Friday, April 30, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill :-(

"And the seas shall burn..." That happens when you don't have a contingency plan :-(

Pretty well 24 years to the day after they didn't have one in Chernobyl either:-(

FWIW: The Russian word "Chernobyl" means "Wormwood".
You might want to look that up in the Book of Revelations ;-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boobquake Redux ;-)

Well, I saw da Innernedz meme, and it said Boobquake. Singular. As per bow-shooting Amazons. I breasted a wave of curiosity with a double-click :-)

Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader. He was quoted by Iranian media last week as having said "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes. . ."

Jen McCreight is a liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist feminist trapped in Indiana (USA) She started the Boobquake meme for monday, suggesting women (only? There's gender discrimination for you!) wear the most cleavage-showing dress they own. Revealing photos to be blogged on the Internet. Except for fat/loud lesbians pls!

I looka at a handful(!) of DD da photos. Purely(?) in the interests of science of coarse course.

Islamic Imam's theory was put to the scientific test! Failed!

Many joined in. Of course there was NO earthquake. I wonder if Imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi now feels a right tit? ;-)

Monday, April 26, 2010

On yer bike : the positive side of volcanoes ;-)

H aving been 'trapped' on the spanish holiday island of Mallorca last week due the volcanic-ash no-fly problem, UK blogreader and cycling-fan Janet asked me rhetorically "Can you name three positive things about volcanoes?"

I think I can, I'll give it a try here . . .

The very first candidate for the Darwin Award was probably the ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles who - in 430 BC - jumped into Mount Etna (an active volcano at the time) because he wanted to convince the people of his time that he had been taken up by the gods on Olympus. He lava-ed to prove his point!!! ;-)

Seriously though, volcanic ash makes for very fertile soil, which is why farmers like to live on the slopes of volcanoes because of the ease of growing crops there :-)

And thirdly, we owe the existence of the Tour de France to a volcano! Bet you didn't know that, Janet, not many people do. Let me explain. Back in 1815, the biggest volcano in recent history erupted, Mt. Tambora with about 150 cubic kilometers of ejecta. For comparison, Mt.Saint Helens ejected only 1 km3 in 1980. The eruption caused a global "volcanic winter": 1816 became known as the "Year Without a Summer" (it snowed in June here) because of the effect on North American and European weather. Agricultural crops failed and livestock died in much of the northern hemisphere, resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century.

Not only did many horses die, people ate their horses too for lack of anything else, we are told. As a result, there was a lack of transport facilities in 1817. So Baron Karl Drais invented the Velocipede, forerunner(sic!) of the bicycle. Not until 1863 did a french metalworker add cranks and pedals (to the front wheel). Thomas McCall, of Kilmarnock (Scotland), added a treadled drive to the rear wheel in 1869. John Kemp Starley built the first "safety bicycle" (replacing the penny-farthing) in 1885, with a steerable front wheel that had significant caster, equally sized wheels and a chain drive to the rear wheel. Derailleur gears were developed in France before WW1. And thus the modern Tour de France lightweight racing bicycle evolved, thanks to a major volcano eruption. Well that's my view of bike history anyway;-)

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Railway Children (pre-ITV 1952 version) :-)

W hat a surprising place the Internet is! Turns out that this blog is now being read by a childhood friend - Barbara Whiteley (nee´ Clarke) - one of the Metheringham Railway Children. Spontaneously, she wrote : "After I stumbled across your website, I couldn't resist sending a couple of photos from the distant past, maybe they are (not?) new to you? The b&w one is taken at Fen Rd, Metheringham around 1952 (?) . . . It sounds like you have led a very eventful life, just as I would have expected!"

