The Only Guy in the Yoga class

A group of around six PWP attend a yoga class on a weekly basis. (The others also go to a different class on another day, with a different instructor. I don’t, not because it would feel like we were being unfaithful to our tutor, who I shall call Clair, because that’s her name, but because I’m trying to fit two trips to the gym.)
Clair is very patient, always aware of our Parkinson’s imposed limits, strengths and preferences, trying to adapt her teaching to encompass various problems we face such as aching and shaking legs, tremulous arms or even total shut down. She explains what each position is called and it’s aim. From our lessons I was surprised to discovered that there are many different forms of yoga, fourteen (I just googled it) and they all have their unique selling points. Some are recent variants dating all the way back to the 1990s
Anyway back to our class. I think it is an Iyengar based class as we use blocks, bolsters and chairs. Apart from two things Clair always remembers that I am there. However each week, when we walk on tiptoe, arms stretched up and she tells us to ‘imagine we are wearing our highest pair of high heels.’ Hmm, helpful for the ladies, me -. not so much. The other slip is during a torso twisting movement when she to tell us to feel the movement “where our bras run across”. Again helpful for the ladies…
Last lesson we tried a form of meditation where in our head she wanted us to comment on what we felt or could hear. Well The commentators in my head scrambled to get behind the mic. They commented on my posture (“he’s letting his head slip down to the left, that’s the result of his lack of core strength”), on the sounds outside (“and the birds are tweeting away, like Donald Trump on acid, but more tunefully and making more sense”) on the sounds inside the room (“there is some slow and heavy breathing, will they snore?”).
I mentioned the commentators and she told me to stop them being negative, they had to be neutral, just reporting what happens. So I’ve been giving them every opportunity over the last few days, pointing out in neutral terms when they fail to be neutral. Next lesson should be fun!

What are the chances of that?

Some musing on the nature of probability.

A mathematics student is about to board a plane when the bag check reveals that he is carrying a bomb in his bag. Arrested he is taken away for questioning. Why is he carrying a bomb?

It is quite simple, he explains, have you never heard of the multiplication law for calculating the combined probabilities of independent events?  He goes on to explain that this is mathematical term relating to the likeliness of two independent events occurring. The compound probability is equal to the probability of the first event multiplied by the probability of the second event.

If the odds of there being someone on a plane with a bomb are 1/1000, then the probability of there being two bombs on the plane = 1/1000 x 1/1000 = 1/1000000.  so I feel much safer!

[At this point if this were a maths blog we would discuss the nature of independent events as by bring a bomb onto the plane then you would really want to calculate the conditional probability of there being 2 bombs on the plane given that there is already one, but I digress.

I and my much better half met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen since my days with Team Talbot Guildford. about 30 odd years ago ( I am spectacularly bad at keeping in touch with people). Apart from our connection with the team we have something else in common.  You don’t need to exercise the ‘little grey cells’ in the manner of Hercule Poirot to guess what it is, given the nature of this blog.

So on the way home, as with my much better half driving, we ascended the steepest road I can ever recall being driven up, outside of the Scottish Highlands, or indeed driven down (as on the way there, when it resembled a ski jump for cars, as in some wacky stunt from the BBC TV show ‘Top Gear’), I pondered to distract me from the slope, on the odds of two out of a group of fourteen (10 players, coach, assistant coach, manager and statistician) developing Parkinson’s.

Back home I started to look up the odds of one person developing Parkinson’s

  • Read this bullet point if you are OK with mathematics: so I could apply the binomial distribution to the numbers.
  • Read this bullet point if you are a bit afraid on mathematics: blah blah blah omg numbers look away now blah blah.

And that is where it got interesting. Did you know that an Amish welder, with red-hair who was an exponent of the pugilistic arts and has a history of Parkinson’s in the family stands a greater chance of developing Parkinson’s than the man on the Clapham Omnibus.  (Unless I suppose the red-haired Amish welder and part-time boxer who had a relative with Parkinson’s was visiting London and had caught a number 88 bus.)

HERE is a link to a really interesting article about  factors affecting the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease. This was a lucky break, Sherri Woodbridge’s Parkinson’s Journey is a fantastic blog about Parkinson’s Disease


So what figure can I use?  Here are some numbers from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website.  More than 1 million Americans suffer from PD and it is estimated that more than 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease.

