Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dreaming of Death

How do people of differing religions dream about Death?

Some of my blogreaders are Christians (Liz, Vic, Josef, Sarah etc), some Jewish (Ellison, Anthony, David), some Hindu (Amrit), some Buddhist or Islam, and a few fellow Atheists (Doug, yours truly). Their beliefs are something for their waking hours, but it would be interesting to know if and how religion influences their dreams, particularly of dying.

I doubt very much whether anyone - apart from pTerry - dreams of a Styx-crossing anthopomorphic Grim Reaper, unless some nuns dream in fear of him being dyslexic and dropping that first E. Or Buddhists , who presumably dream in a loop, transvestite Buddhists even in a Moebius loop ;-) ?

So send me your comments about YOUR dreams of Death and let's compare them :-)

Here are two of my - perhaps typically office-bound? - symbolic Death dreams :-

In the first dream, I was back in my usual office/lab scenario and going through the TODo (sic!) list in my diary. It was chock a block full of office meetings, lecture dates, customer lunches, product test schedules and releases, etc. etc. In my dream it was also a friday afternoon, so after crossing off things-achieved from my TODo list I flipped forward in the weekly diary as usual to see what I was supposed to be doing on the monday of the forthcoming week.

And lo!, all the pages were blank - nary a thing planned - for the remaining future. Even the dates fading away from the diary after a few days... :-(

In the second dream, I was out walking/hiking with many friends, mostly again from work, but also local villagers, cachers and biker friends. We were walking up a hill which became increasingly steep. My health and fitness not being what it was 20 years ago (I'll be 65 next month), everyone was increasingly drawing ahead as they chatted amongst themselves. Meanwhile I was alone, lagging more and more behind. They disappeared over the brow of the hill. When I arrived - breathing raggedly - at the top of the hill, they had all boarded the waiting bus and been driven off into the distance, leaving me alone, as the wind rose chillingly and darkness descended :-(

Much more morbid, that one. Now SWMBO - ever the optimist - claims these are like the dreams I had when going into retirement, but Thomas - ever the pessimist - thinks they are premonitions. We shall see , or not, as the case may be.

Now how do YOU dream about Death ? Ashes to Ashes perhaps ?

Jacky (Harrow, UK) makes a bloody brill suggestion "Just get yersel bitten by a vampire, so no death worries any more, yer can stake yer afterlife onnit heartily ;-)"
Pierre (Lyon,France) asked "...what caused this attack of morbidity?..." ; news of friends with cancer, Pierre, the wife of a schoolfriend in GB, an acquaintance in Bielefeld with breast cancer, a young friend (22) in Berlin, all being taken too early :-(
John (currently Wellington, NZ) writes "My death dream took over where yours left off. Waiting for a number 23 (sic!) bus in a long queue, but when it came I was the only one who boarded! The bus had only one seat (at the back) and the driver was that black-cowled anthropomorphic gentleman shown in your photo, but invisible in his cloak. The fare he demanded was the traditional two pennies, which I didn't have with me (the last shirt has no pockets), so I jumped off (phew,saved) only to notice that the bus-destination-display showed the word 'Terminal' ! I'm a Catholic, BTW ."
Liz (Swansea) - who blogs at Finding Life Hard - comments : "Those aren't particularly scary* dreams, you wuss! I don't dream of death unless you count being chased by monsters. My dreams are far more likely to be the ones where I'm trying to get somewhere or do something and I am repeatedly prevented. I'm probably more scared of life ... I do have some nice sexy dreams though!" Aha! The little death ? ;-) Ivana (Kiev) mailed a sexy dream too, but since her mail is in Cyrillic, this stupid editor won't even let me pick&put it here, so tough luck, you randy Russian readers :-(

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pareto Charts revisited

Back in April, I gave you an introduction to Pareto Charts. Some of you sent some questions about their usage, so I'll try to answer those today.

Q1) "Why do you use Pareto Charts?"