Barbara is the unbowed pretty girl in the front row, holding my little(sic!) sister on her lap; yours truly is the sullen lad on the right of this photo, he with the Prince-of-Wales ears, the epitomy of sartorial elegance even back then at the tender age of 8 ;-)

We all lived down near Metheringham station where my father was the station master at the time and Barbara's dad was one of the signalmen/crossing-keepers. Many the happy wintertime hour I spent in the cosy and warm signal box having the steam-age technology explained to me. Happy and innocent days, back then :-)

This is the first time I've heard from Barbara in over fifty years, the internet DOES turn the world into a small village! I shall be writing to her in the near future, catching up :-)

Comments (2) :
Four Dinners comments "The Railway Children? I rather fancied Jenny Agutter.....;-) Now, is that really a surprise?.....;-)" She builds me a head of steam nowadays too ;-)
Barbara (UK) wrote back "Thinking back to those childhood days, they have taken on a rosy glow, I think we were lucky to have them. I have fond memories of steam trains, Dad letting us pull the levers and helping the porter, games of cricket in station yard. Also, . . . reading the 'Broons' comic at your house, our first T.V, you coming round to watch 6 five Special, oh, also our first bikes. etc etc."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

UK Election TV Debates' Heads-Up ;-)

OK Mr. Clegg, you now have the electorate's undivided attention. What do you propose to do with it? No, seriously!

How to convince the determined non-voters like 4D (No, f*ck ewe!) ?

The voters on the left have the Brown hump (they'd walk miles for a camel ;-) and are tending to the right, looking for something gnu, but even they find the backside of an antilope to be more attractive than Cameron and his Tories ;-)

So, Mr. Kingmaker, this is your choice for a hung parliament, two* assholes ;-)

Comments (2) :
Kylie (NZ) : "Great animal photos, where did you take them?" There is an open zoo - Stukenbrok Safari Park - just 40 miles north. We went there on monday. The ostrich photo was a real close-up, it was only a foot away, presumably it was shortsighted, curious and hungry (or all three ;-). My lion & tiger photos are zoomed though ;-) Brian (UK) : "Having read Four Dinners blog, I want to know who YOU would for ?" I've been out of the UK for too long to know what the major parties' intentions are, Brian. So I took the Sky News online issue-evaluator test and these were the results (small parties [and the SNP] were not included in their evaluation) :-

Monday, April 19, 2010

Local Volcanoes

Focus of much of the news recently has been the ash-laden icelandic volcano withthealmostunpronounceablename, whose eruption in Iceland and whose resulting ash-cloud has lead to the closure of much of our European airspace.

Curiousity lead me to investigate the whereabouts of any volcanoes here in Germany. Klett has a German volcano map online. We live about 130 kms (=80 miles) north of the Vogelsberg and there are small volcanic pimples peaks nearby, like the Desenberg.

I climbed this one recently (took me a ½ hour) to get some great panoramic photos from the ruined watchtower at the top. Others have a collapsed caldera and you can walk around inside the caldera (e.g. at Weissholz). Yet others like the Doerenberg have been excavated to get the (poor quality) granite for roadbuilding :-

In the nearby city of Paderborn, 10 miles north of here, there are many springs, one of which runs 10-15°C warmer than the others, demonstrating that we do indeed live on a latent volcano. Nearby spa towns like Bad Driburg have thermal baths heated by the subsurface volcano. Over in the Eifel hills, whole spa towns (like Bad Bertrich) have been built inside! the caldera of a medium volcano! Luckily, all the German volcanoes have been extinct for the last 13,000+ years. However, many adjacent areas are susceptible to minor earthquakes (marked as green squares on the Klett map). In fact, the whole southern Rhine valley is a fault zone (shown too in green on their map).

Just for the statistics : On average a volcano erupts in the Eifel hills every 8,000 years. The last one erupted some 11,000 years ago; it was on a par with Pinatubo 1991 :-(

Comments (3) :
Lothar (D) raises a point : "The Eifel is rising by about 8 inches per century, indicating a filling magma chamber beneath it."
Chas (UK) gasps "Your unpronouncable missing name for the icelandic volcano may well be 'pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis' ;-)"
Nicole (F) asks "So what other recent big volcanoes were there?" Tambora (1815), Krakatoa (1883), Mount St. Helens (1980), Pinatubo (1991) over the last 200 years.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What How do you think?

Over the past three months I have been partaking in a simple educational/psychological experiment to see how people think (if at all ;-). My task has been to give them a simple problem, wait for their answer and then interview them, asking how they got there, and see how long they took to solve it. Mostly I was to ask teachers and student-teachers most of them with non-technical backgrounds.

The question was "A farmer's wife keeps chickens and rabbits; together the animals total 100 legs and 40 heads. How many chickens and rabbits does she have?"

There were four main ways of tackling this problem, 1) iterative guessing, 2) writing a spreadsheet, 3) simultaneous linear equations and 4) common sense (in decreasing order of usage!!!).

