Thursday, 30 April 2009

Random Distribution of Goods

In my Moral Philosophy exam today I answered a question relating to the distribution of goods by random procedure, and whether there was any grounds on which such a method was justifiable. I think it's somewhat already a common-place practice. In Wales they apparently allocate some cancer treatment drugs based on a postcode lottery. It was my weakest exam answer because I genuinelly don't seem to have formed a strong opinion on either side of the argument.

The main argument that justifies such a practice rests on the proposition that, by randomly distributing a good, everyone has an equal chance of obtaining it. It's a "fair method" of ensuring everyone can lay some claim to the good; you don't have to fulfil specific criteria in order to be considered for the process (apart from, obviously, there being an existing reason for you to want/need the good in question). Let's consider an example, that might elucidate this further.

Suppose the good in question is something indivisible, like a human organ - let's say, a liver. Since only one person can have the liver, there needs to be some method of selecting who will have the organ. Now, because there may be many people in need of a liver transplant, a proponent of the random selection process might say, in order to not discriminate against anyone and in order to give everyone a fair shot at this life-saving procedure, we should employ a lottery whereby a patient is randomly selected from all those that need a liver, and hence they are the ones that receive the good.

I find it really difficult to write about this method because there seem to me to be too many things to take into consideration, and also I think I expose myself to the risk of sounding elitist or 'like a right cow', for want of a better term.

But here are my problems with the method:
1) Does everyone really have an equal claim to the good? Suppose a third of the people on the liver transplant list are alcoholics. Do they really have an equal claim to the liver as does, say, a promising tennis star who happened to just get an infection?

Proponents of the theory suggest everyone ought to have an equal, or at least roughly equal, claim to the good in order for them to be considered by the lottery, but what does this mean? How do we judge what constitues an 'equal claim'? On what basis? Surely the whole point is just to give everyone an equal chance...

2) In employing the random selection procedure, are we just ridding ourselves of the moral responsibility of making ethical choices? We can't decide for ourselves how best to distribute the good, so we'll just leave it to chance...

On the other hand, perhaps random selection isn't all bad. Evolution operates on a random mutation 'policy', for want of a better word, so maybe we are just following in nature's footsteps.

Anyway, I am running out of interesting things to say on this topic. But basically, I can't make up my mind whether or not it is good or bad. I think in some cases it is necessary - until we have enough resources to go around I guess someone will always miss out on 'the good', and it is better that a few get it than that none get it. I wish I could just form a strong opinion on it though.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Same Shit, Different Day.

Every day I get at least 25 emails cluttering up by Junk folder. Now, because I desperately need to feel in control of something in my life, I make it a point to empty my Junk folder almost as many times as I check my mail. I don't know how normal that is, I know some people leave 100s of emails in their inbox unread - I myself could never handle that, a messy inbox just sends all the wrong sorts of shivers down my spine.

Today I couldn't help but notice one quite alarming Spam Subject:
"Make it reach your knee!"

Disregarding the obvious fact that, being a female, I am not a target audience for this sort of thing (and yet I get such services offered to me on a daily basis), I do have to wonder - who on earth would want it reaching their knee?!

These spammers have clearly given their marketing no thought at all. Surely there would be a huge (excuse the pun) logistical problem if, in all its glory, it were to reach one's knee? You'd have to be pretty skilled at yoga to make such a vertical challenge work... And secondly, at the risk of sounding crude, you'd probably be wanting to shag an elephant if you genuinely wanted to be that length.

Alternatively, I may have been too caught up in my own innuendos to realise this was just trying to promote a hair growth product or something.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Sleepy Dinner

My housemate just texted me: "What are you doing for dinner tonight?"

I replied: "Sleeping? I would quite like sleep for breakfast, and perhaps lunch, tomorrow."

If that isn't the mark of comical genius, I don't know what is.

It's either that, or lack of sleep and an onset of hysteria.

