Give me the Money!

As I travel into and out of Thailand, I often have to stay overnight in Bangkok. These days, I choose affordable places to stay since I travel alone and might spend as few as 8 hours there: who needs to pay a lot of money, including paying for a breakfast I cannot eat?

My latest arrival took me to a more expensive hotel and even though I knew they would want 1000 Baht deposit, I knew I didn't have it! I had just flown in from KL and had 300 Baht. I also had Ringgit and Dirhams and offered them instead. Not good enough, apparently!

I told the receptionist that I don't have a credit card and that is true. So when she said I should go to the ATM to get the Money, I said I don't have a card. How did I pay for the room, then, she asked? Online, I replied ... yes, I've got a debit card account but not the card! Again, that is the truth.

I took out my foreign currency notes and asked: what would you like? Notes from many countries. She asked, why do you have so many foreign notes and I replied, because I don't have a credit card!

She settled on 50 Singapore Dollars and I could now, after midnight, get to bed.

I have this kind of discussion in hotels everywhere: hotels do not trust us, they don't care that you have stayed there incident free for years, they treat us as if we are liars.

What I find irritating is that I often arrive so late. I will check out within 12 to 15 hours. I will get the deposit back.

It's stress I do not need and do not appreciate.

Incidentally, I rely on WiFi for my business and personal life when I am travelling so you can understand further frustration when the WiFi did not work in my room until 10 am ... 10 hours after I checked in.

At a completely unrelated hotel, they overcharged me by about £200. They put the credit on my bill. I said, when do I get that back. Glibly, I was told, two to three weeks. Can you believe that? I stood my ground and although three separate people argued with me and assured me they would PERSONALLY see to it that I would get my money back quickly, I said, you won't. I got my money but was made to feel like a thief. I didn't care!



Playing Games? Not on my time!

I am at an airport and I am hungry so I went in search of food. There are only two cafes here and as one was very busy, I went to the other one.

I studied the menu, made my decision and joined the queue comprising one other person.

My joint queue friend was waiting patiently as ... you will not believe this ... the cashier played a game on his phone. As he ripped himself away from his phone to do whatever was no priority at all, I left.



Different Milks

Non Dairy Milks

As I turned vegan to a large extent recently, I have been trying different, non dairy, milks.

I tried Almond Milk but I found that as I left this milk in the fridge for a couple of days, once I had opened the packet, it got thicker and thicker. Made my breakfast cereal unpalatable.

I then switched to Soy milk but the main brands here are very sweet, even the low sugar versions. Then I found an Australian brand that is only slightly sweet and switched to that!

Every now and again I come across reports that Soy is bad for us, so I went back to Almond milk from the Australian company I just referred to: very good, no thickening, not too sweet. Almost twice the price of Soy milk, however.

Over the weekend I tried some Walnut milk and I like that.

I will probably alternate between Almond and Walnut milk although I have yet to try Pistachio milk!


By accident, I learned about Carrageenan, a thickening agent that can be found everywhere. It sounds dangerous although I found a reference to a study that said food additive Carrageenan is not harmful. Better safe than sorry, I wrote to the Australian company and they assured me that they have replaced Carrageenan in their products. The producer of the Walnut and Pistachio nut milks say on their packets, Carragenan Free.


Please Rehearse

I have watched another few online videos/webinars and in addition to the most horrendously long introductions, the other major crime comes when the presenter surprises him/herself with an error or unexpected result.

Please rehearse before you create and please edit before you publish.

If you really are trying to train a novice, they WILL get confused as your cursor flies all over the place and your words do not match your actions.



Introductions are Rubbish

The other day I attended a webinar and even though it was only scheduled to be an hour long, they spent 12+ minutes introducing themselves.

Last night I went to another webinar, completely different people; and they spend 24 out of 85 minutes introducing themselves ...

If you do presentations and webinars, learn from this. I attend these things to learn about the technicalities and not so much about the presenter ... put that stuff on a blog if you have to!



Power Query: Gt & Transform in Excel Following the January 2018 Update

I am hosting four videos here for my Excel blog. Please watch them if you are using Power Query aka Get & Transform in Office365 ... Excel 2016.

Four videos that discuss the four main changes to G&T that were just announced.

Your feedback will be highly valued and I look forward to sharing it.

