Ian Blyth – It's Just a Thought

My thoughts and opinions

Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Cheap v Expensive

Posted by Ian Blyth on 6 February 2010

I heard that “Cheap is more expensive in the long run” and “You will remember the quality long after you have forgotten the price”. I particularly like the last one and found it to be true many times. I try and remember it when I am buying a product that seems very expensive.

I have come across this recently which I like as well.

It’s unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little.

When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all.

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done.

If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.

– English economist John Ruskin, 1819-1900


Posted in Economics, People, Supply and Demand | Leave a Comment »

It’s A Funeral

Posted by Ian Blyth on 7 July 2009

This morning on the news they showed people in America  picking up their tickets for the Michael Jackson Memorial. They were screaming with joy as if they had won the lottery. It certainly did not sound like they were going to a funeral. This is one of those “events” people have to be at so that they could say that they were there – regardless of whether they like Jackson or not. I thought is was disturbing that they were so overjoyed to get a ticket to a big open air funeral. It says a lot about our society and the effects of idols.

I have seen journalists say that Michael Jackson was a genius and he was the top and other musicians were level 2 and below. The interview asked about the Beatles which flummoxed the sycophant. They use the argument on the number of records sold. Well he may have been popular and sold lots of music but he was not a genius. I think he is more like Sinatra who who also be described as very popular but he would not be classified as a genius. The Beatles on the other did change musica nd their effects are still being felt today – just listen to Oasis!

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End of the World?

Posted by Ian Blyth on 11 September 2008

At first it was midly amusing that people would think that switching on a machine (the particle accelerator at Geneva – albeit a very large machine) would bring the end of the world. But after a while it just got annoying that this story would be picked up by the news comapnies and broadcast as if it was a real possibility. It was obviously a slow news day.

According the bit at the end of this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider there has been a suicide caused by the reporting of doom and gloom. Sad. It may have happened anyway but shows the power of media to sway people.

A nice post by Eileen about it comments on experiments like this hopefully inspiring kids to become scientists.


We could certainly do with more scientists rather than politicians and lawyers!

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Posted by Ian Blyth on 29 May 2008

What drives people to do what they do? A vision? Goals? Or just plain old fashioned incentives?

Take estate agents, Please! (Old joke).

They make their money from the commission they get selling your house. So you would think the more it sells for the better for them. But they also have targets to reach each month. If they charge 2% and the house sells for £300K then they make £6,000. If they sell it for £310K then they only make another £200 which is not a great deal considering the company will take a chunk so the individual agent may not seen anything like that.

So why would they hold out for another month to make less than £200 if there is an offer on the table now and they have their months target to make. For you it is better to wait a month for a buyer who will pay the higher price as you get an extra £9,800. For the estate agent though it is better to take the quick sure sale and get the money in the bank and move onto more houses next month. So it is likely that they will try and persuade you to take the offer and say that that is all the market will bear, not many buyers etc.

If it is a slow month then estate agents will do what other shops do and cut prices to attract sales. The thing about a supermarket is that they have bought those goods already and so will cut their profit. The estate agents do not own the house – you do. So it costs them nothing to reduce the price and even though they make less money per sale if they get sales then that is all money for them and it is better for them to get sales rather than not get sales. So their selling effort is focused on getting you to reduce the price rather than sell the merits of the house to the buyer.

Posted in People, Supply and Demand | Leave a Comment »

Another Reason the Death Penalty is Wrong

Posted by Ian Blyth on 27 May 2008

Australian man pardoned 86 years after execution


People make mistakes but the worst type is the killing of an innocent person based on flawed evidence. It has been shown time and time again that people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. At least if you are sent to jail you just lose some years of your life. If you are executed it is not much use to be pardoned later. The pardon is for the people still alive like the family.

I do not believe in the “eye for an eye and life for a life” philosophy. For a start it makes us all party to murder. If we live in a country with the death penalty and it is used when we are guilty of murder as well. If we were truly civilised we would not lower ourselves to murdering people to punish them. After all we do not throw our excrement out in the street like they did in the olden days so why should we still believe these old punishments.

The second reason is that it does not seem to deter people. In times past people were hung for stealing a loaf of bread. It did not stop them as they needed to eat. The best deterrent is getting caught – not what punishment. It has been shown that police successes are limited (except for catching people who speed in their car). If there is a low chance of getting caught then it does not matter about the punishment as the criminal will never have to face it. And if someone is amoral rather than immoral then the whole right and wrong concepts bypass them.

Posted in People, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Religious Tolerance?

Posted by Ian Blyth on 23 May 2008

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said “Stop! Don’t do it!”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.

“Well, there’s so much to live for!”

“Like what?”

“Well… are you religious?”

He said yes. I said, “Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?”

“Christian.” “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant? ”

“Protestant.” “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”

“Baptist” “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”

“Baptist Church of God!” “Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?”

“Reformed Baptist Church of God!” “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”

He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”

I said, “Die, heretic scum”, and pushed him off.

