Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In a world...

Put on that deep voice that you only use to introduce dystopian near-future science fiction, and say, “In a world…”

Good. In a world where someone invents a cancer-screening machine that is nearly 100% accurate, how useful would it really be?

Let’s look at a population of, say, one million. Medical records stretching back over decades seem to suggest that there are 100 cases of cancer diagnosed each year. And this new machine is 99% accurate. That is, if you submit to screening and you have cancer, the Machine That Goes Ping will go ping 99% of the time. Of course, technology isn’t infallible, and the same machine typically goes ping and gives a false positive in 0.1% – 1 in 1000 – cases.

In summary, there is a 99% chance of being diagnosed, and a 0.1% chance of being misdiagnosed. So what is the overall success rate of the machine? Something approaching 99%? Perhaps surprisingly, not even close.

Let’s put everybody, all 1,000,000 citizens, through the Machine That Goes Ping.
  • In 100 cancer cases, the machine pings 99 times. 
  • In the remainder of the population, 999,900 people produce 999.9 (call it 1000) false-positive pings. 
  • Total suspected cancer cases = 1099, of which 99 are actually genuine. 
  • So the probability of diagnosing a cancer using this screening machine is 99/1099 = 9%. 
Nine percent? Only nine percent? That’s outrageous, ludicrous, ridiculous!

It’s pointless doing it then.

Well, no. If I get screened and I have cancer, the chance of getting it detected remains at 99%, and those are pretty good odds. The problem is the huge number of false positives that scare the crap out of too many cancer-free citizens. I suppose you can allay their fears by saying that only 9% of the pings actually indicate cancer. But that leaves the patient wondering why he did the test at all.

Statistics, eh? Of course, you can live healthily, avoid junk food, exercise, not smoke, and still get hit by a bus.


Monday, July 20, 2015

A flush beats a full house

It's a trap!
It was Eid Al-Fitr, and a long weekend. The Goat had agreed with Beloved Wife that, because of the ridiculous costs associated with going away anywhere nice, the Goat would come home to the Crumbling Villa. The plan involved a quiet long weekend away from work, but turned out to be a fairly busy and productive one.

The Goat actually couldn't get a sensible flight to Dubai and had to fly at 0100 on Friday. He eventually fell into bed at 0400, but not before being upgraded to First Class, which was very pleasant indeed, so full marks to Qatar Airways for that.

Beloved Wife had honestly not assigned the Goat a list of tasks, other than to help M to move house. Fundamentally this consisted of taking away some old shelf units that M had no space for. The Goat had use for them, though. Old IKEA stuff is better quality than the more modern; these shelves were made of actual blockboard and not chipboard or, O horror, MDF. Fun and games getting all this into Rio, but it did all fit despite the uprights each being 2.5m long, or is that high?

Beloved Wife had paid someone to tidy the shed. Dive Central was indeed tidy and fully devoid of sand, dust, and dead rodents, but was by no stretch of the imagination a workspace, workshop, shed, or Goat Cave. Hence the interest in the shelves. Several hours later, and the Goat had put everything away, eventually found some of his ingeniously-concealed tools (why were the spanners all in a tent bag with some tent pegs?), and the Goat Cave was clean, tidy, and a usable space. Huzzah!

There was obviously a need to go out to dinner, so Beloved Wife and the Goat treated themselves to a slap-up steak dinner or three over at Hunters Room in the Westin Hotel. The Beef Wellington was allegedly for two. As this turned out to be two anorexic sparrows, a very hungry Goat had both.

Further tasks included getting the Goat's car into the shop to fix where some incompetent parallel parker had evidently backed one of those unfeasibly long towbars into Rio's front bumper. The Goat was going to get this fixed back in April, but as he feared possible offroad damage at the Desert Challenge, he'd deferred the task.

Next problem: Beloved Wife's car wouldn't start until Dial-A-Battery showed up with some monstrous jump leads. Now with a new battery and thus a working VW, Beloved Wife could put Rio into Terios Hospital until Thursday.

Getting the battery took longer than expected, and so while the Goat tinkered in his Cave, Beloved Wife made lasagne. Plans for a Game of Thrones marathon went all horribly wrong when the sink refused to drain.

