Nav Tools

--> Most recent Blog

Comments Policy
Maths trivia
Search this site
RSS feed for Stu Savory's Blog RSS Feed
YouTube Videos

Site Meter

One of the 99%ers. 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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting a little cross ;-)

I wonder how The One True Church®, its gay(?) priesthood and uptight followers would respond if it were suddenly discovered that He had been a She all along?

Wonder no longer, because at Maxxim's night club in Berlin early saturday morning a bizarre 30 minute show (sic!) for 1500 guests explored the idea. Needless to say, there were irate phone calls ["Sodom and Gomorrah!"] and abuse ["whore!"] on the club's Facebook page on the following day, all from people who (we shall assume) were not even there. Death threats too, from the people who didn't understand that He(?) preached mercy and forgiveness. Best comments were about "turning the other cheek" IMHO :-)

Is a female Antichrist more acceptable? To whom?

Opinions and rants welcome...

Comments (6) :
Doug Alder asks "How can there be an antichrist when there was no christ in the first place?" You're implying religion is logical?
Mary (IRL) wrote "In Ireland you'd be guilty under our blasphemy law. Don't you have one in Germany?" §166 StGB. But you're confusing the messenger with the message.
Commenting on my previous reply, Andreas (Denmark via Finland) wrote "That sentence, and its reverse, both resonate very strongly with what is wrong with religion in general. If that was intentional, you're a very sneaky sort! Ok, we knew that already :D" Surely any set of beliefs ridiculous/inconsistent enough to require a law to prevent criticism of the same, is by definition unfit for human consumption?
Schorsch (D) said "Nice 1st photo; I'd worship her ;-)" Thou shalt not mock! Karl (D) wrote "The D-cup lady on the cross is called Chantal Anderson (age 24), she grew up as a Catholic girl in Bavaria." Quiet waters run deep ;-)
Ann (USA) tell us that "Heather Daughdrill (28), a religion teacher in a bible camp, seduced a 13 year old boy and had sex with him over a period (sic!) of several months" Makes a change from OTC priests buggering the choirboys (for which they do NOT get 5 year prison sentences!).

Monday, November 28, 2011

I took Taxicab number 91 :-)

T oday's blog entry is a YAMAHA. That's not the maker of motorcycles and musical instruments, it's a geeky acronym. YAMAHA stands for Yet Another Mathematically Amusing Historical Anecdote.

The non-mathematicians among you will need to be told the original story. The self-taught Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) came to England at the behest of his mentor, the English maths professor G.H.Hardy (1877-1947) where he became a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, but couldn't take the british weather and died of illness, malnutrition and possibly liver infection in 1920 at the age of 32. Hardy visited Ramanujan when he was ill, taking a taxi having the number 1729. Hardy relates "I remember once going to see him when he was ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavorable omen. 'No,' he replied immediately, 'it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of 2 cubes in 2 different ways'. "

You see, 123 + 13 = 103 + 93, and ever since the incident above, numbers which are expressible as the sum of 2 cubes in two ways have been known as Taxicab Numbers in honour of Hardy and particularly of Ramanujan :-)

Spool forward to last week, when my car was in the workshop, so I took a taxi from the workshop into town. Right in front of me was the taxi licence number. It was 91. Now somewhere in the back of my mind there is an autonomous piece of brain that seems to do maths 24/7, occasionally popping up with a delayed result or an interesting fact. Yes, many people have already told me that this is not normal usual ;-)

About 5 minutes into the taxi ride, this autonomous piece of my mind started getting excited, jumping up and down, waving for attention and generally having a mental orgasm, screaming at the top of its little voice "Hardy and Ramanujan! Hardy and Ramanujan! Looka thata! It's a taxicab number, if you allow negative integers! 91 = 63 + (-5)3 = 33 + 43. Hardy and Ramanujan!"

So I started jumping up and down in my seat too, and had to explain to the poor taxi driver what it was all about. I think he thought I was crazy; he wouldn't be the first;-) First time I'd ever been in a taxi with a taxicab number. Of course, the crowning glory would have been if the cab driver had been Indian, then he would have probably understood my excitement too. Of course, if he were Indian, he would probably have deliberately acquired either number 91 or 1729 just to see the reactions when he picked up rides from the maths faculty at the local university ;-)

Sadly, I didn't have a camera with me, otherwise I would have bored you with a photo of us and the taxicab number :-(

FWIW, 91 = 63 + (-5)3 = 33 + 43 is actually the smallest taxicab number.

Comments (3) :
Jackie (USA) says "You are one weird guy!" De nada ;-)
Kees Kennis (RSA) sent me this geeky maths photo from a sidewalk cafe :-

Jo (B) points out that "FWIW, 91 = 12 + 22 +32 +42 +52 +62 :-)" Wow!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unwelcome here

G uttenberg, a failed German politician and plagiator who fled the country in shame after it was discovered that whole chunks of his doctoral dissertation had been 'borrowed' from the works of other people attempted a comeback via a Canadian TV show. It was not well received here (to put it mildly). He has had to pay a €20,000 fine to avoid prosecution for plagiarism; chickenfeed to his aristocratic richness :-( That pisses people off too, him buying his way out of jail. One law for the rich, one for the poor...