Hop over to my Excel Blog to download the Excel file

Video 1 Bucket/Bin Ranges

Video 2 Positive/Negative Association

Video 3 Positive/Negative Association Explained in Full

Video 4 Creating Associated Lists

31st January 2018


Nobel Again

You have seen my long post on this subject, now read the shorter version in the Todmorden News ... Tod News

25th January 2018


You are only fooling yourself

The other day I was travelling and saw something that I found disheartening.

A very large man was travelling with someone else and they were sitting together and chatting. Then this morbidly obese man left his friend and came and sat next to me. He carried a bag with him that he opened and started to take food out of: greasy burgers and chips with lots of coleslaw. He ate this food as if he had hardly eaten for weeks. After he had gorged himself he closed his bag and clearly wanted to clean his hands before he returned to his friend. So he wandered to the toilet to get clean and then went back to sit next to his friend.

I think I felt sorry for this man: clearly he has an eating disorder of some sort that includes hiding his consumption from his friend. I hope he can find some peace that will allow him to stop this long, slow suicide that he's in the middle of.

22 Jan 2018


Analysis of Nobel Prizes

The place of Todmorden in the Annals of the Nobel Prize! as at the end of December 2017


My home town is Todmorden in West Yorkshire, England and throughout all of my childhood we were proud to say that Todmordian John Douglas Cockcroft had won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951: it was a joint award and he won it with Ernest Walton of Dungarvan, Ireland. We are told they were the first to have split the atom!

In 1973 another Todmordian, Geoffrey Wilkinson won the Chemistry prize along with Ernst Otto Fischer for their work on sandwich compounds: they were working independently of one another, it seems.

This put us in the stratosphere: which other town or city on the planet could boast TWO Nobel Prize Winners? Moreover, in spite of the 24 year age gap between them, Cockcroft and Wilkinson shared the same science teacher at Todmorden Grammar School.

This article sets out to answer a series of questions I have never seen answered before which includes, is Todmorden unique in respect of it Nobel Prize achievements? Is Todmorden at the top of any Nobel list? Has any other town or city produced more than two Nobel Prizes. Has any town of the size of Todmorden or less produced two, or more, Nobel Prize winners? … all low level stuff but I could not find anywhere THE source that would tell me everything I wanted to know.

Yes, the Official Web Site of the Nobel Prize, https://www.nobelprize.org, contains a massive amount of detail but it didn’t tell me, for example, if Todmorden is the smallest town to produce two Laureates and so on.

My File

I have produced an Excel file that contains all of the basic details of every Nobel Prize there has been: from 1901 to 2017. My list includes every Laureate, date of the award, dates of birth, dates of death, male or female and more.

Since I was trying to make Todmorden the centre of attention, I had said in a Todmorden based Facebook forum last week that I felt it is probably unique in producing two Laureates relative to its population size! I had long since given up the notion that Todmorden was top of the pile in all respects, of course; because we must expect the University cities of Oxford, Cambridge (UK and USA), Paris, Bonn … to outshine little old Todmorden!

By the way, Todmorden is not a University town so Cockcroft and Wilkinson belong to us by rght of birth: they are Tod Lads!

I went to various sources to find the populations of the cities for which there are two Nobel Laureates. I did not look for the populations of cities that had 1 or 3 or 4 or more Laureates since Todmorden is not competing with them by my reckoning!

You can download my file from the link at the end of this article (ths link will appear in the final version of this article) and for Excel warriors, you will find that I have used a wide range of techniques in there that includes various functions and formulas as well as Get & Transform/Power Query, including some programming in M.

How Many Prizes?

 Todmorden has claimed two prizes: how many other towns and cities have claimed the same or more or less? Examples

New York is top of the pile by a long way, London is third and as you can see, Todmorden is there with two Laureates. Overall, the number of cities by number of prizes is as follows:

Todmorden, then, is one of 44 cities around the world to have claimed two Nobel Prizes: one of just 91 cities to have claimed more than one Nobel Prize.

Ages of Laureates

John Cockcroft was 54 years old when he won his prize and Geoffrey Wilkinson was 52 years old. For a Physics Laureate, Cockcroft was almost two years younger than the average and for a Chemistry Laureate, Wilkinson was over six yearsyounger than the average.

