23 Sep 2010
Went to a Skeptics in the Pub on Tuesday with R and her dad. It was a rather good talk by Dr Michael Brooks (author of “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense“) who turned out to be an engaging and entertaining speaker.
His thesis is that it’s the anomalies that lead to progress in science. For instance when a young astronomer proposed that anomalies in the orbit of Saturn’s moon Io could be explained by the speed of light being finite rather than infinite instead of people looking at him on wonder at this astounding leap of logic they looked at him like he was mad and kept the status quo until the most eminent opponent of the theory died 30-odd years later.
He talked of different works looking at medical and epidemiological research and concluding that 80-90% of it is nonsense. To quote (well paraphrase at least):
“Don’t bother with the science, just use your common sense”
No no no! Common sense is neither common nor sensible (usually). Science was set up purely to combat “common sense”. It’s common sense that suggests that the planet is flat or that the sun goes round the Earth after all.
At the end I asked him this and he gave a good answer about needing common sense but I still have the feeling he was missing something. The example he gave was a medical study saying breathing in polluted air was good for the heart – he argues that if the researchers had used some common sense they would have seen that this was nonsense. I’d say that sometimes you need to ignore that common sense and this outcome they describe may be true. And it’s the scientific method that gets you to these odd conclusions. After all it was common sense that light travelled at infinite speed.
There were two notable questions from the floor. One was from R’s dad which was about wave/particle nature of matter and bedum bedum bedum…. I don”t think too many folk understood the question let alone the answer.
The other was a woman complaining about a stat the guy had used in his talk. Apparently 42% of US doctors (GPs) admit to using placebo in their practice. She took this stat to mean that only 58% of US GPs used actual medicine and she was appalled at this. Talk about something going over her head. I mean really.
A good evening I’d say.
12 Sep 2010
We headed out for a sunny week of doing nothing. It was needed after a few weeks of lots of work and such. We’d picked Crete and a little village called Sissi.
Our flight in was cramped beyond comfort. They kept us passengers stuck in our seats for ages despite a number of folk desperate for the loo. So we couldn’t use the loos but the staff were happy enough to be serving us over-priced snacks and trinkets. Not sure that is quite within the spirit of aircraft safety rules. The flight ended badly with us landing so hard some oxygen masks came down.
The return flight wasn’t much better as it seemed to nearly land sideways, but at least we got some more room.
Once in Crete the coach transfer was equally spectacular. My word! Tight squeezes galore, Crete roads not really designed for full size coaches, and even at one point a spontaneous round of applause from me for a particularly fine piece of fitting the coach somewhere I didn’t think was possible.
There some superb human specimens on the coach. One group comprised 4 men, 2 adults, 2 young teens. They were very clearly of the same family. They all had tiny heads. Really tiny heads.
We got to Sissi late and were dumped by the side of the road. The apartments were just up a side road. Nice enough and we were met by a man who would come to be known as “BILLY!” (as yelled by most of the guests).
Our days were mainly spent between pool and eating. N loved it all and swam like a trouper, didn’t stop smiling even through the near drownings that seem to crop up regularly. Only stopped smiling when time to leave the pool.
The people were generally lovely. The locals anyway. Unfortunately they were rather outnumbered. Many of the rest were pissed up brits. Lovely indeed.
“BILLY!” and Manos ran the place. “BILLY!” was notable for his tight, very tight, swimming shorts and laid-back demeanour. Clearly playing the part of love-interest to the female guests. I did see one about 13 year old girl spending ages ogling him. Manos I guessed was his dad. They didn’t seem to do a huge amount. Maria, on the other hand, did the lion’s share of the work. As a chambermaid she worked herself all day probably for a fraction of the money that Manos was raking in.
Tourists of note included “Mr Yabberman” a guy who sounded very Essex and took great pleasure in befriending everyone and anyone. You’ve rarely seen someone talk about so little with so many. His daughter was also notable – “DAIS!” was a 6yr old who looked like a good playmate for N but turned out to be a bit too precocious and clearly felt playing with a 5 yr old was beneath her. At a barbecue they were playing a game of tag which ended with N going flying as she was bodily shoved instead of merely tagged.
The local fooderies were rather good. No chain places as far as we could see so good local food done well in the main. The menus were all in English before Greek tho and everywhere did full English breakfasts as their standard morning fare. How wonderful to be a citizen of a country whose tourists go places to experience the same things as they do at home.
We only headed out from the town for 1 trip. The port had loads of boat trips, we picked a short one on a glass-bottomed boat. It wasn’t the nicest trip. We were pretty tight for time as we’d stupidly ordered food at the apartments late and they seemed to take an age supplying it. We ended up rushing down to the port to make sure we got the boat. Luckily the skipper was running on “GMT” or “Greek Maybe Time” so we were there in ample time. Then we discovered that we were the only people from this port getting on but there were loads of folk from down the way having their “Day trip to Sissi”. Once they shuffled on and we zoomed off at top speed down the coast it felt like we were on a bus just ferrying between stops. First stop was some hideous hole filled to the brim with tourist-hole horrors like “fun pubs” and cheap booze offers galore. There was a sizeable crowd waiting for us. But we were allowed 20 whole minutes to go and explore. R took N to the loo and I stayed on board keeping our seats (much to the chagrin of one of the boat’s staff). The thing filled up to bursting with folk. Off we zoomed again to just off a dirty beach. Here we could swim for a bit. That was ok but N was a bit unsure of sea water compared with the safety and non-saltiness of the pool though so the swim was a little shorter than it could have been.
Getting back on the boat was a bit harder than expected. The swell had the ladder pitching up and down, R noticed that the ladder was hinged and both me and N nearly had our fingers taken off by the thing snapping closed. Once out we had to zoom all the way back to Sissi. The boat was full of people getting slowly greener. No talking, no banter, no joy; just barely held back vomit. A major waste of money. The only time the glass-bottom bit was available (because we travelled too fast the rest of the time) we could see seaweed and rocks. Can you say “ripped off”?
Eventually it was time to leave so back to the airport via the “45 minute transfer bus”. It took 2 hours! But it was during the day so we saw some more of the tourist hell from the coach, much had been hidden by night on the way first time: a prime sight was MaccyD’s with fat and burned stupid people stuffing their faces on familiar shite instead of cheaper and lovelier “actual food” from local places.
Once back in Manchester we’re in the familiar again. Rain, plane’s jetty not working, moving walkways not working, cold. The first sight past passport control was an ad for free Chlamydia testing – they know the types of folk coming back off charter flights that’s for sure.
It was a rather nice week. I’d have liked to climb the local hills but it was far too hot to do so. Might just have to get back there again in cooler months.