The Lurg

The Lurg
The Lurg. This lady does not have the lurg. She looks amazingly healthy so this is a set up. If she had the lurg you would not instantly and would contemplate being elsewhere as soon as possible.

The invading army expanded in both directions from their beachhead. Soon they were almost everywhere, even invading the outlying areas. The resistance had little time to prepare, but soon they were building up their forces. The battle raged everywhere, noticeably raising the temperature.

Yes, I have the lurgy. It started a week ago with a sore throat and progressed to a crippling cough. Soon I was aching all over and doing anything at was getting very hard. My muscles ached from coughing and my back hurt, probably as a secondary result of the coughing.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

I felt hot and sweaty, and got an appointment with the doctor. She told me that it was a “viral infection” and that I had to “last it out”. I didn’t have bronchitis or pneumonia fortunately, so I came out of the medical centre with no prescription. That’s fine by me. Antibiotics wouldn’t help with a viral infection and most cold “remedies” are hokum.

What I had was a bit more than a cold though, so over the next few days I was mostly collapsed in bed, sometimes listening to radio or playing games on the tablet. Did I feel sorry for myself? Not really, but my mood was sombre. Even in the depths of depression I haven’t felt sorry for myself and I rarely do. It seems a pointless way to feel, and depression, for me, is colouring of the world as grey (but see below), not a personal attack by the Universe.

Depression
Depression means many things. I was searching for an image related to the mental condition but came up with the meteorologic phenomenon instead.

The thing about this particular “viral infection” is that it has left me feeling weak and tired 24 hours a day. Sleep has not been easy as I wake up sweating and coughing several times a night, once I drop off. It hasn’t been too good for my wife who has been disturbed by my nocturnal coughing spells.

Only once, fortunately, was I woken by the shivers. I hate the shivers. I felt reasonably warm in bed but my body decided it wasn’t. I struggled against the shivers for a while then snaked an arm out to grab a sweater. Fighting the weakness and the shakes I managed to pull the sweater on and still the shivers without getting out bed, then relaxed into the warmth. Of course I was soaking in sweat when I woke up. Yuck!

Warm bed
Warm bed

A deep cold or maybe flu like this makes things hard to do. There’s a general feeling of weakness, but I think that’s mostly a mental thing. I had to swing an axe at some blocks of wood out of necessity (It’s winter here) but I was able to do it, albeit with lengthy pauses to cough my lungs out, Muscles complain if you ask them to do work, but with “viral infection” they do that anyway.

Maybe the system is marshalling all resources to attack the invader and resents having to let resources go to other ends. Speaking of resources, food and drink lose their savour with a cold like this. Solid food tastes of nothing much and tea and coffee taste strange. (I don’t actually drink coffee so I’m extrapolating here!) I don’t know why this happens, but it’s like half of your taste buds are MIA and the others only have time to register “food of some sort”.

Tastebuds
Tastebuds

Also you eat at strange times. Struggling out of bed, it is often quite late in the morning before breakfast happens. Since my usual breakfast is pretty bland (oat biscuits and milk) you can imagine what it tastes like… Well pulped cardboard would probably have more flavour.

Lunch time has been straying into the early afternoon. Whatever is for lunch, it is probably quick and easy. Tinned soup, something on toast, or similar. Not that I can taste what it is, of course. I made scrambled eggs today (whisk eggs, pinch of salt, milk if wanted, pepper if wanted) and I had eaten half of it before I realised that I had forgotten the pinch of salt In normal times I would have spotted that in the first mouthful, even though I only use a little.

Scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs

The really annoying thing, though, over the course of the battle for my body is that my brain functions have been “softened”. I think that’s the best word. Just like a landscape is softened by a veil of rain, my brain feels a little fuzzy, like an out of focus photograph. The sharp edges are still there, though it is more of an effort to utilise them.

Puzzles, for example, are doable, but with more effort than usual. I quite like Sudoku puzzles and can complete them at my usual level, but I’m tired afterwards. Even Solitaire (what else can you do when you can’t go out, when you’ve completed all the Sudoku puzzles available to you) can seem like a pretty daunting proposition.

