Category Archives: Top tips

Political Football

I heard Noam Chomsky make a comparison between football and politics the other day.  He said that while few people understood what was going on in politics the ability ordinary people had to talk about football in depth showed that people weren’t avoiding politics because they didn’t have the ability to understand.  Noam pointed out that the intricacies that could develop in the relation of all the players in all the teams over the course of a year created a network of data that left him completely lost, yet ordinary blokes down the pub knew it all inside out.

The reason that all this brain power is directed into things like sport is that in sport there is so much flexibility of outcome.  An individual may not be able to affect anything personally but it somehow feels like the world in which it takes place does not reject the input of the individual.  Ordinary people may not be directors, coaches, or players, but they can still be part of the debate.  They may change nothing as individuals but collectively it certainly appears that the debate can have an effect on the overall game.  The difference in politics is that it feels so futile.  The individual has no effect, but the individual often doesn’t even have the illusion of an effect.  Even those within the system don’t appear to have an effect.  Britain’s party leaders seem to regularly talk about making changes but in reality they can’t even change the ‘Punch and Judy’ format of the way in which people address each other in the house of commons.  If leaders are unable to simply change the rules around how people speak to each other to something more respectful then how on Earth are they going to be able to make any substantive changes.

Politics are currently working on the wrong model.  In football the way things work is fairly obvious.  Teams fight it out until only the best one is left and they win the cup, or generally actions along those lines.  Each time a team goes to play football it is doing its job.  The competing is the job and each team gets rewarded for doing things their way to the best of their ability.

In politics the different teams involved do not do their jobs until after they have won the competition.  Up until that point they essentially pretend to do their job and then if everyone thinks that their ‘fantasy football’ style politics would be effective then maybe they will get voted in and be able to do it for real.  There is no way to objectively test if their methods work though.  In football the way to objectively test if a team’s methods work is to see if they won the game.  It is obvious.  In politics there is no objectivity like this.  The team who is trying to win has to try to work out what sort of things the public would like and then pretend that is what they would do.  The result means that they, lie about their principles; they mimic the group who has already won because their tactics must have worked, even though they are meant to be opposed, i.e. opposite.  

Our political parties cannot be chosen for objective reasons.  They can only be chosen because of personal biases or because the current party in power has screwed things up so badly that we have no other choice beside trying to walk across the channel.  My Grandmother refused to vote liberal because she said they couldn’t be trusted, although if they had ever been given the chance to learn from that mistake it could only  have been when she was a very small child.  Certainly I don’t think Lloyd George would have been likely to make the same mistakes again in the 1980s, having long since shuffled off the mortal coil. There was no objective reason to think that they would be remotely similar to the last liberal government.

This is my complaint.  No wonder sports are easier to relate to than politics.  Most of politics is just one small group of people, fewer than a thousand in a country of sixty million, doing their own thing, more or less unswayed by those who want change.  Luckily I have a solution.

As I have pointed out, every week when football teams compete they do so by doing their job.  The solution for political parties wholly failing to achieve anything comparable in their own operation is for political parties to start competing before they get into power.  Local MPs should be solving their constituent’s problems in their capacity as MP whether they succeed in gaining a parliamentary seat or not.  If a candidate fails and wishes to step down then they should be immediately replaced by someone prepared to do their job immediately.  A replacement shouldn’t be chosen only for the purpose of running for election.  A candidate should be chosen immediately to try and solve local issues and rally people together even if their is no hope of them gaining power for another five years.
The political parties should be operating at a national scale to make large changes to the way things are done.  They should consider themselves to be like large multipurpose charities.  There should be no focus on one particular field, they should be charities that deal with the day to day running of the country.  They should be able to prove their worth as potential leaders to run our country by their ability to raise money and then use that money to improve the lives of the people rather than saving it for advertising and canvassing.  If we could see parties achieve success when they are not in power then we are far more likely to put them in power where they get the opportunity to make even bigger changes.  We should not have to vote for people based on assurances which will probably never attain fruition.

Looks like I have to save the world again.

I feel like today’s post may be a long one.  There seems to be so much despondency in the world that I wish to address.  Mind you, Barack Obama says it has always been like this, it is just that we never had Facebook to keep us continually informed before.  On the bright side it has come to my attention that there are a huge number of people trying to make things better.  There are the heroes who go to the darkest most dangerous places of the world to try and make a difference and end up getting killed or imprisoned, but there are also the heroes that are making small changes to the world around us that barely anyone ever notices.  In the end I wonder which will end up creating the longest lasting difference.  I like the Tibetan Buddhist approach; it will all work itself out eventually, lets just wait and see.

However, I guess that is kind of point number one on my saving the world score today.  For all the harm in the world there is also someone somewhere who is trying to fix it, they are just not all that newsworthy.  Besides which, if you knew about all the good stuff then you wouldn’t need to go out and buy yourself treats to cheer yourself up, the economy would fall, and big fat suited men wouldn’t be able to enjoy the finest cognacs… as much as they would like.  Rest assured there is good stuff going on.

But don’t grow complacent.  People are sorting things out but it is a big world and it needs a lot of people to help fix it.  Point number two on my world saving scale is that people don’t worry too much about trying too hard themselves because they think one person can’t make enough of a difference, but one person times a billion can.  While that might sound a bit preachy, it is actually beneficial for the individual more than it is for the world.  That’s right, being selfish enough to boost your own smugness with good deeds probably helps you more than the world.  The improvement in your own emotional health has been shown to be dramatic. If however you do genuinely care about the world more than yourself do not fret because if everyone selfishly boosts their own smugness by doing good deeds the result will be a better world as well.  How is that for a win win situation.

