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Stu Savory
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 he also has a neat English Bulldog bitch 'Frieda'.

And her big son 'Kosmo'.

Geocaching Stats

Some of my bikes

My Crypto Pages

My Maths Pages

Monday, December 31, 2012

Schrödinger's Balls . . .

. . . only move when NOT being directly observed ;-)

Here's wishing all of my blogreaders a peaceful and prosperous New Year 2013, with lots of (untranslateable) sgriob1, mamihlapinatapai2 and gigil3 :-)

Comments (6) :
Jenny (Ibiza) puzzles "That's not a .gif , it's a .png ; so how do you make it move?" I don't. I just dupe your brain into thinking the balls move. The movement is an illusion, a figment of your unconcious imagination. Like the rest of this blog, it moves in mysterious ways ;-)
Jenny again : "And the second photo is to illustrate all three new words? ;-)" Indeed it is :-)
Doug Alder (CA) sent this cartoon :-)
Petra (D) - she's a physicist - suggest's "Those should be Heisenberg's balls!" Maybe; I was uncertain ;-)
Xtreme English (USA) wrote "Picture 1: Can this be a test of vision somehow? In real life my right eye is a little better/stronger than my left, and the balls on the right side seem to move first and better--when I'm not looking right at them, that is. As for picture 2, I must say you have a charming smile--for an interleckshul. " The shading around the balls tricks your mind into interpreting motion although there is none. The 4 circles rotate like gears around an invisible central cog rotating anti-clockwise EXCEPT where your eyes are focussed. If you can only see with one eye, there will be no or only minimal motion, so yes, it does test for binocular vision to some extent. FWIW, 'Intellectual smile' anagrams into 'Manliest cellulite' whereas 'interleckshul grin' gives 'Crueller Thinkings' . That tell you something about me? ;-)
Xtreme English replied "You do this "anagrams into" exercise often. "Manliest cellulite"?? This tells me you are very bright--and possibly that you fancy yourself a hunk." I always thought that cellulite was limited to adult females? BTW "Auntie thank him" anagrams into "I am the anti-hunk" ;-)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Narrow Streets ;-)

On thursday Maria (I) commented about the road to Hell being wide and easy [insert Yo Momma... joke here] but the road to Heaven being very narrow (Matthew 7:13-14), which got me thinking about various narrow streets I have taken in my life. So here are some anecdotes.

Back in the Roman Empire, the distance between the wheels of war chariots was standardised (so that two horses side-by-side could pull it). This very gauge became Stephenson's 4 ft 8½ in (1,435 mm) standard railway gauge 1850 years later and rolling stock was set to be at most 10ft 4 inches wide. So (Roman) roads were built for tracks of this width for hundreds of years. Single track roads in Britain were often called lanes and were wide enough for a man on horseback, but barely suitable for vehicular traffic. In the Middle Ages in the UK streets were named after their usage and some were only wide enough for two people walking abreast(sic!) or nowadays one car. Even narrower tracks were labelled footpaths and were not suitable for vehicular traffic.

So ostensibly streets are wide enough for vehicular traffic. Let me show you some exceptions I have encountered.

In our neighbouring village of Atteln there is a street called Hukstweete which the satnav on my motorcycle claims is a through road ( Open Street Map shows it correctly however). At the southern end it is wide enough for a lorry to enter, similar to this UK photo here.

However, Hukstweete then narrows to the width of a small car before reaching the constriction (photo below, left). No warning signs, needless to say. Any car would have to back out carefully from here. The 'street' then continues with a width sufficient for a bicycle, motorcycle, or two people walking abreast (Tweete means two-abreast), as you can see in the left photo. Riding your sat-nav equipped motorcycle you continue over the brow only to find that the last five yards of the 'street' - which used to be a steep single-track - are now a staircase with a railing down the middle (see photo right). Only a brave motorcyclist rides his machine down the steps of the 'through road' ; Harleys, Goldwings etc park at the top while their riders call up strong friends to help them push their bikes backwards up the hill to the constriction where they can (just) turn around.

On another occasion we were visiting the town of Höhr to tour the Westerwald ceramics museum there and walked down this 'street' which is barely a yard wide (see photo below). Yes, vehicular access is permitted - which is why it is still classified as a street - but people were still astounded when we rode our motorcycle (carefully) down the middle of the street ;-)

But there are even narrower 'streets'! The narrowest street in the WORLD is in Reutlingen (about 20 miles south of Stuttgart) and at its narrowest point is only ONE foot wide! But legally it is a street and so vehicular access would be allowed. It'd have to be a unicycle though, ridden by a narrow shouldered child. Most pedestrians sidle down it sideways. At the top, the roof-drains almost touch, they are just millimeters apart and rather low.