Saturday, 25 April 2009


Now that exam hysteria has well and truly settled in, I am taking this opportunity to promote my new found appreciation of Techno music. This song has been top of my play list for the last 24 hours:

I don't know very much about techno music, I'm not even sure if Faithless would count as being part of that genre, but for the sake of argument, I shall assume that to be the case. The song has a lovely calming effect to it, with melancholy undertones, yet is not packed with sentimentality, and I think it's perfect for a bit of a chillout.


In other news, this PC is really taking the piss.
"Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close."
Yeah, I bet you have. OK, debug.
"DrDebugger has encountered a problem and needs to close."
End BitTorrent Client.
"You have chosen to end an unresponsive program..."
End WMP.
"You have chosen to end an unresponsive program..."
End Word.
"You have chosen to end an unresponsive program..."


And please, for the love of God, take Dell with you!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The value of science

In keeping with my tradition of leaving everything to the last minute, I have once again found myself with five days left before an essay deadline and I have not yet produced an essay. But there is something altogether quite different about this essay than any other I have been set to date.

First of all, I have never written a Sociology essay in my life, and I will probably not write another one after this (unless I give in to the urge to work for or some such website which is continually advertising itself on GumTree), but that is altogether irrelevant.

No, the fascinating thing about this essay is that, actually, I really am writing about one of my strongest convictions! So far throughout my academic life both at school and at university I have maintained what I would deem as a healthy interest in most essay material. I engage with the topic, think about what's been said, form my opinion and write a couple of pages to demonstrate the above. It's relatively pain- and hassle- free (if you discount any all-nighters pulled to achieve this goal) but this time, I feel like a woman possessed!

"What is the value of science?" Max Weber, the 'father' of Sociology, asks. And then subsequently concludes that it is, in today's culture of "rationalization and intellectualization", meaningless. Pointless. Worthless.

Don't be alarmed, I won't copy + paste all the *ahem* 1800 words (out of 4000...) that I've been slaving over, but I will make a few general points.

1) Weber does not dismiss that science has instrumental value, and in any case an argument against such a view would be hard to come by. We see the effects of scientific advancement all around us, and while it is not my aim here to discuss whether or not science has improved our general conditions of life, suffice it to say that some things at least are easier to do - like vaccinate against a deadly disease like smallpox. (Courtesy of Robert Koch. Or Louis Pasteur, but let's go for Koch. If this is the £64k question and you lose, feel free to track me down and beat me.)

2) New scientific discoveries are constantly being made, and so few scientists' legacies live on - there is simply too much to investigate. (The more I know, the more I realise I don't know, but at least I know something, even if, like Socrates, "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.") And even those things which survive to be passed down through countless decades of Nuffield textbooks are constantly, in one way or another, being questioned. Everyone always uses the example of Newton's laws, which did so well to describe gravitational attraction for hundreds of years until it was discovered that they did not hold for subatomic particles. The fact that the scientific process goes on indefinitely is just part of what science is about; for the scientist, it is all about the thrill of the chase!

3) At the heart of it, science answers the most fundamental question of all - "why?" Whatever way I look at it, all questions boil down to that, whether they are scientific or not. The fact that science deals with "mere" empirical reality is not (as Weber may have you believe) its downfall - that is simply what it investigates. No one would ask a detective to carry out a post mortem on their dead pet - that is just not what a detective does (unless he happens to look uncannily like Dick Van Dyke, in which case he can do pretty much anything). Science answers our "why?" questions with all it has at its disposal, and what it has at its disposal is physical reality. Science describes reality to us in such a way that we are actually able to comprehend it. Einstein once said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." I feel we are quite lucky to be living in it.

But despite all this, and in spite of my optimistic manner, there is still a line of thinking that says all human endeavour is futile. A mathematician friend of mine, commenting on this, said the other day, "You might as well kill yourself. I'm not saying that you should. Just that you might as well."* Perhaps Weber was thinking along such lines himself. In any case, it is up to each of us to decide whether or not human activity is futile. That is not a question science has the answer to. But it is more fun to think, or at least pretend, that we're here for a reason; then we can go about answering "Why?"

(*Please don't.)