When it comes to substantive problems one of the worst at the moment is that people are hungry.  A rise in poverty is causing a great deal of people to need food banks.  Whilst there are a lot more poor individuals out there than most of us feel confident enough to help there is a way in which we can do it through selfish self interest if we all get behind it.  It is nice that the way I have in mind also saves us money, it improves our health through helping us exercise, helping us eat better, and helping us avoid harmful chemicals.  If you haven’t guessed, this is a gardening blog post.

Number one on my list of fears at the moment is related to GMO food.  I say related because GMO food has the potential to really help the world and everyone on it.  If a plant was genetically modified to have a massive yield despite the weather and soil conditions not being as great as they could, and there were no side effects then this can only be a good thing.  The problem for me is that currently the number one genetically modified crop being tried out is Roundup resistant maize.  The first problem with this is that being Roundup resistant it becomes possible to soak this crop with Roundup in order to kill all the weeds that might grow around it.  Now while I may be able to think of many reasons why killing the weeds might not be the best plan, such as the fact that any pests now have no choice but to eat the maize, leading to necessity for greater use of pesticides as well, or the fact that this will diminish the biological diversity of the soil and necessitate the need for more chemical fertilisers, it is actually the Roundup itself that bothers me most.

Roundup is a herbicide and as someone who has suffered from digestive disorders due to imbalance in intestinal flora it has worried me that traces of it on food can kill the flora in the intestines.  I have seen charts that show a correlation between increased use of Roundup and increased hospital visits from people who have conditions involving the digestion.  I have also seen correlations between the heavy use of Roundup in third world countries and the increased depression and suicide of the poorly educated farmers there who do not take precautions against exposure.  If you want to find this information a Google search can easily uncover it.  At some future time I may seek out the links but do not have the time today.

As far as I am concerned I am not too bothered by artificial fertilisers.  A lot of them seem fairly innocuous, though I have no doubt there may be a few harmful ones.  Pesticides bother me less than they might bother other people.  Recent testing has shown that there are foods coming into our country that contain banned pesticides such as DDT.  The most recent report showed leading tea brands which contained a number of banned pesticides and permitted pesticides in higher than permitted quantities.  I think that this sort of thing is more of an exception and I don’t think it is as worrying as the herbicides.  Mostly because people assume something intended to kill insects is going to be more harmful to humans than something intended to kill weeds.  It is the herbicides that are not worried about that may get through in the kinds of quantities that may be problematic.

For this reason I have taken to growing food.  This has a number of obvious benefits.  It keeps me healthy and young to keep having to plant seeds and dig holes.  When research has shown that every additional hour of sitting in a chair after hour number one can knock 20 minutes off your life expectancy then gardening is a good idea if you would like an extra five or so years of life.  It has the benefit of exercising my mind.  An active mind has been shown to keep one alive and more healthy as well, how else do you think judges keep working into their 80s?  Learning different varieties of plants and their properties is far better mind exercise than sitting and watching NCIS marathons, which I have not managed to stop doing.  I need to visit doctors far less often because many of the things that ail the population are caused by things in their diet.  The blind faith that people have in modern medicine is akin to the faith that people used to have in religion or magic.  Whilst medicine is taking a scientific approach, it is still in the stone age compared to our technology.  While you can run experiments on computers in a matter of hours dependent on what you want to know, it may take years to run an experiment involving a human’s health.  Not to mention you would need hundreds of humans in the experiment to be sure and there are also ethical problems with human experimentation, and the impossibility of being able to conduct the kind of pure science one can conduct in the laboratory, and the fact that if you could then it would be largely irrelevant to understanding what happens in the world outside the laboratory.  Almost all modern medicines are derived from things that grow outside in our gardens.  Generally the garden variety is healthier than the distilled and amplified chemical variety.

If everyone was out there then everyone would be working their physical fitness, learning and stretching their brains, eating fresh food that maintains all its vitamins in the minute or two it takes to get from the garden to the front door.  Surprisingly even those who prefer to grow floral gardens rather than vegetable gardens are still growing huge numbers of things that can be eaten or used in some way that can benefit your health.  I remember hearing about one person who worked in a health food store and he was always amused by the fact that people would come in and spend several pounds on a bag of chamomile teabags with its associated CO2 equivalent in packaging and delivery, when right outside the door of the shop there was loads of organic chamomile growing wild and fresh.  If we cultivated our knowledge we would all be saving a few quid at his shop.

A big problem of our disconnect with plantlife is that fewer and fewer people have gardens now.  Fewer people consider it a necessity, they are quite happy to move into apartments or town houses.  If more people insisted on gardens then it would benefit those who did not make the cost savings associated with having a store of free food right outside their house because gardenless properties would drop in price.  Our selfishness therefore has begun to help those who do not garden straight away as their rent drops.  As we no longer need to buy so much from the supermarkets it means that the supermarkets will need to become even more competitive and drop their prices more to try and maintain the sales they currently enjoy; our selfishness once again helps those without gardens.  If less food is being delivered and packaged because we don’t want it then the environment benefits; our selfishness is beginning to save the planet.  If the environment is not deteriorating at the previously expected rate then more money that was being used to save the planet can be diverted into improving public services; our selfishness in smugly growing our own food for our own health and enjoyment is just causing no end of good in the world.  With millions of gardeners growing their own food and saving their own seeds the number of vegetable varieties will increase as new varieties adapt to different climates and become ever more developed for size, flavour, etc;  it looks as though even if we fail to fix climate change we will have plenty of plants that have adapted to it, thanks to our selfish insistence of saving money by growing our own food and seeds.