  • Makes you focus on the causes of your problem whose removal would have the greatest effect (80/20 rule).
  • Simple representation of relative priorities.
  • Stops you suggesting 'solutions' which would merely offload one cause at the expense of another, making you focus on total cause & problem reduction.
  • Is so simple even the board of directors can understand it without training ;-)

Q2) "Chart by Count or by Cost or both?"

That said, you may need to draw two charts based on the same data. The chart on the left here shows that 41% of your problem cases are due to cause A (analysis by cause-count), and 18% due to cause C. However the cases may have different associated costs depending on the causes of the problem. The chart on the right here shows that 38% of your problem costs are due to cause C (analysis by cause-cost), and only 12% of your problem costs are due to cause A. So if your goal is to reduce problem-costs, you should tackle cause C first. See both chart examples shown here.

Q3) "Can you track your successes?"

For this I would use a 'before-and-after' Pareto Chart. Next to each of the cause-bars - in their original order - I would draw a bar showing the absolute counts (or costs) by cause AFTER your (partial) solutions have been applied. Do NOT use percentages on the vertical scale here! You can easily see what solutions worked. Yes, I do know that you should do a Chi-squared test to see if the change is statistically sgnificant, but that's material for another blog entry on another day. Let's keep this simple today :-)

Q4) "What if there is no 'one' solution to the problem's major cause?"

In this case you may need to analyse the main cause further, breaking it down into sub-causes, each of which may be tackled by its own partial solution. See below :-

Q5) "Isn't this an awful lot of work?"

As long as the cost of the analyses (before and after) plus the cost of applying the solutions is less than the lack-of-quality costs of the original problem, you're on a winner, reducing costs overall. Training costs are minimal, just read this blog :-)

Satire-day, May 16, 2009


Now, Regula readers of this blog will know me as an Atheist, a position shared with any number of (more famous) people. That means that we do not believe in the existence of sundry fictions like Jahweh, Allah, Jesus, Mary, Jupiter or Thor.

For purposes of parody however, some of us do purport to believe in the FSM, the Flying Spaghetti Monster ;-) FSM was invented in 2005 by Bobby Henderson as a satirical protest to the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design (creationism) as an alternative to Darwin's biological evolution in Kansas public schools. In fact, this Pastafarian pseudo-religion does have some good ideas. In place of the judeo-christian ten commandments, it contains the Eight I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts. Go read 'em, they make more sense than (say) some of Islam's not-so-great ideas, like jihad, honour murders, and female circumcision :-(

Regular blogreaders will also know of another hobby of mine, Geocaching. Geocachers look up the coordinates (latitude/longitude) of hidden caches in an internet database, then go off hiking with a portable GPS to try to find these caches. Sometimes the caches contain Travel Bugs (TB) or GeoCoins, each having its own individual purpose and destination, declared in their database entry.

And so it must have been Divine Intervention that led me to find this FSM GeoCoin ;-)

The FSM GeoCoin was started in Munscheid (near Bochum, Germany) by Bonsai Cacher in October 2008, to whom thanks :-) It has so far travelled 540 kms from cache to cache, being photographed with a plate of noodles** at each stop (as Bonsai Cacher requested). So I had noodles for lunch today, full-filling my belly obligations.

The fossilised fish on the back is a Darwinian hint about evolution, visually punning on the Creationists' ichthys symbol ;-). Thanks for the amusement, Bonsai Cacher :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A tale of Three Greens

Neither is this a tale about vegetarian diets, nor is it about an extremely short golf course. It is a tale about aviators.

There are two kinds of pilots : those who have landed a retractable-gear plane wheels up and those who have NOT ... yet.

The Cessna 210 shown on the left bellied in last month at Dortmund airport. This is why we pilots have three green lights to show us 'gear down and locked' and checking for three greens is part of our pre-landing checklist. Even when flying alone, I still recite the checklists out loud. YMMV.

