The Earth Is Flat

I'm probably too obsessed with celebrities. With the help of my entertainment news correspondent, Larry, we often hear the latest gossip on my radio show about which celebrity has been doing what and to whom.

However, I think they should come with a safety notice. Warning: Some celebs may be idiots.

This week an American basketball star has joined other famous people by saying he believes the Earth is flat. NBA star Kyrie Irving said in a podcast, "This is not even a conspiracy theory. The Earth is flat. I'm telling you, it's right in front of our faces. They lie to us."

It's tempting to reply to that with points about how, if the Earth was flat you'd be able to see out to sea a lot further, a new moon would have a square-edge shadow of the Earth on it, and sat navs wouldn't work, but surely the bigger point should be, "How would you know, you're a basketball player!?"

Experts dedicate their lives to studying science and say the Earth is round, a famous person says it's flat and we bother to listen to him?

The same thing happens on the show, a researcher spends years looking at some data, finds a conclusion that gets in the news and someone will call in to say, "I've thought about that thing I've just heard about and I don't think they're right."

But you can't say the researchers are cleverer because we have to stroke the ego of the least smart. We pretend that no one is more intelligent than anyone else in case someone gets offended. Why? We don't pretend we're all the same height.

If Prof Stephen Hawkin called me stupid I'd have to take it. Fair point. I'd agree. And so would a lot of other people. But that's because he's famous.




Technology news is normally terrifying. This week we heard hackers could break into our Fitbits and hold the data to ransom.

I'm not sure I'd pay to hide the fact that I don't do much exercise. The secret is out every time I bend to tie a shoelace and come up looking like I've run a marathon.

Finally I have spotted good news for those of us who like technology.

Google is to introduce new tools that mean we won't have to fill in CAPTCHA forms ever again.

If you don't know what they are, they're little tests you have to do to prove to a website that you are not a robot. It's normally a reading test, not something that assesses if you can feel human love.

I've always hated the idea of a website, run on a computer, testing me to see if I am a computer. I'm even more upset when I can't read the messy typing on the CAPTCHA test and fail it so many times even I wonder if I cut myself would I find wires.

I bought a fridge recently. During that online purchase I had to prove I was human. Why would a computer buy a fridge? Are they recruiting an army for the upcoming techpocalypse?

To join dating websites you have to show you're not a computer. Don't worry, if I go to a bar and see a laptop sat there wearing lipstick I'll notice.

We'll have an awkward conversation, “I thought you said you were Adele. But you meant you're a Dell. OK.” But I won't go on a second date.

I'm glad Google have rid us of that online test. Now if they could find a way to tell who has humanity in the real world it would be a nicer place.


More Coffee News

I often plan the radio show while sat in a coffee shop. In fact, in the past I have made a feature out of the things I have #OverheardInARomfordCoffeeShop as Twitter makes me say it.

They have recently included, “No, I'm not into all that Fifty Shades business, I don't even like it when I stub my toe.”

If you were sat near me you may have heard an grumpy man shout, “How much?!”

I was enjoying a half-caf skinny venti when I saw the news that a cappuccino costing an average £2.52 these days contains around 10p worth of coffee in it.

We wouldn't accept that anywhere else. If you went into a sweet shop, asked for a 10p mix and was charged £2.52 for it you'd either complain or realise you're in London.

When you known your drink only contains 10p worth of coffee it makes the tips jar next to the till see a little galling.

As I sat there I was trying to workout how to get my money's worth. The sachets of sugar on the condiment stand are free. They're about 4g. 1Kg is worth 69p in my local supermarket, so to make the £2.42 back I'd need 1,536. I don't have the pockets to sneak all of those out and the biggest problem with that plan is that I don't have sugar.

We simply get ripped off in life. Coffee doesn't have a lot of coffee in it, sandwiches are more bread than filling and so-called man-sized tissues are nowhere near as big as me.

So I say, get your own back. For every hour at work you are paid for work 2.38 minutes and it works out the same. And if you tune in to my radio show, you'll see I've already started.


The Nokia 3310

Sometimes technology scares me. With one bank now allowing customers to make payments using voice recognition, I have to be careful. My voice is broadcast everyday so I have to be sure I don't use the words “all”, “transfer”, “money” and “my”in case someone records them and splices them together in a different order.

Technology is getting so advanced you either need a PhD to understand it be 8 years old. So it's nice to see something slowing the pace down. The Nokia 3310 is coming back this year.

If you don't remember it, the 3310 was a mobile phone that was the size of an overgrown highlighter pen and it was packed with features. With this phone you could “phone” someone. It's a strange concept to users of smartphones who use an internet app to live call someone using their phone, but back in the 1970s, probably, the Nokia 3310 would act like a phone allowing you to call someone directly using their phone number.

