Tuesday, July 6, 2010

37 degrees gym - don't join!

Sent: 02/07/2010. Why you shouldn't join 37 Degrees gym!


Thank you for sending that through, though, I have no idea why you did – it appears 37 degrees consistently does not listen.

As it appears you are unable to deal with this I would appreciate it if you could pass this to your superior at 37 degrees, copying me in so I know you have acted on this and it is not necessary to waste further time chasing this up with you.

To whom it may concern,

We are, initially, pursuing a refund for being overcharged (£85 vs £49) in our first month of membership at 37 degrees gym back in October. I will reluctantly relay the whole situation to you in as short a space as possible.

To qualify for the reduced corporate rate we needed to provide proof of our employment. We provided our contracts for your staff, not once, but twice due to the fact your staff lost the copies they took of our original employment contracts. We were then subsequently contacted and asked to provide it after we had already made the journey specifically to 37 degrees gym to hand in our contracts.

You have lost copies of our employment contract. This is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. Not only did this include names and addresses, but salaries. Moreover, this information is highly sensitive for our employer.

Due to this we request you provide us with the copy you currently have of our contracts for safe keeping unless you can prove they are being kept adequately safe.

Another example of your consistently poor service and inability to keep your word is, after conducting your usual hard-sell for us to sign up for a membership, you asked us for a number of names, emails and phone numbers in order that we could spread the word about the gym and provide free passes to come and try it out. Although at that point I wanted to tell my friends about 37 Degrees gym, I had no desire to give you their emails or personal numbers because I did not want you to cold call or hassle them in any way. Xxxxl, the sales representative signing us up said that we had to provide numbers and e-mail addresses in order to receive the passes but agreed that these individuals would not be contacted. Obviously (in hindsight), you then went on to contact all the individuals numerous times, despite the fact they did not want to receive these calls.

We have been pursuing this matter with you for 9 months and the way you have dealt with this issue throughout this period is unacceptable. We have been told we will be rung back countless times, that individuals are away, on holiday, taking a bath, etc. We have spoken to your front of house staff at the gym in person on countless occasions with the same verdict. We have been given a business card to contact a member of your 37 degrees staff with the wrong number and out of date e-mail address. We have therefore, again, had to come back and have another number scrawled across the card to try. As you can guess – that didn’t work either.

This has culminated in, due to us now having the ability to come in between 9 – 5, a direct conversation with your accounts team member. (You may find it surprising that some of the demographic your gym serves are unable to come in between 9 – 5 to talk with your accounts team.) We then explained the situation to Yyyyy and were told that although a refund would take some time she would be able to action a credit against our continuing membership fees to make up the debt you owe us.

Needless to say, instead of this happening another member of your team called us to say Xxxxl would be in touch, we then spoke with him last week and he informed us that it would not be possible to pay back the money you have taken off us without our permission, as we hadn’t provided the contract within 7 days of the joining date when in actual fact we provided it twice. It is a disgrace – you should be ashamed that your organisation deals with its customers in the way you have. You have been stalling and stalling and stalling with this issue and have wasted so much of our time.

Our final complaint is that, in writing this letter and checking the amounts we paid we have noticed that for some reason you have put our direct debit up from the agreed £49 to £64. Why on earth has this happened and why have we not been informed by you of this change? Why have you not sought our consent to alter our direct debit payments before proceeding? At no point have we agreed to pay more than £49 for this service – well, for this hassle.

This is an open letter that will be posted on Twitter, facebook and a blog as it appears you just don’t care no matter how many times we relay the situation to you. We will of course update these with your response in fairness.

We will not have the time to do this tonight so you may the chance to respond first, but please do so in writing, via e-mail, as we can not trust your spoken word.

We look forward to hearing from you within 14 days with how you plan to make reparations – sooner if your internal processes allow, avoiding this taking over a year to be dealt with by your team.

Please ensure you respond to all our points.

Yours faithfully,

James Poulter, Abigail Mohan

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Quotes are from a friend's note on facebook, thanks Christina.

"you see, they say if you die in your dream, then you're dead in real life"coz the body can't survive without the mind" - they said it in the matrix"

You see, when you die in your dream, then you are dead in that dream, in that life, in that real life.