By the way, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, a relatively modern institution; but take a look at the dates of birth of the first Laureates, from 1901 and 1902:

The second ever Nobel Literature Laurate, Theodor Mommsen, was born on 30th November 1817: there was no other Laureate born before Theodor Mommsen!

By the same token, the first 20th century born Laureate did not appear until Frederic Joliot-Curie was awarded the Chemistry Prize in 1935. Frederic was born on 19th March 1900 and was part of the famous Curie family! For interest, here is the Curie family Nobel history:


To date, the youngest ever Laureate is Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan who was a mere 17 years old when she won the 2014 Peace Prize: Malala was born 180 years after Theodor Mommsen! Until then, the youngest ever Laureate had been the 25 year old Australian William Lawrence Bragg who won the Physics Prize in 1915. The oldest prize winner to date is Russian born Leonid Hurwicz, who was 90 years old when he was awarded the 2007 Economics Prize.

Sex of Prize Winners

Up until the end of 2017, women have won just 49 Nobel Prizes, men have scooped the other 847: almost 30 prizes have been awarded to Organisations, so they are gender neutral!

Marie Curie’s award in 1903 was the first by a woman and in the first 20 years in which the Prizes were awarded, only four went to women. In the 20 years to the end of 2017, women have been awarded 21 Prizes.

I will attempt no answer to suggest why more women have not earned Nobel Prizes and I have to say that over the last 20 or so years, women have been actively lobbying for more women Laureates. Since they clearly cannot create scientific achievement out of thin air, the majority of prizes for women have been the Peace and Literature Prizes with a further 12, Physiology or Medicine, Prizes having been awarded to women!

Please note, the relatively small number of Prizes for Economics reflects the fact that the first Economics Prizes were not awarded until 1969. Moreover, the title of this Prize is, in full: The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Populations and the Final Answer

For me, this is the big question: person for person, is a Todmorden Nobel Prize worth more than anywhere else on the planet? In other words, is Todmorden the smallest town in the world to have been awarded two Nobel Prizes?

Please note, I have not gone back to the dates of the award of the Prizes to find the populations of the cities concerned: in some cases that would be impossible anyway. What I have done is to take the latest figure I can find on the internet as at 8th January 2018 for all of the cities of interest.

Well, a two Prize city has a mean population of over 960,000 and a median of almost 388,000 inhabitants. Yay! Tiny Todmorden has around 15,500 inhabitants. The largest two Prize city is Mexico City with 8.9 million people, Halifax, 12 miles from Todmorden also has two Prize winners and has a population of 88,000 or thereabouts.

So, the smallest two Prize city is … Rendcombe in Gloucestershire with a population of just 354 people. More than that, their two Prizes came from one man, Frederick Sanger who won the Chemistry Prize outright in 1958 and outright again in 1980. Hats off to Frederick!


There you are: good news, bad news! Todmorden is in the elite Nobel Prize World by having two Nobel Prize winners in its history. It is the smallest town to have two Prize winners. Alas, it is not the smallest village! Let’s give due credit to Frederick Sanger and Rendcombe (or Rendcomb) for not only winning two Prizes but winning them both outright: a very rare achievement.

Sanger helped to answer another of the questions that was raised on the Facebook page I mentioned earlier and that is: is Todmorden Grammar the only school to have produced two Nobel Prizes? Again, no! However, let’s find a winning angle for Todmorden: Sanger won two prizes but he is only one Laureate, albeit Laureate and bar! So, for having two Laureates from the same school, Tod is Tops!


Finally, this article took me several days both to research and for me to carry out the analysis in my Excel file: I humbly apologise if there are any errors here and if you do find something amiss, please let me know and I will correct it! I have made very few changes to the basic data but I have had to make a very small number of minor tweaks to place names/locations to prevent misrepresentation.