Lifting texts from other people's books and blogs and putting them in your own requires that you only use short quotations and acknowledge the source from which you 'borrowed' them. This is called 'fair use' and is the basis of academic honesty. Plagiators may want to look up the word 'honesty' :-(

Why can't these people recognise they are not wanted here, just stay away!

Even down at the level of our website there are people who are unwelcome but still come twice a day. Just stay away please, you're not wanted here!

Update 14/12/2011 : Seen reading this very page from his place7 in the village*. Go away, you horrible little man!

Then there's the Pope, who on a recent drive around in Freiberg did not wear a seat belt as required by law. So Uwe Hilsmann from Dortmund has filed charges, a nice PR gag. Be interesting to see if the Pope pays the €30 fine or claims diplomatic immunity as visiting head of state to avoid the fine :-(
It'd be better if he just stayed away in future, like the others I mentioned.

Comments (5) :
Jackie (USA) points out that "He pink jolt - is an anagram of Lt. John Pike (the peppersprayer) who is unwelcome everwhere!" Yes, police brutality indeed. Fire him! And sue him for assault and battery, the damn fascist!
Jenny (Ibiza) quips " And FWIW, 'Han shot first' anagrams into 'Short in shaft'. Nothing to do with Jackie's comment, but just as geekily strange ;-)" So what does that tell us about Star Wars ? ;-)
Andreas (Denmark via Finland) complicates things even further :- "Does it apply to the present pope, to any catholic pope - or to any head of (any) church? Like, Liz? How about discordian popes, that'd be a problem, wouldn't it? Especially if you count all the people entitled to that title, instead of just the card-carrying ones :) P.S. completely unrelated, Santa is called Joulupukki in Finland. That's Yule Goat. Nice, eh? But I'd go further, translating "pukki" with it's cognate, twisting it a teeny bit: Yule Puck. Now doesn't that sound nice and scary?" I assume all people with diplomatic immunity could escape paying the fine, but only the Catholic church is also a state. Queen Liz of GB is a head of state and so has diplomatic immunity; in fact in the UK her car doesn't even need a licence plate. Whatever, we just want them to belt up ;-)
Jo (B) reminds me that "Your and my favourite hard rock group - Rammstein - has been declared a Public Enemy by Belarus" It's not 'My Country' ;-)
Gudrun (D) has a heads-up to Greg Laden's excellent article on "How to not get caught plagiarizing". Thanks, useful reading, not just for those mentioned above :-)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Worst Horror Movie?

Considerable discussion recently at the pub and on the intertubes as a result of the question "What were the worst and best horror films you have ever seen?"

There are whole internet sites dedicated to these 2 questions, I refer you to

My vote went to Alien as the best (it was really quite scary) and House of Wax as the worst (its only redeeming feature is seeing Paris Hilton die ;-).
So what are your answers to the question? Email me pls.

Meanwhile, Roberta (LA) has been hiding behind the sofa to avoid watching the GOP candidate debates on TV, in her opinion a REAL horror show ;-)

Comments (2) :
Doug Alder (Canada) wrote "Best - Anything with Vincent Price in it - in particular The Abominable Dr. Phibes and the Rise of Dr. Phibes...
Worst - Anything with Vincent Price in it - in particular The Abominable Dr. Phibes and the Rise of Dr. Phibes. Let's face it Vincent was a master of horror yet at the same time most of his movies were camp if not high camp. You often didn't know whether to laugh or scream :) Real worst? Any of the American slasher movies."
And Peter Cushing?
Xtreme English (USA) replied "I hate horror movies, and I agree that the Republican presidential candidate spectacle qualifies admirably. (Who's the one on the far left? Are they cloning themselves?) And will someone puhleeze explain to me the attraction of all this vampire sh*t? "Twilight" and all. Gah. Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Aliens (was there an Alienses??) was superb. You don't have a Thanksgivng holiday over there, but I'm sure you're grateful about many things--one thing we know about is that you're grateful you passed your proctoscope exam....." Yeah, that was my own horror movie, but I didn't watch it this time :-) . The local equivalent of Thanksgiving would be Harvest Festival, a pre-christian pagan celebration stolen by the churches and celebrated by them on the first sunday in october here. Not the big thing you guys 'n gals make of it. Re Reps : I don't know all the GOP candidates, so I point you to their GOP home page. And here's a movie review of all that OTHER vampire sh*t ;-)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

US supercommittee fail :-(

A US congressional committee tasked with reducing the deficit by $1.2tn has FAILED to come to an agreement.

That's why it's called 'Congress' ;-)

FWIW : Happy Thanksgiving :-(

Comments (2) :
Xtreme English (USA) grinned "Funny picture! Can't trust an elephant anywhere....." She also pointed me to this interesting research report on the difference between American and European values.
Leslie (USA) wrote "Looked up 'Congress' in my dictionary 'cos I felt I was missing your joke. First time I'd heard of THAT meaning! Literaley, WTF?" :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Debunking the Dean Drive in 1963

W ay back in the early 60s, Astounding Science Fiction (an SF magazine edited by John W.Campbell) did an article about the Dean Drive which was - in contradiction to the 'law' of the conservation of momentum - allegedly an unidirectional reactionless thruster. Dean received two patents for devices that are now known to be unable to generate a uni-directional force - except perhaps by friction/stiction with the surface on which the Dean Drive sits. Campbell got very excited about the prospects of anti-gravity and space travel using the Dean Drive and published the aforesaid article in May of 1962, claiming to have seen a demo.