But I remember an unfortunate incident at Ahden airport a couple of decades ago, because I was the duty flying instructor that day and was first at the scene of the accident. A ferry pilot had picked up a brand new aeroplane from the US factory and flown it non-stop across the Atlantic to land in Ahden (the rear seat having been replaced by large ferry tank). He had landed it beautifully, greasing it on straight ahead and taxied it onto the apron to hand it over to its proud new owner.

Said proud owner refuelled and took his gleaming new ship (only 12+ hours ferry time on the clock) for a test ride. Turning final, he lowered the gear (I SAW it come down), called 'three greens' and landed, crabbing slightly into the cross-wind.

Toc, Toc, toc, the ominous sound of propellor blades hitting the concrete, screeeeech. I was out of the door and running for the runway pausing only to grab the big fire extinguisher. The landing gear had collapsed on touchdown despite three greens!

I was told that the LBA accident investigators found that there were NO locking pins in the undercarriage when the plane had left the factory! The professional ferry pilot had landed on all three wheels at once, very smoothly, straight ahead, so the accident didn't happen to him. But the owner had had to crab left slightly into the crosswind, the left leg touched down first and - being unlocked - had folded, shortly followed by the right main gear as it touched down askew. Brand new plane too :-(

But the owner didn't know about the missing locking pins and so thought HE had screwed up the 'three greens' call on his very first retractable landing. Luckily no-one was hurt, but I imagine the owner cannot eat a vegetarian meal to this very day ;-)

Comments(1) :
Meanwhile, following up another aviation story in my blog, Alaskan Bush Pilot Klaus has pointed me to the accident report about the Dash-8 Icing crash which I blogged about back on February 16th. Sounds like the crew screwed up, reacting wrongly to the stick-shaker (pulling not pushing) and raising the flaps. Crew's ice experience? None/little :-(

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Check Mat :-(

Please check that you have an adequate supply of beer mats (or coasters, as the 'merkins call 'em) because the Katz Group of Weissenbach, Germany has filed for bankruptcy! Katz made 70% of the beer mats worldwide, selling mostly to breweries who then provided them as 'free' advertising to bars and pubs everywhere. But when the breweries started cutting costs to improve their margins, beermat sales (8c/mat) declined. So we can expect a shortage soon. Then we can no longer keep the children amused in the pub by having them build a beermat pyramid. No longer can we flick them* over the bar into the topless barmaid's cleavage (o)|(o). No longer can we sketch out our world-breaking ideas over a quart of the foaming ale :-( . How shall we now level the wobbly tables in the beer garden?

And what shall we do now for flippin' pub entertainment ? Check Mat, indeed !

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Geocaching 108 : Best of the local caches

Mid-April I mentioned a PB/DT geocachers' get-together. Lots of experienced geocachers there, so I mailed them asking for tips for the most spectacular cache locations within 100 kms of Paderborn. Here are their kind replies (in chronological order of reply), whereby I have removed the duplicates :- All these links lead to cache descriptions which are in German, so if you can't read the language, you may skip today's blog :-)

