QED 2013 - Day 1 breakfast

Wow, that was a ram packed weekend. Let’s start at the beginning.

[caption id=”attachment_628” align=”aligncenter” width=”397”]Mecure Hotel Mecure Hotel on a good day[/caption]

I arrived just in time for the starting ceremony. A very nice cartoon video highlighting some of the achievements of humanity from cavemen bashing heads to finding out about x-rays.

The Skeptical Bobby

[caption id=”attachment_627” align=”alignright” width=”273”]DSC_4857_crop Skeptical Bobby[/caption]

After a warm up by our MC Brian Thompson we went to our first speaker. He introduced himself as fairly unknown to the public and I certainly didn’t know him. This was “Stevyn Colgan” a somewhat revolutionary police officer who defied his superiors (some of which did agree with his methods) by looking at a different way to do “policing”. He realised back in the 70/80’s there was no crime prevention per se. A lot of policing was catching the robbers. He decided to do something about it, so became a “community” officer (before there such a thing). He would go around and talk to the people and look at ways crime could be stopped. The issue was that his leaders couldn’t see success in his method since there were no statistics. There was nothing that were used by police that could measure what he was doing. This was because there was no direct effect to his approach. Cue the hilarious slides of his reports of performance during his experimental years. Pretty much agreeing he wasn’t doing well but then later being acknowledged for proving a good supporting role for the public, a contradiction surely?

He later goes to be be recruited by the newly formed problem solving unit. A unit dedicated to stopping crime before it happens. One case involved kids in a council estate causing some anti social behaviour and instead of just slapping ASBOs, they came down to assess the situation. Essentially it was solved with £40 of white paint. The problem was that there was limited facilities for the teenagers/young adults and it was caused a capitalisation by the strongest and oldest groups of kids. So the idea was to simply redistribute the space to cater for all the groups. In this case it was a football field, of which the next available field was across a dual carriageway (to which the council proposed building an overpass marked in the millions). Instead with a few bits of paint and some rigging there was now three football fields instead of the one big one.

Other issues were solved in a similar vein, so the use of pink strip lighting in dark subways to ward off aggressive youths by simply making them unattractive to each other (apparently pink strip lighting causes blemishes on the skin to be more apparent). Also the idea of finding a commonality to bring communities together was a big theme: On one problematic estate it was realised that everyone had dogs, so…. let’s put on a dog show! Now the police couldn’t be credited for that as the public would surely be up in arms, so the real financiers were kept secret. Apparently the estate is doing really well and it actually has a waiting list.

Stevyn then moved to his current job a Q.I. Elf.

A very refreshing talk to kick off the event, especially not one I expected (as you can see at this point I didn’t look at the programme). This also set the theme for the event, it’s about thinking in a certain way and not just blinding saying this how we have always done this (in this case aggressive policing) and instead have a look at can we do this another way and potentially better way (as now you can see this idea of community policing has taken off).

Alt Medicine Panel

Next it was a quick dash to the Douglas Adam’s room for a panel on Alternative medicine. I basically didn’t write any notes for this as I had already subjugated myself to many youtube videos, forums and blogs on the subject. While the debate was lively it was pretty much what I have heard before. Alt medicine bad and here some examples, then let’s talk about how annoying they are and how frustrating it is for us (trust me I have been there as well so I know the feeling). Basically what was discussed is covered in great detail elsewhere.

One point I did pick up was that homoeopathy has to be FDA approved, so there is actually a factory in London that produces homoeopathic pills for the American market. Therefore they were inspected by the FDA and it was found that final part of the homoeopathic process of putting that last drop of… whatever it is, sometimes didn’t actually end up on the pill. So in fact there were shipping out pills that was just literally sugar and the actual homoeopathic liquid was stuck to the outside of the drums on the production line. Apparently the outrage from the homoeopathic crowd about this travesty was non-existent. I wonder why?

Common Sex Myths

[caption id=”attachment_624” align=”alignleft” width=”300”]Common Sex Myths Common Sex Myths[/caption]

Belle De Jour, that name rung a bell with me. I then found out that was the pen name of a prostitute. Not sure where my mind was going with this. Then the speaker was named Brooke Magnenti (getting a bit confused) I didn’t know who she was or why she was making a Billy Piper reference. Then there was a mention of a “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” which I vaguely recalled was a T.V. show based on a book (I realised there was a lot more to this then I thought). She went on to say she wasn’t going to reveal how many men she slept with. At this point I was very confused but I decided to just go along and suspend my confusion at this point.

What followed was a revealing study on some sex myths and again with the first talk, on how the conventional wisdom is not always right. It starts off with the “statistic fallacy” where a statistic used in the past is twisted to fit a modern day issue for the favour of a particular group.This talk followed a more “Freakonomics” approach where we are given a (what seems to be) straight forward assertion and a probable cause. In this case it was “Are sex crimes related to a rise in lap dance clubs?” I later found out this was her research project at university, so I assume there was some serious study on this. What was happening was that the media found that crime did increase in a few years say 1999-02 this was then reported by the media in the current time as a cause from lap dancing clubs that have opened up in Camden (where this report was made). What failed to be reported was that it actually fell after that and actually went below the national average in 2008. To put the final nails in the coffin, this was then compared to other London boroughs with a similar population but with no strip clubs. In those areas, sex crimes were higher. This actually makes you question what roles do lap dancing clubs play? A way for predators to let off some steam so to speak or… well can we argue they create sex crimes any more?

As the talk started there was a disclaimer that this may cause some stress and it would be talking about uncomfortable topics. I can see how this would be an issue to people that think sex clubs are morally wrong and any statistic however distorted should be used to help close them down. This is a similar problem that Brooke faces in the media (yes I did look her up afterwards) as she seems to be a controversial character that advocates that it should be acceptable to have these things and we should have a public dialogue about this. Again I can see how she can this mindset considering she has worked in the sex industry and to some extent talk for the women that operate there but again there will always be people who are just opposed to it as a moral sin. This is more a question of morality and public conscience.

For those those still confused on the first paragraph, basically Belle De Jour is the pen name of Brooke Magnenti a Doctor of forensic science who decided to prostitute herself to pay for her university fees. Her true identity was revealed in 2009. Her book “Diary of a London Call Girl” was picked up by Channel 4 to be a TV show starring Billy Piper (hence the reference at the start).

Then lunch…

Yes this was all before lunch!