Dean was very secretive about his drive, wanting a promise of the Nobel prize BEFORE doing a demo, Campbell said. The patents (Patent Numbers US 002886976 and US 03182517) are IMHO sketchy and obviously had not been tested by the US patent office. No working model???

Come 1963, my uni friend John and I were reading undergrad physics at City University (London, UK). One of our classes was in Design of experiments and we persuaded the lecturer to let us use the lab facilities to build and test a Dean Drive. John was tasked with building one (out of Meccano) from the (rough) descriptions in Dean's patents and from Campbell's article. It was my job to come up with a test bench to measure any unidirectional reactionless thrust however miniscule such thrust might be. This is it :-

Firstly, I decided to avoid any effects due to stiction/friction and so the Dean Drive is screwed onto a board which is suspended from the ceiling by very long wires, shown as the diagonal lines going up out of the top of my 1963 sketch. On the right hand side of that board is a spirit level to make sure it was horizontal before the Dean Drive was turned on. Any unidirectional net thrust would displace the board to the right. The vernier scale on the lower left was added in case the displacement was too small to move the bubble of the spirit level. Similarly, the mirror on the left was added to get an optical lever using a light beam (this was before we had lasers).

Surface friction accounted for, I had to make sure there was no use of air as a thrust medium (the cams of the Dean Drive could have acted like propellers). So I put a bell jar over the Dean Drive and exhausted it using a vacuum pump subsequently removed.

Next I had to account for any electromagnetic effects, so the battery driving the electromotor of the Dean Drive was mounted on the board with a 3-way switch. Why a 3-way switch? I had included a small ohmage resistor inside the bell jar which took the same current as the Dean Drive so I could take into account any magnetic effects of the current flowing through the wires from the battery. As it turned out, there were none.

Turning the Dean Drive on and off showed there was NO unidirectional reactionless thrust produced and so we had successfully debunked the Dean Drive :-) Just to be sure, we suspended it inside the stairwell of the multi-storey clock tower. The suspending wires acted like a low-pass filter cutting out most vibrations from passing traffic (remember, this apparatus was in the middle of London!). Turned out I'd built a VLF seismograph ;-)

Incidentally, a letter to John.W.Campbell with a copy of our debunking lab report produced no reply. Unwelcome news I guess :-(

Comments (1)
Brian (UK) asked teasingly "No precaution against electrostatic effects?" I think the suspending wires were earthed, but my lab book doesn't say so.

Monday, November 21, 2011


"Listen up, sonny, I'm gonna ram this steel rod five feet up yo' ass, twist it about in your fat soft underbelly and pull it out slowly, cutting bits of your guts out as I go! So . . . . . would you like a sedative?"

Those may not be the exact words the doctor used when I reported for a colonoscopy, but they are the gist of it ;-)

Regular readers of this blog may know that apparently I am susceptible to cancer (survived prostate cancer 2010, had 2 latent skin cancers removed this year) and so I thought it sensible to get my colon checked for cancer as it had been a decade since my last check. A colonoscopy is recommended for both men and women over 50 every 10 years. This blog essay is just to take away any fears you may have :-)

Preparation starts 3 days before the procedure when you make sure you eat nothing with pips in or hard bits or colouring. This includes e.g. strawberry jam, fruit joghurts, muesli etc. On the day before the procedure only eat soft foods like fish and soft vegs, then fast from noon (fat-free broth, thin soups or coffee (but no milk) are allowed) and foods with colouring are to be avoided. Drink lots of water, because when you take the super-laxative to flush you empty you will be losing lots of body fluid. Believe me ;-)

On the evening (about 4 to 7pm) before the procedure take the super-laxative to flush you empty. In my case this was two powders mixed then dissolved in a liter of water. Tasted OK, sorta lemony. Ten years ago it was 3 liters of paraffiny liquid which tasted terrible, these new powders are much better tasting. After about 2 hours make sure you are within 30 seconds of a toilet ;-) You may not be red in the face, but boy, you will be really flushed.

After another 2 hours you can safely go to bed :-) Next morning (7 am) my wife drove me to the hospital for my colonoscopy. There I was given the second 1 liter laxative dose, and was thoroughly empty by 10 am. On previous occasions I'd elected to do without a sedative so that I could see on TV what the endoscope was showing. But that had been rather painful. It's not the five feet of pipe of the endoscope that causes the pain (the endoscope is only about as thick as your thumb), but they blow air up yo' ass to distend the gut to make room for the endoscope. This distension is quite painful, as anyone who has been severely constipated will know.

So I had the 100% sedative this time and went to sleep for the entire procedure which takes about 20-30 minutes. Took me 3 hours to wake up though, to no pain at all. The doctors then told me the good news (no cancers or ulcerations etc seen) and my wife came to drive us home. You are not allowed to drive, operate machinery, or make momentous decisions for the next 24 hours as you'll be slightly woozy and wobbly on your feet. You will also fart a lot (all that air, remember). The next afternoon I called the doc for the results of the histological samples (the bits he'd snipped out of my gut walls as he withdrew the endoscope). The samples check for hemorrhoids (sp?), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer and polyps. None of these for me, so I'm happy with the results :-)

I chose to go to a hospital because in (less than) 1% of the cases the gut gets perforated neccessitating an immediate invasive operation, which is easier if you are already in the hospital. But you can have it done in a walk-in session by your local gastro-enterologist too. Your choice.