Sudoku
Sudoku

I was going to mention colour, wasn’t I? Colour leaches from the world much like it does when depression hits. You look at something and the colours are there – you can notice to a block of red in something for instance – but somehow colour doesn’t figure much in the composite image that your eyes report to your, or is dropped as irrelevant by your brain. Something in the visual presentation of your vision system appears to dial down the colours.

It doesn’t go completely monochrome (though deep depression does, occasionally, for me). It’s just that colour seems to lose significance. It’s AS IF everything was grey and white until you actually look specifically at something. Still it is not as unpleasant as those time when depression blasts everything with light, where everything feels metallic, there is a metallic taste in the mouth. Total sensory overload that won’t stop. I call it the “neon world”.

Grey Skies - Belgium
Grey Skies – Belgium

I’m approaching the end of this post, which shows that I must be much improved from how I was before! Yeah! Yeah, the defenders of my internal galaxy! I still have the nose runs and still have the coughs, but the aches have retreated to only the coughing muscles. I think that I’m going to survive. Well, I always knew I would really, but it’s hard to maintain the positiveness when you’ve been coughing for 10 minutes and can’t see the end.

White blood cells
White blood cells

Post-rational


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Science has achieved marvellous things. It’s sent people to the moon, It’s reduced disease and the impact that disease has on people. It’s given us transistors, computers, the Internet and cell phones. It’s given us non-stick frying pans.


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Science and its descendants, like biology, physics, and chemistry, and their descendants, like engineering, agriculture and medicine, have been an immense boon to the human race, to the extent that the human race would not have achieved the majority of things that we see around us. Railways, planes, roads and cars have all been achieved by the applied use of science.

Why then are people beginning to reject science and all that it has done for us? Why is there this anti-science, anti-rational groundswell, and does it really matter?

English: Anti-Science (including math, physics...
English: Anti-Science (including math, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, etc.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There have always been flat-earth proponents – people who disbelieve science, and bend the predictions of science almost to breaking point to favour their point of view. While they in general accept the facts, they do not like the conclusions drawn from the facts and build their own convoluted theories and explanations instead.

Then there are those who attack the theories of relativity. Here at least there is some justification as relativity is not easy to get your head around. It is not intuitive, and that is a weak way to some extent excuses the attacks on it. However the relativity opponents are generally unwilling to throw some maths at the problem – and without the maths, their objection do not stand up to scrutiny. In fact if they were to apply the maths, and were able to understand the maths, then probably the only conclusion they could come to is that the theories of relativity apply.

Banesh Hoffmann, in the 1979 film Continuum, s...
Banesh Hoffmann, in the 1979 film Continuum, speaking about the theory of relativity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of those who oppose scientific theories do not understand what a theory is. A typical case is where someone declares that “evolution is only a theory“! What they don’t understand is that everything is a theory.

It is a theory that the sun “rises” because the Earth spins in its orbit, causing the Sun appear to rise in the East. (I’ve lost the Flat Earthers by this point of course). It’s a very good theory and one that is incredibly unlikely to be disproved, but it is still a theory.

Only A Theory
Only A Theory (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A theory is something that explains the known facts, and trying to dismiss something as “only a theory” pretty much amounts to dismissing all of science, as science is a network of interconnected theories.

This ignorance of what science is and theories are goes hand in hand with the simplified and cartoonish way that science is taught in schools. Here is an atom is behaves in so and so way, it reacts with these other atoms, and so on. Very little of the history of the development of the concepts is done, and unless someone gets interested and studies the roots of science, much of science becomes merely didactic and not fundamentally informative in any way.


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Students do get told a little about how one theory may supplant another theory, but very often the concept doesn’t really sink in. A scientific theory is taught authoritatively – students are told that the ancient Greeks had some weak ideas which could barely be called theories, but Newton tossed that junk aside and used Reason to develop his theories. Then Einstein came along and “disproved” Newton’s theories.

There is an idea that theories can be discarded, but the next part, where another theory takes its place is skipped over or ignored. Inconvenient facts are ignored, or “explained” as errors or bias. It may often be implicitly or explicitly asserted that scientists have a vested interest or that there is a conspiracy to suppress the true theories.

