Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Many Men Go On A Flying Raid

How many men go on a flying raid?

Let’s say it’s a bomber raid from Britain in the middle years of World War II.

They had ‘thousand bomber’ raids. A thousand bombers would head out from Lincolnshire or wherever and fly to a target in Germany.

Each plane had a crew of somewhether around five or seven depending on the type of aircraft.

So that’s five or six thousand men launched into the air on a night-time raid.

The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini in 238 Words


We are more likely to be persuaded to do something when it involves repaying an obligation. Example of giving a mint to customers in a restaurant


Point out the benefits - tell them what's unique about what you are offering - show them what they stand to lose by not taking up the offer


Signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgable authority before you attempt to influence them. Get someone to praise you. That someone can even be related to your business (e.g. receptionist who refers to your expertise) or likely to benefit from it.


Once someone is persuaded to make small voluntary,active, public contributions towards something, it is easier to then get them to do something bigger towards that goal, which they do to be consistent with their own model of themselves.


We prefer to say yes to people who are similar to us, who pay us compliments, and who cooperate with us. Do these before negotiating or talking about business.


We do what others do when we are told what they do.


  • 75% of our guests reuse their towels, please do so as well.
  • 75% of our customers order again within a month. Please use this code when you reorder….

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tools To Prune and Trim Your Writing

I have more writing apps than a person should rightly have - including Ulysses, Writeroom, and Byword.

Ulysses is where I keep everything - notes, books I’m writing, references.

Writeroom is for when I want a black page with nothing else on the screen.

Once I have finished writing I paste the text into the Hemingway app, which nudges my writing with on-screen prompts. It tells me to cut down a sentence, get rid of an adverb, think about using a shorter word for a longer one.

I bought the desktop version for the princely sum of $5.00 a while ago. Now it is out with version Two, which was a free upgrade.

If you don’t want the desktop version and are happy to use the web version, it’s free.

I recoiled when I first read that ‘adverbs are nature’s way of telling you you used the wrong verb.'

Now I am getting used to looking for stronger verbs.

The Hemingway app highlights the words and sentences it thinks you ought to look at - adverbs in blue, long sentences in yellow, horrible ones in red.

Once I have pruned my prose, I run it through the test on the Test page of The Writer’s Diet.

I came across The Writer’s Diet on the BookBaby blog. The test will tell you whether you writing is as tight as you and the Hemingway app think it is.

It has a scale from ‘lean’, through ‘fit & trim’, to ‘needs toning’, to ‘flabby’, and all the way to ‘heart attack’.

I was worried Hemingway would destroy my style or the flow, but it hasn’t. I have a converstaion with it as I trim my prose.

I use it for articles and I also use it for pages like ‘Privacy Policy’ and ‘Terms of Use'

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ernie Pyle - American War Correspondent

Ernie Pyle was an American war correspondent during World War II. He was very well known across a great cross-section of the American public - a real celebrity in his day - and very well liked.

In his newspaper columns and in his book Brave Men, published in 1944, he describes the minutiae of army life in wartime from the perspective of the common soldier.

He described the way the war machine works - from engineers pulling captured tanks off the line with giant earth moving machines, to bomb loaders preparing bombers for a mission, to cooks cooking up thousands of meals for the troops.

The book describes the push from North Africa and up through Italy, then the waiting period in England before D Day, and then the invasion and the battle through France.

Here’s an example of those small touches of detail that he describes. American soldiers were stationed in London in the lead up to D Day, and the US Army established rules for one-way foot traffic for soldiers when walking along the pavements.

It was done in order to minimise how often soldiers would have to meet and salute one another while approaching from opposite directions.

Apparently, there were so many soldiers that before the rule was in place soldiers were having to salute every five steps or so and getting sore arms from all that saluting.

Another scene that he describes is of captured German soldiers on D Day standing on the cliffs and staring in disbelief and resignation at the sheer number of Allied ships that stretched to the horizon.

He wrote the final chapter in August 1944, about the war being more or less over.

That was, of course, before the German counter-offensive in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes in December 1944, which was the last major offensive against the Allied forces in Europe.

It's hard to tell you exactly why or how the book is so touching and sad. Certainly the tone changes when Pyle goes with the invasion forces on D Day, and he becomes more sombre and in the end, lyrical.

One passage is particularly poignant. It is about the jeep ride that he and another journalist and the photographer Robert Capa took into a town near Cherbourg.

The Germans has only just been pushed out of the town, and there was always the risk of snipers or of Germans left behind - manning a machine gun somewhere by the roadside. So Pyle was nervous, and he talks about the fearless Capa, who would push on whatever the risk.