It seems clear that the problem has been building, with reports of a 'sluggish' dishwasher. The Goat attacked the sink with various caustic substances, boiling water, and a sink plunger, but the archaic plumbing in the Crumbling Villa really didn't want to play. The Goat did manage to cause a fetid dribble of brown liquid to creep from beneath the dishwasher. Investigation revealed that because the dishwasher waste pipe was lower than the sink, plunging the former was pushing wastewater out of the latter. So, dear reader, imagine the scene: Beloved Wife with one hand blocking one plughole and furiously plunging the other, while the Goat had one hand over the dishwasher waste pipe and a thumb in the sink overflow pipe like some little Dutch boy.

Still nothing would shift, except all over the floor. The Goat now found himself sliding on his hind legs, burning his true knees with caustic soda, and using a garden hose to try to push the blockage upstream. Beloved Wife was all for shutting the door on it and calling a plumber, but Goats are very determined. Eventually, at about 11pm, it came free. Massive clods of 20-year-old chip fat dropped into the floor gully and blocked that, but as this was a four-inch pipe the Goat could reach in and retrieve the great globs of grease.

Now the cleanup, with antiseptic chemicals and furious mopping of the entire kitchen. What a team the Goat and Beloved Wife make! Incidentally, the Goat wonders for what possible reason anyone would willingly choose carpet for kitchen flooring. Tiles are surely the only way to go, especially where antiquated plumbing is involved.

After cleaning the kitchen, the Goat and Beloved Wife cleaned themselves and, in the Goat's case, applied antiseptic on some minor cuts and grazes. One cannot be too careful.

And the weekend was still not over. The following day, the Goat fitted a cat flap and tried to teach the cats how to use it, with around 50% success.

By the end of this long weekend, the Goat Cave was tidy and usable, the dishwasher was no longer sluggish but working properly (the Goat suspects if it can't empty, the machine simply refuses to fill), One car is fixed, the other is being repaired, the cats have access and egress, and the Goat's motorbike received a small farkle. M has had her shelving recycled, and the Goat is heading back to Doha for three days.

Then it's time for a proper holiday!


Friday, July 03, 2015

Red tape

Following about nine iterations of a design report (and its many friends), wherein American design standards were specified where Dunkrugerstan standards were inapplicable or inappropriate, the Minister of Paper Clips decided that reference to these American standards would not be allowed. The Minister of Paper Clips had previously specified in the contract that American standards should be adopted, but this was no longer relevant.

Instead, the Trusted Advisor was required to use Dunkrugerstan standards. Where this would not be achievable, alternative international standards could be proposed, but citing any of these would not be allowed.

The Trusted Advisor was therefore required to prove all of his alternative designs from first principles. As most of the research had been originally carried out in America, these figures could not be used, and no local research had ever been undertaken throughout the history of Dunkrugerstan. 

Thus the task now set by the Ministry of Paper Clips was actually impossible, and there was nothing for it but to go to the Minister for Streets and request that he ask the Minister for Houses to demolish a newly-built palace owned by the Grand Frommaj.

Fearful of one of the Grand Frommaj’s infamous rages, the Minister for Houses absolutely refused. The Minister for Streets therefore also refused, and the Trusted Advisor was thus unable to complete his project.

So when the most famous Grand Tournament in the world arrived and the project lay incomplete, the international press ridiculed Dunkrugerstan. Naturally, the Grand Frommaj blamed the entire Council of Ministers, who blamed one another, but mostly blamed the Trusted Advisor. But who was to blame was of no consequence to the international press, who only saw that the project was unfinished and that Dunkrugerstan was to blame.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Is this what living apartment?

Hircine high-rise
The Goat was recently reading all about pensioners who want to live in the Holiday Inn rather than a retirement home. One of Nanny Goat's elderly friends voiced the same opinion, noting that a hotel doesn’t constantly smell of boiled cabbage, the service is better, and residents don’t get treated like senile old fools.

Check out Snopes regarding permanent cruising. It seems that this might be a viable option provided that you don't mind living in a 10 sq.m space.

But it seems to work for some. What about the Goat? Not to retire, rather to try to justify the Goat’s current existence.

Home, or at least its closest approximation, is the Crumbling Villa in Dubai. It’s about 220sq.m of 20-year-old concrete and blockwork, and apart from a couple of new aircons a year or two ago to replace some of the antediluvian units, it receives almost zero maintenance from the landlord, who fails to pick up his phone, ignores fax messages, and has no functional email. But it is an actual house.