Three models of change in scientific theories,...
Three models of change in scientific theories, depicted graphically to reflect roughly the different views associated with Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and Paul Feyerabend. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is one huge example, the tobacco industry, where bias and vested interests have had a negative influence on the science, and this, one can see, seems to validate the point of view that scientists are regularly distorting the results of science for their own ends.

So, it is not uncommon to have a case where people refuse to accept the science and go with their own views. One case that I saw recently was in a discussion of the so-called Supermoon on November 14th 2016 and the earthquake in North Canterbury, New Zealand early that same morning.

A SuperMoon is a perigee-syzygy, a new or full...
A SuperMoon is a perigee-syzygy, a new or full moon (syzygy) which occurs when the Moon is at 90% or greater of its mean closest approach to Earth (perigee). The March 19, 2011 supermoon is just 221,566 miles (356,577 kilometers) away from Earth. The last time the full moon approached so close to Earth was in 1993, according to NASA. it is about 20 percent brighter and 15 percent bigger than a regular full moon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the discussion several people were looking at the coincidence of the two events and linking them in their minds. After several people had pointed out that the science shows that there is no noticeable correlation between “supermoons” and big earthquakes, people were still saying that there must be something in it.

They had replaced the current scientific theory with their own thinking, without really explaining the facts away – there is no known or even noticeable link, and that lack of any apparent evidence should be explained by any replacement “theory” before any new theory can be put in place.

1755 copper engraving showing Lisbon in flames...
1755 copper engraving showing Lisbon in flames and a tsunami overwhelming the ships in the harbor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similarly, I’ve come across people who oppose the use of fluoride and chlorine in public water supplies, and those who refuse to inoculate their children against diseases. In past decades people died from water-borne diseases, children have died from childhood diseases and whole populations have been wiped out. Children’s’ teeth have rotted in their mouths.

Why do these people do these things? In general they are fairly well-educated, fairly well read, and not unintelligent. Of course there’s a fear factor, but in previous generations fear was the thing driving people towards chlorination and fluoridation and inoculation against diseases.

La vaccination. Inoculation against smallpox i...
La vaccination. Inoculation against smallpox in Paris in 1807 as shown in a painting by Louis-Léopold Boilly at The Wellcome Library, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, I think that there’s more to it than that. There’s a rejection of rational thinking. They realise that science has done so much for them, yet they only pay it lip service. “Proof” of their views is obtained by scouring the Internet for the few dissenting voices. Any establishment voices are dismissed as biassed or merely toeing the establishment line. This is not a rational argument. A single or even a small set of dissenting voices is not proof of anything.

This worries me. We have always had the “alternative” views, the crystal gazers and the iridologists, but those people completely reject science as a world view. That’s OK. We don’t expect science from such people.

Human Iris, Blue Type
Human Iris, Blue Type (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The antivaxers and the fluoride opponents however pay lip service to science while rejecting it, which is not logical. They know something of how science works, as evidenced by their rejection of current evidence of the benefits of fluoride and chlorine in the water, but they don’t follow through with meaningful data to support an alternative theory.

(Coincidentally I came across this article after publishing my post. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/teach-philosophy-to-heal-our-post-truth-society-says-president-higgins-1.2875247)

Cover
Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cooking

cooked in this case. I'd like to try the raw v...
cooked in this case. I’d like to try the raw version even though this was good as is. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people have a hand in food preparation at some time in the day. Even those who subsist on “instant meals” will at least zap it in the microwave for the necessary amount of time. Some people however cook intricate dishes, for their own amusement or for friends and families.

Most people eat cooked food although there is somewhat of a fad for raw food at the present time. All sorts of diets are also touted as having some sort of benefit for the food conscious, all of which seem bizarre when one considers that many, many people around the world are starving.


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Cooking can be described as applied chemistry, as the aim of cooking is to change the food being cooked by treating it with heat in one way or another. All the methods treatment are given names, like “boiling”, or “baking” or “roasting”. In the distant past no doubt such treatments were hit and miss, but these days, with temperature controlled ovens and ingredients which are pretty much consistent, a reasonable result can be achieved by most people.