You don't experience that death. You don't experience death. Ever.

You just awake, in a new world. With a new history. A new place in time.

"i keep dreamin about dying"

Maybe you keep living about dying.

I dream
I live

I dream about dying
I live about dying

Is there any practical difference in those pairs? Yes there is an obvious pragmatic difference, but what is the difference between dreaming death, and living death?

If you sit there screaming you can't live death - wake up - you can't dream death either.

How do you know you are dreaming?

I ask, how do you know you are living?

You state you have been conscious of dreaming before.

I note I am conscious that I am living now.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Apologies, but...

Sorry guys, but some posts have had to be removed. This is after taking advice from a lawyer and members of the philosophy department at HKU. I intend to pursue the work I described on here in more depth and will definitely inform you when a more formal format of it is available.

I sincerely apologise for having to take the posts down and as a result your comments. I would like to explicitly thank Robert Iddiols and Jenny for their participation in those threads, I will keep you updated and give further information to you personally if you contact me.

I am now entering reading week at HKU and will not be jetting off travelling. Therefore, I hope to be able to dedicate a short bit of time every day to update this blog with some interesting posts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

No time to think?

The other day I was getting frustrated with my PC - its a Dell inspiron 1300, probably 2 and a bit years old and working like a snail. The internet I use here at the University of Hong Kong isn't exactly lightning speed either and does have the odd habit of randomly shutting itself down. It was thus that I started thinking about how much time I, or anyone, could actually save if there was absolutely no waiting around involved in using a PC. No start-up time, no login time, no loading new windows, no bloody McAfee virus protector downloader, or you need to renew your subscription reminders (on another note I really think anti-virus and the such actually just slow your PC down more than the viruses would...). Everything would just happen instantly.

But then I realised that the whole reason I even have this blog, that the only reason I even had that thought, was because of those tiny delays in the use of my PC that allow me to pause and reflect. Without those delays would I have no time to think?

The fact that I see little hope in free will does really effect how seriously I take this. If I had no delay and just had an absolute continuous stream of input/output in the continually evolving path I was taking, I really would just be a robot at a computer. The fact that there are breaks allows conveniently for a return into my illusion of free will, to toss around events, as opposed to being instantly hit by the next input I was searching for.

Out with faster technology - I need time to think!

I was sitting cursing and tapping at my PC earlier today as I tried to rush off a philosophy essay in order to get it in before the deadline, I would have paid for faster technology in a flash then.

PS - read the other day 'time' is the most used noun in the english language.

PPS - could I use 'postscript' instead of PS, or would people just think I was being pretentious?

Post-post-postscript - I am trying some keyword heavy internal linking to promote my blogs - university career and does truth matter. Apologies for the outrageous spam.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Undiscovered Species

Not sure what triggered this post, but as you will see it is something I think about regularly. It may have originally been in an eye-opening attempt for God-of-the-Gap type argument’s proponents, with particular reference to attacks on the incomplete fossil record.

I’ve always said that it is dangerous turf to sit on considering it continually gets torn off.

Only a very few organisms that die end up preserved as fossils, but these lucky finds have led to instances where we have a number of fossils over many years that show small, gradual changes between each one. Again, this is not the only example, there are many examples of fossils from different time periods that show a gradual, incremental change to their phenotype; just take the most famous fossil of them all, the Archaeopteryx – the bird/reptile, with feathers! However, what paleontology cannot provide is a perfect set of transitional fossils for every single fossil that we do have, and this is what creationist advocates jump on.

What percentage of the earths crust do you actually think we have searched for fossils? I would bet under 0.01% of it, and I am being extremely conservative.

The vast numbers of fossils that are in the ground just waiting to be discovered is nicely demonstrated by the fact we haven’t even discovered all the species alive on this planet, in this day and age – by a long way. Now the usual suspects to fill these criteria are plants found in remote areas, however this is not always the case. Just last November, a 4ft long mammalian pig-like creature was discovered in the Amazon forest in Brazil! If we can’t discover living fossils running around on all fours plain for us to see, I have no idea how we will find every deeply hidden fossil!

Now I couldn’t find evidence in a 2-minute search for the mammalian pig; however, I found a few examples to illustrate my point. Take this 700g elephant shrew or perhaps this pygmy possum and giant rat.

