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

And her big son 'Kosmo'.

Some of my bikes

My Crypto Pages

My Maths Pages

Friday, October 31, 2014

A budding cricket star

Warwickshire Cricket Club have signed an upcoming young man this year.

He bats right handed and bowls right arm medium pace offbreak. He is only 19 years old and was born of British parents in Hong Kong - surprisingly after the end of British rule there (but cricket continued, we must presume).

He was brought up, for the most part, in Australia and fast-tracked into their Under-19 cricket side as a 16-year-old already.

The major teams he has played for include :- Australia Under-19s, Queensland Under-17s, Queensland Under-19s, Warwickshire 2nd XI and Warwickshire, where his batting average is 51.43 already.

I was disappointed to discover that he was actually born on 16th July because - given his name - I would have expected him to have been born on October 31st at sunset (=Halloween) ! Didn't I mention his name? It's Sam Hain ;-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Early Steam Engines

When I was in London at the beginning of the month, I spent half of sunday doing a quick tour through the science museum.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I still have a childhood fascination with steam trains, so I went and took some photos of early steam locomotives.

The first photo, below, is of Stephenson's Rocket. Built in 1829, it won the Rainhill Trials held by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1829 to choose the best design to power the railway. It became the template for most steam engines in the following 150 years. This one is the original!

Contrary to popular opinion, the Rocket was not the first steam locomotive. Earlier, Robert Stephenson had built the primitive and inefficient Blüchner in 1814, the Lancashire Witch in 1828 and before that, the Locomotion No.1 (shown below) in 1825, the first to pull a passenger train (Stockton & Darlington Rwy). I know it blew its boiler to bits in 1827, so this is not quite the original.

Progress was rapid and by the time the Metropolitan Railway was building the forerunner of the London Tube (=subway system) it was using broad gauge locomotives like the one shown below, which dates from 1868.

Now smoke, fire and coal dust etc are obvious disadvantages for an underground railway, so 20 years later along came Thomas Parker who electrified the London Tube. It has been electric ever since. Thomas Parker also built electric cars, like this one, from 1884. Range and speed unknown.

Wooden spoked wheels, rim brake on the left rear wheel, passengers inside but the chauffeur (=driver) outside exposed to the elements, leaf springs, solid tyres, and obviously a converted (horse-drawn) carriage. However, there was no place for a postillion [lest he be struck by lightning? ;-)].

Comments (1) :
Karl (D) wrote "Stephenson also built (and supplied as a kit) the Adler which pulled Germany's first passenger train in 1835. There's a replica in our (German) national railway museum." I learn something new every day :-)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Clock of the Long Now

Human civilisation has been going a mere 10,000 years and has (sadly) evolved into today's "faster/cheaper" mindset where everything is done in a hurry. The Long Now Foundation wants us to assume long term responsibilites, measured in centuries. To this end, they are trying to build a clock which will run for the next 10,000 years, chiming once every millenium. The Clock of the Long Now. The prototype shown here is on display in the Science Museum in London, where I took this photo earlier this month.

Some of the things to be taken into consideration over ten millenia are :-

Earthquake/ weatherproof location.

Minimal human intervention (e.g. for regular or occasional/emergency maintenance).

Easy to repair if man's knowledge gets lost.

'Eternal' / unlootable energy source (e.g. no batteries or springs to wind manually).

Made of valueless materials to avoid looting.

Friction and lubrication over 10,000 years.

But consider this : If you also want to display not only time but also a date (with a 5-digit year (02014)) then you will want to gear down the rotations. Assume you use Worm gears, let's say 50 revolutions of the worm gear turns the cogwheel once. The torque on the worm gets multiplied by 50 too. Two worm gears in series multiply the torque by 50*50=2500. You would need five wormgears to cover the 10,000 years. But that implies that the torque multiplication is so large that it would exceed the shear strength of the material ( be it brass or steel) of the last gear pair if it siezed :-(

Then there is the issue of friction. If you use jewel bearings as regular watches do, then looting may become an issue. If you use a drop of oil occasionally, this may dry out over the decades, clogging the mechanism. Anyone who has restored an old clock knows what I mean.

You can read more about the design (and other) issues at the Wikipedia entry for The Clock of the Long Now. Fascinating subject, go read up on it please.

