Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Play Redux ;-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Germany, by the numbers ;-)

T here was Juan (sic ;-) lone request in the comments on monday's lesson for more solid data about Germany.

So here are some more solid data trivia ;-)

  • 81,662,342 people live in Germany (according to registration offices stats),
  • of whom 2.6 million eat at McDonalds each day.
  • But 5.2 million visit a doctor on an average working day (i.e. once per 3 weeks).
  • We eat 1,045,300 tons of deep-frozen convenience foods each year,
  • swashed down by 87,874,000 hectolitres of beer. That's > 1 hL p.a. per person.
  • Despite the fact that 30% of households have a game-console (without PCs),
  • nevertheless 83,381 new books are published in Germany each year.
  • Despite only 8600 Porsche 911s being bought new each year,
  • (but 26,658,000 lipsticks),
  • the average pre-divorce marriage now lasts 14.1 years (up from 11.5 in 1990).
  • Each person has only 118 Euros in their wallet/purse,
  • of which only 6.70 € is in coins and 111.30 € (averaged) in banknotes,
  • nevertheless savings-books totals are a mere 544,121,000,000 Euros.
  • The number of synagogues has increased from 72 (in 2003) to 92 this year,
  • but I have NO numbers for the increase in mosques [or decrease in churches] :-(

Monday, November 23, 2009

Teaching children to think :-)

A s regular readers of this blog may know, I get asked occasionally to teach a school class a lesson outside their regular curriculum. And since much modern education seems to consist of rote learning of facts, I try to teach the children - on a meta-level - to become critical thinkers too. I have a list of 20 or so subjects from which they can choose, this particular class chose (ostensibly) geography. I also prefer to get the children to do their own experiments rather than me giving boring full-frontal lectures; I find they retain better what they learned. So this time I split the class into 6 groups of 6 children each and asked the ostensibly simple question :-

Where is the centre of our country (Germany) ?

For each of the groups I had prepared a sheet of paper showing an outline of the country, and on the teacher's desk I had further tools should they need them :- 6 finely divided rulers, 6 compasses, cardboard, glue, pins, a wall map, a globe, a watering can and a pocket calculator etc.

Access to the web, e.g. Google or Wikipedia was not allowed, just the materials provided. Oh, and each group was allowed to take just one approach upon which they had to agree. The whole class would discuss each approach. So let me tell you how the lesson went :-)

Group one argued that 'the middle' is defined as 'halfway between the edges'. So, using a ruler and scissors, they trimmed their sheet of paper to a right rectangle abutting the north,east,south and west limits of the country. Then they folded this sheet both vertically and horizontally so that the edges met. The point where the creases crossed was - they claimed - the middle of the country. I told that their method would put them in Niederdorla and there is in fact a marker stone there, claiming this to be the centre of the country. But had they marked the edges right?

So I told them about enclaves and exclaves. After WW1 Belgium redefined the border with Germany as running along the Venn railway line. But there are several (5?) German villages west of that line, exclaves of Germany, surrounded by Belgian territory. Should these exclaves be counted and would it change the result? Well yes, they agreed, the exclaves should be counted; happily it did not change their result :-) And on the fly, I had taught them about non-contiguous exclaves :-)

One of the brighter children then noted that - on the globe - the east and west edges are not parallel. The children learned then and there that all maps distort because you cannot map a sphere accurately onto a plane. We then looked at the classroom wall map of the world and compared the Mercator projection with the globe, seeing how much smaller Greenland is on the globe than on the Mercator projection. I threw up an overhead showing how the cylindrical projection is made, so they learned some projective geometry too. More importantly, never to be forgotten, they learned the meta-lesson that the map is not the territory :-)

Group two decided to get around the edge-parallelism problem by using another method. They found the north (List auf Sylt) and southernmost (Oberstdorf) points and creased their paper along the (non-vertical) line joining them. Ditto for the (non-horizontal) line joining the eastmost(Deschka) and westmost (Isenbruch) points. So they found the middle of the country to be at Bessa (near Kassel). And the meta-lesson learned was that the result which you get may very well depend upon the method used to solve the problem :-)