Like I said before, if only one person tries to make a change then of course there is no change but if everyone tries then solutions are not far away.  The important thing is to realise it is not a chore or a pain, it is something that will make you feel happier, more accomplished and healthier.  What I have outlined in this page is not enough to save the world on its own, but I’m not Superman and I think that it is enough of saving the world to satisfy me for one day. 

Spend wisely

With the economic downturn a lot of people have been thinking it might be time to save a bit of cash so they have something for a rainy day. I have recently come to the conclusion that this is the last thing you want to be doing. I remember a while ago when talking about personal debt David Cameron had told people to simply spend less and pay their debts off. It was not long before he retracted this when someone deep in Whitehall had presumably explained to him that a British public that was not spending money was a recipe for economic stagnation. It is pretty evident that the government do not want the public to save their money and stop supporting business with their custom. All the same, a lot of people might disagree with the government point of view and decide that now is the time to begin thinking about holding something back for the future.

However the economic situation in many of our nations is really too far gone to take this very obvious and traditional way of ensuring our future prosperity. Many of our nations are experiencing levels of debt that have in the past presaged wars, revolutions and other detrimental situations. In living memory many of us have grown used to a very comfortable and stable way of life, but looking at history shows that good times always come to an end. Tropical eras are followed by ice ages; empires are followed by dark ages; boom is followed by bust; even day is followed by night and summer is followed by winter. Of course there is always the possibility that the complexity of our modern technology might present ways in which we can avoid most of the possible deterioration of society that might have occurred in a previous age, but nevertheless there will always be change.

It is possible that many of the disastrous scenarios I am privately fearing may never come to pass, but even so, it is highly probable given the modern world we now live in that none of our ancestors ever experienced, that the way in which we might wish to use our spare cash will be far more likely to change.

Those in the social stratosphere descended from medieval gentry have typically used their cash very wisely. It is easy to invest wisely when you have so much wealth that you could buy the rest of your lifetime’s meals and still be left with vast sums weighing you down. For the rest of us investment gets a little trickier. It is all very well taking investment advice that tells you to store your wealth in gold or perhaps buy stocks in a foreign power, but if all the gold you can afford will fit in your pocket then it is not going to do you a lot of good when you can’t pay the bills at the end of the month. For most of us there are two main ways in which we will use our extra wealth; we will spend it on shiny things, or we will put it into an ISA/pension/etc.

There seems little wisdom in either of these paths. Our own mothers would be the first to explain why it is not wise to spend it on shiny things. Maybe a few shiny things might be nice but when we are living on a shoe string but have a 50″ 3D TV then we should realise for ourselves that we are losing our sense of proportion. The second path of saving is something that we are encouraged to do with all kinds of tax advantages. It is nice to know that we have that little bit of tax free benefit in an ISA; the same goes for the incentives we are offered to put our money into a pension pot. It is a necessity to incentivise this sort of behaviour to encourage a few people not to spend their money on shiny things. For those who would have done so the pension or ISA are probably an improvement. However it is also an incentive that can prevent those who would have spent their money more wisely from doing so. Those who have their eye on the future might be discouraged from spending their money getting to that future in favour of putting it into an accumulating account that they might access when they arrive.

The returns to be had by such savings are pitiful. Those figures might have looked favourable when we were taking out our pension but considering the inflation of the last generation it is likely that we would reach our retirement to discover that our cash had been doing the fiscal equivalent of treading water and trying to keep its nose above the surface. Any money put into savings of any sort may well be there to spend in the future but what use is spending money at an age where we might possibly have had a heart attack and died many years before.

Those with a fair amount of wealth know exactly what to do. When you have enough wealth it is only a tiny percentage that need be spent on getting the kind of advice that will allow investments to double in a matter of years or even months. The figure for such advice is more likely to be several hundred per cent of whatever we might be able to afford to put away. That is why we stick it into various tempting schemes, but the problem is we can not even afford the level of advice that will tell us which of these schemes might offer the best return.

Where should a person with almost no money invest the few pennies they have. Considering the level of financial woe that recent years have given us, the first answer many people will think of is investing it in beer, wine and spirits. Drowning our sorrows has been one of the ways in which the British public has long sought to support the noble efforts of the brewers and publicans. The way in which it might be more practical to invest money is in the things that are so evidently going to be needed in the probable future. If money is tight then it makes sense to invest our money in ways of avoiding that problem. D.I.Y., tools, sugru, solar panels, allotment gardening, sustainable transport, repair networks, recyclables, thread, needles, yarn, education. These are the things that green movements have been trying to talk us into for the sake of the planet for a long time. It is ironic that what may ultimately push us in that direction is the selfishness of preserving our immediate comfort that has kept us away from that lifestyle for all these years.

Spending money is what the economists want us to do to keep things moving. Forgetting economics for a while, it is spending money that we need to do to prepare for the failings of the economists. At present we are spending plenty but it is not sustainable spending. DVDs, TVs, PS3s the list of things that we buy to take our minds off our woes is extensive but if things do get worse then we will need to be developing practical skills, we will need to be buying useful items, we will need the materials and infrastructure of creators and fixers, not consumers. The market will adjust to supplying these different desires and our confidence will grow. Those industries might also be the best places for the greater investment of setting up businesses.