Comments (9) :
Doug (Canada) wrote "In the end, Hillis decided to require regular human winding of a falling weight design because the clock design already assumes regular human maintenance. There is a good post apocalypse SF story to be written around that. A religion grows up with a priesthood dedicated to winding and tending to the clock. As the centuries pass disbelief in the chime and cuckoo begins to set in only to be a revelation when it does happen. Perhaps somewhat reminiscent of Walter M Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz."
Fran (NZ) asks "...and what would be the Short Now? " A quantum of time. That's the Planck length divided by the speed of light. 5.4 * 10-44 sec.
David (IL) tells me "There is a mural opposite the New Jewish Synagogue in Berlin called ' How long is Now'." Yes, that building was the SS HQ in WW2.
Susan (UK) asks a really difficult question "Now and then, we all say now and then. But what separates Now from Then? I guess I'm asking, what is the duration of Now?" Wow, that's deep. I don't have an answer, so I'll just point you to the expertise at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. But I do have a personal anecdote. Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Sergei Krikalev, the cosmonaut with more time in space than any other human (over 800 days). Due to relativity, his 800 days in space at orbital speed means he aged about 31 milliseconds LESS than I did over the "same" time. And yet we talked to each other (without perceptible delays) after his return in what we both perceived as NOW. So our mutual present covered times about 31 milliseconds apart, our minimal duration of NOW :-)
SWMBO (D) objects "But it is always now, until the end of time. So the duration of NOW is forever..."
Renke (D) found the correct quotation "Re @NOW is forever : See this Spaceballs clip. At 1:29 "Everything that happens now is happening now!" ;-)" Well found, young man!
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "Can the clock be repaired/maintained while it is still running? If not, they'd need a second clock to tell them where to reset the one that was repaired! :-(" Having worked on fault-tolerant multiprocessors, I learned a lot about updating/upgrading the software while the machine was still running productive tasks. None of this stop-everything&reboot nonsense like Microschrott does!
Renke (D) sent a link to MS Windows 93, adding " I just wasted hours of my life. And grinned all the time :)" That IS good :-) Thanks for the heads-up!
Anon (UK) points us to a Paul Davies interview about whether time flows.
Update : Google's spider reads this blog, as a result of which I'm now getting sent adverts about single-handed (and thus imprecise?) Slow Watches. I apologise if any readers are getting this spam too.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Summertime ends in the EU tomorrow

Tomorrow, theoretically at 3 a.m. sunday morning, we put our clocks back on winter time (to 2 a.m.) and get an extra hour sleep :-)

Nevertheless, there are still people who get confused as to whether it should be forwards or backwards. The rule is straightforward, you can see it in my sketch below :- Always move the clock towards the summer! So that's forwards in spring and backwards in autumn (=fall).

There's an apocryphal anecdote about the person who set their alarm to 3 a.m, awoke when the alarm rang, reset the clock to 2 a.m., forgot to turn off the alarm, alarm went off at 3 a.m., etc etc ad infinitum....

Comments (3) :
Pergelator (USA) wrote " We use the phrases "spring forward" and "fall back". " Good mnemonic, Charles!
Heiko (D) uses "...the temperatures in °C, +ve in summer, -ve in winter, to imply +1 hour for summer, -1 hour for winter." Another good mnemonic.
Klaus (Alaska) wrote "....When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds." Groan!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Formation farming

My house is at the edge of our village with an uninterrupted view south. So just last week I got to watch how my neighbour harvests his maize crop. It is done by formation farming! One vehicle is the harvester which collects the corn cobs and ejects the shredded rest of the stalk & leaves via a steerable multi-section pipe, hurling a continuous stream of green stuff into the air. That's the whitish "Claas" vehicle in the foreground. Right behind him is a green tractor pulling a large reddish recepticle container keeping close formation, so that the green stream lands in the red container (to be later used as cattle food?). Between them they juggle their relative positions so that the stream of green stuff gets spread out evenly in the red container, without any heaps. Fascinating to watch with what well-trained skill they kept formation so that none of it missed the container despite 30 foot long green-stuff arcs on occasions!

BTW: Over on the left of the photo you can just see a small herd of wild deer ½ mile away, grazing peacefully in the field beyond the harvesters, knowing that all the noise was no danger to them. I see them often at dawn & dusk.

