Sunday, August 30, 2009
Personal Pareidolic Photoareidolia : (n) The term pareidolia describes a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. The word comes from the Greek para- "beside", "with" or "alongside"- meaning, in this context, something faulty or wrong (as in paraphasia, disordered speech) and eidolon "image" (the diminutive of eidos "image", "form", "shape"). Pareidolia is a type of apophenia. Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. Here is my favourite personal example.
The photo above is 30 or 40 years old and shows my father-in-law's first bulldog 'Bully' sitting amidst the flowers in his garden. He ('Bully') would often race like a maniac through the garden - we would laugh and say that the Wicked Witch (large rectangle, in the photo on the right) had been whispering in his ear. Then he would suddenly stop; we would laugh and say that the Cherubic 'Cupid' (small rectangle, in the photo on the right) had rescued him :-)
The apophenic images are harder to see in close-up. Can you see the Wicked Witch in the close-up on the left? In the photo on the right I've tried to mark where I think I see her eyes, nose and three buck teeth. If you look left again, can you see her now?
As I said, the pareidolic images are harder to see in close-up. So here I've ringed the cherubic head of Cupid in the left close-up, and in the right close-up I show you where to look for his hair, eyes, nose and lips. If you look left again, can you see Cupid now?
Having once 'seen' the non-images, I can now no longer 'unsee' them ;-)
Friday, August 28, 2009
O say, can you see...ll the way back to the beginning of time?
Shame on me, I missed an important anniversary on tuesday :-(
The 400th anniversary of the day Galileo presented 'his' telescope to the world. The world? No, the Doge of Venice, Leonardo Donato at the time. But he had copied the design from the Dutchmen Hans Lippershey and Sacharias Jansen (spectacle-makers in Middelburg), and Jacob Metius of Alkmaar also known as Jacob Adriaanszoon), but he got the PR right :-). FWIW, the great Italian cryptographer Giambattista della Porta also described a possible telescope as early as 1586 when he wrote in a letter, "...to make glasses that can recognize a man several miles away." In his book Natural Magic published in 1589 he wrote "With a Concave lens you shall see small things afar off very clearly. With a Convex lens, things nearer to be greater, but more obscurely. If you know how to fit them both together, you shall see both things afar off, and things near hand, both greater and clearly.".
Early telescopes had a magnification of just 3, but with some fine-tuning Galileo pushed this up to about 30, albeit with lousy resolution. Nevertheless, enough to see (in 1610) four moons of Jupiter and soon afterwards the spots on the sun, the phases of Venus, and the hills and valleys on the Moon. Goodbye geocentricity!
Now, 400 years later we have such magnificent instruments as the space-borne Hubble and Spitzer telescopes. In 2005, astronomers Alexander Kashlinsky and John Mather of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center reported that one of Spitzer's earliest images may have captured the light of the first stars in the universe.
First light! Fiat Lux!
Not until 2008 did the Vatican propose to complete their (heliocentric) rehabilitation of Galileo by erecting a statue of him inside the Vatican walls, despite having had their own astronomical observatory for years. Tempus fugit :-(
BTW, the universe has a calculated age of 13.73 billion years from the Big Bang, despite anything those nutty Creationists like Bishop Ussher (who put Creation in the night preceding 23 October 4004 BC) may tell you. The Jews are starting year 5770 soon, just to point out their version of the Creationist theory.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Well, OK, make that a Clear Night ;-)
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sex on the Beachroove in the sand / sand in the groove may not be such a good idea, depending on where you go on vacation. Rumania tops the prude-list with a penalty of up to seven years jail for sex on the beach. Italy has a penalty of 300 Euros OR up to 2 years jail; Turkey has up to 2 years jail AND 200 Euros. Germany has a fine or up to 1 year in jail, whereas Sweden merely fines you 50 Euros. Lenient Norway will let you off with a friendly warning* :-)
Make your vacation bookings now you have been informed ;-)
In the meantime, here's a recipe for a Sex on the Beach cocktail(sic!) :-
There are a couple of urban legends attached to this cocktail : In the original German version of the drink, a small amount of german bubbly was poured over the peach schnapps and the drink was called "Sekt on the Peach"; a somewhat deaf and no doubt sexually frustrated american barman - who had no german bubbly anyway - changed the recipe and the name ;-) Another real wanker added pressed garlic instead of the peach schnapps getting "Sex für sich", misheard as Sekt/Pfirsich, which translates as "Sekt on the Peach" . . . and so on; the puns only get worse ;-)
Monday, August 24, 2009
Stu, surfing on a Segway :-)
unday morning I was out geocaching in and around a local small town (Büren), ~20 kms west.