The population of the USA was 321.4 million in 2015.  So an estimate for the odds of a person developing PD is (very) roughly  1 million ÷ 321.4 million = 0.00311139

Let’s just call it 0.003 as it is a best an educated guess.

I’m going to treat the as a binomial distribution.
There are 14 people in the minibus  so  n = 14.
The probability of developing Parkinson’s  p = 0.003
so the probability of not developing it is     q = 0.997
The probability of 2 people out of 14 developing Parkinson’s is
14C2 x (0.003)² x (03997)¹² = 0.00078999… or approximately 0.0008


So the probability was 0.0008 or put another way 1 in 1250
Of course this is all based on my original estimate which, let’s face it was just one step removed from a wild guess. The second most important thing is that I got the chance to crunch some numbers and exercise my brain.

The most important thing was, of course, meeting my friend again after all those years.

A Paradox

I have created a short morning exercise routine, taking inspiration from the many exercise clips on you tube and their associated sites.  Some of it is seated, some standing but with a chair for support. It isn’t strenuous it just stretches me gently and gets my limbs moving.

The idea is this: done in the morning, by following this set of movements, I will be mobile and flexible enough to face my personal daily Nemesis – getting dressed in general and putting my socks on in particular.

It is too warm now for us to have the heating on, even for a little bit first thing in the morning.  After all it is June ° c (As I may have mentioned, my much better half uses a calendar to measure temperature!)  However, with my relatively small working temperature range I can’t afford to start the day off cold, so I just need to get something warmer than my pajamas on and some socks to keep my feet warm…

And here’s the rub*.  In order to do the stretches to help me get dressed more easily, I have to get dressed!  This is I believe a Parkinsonian Catch 22.

I’m open to suggestions…



Random Quotes

I was going to post more mathematical details about the unfairness of the first past the post system. It doesn’t seem all that important right now.

Instead here are some random quotes and favourite lyrics.

Pictures in a room
I can’t take it anymore
Have I awakened to a strange land
Pictures in a room
Somebody help me please
‘Cause I can’t sing the paeans of hope in a torn world

Runrig – from Big Songs of Hope and Cheer


‘Some men have taken seeds of truth,
And planted seeds of hate,
This way has never won a war
And I fear that when harvest comes
You’ll see your freedom fall on stony ground’

The Doctor: Because it’s not a game, Kate! This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know who’s children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken. How many lives shattered. How much blood will spill until everybody does what they were always going to have do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk!

The Doctor: Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.
Bonnie: I will not change my mind.
The Doctor: Then you will die stupid.

What kind of heroes
Here for us now
Stone leaders, stone preachers
Minnows on flow
Runrig – from The Old Boys

We’ve got to learn to speak the truth to fly
And it’s a beautiful sky
Runrig – from Gabriel’s Sword

General Election 2017 Part 2

What is the point of voting when my vote doesn’t really count?

As I mentioned in my previous post the constituency in which I live is “Old Bexley and Sidcup”. It is a ‘safe’ seat for the Conservative party.
A safe seat is one that a particular party is sure to win under all but the most extreme circumstances. In OB&S, the Conservative Party could say in its manifesto that they propose a Herod tax on families, whereby the first born child in each family in the country is slaughtered and put up a mass murderer as it’s candidate and they would still win the seat, perhaps with a slightly reduced majority.

1. I haven’t read their manifesto but I am pretty sure there is no mention of a Herod Tax.
2. I am not trying to suggest or imply that our current MP Mr Brokenshire is now or ever has been a mass murderer.

The opposite of a safe seat is a marginal seat. In a marginal seat it is all up for grabs, one mistake or a piece of brilliant oration, aka sound bite, could see the seat won or lost. Every vote counts. Party leaders will arrive searching for babies to kiss. Boris will be sent somewhere miles away to minimise the damage he could do. In this far away place he might bump into Diane, the human random number generator. (300, 30 000, three billion, 30 quintillion). Local party officials will be driving minibuses full of elderly voters who might not make it on their own steam. The news media will have crews at the count to broadcast the outcome live.