Splitti suggests

  • GC1Q4G7 Multi, 11 stages, 56km N, Die Spuren der Salzsieder
  • GC1PG3R Multi, 5 stages, 40 km N, Lippe 2009 - Sachsenlager
  • GC1N9VG Earth Cache, 30 km NE, Feldrom: Der Velmerstot
  • GC19CCW Multi, 4 stages, 34 km N , Schöne Aussichten
  • GC1GD0Z Multi, 4 stages, 24 km N, Gedenkeiche
  • GC15B73 Traditional, 70km NW, Ahornweg Ostspitze
Xorron suggests :-
  • GCH0QB Tradi, 39km N , Luftsport Cache Detmold
  • GC1HDB2 Tradi, 38km N , AStA
  • GC1NAB8 Tradi, 36km N , Ja - ist denn schon wieder ...?
  • GC1HKM3 Multi, 9 stages, 37km N, Palaisgarten Detmold
  • GC1J28W Multi, 11 stages, 37km N, takes all day, Fachwerk und Kaltblut
  • GC17RNX Earth cache, 31km N, EXTERNSTEINE
Mc-Guire suggests :-
  • GCZKRY Multi, 4 stages, 52km N, GGC oder UWZ
  • GC18GG3 Multi, 8 stages, 51km N, Tierpark Olderdissen
  • GCYYPQ Night cache, 53 km N, CatWalk
  • GCXRDQ 50 km N, Das Phantom der Oper, (dangerous, it's 320 meters along a rainwater drain, so don't do it alone!)
Biboleck30 suggests :-
  • GC16M2X Night cache, 18km N, Sternzeit: N514457,8 E0085241,5
  • GC1DND2 Night cache, 7 stages multi, 19km N , Märchenwald #2
Miss Marple 2 suggest :-
  • GC81B8, Tradi, but go in pairs and take 20m rope ;-) 11km NE, Spielmannskuhle
  • GC13KJ9, Tradi 12km NW, Überraschung im Wald
  • GCQZTT, Multi, 13 stages, 13 km S, Tower by the gardeners
  • GC1HVCY, Tradi, 18km S, Calvarienberg |smalltowners|
  • GCX3YG, Multi, 8 stages, 32km N, Lippe 2009 - Horn (Externsteine)
  • GC1EP36 Multi, 10 stages, 10km SE, Naturerlebnis Wald Meerhof
Purzelpaula suggests :-
  • GC1N5Z4 Multi, 8 stages, 42km N, Das rote X
  • GC111DT Multi, 3 stages, 41km N, Bodo's Abschied
  • GC1EMGP Multi, 2 stages, 44km N, Lippe-Live-Steinbruch
  • GC1FXBQ Multi, 5 stages, 46km N, Lippe-Live "Gefesselt vom feurigen Biest"
  • GC1KEYX Tradi, 42km N, Femlinde
  • GC1AYDZ Multi, 7 stages, 40km N, Eselstein
  • GC1AQ8R Tradi, 38km NE, Lother Höhe
  • GC1G6BE Multi, 2 stages, 37km N, Blind Date
  • GC1HJRZ Multi, 9 stages, 36km NE, Sylvaticum
Hannibal suggests :-
  • GC1JTC8 Multi, 7 stages, 44km N, Cache am Stiel
  • GCVNR3 Multi, 4 stages, 30km N, Rossis Wichtelcache am Silberbach
  • GCT1R1 Tradi, 33km N, Geisterschlucht
  • GC13HMD Tradi, 16 NE, paragliders place
  • GC16NCZ Multi, 2 stages, 22km N, 1. Kurwald Cache
  • GC194BX Tradi, 17km NE, Brukhusener Skilift
  • GC1DQPJ Multi, 9 stages, 44km NW, der hohle Zahn
  • GC1BCB1 Multi, 5 stages, 23km N, Dedinghauser See
  • GC1ENNH Tradi, 26km N, Erlenbruch
  • GC1C24T Tradi, 39km N, Am Dalbker Teich (...der 2.Streich )
Ponnuki suggests :-
  • GCYK2C Mystery, 22km N, Anagramm: Rasierte Prismen
  • GCF8E3 Multi, 2 stages, 12km N, Moenkeloh
  • GCY9X8 Multi, 5 stages, 13km NW, Wewer-Wald
  • GCHK4K Multi, 3 stages, 11km N, Wächter zu Paderborn
  • GCZ0FN Multi, 7 stages, 18km NW, Glockengebimmel
  • GCTEGX Multi, 7 stages, 40km N, Zwischen Schieregge und Hachheide
  • GCX5AC Multi, 6 stages, 42km W, Oh Sole Mio
  • GCJY42 Multi, 2 stages, 43km W, Winzi(n)ger Cache
  • GC15C11 Multi, 10 stages, 47km W, Warhaftig Wehrhaft
  • GC1GFZ4 Multi, 5 stages, 55km NW, Kleine Runde
  • GCQY9Z Tradi, 26km W, Verstecktes Tal
  • GC1Q4B8 Multi, 8 stages, 26km N, Ronjas Runde #1
Schmetterling29 suggests :-
  • GC1J28W Multi, 37km N, Fachwerk und Kaltblut
  • GC1JNAG Multi, 35km N, Gammeliges Totholz - BieleWelt
  • GC1HJRZ Multi, 37km NE, Sylvaticum
  • GC1FPPG Multi, 43km N, Einfach riiiiesig!
  • GC1FA9Y MiniMulti, 28km NE, Freksberg Minimulti
  • GC1DERJ Tradi, 40km N, Das Tal der Abenteuer
  • GCWEE2 Multi, 45km N, Auf Wilhelms Pfaden
  • GC185WQ Earth Cache, 28km NE, VULKAN
  • GCWV6R Multi, 27km N, Lukenloch
  • GC1AYDZ Multi, 40km N, Eselstein
  • GC19EDF Multi, 56km N, Admiral Apfel
  • GC173GV Multi, 40km N, Auf den Spuren des Igels
  • GC17R3C Multi, 35km N, So eine Schweinerei
  • GC12G6C Multi, 50km N, Cube´n´Tube
Lipper76 suggests :-
  • GCXYV9 SCHWELENTRUPS FIRST by crazyo *** nette Runde mit toller Aussicht
  • GC1ND29 Lippe 2009 - Die Falkenburg by DieLipper *** netter Cache, mit Bonus
  • GC19CCW Schöne Aussichten by Acka *** schöne Aussicht, der Anstieg ist etwas hart, aber sonst super