We need not spend less to save money for the future, we can spend as much as the economists hope we do but lets spend that money on the things that will enable us to create better lives rather than allowing the possibility of failing markets to leave us with lives that no one would want.

Scrimping and Saving

 

 

I have had to start worrying about my money lately.  A couple of years ago I had a very well paid job that led to me living in a very expensive area with very high rent and spending a lot of money.  The problem was that my employer found the effect of paying out so much in wages was that he started to run out of money himself and my workplace closed down.  This left me in a similar position to my employer in that I started running out of money as well.  It was a little over a year ago that I found myself fairly penniless.  Luckily I managed to get a new job which may have been paying a lot less but was a job in which I could learn to organise myself.

 

During the last year I have been designing lessons in law most of the time and also doing some English teaching.  For the last few months they have had me working on a course of business skills.  It occurred to me that I am using a lot of brain power every day but I have not actually put all that much effort into escaping my financially disadvantaged situation.  This week I determined that I should put some more effort into trying to pull my finances together.  Luckily for me this is actually a lot easier than one would think.  It merely takes the effort of forming a plan and then following it through.

 

The first thing that I have had to do is take a look at the credit cards.  The banks kind of prompted me into this by offering me some interest free balance transfers.  The first bank to do so was Lloyds TSB.  They were willing to give me a substantial amount of Avios which unfortunately I could not get because I did not have enough space on my card to transfer the requisite amount of cash.  I ended up transferring as much as I could into interest free land.  Naturally there was a charge for this but luckily the charge is less than half what I will be saving by not having to pay interest for the next 6 months.  Shortly after taking this money off the more expensive card to put it into an interest free space the card from which I had removed the money offered me an interest free balance transfer as well.  I was unsure about this at first.  I wondered whether I would be transferring my already interest free money into an interest free account and paying the charge for nothing.  I found out that a new rule was introduced last year whereby a bank must always pay off the money that is attracting the highest interest rate in an account first.  So it seems that I would still have my interest free amount.

 

So I transferred an amount more than twice as large as my original transfer back into the account that I had just gone to so much trouble to remove debt from.  I may have paid quite a lot of money to do this shuffling but just like that I could look into the future of next year to see that I would have a couple of hundred pounds more in that time than I would have had if I had not made this effort.

 

Now I was started I realised that I should try and keep this momentum up.  What else could I save money on.  I checked my bank account and discovered that I was still paying insurance for the flat I moved out of over half a year ago.  I quickly put a stop to that.  I also discovered that my mobile broadband company was charging me not only for the contract I was currently using but also for the contract that I used to have before this one.  I have sent them an email and demanded that they stop doing so.   This got me to thinking that maybe I can save even more on mobile broadband.  At present my bill comes to over £30.  I realised I can combine them both into one with the 3 one plan which comes in about £7 – £8 cheaper.  Not only that but I could also get further discounts on that.  I went to a site:  http://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/harrymonmouth .  At top cash back it is possible to get £100 cash back when you take out a contract with three.  So not only can I save money by taking out a new contract but I can also get paid to save money, thereby saving even more money.  The reason I have posted the link here is that as a member they will actually pay me to bring in more members.  Don’t worry it is a legitimate service, I have received £80 from them for taking out another very competitive SIM contract from o2 a few years ago

 

Following this I thought I must be able to go further.  The website:  www.moneysavingexpert.com has a huge number of money saving tips.  I decided that I should spend my reading time looking through that site and picking up tips.  For several years now I have been living on bargains and cheap deals without really putting in the effort but I have still been able to live above my means just through the luck of finding good deals.  I decided that I would start using the websites in an effort to find even better deals.

 

I have just been on to the Tesco website and bought my shopping from there.  Naturally I am far from being the only person to do so.  Tesco has a thriving online business but how many people do not realise how easy it is to save money there.  I skimmed though all the multibuy offers and half price deals and built up an amount of shopping so huge that it would have taken me 6-8 hours of shopping to get as there is no way I could carry it all on the bus in one go.  All those bus fares were reduced to only £3 for delivery for the cheapest slot.  After I had done a Google search for Tesco coupons I found a code that reduced the already low figure I had to pay by £10 again.

 

Of course I can’t escape spending money as much as I would wish.  For this last week I have been traveling an hour later from work and saving £20 a month just from the lower off peak fare.  The method I have been using to ensure I reach the tube station late enough for this discounted rate is by saving more than £20 per month again by walking to the station.  All the same I would like to be back on my bicycle soon but unfortunately the British Heart Foundation ride has left me with a repair bill of well over £100 for the bike.  Naturally I have been seeking lower prices again to do the repairs.  The trick is to not simply accept that the place you go for cheap prices is the cheapest place.  Normally I always look on ebay for cheap prices but surprisingly a lot of the things on ebay are not actually all that cheap.  Wiggle has always been a favourite for finding cheap sports equipment in the past but I have discovered that some of the best prices available are on Chain Reaction Cycles.

 

I am actually enjoying the efforts I am putting into saving money.  Adding myself to a lot of mailing lists that many people would think of as being spam sites is actually proving to be quite helpful.  My efforts are probably quite amateur compared to many money savers out there but even before I started this I was saving huge amounts of money compared to the people whom I meet every day.  I am going to put effort into this because I think that saving money is far easier than people imagine.  I still wish to sell off a lot of my belongings simply because they are cluttering my home but I am not all that sure that I actually need to sell these things off.  Now that I am actually trying I am quite surprised by how much money I have managed to save in just the last week already.