I then pointed out that if they applied this method to the USA, then the centre of the USA would be somewhere in the Pacific Ocean way off the coast of Canada ! Even using group one's method, the centre of the USA would still be way offshore, even if less so. We all agreed that most Americans would not like this :-)

So there was a controversy about which method is 'right' ;-) Whereupon I asked (innocently ;-) "If you tried to balance either of the maps at the intersection points, would they balance there?". So they pasted their maps onto cardboard I provided and cut around the outline, with the result that neither solution balanced :-(

Groups three and four then decided to do this accurately, but soon found that they had a problem with the offshore islands in the North Sea and the Baltic ;-) Group three decided (arbitrarily) only to consider the contiguous mainland, the part coloured as a flag in this map, claiming the islands (left white in the previous picture) would scarcely influence the result. This led to a discussion about the accuracy of the cutting of the outline. Interposing, I taught them on the fly that e.g. coastlines are fractal* anyway, the answer you get for their length depending on the size of your ruler :-)

I told them that there is an exclave of Germany called Büsingen am Hochrhein which is surrounded by Switzerland, what about that? They decided to treat it like an island, Group three ignoring it ;-)

As a Scotsman, I objected strongly to their leaving off the islands. I showed them Scotland on the wall map; they saw that the mainland is only a part of the territory. their approximation for Germany would not work for Scotland :-(

Meta-lesson? Choose your approximations carefully!

The 'centre of gravity' turned out to be about 3 miles SW of the Niederdorla intersection which group one had found as described above.The mainland C.o.G is at Landstreit near Eisenach.

Group four contained a lad whose parents were keen sailors. He got around the problem of the non-contiguous offshore islands by arguing that a country includes the 12-mile sea limit in its ownership and cut his cardboard map appropriately. Of course he got a different result (which put the centre in Dingelstdt-Silberhausen). I pointed out that Ernst Thalmann Island, an uninhabited island off the coast of Cuba had been given by Cuba to East Germany in the old communist days (GDR) and so it too may now be part of Germany (status unclear). So I asked him about the 12-mile limit there, and pointed out that Ernst Thalmann Island was so far away that although small, it would leverage the balance point quite considerably. They booed ;-)

Meta-lesson? How do you cope with unpopular but valid objections?

Group five objected that balancing the cardboard cut-outs was only a two-dimensional approximation. To do it 'properly' they would need to build a 3D model of Germany above sea-level and see where that balanced (it would be in Krebeck, about 11 miles east of Göttingen). And since that it would be hard to do, suggested that we define the 'middle' as the point minimising the distance from all the mainland borders. That would put them in Heiligenstadt-Flinsberg.

Group six claimed Germany was for the people and asked where was the centre of the population? I told them that would put them in Spangenberg, which is about 20 miles SE of Kassel, because the east was populated more sparsely than the west. And that their (statistical) definition was dynamic, changing every time someone moved :-(

So there we had it, six different groups, six different answers ;-)

As the final bell rang, one bright lass asked "What was the watering can for?" , and the answer was again a piece of meta-knowledge "Some tools are not always useful to solve your problem, even though readily available ;-)"

Meta-lessons? Define your terms (What is 'Germany'?); get agreement on tools and methodology; agree what approximations are valid, have a procedure for coping with objections, above all, learn to be critical thinkers , not just rote learners :-)

Comments(4) :
Kate (Kansas, USA) reports that "The center of the Lower 48 is here in Kansas." Reading Wikipedia, Kate, shows me that you have the same definition-issues as we do.
Susan (USA) wrote "I loved your lesson. Give us more like it :-)" Wilco, later :-)
A GB-Geocacher says "The centre of GB has its own geocache : GCNQNK :-)"
FWIW: There is a short multi GC19VQQ in Germany at Niederdörla too :-)
Juan (MX) asks "...Is that all you are going to tell us about Germany? Where the middle is? Nothing else?..." More on Friday about the country we live in, OK Juan?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sarah Palin : Going Rogue

What a godawful boring book, listing the miserable failures of an ignoramus.

