Dr. Chris Oakley's home page
"I can understand why Goldman Sachs would want to be included in the
conversation about what to do about Wall Street. What I can't understand is why
anyone would listen to them." - Steve Eisman, FrontPoint partners
If Tony Blair had not left office of his own accord, there seems little doubt
that he would have been pushed, probably because - not being a
natural socialist - his party were only prepared to support him
while the going was good. The going in some quarters - Iraq most notably -
having got tough, it was not going to be long before the murmurs of discontent
became outright rebellion. All very well, but apart from his commendable
decisiveness in stabilising financial markets following the Lehman collapse, Gordon Brown
did not do any better. The "good cop, bad cop" double act they had
as Prime Minister and Chancellor actually worked rather well: the Chancellor's
fiscal caution providing a useful counterweight to Tony
Blair's desire to be all things to all men. Tony Blair, though,
has something in buckets that Brown had only in strictly limited
quantities, which is charm. One should not underestimate this quality in a
statesman. Gorbachev's charm brought the end of the Soviet Union (and one
day they may even thank him for it). Tony Blair's charm was critical,
inter alia, in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. Although the British
were relatively unappreciative of this leader, Americans across the whole
political spectrum generally did not have similar reservations. There was
even a campaign to make him the next U.S. president (despite the constitutional
difficulties). Personally I do not think that that would have worked. America
is badly in need of the medicine that Mrs. Thatcher provided to the U.K. in the
1980's: someone needs to take on the vested interests - the system is at
present far too corrupt. Such a thing requires a leader who does not mind being
unpopular, and I doubt that that would either be Mr. Blair or anyone that their
bizarre electoral process is likely to produce. I live in hope, though. But
since Tony Blair left office relatively young, I am sure that he has more to
contribute in making the world a better place. Also, it is noteworthy that the 2010
U.K. election turned up the best answer that the Conservatives have to Blair in
the shape of Cameron.
The most sinister vested interest in the U.S., and one that desperately needs
to be challenged is the NRA. America must toughen its gun laws before more
innocents get slaughtered. There is more than twenty times
the probability that you will suffer a violent end by a gun if you are from the
U.S. as compared to the U.K. The U.S. is well up there with Jamaica and
Colombia in terms of gun deaths per capita. Why not aim for a place in the
civilised world instead? And by the way, the supreme court is fairly clear that all
the second amendment ("the right to bear arms") means is that the National
Guard may use live ammunition, so you don't actually have a "constitutional
right" to keep an Uzi in your wardrobe1.
- If someone asked you to gamble their money at a casino, and the terms were that
if you won, you would keep 10% of the profits, but if you lost you would not
have to pay anything, would you take on more risk than you might otherwise? I am
guessing that you would, so maybe it is not a total surprise that people like
Richard S. Fuld Jr.,
who were remunerated on this principle, were apt to take outrageous risks with
their firm's money. I worked with traders in the financial markets in London for
over ten years, and even at the height of the bull market, because of this
reward scheme, I would never have trusted any of them with my own money.
Unfortunately, though, I did not get a choice. HBOS - who I banked with - were
directly affected by the drying up of funding following the collapse of Lehman
Brothers, and if
the government had not stepped in, I might have been seriously fearful of losing
my life savings. So please, let us get it into law: financial
institutions that manage money of ordinary people should never be allowed to
remunerate their decision-makers according to this principle.
A new idea for a sattelite channel: The Dissolving Spammer Channel. 24-hour a
day images of spammers being slowly dissolved in 15% Hydrochloric Acid. Hear
their screams as they beg for mercy or to die. As their bodies turn to mush,
REVEL in the fact that they will never be able to send unsolicited bulk e-mail
The Sun Clock.
- If you read the above you will see that I have a doctoral degree in theoretical
physics. As I am sick and tired of seeing science in movies that is just
plain wrong, I hereby offer my services as science consultant, free of
charge, to any film maker who intends to raise any of the following topics:
relativity, quantum mechanics, time travel, black holes, wormholes, multiple
universes or antimatter.
The Vl'hurgs (from Douglas Adams' cult series
of books/records/CDs/DVDs/Radio series/TV series and now film, The Hitch Hiker's
Guide to the Galaxy ). Here is explained what happened after the
disastrous "small dog" incident. And here are a few
about the film.
The Oxford Byron Society, where -
increasingly less often - we try to keep the spirit of the dissolute lord
Do a line or two of Greek Mythology on Banned Substances
Here are a few notes on John Charity Spring
I have written music.
OLE Automation. How is it that the same company who produced elegant and useful
Visual Basic also produced unnecessarily complicated COM and OLE? Simple: VB
didn't come from them. Here
is my attempt to discover simplicity amid COM's tangled web.
QUANTUM FIELD THEORY - the physics problem that the 20th century failed
to solve. But we should not give up.
Here's why . And
here is what I have
so far on my Relativistic Quantum Mechanics on-line text book.
The FAMILY ALBUM, which I hope will grow as more people contribute. I have set
it out in a way that has no "centre" as such: there is just one page per person
with links to parents, spouses and children. My own entry is
here. Relatives of note discovered so far: (i) Royal photographer
Patrick Lichfield (5th cousin, once removed); (ii) Writer
Robert Graves (4th cousin, 3 times removed); (iii) Quartermaster General
to George Washington, Stephen
Moylan (great-uncle); (iv) Children's book author and painter,
Hilda van Stockum (grandmother); (v) Mathematician
Willem Jacob van Stockum (great uncle) and (vi) Fantasy painter
Brigid Marlin (mother).
It appears that - owing to a youthful adventure of a Peer of the Realm - I am a
great-grandson of Edward
III. George King, later to become the
third Earl of Kingston, ran off to the West Indies with one Caroline Morison
about 1790, where they had three children out of wedlock, including my
great-grandmother Mary Morison King. Also,
through her granddaughter Emily MacDonnell, I am
a descendant of Somerled (d.
1164), Lord of the (Western) Isles (of Scotland). The descendants of Somerled
number about 500,000 and include the MacDonald, MacDonnell, MacDougall and
MacAllister clans. See, for example,
here. Emily MacDonnell's ancestor John Carragh MacDonnell built
Tinnakill Castle in Co. Laois (Ireland) in 1450. This was outside the
English Pale (of Dublin), and a suitable base from which, in his
capacity as "the best captayne of the English" to suppress the native tribes.
It was on one such expedition in Co. Offaly in 1466 that he was killed. See
1The Second Amendment is actually this: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security
of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed".
This was ratified in 1789, when the existence of the United States as a
sovereign nation could not be taken for granted, and then the meaning was clear enough: state laws
may not be enacted which prevent citizens from keeping arms as these citizens could be needed for the nation's
How should it be interpreted now, though? Do Americans fear that acid put-downs
by Simon Cowell, or the vandalism of east-coast eateries by Gordon Ramsay may be the prelude to a renewed invasion by the
The vast majority of
"second amendment" test cases seem to suggest that the Supreme Court,
at least, do not see this as a particular worry, and what is more,
that a lone gun nut does not
comprise a "well regulated militia", and even if he did, it would have little to
do with the security of the state. The second amendment is thus a
piece of history, and no more. The responsibility of defending a modern
state nowadays tends to belong solely to the legitimate armed forces.