It didn't end there. You could send text messages, but you didn't have to use a messaging app like WhatsApp or Facebook you could send the message right from the phone. I know, it's shocking, but it was the 1920s or something, so times were different.

Back then SMS messages, as they were called, were limited to 160 characters, which made life so much easier. People couldn't go on and on. You don't need more characters than that. Donald Trump is governing a nation using Twitter and that's only 140.

And the 3310 had a battery life of 55 hours. Young people don't understand these things. They don't know what a landline is. “It's a phone that's plugged into the wall,” you tell them, but with the constant need to be charged, you've just described their iPhone.



Body-Cams In Schools

Do you mind being filmed? Cameras could be the answer to society’s problems.

Technology has reached the point where cameras can take detailed pictures. My mobile phone boasts a 12.3-megapixel camera, which means I can take such a hi-def selfie I have to add a filter to blur it and cover my flaws.

The dash-cam is an exciting breakthrough too. In theory they film a record of other people’s driving in case there’s an accident but in reality they mean YouTube gets footage of silly motorists.

A motorist who threatened fellow radio host Jeremy Vine could face jail after being found guilty of road rage offences. I’m in favour of anything that can stop road rage and also in favour of anyone who says something mean to a radio presenter going to jail.

This week saw another addition to our surveillance culture. Some teachers have been wearing body-cams to film the bad behaviour of schoolchildren.

Teachers claim the cameras encourage good behaviour. No. Being a nice person encourages good behaviour. The fear that you’ll be filmed inhibits bad behaviour. There’s a difference.

It’s the same with the dash-cams, they don’t make people want to be nicer and more considerate to other drivers, they simply stop anger-filled cretins from acting in the way they’d really want to.

Give someone a keyboard and the anonymity of Twitter and see what vile thoughts pour out. It’s the fear of being caught that make these people pretend to be normal.

But if filming someone 24/7 is the only way to get people to act in a nice polite way without anger or entitlement I’d be all for it. Apart from the people in Celebrity Big Brother knew cameras were there and look how Nicola McLean acted.

OK, back to the drawing board.



Chocolate News

Remember the story about Toblerone changing so it has fewer peaks, like a metaphor for life? Well, it's getting worse.

This week we heard chocolate bars are ‘to shrink by 20%’ in bid to tackle child obesity.

Haven't they shrunken enough all ready? I know it's a cliché to say it but Wagon Wheels are smaller these days. I remember when, in the event of a flat tyre, you could use one as a spare to get you home.

They have already taken so much from us. I saw in a shop they sell Twix Singles. I stood there in the aisle, sighed and just said, “Why?” And then I bought two.

They make our chocolate bars smaller, put them in bags “to share” and we buy more and share less. If you make these bars 20% smaller we'll just buy 20% more. At least this might make some people think that GCSE maths was worthwhile.

And they're bringing it in to help with child obesity. I'm no longer a child, regardless of how funny I still find seeing someone walk into a patio door. Why can't I turn up, with ID to prove my age, and buy a proper chocolate bar.

I don't agree with childhood driving or cars but it doesn't mean we ban it for the rest of us.

The move is in a bid to avoid a Government report that's going to name and shame foods that are bad for you. But if you need a report to notice a massive chocolate bar doesn't count as one of your five-a-day you've got bigger problems.

I know I should eat more healthily but at the moment, thanks to the veg crisis, if you try to survive on healthy salad you might starve. So hand over that chocolate bar.


Winner's Luck

Have you ever sat and thought to yourself, “What would I do if I had a lucky win?”

Whether it's a jackpot on the lottery or a bit of good fortune at sports betting, if you had a little more to spend I presume you'd find a good way to do it.

That's why it was surprising to read about Britain's youngest lotto winner who claimed the win made her life worse. I've never walked a mile in her shoes, and let's be honest, I couldn't afford those shoes, but if you can't win money and enjoy it I think you're doing it wrong.

She's now 21 and has complained on TV about how her life changed. She has even threatened to sue the organisers because the money has made her life worse. And if she wins the court case? Would she get paid damages? Isn't that going to make the whole situation worse? She'll then have to sue the courts, which won't be easy because they're good at legal things.

During a TV interview on the subject she said she feels stressed and she gets upset that people think they want her lifestyle. You're stressed, we do have your lifestyle, we just don't have all the cars.

