What\’s a Marathon?

No, I know what a marathon is in running, a touch over 26 miles. I also know that I\’ll never run a marathon as my knee cartilages are screwed.

However, there are two other "endurance" sports that I can do, cycling and swimming. I\’m not saying that I\’m very good at them, but I can actually do them without entirely buggering up one joint or the other. So, the question is, what is the equivalent of a marathon in those two other sports?

Now with cycling I\’ve been thinking about it this way. A top class runner takes a shade over two hours to run a marathon. Thus a marathon in any other sport would be whatever is two hours concentrated effort by a top class performer. (I\’m sure there are errors with this idea so please do explain them to me.)

The world one hour record on a bike is around 50 km. Thus the equivalent of a marathon is 100 km on a bike, or thereabouts (which would explain why I feel somewhat tired today as by this standard I did a half-marathon yesterday….although not, obviously, in one hour).

But that calculation is rather buggered by the fact that Tour de France riders do more than 100 miles per day. Are they really doing 1.6 marathons a day for 23 days or whatever it is?

With swimming it gets dodgier, (or at least my numbers do). 1500m (a mile, essentially) is around 15 minutes as a world record. Thus the equivalent of a marathon in swimming is something like 8 miles.

Just eyeballing those figures, the cycling one looks too low, the swimming one too high. (For example, back when I was swimming regularly, a mile was a reasonable daily outing, but 8 would be nearly unthinkable. Now I\’m cycling 20-30 km is a stretch of the legs, the 50 yesterday was an outing, so 100 (and Î\’ve done 80 and 90 in the past couple of months) simply doesn\’t feel right for something as supposedly draining as a marathon.)

But here\’s the question. How far do I have to cycle or swim to be able to say that I\’ve done the "equivalent" of a marathon, given that I\’m physically incapable of doing the running one?Anyone?

I\’m Not All That Sure About This

It\’s taken as an item of faith that medicine is going to continue to get ever more expensive:

First is rationing. Nearly all of us now know that the NHS � the taxpayer � cannot afford to pay for all the treatments and drugs that are already available, still less for those that will be developed in the future.

The demand is going to be almost infinite; tax receipts are not. As more conditions become treatable and patients’ demands become more sophisticated, this problem will soon be a great deal worse.

I\’m not convinced.

Yes, the services part of health care, the labour that goes into it, is going to continue to get more expensive as compared to manufacturing (Baumol\’s Cost Disease). But the drugs part of treatments? I have a feeling that, a decade or two down the line, they\’re going to be vastly cheaper. The reason is patents.

I don\’t think it\’s all that controversial to say that we\’re going through a technological revolution in medicine. The human genome, new drug testing methods, advances in cancer drugs and so on. We also know that this is leading to some very expensive treatments (£ 20,000 for a course of Herceptin, isn\’t it?). But patents on such drugs only last 17 years. Perhaps a decade from the time they first come into use (given the time it takes for approval). At the end of that time they are available for generics manufacturers to make. And thus end up costing something closer to spit, rather than the $ 1 billion or so that has been recouped to pay for the development and testing process implicit in the pricing while under patent protection.

So this rise in medical costs is only going to continue as this technological revolution works its way through the system: costs should fall after that.

British Living Standards Higher Than the US?

Well, that\’s one claim, anyway:

LIVING standards in Britain are set to rise above those in America for the first time since the 19th century, according to a report by the respected Oxford Economics consultancy.

The calculations suggest that, measured by gross domestic product per capita, Britain can now hold its head up high in the economic stakes after more than a century of playing second fiddle to the Americans.

It says that GDP per head in Britain will be £23,500 this year, compared with £23,250 in America, reflecting not only the strength of the pound against the dollar but also the UK economy’s record run of growth and rising incomes going back to the early 1990s.

Unfortunately, it\’s tosh, as they\’re using market exchange rates. Should b using PPP, as even the authors of the report agree:

The Oxford analysts also point out that Americans benefit from lower prices than those in Britain. With an adjustment made for this “purchasing power parity”, the average American has more spending power than his UK counterpart and pays lower taxes.