I can recommend the procedure to all my blogreaders over 50, even if only for the peace of mind it gives you :-) Painless, just a bit messy. Go for it!

Comments (11) :
Jenny (Ibiza) said "You have a talent for making a serious subject funny."
Doug Alder (Canada) has an additional tip for the smokers amongst you "I too must have one every 10 years or less due to IBS. As you say it's no big deal and I always elect for anaesthesia - best sleep I've had in years and the most unstressed 24 hours (no wonder they say do not operate heavy machinery etc.) :) For ex-smokers who also have GERD I would also recommend having a gastroscopy every decade or so - this is the polar opposite of the colonoscopy - here they ram the 5 feet of steel down your throat and into your intestines. Great for sword swallowers ;)"
Anonymous opined "Always knew you were a big asshole!" It's mutual ;-)
Brian (UK) asks "Sounds unpleasant. How effective is it?" Not sure I can answer that, Brian, I'm no expert, so ask your doctor. But(t) I can give you some numbers from a leaflet in the surgery. 248,000 people in Germany have colonic cancer, about 27,000 die from it every year. For comparison, 3650 die in traffic accidents. 14% of the women with colonic cancer die from it, 23% of the men. 30% of the cancers are inherited. 80% are caught early. Of the 55-74 year-olds, only 3% go for a colonoscopy voluntarily in any given year, implying only 30% over the recommended 10-year interval. For any more details the leaflet refers you to the studies done by Hermann Brenner at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg.
Tina (D) asks hopefully "So, did you lose weight? ;-)" Yes, 2 KG. But I regained 1 KG as my gut refilled [yes, Anon, I'm full of shit again ;-)].
Pete (GB) jokes "So does the doctor refer to all his colonoscopy gear as Bum-f? ;-)" Nice pun. Actually it is spelled B-U-M-P-F and is an acronym we flying instructors give our students for their pre-landing check sequence as :- B for Brakes off, U for Undercarriage down, M for Mixture rich, P for Propellor to fine pitch, F for flaps down :-)
Pete (GB) replied "I didn't know that, nor did I know there is a P im bumPf" The P is silent, as in bath; heh, heh ;-)
Liz Hinds (GB) wrote "Colonoscopy sounds horrid. I would most definitely have opted for sedation. I fainted in the optician's. Don't think it's routinely offered in the UK." Some UK hospitals insist on no sedation so that you can wriggle cooperatively to ease the endoscope (=ramrod) on its way in :-(
Xtreme English (USA) sympathised "Ick. I already had one, thanks. That rotorooter feature, where they clip bits off on the way out sounds particularly barbaric. Glad you got such good news out of the deal, and glad you went to the hospital. As long as you weren't allowed to eat anyway, might as well!! Onward...." Probably my last one. Once you get over 75 here they don't do them any more, I'm told. Same with the prostate OP. Betting you'll die of something else I guess :-(
Dave (USA) points us to this NY taxi driver and wrote "Wonder if this NY taxi driver is training to be a proctologist? ;-)" Well found!
Kathy (UK) points us to a new article on the BBC website giving positive news on the median survival times for those diagnosed with various types of cancer. For colonic cancer it has improved to 10 years. The all-cancers average is now almost 6 years, but pancratic, stomach, lung, brain and oesophagal cancer all remain well (sic!) under 1 year :-(

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A word on sunday

Before you put any money into the collect this sunday, please ask yourselves where it will end up.

Contribute directly; cut out the middle man!

Comments (4) :
Cop Car (USA) agreed : "Stu--That is one sick dude in the left-hand photo, and he was preceded by many similarly ill dudes. If Catholics had any conscience, they would sell off all of their gold, jewels, and realty holdings to apply toward birth control resources and services for the desperately poor peoples of the world. Bah, humbug!" Not just The One True Church®, my criticism applies to all the hypocritically money-hoarding sects.
Xtreme English (USA) adds "I agree wholeheartedly with the thesis of your blog and Cop Car's comment. Fed up with those clerical eejits!"
Paul (Zaire) tells us "The Pope is currently visiting Africa, specifically Cotonou, Benin's main city in the heartland of the Voodoo religion where he issued a warning against witchcraft (sic!)" Well it's the competition, isn't it? Did you know that the phrase 'hocus pocus' comes from the words used in the Latin Mass 'Hoc est Corpus' . Just sayin' . . . ;-)
Mandy (UK) grinned "Here's my favourite Roman Catholic video ;-)"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mixed responses

My internet presence gets mixed responses. This blog generally gets small but positive feedback, the latest being an enthusiastic fan-mail from Prof. Guido Schröder who holds the Chair of International Governance at the University of Bayreuth. He even includes some of my more academic postings on cryptography, geography, and mathematical modelling in his lectures, he tells me. His poor students ;-)

However, I also read other people's blogs (see my blogroll) and comment on them. Recently, Kees Kennis has called me out on trolling some of the right wing blogs. But it's so much fun :-) Other US (right wing) blogs cannot tolerate views other than their own and delete unread any remarks I make. Of course, the US constitution defends free speech, but that doesn't mean they'll respect the constitution. So it's probably best that I remove them from my blogroll, so I resist the temptation to troll over and say something educational (or arrogant?) which they wouldn't like. Pity though, because variation adds spice to life. Perhaps I should leave him with an anecdote :-

There once was a Russian monarch who had a canyon named after him : perhaps you've heard of Czar Chasm?