Last time the Goat was in Doha, working for crazy people, he rented a newly built two-bed apartment. The plan was to live there for a year, and then move into a proper residence when Beloved Wife joined him. In the traditional way, the Goat had to pay a deposit plus a full year’s rent up front, he paid a deposit with the telecoms company for his internet, and had to lash out for additional kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom equipment to make the place civilised enough actually to live in. The place was allegedly fully furnished, but of course with the cheapest and nastiest furniture that Najma Souq could provide.

After a year, the Goat left Doha. There was the traditional struggle to recover deposits from the landlord and the telecoms company, perhaps in the hope that the Goat would close his bank account and leave, and be unable to cash the cheques.

Now the Goat lives in Cloud City, on the top floor of a hotel. It’s a one-bed suite, and has usual hotel facilities such as cable TV, internet, 24-hour maintenance service, and someone comes in to dust and to change the towels and bed linen twice a week. Another bonus is that the rent is due monthly, and the security deposit is tiny and not a full month’s rent. But the place is also tiny; not as small as Beloved Wife’s apartment when she lived in Japan, but hardly anywhere (apart from t’shoebox in t’middle o’t’road) actually is.

Anyway, seeking to find some justification in living away in such a tiny concrete box, and to see if the pensioners living in the Holiday Inn had a point, the Goat got his spreadsheet out and did some sums.

First he looked at the raw costs of rent, internet, cable, municipality taxes, furniture and kitchen tools (amortised over an arbitrary five-year period) for each of the three residences listed above. Then he compared each by floor area. Finally, he thought up features such as 24-hour service; on-site gym and pool; walking distance to restaurants, work, and supermarket; the existence of a ‘yarden’ for a private outdoor space; that sort of thing. He evaluated these to provide relative perceived values and a weighted score for each. Adding these weighted scores for the features of each residence, and comparing them with the cost of each reveals:-
  • The best value is Cloud City. Those pensioners are correct.
  • The best value including floor area is the Crumbling Villa.
  • The worst value of all is the two-bed place: expensive, small, and no features beyond basic shelter.
It’s well, then, that the Goat is essentially camping; living out of a suitcase in Cloud City until he can leave. The place would be completely untenable if he had all his tools and electronics (and motorbike, cat, dive kit, books, DVDs...) in Doha. And it’s far too small for two, except for the occasional weekend when Beloved Wife is extremely welcome to visit.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time for the signs

Meanwhile, in Dunkrugerstan, the Ministry of Paperclips decreed that all of the billboards to be erected alongside the new main street would be made of finest English hardwoods, lovingly helicoptered from the Forest of Dean, cosseted in bubble wrap, bolted together with bronze bolts, and protected from the elements by multiple coats of "Does-What-It-Says-On-The-Tin" Cuprinol. The Minister was very specific. He wanted a classic look, and none of this post-modern neo-brutal rubbish.

The Directorate of Rubber Stamps disagreed, citing the Grand Frommaj's decree that Dunkrugerstan should be modern yet traditional, and the Director had decided that the "modern" part was of greater relevance. The Director demanded chromed steel lattices, polished to a mirror finish, and with 18/8 stainless steel bolts.

Both the Minister and Director were consulted by one of the Grand Frommaj's Trusted Advisors, who pointed out that the Taste Police Superintendent had separately required that all the billboards along the entire street should be of the same type. Yet the Minister of Paperclips and the Director of Rubber Stamps refused to meet with each other, or with the Trusted Advisor, or even with the Superintendent.

So the Trusted Advisor had his people design some of the billboards in chromed steel and obtained approval from the Directorate of Rubber Stamps. He designed the remainder in timber, and had these approved by the Ministry of Paperclips. Everybody was happy.

By the time the billboards were actually ordered, imported, and erected, the Trusted Advisor had long since departed from Dunkrugerstan. Which was just as well, for when the Superintendent of the Taste Police was justifiably appalled at the resulting unholy mishmash of styles, both the Minister and the Director each blamed the Trusted Advisor for failing to convince the other.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Manic Monday

Six o’clock already.
Sign of the times

I was just in the middle of a dream…

That’s how my day starts. I roll out of bed, stumble to the bathroom for 3S, and then head to the kitchenette for wheaties. Then I get dressed for work, remembering to brush my teeth before tying my tie.