Back to sleep everybody.

A Very Sensible Policeman

Good grief! Decent common sense being talked about drugs!

The policeman has a broad answer: “There has not been a single case of someone dying as a result of being poisoned by ecstasy.

“The most famous case is that of Leah Betts, a young girl who actually died of water poisoning in 1995. Because ecstasy causes you to be thirsty, she drank too much water. Her brain stem was crushed and her heart stopped. My advice to everybody is don’t take ecstasy in the first place. But why should it be a criminal offence? It may be stupid, but why should you be arrested and prosecuted?”

He believes it would be ludicrous to ban alcohol and cigarettes and wants them included in a new substance misuse act – but he admits “nobody knows” how they might be regulated. He also advocates the legalisation of class A, B and C drugs, which would be dispensed by the state and thus deprive criminals of a multi-billion-pound market. He doesn’t want drug-takers needlessly criminalised.

Invoking numerous sources, he claims the war on drugs is unwinnable. “It is not possible to run a democratic country and stop drugs getting in,” he insists. “We reckon, on the best evidence we’ve got, that we stop between 10 and 12% at best of the drugs imported into the UK.”

His assertions on heroin would give most antidrugs campaigners cold turkey. Despite heading his “hierarchy of harm”, he says it is “not particularly dangerous”, although highly addictive. “If taken sensibly, heroin has no known adverse medical effects.”

Brunstrom contends that prescribing heroin to addicts has been proved to reduce their criminal activities: “Because most of their criminal behaviour is driven by the need to gain cash and buy more drugs.”

Something of a pity that no one is going to pay the blindest bit of notice.

Liddle on Trains

It\’s an amazing rant. He seems not to have realised that rail travel is, by passenger numbers, vastly up. But this is the truly silly part:

Even the comparatively straightforward “saver returns”, of which there are about 900 kinds, will leave you in trouble if you wish to alter your return time. You can’t upgrade, you’ll have to buy yourself a whole new open ticket. I travelled by train in Poland recently and asked for a ticket between two cities: I was told the price (which was about one-tenth of the price for a similar rail journey in Britain) – but then felt moved to bombard the poor counter clerk with subsidiary questions. Was this the cheapest ticket? Were there restrictions on it? How long did it last?

The Pole looked at me in utter bewilderment. “It’s just a return ticket to Krakow, sir,” he said, “they all cost the same. Why wouldn’t they?” You get conditioned to the rules of the asylum, after a while, you see.

These aren\’t the rules of the asylum at all: they\’re the only economically rational ones. If you\’ve got a system with huge overhead and fixed costs and nearly zero marginal ones (the cost of one extra passenger on a train, up to the limit of capacity, is somewhere between very little indeed and nothing) then you ought to be slicing and dicing the pricing structure. That way you can influence people to spread their travel over time, and thus increase the total load carried.

What\’s even more is that he praises the airlines for their prices…..and airlines are much greater users of this price discrimination system than the railways are. Sigh.

Ms Raven Writes

In former times, women had affairs because their romantic illusions weren\’t matched by reality. Tutored by romantic fiction to expect nothing less than the full hearts-and-flowers performance, they were led astray when they discovered that their husbands weren\’t reading from the same book. Sadly, the infidelities arising from these romantic fantasies were usually as disillusioning as the marriages.

Clearly not recovered from that affair with Julie Burchill equally clearly, the ability to write great prose is not sexually transmitted.

Glory Be!

The Observer is now being infested with some of the glorious feminist nuttery of The Guradian!*

Even those female friends who are determined to keep their surname concede, in most cases, that their husband will keep his own and pass it on to their children.

These are women I would call feminists. They want successful careers, comparable salaries and partners prepared to share the childcare. Yet here is one custom that many of them have never questioned. Nor have their partners. Adam is the first man I have come across who would happily change his surname to that of his wife.

\’It\’s traditional; it\’s expected; it\’s the way I imagined it would be,\’ my friend Rosie explained after I brought it up over a drink. An hour later and we had not come up with one good reason why. The only point that had any logic to me was the notion of a \’family name\’ for parents and children, but then why should it be the man\’s?