Chemistry Is What We Are
Chemistry Is What We Are (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d guess that the first method of cooking was to hold a piece of meat over a fire until the outside was charred and much of the inside was cooked. However, human ingenuity soon led to spit roasting and other cooking methods. A humorous account of the accidental discovery of roasting a pig was penned by Charles Lamb. In the account the discovery came as a result of an accidental setting fire to a pig sty, and consequently, as the idea of roast pork spread this led to a rash of pig sty fires, until some sage discovered that houses and sties did not need to be burnt down and it was sufficient to hang the pig over a fire.

English: Slow-roasting pig on a rotisserie
English: Slow-roasting pig on a rotisserie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d suspect that while roasting may have been invented quite early by humans, cooking in water would have come along a lot later as more technology is needed to boil anything. That is, a container would be needed and while coconut shells and mollusc shells can contain a little water, and folded leaves would do at a pinch, when humans invented pottery, the art and science of cooking was advanced immensely.

Although the foods that we eat can pretty much all be eaten raw, most people would find cooked food much more attractive. Cooked food smells nice. The texture of cooked food is different from the texture of raw food. I expect cookery experts are taught the chemical reactions that happen in cooking, but I suspect that cooking breaks down the carbohydrates, the fats, and the proteins in the food to simpler components and that we find it easier to digest these simpler chemicals.


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Maybe. That doesn’t explain why cooked food smells so much nicer than raw food. If food is left to break down by itself it smells awful, rotten, and with a few exceptions we don’t eat food that has started to decay.

Maybe the organisms that rot food produce different simpler components, or maybe the organisms produce by products that humans dislike. Other carnivores don’t seem to mind eating carrion and maybe a rotting carcass smells good to them.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rules of cooking, the recipes have no doubt been developed by trial an error. It is likely that the knowledge was passed from cook to cook as an aural tradition initially. After all, cooking is likely to have started a long time before reading and writing were invented. Since accurate measurements were unlikely to be obtainable, much of the lore or cooking would have vague and a new cook would have to learn by cooking.

However, once the printing press was invented, after all the bibles and clerical documents had been printed, I would not be surprised to learn that the next book to be printed would have been a cook book. I’ve no evidence for this at all though!

English: Fanny Farmer Cookbook 1996 edition Fr...
English: Fanny Farmer Cookbook 1996 edition Français : Livre de la cuisson Fanny Farmer 1996 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cooking changes the texture of meat and vegetables, making them softer and easier to eat. Connective tissues in particular are released making a steak for example a lot more edible. Something similar happens to root vegetables, swedes, turnips, carrots and parsnips. These vegetables can be mashed or creamed once they are cooked, something that cannot be done to the rather solid uncooked vegetables.

Cooking is optional for some foods – berries and fruits for example. Apples can be enjoyed while raw when they have a pleasant crunch, or cooked in a pie, when they are sweet and smooth. Babies in particular love the sweet smoothness of cooked apple and for many of them puréed fruits or vegetables are their first “solid” foods.


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Chicken eggs are cooked and eaten in many different ways. The white of an egg is made partly of albumen and when this is cooked it changes from translucent, almost transparent, to an opaque white. Almost everyone will have seen this happen, when an egg is cracked into a frying pan and cooked until the clear “white” of the egg turns to opaque white of the cooked egg.

Many other items when cooked change colour to some extent, but the white of the egg is most apparent. When you pair that with bread which is slightly carbonised on the outside, covered in the coagulated fat from cow’s milk (butter) and you have a common breakfast dish – fried eggs on toast.

English: Two slices of electrically toasted wh...
English: Two slices of electrically toasted white bread on a white plate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a whole other type of cooking – baking – that relies at least partly on a chemical reaction between an alkali (baking soda or sodium bicarbonate) and an acid (often “cream of tartar” which is weakly acidic). When the two are mixed in the presence of water, carbon dioxide gas is given off, leading to gas bubbles in the dough. When the dough is cooked the bubbles are trapped inside the stiffening dough, give the baked cake the typical spongy texture.