Comments (3) :
Renke (D) wrote " Claas is advertised in your article but no one else? Foul play I would say :) The trailer is made by Krampe, the Tractor is either a Fendt or (again) a Claas (green with a white roof is used only by these 2 companies). And yes, I'm currently bored as hell :D" Your googling knows no bounds ;-)
Brian (UK) calls the farmer out "...Now if he had had a second harvester, next to the cow, on the near side of the maize, ALSO hurling stuff into the same red trailer, THEN I would have tipped my hat to him ;-)" Me too!
Cop Car (USA) wrote " In modern times, harvesting seems to be about the same, world-wide. To see John Deere equipment at work on a corn harvest in Kansas in 2012, try this link. If you want to see how wheat is harvested in Kansas USA, try this link. Most wheat harvesting is done by custom cutters in the USA. They start harvesting in Texas and work their way northward. One cutter's website is here. The nearest wheat field is about ¾ mile from our house - as is the nearest corn field. The nearest cotton field is about 2 miles away and the nearest Kafir corn/milo field is about the same distance. No-one grows soybeans that close to us - perhaps 5 miles away. BTW: I thought of you this morning...when a deer crossed the road ahead of me on my way home from doing my gym & swim thing." It's mostly pig-breeding around here, crops mostly for the silage. Apropos deer : on sunday Frank and Heiko and I were out motorcycling when we had a close encounter riding through a forest. I was leading and missed the deer by about 6 yards. Phew!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eric Arthur Blair, revisited

When I got back to London I took a walk down the Portobello Road, just for nostalgia's sake. And discovered a blue memorial plaque on the wall of the house where George Orwell lodged from 1927. George Orwell was the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair. He is probably best known for his novels Animal Farm and of course 1984 (the original pre-Stasi, pre-NSA, pre-GCHQ, Big-Brother-is-watching-you, dystopian story). Thus I thought it particularly ironic to see a surveillance CCTV camera right in front of the blue plaque displayed on the first floor wall in his memory :-(

Comments (2) :
Gudrun (A) wrote "England has FAR more CCTV cameras than we do in Austria. MANY more speed traps too :-(" And that 2nd sentence is REALLY saying something :-( But both are true, IMHO.
Brian (UK) quips "Just around the corner from Gordon Ramsey's restaurant is Nr. 16 Tite street, that would have been a walk on the Wilde side;-)" Groan!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Greenwich : Cutty Sark photos

We spent a day in Greenwich, looking at the covered market, the Royal Observatory (and the Null Meridian), the Longitude Exhibition (incl. Harrison's four chronometers) and the Maritime Museum (with Nelson's ship in a bottle on a huge plinth outside). I also did a tour of the Cutty Sark, a tea clipper, the fastest ship of her age (1869 ff). Here are some of my photos of her.

Cutty Sark's ornate gilded bow and carved nameplate.

Cutty Sark's three tall masts.

Some of the rigging and the manual winch for the ropes.

At the visitors' entrance you can see some of the original oaken planking from the hull which survived the fire during the restauration.

Inside, much of the original ribbing structure has been saved too.

The 'deck' you are walking on is actually the top of the tea-chests which were often Cutty Sark's valuable freight.

Later, the Cutty Sark also brought back wool from Australia to the UK.

And since it was a rainy day and I had to wait a while for the ferry back to London Bridge, I happily partook of some Cakes and Ale (sly book tip) ;-) Comments (1) :
Nanny Green (UK) unlurked and sent this heads-up for y'all "Hi Stu, ...I read that you are interested in English history. So this is advance warning that there will be an exhibition of the four extant copies of the 1215 Magna Carta on display here in Salisbury next year. Subsequently the best preserved copy will go on tour. Tickets are expected to be hard to get, so book yours early... and if you DO come here to Salisbury, please drop in for a cup of tea. Hubby adds "...or some scrumpy... ;-)" " Well thankyou. My friends Peter and Anne live near to you, so I'll pass this heads-up onto them too :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Social freezing, extrapolated

What is "social freezing"? Both Facebook and Apple will pay their female employees to delay their wish for children by freezing their eggs for re-implantation at a later date (no guarantee of successful birth of course). This way the ladies can keep their productive noses to the grindstone, benefitting said corporations.