Not here in OB&S. it is hard to work up such excitement. Here are some figures
2015: Con 24,682. [52.8%] Lab 8,879. [19.0%] UKIP 8,528 [18.2%].
The turn out was 70.8%. Mr Brokenshire received 52.8% of the votes cast. He was a clear winner.
In 2010 the Conservative candidate got 24,625 votes [54.1%]
Even in 2001 when nationally there was a Labour landslide and they won 412 seats to the Conservatives 166, the equivalent seat still returned a Conservative MP with 19130 votes to 15785 for Labour.

Whatever my views it’s hard to be bothered to vote on the day.
If I am a supporter of the Conservative Party my apathy will not dent his majority catastrophically.
If I am a not a supporter of the Conservative Party I am merely trying to affect the minor placings. Even if all the non-conservatives could be persuaded to support just one opposition candidate and all vote, the Conservative candidate would still have been returned in the last two general Elections so tactical voting isn’t going to cut the mustard.

All in all, living in a safe seat gives you little incentive to vote in the first past the post system. There are alternatives.

1. Proportional Representation. In this system you are voting for a Party and not a candidate. All the votes for every party are added up. In simple PR the percentage of the vote a Party gets decides how many MPs it gets.
2. Single Transferable Vote. Here you rank the Parties from 1 to 7. The first choice votes are counted. The Party with fewest votes is now added to the second choices, rinse and repeat, until you find the winner.

These methods are neither quick nor cheap and often produce no clear winner, resulting in coalition governments with the major parties forced to give concessions to smaller parties. At least your vote counts.

So why vote?
People in this country have died to get vote for different groups in society, and in other countries they are dying still.
So vote. It is rude not too.
Decide who you like the least and put a big X by their name to show that you don’t want them – only joking, that was Alice in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’.
Vote for the Party that you like.
Vote for the Party that you dislike least.

Think about an issue that affects you, such as, oh I don’t know, maybe the replacement of the DLA with the PIP. Think about which Party introduced this legislation which forces PWP to be reassessed even though our condition is one that is progressive (which means it just keeps getting worse in case any MPs are reading this) and think of people you know or maybe even yourself, who has lost some vital benefit, after some ‘expert’ (I’ve met a patient at an old people’s home who had Parkinson’s) who is under instructions to cut costs, sees you on your best day for months. Then vote against the b*#$ards, and get all your family and friends to do the same.

Vote with your heart or vote with your head.
Just vote.

Tomorrow one rule for them…

The General Election 2017

Part One

Why did Theresa May play hide and seek with the electorate, when she wasn’t making U turns?


What is the point of voting with our current system, it just isn’t fair!

So, in case you’ve been on a different planet for the last few months, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, after months of stating that she would not be calling a General Election, called a General Election, performing the first of her many u-turns.

Last Wednesday evening there was a televised ‘debate’ with 7 party leaders on the BBC. Except there wasn’t. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn did show up, after a bit of playing hard to get, but Theresa May didn’t.

However, I will try to steer clear of talking about politics in this post and stick to the mathematical inequities of our system.

1. You don’t directly have the chance to vote for the Party Leader of your choice.
Much has been made about the leadership qualities of the respective Party Leaders and in the past I have spoken to people who mistakenly believed that you are voting for the Party Leader of your choice. Hypothetically I may think to myself, “I think that Nicola Sturgeon Leader of the Scottish Nationalists would make a good P.M. I’ll vote for her”.

I can’t, her name will not appear on the ballot paper I am handed next Thursday, nor will the SNP.
The UK is divided into 650 Constituencies. You vote for one of the candidates put forward by the political parties.
Let’s look at my constituency “Old Bexley and Sidcup”. I will have the following choice of parties: BNP, Christian Peoples Party, Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat or UKIP.
As I predicted – no SNP candidate. Why am I denied the chance to register my support for the SNP? Probably because I live in London and the SNP doesn’t enter candidates for constituencies out side of Scotland. So despite being Scottish on my mother’s side and a fan of Runrig, who lost keyboardist Pete Wishart in 2001 when he became an MP for the SNP, I am cruelly denied the chance to show my (hypothetical) support for the SNP.

