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Eunoia, who is a grumpy, overeducated, facetious, multilingual ex-pat Scot, blatantly opinionated, old (1944-vintage), amateur cryptologist, computer consultant, atheist, flying instructor, bulldog-lover, Beetle-driver, textbook-writer, long-distance biker, geocacher and blogger 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 goddamn 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 after the death of his old dog, Kosmo, he also has a new bulldog puppy, Clara, since September 2018 :-)

Some of my bikes

My Crypto Pages

My Maths Pages

LP of the week
LP of the week, 9/19, Dauner & Mangelsdorff.
Friday, August 16, 2019

A book for Bikers : Two wheels south.

Sometimes I see books in the Internet that I think I ought to read. Like this one. Title : I know I'm wasting my life but I'm not sure how to stop. The mere existence of such a book tells me I'm not the only one who thinks thus!

However, Amazon doesn't have it. Googling it merely shows a few copies of this cover by people who want to read it too. No author name visible, but it's a Penguin book. However, a search of their catalogue shows no such book. Sadly it's a fake cover :-(

Maybe I should write it and ask Penguin if they'd publish it. There's probably a good audience of people in a mid-life crisis, not just adventure-hungry bikers ;-)

Apropos which, I've just started reading Matias Corea's book for Bikers. He and a friend did a long-distance ride from Brooklyn (New York) to the southern tip of South America. I jumped in at the middle because I wanted to read how they coped with the Darien Gap. That's a piece of solid jungle south of Panama through which there are no roads. Turns out they hopped over it in a freight plane (faster than waiting for a boat).

So now I've gone back to the start of the book and am reading it sequentially; currently I'm reading the planning phase. My opinion: they overplanned, in my experience long-distance trips never go according to plan, something always crops up. Admittedly, my long trips have all been in Europe: North Cape, The Wild Atlantic Way, High Tatra, Ukraine, Alps, the Baltics, South of Italy, etc., not quite as adventurous as their trip and usually within reach of civilisation, if not always a gas station :-(

I'm looking forward to reading the rest as it is copiously illustrated with many photos giving me hunger to be On the Road again. Sadly at my age (75) , a lack of stamina prohibits any longer trips now, so I'm reduced to reading about other people's adventures. My trips are shorter these days; just a tankful or two.

Their route? USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina. 20,000 km to Ushuaia, mostly on dirt roads. Through the Guatemalan jungle, across high mountain passes in the Peruvian Andes, and across desolate Bolivian salt flats: vast exciting ever-changing landscapes indeed.

Middle-aged good guys having good fun. And for those of you who thought Bikers were always the bad boys, here's a book for your younger kids ;-)

Turns out this cover is a fake too. But I do have a copy of H.P.Lovecraft's Necronomicon and both illustrated volumes by H.R.Giger, all three very recommendable, if not actually Biker-related. For Biker-related stuff, I recommend the DVDs of "A long way round" :-)

Comments (2)
Petra (A) asked "Normally you tell us the book number?" Sorry, I forgot, mea culpa. The ISBN is 978-3-89955-976-7.
Ed (USA) asked "What bikes did they use, the big GS?" No, they used 30 year old BMW boxers, 2 valve aircooled, no electronic gadgetry, because these are easier to work on if miles from anywhere. A 1985 R80 GS Paris-Dakar and a 1983 R80 ST. That way most of the parts are interchangeable, so they could share spares and thus carry less. Personally, I would have swapped in the really big tank (12 US gallons) too. My friend Walter(60) is riding with 2 friends to Australia, September 2019 - April 2020. All three have bought the same bikes for the same reason. A light enduro, the 300cc BMW single in GS trim, weighing only about 160 kg. Sadly, he doesn't want to blog the trip :-(

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

I'm no botanist...

So maybe you gardener folk can identify these local flowers for me.

Seen and photographed in the gardens at Castle Waldeck last sunday.

Photo 1 : Maybe forget-me-nots?

Photo 2 : Perhaps an opium poppy?

Photo 3 : Some kind of cornflower?

Photo 4 : Perhaps Digitalis?

Comments (1)
Cop Car wrote " I'm not an expert on plants in the USA, let alone in Germany, but here's my two cents' worth: 1) I think you are correct on the forget-me-not ID; but, the larger leaves at the lower right-hand corner of the photo look like strawberry leaves. Are they? 2) An oriental poppy of some sort, but I wouldn't know which one. 3) The blossom looks like a cornflower, but the leaves in the photos do not. Are they to the same plant? I see that the perennial batchelor's button has leaves that are dissimilar to the annual. Who knew? 4) I agree with your digitalis (foxglove)." I didn't see any strawberries there.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A nostalgic cable car ride

Nostalgia shows us that sometimes the simplest of pleasures are still the best. This cable car dates from the middle of the last century.

Last week Frank and I were riding our motorcycles around Lake Eder to visit the castle on the promontory at Waldeck. But instead of riding up the hill and parking at the top, we parked at the bottom and took the old cable car up the hill.