Robert Capa was one of the original Magnum photographers. I know his work well and I also know that Capa was killed in 1954 when he stepped on a mine in South East Asia, in what was then called Indochina.

when reading up about the background to Brave Men, I learned that Ernie Pyle was killed in 1945 by Japanese machine gun fire on an island off Okinawa.

Ernie Pyle Theater

After the war, the Takarazuka Theater in Tokyo was taken over by the US Army headquarters and renamed the Ernie Pyle Theater - and retained its name until 1955.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's Missing Article On Palestine

Re: Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party of the United Kingdom.

Jeremy Corbyn's website says there are no references to Palestine and no links to articles on Palestine. There were, though. Why are the articles no longer there?

Here is the text of the article and the link to the WayBack Machine that shows the article as it was on 24 August 2015 and 23 September 2015

Filed under:
The Middle East erupts once again as the running sore of the illegal occupation of Palestine continues.
The Road Map, promoted by Bush and enthusiastically supported by the British Government, is in tatters and is not a guide to anything. The construction of a wall, a medieval response to the cause of a people denied their own self determination and nationhood, is not so much illegal as immoral.

The wall, which the BBC insist on referring to as a “security fence”, does not follow the 1967 borders but is a further encroachment into Palestinian land and encircles villages and towns, thus denying farmers access to their land or people access to any kind of service in case of emergency. It is a ludicrous approach, and should be condemned by the whole world.

Israel’s pursuit of a shoot to kill policy against Hamas and other Palestinian groups is a brutal as it is wrong. To kill and old man in a wheel chair with a pinpoint accuracy weapon is not a sign of strength and efficiency but of weakness. A policy that has failed, and will fail, cannot bring peace or security to Israel or justice for the Palestinian people.

Recent reports show just how devastating Israel’s policy has been for the Palestinian people – terrifying levels of poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and lack of health and education are the lot of the Palestinian people. The Israeli incursions into Palestine have killed civilians and children using modern, effective and sophisticated weapons. It is not a war of equals but of occupation by the military of a first world state against the poor who live in third world conditions.

The other effects are less obvious: 5,000 Palestinians are held in Israel prisons and detention centres. 1000 of these are young people and 350 children under 16. The army attacks in Palestine kill unarmed people, as they did in Rafah, people who are merely defending their homes against Israeli army bulldozers.

In an attempt to save children Tom Hurndall, and international peace monitor was one of many who have laid down their lives for others.
None of this brings peace to Israel where the security measures are huge and a national psychosis against suicide bombers does not make anyone feel secure in any way. Yet the US and British Governments cannot it seems bring themselves to condemn Israel for either its numerous breaches of existing UN resolutions or the latest assassination of Sheikh Yassim. Britain abstained whilst the US used its veto on the Security Council.
To gain some idea of the thinking behind the US strategy it is worth looking at a 1996 paper written by an academic group, all of whom are now close to President Bush. Above the signatures of Richard Perle, Charles Fairbanks of John Hopkins University and Robert Lowenberg, of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies comes a bizarre and interesting analysis.

Claiming that the problem with Israel is “Labor Zionism” it was, in effect, an advice note to the then new Netanyahu Government. In the document it envisages supporting a policy of “hot pursuit” of Palestinian fighters, taking the war to Syria, focussing on removing Saddam Hussein, destabilising Jordan. It concludes by calling for the liberalisation of the economy through privatisation, tax cuts and selling state lands. It sees Israel as a kind of free market powerhouse and US economic base in the region. Nothing in the paper acknowledges the rights of Palestinian people or the appalling human conditions under which they live as refugees in their own land. The US continues to give almost unlimited military and economic aid to Israel; in effect its guarantor and the UK, though the provision of diplomatic support and arms sales is also implicated.

Peace in the Middle East can only be achieved through justice for the people of Palestine. The occupation, wall and assassinations are no solution.

PSC are holding a Rally for Palestine on May 15th in Trafalgar Square from 1.30pm with speeches, music and stalls. Come and support the Palestinian people.

Usability Testing - If I Don’t Know In An Instant What The Site Is About

The reason for usability testing of websites is to get the site seen through the eyes of someone who is not familiar with it, and to see what they make of it.

I think anyone could do a lot worse than read a great book on the subject. It's Don't Make me Think by Steve Krug.

If you want to dip your toe in the water, you can do usability tests at Five Second Tests and Feedback Roulette.

You can have your site looked at by other visitors and you give back to the community by testing other people's sites.

Doing tests on Five Second Test taught me one big lesson, which is that if I don't know in an instant what the site is about, then those five seconds go by in a flash while I am trying to figure it out.

I just don't 'see' anything else on the page. Well, yes I see a large photo of someone or a big headline - but if I don't know what the site is about then the rest of the page is just an annoyance.

The explanation of what the site is about could be a simple tag line. In fact, a clear sentence at normal size is often clearer than something emblazoned across the site.

