Welcome to Rialto. This is a blog where I hope you will find something of interest to you. I work in Further Education and my hope is to supplement my work in the classroom with extras and advice. I also like to dabble in creative writing and you will find bits and pieces along the way. Feel free to subscribe or pass by again and you may find something of interest.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tim Harford - The Undercover Economist

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

Tim Harford is a most interesting man. He has made the most dismal of the social sciences – economics – very accessible, entertaining and enlightening. Tim’s latest offering is titled Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy. In not-too-long chapters, he examines items as diverse as the dynamo, the barcode, the Billy bookcase from Ikea and the welfare state. He traces how they have contributed profoundly to the modern economy, and therefore, to our lives today.
It is chock-full of really interesting gems of information and it is a tribute to the ingenuity of so many people that the modern economy in all its complexity can prove so enlightening. It avoids value judgements – we can make up our own minds about that – but is just a trip into an Aladdin’s cave of social and economic change.
And if that’s not enough he has produced podcasts for each of the fifty things that accompany the book. They can be found here

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Peter Singer

Peter Singer is a controversial philosopher probably because, as he admits himself, he doesn’t have much truck with the doctrine of the sanctity of human life. That is, why should humans single themselves out for special treatment.  He is pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia but offers clear rationale for these stances.
Singer rails against what he calls the great discrimination of our time - speciesism.Speciesism is where man treats fellow animals for its own pleasure and satisfaction, for example, food and medical research. Because non-human animals are sentient beings with the capacity to suffer they are entitled to equality of consideration and treatment in the same way our fellow human beings are. By dint of the prevailing treatment of animals today, man’s behaviour is profoundly immoral.  Singer posits that it is more moral to use a human being in a vegetative state for medical research than it is to use a sentient non-human animal.
Singer is also big on the Western world’s neglect of the world’s poor and malnourished and criticises the comfortably off’s seeming indifference to the plight of these people. Diseases and maladies that are mere insignificances for us can and often do prove fatal for the people of the Third World. We can do so much more and challenges us and himself as to why we won’t do more. (See the Life You Can Save, above).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Arithmetic, Percentages Applied.

The Teenage Years

"I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting. 
(William Shakespeare, A Winter's Tale) 

Shakespeare had it right. He wrote these lines five hundred years ago when, essentially he said that teenagers and those around them might be better off if they could sleep out their adolescence, because all they do is steal, scrap and sleep with prostitutes. Teenagers give, gave and will always give their guardians grief. They created a fuss when they came into the world at birth and by God on their way from the  bosom of childhood to the vicissitudes of adulthood their pain and anguish is just as profound. More so. My own adolescence was the equivalent of a motorway pile up. Drinking to excess, anxiety and depression, phobias and more drinking to quash my demons. Drugs were not an option because they were not available. Dreadful fits of impetuosity got me into awful trouble at school and but for the compassion of some decent skins, that same impulsiveness could easily have landed me in prison or worse still an early grave.
As a wise friend counselled me: "You had someone's prayers."
That, and a lot of luck.
So, I lived to tell the tale and I was always curious at the profound change in behaviour that accompanies the onset of the late twenties contrasted with the delinquency of juveniles. And along comes Professor Sarah Jayne Blakemore who as a neuroscientist has concentrated her studies on the labyrinths of the teenage brain. No longer, according to Professor Blakemore, is the young brain a finished product at an early age, but rather a  highly plastic organ with a propensity for great change and development as the human reaches thirty years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Uncle Joe

Othello recounts his ventures to Desdemona’s father;
She fixes her gaze on her lover
in a hand-painted frame over Uncle Joe’s fireplace.
Uncle Joe cups his hands over the time-worn range
To catch the gorgeous heat as he imagines the fate of Othello
Succumbing to the lies of the egregious Iago.
Joe’s kind heart has soothed his jealousies,
Salved his fears,
Contained his hurts;
He should not mirror the fate of Othello.
Overhead, the bird sings and spits his seed from the hanging cage;
He is imprisoned, yet free to sing;
Encumbered by the wires,
While celebrating his lot.

Just like Uncle Joe.