Monday, 20 April 2009


I watch Supernanny as religiously as I possibly can. In fact, probably even more religiously than I possibly could given that, when I was 'religious', I would attend Church, at most, twice a month in the leading months to secondary school applications. (We're going to hell, I know.) I think it's great that a woman with a larger figure is on our screens, she's a warm character and leaves the families with all the charm that Mary Poppins bestowed on the Banks family in the 1965 classic. But one thing puzzles me - how did she get that job?

My sister and I have come round to the opinion that Dame Jo Frost (as she is known in the fantasy world in my head) marched up to the Channel 4 executives in her suit, with that charming London accent of hers, and said -
"I go' an idea for a show! I'm gonna go 'round to dysfunctional families and do the whole of Great Britain a favour by teachin' the useless parents how to control their disruptive, unruly, child-like monsters. It'll be super.
"Oh, and I'll need a black cab."

If you happen to be swayed by this post and do a google search on her, don't click on her homepage because it has a virus. I'm off to remove said malware from the PC.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Renault Laguna Advert

I'll be the first to admit, I know next to nothing about cars. Despite watching Top Gear fairly regularly, I have no idea what any of the technical jargon they use means and, considering Top Gear is predominantly an entertainment show, I don't think that matters.

During the ad break of (Sunday's repeat of) Brtian's Got Talent, Eric Cantona came on to advertise the Renault Laguna. Here is a link if you've not caught this yet -

Cantona is no doubt one of the biggest names of 90s football, having spent the highlights of his career (arguably?) at Manchester United as well as playing for the French national side. But after his retirement, he mainly still stuck to what he knew, promoting Nike through various football adverts with other high-profile football stars.

Now, despite being an Arsenal supporter and therefore more than willing to undermine Man Utd's greatness whenever possible, I will grant that (as I'm sure most honest people will) Cantona was an exceptional player (and, again, am more than happy to admit that Man Utd has had its fair share of exceptional players). But I know nothing of the Eric that is within the persona of Cantona and, to be frankly honest, it is not something I have ever pondered over. And having seen this Renault car advert, I don't particularly have any further inclination to find out. Not that the advert is marketing Cantona himself, but it doesn't even fulfil its primary task, because I have no further inclination to buy that Renault car either! Granted, I don't have the funds to buy a car, and I can't even drive, but that Citroen Zara Picasso from a few years back did make me stop and think, "hmm, maybe one day I will want to purcahse a Citroen!" (The one with the machines that drew on the car, I can't find the link atm.)

Firstly, it is too long. A minute and a half!! Where Cantona just talks at us! AT us! I lost interest within the first 10 seconds! And 20 seconds later, when I glanced at it again, it was still on! Why?!

It's all fine and well to get 'celebrities' to endorse your products, but that can't be the be-all-and-end-all of the advertising stratergy. Cantona was there talking about a button that you can use with only one finger. Well, I can't think of many buttons I must punch in order to get the function started.

Don't get me wrong. This is not an attack on Eric, or Renault, or advert times, just a way of me expressing my opinion that that advert doesn't work.

Get Cantona to do some kick-ups in the back seat, or headers on the bonnet, and then I might be interested.

I do realise that so far this blog seems to consist of various rants about things I see on the telly. Bare with me, I'm firstly blogging about what I (think I) know. =)

Saturday, 18 April 2009

I have 503 free minutes to use up on my mobile talkplan, by 5th May.

I am not sure that this priceplan is really worth the money now. When I first got it, it was £35/month, with unlimited free texts and 550 minutes, and I could add an Orange Magic Number every six months (free calls to Magic Number any time).

Well, about 30 months down the line and I have added 5 MN's, 3 of those being the people I generally speak to the most on the phone, and usually pay a little under £30/month. So I constantly have minutes in abundance which, if I'm honest with you, means I phone my family more lol.