I suppose the next logical step for Facebook, Apple and co is to pay for abortions, so that their female employees can keep their productive noses to the grindstone, benefitting said corporations again and again and again. This should upset both the Vati-can't and the Christian fundamentalists so prevalent in the USA who would see it as another step down the slippery slope into Hell. Truly, corporations are one of the Devil's best inventions ;-)

Since the USA has laws about gender equality, US courts will require Facebook, Apple and co to fund male employees similarly, viz. free condoms for life or paying for reversible vasectomies or freezing their sperm (preferably in situ?).

Gay employees of Facebook, Apple and co - this time not subjectively disadvantaged - will be in the ideal position, just keeping their noses to the -erm- grindstone ;-)


Comments (2) :
Cathy (UK) asked "How long can she delay and what are the chances of success?" Afaik, and I am no biologist, until she is about 45. And there is a 30-40% chance of successful reimplantation. Taking the 30% figure and using elementary probability theory, I deduce that 2 eggs would be needed to raise the chance of success to 50%, 9 eggs to get over 95% and 13 to get over 99% chance of success. So that's depositing every egg over a 9 to 13 month period(sic!) to ensure 95% to 99% chance of success. What a procedure! Or am I not thinking this through correctly (I am no biologist) ?
Jan (NL?) snorted "I am so stealing that line about corporations being the Devil's best invention! :-) De nada.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Peculiar road sign

WTF does this UK road sign mean?
I thought that traffic signs in Europe had been pretty much standardised, thanks to big-gov EU and the Eurocraps.

But then I came across this roadsign in Greenwich (UK) last week.

My first guess was that there was a zoo on one side of the road and that seabirds waddled across the road here to the Thames for a bit(e) of fishing. Presumably the seabirds were angry (=humped?) and so to be avoided by traffic lest they try to bite a car etc??

My next parse was that 'Humped Pelicans' were a Darwinian subspecies, probably bred by Quasimodo???

Alternatively - third try - the pelicans had just been for a shag as part of a breeding program and so were rather tired and thus likely to cross the road slowly????

Further examination revealed that the noun was in the singular; so only one large quasimodal/angry/breeding seabird was likely to waddle across the road. Is it worth putting up a sign for just one? So I must conclude that they are a rare subspecies ;-)

Such roadsigns are just not intelligible to we furriners ;-) But from the triangular shape I could deduce I was supposed to take care and watch out for any traffic light. Otherwise, who knows??

UK readers may enlighten us all by sending me an explanatory Email pls. Comments (6) :
Kevin (UK) wrote "Humped means there is a bump in the road (=sleeping policeman), which is meant to slow the traffic, at least on their 2nd pass ;-) That's what the warning triangle is for. A 'Pelican crossing' is a pedestrian crossing with on-demand traffic lights; it is the safest way of crossing a busy road." We have both in Germany too, but I've never seen them combined.
Renke (D) wrote " A pelican crossing with a speed hump? $searchengine seems to support it." Thankyou too.
Cathy (UK) says "Besides Pelicans, we also have Zebra, Puffin, Panda, Toucan and Pegasus crossings" And who remembers all the different rules?
Diana (USA) tells me "80% of pedestrian accidents are actually caused by the pedestrian. Many are results of jaywalking (not using approved crossings), failure to look both ways, wearing dark clothing while walking at night, and distracted walking (smartphones, headphone music, etc), which is much on the increase here." All of those are under the pedestrians' control :-(
Renke (D) replied " Dear Diana, I call bullshit - at least for Germany. According to Destatis (Federal Statistical Office of Germany) in 2013 of ~ 35000 accidents with injured pedestrians some 8700 were caused by them - so less than 25 % [c.f. table 46241-0011 in the Genesis-Online database, no result-linking possible :/]."
Peter wrote "Noticed in New York that 'you should raise your snow plow' thingy sign took a picture that is somewhere in the system." Like this one? See third picture down on Lame Adventures site.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HMS Belfast photos

While I was in London, I took the opportunity to visit HMS Belfast, a WW2 cruiser opened for public viewing by the Imperial War Museum. I hadn't been on a surface warship for many a long year and had forgotten how strenuous it is climbing up and down between those nine decks :-( Wikipedia has all the details of HMS Belfast, so I'll just show you some (only eight) of my photos with interspersed commentary below them.