Comments (8) :
Morag (Skye) has "...fond memories of riding up Bealach na Ba :-)" with me.
Schorsch (D) says "But the road through the Green Hell is wider and faster :-)"  And what makes it Hell? All those slow Porsches, BMWs and Ferraris! ;-)
Cop Car opined "Our squirrels might fit through that 'street'. Only women who have had a bilateral mastectomy should attempt to sidle through. Someone has screwed up big time by labeling that space as a Strasse. Surely more logical minds should prevail!" There is a similar but slightly wider street in Wismar, a town on the Baltic coast, called (I translate) 'Tit-squeezer Alley' ;-)
Bertram (D) suggests "...maybe its a filter to keep the Yo-Momma tourists out ;-)" Wide of the mark!
Jenny (Ibiza) sent this link "Talk about NARROW !!!" I like the door labels ;-)
Morinox (D) - a fellow geocacher - replied "Danke für die detaillierten Bilder der Hukstweete in Deinem aktuellen Blogartikel. Damit konnte ich die Treppe ein bisschen verfeinern: . Diese scheinbar übertriebenen Details kann man zum Beispiel in Routinganwendungen für Blinde auswerten und somit vor Ort gute Hinweise bieten :-)" He has updated the Open Maps entry via my photos to provide details of the steps e.g. for the blind :-)
Cop Car wrote "I was surprised that there was no audio on the map - at least, not that I found. Perhaps, had I signed up, audio would have been forthcoming. Although I've had a few non-hearing friends and a few low vision friends (and Hunky Husband's aunt transcribed into Braille), I've not had a close association with a non-sighted person. This was my first exposure to mapping for the blind. Interesting! Thank Morinox." I'll pass that on. Morinox has now sent me a mail detailing how to do the map as several segments and then how to embed an Open Map excerpt into my own dynamic HTML. But I'll need to practice that before I include it in my blogging capabilities.
Doug Alder (CA) relates this article to the previous one (Ho,Ho,Ho) and asserts "One must ask about the state of Hos in Höhr :)" Who're you asking?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ho, Ho, Ho! :-(

Every year, this week, a fat red-coated pimp in an open-top cabriolet rides around advertising his wares (Ho, Ho, Ho!). Presumably, the men of the house not being at work this week, they need to get out of the house, so prostitution booms. Regardless of where you guys stand(sic!) on the issue - depending on where your blood supply is momentarily located - you should know that (here at least) only about 10% of the ladies of ill repute are volunteers, the rest (Eastern European origin and Thai) are being exploited.

I've done a little research so that you can compare with the situation in your own countries; I expect that in the USA results will vary from state to state, but(one-T) crack-whores are everywhere, regardless of legality.

The following european countries forbid prostitution : Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria (but the cops there turn a blind eye), Ireland, Portugal (but the cops there turn a blind eye too) and Russia (whores are just fined), Norway and Sweden (whores go unpunished, but their clients are fined/jailed). Residents of the Vatican must go abroad (across the road to Italy, afaik ;-)

The following european countries allow prostitution (whores must be registered and have regular health inspections (STDs/AIDS) : Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Germany (since 2002), Netherlands, Switzerland.

The following european countries have various restrictions : England (max. 3 whores per whore-house), France and Italy (whorehouses allowed, streetwalking prohibited), Luxemburg is the other way around (whorehouses prohibited, streetwalking allowed). Turkey goes the whole hog and has only whorehouses with state concessions :-)

Here in Germany there are about 400,000 prostitutes averaging 3 customers daily; only 10% of the whores being volunteers. Annual turnover is about 14.5 thousand million Euros, which makes it an attractive income source for gangs and criminals. It is at this point that things turn ugly (for the girls) :-(

Young women from the Ukraine, White Russia, Czeck Republic etc etc, seduced by the idea of making big money with no skills (harrumph), are made drug addictive, gang-raped, their passports confiscated, locked into the whorehouse and forced into sex-slavery :-(

Ho, Ho, Ho indeed :-( No amount of macho sex can make this morally justifiable! Guys, open your eyes and zip up your flies!

Comments (4) :
Maria (sic!), writing from Italy, chides me "That's hardly an appropriate subject for Christmas; go read Matthew 7:13-14!" Something about the road to Hell being broad and the road to Heaven narrow, if I remember correctly. I'll look it up later, procrastination being my regular stop on the Highway to Hell.
Pergelator (USA) wrote "I'm glad you wrote about it. Somebody needs to. What will it take to put an end to it? Or is it something we are going to be cursed with eternally?" FWIW 'Hi, defile Sis?' is an anagram of 'Heidi Fleiss', surely that tells us something?
Paul (D) tell this cathouse joke : "Redneck - saving money - goes into the drugstore across the street from the cathouse and orders 3 condoms. Druggist - trying for a sense of decency - asks "You want a paper bag with that?" Redneck replies 'Hell no! They ain't THAT ugly!' " Off topic, or just off?
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "Do Thai whores come from 'Bang Cock' ? ;-) Groan!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Newton-Mass ;-)

My good blogfriend Cop Car sent an e-card with the phrase "have a good whatever-it-is-that-you-celebrate-at-this-time-of-year", because she knows I'm an Atheist. So I don't celebrate Christmas, but instead celebrate X-mas for some value of X. So all you have to do is solve for X. May the force be with you!

