Do you wake up one day and realise that age has caught
up with you? When does that happen? First wrinkle? First grandchild? Bus pass?
Listening to Radio Four? Buying sensible slippers? Walking into a room and forgetting why you went there? Recalling the first time you heard the Beatles?
Or is it the first indication that your heart might not
be as healthy as you thought. And the realisation that it only has so many beats
to give in a lifetime. And you still have a house full of books to read. No
heartbeat used to be the legal sign of death, but as the heart is now stopped routinely for surgery, that had to be legally redefined as 'lack of brain stem function' etc. I should add that they do start the heart
again after any surgery is complete.
So let's go back to Black Monday. A very odd day. A very stressful day. Monday the 19th of November was so stressful, that at 3 AM on Tuesday the 20th, I woke up
with severe chest pain left sided, up left side of jaw, into left arm and
thought, as you do, I am having a heart attack.
So what do all normal people do when they think they are having a
coronary? I went downstairs to let the dog out.
Then I took my blood pressure.
180/140…. A tad high when my norm is 100/70.
I sat on the sofa, watching my BP slowly fall, and then
went back to bed.
For the next few days I was absolutely exhausted, dizzy,
with my heart bumping around like an angry rabbit in a box. So I thought I should
trot of to see the doc. He’s a great guy, empathetic with the bubonic plague and
leprosy that I suffer on a daily basis with my hyperactive imagination. He
was all jokey until he sounded my heart. Then he swore loudly (very loudly) and
booked me in for blood tests, treadmills and ECGs and other exciting stuff all
within a week.
All this is free.
Our NHS is
So I was put on a treadmill and wired up. On and on it
went, higher and higher, faster and faster.
The operator was talking to me about Christmas, Santa,
children, parties, turkeys, her work, my work… and so it went on as I walked on
and the speed got higher. By the end of ten minutes I was walking briskly up a gradient
like the lower reaches of an Alp. I wasn’t unduly fatigued by any of this. The
technician informed me I was operating at the cardiac function of a 25 year old
I have the heart of a twenty year old man.
He wants it back.
phased I thought as she pulled trace. After trace. After trace from the jaws of the machine.
Then I went into the cardiologist, (who looked as
though she had been on a few visits to the cake shop), who looked puzzled. 'Very
few hearts like yours around in the west of Scotland,' she said – we do have the
worst incidence of heart disease in Europe. I don’t know what effect Brexit
will have on that.
My naughty cholesterol
was 3 (!!), my good cholesterol was 1.6 (anything over 1 protects the heart),
then my BP 110/70 and a low resting pulse that responds well to exercise
So far so good.
Then she started to draw her pen along the trace.
Then she asked the big question- 'So what kicked off
these ectopic beats?' She pointed at the trace, where the peaks and troughs changed
from molehills to Everest and the Mariana trench.
That was when the technician mentioned work. And the memory
of that Monday flooded back.
The computer system was down, central server failure somewhere in Manchester. Cyber attack.
Day Four of playing guess the patient, treating with no histories. My mobile phone was stolen from the front desk at reception where it was
sitting to show the twitter feed as the servers went back up one by one.
have seen the Facebook post. ‘To whoever forced me to go into Glasgow on Back
Friday to get a new phone, I hope that while Santa lands on your roof, Rudolf shits down your chimney.’
Or something similarly festive.
Food good for cholesterol
Oh, and the small matter of the council chasing me for
50,000 pounds/ 63 000 dollars for not declaring a property that I rent out on
my landlord’s registration. I pointed out that was because the property concerned
was nothing to do with me. And sent them my registration and list of properties.
‘Yes,’ they said, ‘the property in question is not listed. That’s why you are
being fined.’ So I said, ‘Why would I
register a property I don’t own?' Even pointing out that this situation had
happened before, with the same property in fact, and that there was another
woman with the same name as me, unregistered landlord, and it turned out to be
No, they said it is yours.
Legally, the council have the right to send sheriff
officers into your house to lift goods ‘to the value of’. I had visions of the
motorhome being driven away. And there is no day in court to explain yourself (or
in my case, point out their error), just emails that say, ‘our records say you
own the property’. And I reply ‘Your
records are wrong.’
I did suggest that they tried the land register in Edinburgh
but they are not allowed to spend the £15 that costs, and go by their own
register (the one I had not registered the property that I didn’t own on). Are
you following this?