The cabins only hold two people at most, they are quite narrow so not for fat people. You even have to duck to get in them. Each cab is taken off/put on the cable manually by the attendants, so there's no rush. Wobbly is not the word!

Here you can see how the two passengers sit facing one another. There are also bare-frame cabs for transporting bicycles. 500 feet vertically & 1.3 kms long.

From the top station, there is a 400 meter walk to the castle, slightly uphill, entrance is free. The photo shows the private part of the castle behind a wall; the public part hosts a hotel, a restaurant, a balcony with a great view and a couple of old cannons, a museum, and the inner courtyard. Lots of tourists!

The view of the eastern end of Lake Eder from Waldeck castle is breathtaking.

After a coffee in the courtyard of the restaurant we took the cable car back down to where we had parked. Round trip per tourist about 5 Euros, but I doubt that they make a great profit because they need two attendants at each end to derail/reconnect each cable car. Like I said, it's an old manual cable car.

Comments (1)
Cop Car wrote " Your tiny pods for transporting people on the tram reminded me of the pods in the trains that carry people through the 630-ft. Gateway Arch in St Louis MO, built in the 1960s. . . . I was told that the pods were intentionally designed as they were at least partly from a psychological point of view - worrying about the discomfort keeps people from worrying about being trapped on the way up to and down from the viewing area at the top of the arch. Did you visit the arch while you were in the States, Stu? A Google Snippet provides: "Eight small capsules, used in each of the two Arch trains. Each train capsule has a 5-foot diameter barrel that is open on the front and closed on the back. There are five seats in each barrel, so the weight of the passengers helps keep the capsule in an upright position." From a National Park Service webpage." No,CC; I never visited that arch. And now that our Foreign Office is warning us not to visit the US because of all the mass shootings, I am not likely to visit again.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Building the Bomb

This week sees the anniversary of the USA dropping nukes both on Hiroshima (Little Boy, August 6th 45) and Nagasaki (Fat Man, August 9th 1945), so I'll blog a little history about building the nukes.

Back in 1939, Albert Einstein and his former student Leo Szilard - who shared a 1926 patent for a refrigerator of all things - wrote a letter to the White House, pointing out that Germany might develop the atom bomb and so the USA should hurry to build one first. Thus the Manhatten Project was started whereby the USA would develop their own bomb(s) as quickly as possible.

Einstein was denied a security clearance, the lead roles were given to General Leslie Groves (left, in the photo) and physicist Robert Oppenheimer (right in the photo). On the right below is the Fat Boy implosion-style bomb used for the Trinity test and dropped onto Nagasaki on August 9th 1945.

The Manhatten Project employed many engineers, mostly forgotten :-(, and several leading nuclear physicists. The photo below - taken during a visit by Niels Bohr, shows Bohr, Oppenheimer, Feynmann (to get a Nobel prize in 1965) and Fermi (who built the first US reactor, at Chicago).

While the bomb-builders were moved to Los Alamos, the work of separating the sought-after U-235 uranium isotope from the depleted U-238 uranium isotope was given to Oak Ridge. The isotopes differ only in mass, not in their chemistry, and so were hard to separate. At Oak Ridge the separation was done by diffusing UF6 through layers of Teflon. This increased the concentration of the lighter isotope ever so slightly as it diffused ever so slightly faster than the heavier isotope, and so multiple steps were needed. The photo shows the original Teflon separator built by Oak Ridge.

Nowadays separation is done by a chain of multiple centrifuges, the 238 being pressed preferentially to the outside and the lighter 235 remaining in the centre. Again, multiple steps are needed.

The result of all this work was two bomb designs. The gun-type bomb shoots a sub-critical mass along a barrel into another sub-critical mass. It was deemed so reliable that it wasn't even tested before Little Boy was dropped onto Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. However, the second type, Fat Man, was an implosion-type design. Conventional explosives in a spherical shell were carefully timed to all go off at once. Each drove a small sub-critical mass towards the centre where the masses added to become critical, giving the fission explosion. So this "careful timing" needed to be tested.

This test was called Trinity (after the Christian god?). The US army had soldiers in ditches just 6 miles from Ground Zero, the scientists were positioned 20 miles away and issued with black sunglasses to protect their eyes and/or told to look away. But physicist Feynmann figured out that it could only be the UV-radiation burst that might blind him. So he positioned himself behing the glass windscreen of an army truck (glass stops UV) and watched without dark glasses. Thus Feymann may be the only person to have seen the Trinity test with his bare eyes! Photo taken at about 35 milliseconds after the red button was pressed (shock front about 600 yards across).

After the successful test, preparations were made to nuke Japan using B-29 bombers like the one shown below (this is FiFi, not Enola Gay or Bockscar).

The photo below shows the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima on August 6th.