And since the force is with you, and you know that the unit used to measure force is the Newton, you may deduce that X= 1 Newton.

By happy coincidence, Sir Isaac Newton was born on the 25th december 1642, albeit using a Julian calender. So I'm cheating by 11 days :-(

Sir Isaac Newton gave us the formula that force = mass * acceleration, whence the expression Newton-Mass, delivered with considerable gravity ;-)

But nowadays we attribute mass being given to other particles by the recently discovered Higgs boson, whence the following joke (for CopCar) :-

A Higgs Boson went into The One True Church® to celebrate Xmas, but the priests threw him out, for celebrating X-mas rather than the Christ-mas. So the Higgs Boson remonstrated "You have to let me in, otherwise you can't have Mass" ;-)

For those of you who have never seen the TBBT (The Big Bang Theory geeky TV comedy) version of Newton-Mass, here is the video :-

Christ-mas, by contrast, is the day when the gay-hating 'family values' religious right celebrate the blessed but fictitious time of year when a baby was born to two dads via a surrogate mother ;-)

Comments (5) :
Xtreme English (USA) wrote "Merry X to you!! I spent X mass eve at a Buddhist temple here at a candle light peace service. I liked it, and now I am wondering what to do with all the non-celestial thoughts I manage to generate when I'm not lighting candles and chanting. Did you hear about the Pope's X mass sermon? In which he claims that gay marriage "destroyed the essence of the human creature." Hanh? Wot is the man talking about? Happy hols to you and your dear wife and doggies!!" I think that the celibacy cult of The One True Church® makes them afraid of being thought of as gay (Leviticus 18:22 KJV abhors gays). BTW, in German we have a special word "Kegel" for the bastard children of priests, so they must have been frequent enough for it to be worth extending our vocabulary with a special word :evil grin: ;-)
Xtreme English (USA) replied "Kegels, huh? That's medium funny....considering that most women know to do their kegels lest they wind up incontinent (that's a good RC word, eh?)...." Well, I just learnt something new from that, viz. the meaning of 'Kegels' in English :-)
Cop Car (USA) replied gracefully : " What? A joke that requires no thought? To what is your world coming?!!!!! Thank you, Stu, for taking it easy on this old woman. P.S. I do appreciate, too, your take on the kid with the two dads!" OK, here's a thinkworthy maths joke for you : "What's the contour integral of Germany? Zero, because all the poles are in the east." ;-)
Cop Car responded "Gr-oo-a-a-a-n ;-)
Xtreme English (USA) asked "Good gravy! Tell me why it is I understand the punchlines but can't make head OR tails out of the jokes?" Well, CopCar initially complained that I was making the jokes too easy. So I made up the maths joke just for her because I know she has the necessary background. You would need a degree in Engineering, Physics or Maths to understand the question part of the joke. Here's another : Schrödinger makes heads AND tails out of his jokes ;-)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Life goes on : Phuket, Phuket, Phuket ;-)

Thursday : Air Berlin 7425 - a twin-engined Airbus - flying from Thailand to Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) had an engine fire over the Bay of Bengal and had to turn back for a safety landing. I can just imagine the radio transmissions :

Pilot : "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Air Berlin 7425, 257 persons on board, we have just lost one engine due to a fire."

Thailand Departure Radar : "Roger, Air Berlin 7425, state your intentions!"

Pilot : "Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it!"

Thailand Departure Radar : "Copied that, Air Berlin 7425, understood you are returning to Phuket." ;-)

Needless to say a twin-engined Airbus can fly perfectly well on one engine, even with the undercarriage down, this is part of the certification requirement. So turning back to Phuket was a correct option and a non-event. Not at all the 'emergency' that BILD-newspaper blew it up to be. No worries, the aircraft and its crew behaved as expected during this non-event :-)

Comments (1) :
Tasanee (Thailand) wrote "Just FYI, it's pronounced Poo-ket. So your attempt at a pun failed :-(" My bad then; I am wiser now.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The end of the world is nye ;-)

The end of the world is nye? The end of the world is a flock of pheasants? Nye being the collective noun for a flock of pheasants. Not many people know that, and - curiously - most of them are named Aneurin. Well when the flocking birds arrive, I promise to remove all the feathers so we can eat the birds for Xmas dinner. I always was a pheasant plucker ;-)

Oh, it's spelled 'Nigh', you say? Well I WAS going to write about the world ending on friday, but then I realised it was pointless, because then there would be nobody around to read the blog. Except the Buddhists who claim that they come around more often than the Jehovah's Witlessness.