Some cooking utilises biological reactions. When yeast, a fungus, is placed into a liquid containing sugar, it metabolises the sugar, releasing carbon dioxide, and creates alcohol. In bread making this alcohol is baked off, but it may add to the attractiveness of the smell of newly baked bread. In brewing the alcohol is the main point of the exercise, so it is retained. It may even be enhanced by distillation.

I’ve just touched on a few highlights as regards the mechanisms of cooking (and brewing!), but I’ve come to realise as I have been writing this that there are many, many other points of interest in this subject. The subject itself has a name and that name is “Molecular Gastronomy”. A grand name for a grand subject.


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The black dog

English: A black dog
English: A black dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is insidious. It can be attracted by the most innocuous of happenings, such as losing a sock. You can expect it after a mini-disaster, but it doesn’t come. It can come on a bright or a dark day, a high day or a normal day. It can come when you win the race, but stay away when you come last. You cannot predict when it will come.

I fully understand why those under its spell commit suicide. It makes any achievement worthless, makes the future into a black pit. Those who succumb may be weaker than most or stronger than most. Weaker because they give in to the black dog, stronger because it takes a sort of strength to kill one’s self.

Despair
Despair (Photo credit: fakelvis)

The black dog turns you in on your self, eats you up internally, until you are a shell. The world may see you smiling and joking, while inside you are decaying, eaten up inside like a caterpillar infected by an ichneumon fly. Everything is filtered through it, so it affects everything that you do. Everything is flavoured by it, or more correctly, over-flavoured by it. Sweetness is saccharine, bitterness is burning, sourness is acrid, saltiness is excessively salty, pungency is repelling. Everything is metallic in feel or taste or smell.

I call depression ‘entering the chrome world’. In the chrome world everything is a glitzy, like a 1950’s world in the ‘modern’ style. Everything is sharp-edged and out to snag you or harm you. All surfaces are slick and smooth and encourage things that you put down to slide and slip. Lights are neon bright and shine into your eyes. Voices are loud and raucous, high and penetrating. You know that if you put down a drink it will slide away or get knocked over, and a dropped coin will roll away either to an awkward place or will disappear. You know that this will happen, even if it doesn’t.

Chrome
Chrome (Photo credit: DeusXFlorida (3,454,860 views) – thanks guys!)

You don’t feel sorry for yourself. That would involve caring. You could be outwardly cheerful and sociable, (though it is unlikely) and yet be withering inside. More often you just want to be alone, which can upset loved ones who want to help you.

Depression makes you irritable. You don’t see why others care and it seems so pointless to you. If others ask how you feel it is impossible to say. They may have felt ‘down’, and they know that they have been able to overcome that feeling with effort, or maybe chocolate and a glass of wine, so they don’t realise that depression can’t be shifted simply by making an effort, or with simple treats. If you want someone to do something and they ask why, it can infuriate you. Petty things, like finding a knife to be blunt when you need a sharp one become frustrating out of all proportion.

English: Lots of frustration spikes experienced
English: Lots of frustration spikes experienced (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depression can only be alleviated by time or chemicals. Doctors will prescribe drugs to, hopefully, stop the onset of a bout of depression, or to dispel it. They seem to work pretty well, and with modern drugs you no longer need to be ‘doped to the eyeballs’. Nevertheless the depression still seeps through at times. If life is a switchback, up and down all the time, drugs can reduce the depths of the downs, but probably also reduce the height of the ups.

Depression is also associated with dissociation. More or less this is an extension of the lack of caring, about what other people do, what they might do to you. It’s like being in the cab of a truck, but as a passenger, not as the driver. The driver decides where you are going and you have no input into that. It’s as if the driver won’t even acknowledge your presence and indeed in extreme dissociation, its as if you have no physical presence in the cab of the truck.

1915 Packard Model E 2 & 1/2 ton C-Cab truck o...
1915 Packard Model E 2 & 1/2 ton C-Cab truck on display at the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum. Cab from left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not a form of fatalism as you don’t care what happens, whereas in fatalism, you might care keenly what happens but be unable to do anything about it.