So let me thank all of these folks. Now I looked up the lat. and long. GPS coordinates of all of these, and the direction and distance vectors from my house. Sorting by direction should then give me a reasonable sequence in which to visit them. Yes, I DO know the travelling salesman problem is NP-complete ;-)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dining tip : La Maison du Chocolat in Potsdam :-)

I am showing you these photos just to get you slavering with envy ;-) Just last month we visited the picturesque town of Potsdam - just outside Berlin - the town of beautiful buildings and palaces like Sanssouci. Now here's my (no longer a secret) dining tip: Once you have seen the palaces etc, go to the old Dutch quarter (Holländischen Viertel) and stroll down the main street with its typical period redbrick frontage. On the main crossing you will find La Maison du Chocolat - the House of Chocolate. The picture on the left shows you the covers on the wicker furniture on the terrace, as an identification aid in the unlikely situation you might need help ;-)

Their Speisekarte menu is short but the food is spectacularly good for what is basically a street cafe´. I started with a soup of fresh mussels with potatoes and coriander flavouring. My main course was a corn fed chicken stuffed with slices of lamb on a bed of avocado. After a digestive break, I went to look at the dessert counter :-)

Such a spectacular array and variety of different chocolate cakes! I was dribbling just looking at them :-) But the slices looked so huge after my first two courses that I ordered the attraction of the house, a selection of three home-made chocolate ice creams, each tasting so very different & each better than the other if that's possible!

Their address is :- La Maison du Chocolat Restaurant & Café, Benkertstr. 20, in the Holländischen Viertel of Potsdam. Telephone 0331/237 07 30 - Fax 0331/201 04 99

Comments (2) :
Joseph Nagy (USA) asks : "Sounds like an absolutely delightful cafe to visit, but you left out one important detail. How is their coffee? ;)" Dunno, Joseph, I drank their beer, as you can see if you click on my name in the byline below :-)
Mike replies : "Your attempts to get me slavering with envy have succeeded. Looks incredible!"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Jedi Blessings ;-)

May the Fourth be with you ;-)

Friday, May 1, 2009

MAYDAY : The dea(r)th of creativity :-(

Blogger's block : a lack of new/any ideas of anything to write about :-(

I need some way of turning my creativity back on. Any suggestions are welcome.

OTHER people can make neat Xmas woodcarvings. I cannot, I have no such talent.