And if the world doesn't end today, then this blogpost will be pretty pointless. Like most of them here :-(

What might have been the cause of this Mayan conspiracy theory? Time travel invented and thus we loop back? The Singularity, as Ray Kurzweil would put it, when machine intelligence arises & immediately takes over? Perhaps The Nine Billion Names of God will finally(sic!) be enumerated? Or CERN tests a String Theory and damages the brane? That's it! : the Mayan conspiracy theory is caused by brane damage. Dimensional count reduced to zero, just to make a point! It's a no-braner ;-)

Comments (1) :
Peter (GB) punned "I was feeling a little horse from shouting 'The end is neigh!' ;-)" Groan!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The average taxpayer's tax bill breakdown

T axation is a method for the redistribution of wealth ostensibly optimising the common good. Or as Karl Marx put it "From each according to his ability (to pay), to each according to his need". In the USA the GOP want to minimise taxation. Indeed, the 1% super-rich want to avoid paying taxes at all. The poor sometimes misuse the 'entitlement'/'benefit' economy, casting oil on the fires of economic envy. It would be interesting to compare taxation systems in different countries to see what is their government's perception of 'the common good'. So I will kick off by describing the average German taxpaxer's bill and hope that blogreaders in other countries pick up the meme and blog about their country's average taxation, or mail me their comments.

First off, what average is meant? Mean, median or mode? This is the mean, i.e. total tax divided by the number of people in the country.

  1. VAT = Value-added tax : 2384 Euros. Mostly 19%, but 7% off essentials like some foods (and books :-) ).
  2. Income tax : €2280 ; pensions are taxed too :-(
  3. Solidarity tax €166 ; a special tax still supporting East German states even 22 years after reunification. IMHO it should be scrapped.
  4. Tobacco tax €166 ; does not even begin to cover the extra health costs.
  5. Insurance policy tax €132 ; used to be called stamp duty.
  6. Vehicle tax aka road tax €105 ; used to fix any holes in the budget, not the holes in the road, as it should be :-(
  7. Tax on interest paid by banks etc. €99.
  8. Electricity tax €86 ; soon to be increased to help pay for 'green' energy.
  9. Inheritance tax €53 ; out of their cold dead hands.
  10. Tax on Spirits €25 ; a 'moral' attempt to discourage hard drinking.
  11. Betting tax €18 ; a 'moral' attempt to discourage betting.
  12. Coffee tax €12 , WTF? because they can :-(
  13. Airline ticket tax €12 ; ostensibly to cut down on carbon-dioxide emissions???
  14. Beer tax €9, a 'moral' attempt to discourage drinking.
  15. Bubbly tax (champagne and sekt) €6
  16. Pleasure tax (e.g. cinema tickets etc) €6
  17. Dog tax €3; ostensibly to cover the cost of clearing up dogshit, which responsible owners do anyway and local councils don't any more :-(
  18. Alcopop tax €2 ; ostensibly to discourage disco drinking, ha, ha.
Numerous other taxes, 'moral' and/or iniquitous, not listed because the average person doesn't pay them (e.g. weapons tax). On other taxes (e.g. paid at the petrol pumps), I don't have the numbers).

So what's the taxation breakdown in YOUR country? Do mail me or send me a link to your blog article on taxation. Let's get a discussion going.

Comments (7) :
Marie (F) notes "Have you seen that Gérard Depardieu, our most famous actor, is emigrating to Belgium because his taxes are so high in France." Yes, I'd heard that. Rumour here is of 75% tax on large incomes and with capital tax he'd be over 100% this year. Don't know how much of that is propaganda and what portion true.
Xtreme English (USA) wrote "I've been looking at the comparative tax burdens just within the US, and how much you pay really does depend on just which state you live in. For example, in much of the country, there is a sales tax of about 6%, (in Texas it's 4%, but in NY, it's around 12%) and in some states, not all, food and prescription drugs are not taxed. Just about every state taxes cigarettes at about $1 or $2 a pack, even Kentucky, which is a big tobacco growing state (60 cents a pack). In NY, however, you pay $4.35 for every single pack of cigarettes, and NYC adds another $1.50 to that. So plan on paying almost $6 a pack just in taxes for smokes in NYC. The other major taxable commodities are gasoline and diesel fuel, and again, it depends on where you live. In AZ, you pay about 19c tax per gallon for gasoline, but in IL, it's almost 40c per gallon. And these are just the SALES taxes. It's not federal income or state income & property tax. More anon..."
Pergelator (USA) wrote "One of my favorite stories about cigarettes was that because of their decreased life expectancy, smokers' cost to society was actually lower than that of non-smokers. That may have been before they discovered new, improved, gloriously expensive cancer treatments." Sounds like a good wheeze ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "Is (16) Pleasure tax charged on condoms? In brothels?" Ho,ho,ho! I do know it is NOT charged on marriage licences, but then neither is Value-Added-Tax ;-)
Schorsch (D) sent me this link, List of countries by tax revenue as percentage of GDP.
Dave (IOM) said "Kate's Cottage and others here on the IOM have such small windows because there used to be a tax on window area." And until 1835 Britain had a tax on soap, which explains a lot ;-)
Demeur (USA) wrote "You didn't say what the median income of the country was so how can we compare? The bulk of our taxes over here in the U.S. are hidden. So unless you research it there is no actual way of knowing. That said the last time I calculated it some years back I was paying about 25% of my gross income to taxes and that was after deductions. Now I pay no income tax because I'm not working even though they tax unemployment too :-( I forget what our median income is at the moment but I'd bet the figure is distorted by the fact that so few at the top make massively more then the middle or the bottom. I don't know if it's true but it's said that 400 families own the bulk of the wealth in this country. Talk about inequity. So in this country it's better to be dirt poor or very rich. Anything in between is a burden. But don't get me wrong. I have no objections to taxation as long as it goes for a good cause and we get our money's worth. "Wikipedia has a list of Median household incomes by country here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook Massacre in Perspective