The only thing (and
this makes it worse) that stopped it was the fact I treat somebody very high up
in the council, who said ‘just say you’re a good pal of mine’.
It was sorted in 48 hours.
So I am being calm. While suing the arse off the council and
using the money to sponsor a homeless donkey.
Others that don’t have a history of running marathons,
or that don’t have my Dad’s genes, might have had something a little more life
changing. And not in a good way.
I have heard of cardiac
depression, a very serious tweak of the psyche that happens with heart
issues. I don’t have that but there is
a distinct lack of ‘something’. The cardiologist
said to get back out exercising as that has always been the counterbalance to
my stress, but the thought of my heart flinging out that extra beat is so
daunting, that I can’t bring myself to run across the road in a hurricane. Even standing in a queue in a upmarket,
with the ever present kid screaming
in my ear, my heart suddenly went onto
Buddy Rich mode, the middle section
of Love For Sale I think it was.
And it goes into Buddy Holly mode, all together one.….
Heartbeat, why do you…. etc.
Stanley - Thursday
These turbulent times, particularly in the United States, are good cause to revisit the Dunning-Kruger effect and to remind ourselves of its consequences.
Simply put, the Dunning-Kruger effect states that people of lower ability think they know more than they do and consequently have an illusion of superiority. They lack the meta-cognitive skills of reflection, which results in them not knowing what they don't know.
The effect was described by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, in a 1999 study titled Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. Apparently the idea for the study came from the case of bank robber McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks with his face covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink. When he was apprehended later in the day after he'd robbed two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight and was shown the surveillance tapes, he expressed shock and exclaimed 'but I wore the juice!'
I don't know whether Wheeler won a Darwin Award. If he had it would have confirmed one of Darwin's many insights: 'Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.' (Descent of Man)
In a later study, Dunning and Kruger tested their theory on students in an introductory psychology course. They looked at how well the students assessed their performance on tests in three areas: logical reasoning, English grammar, and personal sense of humour. After receiving their results, the students were asked to estimate their rank in the class. Incompetent students estimated their rank higher than their results indicated, while competent students tended to underestimate their rank. Students who scored at about the 10th percentile estimated they'd scored at about the 60th percentile.
The two researchers also examined gun owners and found the same effect - those who scored poorly on a tests of guns and shooting wildly overestimated their expertise.
It is important to note that most Dunning and Kruger's studies were done using students in the United States. It is important because some multi-cultural studies they conducted indicated that the Dunning-Kruger effect was also influenced by cultural background. For example, Japanese students overall tended to underestimate their ability.
My memory may be faulty as to the exact numbers, but I remember reading a few years ago about one of the huge multinational tests on mathematics or science. I don't remember which. Students from the USA came about tenth in the rankings, but first in their confidence in how well they'd done.
Of course, Dunning and Kruger were not the first to notice the effect they describe. Here are a few historic examples I found on Wikipedia.
'Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.' - Confucius
'The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.' - William Shakespeare (As You Like It)
'A little learning is a dangerous thing.' - Alexander Pope
'Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.' - Friedrich Nietzsche
'One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.' - Bertrand Russell
It seems that the clash between competence and the illusion of competence is spreading far and wide with the illusionists gaining the upper hand (hopefully temporarily). The situation is exacerbated by a growing climate of anti-intellectualism, fuelled by religious extremism and cultism, and diminishing funds for education.
As Robert Kennedy said in a speech in Cape Town in June 1966: 'There is a Chinese curse which says "May he live in interesting times." Like it or not we live in interesting times.'
Robert Kennedy (Photo: S Trollip)
Given the hubris of some of the world's leaders, I hope the times don't become too interesting.
Leye - Every other Wednesday
I’ll get straight to the point. I think that the TV show,
The Apprentice, promotes bad behaviour. I think it is
not enough that it respects the 9pm watershed in the UK, I think that each episode should be preceded by
a warning such as:
‘The programme you are about to watch includes scenes of
deception, backstabbing, vicious character assassination, blatant lying,
connivance, extreme selfishness and self-interest, bullying, abuse,
intimidation, and all manners of malfeasance from the beginning and throughout.’