But at least my top 20 anagrams provide us with some entertainment :-

  1. Raping Rough Analogies
  2. Nigger Ghoul Paranoias
  3. Sharia Plan : Rue Goon Gig
  4. I, Sharp Anal Groin Gouge
  5. Haranguing Igloo Rapes
  6. Analgesia Groping Hour
  7. Google Agrarian Punish
  8. Leggings Hour Paranoia
  9. Unoriginal Garage Shop
  10. Garage Urinals Poohing
  11. Ruins Orphanage Loggia
  12. Plagiarise Gang Honour
  13. Paganise Roaring Ghoul
  14. Paganise Oral Roughing
  15. Rousing Longhair Agape
  16. Aerial Soprano Hugging
  17. Anguishing Prolog Area
  18. Oprah, Urging Analogies
  19. Unriper Hooligans Gaga
  20. Arranging Apologies, Uh
. . . and thousands more. What's YOUR favourite? ;-)

Comments(6) :
Allergic Sphere asked "Bored, are we?" By that book, yes, Charles.
Infirm hen jest : "I saw her TV show, so 'Oprah, Urging Analogies' is appropriate" ;-) Jihad Corners : LOLed "OMG, I've just realised that 'Our Stats Vary' is an anagram of your name :-) Can you do one for me please?" Consider it done, Richard :-)
Kurt picks a bone with my academic past and asks : "At university, we used one of your AI textbooks on 'Expert Systems'. It was boring too, but was it because of 'Messy Pretexts', 'Seems spry text', 'My express test' or 'Test sexy sperm' ;-) ?"
'Test sexy sperm', Kurt, that's good. I always thought of AI as a 'Sexy Temptress' ;-)
Anonymous, from Alaska asks " 16 = 'Aerial Soprano Hugging'? I thought she was for Aerial Moose Hunting!" Only when wearing 'Noisome Hunt Regalia', sir :-)
Knee Skeins answers in his own blog, with a challenge he'd lose. There are 50,001 such anagrams, and he thinks I can't give him a mere thousand?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Motorcycle Sculptures :-)

C ontinuing on the theme of motorcycles, I want to show you some motorcycle sculptures today. These are available directly from the artist himself at Lilleart. These three photos I took at Mrs.Brand's Sunday brunch earlier in the week, where the sculptures were on display. For orientation, the price was around €260 w/o P&P. They are made from recycled pieces of old tools, you can recognise the hammerhead used as the tank on the lower photos and the iron in the top one.

Susan (UK) said "Want one! Before Xmas please!!" Just follow the link I gave. If you cannot read German send me an email and I'll translate your request to him.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Best UK Bike Museums

A motorcycle club on the Belgian/German border has written to me saying they are planning a round trip through the UK next year and ask me 'international long distance biker' about the best British motorcycle museums. This may interest my blog readers too, so here is my personal six-pack and their ratings :-
  1. Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum, Bashley Cross Road, New Milton, Hants, BH25 5SZ. Open 10-16 hrs, daily,afaik. Here are the photos from my last visit in 2006, and here is a shot of Sammy and myself from 2006.
  2. National Motorcycle Museum, Coventry Road, Bickenhill, Solihull, B92 OEJ. Open 10-18 hrs. Alex and I visited (before the fire there) in 2002, see the top six photos here. Multiple BMW-riding friend Matthias Sander visited in 2003 (after the post-fire restoration). His photo report is here.
  3. London Motorcycle Museum, Ravenor Farm, Oldfield Lane, South Greenford, Middlesex, UB6 9LD. Open weekends 10-16 hrs, afaik. Scores of bikes.
  4. Norfolk Motorcycle Museum, (no web URL?), Station Yard, Norwich Road, North Walsam, Norfolk, NR28 ODS. Open daily 10-16 hrs. Over 100 bikes.
  5. Brooklands Motor Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 OQN. Open daily 10-17 hrs. Cars and bikes etc., even a Concorde :-)
  6. Lakeland Motor Museum, Holker Hall, Cark in Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands, South lakeland, Cumbria LA11 7PL. Open 10.30 to 4.30 in summer. Only 35 bikes, BUT Sheene's Dunstall, and Joey Dunlop's 125 Honda TT winner.

