British Ambassador’s Wartime Letter

March 19, 2010

The British Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful thing. I’d heard rumours about this letter for the last decade about a letter from Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr (H.M. Ambassador to Moscow) to his friend Lord Pembroke. Today I am pleased to bring a copy of the original to my loyal readership. Enjoy.

If you find the image a little difficult to read, the text is as follows:

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt.

We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.

Sir Archibald Clark Kerr
H.M. Ambassador

Sir Archibald Clark Kerr's letter
Sir Archibald Clark Kerr’s letter to Lord Pembroke

Oh, and I know it’s Wikipedia, but here’s how notorious both Sir Archibald and his letter are/were: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Clark_Kerr,_1st_Baron_Inverchapel

One could, of course, make all sorts of comments about Turks, but this is a classy blog…

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Lame Gags

March 14, 2010

My artist friend Roy F Peterson sent me these wonderful lame gags. No idea as to the origin, but I’d guess they’re American. Enjoy!

  • The roundest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
  • I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .
  • She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.
  • A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.
  • The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.
  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
  • A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
  • A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
  • Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
  • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
  • A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
  • Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
  • Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, ‘You stay here, I’ll go on a head.’
  • I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then, it hit me.
  • A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said, ‘Keep off the Grass.’
  • A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, ‘No change yet.’
  • A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
  • It’s not that the man did not know how to juggle, he just didn’t have the balls to do it.
  • The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
  • The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
  • When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
  • Don’t join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects.

Lambeth is Britain’s angriest borough? This survey pisses me off!

March 5, 2010

According to the British Association of Anger Management (BAAM), Lambeth is Britain’s angriest borough: http://www.angermanage.co.uk/stats/

This half-baked piece of ‘research’ caused Guardian journalist Deborah Orr – a Lambeth resident for 25 years – to write a prominent piece on March 1st about her recent and personal experience of anger in the borough.

This ‘research’ is, of course, not what it first appears. For a start, it’s not primary research – it is some kind of mathematical calculation based on employment rates (not unemployment rates), crime statistics, etc. The inputs are purely subjective and so, therefore, are the results. I honestly can’t be bothered to waste time on a detailed critique of this publicity stunt posing as research. But just take a look at some of the measures that supposedly indicate for an ‘angry’ population:

  • % aged 65 and over who are satisfied with both neighbourhood and home
  • % who say their health is good or very good
  • % who feel informed about what to do in the event of a large-scale emergency
  • % who think that older people in their local area get the help and support they need to continue to live at home for as long as they need

Right, boiling down these sort of factors determines whether you’re angry or not? If indicative of anything, these should be used as a measure for quality of life. Many of these questions should not be used without strong caveats, or a very strong weighting – particularly that last one about elderly people staying at home. I suppose this bizarre ‘feel informed about what to do in the event of a large-scale emergency’ must be being used to indicate some kind of powerlessness – its inclusion is, in my view, spurious.

To be fair to BAAM, in the press release they talk about ‘triggers’ to anger, and also that Lambeth is the 19th most deprived borough in the UK – as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, these are mostly lifestyle and satifsfaction measures. I would also argue that the presence of triggers doesn’t necessarily mean an outcome.

However, the press release mentions the small fact that the survey hasn’t even been completed yet:

Early findings from the nationwide project suggest that London is the angriest city in
the UK, followed by Manchester. Birmingham is in third place, followed by Glasgow
and then Bristol.

So Lambeth might – on these non-measures – be the worst-performing borough in London, but the research only ‘suggests’ that London is the angriest city in the UK. Surely even a journalist might be able to see the flaw in this?

Towards the end of the press release, the real objective of the research becomes obvious. I lifted this from the document, bad grammar and punctuation included:

Mike Fisher, director of the British Association of Anger Management said BAAM data
showed that residents in the Capital were frightened by their inability to handle
feelings of stress and rage.
“I believe that issues such as crime, violence, domestic violence, road rage,
addiction, eating disorders, depression and many other mental health issues all stem
from our inability as a culture to handle or express our feelings, especially those of
anger.”
Indeed, the fallout of the anger problem is so well recognised that governments in
countries including Australia, Canada and the USA fund anger management
programmes, he said.
“We want to move anger up the political agenda. It is the elephant in the room at the
moment, costing the NHS billions in tackling its side effects. Violent incidents alone
cost the NHS £2.7bn a year.”

Oh, we wouldn’t be angling for government funding for our organisation would we, Mr Fisher? I’m sure your organisation does some really good work, but all you’ve done is piss me off with your flawed trawl of stats posing as ‘research’. As for the cost to the NHS – what about the cost of dangerously flawed research causing politicians to launch ill-conceived initiatives? And I’m not exactly happy with Deborah Orr from the Guardian falling for this shit either. Am I angry? You betcha!

And what qualifies me to pass judgement on this? I’m a qualified researcher.