I live on the top floor of a tower block, so I take the lift about 37 floors to ground, emerge from the building, cross the road, and head up six floors to my office.

Six forty-five, and I start to drive my desk, my computer, and push paper around. This is the frustrating bit. Everything I write is in some way inadequate, unacceptable, incomplete, or just plain wrong. It all gets submitted to the Circumlocution Office, where teams of incompetents find ingenious ways to pick fault. If possible, and it’s always very possible indeed, the required document changes are in direct contradiction to requirements of other Departments in the said Circumlocution Office. After three weeks, my submittal will be back on my desk for rewriting. Again.

Now, because it's impossible to build anything without client consent, and client consent is patently Not Coming In Doha, MamSir, the lack of construction progress rapidly becomes my fault, as it is only I who write these reports.

He works from nine to five, and then…

By around 6pm I have generally had enough, so I head down six floors, cross the road, and ascend 37 floors to my tiny, expensive concrete cube in the sky. I get changed, cook a meal, wash up, and stare at a screen until about 9pm. Then bed.

I repeat this six times a week.

And that’s my life. It is destroying me.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bedtime story

Once upon a time, in the far-off land of Dunkrugerstan, lived a very wise, rich man. His title was Grand Frommaj, and he ruled over the happy and content Dunkrugertani people with wisdom, kindness, and generosity. 

Unfortunately, the Grand Frommaj had a problem, which was this. Hardly anyone from other realms had even heard of Dunkrugerstan, and even some who had would struggle to find it on a map of the world. The Grand Frommaj summoned his Council of Ministers, who agreed that the best way to improve the status of Dunkrugerstan would be to host major international sporting tournaments. Knights and acrobats, gladiators and horsemen would travel from far and wide, and their entourages would follow. Dunkrugerstan would soon become famous throughout the world.

And so it came to pass. New arenas and hippodromes were constructed, and many people came. It quickly became apparent to the Grand Frommaj that he would need more inns, more and better markets, and larger and grander arenas. Streets would have to be widened and straightened because of the ever-increasing throngs of visitors from foreign lands.

The Council of Ministers quickly realised that they needed expertise that was not readily available within the Dunkrugerstani people. They sent messengers abroad, inviting wise men to come and be Trusted Advisors to the Grand Frommaj. Many answered the call, and they brought their families. And so successful was this venture that even more Trusted Advisors had to be invited to come and help the Dunkrugerstanis to build more inns, houses, markets, and streets for all these trusted Advisors.

It was regrettable that the Grand Frommaj, although wise and kind and generous, often disagreed with his Trusted Advisors. He would fly into a rage when a Trusted Advisor produced unpalatable advice, and the Grand Frommaj would order that this Advisor be banished. The Council of Ministers also had differences of opinion with each other, and although they always agreed with the decrees of the Grand Frommaj, the Ministers often worked against one another.

The Minister of Paper Clips would veto edicts issued by the Minister of Rubber Stamps, for example. And the Minister for Streets was often in opposition to the Minister for Houses.

And thus were created conditions where Trusted Advisors were constantly given different instructions, and told that the work they had done was no longer acceptable. Sometimes, a Trusted Advisor was told to produce the exact opposite of what the Grand Frommaj wished, resulting in one of those famous rages and the Advisor’s immediate exile.

Of course, with the constant changes, inns and streets, houses and arenas were delayed. Some were never built at all. So when the knights arrived for the most famous Grand Tournament in the whole world, nothing was finished. Arenas lay incomplete, and there were insufficient inns for all the visitors who had come to witness the Grand Tournament spectacle.

The Grand Frommaj was aghast. What would everyone think? So much wisdom; so much wealth, and yet nothing had been completed. The Grand Frommaj raged. He called his Council of Ministers and demanded to know how this could have happened. The Ministers spoke to one another, and concluded that the Trusted Advisors were entirely to blame, and they should all be exiled.

And so it was. Dunkrugerstan soon lay an empty wilderness, with half-constructed inns and markets, and deserted arenas.

And the Trusted Advisors? They all travelled away, and were never seen again.


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.