.  At top cash back it is possible to get £100 cash back when you take out a contract with three.  So not only can I save money by taking out a new contract but I can also get paid to save money, thereby saving even more money.  The reason I have posted the link here is that as a member they will actually pay me to bring in more members.  Don’t worry it is a legitimate service, I have received £80 from them for taking out another very competitive SIM contract from o2 a few years ago

 

Following this I thought I must be able to go further.  The website:  www.moneysavingexpert.com has a huge number of money saving tips.  I decided that I should spend my reading time looking through that site and picking up tips.  For several years now I have been living on bargains and cheap deals without really putting in the effort but I have still been able to live above my means just through the luck of finding good deals.  I decided that I would start using the websites in an effort to find even better deals.

 

I have just been on to the Tesco website and bought my shopping from there.  Naturally I am far from being the only person to do so.  Tesco has a thriving online business but how many people do not realise how easy it is to save money there.  I skimmed though all the multibuy offers and half price deals and built up an amount of shopping so huge that it would have taken me 6-8 hours of shopping to get as there is no way I could carry it all on the bus in one go.  All those bus fares were reduced to only £3 for delivery for the cheapest slot.  After I had done a Google search for Tesco coupons I found a code that reduced the already low figure I had to pay by £10 again.

 

Of course I can’t escape spending money as much as I would wish.  For this last week I have been traveling an hour later from work and saving £20 a month just from the lower off peak fare.  The method I have been using to ensure I reach the tube station late enough for this discounted rate is by saving more than £20 per month again by walking to the station.  All the same I would like to be back on my bicycle soon but unfortunately the British Heart Foundation ride has left me with a repair bill of well over £100 for the bike.  Naturally I have been seeking lower prices again to do the repairs.  The trick is to not simply accept that the place you go for cheap prices is the cheapest place.  Normally I always look on ebay for cheap prices but surprisingly a lot of the things on ebay are not actually all that cheap.  Wiggle has always been a favourite for finding cheap sports equipment in the past but I have discovered that some of the best prices available are on Chain Reaction Cycles.

 

I am actually enjoying the efforts I am putting into saving money.  Adding myself to a lot of mailing lists that many people would think of as being spam sites is actually proving to be quite helpful.  My efforts are probably quite amateur compared to many money savers out there but even before I started this I was saving huge amounts of money compared to the people whom I meet every day.  I am going to put effort into this because I think that saving money is far easier than people imagine.  I still wish to sell off a lot of my belongings simply because they are cluttering my home but I am not all that sure that I actually need to sell these things off.  Now that I am actually trying I am quite surprised by how much money I have managed to save in just the last week already.

Gyms make you fat

Gym memberships make you fat.  This will be a moment of revelation that has been sitting in the back of many fat people’s minds who will now be punching the air with their pudgy fists shouting “I knew it!”  This does not mean gyms are a bad thing.  Gyms could be awesome if you didn’t need to sign into a yearlong contract that will probably steal money from you for far longer than that.  If it weren’t for that I would probably be in the gym all the time.  I would think to myself, “I fancy a work out”, and I would go down and do ten or fifteen minutes and then leave feeling better about myself.  The problem is I can’t do that because I don’t have a gym membership.  If I did have a gym membership then I would think, “I am spending £40 per month on that gym, if I am going to get my money’s worth then I will have to stay in their for at least an hour.  I can’t be bothered to do that, I think I’ll go to the pub instead.”

 

If you have immense will power then you can use the gym everyday and make sure that you are getting your money’s worth.  But if you do then you will realise that by the end of your contract you have spent several weeks, in which you could have been earning money, staring at a wall, or a t.v. screen if you are lucky, having paid £500 odd quid for the pleasure.  For the rest of us we will have spent that £500 on using a few machines for a couple of hours and then not bothered going again because we were too busy.

 

The way to lose weight is not to go to a gym.  Gyms are not for fat people.  Gyms are for thin people who enjoy gyms, vapid though they must be to endure such mind numbing boredom year after year.  I suppose one of the things that keep them coming back is that gyms are a great place to meet similarly vapid, slim beautiful people.  Yet more evidence that gyms are not for fat people; fat people would ruin the whole gym culture.  The only part that fat people are supposed to have in gym culture is turning up on the 2nd of January and giving their credit card details, and maybe spending some money on some huge shorts and t-shirts in the gym’s shop before sodding off and allowing the thin people to enjoy bouncing around on their subsidised gym equipment.

 

I read all the time about the things that don’t make you thin.  Diets do not make you thin; it has been shown that when people diet they bounce back afterwards to even greater levels of obesity.  Sweeteners in your coffee do not make you thin; if you have sweeteners in your coffee then everyone knows that you are allowed a slice of cake with your coffee, meaning that you end up getting fatter, not thinner.  Exercise does not make you thin; if you exercise then you get hungrier, you eat more, you get fatter.  Gyms are part of this whole failing to get thin that is a part of modern life.   If you want to get thin then the only way you are going to do it is by stopping being a fat person.  You do that then you won’t need a gym because you won’t need to lose weight.

 

This sounds harsh until you realise that I do not mean a fat person as in a person who happens to carry a lot of fat.  That is not what a fat person is.  Thin people can carry a lot of fat.  This may make them look like fat people but they will never truly fit into the fat people culture because as soon as they stop trying then they will suddenly lose all that weight and become thin again, and this is why we hate them.  A fat person can also lose a lot of weight and he will look like a thin person but as soon as he stops putting the effort in he will put on a lot of weight and look just as fat as ever he did.  This is another reason we hate the thin people.  However, the shocking truth is that fat people are evolutionary winners.  We are designed by nature to store massive amounts of energy so that we can survive harsh winters.  We can gain far more energy from our food and we can accomplish far more on less energy.  We are natural athletes and warriors in a world that has found a new way to kill us.