I recognise of course that nothing I could say would persuade the religious to join me in Atheism nor can I move people from their conservative to perhaps more liberal world views. I think it was the early 20th century German actor Curt Goetz (1888-1960) who said "Das Denken ist zwar allen erlaubt, bleibt aber vielen erspart".

Peace, Bro :-)

Comments (5) :
May (Canada) wrote "What a beautiful orchid :-) But can you explain the ALT text pls?" It was a sly reference to Daniel Keyes' short story ;-)
Craig (USA) protests "The minimum IQ requirement for recruits to the Spanish Army is 70. Perhaps we need a similar rule on the Intertubes? ;-)" No, that would lose us the FAILblog videos and Tea-Party posts;-)
Myra (NY,NY) admonishes me "You're often too acerbic at times. Be a Mensch!" I'm trying. That's the way I am ;-)
Demeur (USA) opined "Your wit is as dry as ever" Thankyou.
Kees Kennis extends my Czar Chasm pun, with a snide pun of his own "Have you heard about the English gentleman Sir Stirrer who married a Shia woman and immigrated to Egypt. He got involved in the Arab Spring (Autumn?) and is now known as the : Shi'ite Stirrer" Nice one, I award you the turd prize ;-)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Green Man

Just recently, Xtreme English has blogged about The Green Man. Not this one, but a man who designs vertical gardens (read Babylon ;-).

So just to give her some background, I pointed her to the thoroughly recommendable Kingsley Amis novel and to the original sculpture in the nave of Winchester cathedral in England. I assume y'all know that Winchester used to be the capital of first Wessex then England in the Middle Ages? Anyway, to cut a long story short, I also have a reproduction of the Winchester cathedral Green Man which is a ca. 1400 AD carving on the top of one of the columns in the nave. This reproduction is made from 15th century stone taken from the cathedral during restoration work. So, for blogfriend Xtreme English here are a couple of photos of my 15th century masonry :-)

The cathedral is worth seeing. The coffins containing the remains of Saxon kings from 640 AD ff such as King Cynegils of Wessex, also King Cnut who died in 1035 AD (he was the dyslexic one who tried to command the tide to retreat) are housed up in the rafters where grave-robbers can't get at them :-) Also worth seeing in Winchester is The Great Hall of England which houses the original Round Table.

The Green Man was an ancient pagan deity - carvings are known from the 11th century - so I was surprised to see him in a Christian cathedral. But he pops up all over the place, even in churches, as indeed do images of Jesus ;-)

Comments (2) :
Xtreme English (USA) wrote "Hi, Stuart....thanks for the wonderful photos! That's an especially lovely green man. Until this past week, I'd never heard of the green man as a subject of sculpture. Thanks for the info on Winchester Cathedral, too. (The Beatles had a song about that, right?) " No, it was the Vaudeville Band, #1 in 1966, when I was more into Cream because Clapton was God :-)
Liz Hinds asks "Is that the same as Jack in the Green? (Fab restaurant by that name in Devon. Also a traditional builder.)" No, Liz. Jack in the Green was a 16th/17th century innovation, a figure made for the May Day celebrations. The Green Man is a pre-christian (pagan) deity in the UK.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

R U Mental?

Sadly, in parallel with the growth of the usage of pocket/desktop calculators, people have lost the ability to do mental arithmetic :-(

So I am glad to see that the UK and German pleb press have introduced mental arithmetic exercises for their readers. Generally, there are three ten-step puzzles, each with a 30 second time limit, one for beginners, one for advanced and one for profi users. All the final results are whole numbers. If you can do all three within 30 seconds each, I recommend you set yourself a 10 sec limit for the first, 20 secs for the second and 30 secs for the hardest of the three. Here is an example trio. You can rollover the final question marks to see if you got the answers right. Remember to time yourselves.

  • 4, *20, +4, /12, squared, +2, /3, doubled, -6, /7 = ?
  • 18, *11/36, *100, +5, /15, -5, *9/16, *10, *75% , *2/3 = ?
  • 31, a fifth, *10, -17, *9, a third, -57, 5/6 thereof, *25, 20% thereof = ?
Tell me how you got on :-)

Comments (6) :
Jenny (Ibiza) wrote "1 and 2 OK but I timed out on the third :-(" Not unusual. Practice makes perfect.
Ivan (RU) claims "...too easy, give us a level FOUR puzzle..." OK, here it is:

  • 67, ^3, -115, /3, -9^5, -2^6, mod(179), +488, mod(13), ^17 = ?
Xtreme English (USA) wrote "Can we use a pencil??? I did #1 just fine, but I fell into the abyss on 3 and worse yet on 2. if i could use a pencil, though....EZ!" No, it's good memory training to keep the intermediate results in your head. Working it out with a pencil is a strategy for constipated people only ;-)
Pergelator (USA) wrote "The first three took no (apparent) time at all. I was totally engrossed. Very enjoyable. #4 was too much work, so I resorted to paper and pencil. Took me 15 minutes and one page to come up with the wrong answer, and then another 45 minutes to figure out where I went wrong. (a + b)^3 = a^3 + 3a^2b + 3ab^2 +b^3, not a^3 + 2a^2b + 2b^2 +b^3. Silly me. I was using this as a short cut for finding the cube of 67 by first finding the cube of 70 and the cube of 3." They are fun indeed, I do them daily.
Ivan (RU) replied "This is level four? I'd say 'This one goes to eleven!' " True, I too was WAY over the 40 second time limit. Stack overflow ;-)
Demeur wrote "As to your math problems I must say I gave up on that years ago. The best I can do now is grocery store math and even there I came up with a clever work around. Coming home late one night I realized that I needed groceries. Some large chains here are open 24 hours. Much fatigued I meandered down the aisles trying to shop for the best bargains I soon discovered that the brain just could do the math at that late hour. And then it struck me. Others had already done the math for me. By looking at the shelves and product spaces with the least amount of items told me that that was definitely the best buy. Lazy I know but it's interesting how the mind can solve some fundamental problems even without mathematics. Don't get me wrong I am always a supporter of advanced learning but there are times when mind and body have other ideas.:-) " Quite a neat idea :-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

The last snarkenfaugister

A snarkenfaugister* is - according to Terry Pratchett** - a maker of small everyday items such as e.g. pencil sharpeners.

When I was a young lad (six decades ago) I held the point of view that you should be able to deduce the purpose of any previously unseen item merely by examining it closely. Of course this was before I found out about Cargo Cults and , indeed, G-spots ;-)

Look at the item in the photo and pretend you don't know what a pencil sharpener is or does. The two holes indicate there are two standard sizes of things to be processed. Standardisation implies industrial manufacture in quantities. The shape of the holes implies that cylindrical objects are to be given conical ends. Perhaps you, Vlad, are making small stakes for impaling miniature vampires, perhaps by twilight ;-) ? However the sharp blade does not reach to the end, so the conified cylinder must contain a core which is not to be given a tiny point (look at a carpenters' pencil sharpener if you don't believe me). The riffling on the sides implies that the item is to be held between two fingers, limiting the amount of torque that can be applied to conify the cylinders. The blades are removable (see the screws?) so they must become blunt by cutting the cylindrical material. Incidentally, when was the last time you could buy an individual blade or even had a whetstone for sharpening it? We can deduce the core material is softer than the (supporting?) material on the outside of the cylinder. Eventually, we might be able to deduce the existence of pencils and the need to sharpen them. Incidentally, the two sizes are for standard pencils and the fatter ones used in kindergarten and primary schools.

It is much easier of course just to show young children how to use the pencil sharpener when their pencil gets blunt.

Things get more complicated however when you (perhaps inadvertently) make multi-purpose devices such as a dog-shaped pencil sharpener which barks when the pencil is sharp enough to hurt.

Do we really want to teach our kindergarten children to shove sharp (or even blunt) pencils up a dog's anus until it barks? The dog would savage them back! Whichever snarkenfaugister designed this should have one applied to herself until they realised the errors of their ways! Incidentally, the last snarkenfaugister died 27 years ago in a freak pencil-sharpener accident, probably the one described in the previous sentence ;-)

Children should be left to discover dildoes MUCH later in their lives*** :-)

Comments (4) :
Kees Kennis (RSA) wrote "In Penn State they use big blunt objects on small peeps. I think the screw is not for removal to sharpen the blade but a logical fastening of the blade. If you cast it in the even limited torque would loosen it quite quickly. And the casting in of the blade would be very tricky indeed." That would explain why you can't buy individual blades. Me, I've always wondered why Penn State dropped the 'I' between Penn and State ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "Is snarkenfaugister a genuine German word?" No. Pterry just made it up to sound so. The first syllable associates with Lewis Carroll.
Kay (USA) pleads "Tell us more about the snarkenfaugister please." I can only quote from Terry Pratchett's book 'Snuff' p387/388 "a maker of small but necessary items such as spills and very small clothes pegs for indoor use and half-sized cocktail sticks for people who don't drink long drinks", he continues "...died 27 years ago in a freak pencil-sharpener accident". So I made up this anecdote, Kay, to explain the accident as well as ranting about designs which are not well thought through :-)
CopCar (USA) wrote "... I have a few whetstones - not specifically for pencil sharpening blades, but certainly useful for such blades. A few months ago, browsing in an art supply store, I found that I could buy blades for pencil sharpeners similar to the one in the photo that you posted (my own double-barreled sharpener is green plastic). They were expensive (on the order of $4 or $8 US, each), and they were made in Germany. You've caused me to wonder if I still have the lead sharpener for drafting, mechanical clutch pencils that I purchased in 1959. It was still hanging around some years ago, but I've probably given it (and the pencils) away. I'm not sure that the truncated cone-shaped sandpaper refills are still available for such sharpeners. Do you know?" No, I've never seen them either; sorry Evelyn. But you could try asking a Faber and Castell dealer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Zero Zero Bang-Out Fail :-(

Another of the Red Arrows (the RAF's aerobatic jet formation team) pilots has been killed. He was inadvertently ejected from his Hawk while it was standing on the ground :-(

Of course we should not speculate on the cause of the incident until the RAF inquiry is completed. Nevertheless, I can give you some data on the ejection seat used, which in the Hawk is a Martin-Baker Mk.10 afaik.

