons from this if we can. One idea that has occurred to me to try to tackle the inherent conflict of interest involved in having the same company research a drug as would benefit from its use is to insist that drug companies fund replication of their results in trials that they do not control.

Only if those trials are successful, would a drug be used by the NHS as a non-experimental drug. Drug companies would still do initial trials but the aim of such trials would be to gather data for a proposal for the independent trial. Since the company would lose out financially if the independent trial fails, there would be an incentive to only put forward solid proposals.

With millions riding on having a drug deemed useful and human nature being what it is, companies will find it irresistable to take short cuts and make leaps of faith. Often short cuts are quite harmless and get you to where you want to be sooner.

However, when one is relying on a quite slim margin between success and failure, the omission of certain data (deemed irrelevant) could make all the difference.

This is not to say that drug companies are dishonest. Research can be a painful process and humans do not like pain. The feeling that one has actually discovered something of value after a number of previous failures could quite easily override the caution one might normally have.

[1] here

The reduction of voter suppression should be given greater priority

November 2, 2010

According to a story on Daily Kos, Republicans are using dirty tricks to discourage Democratic voters from voting [1].

As commenters on the story have noted, it does seem that people should be held to account for this and this should involve people going to jail.

Unless a price is exacted, this kind of thing will continue from US election to US election.

[1] here

BMA advocacy for minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland

October 17, 2010

Today, I watched Alex Salmond giving a speech to the SNP conference in Scotland. He was critical of Labour over its approach to the issue of minimum pricing. He said that the “Labour party simply ran away”.

It would like to point out that if there is blame, it would seem to attach to more than Labour. The SNP refer to the support of the BMA for a policy change and I find the approach of the BMA questionable.

Looking at a page on the BMA web site [1], I see the following “a number of studies suggest that there might be an effective way of mitigating the effects of the abuse of alcohol through the introduction of minimum pricing”. The use of the word “might” is concerning.

Introducing a minimum price for alcohol is, to my mind, a big step. There are always lots of things we could ban or restrict. Is it too much to ask for us to find out beforehand whether the ban is likely to be effective? The quote is from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and apparently Canada is one of the few countries where a relevant approach has been tried. If even Canadians are uncertain about the policy, why should there be such a rush to introduce it?

The web page also says “A peer review study published by the University of Sheffield”. Why is such a study worth mentioning? Why is the BMA relying on such a recent study (December 2008)? My conclusion is that the study is mentioned precisely because there is doubt in the field generally and there is no older widely-accepted study.

This BMA web page is a briefing paper. It was intended to sway votes. Why not look for really solid evidence and present in a good way, without falling back on “well, it might work”?

[1] I no longer have the link

NHS and the use of antibiotics

October 16, 2010

Yesterday I saw a news item from the US about a man suffering due to an antibiotic-resistant superbug. And, of course, we have superbugs here in the UK as well.

I would like the new government to demonstrate that it is willing to seriously tackle this issue since I am not presently convinced that it is doing all it can. I know the government probably has a lot on its plate but I would hope that this issue can be given some priority.

I did a web search to try to determine the current situation. I found the following statement “The Department is continuing to encourage more prudent use of antibiotics” [1]. I would want to know more. How about some numbers? How big is the problem? How many doctors are aware that they are not following best practice? Is there a projected date for when the NHS will be in line with best practice?

These seem like quite important questions but the web page did not answer them, nor could I find the answers on other web pages.

Antibiotic-resistance might seem like quite an arcane subject but given the nature of actions I am recommending, I think it relates to other problems in the NHS. I think that patients would be reassured if they could be confident that the doctors treating them are fully aware of best practice.

[1] here

The Miliband speech to the Labour conference

September 28, 2010

Today, Ed Miliband made his first speech to a Labour conference as party leader.

It seemed quite a combative speech in some ways with Ed wanting to take on the unions and to disagree with the decision to go to war with Iraq.

However, I am most interested in what Ed had to say about making the Labour party a party of civil liberties once more. He indicated he would not resort to simplistic criticisms such as “soft on crime” and “soft on terrorism” where issues of civil liberties were concerned.

Whether he can stick to this line is not clear. In the past, Labour have been critical of the government in office at that time over jobs without providing a clear job creation plan. The temptation to go for simplistic criticism may be too much, given the pressures within the Labour party.