Liars, Cheats and Thieves

I was with a friend yesterday and he told me this story. He has a friend who was once senior in the CIA. One night, over a beer, they were talking and, in the conversation, the American said that the world divided into two. There are those who are liars, cheats and thieves who, once identified in that category, are always there and then there are the rest.

I can’t talk much about cheats and thieves, but I have met my fair share of liars.

We all lie a little and before I get into big lies we can start with the small, teeny-weeny lies. We all lie a little bit and that is OK. These are known as white lies. A white lie is good, isn’t it? Not always.

I was amused by Marc Chernoff in his blog Marc & Angel Hack Life who gave us 15 of his best white lies, and here is a small selection.

It wasn’t me! – Because some things just aren’t worth taking credit for.

The table will be ready in 5 minutes. – Because it sounds a lot better than 15 minutes.

No, officer… I have no idea how fast I was going. – Because claiming ignorance is sometimes better than admitting to insubordination.

Yeah, I’ll start working on that ASAP! – Because telling you I have 10 things to do first would just irritate you.

I thought I already sent that email out.  I’m sure I did. – Because telling you that it was a low priority and I forgot would probably hurt our relationship.

But are they white lies? I know someday soon there will be a broken toy or vase and young Bertie will look up at me and tell me that it wasn’t him.

Psychologists have looked at white lies and their effect on relationships. In 2014, Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford University, pointed out that, trying to cover up a misdeed or just to get your way isn’t likely to improve your relationships. This type of deception is known as antisocial lying. It is destructive and weakens the bonds between two people. On the other hand, lies told to help another person or to protect someone’s feelings tend to be good for relationships. Psychologists call this pro-social lying,

It seems to me that all of Marc’s examples seem to be drifting into that first category of antisocial lying. There is no clear-cut line, but the truth is fundamental to a well-functioning society.

Stretching the truth is a natural component of human instinct because it’s the easy way out.  We all do it, so there is no reason to deny it.

Politicians and businessmen share a perception that the truth is a moving feast under the pretence that their on-going success is more important to the world than the precise truth. This brings us to today and the world of alternative truths and fake news.

If those that we allow to lead us can no longer differentiate the truth from a lie what do I tell my young grandson, Bertie, as he grows up?

There is only one way forward and that is, to tell the truth, always.

To finish, let me turn to Curtis Jackson and what he said, I hate a liar more than I hate a thief. A thief is only after my salary a liar is after my reality.

Just off for an Orgasm

I never know where I am going to get my inspiration. Some days it is OK to ask me and on others, it is probably best just to accept it and let it be. Today is one of those.

Thursday, June 21, 2018, is World Orgasm Day. Yes, you read that right.  The website,, tells me that on each and every day the men and women of the world have over 2.5 billion orgasms. That’s over 100 million orgasms per hour, every hour or 1.5 million per minute.

What I find really interesting about that statistic is the statistic itself. I wonder how anyone knows?

When I was interviewing clever people at C&L one of my favourite questions was: approximate how many litres of orange juice is drunk every morning in the UK? I also asked them to talk me through their thoughts as they were working it out. But this is on a whole different scale.

Think about it and I will go and make a coffee while you work out your answer.

I am quite useful at maths and arithmetic and as I have a degree in statistics I know how to manipulate data to fulfil Mark Twain’s edict that there are, lies, damned lies, and statistics.

I know how to confuse you with averages, means, medians and correlations. But my favourite trick is the confusion that correlated data is not necessarily causal. Simply said just because two pieces of data move in the same direction it doesn’t mean that one is causing the other. Can you see how easy it is to confuse the unsuspecting?

I can show you a graph that shows that divorce rates in Maine correlate with the US per capita consumption of margarine.  But it doesn’t mean that eating less margarine has caused the divorce rate to drop. Nor is it the other way around that the threat of having to eat margarine has caused couples to stay together?

Getting cause and effects right can be more than a statistical anomaly and humorous aside. Sometimes it is very serious.

This is an example from Wiki.

For example, in a widely studied case, numerous epidemiological studies showed that women taking combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also had a lower-than-average incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), leading doctors to propose that HRT was protective against CHD.

But randomized controlled trials showed that HRT caused a small but statistically significant increase in the risk of CHD.