The ejection system assumes you are strapped in, the leg restraints (lower left) are around your legs, the firing safety pins have been removed and the canopy is shut. Given this, the Mk.10 has a zero-zero capability. This means it can eject you at zero altitude and/or zero speed and you will survive (albeit hurting from the bang-out Gees). This is how it works :-

The pilot pulls up the striped handle between his legs with both hands. The harness retraction unit (that's the black motor at the right at shoulder level) tightens the straps snapping you back onto the backpad and the headpad. The primary cartridge fires starting the seat on its trip up the guide rails and starting the canopy fracturing system to get the canopy out of the way. All connectors separate. The leg restraint lines snap the pilot's legs back to the seat. The rocket pack fires to give the seat sufficient altitude for the zero-zero case but at acceptable accelerations so as not to crush your spine. At apogee the drogue gun (red and white at upper right) fires, pushing the drogues out of the top of the parachute box (that's the one behind the pilot's head). Straps/restraints are released. The drogues pull the parachute out of its box, airflow deploys the main chute as the seat descends. The chute pulls the (now unrestrained) aircrew away from the seat. I may have omitted some details, but that's basically how an ejector seat works, given that the assumptions made at the beginning of this article hold true. But no, I have never ejected, myself.

FWIW, there are no arm restraints and there is no canopy jettison facility on this model (10B) afaik. The Harrier used the Mk.12. seat instead.

Comments (5):
Schorsch (D) asks "...does it assume your wearing a helmet too?" Yes, it assumes you're [sic] wearing a helmet with the visor down, protecting your face and head from the airstream and any jagged shards of the canopy (you are going up through a cloud of those shards!).
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "What does the Mk.12 seat have that the Mk.10 doesn't?" Well, the Harrier is a ground attack plane, so you'd have night vision goggles. The Mk.12 seats pull the night-vision goggles away from your face before banging you out into the slipstream :-)
Demeur (USA) wrote "...As for the jet ejection seat the U.S. jets have explosive charges that blow the canopy. All seems as you describe otherwise except for the fact of having ones' spine compressed by 1/2 inch or more in the process. Something I'm sure isn't too pleasurable." Yes, I believe spinal compression is the major injury for those ejecting given the initial assumptions of the modus operandi. Some systems jettison the canopy whole, others blow it to pieces. The seat merely initiates the canopy removal sequence regardless of how that is done.
Xtreme English asked "But how could he be killed with all those precautionary restraints? or did he pull the handle himself?..." We won't know until the RAF inquiry is completed Mary. I'm focussing on the seat-usage assumptions though. Just my 2cent guess as someone who has never had to eject.
Piet (NL?) wrote "I like your science posts, give us more!" Wilco :-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Carl Sagan's Birthday :-)

C arl Sagan would have been 77 today. So instead of rabbiting on - like several other German blogs - about the Reichskristallnacht (Yammer, yammer, already) or about the fall of the Berlin Wall (from which we have still not recovered economically), let us look forward as Carl Sagan did:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dodgy BBC Headline ;-)

My Ozzie blogfriend Wendy used to be a journalist and has told me in the past that there's nothing journalists enjoy more than sneaking a risque´ double entendre headline past their editors. So I'm blogging this one - which appeared on this morning's BBC online front page - especially for her. This is for you, Wendy :-)

I wonder how long it will be there before a BBC editor notices and pulls it ;-)

Update 11:27 - they've noticed, and changed it to 'cockerels' :-(

Comments (1) :
Juan (MX) asks "Where is the article gone? The headline is not on the BBC front page any more :-(" You can find the cleaned-up article here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

M5 Motorway Pile-Up :-(

Over in the UK the press are asking who is responsible for the huge pile-up on the M5 motorway on saturday. They are suggesting that smoke from a rugby club bonfire-night Guy Fawkes party may have blown across the road, severely reducing visibility, and therefore the rugby club is responsible. For my taste there is too little (if any) mention of such words as :-

  • tailgating
  • speeding (in the rain)
  • any phoning at the wheel, etc.
So smoke blowing across the road is responsible instead???

Still, it could have been worse.
It might have been the motorway past Fukushima...

Comments (1) :
Pergelator (USA) wrote "Rumor has it that smoke from grass fires used to cause wrecks on Interstate 5 in the Willamette Valley. Grass seed is one of the biggest crops here. The grass farmers used to burn the stubble every fall, which created a good deal of smoke, which led to numerous accidents on the Interstate. Somebody (I think it was the state government) eventually put a stop to the practice. Funny how people will continue to drive fast even when visibility diminishes. I have done it myself on occasion, even when I knew I should slow down. I think there is some weird psychological thing going on here." If you slow down too quickly, a tailgater might ram you. The trick is to decelerate slowly with your flashers on, I think.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Another Funeral :-(

M y friend of many years, Achim, has succumbed to bone cancer. So I shall be attending his funeral this afternoon to pay my last respects. I suppose that statistically speaking we lose half our friends before The Grim Reaper calls on us. But that is no consolation.

Ingo died of heart failure in his early forties, Gisela of cancer, a pilot friend spun her plane in in a fog bank, Rolf had a heart attack while on a Harley vacation in the States, and this year alone Gudrun died in May of peritonitis, Andy had a fatal stroke in July, Tony died at 80 in September, and now Achim has gone (peacefully) at an early 61 :-( Requiescat in pace.

The white horse, just trotting so far, is gradually breaking into a gallop.