 

The good news is we do not have to take this lying down.  Forget the gym; if your wallet is fat then maybe they can help you but if you are fat then your solution is simple.  You need to change the way you live your life.  It sounds harder than it is.  If you start to eat healthily then maybe you will not enjoy the food at first but after a while your body will reward you for making it healthier; you will find that you enjoy the healthy stuff far more and you will dislike the unhealthy stuff much more.  Of course you will have to put in a bit of effort.  When you are eating something you really like then try stopping eating while you are able to sit in an armchair without feeling pain from the massive bulk sitting in your stomach.  Maybe you don’t do this anyway but plenty of us do.  Sure you could eat for a couple of extra minutes, it is so delicious, but then think of all the extra years at the end of your life that you could eat delicious food that you would never be able to after having a coronary.

 

Aside from this try walking a bit more.  If you live within 4 miles of your workplace then it is not too difficult a walk, and even quite enjoyable if you are listening to an audio book.  You can learn languages that way.  You can read books whilst walking around the park.  Thing how enjoyable it would be to spend a few hours out in the fresh air and sun as well.  If their is an elevator then take the stairs.  If you are getting shopping then use the full shopping bags as dumb bells while you are walking.  Make your life active; that is the way to lose weight, then you don’t need a gym.

 

I decided to stop using a gym about 6 months ago.  Admittedly I wasn’t using it for anything other than a way to get rid of some of my wages every month.  Since giving up the gym my life has changed slowly but I am gradually turning into a thin person.  My mother remarked as she gave me a hug goodbye today that she could not only reach her arms all the way around me but she could almost touch her elbows as she did so.  A big change from not even coming close to touching her fingers together six months ago.  I have lost a massive amount of size around my stomach;  I have not lost so much around my waist, that has only dropped from 42” to 36”.  Weight wise I have not lost much at all.  If I were to go to a doctors I imagine that many nurses would tell me I was obese as I weigh almost 17 stone.  I would just laugh if they did though because most of that is muscle.

 

This change has come about without weights, without gyms, without bizarre contraptions.  All you need to do is be more active.  If you are sitting down then stand up.  If you are standing up then walk.  If you are walking then cycle.  These are not rules that you will have to live your life by for ever.  Once you understand the rules you will know how and when to break them.  These are just guidelines to get you moving in the right direction.  Gyms are not necessary.  Even sports are not necessary.  One of the hobbies that has helped me get thin best is photography; you have to walk to a nice place to get a nice photo.  That is how you are going to get thin, just live life in such a way that you naturally end up that way.  It is easier than you think, and it is even a little addictive.

So how do you prepare for an exam?

I have just finished reading an article over on my favourite blog, Gizmodo.  If you were to go there you would discover everything I write here in the comments as I am not bothered about where else I write just so long as I also publish it here for my own benefit.  The article dealt with ways of increasing intelligence, such as wearing a particular outfit to focus the mind and eating the right foods, etc.  It was a very enjoyable article. I love this sort of stuff. I am always trying to find an edge. Unfortunately I have succeeded to the extent that I am no longer satisfied to be as stupid as when I started but not satisfied enough to stop trying to become more intelligent.  I do see the disadvantages to having more knowledge but it is a game of swings and roundabouts and there are also advantages.  The Gizmodo article in question can be found here:

http://gizmodo.com/5905310/nine-ways-to-make-yourself-smarter?utm_campaign=socialflow_gizmodo_facebook&utm_source=gizmodo_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

 

The thing about the clothing is part of the reason why priests and witches and suchlike where special outfits. They need to be able to apply a lot of focus in their work and in order to do so they need to have a shut off point between daily concerns and entering the world of their religions. The changing of their outfits is going over this point. Have you ever noticed how if you go out into town wearing a scruffy pair of jeans and trainers you will feel and behave radically differently to when you are wearing a sharply pressed suit with patent leather Oxford shoes. Obviously feeling different is going to have an affect on our clarity of thought. Incidentally in Oxford they have for years taken their final exams wearing sub fusc, the formal academic outfits that top class university students are always pictured in. It is not just for the ceremonies, it is for the exams as well.

I always went to special measures to ensure my edge in exams myself though I never wore any particular outfits beyond that which I would have worn anyway. Of course I would have been living in a certain way throughout university but in the final couple of days I really focussed on preparation in building my advantage. Of course because on a number of occasions I had far too much to drink the night before I really needed this advantage.

The night before the exam I would drink beer or wine. This was partially just coincidence but additionally studies have shown that people who drink a glass of wine in the evening will show a better performance in mental tests the next day than people in a control group who did not. For this reason I also had a small glass of red wine about an hour before the exam. It is also helpful as it loosens you up, relaxes you and deals with nerves. Have you ever noticed how you can play pool better when you are drunk than when you are sober if you are a practiced player. Same theory I guess.

In addition I would have a cup of coffee after my wine. This is only advisable if you are also in the habit of regular coffee because you want to ensure your state dependant memory is working well. Essentially the way to help your memory is not to alter your state of mind from the condition it was in when you were originally learning. Like how you have dreams at night and do not remember them at all during the day but as soon as you start dropping off and your mind is once again in that state you suddenly remember them. Or how you do something when you are drunk but can’t remember it clearly when you are sober but the next time you are drunk you do. For this reason you do not want to alter your mind too far away from its learning state. Coffee has been shown to aid memory when studying but only in moderate amounts. When taken to excess it can cause your memory to deteriorate.