HMS Belfast has been repainted in her WW2 camo (Admiralty Disruptive Camouflage Type 25). On this cloudy day it was all grey in grey, 50 shades perhaps ;-) That's Tower Bridge in the background, which had to be opened to let her get to her mooring which is just east of London Bridge.

The first thing you see upon boarding is the ship's bell with a nominal rescue-ring on each side. Nominal only, because they cannot be removed, being for decoration only afaik.

Main armament is 12 6-inch guns in 4 turrets, 2 fore and 2 aft. Knowing about inter-service rivalry between the UK forces, I asked innocently where the guns were currently aimed since both fore turrets pointed in the same direction. I was told they could reach to Barnet, "Coincidentally, would that be where the RAF museum is located?" I replied. The sailor merely grinned ;-)

The guns are fed from the four shell magazine rooms (below the waterline). This is one of the shell feeds. And yes, the shells have been emptied of explosives at the behest of those health-and-safety naggers.

At the other end of the feeds are the breeches, like this 6 inch one.

HMS Belfast was one of the ships which sank the German battleship Scharnhorst during the Battle of the North Cape in WW2 in 1943. After several hits with her 6 inch guns, she sank the Scharnhorst with a torpedo, like this specimen stored in one of the gangways for our inspection.

I just included this shot of her anchor to give you a sense of scale.

For defense against aircraft she was fitted with twin 40mm Bofors guns in 1943. I took this photo from a deck higher so it's a top-down view. I had expected the Bofors to be equipped with a trapezoidal Stiffkey sight for calculating lead angles, these were state of the art at the time; but no :-(

I lost track of the time on board - probably a couple of hours - because it was informative, historical, educational fun. Not TOO crowded either. Well worth the £5 pensioners' entrance fee, except for the choices in the mess:(

Comments (4) :
Peter (UK) wrote " I would have avoided the Belfast if I had been around. Two reasons:- 1) In 1959 I served as a Sea Cadet on Belfast just after she had been refitted and spent my 15th birthday there. On my last day we did a trial firing of the main guns which was spectacular - I was in A turret. When I got home a couple of days later it turned out that we had shelled a fishing fleet by mistake and it was in the press. Net result - the captain was court-martialled with dire conclusion. 2) In 1984 I visited Belfast on the Thames and as we arrived there was a frigate alongside with all bunting flying. We were told it was a brand new command for the captain and he had his family on board. They cast off without waiting for the tugs coming upstream and turned only to be swept by the tide broadside onto London Bridge. Net result - another court-martial :-( Best I stay away!! Thanks for the blog." Was Lt. Leslie (left hand down a bit) Phillips in command on either occasion?
Pergelator (USA) wrote " We toured the Belfast once upon a time. The oddest thing I saw was the engine. There were two steam turbines: 1) A large, low pressure turbine for cruising. It was maybe 10 or 15 feet in diameter. 2) A small, high pressure turbine for high speed. It was maybe 10 or 12 inches in diameter. The large turbine sat in the bottom center of the engine room. The small turbine was about half way up near a catwalk where you could see it. It was connected to some serious gear reduction. This was 20 odd years ago. I may have it completely wrong, but that's the way I remember it." Not quite right, Charles. HMS Belfast has 4 × Admiralty oil-fired 3-drum boilers (probably the large thing you remember) connected to 4 × Parsons single reduction geared steam turbines (probably the small thing you remember). And remember, reduction gear is always a torque multiplier :-)
Petra (A) asks "How fast could the big guns fire?" 8 rounds per minute per gun, 12 guns, so 96 rounds per minute total.
Hattie (Hawaii) wrote - inter alia - "...and I'm catching up with your blog. That ship really looks like a war machine, all right." Indeed, with 8-900 crew. There were hammocks almost everywhere for the off-duty crewmen :-)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Heads up, Apple fans!