Comments(2) :
She of the 600 Ninja chides me for "...Not mentioning Murray's at the Bungalow"
That's because it closed permanently in 2005, lass! :-(
Four Dinners said " .. Where was I? Oh yeah...anyroad.... Graham aka The Captain is a biker and, as a thank you for helping him, is determined to take me biking including a bike museum... which may well be one of these...I will report back if it is and what I thought of it (assuming I survive riding on the back of his bike)"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Whence 'America' ?

Where did the name 'America' come from? Not just the USA, but the whole continent is named thus. Should it really be Columbusland? Waldseemuller and Ringmann's 1507 treatise 'Introduction to Cosmography' declared that a fourth part of the world had recently been discovered by the Italian merchant Amerigo Vespucci, and in his honour they had decided to give it a name: America.

Even though Columbus, Vespucci, and other early explorers all insisted that they had reached the far-eastern limits of Asia, Waldseemuller's famous (and long lost) 360° map of the whole world dated 1507 clearly shows both coasts of America, albeit a very thin America, and even the Pacific ocean! Thus America was a continent in its own right and thus deserved its own name. But where did the name come from?

Perhaps the name derives from Richard Ap Meryk (or Amerike), who was the main sponsor of John Cabot's voyages to Newfoundland (which pre-dated Vespucci)? I've seen a working 1:1 replica of Cabot's tiny ship when visiting Bristol (UK), back in 2006. Richard Ameryk (the spelling varies), who was HM the King's Customs Officer for Bristol in 1486, 1490 and 1497, later became chief sponsor for John Cabot's expedition to Newfoundland in 1497 and is now thought by many (in the UK) to be the person after whom America was named. Columbus actually discovered the West Indies.

Gavin Menzies in his book: "1421 : The Year China Discovered the World" suggests how these "Germanic scholars based in the mountains of eastern France" (he means Waldseemuller and Ringmann) could have come up with such a map. The Chinese had circumnavigated the world and provided this information to the courts of Europe, Menzies claims. In this he also considers the 1666 map by Nicholas Visscher, which shows the outline of Western Australia, drawn several years BEFORE Captain Cook "discovered" it.

Or is the name 'America' just an erudite pun? ;-) Toby Lester has written "The name America, for example, very probably represents not just a tip of the hat to Amerigo Vespucci but also a multilingual pun that can mean both "born new" and "no-place-land" - a playful coinage that seems to have inspired Sir Thomas More to invent his new world across the ocean, one meaning of which was also "no-place": Utopia."

Me? I think it is no coincidence that 500 years ago - anticipating today's Hollywood - a popular piece of fashion was called A Merkin which, by the way, is a pubic hair wig ;-)

Comments(2) :
Liz Ditz (USA) chortles :- "The WASP post & origin of America taken together made me laugh out loud :-)"
Four Dinners said " A Merkin? Yes! Absolutely....or as Bowie sang (with the assistance of Nine Inch Nails who backed him)..."I'm Afraid of Americans" (spookily that's the vid on my last post.....).....or possibly afraid of pubic wigs? Much better song if so!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This, That and The Other ;-)

Back in the puritanical 1960s when I lived in London (UK) the local church would hold charity events in their church hall. Often it was a shopping bazar with home-baked cakes and the like on sale. Delicious indeed :-)

But on one occasion there was an ecumenical event. The local catholic nuns came and challenged all and sundry in a Scrabble competition. Proceeds to go to the nunnery.

I played third and I got these initial letters, and was VERY tempted to go for the full lay-down bonus, but chickened out in view of the catholic nuns' likely prudishness ;-)

Comments(2) :
John (Wales) joked :- "You just blew me . . . away ;-)
Four Dinners chided me "Coward!!!!!.......;-)"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WASP :-(

I got a badly spelled email recently from the USA wherein an Obama-hater - inter alia - claimed he was proud to be a WASP = a White Anglow Saxon Protestint (sic!). Judging by the way he spells in English (badly), I doubt very much whether he could even READ Anglo-Saxon! Here you may try one of the classics sir :-