Depression trumps love, and depressive people often push loved ones away. If the loved one doesn’t know what is happening that can be distressing to them and may actually create a split. Even if the loved one does know, the depressive person’s desire to be alone may be, will be, felt by the loved one as rejection.

A depressive episode is endless. By this I mean that the depressed person will not and cannot believe that the episode will end. The depressed person will not be aware, often, that they are suffering a depressive episode, so they do not know that it will almost certainly end at some stage.

English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of...
English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of loved one (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll wrap up with two points.

Firstly, I believe that it is impossible for a person who does not suffer from depression to understand what it is like, just as one could not imagine what it would be like to be a bat. Sure, one is a mental difference and the other is a physical difference, but to experience something is a mental experience, man or bat, depressive or non-depressive.

Secondly, I am not currently experiencing a depressive episode, or am anywhere near experiencing one. I can’t remember exactly how I got onto this track, apart from the fact that I was trying to find a subject for this weeks blog and this somehow came to mind. So there is no need to send out rescue parties!

Happy Face
Happy Face (Photo credit: Enokson)

Actually a third wrap up point comes to me. In discussing what makes a person, philosophers often conjecture what would happen if someone’s brain were transported into another body. My third point is the question “Assuming that it is agreed that the transplanted brain results in the transplantation of the person, would that person be susceptible to depression, or would it be possible that the new body’s chemistry would be different enough that the person would no longer suffer from depressive episodes?” Certainly a large part of our personalities are determined by the subtleties of the chemistry that takes place in our bodies, and depression can be alleviated by drugs. Maybe I’ll go deeper into that another time.

Phone Brain Transplant
Phone Brain Transplant (Photo credit: Sorbus sapiens)

Gambling

Gambler (film)
Gambler (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gambling has probably been a human activity since two cavemen had a bet over their respective hunting prowess. Or maybe it was over which of them could stay upright longest after sampling the newly invented alcoholic grog. Gambling games generally have probabilistic component, though the contestants generally try to remove or circumvent it, usually by such techniques as remembering the order that cards come out or ‘card counting’. This latter technique involves keeping track of the high cards that come into play.

For some people gambling can become a problem. Sometimes susceptible individuals can become ‘addicted’ to gambling to the extent that they embezzle and steal so that they can continue to gamble. They may rationalise this by claiming that they are only trying to regain what they lost, or repay the people who they have stolen from, and indeed, because of the probabilistic nature  there is a chance that they might be able to do that. However the chance is very very small.

English: Poker Chips
English: Poker Chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a gambler starts gambling the reason that they gamble is the thrill of the possibility of winning big. Once the gambler has used up all his or her resources and has borrowed or stolen to keep gambling then the fear of losing and the fear of people finding out would be the predominant emotions, especially the fear of being found out.

They probably think to themselves that their luck must turn sooner or later and they must start winning, however this is just not true. Suppose the gambler is $100,000 in debt and chooses odds of evens. Then to win $100,000 he or she must wager $100,000 and to do that he or she would have to steal another $100,000. Such a theft is more likely to be noticed than a smaller amount and there is an even chance of losing and being $200,000 in the hole.

Slot Machines
Slot Machines (Photo credit: ragingwire)

As a result, it is likely that a ‘problem gambler’ would choose to go for longer odds and therefore smaller amounts of stake money, but with less chance of winning.

Statistically, over a large number of gamblers and a large number of wagers on something like a horse race, if all the money taken on wagers is paid back to punters then the average return, over all punters taking into account the stakes and the winnings paid out, is exactly zero! Of course, not all the money taken in in bets is paid to the punters. If the bets are on a totalizator system then the organisation running the ‘tote’ takes out taxes and administration costs so the payout will be less than the amount taken in.

English: Tote Bookmakers - Westgate
English: Tote Bookmakers – Westgate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the system is a ‘bookmaker’ run system then the bookie needs to cover his costs so he (or she) arranges his books so that not all the money taken in bets is returned to the punters. There is a very small chance that under some circumstances he cannot cover all the bets made, but it is rare for this to happen. A bookie will sometimes ‘lay off’ a bet somewhere else if he feels exposed as a result of a large bet.