Really, Sky News, is that the most sensitive headline you could come up with? Live coverage? Some people might consider that inappropriate. Just as some will consider this blogpost inappropriate. But I'm going to try to put the Sandy Hook massacre into a numerical perspective.

The USA has a gun culture. I know I shouldn't put gun and culture into the same sentence, that's almost as bad as putting USA and culture in the same sentence :-(

Just this week a gunman killed two people in an Oregon mall on Tuesday. On saturday in a Birmingham (Alabama) hospital shooting two people were injured and the gunman shot dead. On the same day in Alabama police shot and killed two other gunmen one of whom had killed three others in a mobile home park. In Las Vegas an employee shot and killed himself, also on saturday. Now 27 in the Sandy Hook massacre :-(

There are about 270 million civilian guns in the USA, that's about 0.9 per capita. Taking some numbers from Wikipedia:- ⅔ of all homicides in the United States are perpetrated using a firearm. Furthermore, there were 52,000 deliberate and 23,000 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the US in 2000. The majority of gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides, with 55% of the total 31,224 firearm-related deaths in 2007, while 12,632 (40%) were homicide deaths. That's 35 homicides daily and 85 suicides, 120 total. For comparison : Under 33,000 people were killed in US traffic accidents in 2010; the same order of magnitude.

So the Sandy Hook massacre - terrible as it is because many victims were small children - was only ¼ of the daily average. Only one damn quarter! And these numbers seem to be acceptable to Americans. The USA has a pro-gun culture. You reap what you sow, guys. Apropos which, my friend Klaus in Alaska forwarded this text to me, from an American author unknown to me (I would like to credit him or her though) :- "Conneticut, my take. This should piss off most. No responsibility on us or on our nation for us being like we are, war mongrels. You Reap what you Sow America! America is the most violent society in the history of mankind, bar none. America attacks other nations, robbing those nations resources, using force to attempt to form those nations to our likeness, killing innocents, calling such "collateral damage". America survives on "making and creating" wars. America locks up more of their own than any other "modern civilization", breeding violence. America's TV shows, video games, are all basically based on killing. The youth of today are desensitized to killing and life. You reap what you sow America."

Comments (3) :
Xtreme English (USA) wrote " missed a chance to post about what scotland did after their school shooting. or was it before? scotland has excellent gun laws. Guns are freakin' nightmare over here, but we don't need you yurrupeans holding your noses in the air, for pete's sake. you guys have had your share of wars, too. if it were up to me, there'd be NO assault guns, esp handguns. can you freakin' imagine what goes through their tiny minds when they manufacture and market these things? Also, the red states are especially heinous re guns. and you have no idea how those people think about just about everything. i blame TV & radio. TV is now just about unrecognizable to me when I see it. i mean, there are popular programs about vampires! c'mon. this has to be related somehow. feliz lunes-y....m.e. " Not to mention Ego-Shooter training games, Mary. But I'm resisting trying to preach. Back in 2009 I asked How many guns are enough?" and got mixed replies.
Schorsch (D) asks "If the (gun)nuts also believe that the end of the world is coming on 21/12/2012 what's to stop them from going out and killing everyone they hate? They're going to die anyway!" Unlike Sheldon, I DO recognise sarcasm, Schorsch. The only thing stopping them is that they also believe in a Judgement Day, so they'll still get punished for their deeds. They probably also advocate 100% home schooling as a way of stopping school massacres (sarcasm alert).
Pergelator (USA) wrote "I am trying to stay out the argument as I am pretty sure no one is going to change their mind. But a relative sent me a request to sign a petition to ban assault rifles, so I responded with this: For a slightly different perspective, here's an article from Gun Restrictions Have Always Bred Defiance, Black Markets . And for my own blackhearted view."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Moonraker 2012??