The UK uses a “first past the post” system. The candidate with the most votes wins the constituency for their Party. The Party who wins most constituencies becomes the government. The advantages of this system are it is quick, cheap and generally produces a clear winning Party avoiding the “horse trading” that goes on in other countries with more complicated systems that can lead to some strange coalitions.

Mathematically it can produce some anomalies

Tomorrow- why bother?

Portland Heroes

My only connection to Portland, Oregon, is that I support the Blazers from afar because Robin Jones, from the NBA Championship team, played for the English club, Team Talbot Guildford for whom I was the statistician.

My knowledge of Portland is based on books by Danny Ainge, Rick Adelman and David Halberstam.

That said I am not surprised that two heroes, gave their lives trying to stop a racist attack on a Muslim teenager.  It confirmed my image of Portland and its citizens.

One was a recent college graduate, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and the other, Rick Best, 53, an army veteran and father of four. My condolences to their families and friends.

London, Manchester and Portland- ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the face of terrorists.

How sad President Trump can’t find the words to salute the Portland heroes.

EDIT: In a tweet on @POTUS on Monday just before his Memorial Day Speech the President tweeted

“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”





Running Commentary

I often hear loud excited voices in my head.
My perfectly normal, and uninteresting internal monologue is interrupted by ‘The Commentators’.
You must remember hearing them as a child?
I do. As I kicked a football in the vague direction of a goal guarded by my Dad, I could hear them. Dad throws the ball towards me and I take a couple of inept touches in a futile attempt to control the ball: the Commentator in my head says ‘he beats one defender, then another, now there’s just the keeper to beat! Oh I say, what a shot, there’s no stopping that as it hits the roof of the net!’ Meanwhile in reality my scuffed toe poke has bobbled goal wards and stopped in a puddle on the goal line. For a fleeting moment I wonder why Dan Maskell is covering football instead of tennis, but celebrate the goal. Maybe for you it was a different sport, describing the Wimbledon tennis final as you hit the ball against a wall, or maybe you were a singer using a hairbrush for a mic as you warbled along to the cassette tape, or a prima ballerina or whatever, but voices of The Commentators were there in your head.
They weren’t, I hear you say?
Oh well, it must just be me then…
Fast forward to 2017 via Rio 2016 for the Olympics and Paralympics and Robot Wars and Commentators are still in business . Some of the voices belong to the commentators of my youth: John Arlott, Brian Johnson, or Brian Moore. Now in my fifties (with no hope of a late call from Team GB) and having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s a decade ago (with no hope of a late call from the selectors for the Paralympics) on what are they commentating?
Daily life with Parkinson’s provides The Commentators with many opportunities.
I stand up from the sofa, at the first attempt, with no wobbling: ‘He has nailed the landing!’ screams the ecstatic Commentator as if I were Max Whitlock winning gold on the pommel horse.
The next time I wobble and take an extra step to regain my balance: ‘That’ll cost him point three’ the Commentator sighs sadly. When it takes me three or more attempts his tone is that of a disappointed Headteacher, “He’s let himself down, he’s let his coaches and teammates down…”
Then there is the Parkinson’s equivalent of the modern pentathlon. Event 1: Getting up. ‘In the first of the five events he had a tricky moment when he managed to lean on his top as he tried to push up into a seated position, got trapped causing his tremor to kicked in, but he didn’t take too long.’
Event 2 Getting dressed: ‘… and as you join us live in the Stadium Bedroomio, the plucky Brit has successfully negotiated putting his pants and trousers on, but now he faces the tricky task of putting his socks on and he is losing a lot of time here. To be fair he is tall and his feet are a long way away, but he will be gutted at being out-witted by a pair of socks for so long. What is he doing now? He’s got his jumper all tucked up behind his back and his arms are flapping like the sails of an abandoned windmill…’
And so it goes on all through the day.
Event 3 Putting my shoes on; ‘he has chosen to take the easy route through and use a shoe-horn alongside the Velcro fastening option.’
Event 4 Getting in the car and going to the supermarket: ‘… nothing flashy nor elegant about the flop technique he employed there to get in the car, but now it’s the trolley push. Remember, unlike the regular trolley events, the competitors choose a trolley at random and his seems to have a wonky wheel and a mind of it’s own, he is trying to control the shopping trolley around the tight hairpin bends but he’s taken that bend very wide but he just managed to miss the stack of toilet rolls and the woman deciding which brand of washing up liquid to choose.
You get the picture, or at least the radio commentary.
Mind you I have one “advantage” over the elite athletes. If an athlete makes a mess of their event the next olympics or Paralympics is four years away. If I start my day by being outwitted by a pair of socks my chance to redeem myself is tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

Best Wrong Answer Ever?

