England confides

This week: Time tracking comedy, wages ~ immorality, and mapping haikus...

Happy Friday!

And welcome to edition 261—coincidentally the exact number that translates to the word ‘every’ in Rear Admiral Sir Home Popham’s famous Telegraphic Signals of Marine Vocabulary, published in 1800.

After telegraphing his battle orders at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Vice-Admiral Nelson composed a stirring message to be signalled to the rest of his fleet:

England confides that every man will do his duty.

Confides here expresses confidence. England is confident that every man will do his duty. Nelson had total faith in his navy. In modern parlance, his message was: ‘You got this.’

It must have been a rather awkward moment, then, when Nelson’s signal officer, Lieutenant John Pasco, had to point out that ‘confides’ wasn’t in Popham’s signal book. Anxious that Napoleon not be kept waiting on the high seas too long, Pasco suggested a minor amendment:

England expects that every man will do his duty.

With the slightest editorial tweak, Nelson’s message became: ‘You better got this.’ It was this passive aggressive, and popularly misquoted, version that became Nelson’s epitaph: he died in victory (and, indeed, on Victory).

In 1805, text messages were about as developed as you would expect for the nineteenth century. It took Pasco four minutes of frantic flag-raising to relay Nelson’s nine word message to the assembled fleet.

Open up social media for four minutes today and you’ll be hit with no less than 1,388,888 new Instagram stories and 2,254,080 new tweets. During those same four minutes, more than 166 million messsages will be sent over Whatsapp. Sometimes I wonder whether we were better off using flags…


Anyway—on with the show!

I wrote an awesome article for someone else! It’s called…

How Long Does It Take To Write an Entire BBC Radio Sitcom?

Over the past half decade, Foiled has grown from low budget fringe theatre actually staged in a hair salon to being the most popular comedy show ever broadcast by BBC Radio Wales, starring legends of stage and screen including Ralf Little, Miles Jupp, Felicity Montagu, Vicky Vox and Sir Derek Jacobi.

That’s all well and good, but great comedy doesn’t get written without great data. Am I right? Probably not, no. Nevertheless, ever since Foiled series one, I have counted the hours I spend writing using both time tracking software and my own high-tech kitchen timer and spreadsheet combo.

What this means is that I can now go back through four years of data to tell you exactly how long it takes to write an entire BBC radio sitcom series. How cool is that?

🎭 Read the rest of the story over on Toggl

You don’t get paid for sitting around all day, you get paid for doing dirty work

Or: Wages ~ immorality: Stating the obvious, part XVI

It’s hard to tell how much statistical cherry-picking has gone on here, but this is still probably the second greatest graph I have ever seen in my life:

The graph is taken from an economics paper published last year that found, predictably enough, that most people have to be paid more to do work that is perceived as being immoral. A finding that is simultaneously heartening (that they do) and depressing (that they still do the work).

In another victory for stating the obvious, the researchers also found that corporate sociopaths were more likely to work in sociopathic corporations. From the abstract:

We also measure individuals’ aversion to performing immoral acts and show that those who find immoral behaviour least aversive are more likely to be employed in immoral work.

If there is a take-home message for those of us more generally averse to immoral behaviour, perhaps it is this: frowning and tutting isn’t enough.


ps: Still the greatest graph I ever seen, take a bow, David Nutt. As referenced in my articles on The Science of Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience and Everything we know about psychedelics is wrong.

Any more for any more?

  • OpenStreetMap Haiku

    West Hill Road
    The bus honking
    Welcome to South West England

  • Connection day by Seth Godin

    The math is simple: when people with different assets, needs and views come together, they’re able to produce more than they ever could on their own.

  • Where does the day go? by Neal Agarwal

    We think of our days as big chunks of time. But really our days are made of tiny pieces, and each time we switch tasks or get distracted we lose another tiny piece.


I’ve only hit the concrete face first once this week, perfectly timed to coincide with the moment I skated past a friend’s window. Her day made. On Wednesday, I completed my first ever (deliberate) moving kickturns on the silky asphalt of an unused footpath in an Asda car park. Proud.

The longer I skate, the less respect I have for smug teenagers on electric scooters. If I, as a 38 year old with only a 50 percent chance of suffering a serious fracture in the next fortnight, can learn how to get about town on a skateboard, then surely they can. Kids these days.

That’s all for this week. Coming up in future editions:

  • Cryptocurrencies and climate change: a two-part series written for Global Landscapes Forum.

  • How I got rich* by emailing total strangers: my review of the amazing Reach Out Party.

    *NOTE: this experiment is ongoing, but I presume by the end I will be rich.

Have a great weekend!

Big love,


Hello, I’m David Charles and I’m a UK-based writer and outdoor instructor. Say hello by replying to this email, or delve into 500+ other articles on davidcharles.info.

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