One of the geocaches was in the estate of a neat large manor house, so I parked outside their driveway. Then two guys came along the cycle path on Segways. Cheekily, I asked if I could have a go on one. And they let me! Just a 5 minute introduction, but a Segway is very easy to ride. Stand still on it and it remains upright; a little shakily at first until I got used to its self-stabilisation. Then just lean forward and it rolls forward, mind you I didn't go any faster than walking pace, but they will go 20km/h or more, as the other guy demonstrated. Lean back and the Segway brakes. Turn the steering bar left when still and the Segway rotates about the steering column anticlockwise, turn it right for clockwise. And this is how you turn corners too. Learning curve? Just two minutes!
The only thing I still found difficult after 5 minutes was getting off (and back on) while standing on a slope. The Segway does not have a parking brake, so you have to time carefully how you hop on and off on a hill. Range on a full battery charge? 38kms.
Here in Germany they are insured like a moped; you use cycle paths, sidewalks, country lanes and can even use the road in built-up areas (which have a 50km/h speed limit). You may not use major roads outside built-up areas (which have a 100 km/h speed limit), I was told, for safety reasons. Just as well, methinks ;-)
Purchasing price? €8,000 I was told :-( But the two gentlemen are setting up a company called TK Moving Events (in D-33142 Büren) which will hire them out. So let me give them a plug for their enterprise :- Their website will be www.tk-movingevents.de from September 1st; their telephone number is (+49)179-9888-55, the two gentlemen are Joachim Thiel and Peter Kretschmer, to whom a BIG THANKS for letting me try their Segway; methinks I shall become an addicted customer soon :-)
PS: Attention Geocachers, this could be a useful range extender when geocaching :-)
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Firefox 3.5 winning the browser wars? ;-)Geekily, I misunderstood the headline when I read what Sky News reported ;-)
The headline surprised me, 'cos I always thought IE was (in) the pits ;-)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Florence Nightingale, mathematician!ere you to ask the average person "Who was Florence Nightingale and for what was she famous?", they would reply "A nurse...". If pushed hard, they might manage to append "...during the Crimean War (1853-1856)". I'd bet ten to one that noone would reply "The mathematician who co-invented Pie-charts".
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) - often referred to as "The Lady with the Lamp" - was indeed a nurse, in 1844 becoming a leading advocate for improved medical care in the infirmaries of the day. In October 1854, she and a staff of 38 women volunteer nurses went to the Crimea. Medicines were scarce, hygiene unheard of, and mass infections were common, many fatal. Ten times more soldiers died from illnesses such as typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery than from battle wounds. Within 6 months of her arrival, the mortality rate dropped from 42 percent (sic!) to a mere 2 percent She had emphasized hygiene, an adequate diet, sewer ventilation and patient activity.
She advised the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army (as a woman, she could not be appointed to the Royal Commission); but she wrote the commission's 1,000-plus page report, which contained statistical reports, including her 'coxcomb' diagrams.
She was talented at maths as a child, but (again, being a woman) was not allowed to study it. Later she exhibited a talent for statistics and came up with the polar area diagram (also known as the Nightingale rose diagram), a form of Pie-Chart :-
In 1859 Florence Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and she later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.
And so, every time you use a Pie-chart in your presentations, or generate one from your spreadsheet, I ask you quietly to toast Florence Nightingale, statistician :-)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Who keeps count?