Comments (2)
Cop Car wrote " In a roundabout way, you are correct about the naming of the Trinity test/site. Per, "Robert Oppenheimer chose to name this the "Trinity" test, a name inspired by the poems of John Donne. The site chosen was a remote corner on the Alamagordo Bombing Range known as the "Jornada del Muerto," or "Journey of Death," 210 miles south of Los Alamos." See John Donne's Divine Poems: A Litany at The White Sands Missile Range Museum made such an interesting visit for me (in Summer of 1970) that, came the weekend, I took Hunky Husband (who was on temporary duty at Holloman AFB near Alamagordo). My photos include representations of "Little Boy" and "Fat Man"; but, unlike other displays, there were no identifying placards for them. Nuclear weaponry/testing was a really hot topic in those days ; )" I hadn't known about the name "Jornada del Muerto", so thanks for the info.
Just Your Average Maple Syrup Bot (Canada) wrote " A lot of the heavy water used in the [Manhatten Project] reactors was developed in the P-9 program which centered around the Cominco refinery here in Trail BC (see here)." I hadn't known that either, so thanks for that info too.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Cold War border museum @Schifflersgrund

This year will see the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Iron Curtain was a mined, fenced, cold war border between East(GDR) and West(FRG) Germany before the reunification of Germany. At the time, I used to take all of my US and UK visitors to see (the west side of) it, as it ran just 90 km east of my house as the crow flies. Communist GDR claimed they built the Iron Curtain to stop us western capitalists from invading their country. In truth it was built to keep their own people IN, because so many were fleeing to the West.

Now it is mostly gone. But there is still a mile of the former border at the border-museum at Schifflersgrund. Turns out a friend of mine, who is too young to have seen it in use, had never seen the Iron Curtain, so last month I took her to see the museum at Schifflersgrund.

The Border Museum Schifflersgrund preserves a piece of the fortifications along the former border. On a hill above Bad Soden-Allendorf an original GDR watchtower is at the centre of the museum's exhibits, which include historical displays and an extensive collection of East and West German military equipment which was used to guard the border.

Approaching the Iron Curtain from the west back then you would have seen (many of the) warning signs so you wouldn't cross the border by accident. Some were in English for the benefit of US troops.

The museum's website contains a misleading photo, which you would purportedly see looking east through the steel fence at a GDR border warning post and the GDR observation tower. In fact, if you were standing where this photo was taken, you would already be on East German territory and likely to be shot by them on sight :-( This is because they built the Iron Curtain (two fences separated by a minefield) well within the actual border, which would typically be tens of yards to the west.

The photo below shows the border through the rift at Schifflersgrund. I've labelled it at places with red letters. The actual border is along the centre of the road on the west(left) of the photo, labelled A. I took this photo from an East German pillbox, looking north. The west side GDR steel fence with automatic guns shooting at anyone touching it is labelled B. East of this is the minefield, labelled C. At point D is a GDR pillbox on the service road to the east of the minefield. Label E shows where an escapee who had made it across the minefield and fence trying to escape from East Germany was shot half way up the slope to the actual border road.

The photo below shows the cross (put there after German reunification) on the hillside at E near the border where the escapee was shot and killed.

Going into the museum, which is on East German territory, some border poles are shown. The cylindrical white unmarked pole would have marked the actual border. The striped square pole bearing an official GDR badge would have been between 2 and 5 yards east of the border, misleading any potential escapee into thinking they'd already reached West German territory. And every 100 yards or so there would be a concrete East German machine-gun pillbox with an over 270° field of fire, as shown below.

At places which could be well seen from roads in the West, the communists often erected pacifistic propaganda signs along the border facing west.

The museum has a collection of military vehicles used by the border guards such as this jet-powered winged heavy-duty Russian MiG helicopter.

There were also several Soviet tanks on display. Here am I doing an imitation of how I remembered the Soviet march into Prague in 1968. I remembered that the Czeck protestor looked directly down the Russian gun-barrel, but had forgotten that he bared his chest rather than going for a crucifixion pose.

Finally, after looking at all the assorted weaponry, we went to see the reunification sculpture. This about 12 feet high and made of wood. It shows hands from both sides of the border breaking down a GDR border post. Very symbolic and, indeed, inspiring. Shivers ran down my spine.

This museum reminds us what a terrible thing walls are. Go see it, Donald!

Recent Writings
A book for bikers
I'm no botanist
Nostalgic cable car
Building the Bomb
Cold War border museum
Signed books
Record heat here :-(
Hold the front page!
First words from Moon
About Andre´ Wiersig
Day of the Dinosaurs
Stade, a Hanse town
Sickeningly embarrassing
Humble Pi
MiniWelt park
Klausenhof : a 1487 pub
Leaning more than Pisa
Richard's TR6 Oldtimer
Lockpicking 101
Home-drawn T-shirt
Labyrinthine cylinder
Happy Birthday
Chinese SciFi
The measure of all things
Eurolection results
Rain, rain, go away!

Ain Bulldog Blog
All hat no cattle
Balloon Juice
Cop Car
Earth-Bound Misfit
Fail Blog
Finding life hard?
Greg Laden
Mostly Cajun
Observing Hermann
Starts with a Bang
Yellowdog Grannie

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Blog Dewey Decimal Classification : 153
FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it?s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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