Heald u nu, hruse, nu hle ne moston/,
eorla hte. Hwt, hyt r on e
gode begeaton. Gudea fornam,
feorhbealo/ frecne, fyra/ gehwylcne
leoda minra, ara/ e is lif/ ofgeaf,
gesawon seledream. Ic/ nah hwa sweord wege
oe feormie/ fted wge,
dryncft deore; dugu/ ellor sceoc/.
Sceal se hearda helm hyrsted/ golde
ftum befeallen; feormynd swefa,
a e beadogriman bywan sceoldon,
ge swylce seo herepad, sio t hilde gebad
ofer borda gebrc bite irena,
brosna fter beorne. Ne mg byrnan hring
fter wigfruman/ wide feran,
hleum be healfe. Ns hearpan wyn,
gomen gleobeames, ne god hafoc
geond sl swinge, ne se swifta mearh
burhstede beate. Bealocwealm hafa
fela feorhcynna for/ onsended.
Swa giomormod gioho mnde
an fter eallum, unblie hwearf/
dges ond nihtes, ot deaes wylm
hran t heortan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Strange Brew

Just last month Lst Jimmy told us of the (perverse?) pleasures of drinking neat scottish alcoholic ginger beer.

Germany, here, is renowned for the quality of its beers due to the Reinheitsgebot purity laws for all breweries, dating back from 1516.

So it has taken me over a week to come up with a Strange Brew, this one is imported from China! We had dined in a chinese restaurant in Detmold and the fragile-looking little waitress gave us this bottle as a parting gift. I'm not sure whether it was to en-courage or dis-courage our return ;-)

Anyway, I gave it a try, and had selected a Jever for comparison. Jever is a bitter East-fresian pils, brewed on Germany's north sea coast, and one of the beers we drink regularly :-) OTOH, Tsingtao is made with rice :-(

The head on the Tsingtao disappeared within 2 seconds leaving a very flat beer. By comparison, it takes several minutes for the Jever's head to subside. The taste was rather nondescript; perhaps it is intended to be drunk american style, i.e. so cold that your tastebuds freeze! With american beers, this is generally an advantage, I find. All in all, chinese beer - if this is typical - is an experiment I will not be repeating.

Meanwhile pop-pickers, as Jimmy would say, here are Cream performing Strange Brew. Get a load of Clapton's obligatory Jimi-Hendrix-style hair in this 1960's B&W video :-)

Comments(2) :
Wendy (ex-HK, now Oz) comments :- "Tsingtao beer was originally brewed by a German company which set up shop in China for some reason... I don't know who owns the company now, though. Apart from brewing it in Quingdao (or Tsingtao, if you like) I know they have another factory in Shenzhen (just over the border from Hong Kong) and that tastes even worse due to the poor quality of the water.Strangely, it's actually quite a popular beer in HK: probably because it's cheaper than European beers which don't usually travel well anyway. Who knows? I just drink wine :-) "

Liz Ditz (USA) has her own Strange Brew recipe :- "Tsingtao is widely available in the US -- well, in California, anyway. I've had it a few times. I don't care for beer with Chinese food, prefering a sweetish white wine. This alcoholic ginger beer cocktail might amuse you. Personally, I like it a lot, although I leave out the lime juice (see

Moscow Mule
- 1 1/4 oz Smirnoff vodka
- 3 oz. ginger beer
- 1 tsp. sugar syrup
- 1/4 oz. lime juice
- 1 sprig mint
- 1 slice lime
In a copper mug, pour vodka over ice. Add sugar syrup and lime juice. Top with ginger beer and stir. Garnish with mint sprig and lime slice.