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Lost / FoundThe Russian Navy has boarded the Arctic Sea, to 'clarify' the situation. Yeah, right!
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Monday, August 17, 2009
Non-Bog-Standard Interfaces piss me off! ;-)
by Guestblogger Wendy Templeton (OZ)endy, who used to be based in Hong Kong but is now in Western Australia, continues on the theme of hygiene with these tales of wierd toilets around the world, and how non-standard interfaces can really piss her off (sic!) ;-)
I like it here in this part of the world (WA = Western Australia), the people are friendly, the weather is great and the food is pretty damn good. But I'm a bit disappointed that I have yet to see anyone wearing a hat with corks hanging off it, let alone anyone wrestle a crocodile. And the water goes down the plug-hole in the same direction as anywhere else; my dad caught me staring down the toilet just as I'd flushed it the other day, and I think he thought I was stool-gazing or something.
Talking of loos, one particularly notable thing I've found about WA is their odd public lavatories. I went into one loo in a restaurant and it was very clean with sort of black polished marble walls and smelt of lilies or something, but I was damned if I could work out how to flush the thing. Under intense examination -- while my lunch got cold -- I found a tiny little button the size a 50 cent coin cleverly camouflaged in some seemingly arbitrary spot on the wall just above eye level, and slightly to the left. And it flushed very loudly.
And in another loo I couldn't work out how to get the tap to work. It was just this sort of black plastic spout a bit like the long neck and small head of the Loch Ness Monster leaning over the sink. I tried the obvious like waving my hands underneath it and pressing one knobbly bit at the base (turned out to just be the company logo) and even squeezing it, and then waving my hands under it again really, really slowly. Turns out you had to quite firmly press it on the back of the neck down and forwards for a few seconds.
Another time, I came across a similar device but no amount of pressing, squeezing, waving, pulling or swearing would do the trick. I even looked for a floor pedal. Eventually I realised it was out-of-order and the one in the next sink worked perfectly fine. There's a restaurant my parents like to go to for lunch occasionally and it's really nice. Imagine my surprise when the first time I went I discovered that the sink had just one really old fashioned spigot like an English bath tap and it sprouted out really cold water.
Most public loos in Hong Kong are, these days, also kept pretty clean and it's a rare moment when you see little footprints on the toilet seat anymore (but boy, did you used to). Unfortunately, the locals have an odd habit of flushing the loo before they use it, but not after, which is not only annoying but downright rude as far as I'm concerned. The taps are usually either the kind where you wave your hand under it to get the water flowing, or you just press a button on the top. These produce water for a set amount of time (usually either much longer or much shorter than necessary) and then automatically stop. It is quite good fun to watch English tourists panic and look slightly guilty and dither when they realise they can't figure out how to turn it off and may be Arrested for Bad Water Etiquette.
The best loo I've been into in Hong Kong I saw when I went to a media Christmas party in the Presidential Suite at one of the 5-Star hotels. This toilet was patently a Japanese creation and had buttons on the wall next to it. Using (quite amusing) little pictures and diagrams it informed you it could warm the seat, wash your bottom, dry your bottom (from different angles, either individually or all at once: up to you) and by the looks of it, but I'm not sure, possibly steam your bottom. There were many other unfathomable pictures which I was very curious about but was too nervous to try out; it might have started to iron my bottom for all I know. One looked like it might powder your bottom and another suggested that bilious farts were permitted. Also, I think it could sing to you, if desired.
And, finally, the worst toilet I've encountered I conversely never went in to. I don't know if they still have them, but 20 years ago in Paris they used to have public toilets which would just be one big cubicle seemingly placed randomly like a telephone box (but not transparent, of course). They looked like big, glamourous Portaloos, from what I can remember, but it meant that you could have a pee just outside, say, the Sacre Couer. But I was just about to go into one (in the middle of Montmartre) when someone kindly informed me that if you're in there for too long, the door will suddenly fling open. When I (quite sensibly, I think) asked, "How long is Too Long?", I was just greeted with a Gallic shrug and a delighted "Hoar, hoar hooar!" Very funny, I'm sure. I decided foolishly that in this case I could wait, but this meant that I spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost in Pere Lachaise desperately trying to find my way out and wondering if it REALLY would be that bad to have a quick wee in one of the crypts. (Don't worry, I didn't.) And after all that, I never did find Jim Morrison's grave.