On the other hand, 2-4-1 cinema on a Wednesday is great, as is the Pizza Express offer =) I have yet to go to Pizza Express though...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009



I will not make a point of blogging about my unhealthy Australian soap obsession, but this just has to be shared. I am unsure if it is as funny to everyone else as it is to those who regularly watch Neighbours, but should you care to indulge in a guilty pleasure of mine, follow the link below to the episode online and scroll to about 16:30 mins:

The last 5 minutes of this Neighbours episode are, unintentionally, perhaps the most hillarious in its history. I'll give a brief summary in case you are not up to speed with the story -
Zeke went missing during a school rafting trip. He was in a small rowing boat that got upturned in a strong current, and Libby blames herself for his "death" (it is unconfirmed that he's dead - in fact, he's blatantly alive, but anyway) because she let go of his hand when they were underwater. Anyway, when Rachel (Zeke's sister) finds out, she gets really mad and says Libby can't come to the memorial service. But as you can see, she turns up anyway.

And then proceeds to SING the stupid SONG written by TY, the guy who can only play 6 chords on the guitar and writes embarissingly bad lyrics (e.g. It's Christmas / For you and for me / It's Christmas / For all to see ... ) ... And there is never any mention of Libby singing anyway! But more so than that is just the sheer cheese of this one moment when the singing begins and you're thinking, "Oh, are they playing a backing track of when Rachel sang this song earlier in the series?" and then you see Libby, fiercly standing up as if to say, "Rachel, I'm gonna save you from your perceived embarassment of 'choking' at this memorial service, to make up for not saving your brother from his 'death'!"

In any other situation, it would be pure comedy genius.

Upon reflection, I am inclined to think that, actually, only followers of Neighbours will find this funny. But anyway, I (probably) won't be writing about Neighbours again. Until I believe it to have reached the greatness it once had. Tuesday's episode came one step closer to that dream.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

King Arthur

When I heard about the film King Arthur coming out which, I'll admit, was quite a while ago, I was pretty excited. What could be more entertaining than a legend brought to life, with the likes of Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd and Kiera Knightly taking the lead roles? I settled down to what I thought would be two hours of epic storytelling, involving the age-old elements of courage, love, freedom, faith...

What did I get? A plot that was as well hidden as an oasis in the desert. A couple of times you think you've stumbled on it, but it just ends up being a mirage and you quickly realise your thirst for it won't be relenquished any time soon.

So what happens? The film starts off with some opening text about the historical setting, and adds a note about new evidence having been found relating to King Arthur. I highly doubt any of the events portrayed are in any way meant to reflect the real facts! The first hour shows Arthur and his men coming to the end of 15 years of service for the Roman empire. Having been promised freedom for the loyalty they have shown, Arthur is told to enlist their help once more in saving a famous Roman family living north of Hadrian's Wall. Only, no one is too happy about this because, in the north, Saxons abide! And not only the Saxons, but Merlin's army of hippy, faced-painted warriors, none of whom are too fond of dear Arthur and his pals. Que the saving of villagers, a few scares in the forest, a "battle" on ice (really just some arrows being shot into the sky), and a couple of pious, religious figureheads who are quickly disposed of. Oh, and Kiera Knightly playing the role of Guinevere is found locked up in a dungeon by these pious monks for her pagan ways. She's saved and very quickly shows everyone just how good she is with those fingers of hers using a bow-and-arrow. Merlin makes a few appearances looking loopy and mystical, but his relationship with Arthur (and Guinevere) is never explained. Some more stuff happens, and eventually there is the inevitable "Final Battle" between Arthur and those pesky Saxons.

First of all, there is absolutely no clarity in this film, whatsoever! Why are there cinematic shots of the Round Table every so often? Why are these oddball Scots running round the forests? Why has a mole joined the Saxons, was he just frustrated with his people? Furthermore, there is no character development, whatsoever! The best person to watch on the screen was Mr Gruffudd, and even he was just pissed off most of the time for having to trek around snowy Scotland. Kiera did well to come across as a strong, fiesty woman, but there didn't seem to be a lot more to her character. And Clive Owen was a little wooden, but to be honest it's not like either of them had a lot to work with.

The production was clearly quite high, some nice shots of ice cracking and the battle scenes were mildly interesting, but if you want to watch a film with some heart, I say put on 300 instead.