Acknowledgements I am grateful to the Nobel Prize organisation for making their database freely available and for the various sites that provided me with population and other data: in that regard, mainly www.wikipedia.com

Duncan Williamson
9th January 2018

Excel file for download: the link will appear here in the final version of this article



I have loved having a garden for as long as I can remember and I first owned my own garden in 1983. It was tiny and I went from complete tripe to overwhelmed by one kind of flower to mediocre. My garden in Malawi was fantastic: real credit to our garden boy and, of course, my estate management skills. Ahem! I am taking back control of my garden here, now. We inherited some trees and bushes and they are still here. I laid a lawn front and sides of the house and whilst they don't sell what I call grass here, it looks like a lawn and I mow it from time to time to keep it neat. I love kitchen gardens and have now taken control of that aspect too. Mrs W is prone to planting a hundred seeds of one plant that then grows and overwhelms us with a harvest we cannot appreciate: she gets things to grow, at least. I am taking a more measured approach now and have planted a lot fewer seeds and bulbs but will plant again in a few weeks' time to get a proper flow of plants going. Let's see how it all works out. I will report back from time to time. DW

Love Actually ... well, no, actually

I bought the DVD of Love Actually at least twice and I watch it just about every year. So, it's time to watch it again. Except, of course, Windows 10 in all its fantastic glory will not allow me to play it. Who knows what the problem is? Genuine DVD. Played several times already. Not scratched or damaged in any way. Very frustrating DW


Trip to Khao Kho

We live in a rice farming area which is, not surprisingly, very flat. No hills, hardly a slope in sight. So far a weekend away I insisted that we went somewhere hilly. Goodness, did we find some hills. And so VERY steep roads! We can to Khao Kho in central Thailand. It's a very nice area with lots of twisty roads and some scary hill climbs. My legs were rewarded with the resistance I was looking for and there are some interesting things to do here and interesting things to see. By the way, even on the top of a couple of hills, on sloping ground, we saw rice being grown! DW


The Pushchair NOT the Baby

Waiting to check in for my flight from Istanbul to Doha when a man carrying a very young baby walked in front of me on his way to another counter. A short conversation that I could not hear took place, after which the check in clerk laughed heartily as she said for all the world to hear, No, not to check in the baby, check in the baby stroller!! The man went past me again as he took his baby away. He came back within a few minutes minus baby, plus pushchair! Some entertainment at least.


Scooby Doo

It's hardly the most important thing I ever thought about but I could not abide that television programme, Scooby Doo. It really got on my nerves. In my inbox today I received my usual OED word of the day message to find the word Scooby ... here is the entry: scooby, n. [‘not to have a scooby: = not to have a clue at clue n. 2e.’] Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈskuːbi/, U.S. /ˈskubi/, Scottish /ˈskubɪ/ Forms: 19– scoobie, 19– scooby. Origin: Formed within English, by clipping or shortening. Etymon: proper name Scooby. Etymology:Short for Scooby Doo, the name of a cartoon dog which features in several U.S. television series and films (which typically include the name of the dog in the title), as rhyming slang for clue n. The fuller form scooby doo is also sometimes found. colloq. (chiefly Sc.). not to have a scooby: = not to have a clue at clue n. 2e. 1993 Herald (Glasgow) 14 May 16 Your lawyer telling youse that he husnae a scooby and youse can jist take a wee tirravie tae yersel. 1999 C. Dolan Ascension Day(2000) vi. 120 Mum, trying to be businesslike, quizzed Morag about blood counts and bone marrow suppression and other such matters about which of course she didn't have a scooby. 2006 Daily Record (Glasgow)(Nexis) 12 May 33 Isn't research meant to ask questions we haven't a scoobie about? May the saints preserve us!! DW