Iterative guessing : ¾ of the subjects took a guess, worked out the resulting number of heads and legs, and corrected their guesses (about 15% initially in the wrong direction!) iteratively until arriving at the correct answer, taking about 2 mins to get it.

Writing a spreadsheet : Instead of thinking, 10 % wrote a spreadsheet which was basically a table of values of iterative guesses, taking about 3 mins to do so.

Simultaneous linear equations : Another 10% (those with a maths, physics or engineering background) realised they had the same number (2) of equations as independent variables (also 2) and so could use the technique of simultaneous linear equations. On a sheet of paper they wrote : C+R=40, 2C+4R=100. Multiplying the first equation by 2 so that C has the same coefficient as in the second equation, they wrote 2C+2R=80. Subtracting the equations they got 2R=4R-20, which gave R=10 and therefore C=30. Writing time under a minute. One even did it in his head!

Common sense : "For each head there are two hind legs, makes 80, leaves 20 (fore-)legs, chickens have no forelegs, so that leaves 20/2=10 rabbits and so 30 hens". Thinking time under 2 seconds, explanation time under 10 seconds! But only 5% of people did it this way! And remember these were people who teach our children, albeit not in maths. 5% (fast) thinkers is a rather disappointing result, I thought.

Finally, we had to submit a report on our part of the experiment and suggest effective measures to be taken. After talking to all of the (anonymous) subjects, I found no-one taught a class on problem-solving nor had they been taught it themselves. So I have suggested an experimental class based on George Polya's little book "How to solve problems", ISBN 069111966X, an old paperback which I can thoroughly recommend.

How & what do YOU think?

Comments (7) :
Eric (USA) tells us that Obama is pushing Math and Science education.
Nicole (F) points us to a website called Better explained.
Cody (USA) : Some 'think' with their genitals :-("
Helen (USA) wrote : "Stu I particularly enjoyed 'How do you think' on 4-16 :-)"
Kees Kennis (RSA) : quips, a little hoarsely, "A farmer was accused of adding horse meat to his 'Rabbit Pies' He finally confessed to a 50% mix. When pressed further he conceded: 'OK,OK, 50-50, one Horse, one Rabbit' " ;-) He has also contradicted my results in his blog with photos of a mutant two-headed rabbit and chicken ;-) A two-headed mutant rabbit would give us 41 heads in the puzzle, not 40. But to get back to 40 heads would be splitting hares ;-)
Cap'n Ahab (B) : "Almost everybody has more than the average number of legs ;-)"
Presumably because the rare amputee brings the mean down to 1.99something?
Wendy (OZ) did her own research : "Hi Stu, I posed your question to my parents (individually). My dad is an engineer and scratched his head for a bit and muttered something about not remembering his maths lessons but after about a minute wrote on a bit of paper:

(X x 2) chooks + (Y x 4) rabbits = 100
X + Y = 40
X = 40 - Y
(40 - Y) x 2 + 4Y = 100
80 - 2Y + 4Y = 100
80 + 2Y = 100
2Y =20
Y = 10
(therefore) X = 40 - 10 = 30

30 chooks,
10 rabbits.
My mum, who is a doctor -- and prides herself on her mathematical and logics skills -- took a similar approach and wrote down some equation which she wouldn't let me see because she took about three minutes and got it all wrong and we ended up with 30 heads to start off with and then when she readjusted it we ended up with 40 heads but two three legged rabbits and one chicken with no legs, or something like that and she just ended up saying, 'Oh, who cares', and went outside for a cigarette. I, a humble journalist, on the other hand got the answer in about 8 seconds (really). This is not down to brains but, because I was never taught 'problem solving' at school, I just went, 'Yikes! This reminds me of the tests you get where they give you impossible questions like: 'Shane Nitwit is twice the age of his son Bruce Nitwit who is one and a half times older than his younger sister, Doris -- how old are they all? (or something like that)'. So I, by pure luck, went for "Lets' just say there are 30 chickens...' and got it like that. I guess I went for the iterative guessing. Hope this helps with your research... ;-)"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

500th GeoCache found :-)

This was the Calzit and 'Suttroper Diamond' mine at nearby Suttrop (near the Warstein brewery ;-) ), which has been restored for display purposes using a NRW grant.

