Your eating is out of control

Fascinating article in Salon (click-through advert or subscription only, sorry) interviewing Brian Wansink, an expert in things like portion sizes and cues. Wansink is plugging his new book, which does look pretty interesting, and talks at length about how the size of serving bowls, the size of plates, and the way tables are laid affects how much we eat. Comes with handy tips about minimising food intake at Christmas parties.

Words and meaning

Some aimless wandering on the web, via the BBC World Service theme tune “Lillibullero”, leads me to the Ulster protestant folk song, The Protestant Boys (which is sung to the same tune).

Reading the lyrics, I’m struck by how we forget the meaning of old lyrics very easily. I doubt that most people would feel comfortable singing the Protestant Boys, with verses like:

When treason was rampant and traitors were strong
And law was defied by a vile rebel throng
When thousands were banded the throne to cast down
The Protestants rallied and stood by the Crown
And oft in fight, by day and night
They countered the rebels in many a fray
Where red pikes were bristling
And bullets were whistling
The Protestant Boys still carried the day.

But so much of that discomfort is due to Protestant-Catholic violence being still fresh in our minds. Tony Blair happily sings:

The people’s flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts blood dyed its every fold.

And Jacques Chirac will at least mouth along to:

Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! marchons !
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Even though the ancient enmities are preserved, like Jurassic DNA, in the amber of the lyrics.

Why does the net hate politicians?

Matthew Taylor, former IPPR guru and Downing Street advisor, has left office with a speech criticising the media’s hostile attitude to politicians, and the rush to the extreme that can be seen from the Daily Mail to the Internet.

Is there really such visceral, knee-jerk hatred of politicians around? Well, you could check out Guido Fawkes, whose commenters think that all politicians should be shot. Oh, and of course, a few digs at Taylor’s sex life too.

“Behead those who claim Islam is violent”, anyone?

We had the Enlightenment for a reason

A post on Fistful of Euros contains this little gem from the Vatican:

“The Holy See has reiterated on many occasions that the right to freedom of expression … is subject to just limits, in particular when the exercise of this right would offend the religious sentiments of believers,” the Vatican said.

If that makes you feel a little worried, you may need to reread this.

Time to get judgmental

I’m working with a few others on a new non-profit to re-engage people with politics. As our first bit of work, we are trying to work up a set of axes to use in describing users’ political profiles. To create a map of opinions and axes, I’ve set up a small quiz, in the format “if someone thinks X, where would you place them on a scale Y to Z”.

Take it here.