M oonraker was a 1979 James Bond movie in which a (UK) spacecraft is captured in the jaws (sic!) of a stealthy space shuttle. Bond then does his thing as usual... (irrelevant here).

Fast forward to this week in space for a bit of deja vu ;-)

Planning ahead, the USA launched (on tuesday morning) their top secret stealthy X-37B military spaceplane, mission undeclared.

On wednesday morning, North Korea launched a satellite into low Earth orbit.

Come thursday, the USA is claiming that the North Korean satellite is "out of control", which North Korea naturally denies. Yeah, right, Langley!

So let me start a conspiracy theory : I expect the USA's X-37B to "pull a Moonraker", intercepting the North Korean satellite, capturing it and bringing it back to the USA for the CIA to analyse. This may be done stealthily or we may hear some CIA disinformation propaganda (probably claiming it to be a nuke warhead, so the USA can start another war?? can claim it did a humane thing by taking the satellite out??).

Just because conspiracy theorists are paranoid doesn't mean the black-ops guys aren't out to get them ;-) Nothing would surprise me any more. Remember, you read it here first ;-)

Comments (2) :
Demeur wrote "It was only our U.S. military returning the alien from area 51 to his home planet. Thought everybody knew that." ET&T phoned home?
Jenny (Ibiza) asked "So WHEN will the US start another war? 21/12/2012?" That'd be a different conspiracy theory ;-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kate Hospital Prank : inadequate security?

A pair of australian radio reporters posed as the Queen and the Prince of Wales when they rang the hospital where Kate was being treated for acute morning sickness. Nurse Jacintha Saldanha took the initial call and, believing the call to be genuine, put them through to another colleague who was duped into describing Kate's condition in detail. Said nurse whom they duped was later found dead in a suspected suicide :-(

Elementary security for ANY 'celebrity' demands that a password handshake be set up between authorised callers and hospital staff. The pair of australian radio reporters, indeed any press, would not have been able to provide the password and would thus have not been put through.

So my question is : was no such security set up? or did both of the nurses forget to ask for the password ?

Of couse, Liz does not confirm ever her I-dentity, but her We-dentity ;-)

Just my shibboleth.

Comments (3) :
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "So what would the passphrase have been? 'My husband and I' is hardly suitable here ;-)" Dunno, lass. But how about 'Who wrote "Eternal Power! who rul'st with sovereign will"'? That's the first line of a turgid poem by the 18th century UK poet Elizabeth Scot called 'The Shipwreck'. The preference for firstborn sons on the throne has led to the Brit kings all coming from a long line of Rex ;-) Sorry about the royally bad pun, just couldn't resist ;-)
Schorsch (D) grinned and wrote "@Jenny, surely that should be 'Our husband and us' ? " And if Liz buys Phil a Nintendo to play together at Xmas, was she going for a We Wii?
Demeur wrote "As to the comments, Oh boo. Sadly hospitals have hired those with less understanding of language and culture. So much cheaper that way." Really? What about 'Fid.Def.Ind.Imp'? Shared culture. But the hospital management and even Buck House should have realised the necessity for adding telephone security, after all they had 4 cops on the front door.

Monday, December 10, 2012

(Un)natural Reader

R ecently I did a little experiment in personal multitasking. Yes, ladies, we mere men can do that too - with the known possible exception of simultaneously having sex and thinking rationally, which share a limited common blood supply ;-)

In this case I wanted to save the screenspace used by a mail-reader window by using a text-to-speech program to read my incoming emails aloud to me, leaving me to concentrate on the screen. Searching for some suitable freeware, I was given Natural Reader 11, which I downloaded and installed. Before considering serious use, I decided to try it out.

Natural Reader 11 is available in a free version upgradeable with (unfree) decent voices with proper, intelligible accents. However the free version only has Microsoft Anna, a female voice only speaking US-english. It has the main feature I have come to expect from Microsoft - i.e. it doesn't work properly. The text is (mis)pronounced on a word by word basis with no tonal continuity between words which may often be half an octave apart. Also it sometimes dropped whole syllables. I found this grated on me.

Listening to the SW speak questions - texts with a question mark at the end - did not produce the expected tonal rise at the end of the sentence. Listening to the SW speak statements - texts with an exclamation mark or period at the end - did not produce the expected tonal drop at the end of the sentence :-(

Checking for American versus British English, I was however pleased to hear that 'nuclear' was pronounced correctly and not as 'nukulah', which is what Dubya used to say :-(

English sometimes uses the same spelling for different usages of words, the pronunciation being dependent of the context. Example "We are content with our present government" - 'content' as an adverb and 'present' as an adjective. Alternatively "The content of this box would make a good Xmas present" - 'content' and 'present' both as nouns. Natural Reader 11 does NO grammatical analysis and so cannot see any difference and so has only one pronunciation for each word :-(

My next check was to see if the software could pronounce seven different versions of the syllable 'O-U-G-H' correctly : bough, cough, dough, enough, through, thorough, ought. Surprisingly, it did so, which tells me the SW operates on a word-by-word basis rather than on syllables.