OTHER people can make photorealistic paintings. I cannot, I have no such talent.

OTHER people can make amusing, if kitschy, pottery. I cannot, I have no such talent.

I'm currently limited to little bit of German-style village-housewife ikebana, soothing to the soul; some uninspired macro-photography, nothing up to Flickr standards; and recycling used spark plugs, washers, and stainless steel shims with a soldering iron ;-)

I must have written about 1200 blog entries over the past 6 ¼ years, see above.

But I appear to have run out of steam on the writing front, and this damn computer is no help at all! Let's just look at some of the 'creativity-aids' software on my desktop:-

  • A scanner program, to let me copy SOMEBODY ELSE's graphics :-(
  • An OCR program, to let me copy SOMEBODY ELSE's texts :-(
  • Winamp, to let me hear SOMEBODY ELSE's music.
  • A graphics program, to let me manipulate SOMEBODY ELSE's pictures :-(
  • Adobe Reader, to let me read SOMEBODY ELSE's .pdf files.
Well, OK, the browsers will take me elsewhere to read what SOMEBODY ELSE has written in the internet; that may provide some inspiration, hopefully not plagiaristic, I suppose. But actually the computer doesn't help in the way of improving one's creativity. All the tools I have merely seem to manage the process of writing : Outliner, Spelling checker, Thesaurus, Word-counter (WTF?). None of them generate new ideas!

Back when I was doing Artificial Intelligence research, I once wrote an AI program to generate new ideas for patentable devices. It did means-end-analysis. You told it what the end result should be and told it what component parts you had in stock. Then it would run through the combinatorial explosion of achieving the desired goal from the given parts, discounting any existing (patented) devices in its database. The remainder would be a set of 'new ideas', sorted by cost of parts if that was less than existing solutions. The human partner would then check these 'new' ideas for viability, since the AI-bot was not allowed to patent stuff itself ;-) See my introductory textbook Savory, S. "Grundlagen von Expertensystemen", Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-486-20757-1, for a much simplified version of the basic idea. Not really useful :-(

How ironically self-contradictory today that I am writing about NOT writing ;-)

So there will now be a (short?) intermission :-(


Comments (11) :

Crouchender (London,UK) writes : "Surely it is better to have a few good articles, and yours invariably are, rather than a daily drivel as many other blogs seem to be. You have a good mix of topics and intellectual content, and perhaps you should be content to have a break whilst the rest of us are still struggling on some of your more difficult [to me] presentations."

Pietr (Moscow,) writes : "Tell us more about that Pareto stuff and other TQM tools, as you did last week. If you can keep it that simple, we'll all profit :-)" I'll try, Pietr.

Sarah (Rotoruoa, NZ) puns : "...ease your emergency by writing about 3 loaves of french bread" ; Pan,pan,pan : I geddit, Sarah; but wouldn't that be loafing about? ;-)

Karl-Heinz (Stuttgart, Germany) wants "...more in the geocaching series." Wilco.

Jenny (Ibiza) suggests "...just give us more pretty photos until you come up with some text!" Good idea, Jenny, that'll tide me over maybe. Wilco.

Gudrun (Schweinfurt[sic!]) sez "...something about the swine flu pandemic?"

Pergolator suggested "...You could do a whole article on techniques employed to create your spark plug aeroplane.". Not my original idea, Charles, inspired by a 1970s professional construct. Just look at the photo and you too can see how it's done.

Jean (Lyon,France) a dit :"I'm with Pietr, mo' easy stats and less lousy poetry ;-)"

Klaus (Alaska) sent me inspiration in the form of several photos of model motorcycles built from recycled watches (like this and this), artist unknown. Too hard for me, Klaus. Besides, I'd prefer to spend my time building a REAL bike, like this NorVin :-)

Bettina (Stuttgart) points me to this New Scientist article.

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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'.

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Dreaming of Death
Pareto charts revisited
Three greens :-(
Check mat :-(
Geocaching 108 : Best of
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Dea(r)th of Creativity
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