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Friday, August 14, 2009
Filthy TV programs :-(urprisingly, this is not a rant about the filthy Porn on TV's Channel 69. As you may guess, I'm hardened to that ;-)
No, it is a diatribe about the lack of basic hygiene on some of those afternoon cooking programs. Don't
the so-called 'star' cooks - or the producers of these 'hot' shows - realise that they are role models?
OK, sometimes there are
When was the last time you saw a TV-cook actually wash their hands thoroughly (for 20-30 seconds) and then dry them well before going on to handle the foodstuffs?
When was the last time you saw a TV-cook actually wear a toque or any other haircover to keep his hair and/or dandruff from falling into the food he is preparing? If headwear is required in a professional kitchen, why not on such TV shows?
You should always wash your hands before handling raw meat; but TV-cooks don't :-(
Particulary with poultry, you should wash them again after handling raw poultry before touching other foodstuffs. We all know undercooked chicken can give you a dire-rear!
Recently, we saw the guest nonentity - who only had that date free in her schedule? - with a cold (or incipient swine flu???), sneezing into a tissue, then handling the food, then pulling out the crumpled tissue again for a repeat demo of what not to do :-(
Then there are the cooks who sample the food they are preparing, picking it up and putting it in their mouths with their fingers, then licking their fingers before continuing with the food preparation without washing their hands!
How are the plebs watching this disgusting stuff supposed to learn about hygiene? Obviously it is not being taught in school to the upcoming generation :-(
And while I'm ranting about a lack on hygiene, have you seen the state of the motorway rest-rooms during the holiday season?
Dis-gus-ting! It seems over half the users don't know what a toilet brush is for!
Nor do they wash their hands after using the facilities, but march straight out, pulling the doorknob with their germ-ridden hands, so
that even the minority who DID wash their hands re-infect them !!! :-(
And in the Internet Cafe you use on vacation, remember that the keyboard and mouse may have been used
by someone who took a crap first and then failed to wash their hands! Remember that,
if snacking on your bagel at that disgusting keyboard :-(
Directly after, inconsiderate people often greet a friend by shaking (unwashed) hands, even saying "Hi, Jean!", but not practising it. Clean up yer act, filthy TV food-shows!
Comments (5) :
I hope to never, ever, be exposed to this type of germ borne illness again. I've been sick for seven days now, yesterday being spent in emerg on IV to deliver fluids, morphine for the pain and anti-nausea meds. Not fun. WASH YOUR HANDS, PEOPLE!"
Wolfgang (Austria) points out that ". . . Washing your hands and using only one-time paper handkerchiefs would contribute a lot towards containg the swine flu too!"
Peter Neil McWhirr (Adelaide, OZ) added "Something that needs promoting is 'wash your hands before you eat' as part of self preservation. Keep on blogging it's always a good read. It's raining in Adelaide, we need it badly." FWIW, Peter, did you know that Bill Gates does not shake hands with people, for fear of catching a virus? What does that tell us about Windoze ??? ;-)
Patsy (London UK) laughs "OMG, you have some great one-liners, viz '...the filthy Porn on TV's Channel 69. As you may guess, I'm hardened to that...' ", ROFL.
Ruby fan and Internet Reviewer Al(b)ert points out a cultural problem : ". . . you remarked that people don't know what the toilet brush is for. I've just visited Wikipedia to educate myself about this. Interesting. BTW, Wikipedia says that in some cultures it's not appropriate to use that brush to clean up 'biological residues'. As for hygiene in cooking programmes: You hit the nail on the head!"