RIP Liam Coughlan

I saw a question on quora.com today that piqued my interest so I answered it: it concerned the British view of Irish people. Since I have worked and admired several Irish people over the years, I responded to say so. Following on from there I thought I would try to find the Irishmen I worked with by way of a google search and was saddened by what I found. I read a story online about my old Irish friend Liam Coughlan. We met and worked together in Yeravan then Tblisi and then as I was posted to Bishkek, Liam was posted to Tashkent: we both still worked for the same organisation in the same project but we were countries apart. We met briefly in Croatia when Liam invited me to run a one weekcourse for him there a while after we had finished our Central Asian gig. We lost touch after that! Liam was one of the smartest men I have ever known: highly qualified in his field; holding high level positions in a variety of organisations. Liam was generous, friendly, open, talkative, informative, supportive, helpful, down to earth, very well read on Ireland and Irish history and politics. Liam was also politically very astute. Liam also had a fantastic sense of humour and any time spent with him was bound to entail his endless blarney and endless anecdotes. He knew or had met countless people: honest johns and downright rogues and he had stories about them all. Liam was educated by the Christian Brothers in Ireland and what they did to him and to others is beyond the pale. Stories of brutality, sexual activity, paedophilia and possibly murder seemed to haunt every waking hour of anyone who was in the throes of anything to do with that outfit. I was transfixed by his stories but never doubted them. Strories in newspapers, books and online match what Liam told me. He regaled me with stories of when he stood for Parliament in Ireland and how he realised how stupid he might have been to try. He was certainly clever and honest enough but maybe a little idealistic. In any case, at or around that time he gave a lift on the back of his motorbike to Charles Haughey, now the late and unlamented Taoiseach whom Liam branded a cheat, liar, thieving arse. At the time I knew Liam I reviewed every book I read on my web site and he not only read my reviews but he commented on them: normally constructive and supportive … apart from the book I reviewed on Haughey. Let me confess that Liam lent me the book and I didn’t read all of it so my review was a little short of proper insight. I got an email from Liam setting me straight and I never admitted my shortcomings but I published Liam’s correction without hesitation! Of the two of us, I was the qualified teacher but Liam was by far the better educator. Because of his intelligence and diligence, he took subjects apart and rebuilt them. He had a learner’s insight and a teacher’s gift and his students were definitely the better for it. He had two women ACCA students in Tblisi and they both sailed through every exam because of Liam and they became qualified accountants in double quick time. If ever a beggar or a hawker came anywhere near Liam or the people he was with, he would be the first or the only one to buy what they were selling or to give them something to eat or just to hand over a few coins or notes. I have known no one else like that. In terms of the question on quora.com, Liam was very clear about that: he liked and respected British people and if anyone tried to say there was hatred between the two nations, he would easily strip out the rumour and gossip and explain who the haters were, where they were, what they wanted and how few of them there were! He could have been an ambassador for Ireland. The story I read about Liam online this morning said that he had died from natural causes in Austria, as testified by the Austrian police: aged 51. I knew his partner had had a baby shortly after we went our separate ways but it seems there was another one after that. The crux of the story I read today concerned the woman who passed herself off as Liam’s first wife who claimed no knowledge of the second wife. Let it be known, I knew about both women and I met the second one several times as she was in Tblisi and elsewhere with him. I never met the first wife but I heard a lot about her and their son. Liam never hid from his responsibilites and I imagine he was a fantastic father but he has died tragiccally very young and I wish his children well. One of the last times we met face to face was in Ireland. At the end of our Central Asian work I said I was looking for somewhere to go on holiday and he suggested Ireland so that’s where I went. From South Wales to Waterford by car ferry and then a week doing a grand tour of Ireland, ending up in Belfast. Liam met me in Waterford and we had a jar or two of Porter there. Grand craic was had during that week and Ireland is a place well worth visiting: Waterford to Cobh, Limerick, Kerry, Knock (Liam had a story about that, too!), Galway and across to Belfast. Excellent drivers in Ireland I have to say: very corteous. I noted the speed signs on the roads as I went from the ferry to the hotel where I met Liam and I asked him, are those signs in miles per hour or kilometers …he replied, you decide! Typical Irish, typical Liam. I am sorry I lost touch but these things happen and I am very sorry to hear that he has died: by the way, no surprise as he smoked like a chimney and eschewed just about every form of exercise known to man! I shoud say, I don’t know what killed him but he did smoke a lot and I know he was treated from time to time for possible skin cancer given the type of skin he had. Nevertheless, ave atque vale Liam. It really was a pleasure and a privilege to have known you. Duncan October 2017


Recipe time: veggie sandwich

Lightly fry the following: Medium sized onion, sliced Clove of garlic crushed and chopped Stick of celery chopped Button mushrooms sliced Fry the onions and garlic for a minute Add the celery for two minutes Add the mushrooms with some ground black pepper, a pinch of salt and 6 or 7 splashes of Worcestershire sauce and keep cooking for another two minutes Meanwhile Toast two slices of your favourite bread and after they have cooled for two minutes spread hummus on both sides of each slice Pile half of your onion mix onto the first slice of bread. Put the second slice I top of that. Now pile the rest of the onion mix on top of the second slice Serve with a salad of your choice if you wish but I couldn't wait! I make my own hummus but shop bought is normally just as good. DW 11th September 2017