Ok ok - so what are a few isolated incidents? Sorry but this sea life search or perhaps 11 new species in Vietnam and even thousands of new species found around an island 400 miles off Manila in the Philippines might prove that although they are found in generally isolated places, the world has a million isolated places. Don't trust me - search for yourself, all these instances were from the last few months and from a very limited source. I didn't even tell you about the giant 9-foot spitting cobra, either.

I would personally guestimate that over a million undiscovered species inhabit this planet with us. What greater meaning this has for us I am still contemplating. Perhaps millions of new medicines? But it is a well advocated estimation that over 99.9% of all the species that have ever lived are now extinct - so why should we care if a few more pass away unnoticed?

Perhaps because we are the cause of this mankind-led extinction. We have all read about the mass extinction of the dinosaurs by a meteorite (whether we believe it or not), but fewer of us realise we are currently in another mass extinction, caused by you and I, and at over 1000 times the background rate - the normal extinction rate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

the Progress Check

The Progress Check is another blog I have where I post much more detailed articles. Not for the faint-hearted.

First is Problems of Truth, Names & Certainty, an enquiry into the question - what is knowledge? I recommend reading the link to the paper by Gettier before mine; it is extremely famous and notably very short; it will also provide a short introduction to my paper.

Next is Are Evolutionary Theory and Intelligent Design compatible?, which is based upon a critique of a discussion between Plantinga in: When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible and McMullin in: Plantinga's Defense of Special Creation. Anyone with an interest in this modern issue would find these a worthy, if slightly lengthy, read.

I am sorry for the over-load of links, I just learnt how to do them! I will be expanding tomorrow on economic cooperation with hopefully some context that we can all empathise with.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Economics of Cooperation

This post is going to require at least a basic knowledge of the prisoner’s dilemma (PD) and moreover what is so special about the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. However, I hope it has some interesting points even for those who know nothing about it, and cannot be bothered to do any research.

The IPD allows punishment and reward for behaviour, and it allows participants to learn and create a reputation. These factors were enforced when Robert Axelrod[i] conducted experiments where computer programs were pitched against each other in an IPD. The winner was Anatol Rapoport’s program TIT FOR TAT, which has yet to be beaten by another single program (a multiple program entry involving slaves and masters did beat it), even when tested against hundreds of programs designed specifically in the knowledge of its success. The triumph of TIT FOR TAT was thought to be down to the following characteristics (as stated on page 110 of ref. (1)):
1) Don’t be envious
2) Don’t be the first to defect
3) Reciprocate both cooperation and defection
4) Don’t be too clever
These points outline how successful economic behaviour should be conducted, and relies on the knowledge that the PD is not a zero-sum game, that is whatever someone gains the other does not stand to lose, or vice versa. Therefore, by point one, you should not worry if your immediate competitor is beating you, it’s the long run that matters. By point two you should not be the first to defect – again in the long run the punishments (loss of reputation for example) would outweigh the short term benefit. Point three shows how you should be retaliatory and forgiving, by this you will not be abused by exploitative institutions, and you will quickly forgive single instances of provocation (or in TIT FOR TAT’s case, any instance - another of its virtues was its short memory). Point four shows how you shouldn’t be too clever when evaluating economic behaviour, for instance in a “zero-sum game, such as chess, we can safely use the assumption that the other player will pick the most dangerous move that can be found, and we can act accordingly.” In this situation it pays to be as complicated and multifaceted in an analysis as possible. However, your opponent your economic behaviour effects is not out to defeat you. Also, if you are too complex your opponent may think you are unresponsive and acting randomly.

Indeed examples of the PD are found throughout life, and notably, the ensuing theme of all these is that mutually cooperating is of most benefit to everyone. As a last example, take the ‘live and let live’ system that was endemic in trench warfare in WWI, soldiers would only shoot to wound their enemy, in the hope the action would be returned. In this way a system of reciprocity became a natural part of trench warfare and, if cooperation can evolve out of warfare, maybe everyone should take the time to examine the PD and realise the benefits its implications could have for our world.

[i] Axelrod, Robert – The evolution of co-operation. Penguin books. 1984.