History of Moscow Mule: In 1941, John G. Martin of Heublein, spirits and food distributor in east coast and Jack Morgan, Owner of the Cock'n Bull bar in Sunset Strip, Hollywood met in a bar in Los Angeles. Together they invented Moscow Mule by mixing Morgan's ginger beer with Smirnoff Vodka and lime in order to market the proprietor's struggling Cock'n Bull's ginger-beer franchise. They ordered specially engraved copper mugs and Martin set off to market it in the bars around the country. He bought one of the first Polaroid cameras and asked barmen to pose with a Moscow Mule copper mug and a bottle of Smirnoff vodka. Then he would leave one copy of the photo at the bar and take a second copy to the bar next door to show them that their competitors were selling their concoction. Between 1947 and 1950, thanks to their invention, Smirnoff vodka case columns more than tripled and nearly doubled in 1951. "

Monday, November 9, 2009

20 years ago today...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Celebrating Claude Shannon

The local HNF - the world's largest computer museum - is holding a special exhibition on Claude Shannon, the man who came up with Information Theory. The opening ceremony was on thursday evening and I managed to wangle an invitation :-)

I had a special reason for wanting to attend. I happen to own a rare copy of the second edition of his famous 1948 book (shown on the left below). And since two of the US guest speakers were Dr.Peggy Shannon - Claude Shannon's daughter - and the curator of the MIT museum, I got them both to autograph my copy :-) In exchange, I gave them an autographed copy of one of my papers (in English).

Another plus was that Axel Roch was in attendance, who has just had his Ph.D. thesis published in a commercial version. It is an expanded version, examining all the aspects of Claude Shannon's life, from communication theorist, via hobby juggler and machine constructor to designer of tracking HW for anti-aircraft guns. The book is shown on the right, above. The sketches therein were drawn by Shannon personally :-)

I also got to meet several old friends, e.g. Rudolf Staritz, who was Admiral Canaris's crypto-adjutant in WW2. He's 88 now, but still looks healthy for his age :-) At one time he had a collection of (italian) motorcycles bigger than mine (or even Paul's) :-)

The opening ceremony began with two magnificent Brit jugglers, Feeding the Fish :-) Should you ever get a chance to go see one of their performances, please do so. Coincidentally, Shannon was not the only top academic into juggling, Ron Graham being a case in point. Ron juggled under the nom de plume of Tom Odda, mischieviously chosen by him because it is an extremely vulgar expression in chinese ;-)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

So run, friend ;-)

Blogfriend Four Dinners and his mate Cappy are doing an internet radio show tonight. But sadly, I'll miss the first half of it :-( So I'll try again next saturday 9-11 pm UK time to catch it, with sketches about fonder ruins, finer rounds, Sir No-Refund, funnier rods, no rinsed fur, rider of nuns(!), no furred sin, nuder for sin, snored in fur, order fun sin(!), and any other anagrams of my mate 'Four Dinners' that you can think of ;-)

Comments(3) :
4D (UK) commented Yes...well...what can I say? Rider of Nuns eh? Caz thinks snored in fur is apt....although I don't wear fur to bed! Nobody said it was YOUR fur ;-)
Anthony, a Red Sea Pedestrian friend (UK & Israel), claims he's Furrin Nosed ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) laughs : When in the shower, do you 'Rinse Fun Rod' ? ;-)
Stu replies : Yes, Jenny, but 4D's "Rod's funnier" ;-)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pocket Enigma, revisited

Back in January of 2004, I wrote a paper for Cryptologia (the West Point code-breakers' journal) reviewing Brian Hargrave's Pocket Enigma and showing how to cryptanalyse it using pencil and paper only. It is effectively a single rotor Hebern machine of 1920's vintage. See my paper in Cryptologia Volume XXVIII Nr 1.

Now, almost six years later, I got an email from Bertie Smith at who wrote "... I have knocked up a (very simple) c++ application which encapsulates the Pocket Enigma. Lower case letters only are handled. I did it to avoid having to decode long strings from my 5 year old son :-)...". So, if anyone is interested in getting a copy, Bertie has source code and a Windows executable available. His email address is :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Indian Summer, Germany, November, 2009

Took this using a shoulder-cam. Camera mounted on an octopus-footclip attached to my left shoulder so that I could have both hands on the steering wheel. I just wanted to give you all an impression of the beautiful Indian Summer we are having this year. Shame about the big-block pixelly artefacts which the YouTube compression algorithm has put into the video :-( The original .avi has much better resolution, but takes 1 MB per second :-(