– Emo Philips

There is a lesson in that joke for all religious people.

Posted in Fun, People, Religion | Leave a Comment »

Treat others right

Posted by Ian Blyth on 28 April 2008

I was having a discussion with a friend at the weekend and the topic of how to treat people came up. My comment was

“Treat people the same way as you would like to be treated yourself”.

This is not new or earth shattering but over the weekend the more I thought about it the more I realised that this was a key way to live and if everyone did it what a great place this would be. If this is the last post I do and these are my last words then I can not think of a better thing to leave.

If dictators and bullies knew that what they did would be done to them would they do what they do? I don’t think so. If thieves knew that all their stuff would be stolen would they steal? Only if they had nothing to lose but as soon as they stole stuff they would have something to lose. If people don’t like to be treated rudely or sworn at then the first thing is not to do it to anyone else.

So how do you like to be treated? And are you treating everyone else that way?

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Credit Crunch

Posted by Ian Blyth on 10 April 2008

“Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19 pounds 19 and six – result happiness, annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20 pounds and sixpence – result misery.”

Wilkins Micawber, David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)


Perhaps if more people (and financial institutes) followed this simple but sage advice we would not be facing a credit crunch.

Posted in People | 1 Comment »

T5 Debacle

Posted by Ian Blyth on 3 April 2008

I am glad I have not been travelling BA at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 – the flagship terminal for BA. It is no fun arriving somewhere on holiday or business without all your luggage.

I saw a program before it opened and how they had all these people wandering around with tasks sheets to check all was working. It looked impressive but obviously flawed.

As someone who has managed big projects the last thing you want to do is a big bang. Sometimes you just can’t help it but if at all possible it should be avoided. As all these flights were already at other terminals (I have not heard of new flights that were started) then it would have made more sense to phase those across over a number of months from a terminal at a time or by long haul/short haul etc. That would not have placed such a big strain on the system and early problems could have been fixed faster with less impact. The only reason I can think of why they did not do that was that there were financial penalties for still using the other terminals (although it is hard to see that those are more expensive than the compensation that they will have to pay) or that a high up figure wanted a big bang launch for the publicity and overrode the project managers. That is fine as long as the risks are fully worked out and mitigated against. In this case they obviously were not. Again I have seen that when someone in charge makes it their personal project and overrides people and does not listen or that the people underneath are afraid of being the “bearers of bad news”. The only thing that will happen in that case is hubris.

I am concerned that the government thinks it should interfere in a commercial organisation. The answer is clear. The airline has to pay lots of compensation and customers move to other airlines. That is how commercial matters work. Government is not needed. They have said about not letting BAA be a monopoly for all the London airports. I am not sure how that would help as you need to have a single company looking after an airport and whether or not it also looks after Gatwick etc seems to be immaterial. In fact if they do a good job it is a good thing as then the airports will have consistency. The government can hardly take the moral high ground on monopolies!

My problem with BAA is that they seem to run it for their benefit rather than the customers. If you have to fly from Heathrow you have no choice as there is not another Heathrow run by another company! I remember on a course where the tutor got us to do an exercise where we were aliens who knew English perfectly but did not “understand”. So guiding that alien into an airport and through the queues and check points was very enlightening. It became very obvious that this was not a customer friendly place. And the government have not helped by their stupid security measures. How is it that if a suitcase is above a certain size it is more likely to be a terrorist threat than one that is smaller? Very strange. But it is worth going through the “alien” exercise and trying it for yourself. If fact BAA executives should be made to do this exercise.

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Posted by Ian Blyth on 18 January 2008

The BBC is reporting on plagiarism in schools.


Plagiarism is deemed to be a bad thing bad the only way society can improve is by building on the knowledge of others. In the days before computers reading books was the only way to get the information and there was a limited number of books one could access compared to the information now available on the Internet. Doing a hand written piece of work or exam was a way to test that pupils could get the information and regurgitate it. Whether that is learning or even useful is another debate. I remember a teacher once saying that it is not important to remember everything – only that you know where to look to find the answer. And in these days of search engines and vast amounts of information that was prophetic.

At university when we handed in papers the professors expected a list of references and if if it was too short there was trouble. There was a need to research the subject before we could sensibly write about it. They were not looking for an original piece of work but that we could find the information, digest it and produce a report based on the subject using these references.

With the Internet it is easy to find information. Whether that information is correct and definitive is another matter. As society has changed with the rise of the Internet so should teachers and their teaching methods. They should now assume that their pupils have access to the vast resources of the Internet and the learning is that they can find the right info and sensibly interpret it. The trouble is if you find a really good article that summarizes the issue it is hard then to put that into your own words. Teachers need to look at how they are examining their pupils and methods that were fine in the 20th century may no longer be valid in the 21st. Can the teachers and the government rise to the challenge or will they fall back onto easy measurable metrics, which may or may not be relevant, to assess pupils and schools rather than look at how best to educate them.

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