Postal Vote EU Referendum 23 June 2016

Any bets on what the turnout for the referendum will be? And which side will be the more galvanised to get out and vote?

23 June - An interesting choice of date.

I can picture people in a room in Whitehall arguing about the most favourable date for the referendum. What facts and statistics did they consider?

UEFA European football Championships in France: 10 June – 10 July 2016

British holidaymaking season - June, July, August

School summer term - early June to late July - so parents with children will be more likely to be in the UK and able to vote.

If You Want A Postal Vote

If you are in Scotland and you think you might be out of the country on 23rd June, you can apply now for a postal vote.

It is a two-stage process.

Contact the Electoral Registration Office and request an application. You can do that now and they will send it out straight away.

The voting forms themselves are due to be sent out on 11th and 12th June. There is a chance that some will be sent out earlier - around the 3rd June - so that the Postal Service doesn’t get a glut on one day.

I checked for Scotland because that is my local area. I guess it is the same for the rest of the UK.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Daniel Burd: Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas

Daniel Burd was a Canadian High School student who in 2008 isolated two bacteria (Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas) that at the correct temperature ate almost half of a plastic sample within six weeks.

He won the first prize at the Canada Wide Science Fair and a $20,000 scholarship.

In an article in The Record (article no longer there), Burd is quoted as saying:

The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide -- each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide.

I have googled repeatedly for Daniel Burd since then and haven’t found anything more.

Tales Of The French Autoroute

A nice thing happened quite a few years ago when we were traveling through France. 

We were on an autoroute heading south, and we sped along, passing through the various toll booths. And each booth had a plastic hopper into which drivers would throw coins to pay the toll.

The plastic hoppers were a good idea, because they made the whole process of going through the booths much quicker. The machine would total up the coins, and if the amount was correct, it would whisk the driver through.

So my wife and I would sort through our coins and collect whatever was needed, ready for the next toll booth. I was driving a right hand drive car so I was on the 'wrong' side to reach into the hopper into which to throw the coins.

So my wife threw the coins into the hopper and off we sped to the next toll booth down the autoroute.

My younger daughter was very young at the time, perhaps three years old. She was intrigued with the way we deposited the coins, and asked whether she could do it at the next station.

And I remember so clearly her standing on the back seat and reaching over the front passenger seat with the handful of coins in her hand.

And she threw them.

But somehow we had misjudged what she had understood of the process.

And instead of throwing the coins into the hopper, she simply threw them out of the window.

Well we were low on coins; there was a line of traffic behind us eager to get through; and we had to get out and scrabble about on the ground for the lost coins.

I didn't think of it at the time, but I wonder what my daughter made of that?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Do You Know The Name Of This Play?

I saw on TV about three or four years ago in the UK.

It was a re-showing of a much older performance. The original may have been made for TV or it could have been a filmed performance of something that was originally a stage play.

The setting was a 'civilised' party with the hosts and with guests that arrived and interacted.

I would say it was set in the 1960s - in an apartment or house with contemporary furniture - an aspiring middle class setting.

It maybe had an American feel to it - like it was set in the USA - modern apartment - maybe not.

From memory, the whole play may have been silent - as in, no spoken words - just gestures and expressions or perhaps the characters mouthed words.

In the play we get to see into the psychology of the individuals - jealousy, fear, arrogance, disappointment - all of it under a veneer of civility.

The way people moved around in it, it was almost like a ballet - the whole thing was very stylised and intended to be insightful and realistic about the inner workings of how people interact.

It was almost balletic, very mannered - the way people turned and gestured and took their coats off and offered and accepted drinks - and through all that, the real inner cruelties, jealousies and disappointments were visible - attempted to be hidden but seen by us the audience - and sometimes by the other characters.

If you know the name of the play, plase let me know.

Hostage In Beirut

On Radio 4 the interviewer Sue MacGregor interviewed John McCarthy, Brian Keenan and Terry Waite - all of whom where kidnapped at various points and held hostage in Beirut in the 1990s.

John McCarthy was a BBC journalist and Brian Keenan was a teacher in the International School in Beirut.

John McCarthy was held in solitary confinement for four months and then was in a cell with Brian Keenan and they then spent the next four years together.

Terry Waite was an envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury and he was himself a hostage negotiator until he was taken captive.

He was held for over four years in solitary confinement and then another year or more with John McCarthy and Brian Keenan before they were all released, one after another.

Terry Waite described how, when he was in solitary confinement, he eventually was able to ask one of the guards to let him have a book to read.

The man spoke no English and brought him Great Escapes, a title which Terry Waite thought was funny but not a book he wanted to read.

So he asked the guard for another book, and the guard brought him The Manual of Breast Feeding.

And at that moment in the radio programme, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan chimed in together excitedly with “We had that too!"