I like quiz shows.
If it is a ‘proper’ quiz like “Only Connect” presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell or “University Challenge ” hosted by Jeremy Paxman it is for the challenge of getting a question right. A successful answer whilst watching one of these will be celebrated, sometimes with a small fist bump (probably, but not always, including one of us, ok alright I make the sound Beymax makes in Big Hero 6) or occasionally with a Tim Henman-esque fist pump, although lacking the raw emotion to be an Andy Murray-esque version.
“Pointless” is another favourite the fun can come from the banter between Richard and Xander, from being able to get all the 7 options in a pass on “Pointless”, or even a pointless answer.
Now I am aware of vast gaps in my quizzing knowledge. The sinking feeling as a question on 15 to 1 begins “I need a name and a regnal number…” or if it is a question about current pop music or a soap or a reality TV show.
So please believe me I am not having a dig at this recent contestant on Pointless.
I am here to celebrate what must be the best wrong answer ever. Full stop.
The question was about books. The contestants had to name the book which contained three named characters. A date of publication was also given.
Here are the 7 options.
Jean Valjean, Cosette, Fantine (1862)
Yossarian, Dr Daneeka, Milo Minderbinder (1961)
Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Charles Bingley (1813)
Maxim, Mrs Danvers, Mrs De Winter (1938)
Athos , Porthos, Aramis (1844)
Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox (1979)
Jack Torrance, Danny Torrance, Dick Hallorann (1977)
I was happy enough, as although I have read only one of these books, from the knowledge gleaned from quizzes and TV/film adaptations, I could name the first six.
Enter our hero.
He has the first crack at the board. He is studying journalism at university, so he has presumably read a book or two in his time or maybe watched some TV.
“I don’t know any of them.”
“I’ll have a guess…. Pride and Prejudice.”
One of these annoying contestants who claims to know nothing and then ‘guesses’ a great answer. But no. Our hero is hewn from the rock face of quiz legends.
Xander prompts him to say which three characters he thinks are in the book ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
A tiny pause.
“Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox”

I can’t remember any of the rest of the show, I was laughing so much. Anyone can give a wrong answer; it takes a special kind of skill to give such a perfect wrong answer.
I think about the famous first line from ‘Pride and Prejudice’:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a two heads, an extra arm, a spaceship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive and a robot called Marvin, with a brain the size of a planet and a pain in all the diodes down his left hand side.”

Woman everywhere swoon as they recall the iconic moment from the BBC adaptation of Arthur Dent emerging from a dip in the lake, in his wet dressing gown and asking for a cup of tea.

Un-named Pointless contestant I salute you.
Best. Wrong. Answer. Ever.

Recorder Experiment 3

In an earlier post I spoke of my plans to play the recorder in an attempt to keep my manual dexterity as high as possible and to be able to have control over my breathing.

So how is it going I hear you ask? (I am not hearing voices just employing a figure of speech.)

The first problem I have faced is that not everyone likes the sound of me practicing. As one of these is my much better half, I have limited the time spent practising.  I believe the problem is a combination of the shrillness and the repetition. Also in the need for good relations with our shift working neighbour, I have to consider the possibility that he is asleep, or at least trying to sleep.

Next problem is the copious amounts of saliva my Parkinson’s allows me to produce when it is not needed.  With my wooden recorders needing to be “broken in” as the saliva causes to wood to swell, so I am using my plastic recorders, which don’t sound quite as nice.

But here goes.

The piece is ‘Song for Ten’ composed by Murray Gold, for the TV series Dr Who. This unfinished arrangement is by me.


unfortunately the site will only let me play a video if I upgrade to a paid service. I’ll have to find another way…