What this means to the gambler is that, on average, he is going to get back from the system less than he puts in. What a gambler hopes is that his personal return is positive, and he will in fact beat the odds. It is highly likely that he won’t though. A ‘problem gambler’ is unlikely to be a clever gambler and is likely to continue to lose.

Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 logo in use from 2008 onwards
Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 logo in use from 2008 onwards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lotteries are different. Although Lotto is referred to as gambling, it is different from card games like poker or betting on horses. Again the average return is going to be zero or negative. However, with a lottery, the only way to increase your chance of winning is to buy more tickets. There is no real or illusory skill involved. As a result the lottery is unlikely to attract the ‘problem gambler’.

Of those who do take part in the lottery there are some who fall foul of the “Gambler’s Fallacy”. Some people use the same numbers draw after draw after draw in the belief that their particular set of numbers must come up sometime. This is not so at all. It doesn’t do any harm, though, as their particular numbers are just as likely to come up in one draw as any other. In fact, if their numbers do come up, they are equally as likely as any set of numbers to come up the next week too.

Horse racing
Horse racing (Photo credit: Paolo Camera)

I confess that I don’t see much sense in betting on horses or dogs or whatever. I don’t have the skills necessary to increase the odds in my favour, though the so-called ‘professional gamblers’ appear to have those skills, and ‘problem gamblers’ definitely don’t.  I do buy lotto tickets, though, but I’m not too upset when I lose and the rare small win is fun.

The Winner Takes It All
The Winner Takes It All (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a Song in my Head.

Delicate (album)
Delicate (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(“There’s a song in my head” by Martha and the Muffins 1985 – NOT my kind of music by the way.)

 

The way the brain works fascinates me. It seems to favour the most unexpected linkages between memories. What brought this to mind was the fact that when I do some daily activity I often find myself humming a particular tune which my brain somehow for some reason links to that task. Now, sometimes it is easy to remember why there is a connection, but other times, I can think of no idea why that particular tune relates to that task.

 

Cassatt Mary The Cup of Tea 1880
Cassatt Mary The Cup of Tea 1880 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously, it is probably true that at some time in the past there was an event, or even events which have caused that linkage to be formed. It may be that the linkage was indirect, through some other occurrence, but in any case the cause of the linkage has been long forgotten.

 

Evidently linkages can outlive the events that caused them. It may be that some traumatic event caused the linkage, and I have suppressed it. I think that this is unlikely, since it happens too often, and I don’t have that much trauma in my life, I believe!

 

It may be that my brain favours musical themes as mnemonics. Songs, poetry and repetition (chanting) are often used in schools to help student memorise things. How many days are there in June? And how many of you started mentally reciting that rhyme – “30 days hath September…”?

 

Knuckle mnemonic for the number of days in eac...
Knuckle mnemonic for the number of days in each month of the Gregorian Calendar. Each projecting knuckle represents a 31-day month. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I make a cup of tea and the tune springs to mind, what is my brain trying to do? (He said, anthropomorphically). Is it trying to remind me of something important? If so, it is likely that the thing that it considers important is important no longer, so my response, when it occurs to me, is one of puzzlement.

 

There’s another category of “songs in your head” and that is the “mind worm”. I can think of several. There’s the tinkly accompaniment to Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know”, There’s the Disney “Small World” theme, which may be merely more pervasive and not a true mind worm. Just recently there’s been the rail safety commercial “Dumb ways to die”. By the way, don’t click on the links unless you want the songs in your brain. Too late!

 

The hidden auditorium of my skull
The hidden auditorium of my skull (Photo credit: id-iom)

I can’t think of a good reason for musical mind worms. Maybe, as an offshoot of the remembering process the brain is so susceptible to simple musical phrases that it picks up these tunes because they are simple and memorable and this is the sort of thing that the brain finds easy to recall as well as remember, and each recollection reinforces the memory in a self maintaining endless cycle.

English: Animated Atkinson cycle.
English: Animated Atkinson cycle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)