Comments (2) :
Charles Pergiel (USA) wrote "Indian Summer in Germany? I would have thought that Europeans would have had their own name for this time of year. I thought we got it from the American Indians, although I am not sure why that should be." Interestingly, Charles, our German word for vacation is 'Ur-Laub', the two syllables of which translate as 'ancient leaves'. Apropos 'leaves', you Americans call this time of year Fall (presumably being unable to spell Autumn correctly?) ;-)
Four Dinners wrote from London(UK) : " Looks lovely old bean. Not been too bad over here. Odd stormy day / night but surprisingly mild still. Saw a chap easily in his 60's wandering home with shopping bags today in his shorts!!! My dad always reckoned 'Indian Summer' came from the days of the Empire when troops... particularly officers....would come home on leave and, if it was Sept/Oct/Nov but still nice they'd say it was like 'summer in India' or some'at like that anyroad."
Stu replied, asking : Why did he have shopping bags in his shorts?

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Black Death Graveyard for Neuenbeken

W hen hiking through the woods a couple of miles south of the village of Neuenbeken last week I came across a 17th century Black Death graveyard. There were a dozen hastily erected (and unengraved) headstones gathering moss and a modern central memorial stone as both shown here in the photos below. Thinking 3 to 400 years is enough to make it safe, I entered and took these photos.

Between 1347 and 1353 Europe suffered a pandemic which wiped out a third of the population; the bubonic plague. This recurred every hundred years or so; in the village of Neuenbeken again in the 17th century. They carted the plague dead several miles outside the village and buried them in the woods, wanting any source of infection to be well away from the village (and downwind of themselves too).

The plague (Yersinia pestis bacteria) was alledgedly carried by rats and fleas although the Jews were assigned an unfair(?) portion of the blame. The infection went from village to village accompanying the travelling merchants (often Jews). This correlation led to anti-semitism, the Jews being blamed for 'poisoning the well-water'. Nowadays, we know that Yersinia pestis bacteria can survive up to 3 weeks in clothing (as can fleas), so this may be how they travelled on a healthy traveller from village to village.

Of course it didn't help that the Catholic church whipped up a religious frenzy, flagellants exposed their open wounds to the bacteria making them more likely to get the plague, and people travelling around as pilgrims looking for help (from St.Rochus).

Venice came up with a good idea, quarantining all ships for 40 days (twice the incubation period) upon arrival in port. That kept the seamen on board, but didn't stop the ships' rats running down the tie-ropes :-(

It's amazing how much of our cultural history I encounter when on these geocaching hikes through the countryside! It's becoming a very educational hobby indeed :-)

PS: I wrote this for Halloween, but forgot to blog it at the time :-(

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

And her big son 'Kosmo'.

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Recent Writings
Thanksgiving Play
Germany, by numbers
Teaching children to think
Sarah Palin : Going Rogue
Motorcycle Sculptures
Best UK Bike Museums
Whence 'America' ?
This,That & the Other
WASP :-(
Strange Brew
20 years ago today
Claude Shannon show
So run, friend
Pocket Enigma redux
Indian Summer Video
Black Death Graveyard
Change of vocabulary
DBD34 Goldies
Clean underwear needed!
YMMV ;-)
Multiplying by nine ;-)
Hypnotizing Numbers ;-)
Fighter Jock Humour
Misleading Questions
Wash your hands!
3-way fair sharing
GeoCaching : Trackables
Astronomical News ;-)
1-D Checkers
Fat Twins :-(
United Germany Day
On getting stoned

Archive 2009:
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct
I have taken the archives 2002 thru 2008 offline.
Mission statement

Link Disclaimer
ENGLISH : I am not responsible for the contents or form of any external page to which this website links. I specifically do not adopt their content, nor do I make it mine.
DEUTSCH : Fr alle Seiten, die auf diese Website verlinkt sind, mchte ich betonen, da ich keinerlei Einflu auf deren Gestaltung und Inhalte habe. Deshalb distanziere ich mich ausdrcklich von allen Inhalten aller gelinkten Seiten und mache mich ihre Inhalt nicht zu eigen.

Content Disclaimer
This blog is not (even politically) correct. It consists of 72% satire & sarcasm, 31% scientific reporting, and at least 4% arithmetical errors ;-) Thus everything blogged here should be taken with a pinch or 3 of NaCl.

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