National Pride

As Arthur Schopenhauer wrote in Parerga und Paralipomena:

On the other hand, the cheapest form of pride is national pride; for the man affected therewith betrays a want of individual qualities of which he might be proud, since he would not otherwise resort to that which he shares with so many millions. The man who possesses outstanding personal qualities will rather see most clearly the faults of his own nation, for he has them constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool, who has nothing in the world whereof he could be proud, resorts finally to being proud of the nation to which he happens to belong at the time.


Posted in Philosophy, Politics, UK | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Do you discriminate against disabled people?

Do you discriminate against disabled people? I bet you do! And I bet you didn’t even know it yourself.

Take this simple test:paralympics-2016

How many hours did you spend watching the Olympics? This figure is A.

How many hours did you spend watching the Paralympics? This figure is B.

If A > B, then you discriminate against disabled people.

Posted in Sports, Statistics | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Full Moon over the Atlantic


Some extra advice for your next cruise: Book your cruise in a way that you will be in the middle of the Atlantic for full moon. You can spot the cruise novices because they overlook this detail when planning their itinerary.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: “Golden Holocaust” by Robert Proctor

This will be a short book review because Robert Proctor’s book about the dangers of tobacco, smoking and cigarettes can be dismissed outright after reading the title and the introduction.

Although I occasionally smoke cigars, I know it’s neither healthy nor smart. I am not sure we need a new book to tell us that, but I will give Robert Proctor the benefit of the doubt on that. Maybe he has uncovered new evidence or performed new research. – Unfortunately for him, I will never find out because I just can’t get over the title of the book and therefore will never read it: “Golden Holocaust”.

I am against the inflationary use of the term “holocaust” even for other acts of genocide because it seems to deny the singularity of the Holocaust against the European Jews between 1933 ad 1945. Genocides also took place against other groups, e.g. the Herero or the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and all of these weren’t less gruesome for the individual members of these groups as the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews was for the Jews of Europe. Still, the Holocaust that originated in Germany against the Jews is unique in many historical aspects, especially in the way that it was openly declared as the government’s policy, that every arm of the state, as well as industry and private citizens participated in the murder of people who had until then been their neighbours and colleagues and that all of this began in peacetime. The industrial, mechanical and bureaucratic scale of the Holocaust also make it unique among all genocides.

And now comes Robert Proctor and compares the organized mass murder of 6 million people in concentration camps and mass shootings with smoking a cigarette, a voluntary act which contributes to illness and the early demise of a small percentage of its users. What an outrageous comparison! Do I really need to point out that a cigarette smoker can quit? That he can stop buying cigarettes? That he can get help against a possible addiction? That there is treatment against smoking-related illnesses? – Do I really need to contrast this with the short life in a concentration camp? I don’t think so.

Robert Proctor explains his choice of words on page 11 of his book:

I use the term holocaust with caution.

No, you don’t: you put it in the title of your book!

In both instances [smoking and the Nazi Holocaust] … we face a calamity of epic proportions, with too many willing to turn a blind eye, too many willing to let the horror unfold without intervention. Apathy rules.

It becomes obvious that Mr Proctor – a professor of the history of science and one who has even published research about Nazi Germany – tries to equate the Holocaust with the voluntary consumption of cigarettes that come with a warning label. This equalization is wrong, it is tasteless, it is shameful, it is dangerous.

I recommend instead: “Night” by Elie Wiesel.

Posted in Books, Health, History, Holocaust, Language | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Paypal is hyper-sensitive

As you know, I offer to send postcards from spectacular places for a small donation. This helps to keep this blog going, and it brightens up your life when one evening after a long day at the office you find a postcard from Easter Island.

Recently I received a message from Paypal that one of the donations was “suspicious” and that they needed to “investigate”. I though it was from someone who didn’t have enough money in their account, or from a drug dealer or one of these suspicious Nigerian princesses that hand out millions.

But no. It was just a reader who specified that he didn’t want a postcard from Iran.

That was enough for Paypal to contact him and ask him what the heck he was thinking to put the word “Iran” into the note. His explanation that he would prefer a postcard from anywhere else was not enough to convince Paypal that this payment had nothing to do with Iran, didn’t originate from there, wasn’t destined for there, and in any case that 15 $ couldn’t really contribute much to a nuclear weapons program.


So Paypal refused to transfer the payment. The donor tried again two times, without any note, and the payment was reversed again.

Probably we are both on some terrorism watchlist now.

Paypal, you really need to relax a bit.

Posted in Economics | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Climate Change History


Of course the climate has changed before, but never as dramatically as now in a short time. (Ok, maybe that one time in 1816, but that had terrible effects too.)


Anyway, I don’t understand what kind of an argument “the climate has changed before” is supposed to be. We have also had wars and bubonic plague and genocide before. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t try to prevent it from happening again, does it? “Don’t worry, toothache is something completely natural. It occurs every 3 to 4 years,” said the dentist. Would you then relax and keep eating sugar and smoking cigars?

The other big difference between the past and now is that we are 7.4 billion people, many of them living in places that were uninhabitable during previous dramatic climate periods. Desertification and floods already affect large areas now and if temperatures rise further, millions of people will have to move to moderate climatic zones, where pressure on space and resources will grow.

(Infographic from XKCD. Animated infographic from NCAS.)

Posted in Environment, History, Statistics, Technology | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

The Typist

In Bolivia there is the perfect job for people like me who have learned how to read and write, but who nonetheless prefer to work outside.


Posted in Bolivia, Photography | Tagged , | 2 Comments