Having established that a dictionary approach was being used, I gave it some words which are spelled differently from their pronunciation : 'cholmondeley' (pronounced 'chumley'), 'featherstonehaugh' (pronounced 'fanshaw'), and just for laughs 'ghoti' (pronounced 'fish' - GH as in 'enough', O as in 'women' and TI as in 'station') ;-). Natural Reader 11 got them all wrong, which tells me it does not have a dictionary of exceptions :-(

All in all, Natural Reader 11 performed just badly enough to be irritating whilst being over 90%+ right. As a result, I've decided it is sufficiently distracting to destroy my concentration on the on-screen visual task :-(

Experiment failed; this particular freeware not recommended for this purpose.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


JaMes Banned

Comments (2) :
Demeur wrote "Re. The new Bond. Sorry he just doesn't cut it for me. Craig almost always played a villain before this." Nor did he cut it for us.
Jenny (Ibiza) chides me " M ? Spoiler alert!!! :-(" You noticed :-)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Screenshot BILD-Online 5/12/2012 21:16

This "unfortunate juxtaposition" appeared in BILD-Online 5/12/2012, I made the screenshot at 21:16 CET. No photoshop, not doctored in any way, just cropped and resized to fit here. I'm surprised that Buck-House didn't chide BILD immediately. Or haven't they noticed yet? C'mon, BILD reporters, are you telling us this was an accident? Pull the other one...

Update : 6/12/12 16:50
I see BILD-Online has quietly withdrawn the "unfortunate juxtaposition" ;-)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Anomalous searching puzzles me

This website has a local search facility amongst the navigation tools near the top of the left sidebar, viz. Search this site. The spider comes by every sunday morning and reindexes our site. Every month I get a report on the searches made. This enables me to add homonyms (to catch users' spelling mistakes) and synonyms (if I'd used a different word than the one searched for) to make more searches successful.

The november report showed user behaviour I don't really understand; maybe this site is not as intuitive to use as I thought it should be?

In 14 cases, the user searched for a term once, was given a result and found what he was looking for. That is how it should be. But look at this; I've changed the search terms so that the user is not identifiable, wouldn't want to embarrass her :-

Wed	Nov 14 08:14:24 2012	fff
Wed	Nov 14 08:14:22 2012	fff
Wed	Nov 14 08:14:21 2012	ccccc
Wed	Nov 14 08:14:19 2012	bbbb
Wed	Nov 14 08:14:16 2012	eeeeee
Wed	Nov 14 08:14:15 2012	eeeeee
Wed	Nov 14 08:14:05 2012	eeeeee
Wed	Nov 14 08:13:59 2012	eeeeee
Wed	Nov 14 08:13:20 2012	eeeeee
Wed	Nov 14 08:12:41 2012	ddddddddddd
Wed	Nov 14 08:12:25 2012	ccccc
Wed	Nov 14 08:10:20 2012	ccccc
Wed	Nov 14 08:07:52 2012	ccccc
Wed	Nov 14 08:07:39 2012	bbbb
Wed	Nov 14 08:07:28 2012	bbbb
Wed	Nov 14 08:07:15 2012	aaaaaaaaaaaa
Wed	Nov 14 08:05:21 2012	aaaaaaaaaaaa
Starting at the bottom: she looked for 'aaaaaaaaaaaa' and then barely 2 minutes later looked for exactly the same word again. WTF? Ditto with 'bbbb', two searches just 11 seconds apart. And so it went on. There were even FIVE searches for 'eeeeee' within one minute. WTF is happening?

Maybe she closed the search window each time and had to redo a search? Doesn't know how to use the back-button? The terms for which she was searching are all there, it was not a failed search. She even looked twice for 'fff' just 2 seconds apart. Ditto elsewhere.

Why would someone do this? She and I have a different mental model of searching, perhaps? What to I need to do to make her search-experience less frustrating? Your suggestions are welcome (if polite ;-). Send them by email please; don't search for them ;-)

Pergelator opined "Maybe a glitch in the internetz. I have seen duplicate comments show up on several sites."
Demeur wrote "I believe what you are experiencing is a web bot not a she. Spammers use them to crawl the web looking for key words to dump their useless ads in your comments, but as you don't have comments it can do no more than search key words and move on. I've noticed an increase in that behavior on my site of late. A click of the delete solves the problem." Spam is the reason I only accept comments by email :-)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Living in the past & bird-brains

At the end of last month (see archive for november 2012) we were talking about mental models of time-travel, whereupon Schorsch (D) asked "How then would we be affected by [living at] different time-'speeds'?", his assumption being that he lives in the present here.

That is not true, we live in the past! Let me show you what I mean.