Given 30 seconds I managed to come up with a reason: we know who the mother of a child is, we don\’t (always) know who the father is. Thus the name signifies who we think it is.

I\’m also rather amused by this insistence that women should not give up their family name….one which, in the course of things is in fact their father\’s, not their mother\’s.

But where did it come from? In his book Face of Britain, The Observer\’s Robin McKie writes that surnames were introduced during Norman times, when authorities wanted a way to assign ownership of business and property. The surname became an ancient form of the identity card, McKie argues, and the reason that it was passed down through the male was simple: men owned everything and women inherited nothing.

That\’s a pretty odd view of British history. In those times when land ownership was strictly tied to military service (something which didn\’t last all that long) it also wasn\’t strictly tied to inheritance. And I\’m not sure that there has ever been a time when "women owned nothing" nor when "women inherited nothing".

We\’ll be getting Polly in the paper soon enough, you mark my words.

* There is something of a battle going on in the two papers, merging their quite distinctive voices into a rolling 7 day operation. So expect more of this to happen, modern liberals taking over what still is, in many ways, an historically liberal paper.

Not a Surprise

After years of secret preparation, the world\’s cheapest car will be unveiled in Delhi this week – delighting millions of Indians as much as it is horrifying environmentalists.

Thyere is a part of the environmental movement driven by an insistence that the peasant life is the best one. Of course, for them, the idea that the peasantry might have cars, or even transport, is a horror. What next? They might start demanding a decent diet, even liberty and freedom itself and we certainly can\’t be allowing the proles to do what they want now, can we?

Environmental Lies

As you know, we\’ve all been told that we must have those little windmills on our house in order to appease Gaia.

Home wind turbines are significantly underperforming and in the worst cases generating less than the electricity needed to power a single lightbulb, according to the biggest study of its kind carried out in Britain.

An interim report revealed that homeowners could be being misled by the official figures for wind speeds because they are consistently overestimating how much wind there is – sometimes finding that real speeds are only one third of those forecast. In the worst case scenario, the figures indicate that it would take more than 15 years to generate enough \’clean\’ energy to compensate for the manufacture of the turbine in the first place.

Ah, so they don\’t work and the reason they don\’t is because those pushing them upon us have been lying. What a surprise.

Matthew Rhodes, Encraft\’s managing director. \’There is no doubt that microgeneration as a whole has a critical role to play in delivering a low carbon and secure energy future for the UK.

Eh? we\’ve just found out that microgeneration is both an economic and environmental disaster, yet it\’s still vital? Might we not be putting the ideology before the facts here?


One of the marvels of the age is how our politicians continue solemnly to parrot the mantra that, if Britain left the EU, she would be left in bankrupt isolation, when the two countries that have twice voted in referendums not to join the EU – Norway and Switzerland – are today richer than any of us.

As Patrick Minford has pointed out, leaving the EU\’s customs union would increase the UK\’s GDP by some 3%. We\’d be richer, not poorer.

A Blinding Flash of Knowledge

Wow! This is amaaaazing:

The populations of falcons, kites and eagles have increased sharply in the wake of reintroduction programmes and improvements in their environments.

But now the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has discovered that their success is leading to a decline in ground nesting birds such as the grey partridge, one of the most endangered birds in the UK, the capercaillie, the black grouse and its red cousin.

Waders such as the curlew, lapwing and golden plover are also at greater risk.

Stunning, eh? Increase the number of predators and the prey species are at greater risk. Who would have thought it?

Trenchermen Unite!

Erm, excuse me, but what\’s new about this?

For those who can\’t stand the washing up, help is at hand with one of the strangest culinary inventions in years – the bread bowl.

A Birmingham food firm has started making bowls and plates out of dough. The idea is that diners enjoy a soup, chilli or curry, then eat the bowl too.