One problem that she didn't foresee was how it changed her love life. She said she can never be sure if the men who date her only want her for her money. Hopefully I can put her mind at rest. We are men? If we wanted you for your money that would mean having a two-track mind, and if there's one thing we're famous for not doing well it's multi-tasking.

What can we take from the cautionary tale? In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. All those times you have sat and thought about what you would do with a win wasn't idle day-dreaming, it was valuable preparation for the day you get lucky and the team you'd back win.

So, before you place a bet on a sporting event such as football betting, take time to imagine what it would be like.

Personally, I like to think about a nice shopping trip, a meal out at a lovely restaurant where the menu doesn't have pictures of the food on it, or a little holiday.

If I ever won as much as Britain's youngest lottery winner, I wouldn't complain. And how would I cope with the idea that the people I date might only want me for my money? I'd count my lucky stars.


Let's Have A Drink

Dry January has come to an end so there are warnings that town centres could see revellers taking things a bit far this weekend. It's not hard to think of a way to celebrate not drinking for a month, but it seems to undo all of the good work.

If you buy yourself a cake with icing that reads, "Well done on sticking to that diet," you're back to square one.

Some people were so good at Dry January they finished it early, with reports of brawls and people being sick outside pubs. I feel sorry that I didn't go into a town centre late one Saturday night in January because it's the only time of year you won't seen a re-enactment of the worst parts of the Roman empire.

The ironic thing is, Dry January was created by Alcohol Concern, in a bid to get people to reflect on their drinking patterns. That means Alcohol Concern are the ones indirectly behind one of the biggest blow outs of the year.

February also means the end of Veganuary, the campaign to get people to go without meat for a month. Do you think the same will happen there, with people celebrating their month of self-deprivation by going on a meat-bender. Pre-load with sausages at home, meet friends for some steak and, just like their Dry January counterparts, have a kebab on the way home?

I haven't seen anyone who's done that, but if they had that much meat, they'd still be on the loo this early into Feb.

It would make more sense to use Dry January as a time to free yourself of the urge to drink and head into the next month without alcohol. And then you see what February has to offer. We have to get through Valentine's Day. Yep, I'm gonna need that drink.



The Travel Ban

This week on the radio show we have been asking the question, is it right to curtail someone's ability to travel simply because of where they are from? But for those people who have to use Southern Rail, what can they do?

Other than that, the news has been filled with the international story of Donald Trump's travel ban. Not that he calls it a ban, he calls it "extreme vetting", which sounds like one of those sports you can do in New Zealand. You'll see pictures on your friend's Facebook showing them bungee jumping while examining a cow.

People on social media had their say including Kim Kardashian who disagreed with the President. I saw some Trump supporters tell Kim to butt out because she was "just a rich, reality TV star who only got where they are because of daddy". And Trump supporters hate that?

There were protests outside the White House and when I saw the pictures of it I thought, "So he can pull a big crowd when he really tries."

I'm not sure why people were so surprised, he said he was going to do this. He said he was going to build a wall too and people were shocked when he started to get the border measured up. He's simply doing the things he promised on the campaign trail. The guy he said he wanted to punch had better be ready for a little tiny fist-shaped bruise.

There were protests in London too trying to get the Government to cancel his state visit. The placards they held up said things like, "Not today Cheeto," and "Not my tangerine dream." He might have his ability to travel curtailed and people judge him because of the colour of he skin. Interesting times.



Feeling Happy?

Are you happy?

I hope so but if you're not blame the year. A new study says we Brits were at our happiest in 1957.

Some people are surprised by that fact. Back then most homes had an outside toilet, but maybe that's the secret to a happy life. We brought the loos inside but then buy air fresheners making it smell like an alpine forest. That must mean something.

I looked at some of the things that happened in 1957 to see if we can learn how to be happier.

In April 1957 the BBC did their Panorama spaghetti tree hoax that showed long strands of the food being harvested from trees. It's seen as a classic broadcast but it's rather patronising, laughing at the fact people didn't know where fancy foreign food came from.

In May Britain tested its first hydrogen bomb at Malden Island in the Pacific. It stayed there and didn't head off towards America by mistake, so I see why we were happy.

In June actor Noël Coward returned to Britain from the West Indies after criticism that he was living abroad to avoid having to pay tax. We don't have people doing that any more.

And in July Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said, "most of our people have never had it so good." But we've got it better now. We moan in the news about people living longer but people in the past would love to have that as a problem.

Maybe the problem is gratitude. In '57 people were happy that rationing had ended. These days I heard someone in a supermarket saying, "I suppose I'll have to get the non-organic pasta but this is really not good enough."

Sit down, be grateful, and eat your pasta. It doesn't grow on trees you know.



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