Assume you were not reading this blog but that I was speaking (this content) to you as a lecture. I might be say 5 feet away from you if were having a conversation or 50 feet if I were giving a lecture. Now the sound that leaves my lips is ephemeral and travels at about 1 foot per millisecond. So at the moment my lecture's sound waves hit your ear drums you are already 50ms in (my) past.

Then your brain uses its excellent short term memory to accumulate the words I said and parses the sentence syntactically so that you can deduce the semantic meaning therefrom. It probably took me 12 seconds to say that sentence. So your brain has to retain the beginning of the sentence in its short term memory while parsing. So the words "Then your brain" were issued 12.05 seconds ago (in my past) before you can attach meaning to them. You are living in the past.

Indeed, if I had said something ambiguous like "I saw the man on the hill with a telescope" you would have had to have used context remembered over even a longer time to decide if I had meant a) my telescope (at my eye), or b) his telescope (under his arm?), or even the telescope in the hill (in an astronomical dome?). And if I had said "Molim, zapamtite ovu informaciju" , which is Croatian for "Please retain this information", you would have stumbled at the end of your parsing attempt (unless you understand Croatian) and had to ask me to repeat it several seconds after I had said it, perhaps several sentences later into my past. And vice versa. So we are indeed living in the past ;-)

And since we're all living in the past, I might as well go back a few decades and show you a Jethro Tull version of Living in the Past :-)

Of course, you are not just living in the past; sometimes (sic!) you are living in the future. Example? If we were playing tennis and I hit a ball over the net but away from you, then your brain can predict where the ball will be in the future and you will run over there. Dogs don't do that; they watch the ball and run towards its present position, effectively running in what is called a curve of pursuit. Early IR guided missiles did that too until we came up with predictive guidance using e.g. velocity-gates to calculate lead angles.

It is a capability of your brain that you are able to retain and scan the recent past, perhaps even predicting the near future from that data. But your brain has its limitations (mine especially), in particular it is a slow processor compared to (say) a bird's brain ;-)

Let's look at birds flocking. We are amazed at how a whole flock can wheel and turn and climb and dive as if the flock were one creature. But that's only the perception of our slow brains. The birds' brains are faster. If you made a movie of the flock wheeling and turning with a high speed camera at say 300 frames/sec and then replayed it at our usual 30 frames/sec you could see what they see. The lead bird makes a course change. The birds immediately behind and off to the side of him see this, react and maintain separation changing direction accordingly. Then the next birds in their immediate neighbourhood do so too. In the slowed-down video you can see the direction change and separation-adjustment propagate away from the lead bird like a wave-front. This implies that each bird only needs to watch its immediate neighbours, adjusting direction and maintaining separation accordingly, but for us slow-brains the flock appears to move like one creature!

Indeed, when we watch a movie at 30 frames/sec we have the illusion of continuous motion because our brains are overloaded and we cannot process all of the visual information to see those 30 separate pictures in each second. Old bird-brain can though, and sees a series of static pictures instead of our movie. Similarly when you try to swat a fly : its perception is faster than yours and it could be considered as experiencing time faster than us.

Conversely, for the bikers reading this, if you are riding your motorcycle at 170 mph (@ The Highlander, IOM) - that's 250 fps - then an average blink (⅓ sec) means you missed seeing anything over a distance of 80+ feet. Any hindrance in those 27 yards was invisible to you. Flying blind ;-)

Schorsch, does that help answer your question "How then would we be affected by [living at] different time-'speeds'?" ? I hope so.

Demeur explained "There is one other aspect of your presentation here you forgot. That would be a sensory shut down. It's the acute symptoms of a prolonged marriage in which upon hearing a familiar repetitive Que, the male partner experiences a visual and auditory black out. Only to be snapped out of it with a phrase such as "weren't you listening to me?" :-)" What'd you say? ;-)
Pergelator (USA) - a fellow biker - remarks on my last paragraph : "At those speeds you should be looking 5 to 10 seconds ahead. Anything closer you should already have scanned and verified it was clear." Very true. The Highlander pub (@IOM) is on a long straight. More worrying is Hillberry (where I usually am marshall on the IOM during the TT and/or MGP) where after a long straight you dive down into a fast righthander under dark tree shade.

Recent Writings
Schrödinger's Balls
Narrow Streets ;-)
Ho, Ho, Ho :-(
Merry Newton-Mass ;-)
Life goes on : Phuket ;-)
The end is nye ;-)
The average tax bill
Sandy Hook Massacre
Moonraker 2012?
Kate Hospital Prank
(Un)natural Reader
Banned, James Banned
Screenshot BILD-Online
Anomalous searching
Living in the past
Parallel Worlds
Age of Time Travellers
Hey, Joe!
Goodbye Schumi
Robinson Crusoe 1st ed.
J. Peasmold Zeitgeist RIP
Cause for celebration

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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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