Terry Pratchett - himself diagnosed with Alzheimer's - uses a Yogi Berra line in his Discworld books "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours." When Christians laugh at that I know they don't really believe in an afterlife. I prefer to quote George Sand "One approaches the journey's end. But the end is a goal, not a catastrophe."

My consolations go to his wife Ute and their children. A good man gone :-(

Comments (1)
Freja (D) asks "...statistically speaking, what is the average age?..." Nowadays it's 77 for men, women live 5 years longer. But since I didn't contribute to the first 67 years of the mortality curve of the 1944-born, I can expect to be 81, if it weren't for various individual health issues...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Indian Summer in Germany, Nov. 1st 2011

This year in Germany, autumn is still with us in november. So I took my friends Frank and Ulrike for a slow ride along the forest road through the woods of Reinhardswald. It's about a half-hour ride along a single-track road from north to south, and this is a 30-second extract just to show you the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves. I gave Ulrike my camera, set it to video, and she made a half a dozen hand-held videos from the pillion seat of Frank's Harley. That's yours truly leading the way on a Triumph Street Triple. Dry weather, +12°C, but slippery leaves on the asphalt with deer and boar running in the forest, so we were going slowly and enjoying the view.

Microphone shrouded to diminish engine- and airflow- noise as far as possible. We even passed a large hunting party (about 100 hunters & game-drivers) just finishing their hunt, having culled upwards of a dozen deer and feral pigs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2,388,772,923 + 1

Appropriately enough, Halloween turned out to be the day that the seven thousand millionth living human was born, statisticians tell us from their position where they Stand on Zanzibar.

As a distraction, I trekked back down the exponential curve to the hour of my birth. Even then, there were 2,388,772,923 of you other folk out there. And we've tripled from that tiny number to 7,000,000,000 all in my short lifetime. Move over, you motherfuckers*, or you'll be pushing me out to drown in the Indian Ocean - or some other not so tasty fate - soon :-(

Google Adsense :

Comments (3) :
Schorsch (D) points out "No one knows when that day or hour will come (Mark 13:32 and Mathew 24:36) so the date and time of the 7 billionth person is an arbitrary choice by statisticians!" True, but imagine if we could identify the exact child, wouldn't it be great if his surname was really 'Green'? A one in a million chance is ALWAYS true (quoting Terry Pratchett), so the parents would be almost obliged to give him the name 'Soylent'! Chew on that! ;-)
Pierre (F) chides me "Triple population in under 70 years? Extrapolating that back from 7 billion would place the creation only 1200 years ago. That's inconsistent with your previous post about Bishop Ussher :-(" True. I think (but don't know) that longer life times, lower infant death rates etc all contribute to making the curve hyper-exponential over the last 200 years. Need to ask an expert, not me :-)
Doug Alder subtracts the numbers from WW2 and WW1 : "Another factor to consider in this is that WWII, with somewhere around 80M dead, killed off approximately 3-4% of the world's population which was around 2,000,000,000 in the late '30s. WWI accounted for a loss of ~2% of the worlds population before that - in 1914 the population was about 1.8billion and the death toll - was about 37.5M - not sure how one would combine those but there you are - that's a big slice of the population in any case." Yes, the 'exponential' curve is just a Malthusian model. I suppose actuaries may have some 'real' numbers, at least for the past 400 years or so.

23 Recent Writings
FWIW : 23 is the number of the Illuminati, folks ;-)
Getting a little cross ;-)
Taxicab number 91 :-)
Unwelcome here
Worst Horror Movie?
US supercommittee fail
Debunking the Dean Drive
A word on sunday
Mixed Responses
The Green Man
R U Mental?
The last snarkenfaugister
Zero-Zero Bang-Out Fail
Carl Sagan's Birthday :-)
Dodgy BBC headline ;-)
M5 Motorway Pile-up
Another Funeral :-(
Indian Summer
2,388,772,923 + 1
Halloween Habits ;-)
125th anniversary
EuroZone Debt Deal
58 down :-(
Happy Creation Day ;-)
Do you come here often?
Fast Morse
Interview about Blogging
Good Riddance, Liam!
Failed Fails ;-)
October skies
Drone cyberwar

Archive 2011:
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct
Archive 2010:
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
Archive 2009:
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
Archives 2002-2008 offline to save server file-space.
Ain Bulldog Blog
Balloon Juice
Cheese Aisle
Cocktail Party Physics
Cosmic Variance
Decrepit Old Fool
Doug Alder
Dr Grumpy
Earth-Bound Misfit
Elizabeth Irreverent
Fail Blog
Finding life hard?
Flight Level 390
Greg Laden
Inspector Gadget
Kees Kennis
Making Light
Mostly Cajun
Noded (JR)
Not Always Right
Observing Hermann
One Good Move
Rants from t'Rookery
Squatlo Rant
Stupid Evil Bastard
The Magistrate's Blog
Too many tribbles
Toxic Drums
Xtreme English
Yellowdog Grannie

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 : Für alle Seiten, die auf dieser Website verlinkt sind, möchte ich betonen, daß ich keinerlei Einfluß auf deren Gestaltung und Inhalte habe. Deshalb distanziere ich mich ausdrücklich von allen Inhalten aller gelinkten Seiten und mache mich ihrem Inhalt nicht zu eigen.

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

Index/Home Impressum Sitemap Search site/www