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Ballistics 101his is a great YouTube video. But because it is a Microsoft viral demo, it is of course faked ;-) Nevertheless, my compliments on a very good fake, lads !
You had people imagining the calibration flights, firstly into a lake, then, distances measured, into a swimming pool, and after final repeatability calibrations, on a windless day into this paddling pool. No Way! See the Megawoosh page.
Monday, August 10, 2009
A Boss Hoss CAN corner!y good friend Stefan owns a Boss Hoss. A motorcycle probably worth 10 times all mine together, it is a huge American bike powered by a big V8 car engine. Stefan's Boss Hoss has a 9.4 litre V8 engine producing over 600 bhp, guaranteed to fry the clutch if he opens the throttle too quickly (yes, I have seen the remains of such a clutch ;-). Boss Hosses are reknowned for their acceleration, there is a popular video on Youtube of a Boss Hoss dragging the pants off a Ferrari.
However, regular bikers tease that a Boss Hoss can ONLY go in a straight line and is unable to corner. So here is my video of Stefan putting his Boss Hoss through an uphill hairpin S-bend, just to prove that his Boss Hoss CAN corner. Well done! ;-)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Nukulah Terrah : Backpack Nukeshis being the day on which the US first nuked 140,000 civilians (Hiroshima, 1945) , I thought it would be appropriate to talk about nuclear terrorism.
The US is currently scared that Iran develop an atomic bomb after North Korea has already done so. They are also scared that Pakistan lose control over theirs, fearing 'Nukulah Terrah' as Dubya phrased it. So the US (and Israel) has proponents of a preemptive first strike to stop e.g. Iran. But a bunker-busting conventional HE (high explosive) attack blowing nuclear materials (uranium, plutonium) into the atmosphere is EXACTLY what a dirty-bomb does. However, for some reason, the USA consider a US/Israeli preemptive first strike would not be 'Nukulah Terrah' ! WTF?
At least the nukes are under command of politicians and not a trigger-happy military.
. . . . .But back in the cold war era the major powers developed suitcase / backpack nukes like the one shown in the photo here. The cold-war Mk-54 SADM warhead is shown here in a H-912 backpack which an individual foot soldier could carry around (the warhead weighed a mere 23 kg). It had a dial-in yield between 10 Tons and 1 kiloTon TNT. They were stationed e.g. in the Fulda Gap in Germany, ostensibly to prevent any advance by Russian tanks during WW3. The US even used a variant in the AIM-26 AAM (air-to-air missile, presumably inaccurate). Who cares about fallout if it's not over YOUR country? Not the USA! WTF?
These mini-nukes were afaik NOT under control of the politicians; they were 'tactical' devices, and could be set off by the local military. Shades of Dr. Strangelove, indeed !
Former Russian national security advisor Alexander Lebed has claimed that over 100 RA-115 suitcase nukes belonging to the KGB remain unaccounted for, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And we worry about one bomb in Iran or North Korea?
'Nukulah Terrah potential' is latent elsewhere, IMHO.
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Monday, August 3, 2009
Clark in Florida
Wow, that was a close escape! I was up to my ball in alligators!
I'd been annoyed at the inefficiencies in the office for quite a while. That beancounter Farook in Accounting seems to spend more time organising office-sweepstakes than doing the Excel spreadsheet I asked for. Making books instead of keeping them!
And that perenially constipated woman - Typhoid Mildred - can't even use a computer and claims she always works it out with a pencil! But I caught her stuffing pencils up her girdle to smuggle them out of the office; I'd never have noticed the thefts, but for the outlines of the stapler and the electric pencil sharpener in her usually empty bra that gave her away. So, after taking evidence photos of her well-filled bra, I fired her.
But she hired a lawyer and sued us to get her job back, so Daddy had to send me to Florida to get me out of the line of fire(sic!). Now that hot bitch Carlita has been given my office . Daddy has fancied her ever since he saw the CCTV - over and over again - of her groin-mauling incident.