This might not even be enough. Perhaps the warning should
also include a caveat:
‘The process you are about to watch in no way depicts
what is deemed acceptable behaviour for candidates applying for a role in any
If you are one of the few people who do not watch bad tele,
unlike me, then an explanation of The Apprentice is necessary.
The Apprentice is a reality television program that judges
the business skills of a group of contestants.
The Apprentice was created by British-born American television producer Mark
Burnett. Billed as "The Ultimate Job Interview," the show features
fourteen to eighteen business people who compete over the course of a season,
with usually one contestant eliminated per episode. Contestants are split into
two teams, with one member from each volunteering as a project manager on each
new task. The teams complete business-related tasks such as selling products,
raising money for charity, or creating an advertising campaign, with one team
selected as the winner based on objective measures and subjective opinions of
the host and his advisers who monitor the teams' performance on tasks.
The losing team attends a boardroom meeting with the show's host and their
advisers to break down why they lost and determine who contributed the least to
Episodes ended with the host eliminating one contestant from the competition,
with the words ‘You're fired!’
The first host of the show was Donald Trump, and oh boy did
he relish pointing at the belittled contestant and telling them ‘You’re fried!’
One wonders if his time on the show has anything to do with the president he is
today. He does seem to fire a lot of his staff at the White house. And his obsession
with ratings – It’s like he thinks the presidency is just one big show. Like he
thinks he’s still hosting The Apprentice. Only that he’s not. This is much more
serious. Much, much, much more serious. But I digress.
The UK version of the show is hosted by respected multimillionaire
businessman, Sir Alan Sugar, and very much like the original series, each episode of
The Apprentice UK sees a bunch of contestants competing to become Lord Sugar’s
next business partner. And here is where it gets nasty. Really, really nasty.
Camera crew follow the contestants as they interact in their
joint abode, as they carry out each episodes task, and individually as they talk to the camera, expressing their opinions on the other contestants.
The show promotes competition. Nothing wrong with that. But
in my view, it promotes unhealthy competition. And bad conduct. Take for
example each task. A project manager is selected for each team, and from what I’ve
seen, the team leader is punished if they choose a collaborative approach. They
are instead expected to solely come up with a an idea and a plan, force this plan upon their team by being ‘authoritative’ or ‘firm,’ and then they are expected to delegate,
They are punished
for being weak if they seek the opinion of their team mates, use Non Violent Communication,
seek harmony and promote collaboration. Indeed, they are expected to force their team
to do their will. It's not about working together; it's about telling other people what to do and making damn sure they do it.
What we usually witness each episode, is the team mates competing against
one another, the team lead being a tyrant, and each team member sabotaging one another – especially when they are alone with the camera.
Too often the project leader uses their solo time with the camera to berate
their team’s uselessness at the task and how, if the team fails, it’s the
fault of someone or everyone other than them.
Same with the team members. Once they’re alone with the
camera they quickly start to make their case for not getting eliminated should
the task fail. They eagerly point out how ineffectual the project leader is, how stupid the plan is, how they had no hand in the brain-dead idea, and they never fail to list the shortcomings of their team members – the same shortcoming
they will bring up should they be facing the axe in the boardroom.
At the end of the task, before the winning team is announced,
both teams are invited to the boardroom where Lord Sugar, with his co-hosts on either
side of him on the other side of the table, asks each team about their tasks.
Even before the winner is announced, the team members start sabotaging each
other, telling on one another, making up stuff, interrupting and talking over each
other, exchanging insults, raising their voices, making accusations, misrepresenting
the truth and generally being nasty. And they’re on the same team!
It gets even nastier when a team losses. They all go for
each other. They lie, they insult, they go for the jugular. Each one of them, fighting
to be saved, throws everyone else under the bus.
And at the end of this shameful show of blatant self-serving
terrible behaviour, what happens? One person (usually) is kicked off and the
others are rewarded for their nastiness by having another chance to become Lord
Sugar’s next business partner. Really? Does Lord Sugar really want to work with
such vile, conniving, two face people? Does anyone want to work with such
I would like to know how former contestants have fared at job
interviews following their time on the show.
To be fair, The Apprentice is not the only show the depicts bad
behaviour, but The Apprentice is a job recruitment game show and for this
reason I think it is fair to be critical of the behaviour seemingly encouraged
of the contestants. Perhaps the show should come with the warning: ‘Do not behave
like this in a real job interview.’