Category Archives: Uncategorized

November 20th : a red, amber, green and black letter day

Sometimes, I start writing entries on this blog with no real plan for where it might take me. Today is one of those days, but it’s been a fascinating journey, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too…

Traffic lights as we know them are 95 years old today. The patent for three position traffic lights was awarded in the US to Garrett Morgan on this day in 1923. The first traffic light system had been installed in London in 1868, but it was Morgan who came up with the idea of adding the amber light to better control traffic at busy junctions. Morgan sold the rights to his invention to General Electric for £40,000 (equivalent to about £500,000 in today’s money).

Morgan’s is a fascinating life, straight out of the American Dream handbook, made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was the black son of former slaves. Born in Kentucky in the final quarter of the 19th Century, he moved north to Ohio searching for work and took jobs as a handyman and then sewing machine repairman, before opening his own repair shop. Such was his success, that he expanded into clothing stores and then a newspaper – the Cleveland Call and Post, one of the most prominent of the black newspapers in the US.

The Call and Post featured prominently the Scottsboro case in 1931, which led to Supreme Court rulings on the conduct of criminal trials that remain in place to this day. The case was highly racially charged, involving an allegation of rape by two white women against 9 African American teenagers in the state of Alabama. The case is now widely cited as an example of a dreadful miscarriage of justice.

The Call and Post was facing bankruptcy and dissolution in 1998, but was saved from the brink by boxing promoter Don King. King is one of the most flamboyant and controversial characters in world boxing. He promoted the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila – two of the three bouts contested by Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier; and more recently, he was responsible for charting the meteoric rise of Mike Tyson, before an equally dramatic decline in his protogees fortunes. King himself has twice been charged with manslaughter – on the first occasion he was acquitted when the court accepted that he was seeking to prevent the victim from robbing him. The second case was much less justifiable, and King spent nearly four years in prison as a result.

More recently, King landed himself in hot water when he used the n word while introducing Donald Trump at a presidential campaign event at a Black church in Cleveland in 2016. It’s perhaps unfortunate that there isn’t a system of warning lights for Republican speakers at political rallies. It would save them all a lot of unnecessary trouble!




A day of firsts for this blog

This is my first blog post written entirely on my iPhone and also my first post written mainly from the waiting room of a busy Accident & Emergency Department of an NHS hospital.

I’m here because my sore knee (have I mentioned that before?) has become very swollen and painful. We arrived at 9am and it’s 11.28 am as I type this. I’ve seen two nurse practitioners, had X-rays and bloods taken, and I’m now back waiting for results.

The waiting room in A&E is a fascinating place to spend time. As I look around now, there are people aged 7 to 80 plus. A number have very obvious injuries and quite dramatic appearances (facial injuries and bloodied clothing); others are in obvious pain and distress; and some (including me) seem fine until they get called into a treatment room and hobble off awkwardly.

There is a kind of resigned acceptance that we are grist to the mill of a system that operates at its own speed and according to rhythms and processes that are both mysterious and unknowable. For the most part, people are patient and understanding of the pressures that staff are working under. What is amazing is that at this time on a sunny Sunday there are upwards of 50 people in the waiting room, and probably at least that number again in various treatment rooms and diagnostic services around the Department.

This truly is the sharp end of the National Health Service. We are so incredibly lucky to have it. We may complain about waits; about the uncomfortable metal chairs; about being passed from practitioner to practitioner; but ultimately, we should be incredibly proud that we live in a country where world-class healthcare is available when we need it.

A bit of inconvenience is a fantastically small price to pay for that.

Clowning around

Clowns occupy a strange place in our psyche. The modern day jesters of the circus; staple of children’s birthday parties; or more sinister threats to our psychological and physical well-being.

But there is much more to clowning than face paint,  colourful costumes, and comedy boots. There is a whole culture around clowning that is treated deadly seriously by those who study and teach the art. This piece from Granta describes the experiences of a researcher who spent two weeks in clown school in New York. It’s a long read but a fascinating one that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.

And so, the end is near…

Of National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) that is! 30 days of blogging comes to an end today. I can’t believe how quickly the month has gone by. I hope that there’s been some posts during the course of the month that have amused, interested or educated you; and that if one or two have irritated or bored you, then I hope you’ll forgive me.

This is only the second time that I’ve successfully completed NaBloPoMo. It’s been a struggle at times. There’s been a lot going on in work and personally. But paradoxically – and entirely in keeping with the reason for starting doing this in the first place – blogging really has been cheaper than therapy!

I’ve surprised myself at the amount of novel content I’ve been able to generate this time; and I’ve only had to ‘steal’ stuff on a couple of occasions during the month. It’s been good to get back into the habit of researching and writing again, and I hope and intend to keep up the habit (although probably not EVERY day), as we move into December.

Thanks for reading (whether occasionally or – and you deserve a medal if this is you – daily). Thanks too for the comments and ‘likes’ that serve as a helpful incentive to keep on posting. I do this mainly for myself, but it’s nice occasionally to find that somebody else has found a post interesting or useful.

Until the next time – thank you and au revoir!


Box A, Box B or both boxes?

I’m up against it a bit time-wise today, but thankfully the Guardian has come to my rescue with a humdinger of a logic problem that has all sorts of philosophical implications.

The link to the problem is here.

I’d love to know what approach you’d take and why, so please don’t be shy – leave your comments below!