Other recent caches have included an actual hill in Holland (more of a large sand dune really ;-) ), a beautifully restored working windmill, and the neat meridian reference mark used by German mapmakers.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Polish Tupolev crashed in Smolensk :-(

Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and several dozen others were killed as their old Tupolev-154 crashed on the approach to Smolensk airport (Russia) in foggy weather, it is reported. After three missed approaches (due to the low fog?) the crew took the plane around for a fourth attempt we are told, presumably busting the prescribed minimum altitudes, I suspect, and hitting the trees. There would have been strong psychological pressure on the crew to land as President Kaczynski was due at the Katyn state remembrance ceremony for the 22,000 Polish officers murdered by Stalin in WW2. Of course, there will be an official accident investigation, whose results I do not presume to usurp by making a preliminary guess here. Nevertheless, it should be taken into account whether everyone was sitting on the left, as having any poles in the right half of the plane is a cause of instability, as Mr. Nyquist taught us years ago.
Comments (3) :-
John (UK) : "Inappropriate and very black humour :-( But geeky enough that most of your non-electronic-engineer readers won't understand it :-("
Nic (RSA) : "They were square Poles in round holes and git trimmed DOWN."
Di (USA) : "Bet their Prez ORDERED them to bust minima! Real final approach :-("
Indeed! The dead Prez had a record of ordering his pilots into dangerous situations :-(

Friday, April 9, 2010

Who are these people?

Who are these people !

  1. William Hartnell - 1963-66
  2. Patrick Troughton - 1966-69
  3. Jon Pertwee - 1970-74
  4. Tom Baker - 1974-81
  5. Peter Davison - 1982-84
  6. Colin Baker - 1984-86
  7. Sylvester McCoy - 1987-96
  8. Paul McGann - 1996
  9. Christopher Eccleston - 2005
  10. David Tennant - 2005-10
  11. and now . . . Matt Smith - 2010-

This reference article put together for my scottish friend (and a great fan of Dr.Who) Löst Jimmy, but who is taking a break from blogging right now :-(

And now , here is Jimmy's special message, as performed personally by Dr. Who ;-)

Comments (2) :
Morag (UK) : "Did ye see this Dalek Easter photo ?" Eggsterminate! Eggsterminate! ;-)
My friend of many years, Jenny (Ibiza), points us to the Tenth Doctor, the musical.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First Lobster Lunch of the year :-)

Maunday thursday - April first - we were in Holland, spending the holiday below sea level - in a sarcastic attempt to adapt to global warming - and what better place to be when the lobster season opens as it does on April first ;-)

So we duly rolled up at the Restaurant 't Kraaienest ( which is at Watersportweg 4, in 4471 NE Wolphaartsdijk, tel. 0113-586116) for a late lunch on April 1st and were the first lobster-eating customers of Rob & Esther van Gaalen, whose unsurmising marina harbourside upstairs Crows' Nest restaurant specialises in seafood, priceworthy, excellent and fresh.

From the cage suspended in the harbour I chose this 1 kg male specimen - others were bigger, but we were only 2 people. Did you know that lobsters' two large claws differ? One is made for crunching its food (mussels etc) and the other has a saw-like edge for cutting into said food.

Well Rob cooked it beautifully al dente for about 10 minutes (1 minute per 100 grams) and we polished it off in about ten minutes too (see photo below). All in all, a delicious start to the lobster season, and reasonably priced too (6 Euros per brutto 100 g, which is what you pay for an Irish Coffee for dessert too). The service is friendly an attentive, this is a very good place to eat, and our dogs were welcome there too :-)

We had a holiday house in Domburg on the North Sea coast, and if you are looking for a good seafood restaurant in Domburg, I can recommend In Den Walcherschen Dolphyn, an upmarket place owned by the Riemens family (but dogs only on the terrace please).