Of course if you have just had a coffee and a wine then you need to ensure that your mind is properly hydrated so make sure you also have a glass of water just before the exam. Do not go into the exam without a bottle of water as well because water is a lubricant of the brain that is very much overlooked. Also not having water can itself be a distraction if you are thirsty.

It is also good to take something into the exam that can power your brain. I usually take a selection of things. Glucose tablets are good; chocolate is good; dates are good. Often I barely touch them because when you are focussed you are so distracted by the task and the fact that you can remember everything that you need that you do not have the time to enjoy a piece of chocolate but the fact that it is there is very reassuring and it is one less worry, so even if you do not eat any it will still help you relax in the knowledge that you are prepared.

In addition to these very important items I would eat salmon in the run up to the exam. Salmon the night before is good, it definitely sharpens the mind, and even if this is merely a placebo effect we all know that even a placebo can have a powerful effect anyway.

The morning of the exam a muesli for breakfast is a good idea. Muesli, containing oats releases its energy gradually during the day so is a good constant source of energy for the mind. Another good source of energy is carbohydrates, which is why athletes load up on carbs the day before a race. Perhaps think about having your salmon with some tagliatelle the night before. With my breakfast I will have berries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc. These do indeed help. A nice extra that can be obtained from a lot of health food shops, in England at least, is hemp seeds that are packed full of energy and omega oils which will aid thinking. Sprinkle a few of these on your breakfast.

While it is a good idea to always try and stay in shape it can help a lot if you exercise vigorously before the exam. Preferably about 3-4 hours before. I mean really pump it. Cycling always helped me. Do not do it too soon before the exam as your mind will be racing and you will be useless. You need time to calm and cool down again. The extra blood rushing through your brain will really help clear the cobwebs out. In addition endorphines will add to your sense of calm and well being. Following the exercise it is a good time to review your revision. Do not try to revise hard or anything, this is the point that you satisfy yourself that you have already revised enough and just try to remember what you already know. This is the time that you want to be meditating rather than revising. The important thing is to get you mind into a state of calm.

Of course there are a huge amount of ways that you can improve your memory. This would be far too much to go into here. I would recommend checking out a book called ‘remember remember’ by Josh Foer. Josh decided as an experiment to train himself and see if he could become a memory champion and memorise the order of packs of cards in minutes. He was tutored by Ed Cooke who owns the memrise website. Memrise is an excellent place to train your memory as you can create your own tests but the real beauty of Ed’s method is his use of mnemonics. The book goes into a little detail about them but more than anything it is an interesting story about a year of training. The real mnemonics are best if they are ones you have created yourself.

Aside from these points I have already mentioned I would say that it will help if you take a vitamin supplement the morning of the exam. I also took a gingko biloba pill and a cod liver oil capsule. And of course definitely try to get a good night’s sleep. This will make a massive difference. Poor sleep leads to your IQ deteriorating rapidly through the week. Make sure you are not late or flustered. Being early, prepared and calm can help a great deal. Aside from those tips I do not recall anything else that I had in my regime but these things were things I would follow like a ritual for exams. Ultimately it all helped because I managed to finish in the top four of my course at university. This was helped by having a natural knack for coursework but a major disadvantage I had was that I was extremely bad at exams. It was only through the development of this regime that I gained the advantages I needed to achieve results in my exams that I could not have achieved if I had not focussed not only on the subject I was supposed to be studying but also on the topic of how to enhance intelligence.

How to deal with the tricky situation of being asked your Facebook password at interview

It has recently been discussed in the news that interviewees applying for jobs have been asked for log in details for their Facebook accounts.  Considering these are extremely private areas of a person’s online life that are the 21st century equivalent of a diary, which we all know is extremely private to the extent that looking inside someone else’s is considered the depraved act of some kind of pervert, everyone assumed that the law would outlaw such impertinent requests.  It has been revealed during this last week that the American government actually considers such a base and offensive level of behaviour to be acceptable recruiting practice.

Now many people may be extremely offended at such a request in interview and would be so flabbergasted that they might not be able to think of a good retort on the spot.  Some people of course make a career of thinking of pithy ripostes that will allow a dialogue to flow.  I am of course talking of the literary professionals that create some of the masterpieces of fiction that we spend our spare time reading or watching on the television.  I thought it would be a good idea to ask these wordsmiths for creative responses that would allow the interviewer to see that you did not wish to divulge such personal information whilst giving them the impression that you possessed a quick witted mind that might be an asset in their organisation.

I was successful in soliciting the advice of Stieg Larsson, a notable Swedish novelist.  He suggested countering the request by allowing the interviewer to see how intrusive such a request might seem with the following line:  “Have you ever had any sexually transmitted diseases? And when was the last time that you were tested for HIV? How many partners have you had in the last month? And how many of those were men?”  When the interviewer hears this they will immediately realise that their request may have overstepped the boundaries of propriety and will immediately offer a heartfelt apology.

Following my conversation with Mr Larsson I contacted Mr Quentin Tarantino who is particularly familiar with contemporary western vernacular and asked him for possible suggestions as to how one might deal with this potentially tricky situation.  He wrote the following dialogue around which you may wish to improvise, you should start with the first line:

What do I look like?

Possible response: What?

What country are you from?