Now here I am in Florida, tasked with finding Everglade water-front properties for a Florida subsidiary of
Hamish Industries once the recession is over, a mansion for Daddy and his expect
So I decided the best option would be to learn to fly a floatplane and survey the canals and backwaters myself (Daddy would pay for the lessons and floatplane charter).
Here's the report from my first solo flight, please pass it on to the insurance people via Freakin' Farook, before Daddy sees it, Alan.
Insurance Claim :
Dear Sirs or Madams,
Unfortunately, I had forgotten that it was a floatplane and that the 'land' side was on the right. So promptly I fell into the smelly water of the canal.
Unfortunately, the rope I had grabbed had a heavy metal anchor on the other end, which dragged me rapidly beneath the surface. With great presence of mind, I let go of the rope and swam around the plane to climb up onto the pier. The very pretty but unsympathetic young lady was laughing herself silly. However, I am not writing to you to claim for the lost anchor; oh no, the sad tale goes on! As I said, I had let go of the rope.
Unfortunately, that was my only rope, and she had none (float pilots always carrying their own ropes). Of course planes have to be attached to the pier in case a wind springs up (seaplanes have no brakes). But to avoid any danger from sparks (static electricity) during the refuelling of the plane, it must be 'earthed' by a grounding wire too. So I grabbed the grounding wire in its spring-rewound roll on the side of the pump, smiled at the (still attractive) blonde and sprang over onto the right float of my plane.
Unfortunately, I had not unrolled enough wire from the spring-rewound roll on the side of the pump. Half way across, the cable went tight, jerking me to a stop, and causing my vertical descent into the murky waters once again. "Do it again" the bitch squealed, "all good things come in threes". She threw me the cable as I climbed onto my float. However the contact-claw had been torn off the end of the cable during my last escapade (I am not claiming for the lost claw), so I had to make do with tying the bare end of the wire securely into the tie-down ring on the underside of the right wing. Then I stepped over to the pier.
Unfortunately, Isaac Newton's third law of motion now came into action. The floatplane moved away from the pier a little and my legs not being long enough to bestride the increased distance, I fell into the canal again. The silly girl ran shrieking with laughter into the restroom hut, otherwise she would have wet her pants laughing, she cried. So I refuelled the plane myself, leaving a signed credit card slip in her fuel-pump hut. Meanwhile one of those sudden Florida rainsqualls had begun, so I wanted to get the plane off the water quickly and fly to a calmer place. This time I jumped across to the plane without incident, hurried into the cockpit, lit a cigarette to calm myself and turned the starter key. The engine fired at once.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten that seaplanes have no brakes, so the Cessna lunged straight ahead. For about 2 feet. Then I remembered that I had forgotten to untie the wire I had used as a tie-down. The Cessna turned right, describing a semicircular decreasing spiral as the wire wound itself around the hut on the pier. 180 degrees later, the still-accelerating Cessna rammed the other side of the pier.
Unfortunately, the left wingtip decapitated the fuel-pump, causing a fountain of 100 octane low-lead aviation gas to spray out into the water of the canal. The situation was getting serious! So I needed to concentrate, and so threw my cigarette out of the window.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the gas fountain had landed in the water too. There was a huge explosion, the Cessna was blown backwards several yards and the hut on the pier began to burn too as the stupid ugly bitch ran for safety. Wow! I needed to get out of there quickly, and so restarted the Cessna's engine.
Unfortunately, what I hadn't seen was that as a result of the collision with the left side of the pier, the lower half of the propeller had been broken off (to my defense, you cannot see the lower half of the propeller from the cockpit). I am not claiming for the propeller!
Unfortunately, when I now gave full throttle to get away from the fire, the resulting propeller imbalance caused the propeller to disintegrate competely. The broken pieces speared both floats at the front, leaving gaping holes.
Unfortunately, the plane's forward motion thus drove water into the gaping holes in the floats and the Cessna tipped nose down into the water and sank titanically rapidly.
I respectfully request compensation for what was obviously an accident . . . - - - . . .
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