Monday, April 5, 2010

30 pieces of silver ;-)

Finance Ministers throughout the European Union - especially in Greece - are currently worried about the threat of inflation to the Euro and are looking for a solution wherein money retains its value in terms of purchasing power. So, this being Easter, I thought I'd look at what you can buy for thirty pieces of silver ;-)

About 1984 years ago [what an Orwellian number ;-) ] those pieces of silver - Argyria in Ancient Greek - would have been Tyros schekels, each weighing about 15 grams. Numismatists trade them for 200 to 500 Euros these days, depending on their condition (the coins' not the numismatists' ;-)

Back in those days, it was mostly a swap-based economy, so it is hard to pin down the value of a shekel then. Best guesses seem to be about 3 to 400 Euros, which means that pieces of silver have been pretty inflation resistant :-) So 30 pieces of silver would be 10 to 12,000 Euros, enough to buy you a down-market transport facility (= a small car) nowadays. Coincidentally, 1984 years ago 30 pieces of silver would have bought you a down-market transport facility too, viz. a donkey (an ass).

However, I don't know the going(?) price for a young ass these days, so I'd have to ask someone with hands-on experience, e.g. a Catholic priest. Whatever, I'd guess that around thirty inflation-free shekels seems still to be the price for Betrayal :-(

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Military Flight Training Manuals ;-)

  • 'It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.' - US.Air Force Manual -
  • The three most useless things in aviation are: Fuel in the bowser; Runway behind you; and Air above you. -Basic Flight Training Manual-
  • 'Yea, Though I Fly Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear No Evil. For I am at 50,000 Feet and Climbing.' - Sign over SR71 Wing Ops-
  • 'You've never been lost until you've been lost at Mach 3.' -Paul F. Crickmore (SR71 test pilot)-
  • 'The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.' -Unknown Author-
  • 'If the wings are traveling faster than the fuselage it has to be a helicopter -- and therefore, unsafe.' - Fixed Wing Pilot-
  • 'When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane, you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.' -Multi-Engine Training Manual-
  • 'Without ammunition, the Air Force is just an expensive flying club.' -Unknown Author-
  • 'If you hear me yell;"Eject, Eject, Eject!", the last two will be echos.' If you stop to ask "Why?", you'll be talking to yourself, because by then you'll be the pilot.' -Pre-flight Briefing from a Canadian F104 Pilot-
  • 'What is the similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots? If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies; but If ATC screws up, .... the pilot dies.' -Sign over Control Tower Door-
  • 'Airspeed, altitude and brains. Two are always needed to successfully complete the flight.' -Basic Flight Training Manual-
  • 'Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it.' - Emergency Checklist-
  • 'The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the world; it can just barely kill you.' - Attributed to Max Stanley (Northrop test pilot) -
  • 'There is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm in peacetime.' -Sign over Squadron Ops Desk at Davis-Montham AFB, AZ-
  • 'You know that your landing gear is up and locked when it takes full power to taxi to the terminal.' - Lead-in Fighter Training Manual -

Thanks to Michael Kamper for forwarding this list :-)

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Eunoia, who is a grumpy, overeducated, facetious, multilingual ex-pat Scot, blatently opinionated, old (1944-vintage), amateur cryptologist, computer consultant, atheist, flying instructor, bulldog-lover, Beetle-driver, textbook-writer, long-distance biker, blogger and webmaster living in the foothills south of the northern German plains. Not too shy to reveal his true name or even whereabouts, he blogs his opinions, and humour and rants irregularly. Stubbornly he clings to his beliefs, e.g. that Faith does not give answers, it only prevents you doing any questioning. You are as atheist as he is. When you understand why you don't believe in all the other gods, you will know why he does not believe in yours :-) Oh, and he also has a neat English Bulldog bitch 'Frieda'.

And her big son 'Kosmo'.

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Recent Writings
Drill, Baby, Drill :-(
Boobquake Redux ;-)
+ve side of volcanoes
The Railway Children
UK election woes ;-)
Local Volcanoes
What do YOU think?
500th GeoCache found :-)
Polish Tupolev crash
Who are these people?
1st Lobster Lunch
30 pieces of silver
Flight Training Manuals
End of the World is nigh
4, 15, 23, 24, 35, 42 :-)
I beg to differ!
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St. Patrick's Day ;-)
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Valleys of Neptune :-)
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Packing Density :-(
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Quality Problems :-(
Pompey fail :-(
Whither camouflage?
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Hot off the press :-)
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BBC contradiction
Mr. Frisbee, RIP :-(
4D's Venn Diagram ;-)
Reformation propaganda
Catholic Pedophiles :-(
Braking News :-(
Snow Crash
Apple blew it :-(
I am a GoogleWhack :-)
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