Possible response: What? What? Wh – ?

“What” ain’t no country I’ve ever heard of. They speak English in What?

Possible response: What?

English, motherfucker, do you speak it?

Possible response: Yes! Yes!

Then you know what I’m sayin’!

Possible response: Yes!

Describe what I look like!

Possible response: What?

Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!

Do I look like a bitch?

Possible response: What?

At this point it may help bring the conversation to a conclusion if you shoot your interviewer in the shoulder before saying ‘DO I LOOK LIKE A BITCH?’

Possible response: No!

Then why you try to fuck me like a bitch?

Possible response:  I didn’t

Yes you did.  Yes you did! You tried to fuck me and I don’t like to be fucked by anyone except Mrs <insert your last name here>

Mr Tarantino suggests an alternative would be to say:

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.”  This is a good rejoinder if you have been having a particularly trying day and feel that you have already had to put up with an exceptionally excessive amount of “Shit like that”.  Of course this is only to be used if you have no objection to killing your interviewer in cold blood before making your excuses and leaving.  If you are not prepared to create such a lasting impression at interview then this particular response is probably better not to use as it can leave a confusing impression and may therefore damage your chances of succeeding in gaining your desired position.

I made a request of Anthony Burgess in an endeavour to elicit his most imaginative solution to the conundrum of dealing with an overly inquisitive interviewer and he offered the following gambit:

“Naughty, Naughty, Naughty you filthy ol’ soomka!  Thou globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip-oil? Come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou.”

However, I was unsure whether he intended this to be a contribution to my article or whether this was more in the line of a personal comment directed towards me.

When I spoke to David Mamet, who is known for writing Glengarry Glen Ross, he suggested I should point out to the interviewer exactly how inappropriate it was of them to make such a request.  He suggested a suitable way to do this would be to remind them of the capacity in which they were employed.  He told me that a possible line with which you could succinctly and politely do this would be:

“What the Hell are you? You’re a fucking secretary. Fuck you! That’s my message to you– fuck you, and kiss my ass. And if you don’t like that, baby, I go across the street and I speak to <Insert name of business in competition with that of your interviewer>. Period. Fuck you.”

When I approached Ethan and Joel Coen for a possible response they took the angle that you should be direct with your interviewer and offer a candid response to their enquiry signalling that you felt it overstepped the mark.  They said that if you were to do this it would signal that you had a strong character and would give them the appearance that you were the sort of prospective employee that would be firm in your approach to your work.  A possible line they said would be appropriate to generate such a positive impression is as follows:

“let me make something plain. I don’t like you sucking around, asking me questions like this <insert interviewer’s name here>. I don’t like your jerk-off name. I don’t like your jerk-off face. I don’t like your jerk-off behavior, and I don’t like you, jerk-off. Do I make myself clear?”

I thought that humour might be a good way of breaking the tension in the event that this question arises so I asked Adam Sandler how he might deal with the situation. He said it was important that the interviewers should realise how ridiculous their request was and he offered a possible counter to be used in interviews where there are several people present:

“<insert the name of the member of the interview board who has requested your facebook password> what you’ve just asked is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your offensive, inconsiderate request were you even close to anything that could be considered an appropriate interview question. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I will give you no password, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Of course many of these approaches are a little more racy than many people would like to use in an interview situation so I wondered what a female member of an older generation would be likely to say if they were asked such a question in interview.  As I was always a fan of the Golden Girls I thought it might be a good idea to ask America’s favourite white haired mature actress, Betty White how she would respond.  I asked her “Betty, You are an incredibly ancient woman. I was wondering if you would help me by giving an impression of a typical response that might be used in a particular situation by someone of a similar level of decrepitude as yourself.”  She gave me the possible response, “If I had a dick, this is where I would tell you to suck it.”  She then hung up without even saying goodbye but I suppose at her time of life you don’t waste valuable seconds on pleasantries that may better be spent taking prescription medication.  It is curious how she was so readily able to offer a suitable response before I had even told her the hypothetical situation we were discussing.  I suppose that is the intuition and wisdom of advanced years.

Having already taken the step to move away from writers towards thespians I felt in the interests of gender fairness I should take the point of view of a male actor.  Luckily I had Tom Cruise’s phone number so I asked him how he would respond in interview if this question was to be directed at him.  He is of the opinion that such questions should be given short shrift.  He told me that an interviewer would lose all respect for you if you were to simply cave in to their pressure.  He told me that the sort of response that would give the impression that you would be able to succeed in any position that a company might wish you to take would be as follows:

Take a big step back… and literally FUCK YOUR OWN FACE! I don’t know what kind of bullshit power play you’re trying to pull here, but my Facebook page is my territory. So whatever you’re thinking, you’d better think again! Otherwise I’m gonna have to come over there and I will rain down an ungodly fucking firestorm upon you! You’re gonna have to call the fucking United Nations and get a fucking binding resolution to keep me from fucking destroying you. I’m talking about a scorched earth, motherfucker! I will massacre you! I WILL FUCK YOU UP!”

Tom told me that he had once said something very similar in an audition and that he had won the part.  He was certain that this would work in most instances.

As you can see there are many creative techniques to sidestep the discomfort of this situation arising in interview that anyone might apply.  There are obviously more ways to approach an interview than there are words in the English language.  I could not speak to every actor and writer that I would have liked to approach but I hope that these few responses give you inspiration for your own style of response.  Good luck at that interview and if you use any of these techniques with success or think of any other creative interview responses that prove successful then please leave them in the comments for future readers.