Re-analysis of the data from the epidemiological studies showed that women undertaking HRT were more likely to be from higher socio-economic groups (ABC1), with better-than-average diet and exercise regimens.

The use of HRT and decreased incidence of coronary heart disease were coincident effects of a common cause (i.e. the benefits associated with a higher socioeconomic status), rather than a direct cause and effect, as had been supposed

We use data all the time but with the rise in fake news, data can sometimes be misplaced as well as misused.

There is a website that purports to use data to debunk myths ( Here is one example.

Statement: Mexican immigration into the US is higher than ever and we should build a wall? Right?  Wrong! The actual number of Mexican immigrants is at its lowest since 1990. In fact, more Mexicans have returned than entered since 2000.

Whenever I can, I double check statistics I have used but this time I am in a hurry and so I have to leave it as it is. This time you will just have to believe me. Are you going to tell your friends this over lunch or should you be a bit more careful about who and what you believe?

Meanwhile, while you check that Mexican data for both me and President Trump, estimate the orange juice statistics, I am going to think about how they estimated that 1.5 million people per minute are having an orgasm right now.

Have a good night!

Col Jessop, I Can Handle the Truth

If you sense a tad of anger in today’s piece, then you are probably right. I was stood up with a very poor excuse. I was supposed to be meeting a friend in London for a mid-morning coffee and catch-up and early this morning it was cancelled.

With my lifestyle, doing anything first thing in the morning causes larger changes my schedule than for most people. I can’t go to bed as late as I want (I need my 8 hours sleep) and with diabetes I even have to change my eating habits from the previous lunchtime to make sure I have the right amount of carbs, drugs, and early morning food, otherwise I am taking orange flavoured dextrose at odd times, and they taste awful with coffee.

A change in plan in the early morning annoys me. But, what annoyed me more was the need to offer a palpably untrue excuse.

Do you ever make up an excuse to someone and wondered why you did it? Was it for your benefit so you didn’t look weak or disorganised, or was it one of those white lies because you thought I couldn’t take the truth?  Maybe you feared my reaction if you were honest? Don’t shoot the messenger etc.

There are always good reasons to cancel meeting-up, but we seem inclined to invent excuses to make letting me down seem reasonable or at least palatable.

I am all for spinning a yarn and embellishing a story. That is what I do every day when I am writing a novel, but that is best left for conversations in the pub, or across a meal table. A story is for entertainment. When it comes to important matters and after a Damascus Road experience maybe 8 years ago, I am now a firm believer in the truth.

I like being honest although when I start to answer your morning greeting of ‘how are you?’ with a list of ailments, cured or otherwise, I know it can be boring for the recipient. Finally, I have learnt to differentiate between those who really want to know (my family and Paula, my diabetic nurse at the hospital) and the casual greeting.

The problem is that we are not used to honesty and expect excuses. We expect to be let down gently. We expect empathy to our moods and needs but that is different from being lied to. I know Sasha initially found my honesty difficult, but now she understands me and knows what to expect.

Just as important as not making excuses to other people, is being honest with yourself. That has probably had the greater benefit. If I don’t want to do something I have learnt to say no, and not feeling guilty. Saying that something just doesn’t appeal, I would rather see someone else, be somewhere else, or just can’t be bothered is better for everyone. Real friends understand and that is what matters.

Maybe worse is excusing other people’s failings or poor performance. It happens all the time. You probably know what I mean but as one commentator has said, I have to pay close attention to what people say, how they say it, what they do, and the assumptions they make. It’s not that complicated really; keep your word, respect other people’s time, show a touch of humility, and most of all don’t lie to me. The sooner you stop making excuses for people, the sooner you can surround yourself with people of good character. And seriously, why would you waste your time and energy being around anyone else?

The excuse used today was meant to make feel good. It was clearly a last-minute thought, meant to be sufficiently sensible while also serious enough so that it made me seem unreasonable to debate it. It was a bit like the parent’s excuse to get a kid out of school: his granny has died. Ask any teacher how many times they have heard that one. It’s only when you get to Granny number three that you can quarrel.

Making excuses seems to come so easily to everyone and it annoys me. Do you remember this encounter from the 1992 film, A Few Good Men? Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson were the actors. Powerful and unforgettable.

Col. Jessup: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Col. Jessup: You can’t handle the truth!

Sorry, Col, Jessop. I want, and I can handle the truth.