We have a word in English, "trencherman", meaning someone with a healthy appetite (OK, more than healthy). The origin is supposed to be from the word "trencher", which in medieval times was the name for the piece of stale bread which you food was served upon. Still hungry after your meal? Then eat the bread which had now soaked up the juices and sauce from the hunk of whatever animal you had been eating.

So far from this being something new this is something rather old.

No doubt we\’ll have someone claiming that this is all a Sharia plot to take us back to before the Renaissance. Look, look, it\’s naan bread, proof positive, see?

We Musn\’t Discriminate Now, Must We?

A report from the education front lines:

The report, Able Pupils Who Lose Momentum, found shortcomings in the 37 primaries across England visited by Government advisers.

One of the key problems uncovered by researchers was the failure to put children into ability sets or groups. Even when children were put in classes with children of similar abilities, clever children were still grouped with other "lower ability" pupils when carrying out work.

"Children often worked exclusively in mixed-ability groups and rarely worked with children who were making similar rates of progress," the report said.

Still insistent that children are a tabula rasa, that there are no innate differences in ability. Can we please, sometime soon, get back to the idea that all children should indeed be taught to the limits of their ability, but that ability varies?

It\’s Not Just Government

That is beset by idiot bureaucracy.

BG: \’Hello Sir I am a supervisor, we are calling a you for immediate payment of the £627 you owe on your gas account. Do you have a debit or credit card handy?\’

Me: \’Is this regarding (address)?\’

BG: \’Yes sir\’

Me: \’This property burned down in June of this year, as I have informed you at least half a dozen times. So this is for estimated usage yes?\’

Free Speech is Free Speech

Via the Anorak I find this.

I am currently out of the Country and on my return home to England I am going to be arrested by British detectives on suspicion of Stirring up Racial Hatred by displaying written material" contrary to sections 18(1) and 27(3) of the Public Order Act 1986.

This charge if found guilty carries a lengthy prison sentence, more than what most paedophiles and rapists receive, and all for writing words of truth about the barbarity that is living in the midst of our children, which threatens the very future of our Country.

Now reading Lionheat\’s post I don\’t quite understand exactly what it is that he\’s said. I\’m also not sure that I\’m likely to agree with what I suspect he did say: that one blog post tells me that he\’s not really my kind of guy.

But the claim is that he\’s to be arrested for something he\’s posted on his blog. My view on this is pretty simple: other than libel and incitement to violence (which includes that shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre thing) we\’ve a right to say anything we damn well please without fear of the law. I also realise that this isn\’t quite what the law itself says, but then that\’s an error with the law, not with the right to free speech.

As The Anorak says, this is similar to the Samina Malik case,

Anyone know more details about this case?

Ermm, Michael?

British readers might be pardoned for wondering whether Americans – or at least Iowa caucus-goers – are a little crazy. On Thursday night, the ninth night of Christmas, some 340,000 Iowans (out of 2 million registered voters) chose for their party’s presidential nominations two men whom no one outside their home states had heard of four years ago and who, between them, have less than four years’ experience in the federal government.

Ermm, actually, between the two of them they have precisely no years of experience in the federal government. Obama has four years in the federal legislature, not the government.

Regulating Alternative Medicine

There\’s two things to be said about this idea:

Aromatherapy, homoeopathy and other popular complementary therapies are to be regulated for the first time under a government-backed scheme to be established this year.

Is the regulation going to be evidence backed? If so, does that mean we\’ll see Deepak Chopra struck off (ooooh, we can hope, can\’t we?)?

If it\’s not going to be evidence backed, if effectiveness is not tested, what is the point?

Which leads to the second thing, the actual point. Those who are regulated will be able to charge higher fees than those who are not. As Adam Smith pointed out, businessmen seldom gather together except to engage in a conspiracy against the public. It\’s professional protectionism.

What an Excellent Idea!

The Bank of England has been sidelined in a proposed shake-up of Britain\’s banking system that will hand greater powers to its regulatory partners, the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has limited the Bank\’s contribution in the event of another Northern Rock to an advisory role while giving the FSA new powers of intervention.

Let\’s take regulation of the banking system away from bankers and give it to people who don\’t know what they\’re doing. What a clever idea!