Archive for the ‘bleeding obvious’ Category

Thoughts on “Singular They”

Monday, September 12th, 2011

English lacks pronouns for the third person singular common gender. The plural forms are commonly used as singular for want of anything better, but this seems to be frowned on by The Authorities. And although there have been various suggestions for sets of common-gender pronouns, none of them have really caught on — despite there being entire science-fiction anthologies without a “he” or “she” in sight.

I personally think we should stop acting as though there is anything wrong with using “they” in the singular. After all, outside certain dialects, English no longer makes any distinction between singular and plural in the second person, and the distinction is often blurred in the first person (traditionally, the reigning monarch has always referred to themself as “We”; and this is also often used as a literary device to indicate that the author is not alone in expressing a particular opinion. There are also instances when multiple authors have referred to themselves as “I”.)

So, for the sake of consistency and to avoid introducing new words into the language, I propose that the “overloading” of common-gender third person plural pronouns as singular pronouns be made official.

  • Nominative: They
  • Accusative: Them
  • Genitive: Their
  • Reflexive: Themself (only obvious singular form)

We already use such constructions informally all the time. So why not just make them formal?

Why your car insurance is going up

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Basically, it’s because people are making false claims. Even down to the point of staging deliberate accidents (and it’s surely a matter of time before an innocent third party gets involved in such an incident).

I have two suggestions which ought to help. Firstly, require, as part of the MOT test, for head restraints — the purpose of which is to prevent whiplash injury — to be fitted and properly deployed. Then, any claim for compensation for whiplash injury will require admitting to driving an unroadworthy vehicle.

And secondly, motor insurance fraud should attract an automatic driving ban.

What’s really needed, though, is for more personal injury lawsuits to be dismissed with prejudice. We don’t need any new laws for this; we just need to enforce the ones we have. Once a few people have been labelled as “vexatious litigants”, the rest will soon learn.

An Idea Whose Time has Been and Gone

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Filament light bulbs — at least the 100W flavour — have been banned. The only question that needs to be asked is, what took the government so long?

Anyone who has ever tried generating their own electricity will know that these bulbs are stupidly wasteful. A 100W bulb kicks out some 95W of heat. It’s surprising really, what with the distinction that has to be drawn between (for example) strawberry flavour, strawberry flavoured and strawberry lest the consumer be unaware how little fruit the product contains, that they’re even allowed to call them “light” bulbs at all! Heat bulb would be a much more accurate description!

Every person who has bought a 100 watt filament bulb to use for general illumination instead of a 20 watt compact fluorescent bulb is needlessly pissing 80 joules of energy up the wall every second the thing is on, using up fossil fuels that won’t ever be available again. Add up all those 80s and you could probably take a whole coal- or gas-fired power station out of service.

Of course, the 20 watt fluorescent is still putting out 15 watts of heat, so there’s room for improvement, and there does need to be a recycling scheme set up — but since compact fluorescent lamps contain enough valuable materials to be well worth recycling if you can get enough of them together, this is pretty much inevitable.

I’m looking forward to seeing the next generation of LED-based lamps.

A Campaign I Can Get Behind

Friday, May 29th, 2009

I’ve been saying this for a long time now. Those “child safety” covers for power sockets — invariably peddled by charlatans who claim to know more than the professional engineers who designed the British ring main system more than 60 years ago — do not work.

For one thing, they are totally unnecessary. BS1363, the standard for the 13 amp plug and socket,mandates internal safety shutters in every socket outlet. If you look at any nearby power socket — whether on the wall or on an extension lead, they all have to conform to BS1363 — you will see that the Live and Neutral holes are covered up. The only place you can insert anything is the Narth hole, which is safe to touch anyway. The insertion of a plug pin into the Earth hole retracts the shutters from over the Live and Neutral holes. And the lengths of the pins on the plug and the depths of the shutters are specified such that this only begins to happen when the body of the plug is safely covering the socket.

But “safety” covers can actually make things worse. If a cover is removed (and don’t underestimate what kids are capable of), it can be inserted the wrong way around, thus opening the safety shutters and allowing an object to be inserted into the live socket receptacle. This can’t be done with a BS1363 plug, because the dimensions are such that the Live and Neutral pins would collide with the faceplate before the Earth pin entered far enough to retract the shutters. But these covers are made of thin, flexible plastic and can bend out of the way just enough to fit in upside down.

Some “safety” covers even allowed room for objects to be inserted into the “Live” hole even while the cover was in place.

And what happens when direct sunlight shines on plastic? Answer, it becomes brittle. “Safety” covers used on sockets in a conservatory or any South-facing room may well perish and, in the worst case, break off — leaving the Earth pin firmly retained in the socket by the sprung brass contacts, and the Live and Neutral holes wide open.

See the campaign web site at

Doner Kebabs are bad for you

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Officials from councils sampled nearly 500 Doner kebabs and found that they may contain up to 4.2MJ of energy and “shocking” levels of salt and saturated fat. Link to BBC story

No s#!t, Sherlock.