38 years ago, back in 1976, The Great Woz designed the Apple 1. They built only 200, of which 15 are still working. A working example is coming up for auction at Bonhams in New York on wednesday 22nd october. When first built, the main board cost $666 (sic!), but Bonhams expect to get $300,000 to $500,000 for theirs. Methinks it is particularly ironic that the Lot number is 286; if the folks at Bonhams had the slightest feeling for history, they should have called it Lot 6502 :-)

I took this photo of an Apple 1 main board myself fairly recently, the board is still mounted on its wooden chassis via rubber grommets. This is afaik a non-working example, so presumably worth a lot less. At least I still have the photo! Apple fans, this is the greatgrandfather of your iWatches, iPads and iPhones. Bow down and worship! :-)
Comments (4) :
David (IL) opined "Nice, but you need to find somebody who can afford it!" Well, I stopped off at the HNF (world's largest computer museum) this morning and gave them the tipoff, because they don't have one :-)
Ed (USA) asks What's that line of empty (no?) contacts next to the fan?" Dunno. Early example of the Genius Bar maybe? ;-)
Cop Car (USA) asked " 'ironic that the Lot number is 286' Truly! It would be interesting to see the schematic. You don't happen to have one, do you? " No, but there is one online at :-) Looks like a clone to me though, of which there are a half-dozen afaGk. By the way, afaGk is a local acronym meaning "As far as Google knows" :-)
Update 23/10/14 : The Henry-Ford-Museum bought it for 905,000 US Dollars!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Looking at London

Of course, while I was in London last weekend, I took a whole bunch of tourist-style photos of which I'm going to share some with you here.

But I have made a deliberate choice to avoid showing you the usual touristic targets, such as full-frontals of Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square etc etc.

Instead, I'll show you popular venues but from unusual angles and some photos of the London you don't get to see perhaps. A lot are zoomed to the max though.

The photo on the left, taken from a bus on the south bank of the Thames shows what many people (still) call Big Ben. However, Big Ben is really the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, often extended to refer to the clock and the clock tower which is officially known as the Elizabeth Tower. Confusing huh?

I'd taken the bus to the London Eye which is a large ferris wheel giving great views across London on this (good weather) day, I could see all the way to Alexandra Palace (in north London). From the London Eye, I took this shot of Charing Cross Station on the opposite (north) side of the Thames. The cylindrical building in the background is the Post Office Tower.

Another photo which I took from the London Eye, and taken at maximal zoom, shows the familiar dome of St.Pauls Cathedral.

Next I walked along the riverside walk to London Bridge. The Freemen of London have an ancient right to drive their sheep across London Bridge. They exercise this right once every year, lest they lose it. Thankfully for commuters, they did so on the sunday :-) I screwed up the photo of the Freemen, so all you are getting is a photo of their sheep. The Freemen are the guys in the red robes in the background of this photo. Ooops!

From London Bridge I took a shot of HMS Belfast, the cruiser famous for sinking the Scharnhorst in WW2. HMS Belfast is now docked between London Bridge and Tower Bridge (seen in the background here). It is open to the public, so my internal photos of this warship will be the subject of a separate post, boring you even more ;-)

From the decks of the HMS Belfast, I got this shot of the Mayor of London's office, which is where Boris Johnson "works" (for want of a better word) ;-).

Disembarking from HMS Belfast after an hour or so I walked 200 yards to Hay's Galleria which was a brewhouse in 1651, a covered wharf in the 19th century and is now a mall which houses this famous steampunk sculpture, The Navigators, by David Kemp. Is THAT cool, or what???

Near my hotel in up-and-coming trendy Islington, the small triangular park in the middle of Upper Street contains a topologically interesting sculpture, shown below, but nowhere did it name the artist :-(

I took a stroll then through Chapel Market. The stalls were shutting down for the day, so you could pick up leftover perishable stock very cheaply, like from this fish stall...

Good public transport but you should be aware that London is overcrowded, expensive, sometimes even dilapidated and smelly, because people throw their rubbish onto the street, no garbage bins are used :-(

And, talking of trash on the streets of London, let's wrap up this blogpost with a selfie at the Tower of London :-)

Comments (2) :
Cop Car (USA) wrote " "But I have made a deliberate choice to avoid showing you the usual touristic targets, such as full-frontals of Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square etc etc." My first thought was, "So he shows us Big Ben!" Thanks for correcting me (and any others who, like me, had lost track of Elizabeth Tower. "London Eye which is a large ferris wheel." Unlike the Big I in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. You took some interesting photos, Stu. Thank you!" Had to queue for ½ hour for the London Eye, even with a £20 'Fast Track' ticket. You only get one revolution (maybe 5-10 minutes) but it was worth it. Oh, and I forgot to mention that for me (a country lad) London is incredibly LOUD : traffic, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops etc, all LOUD. I ended up with a sore throat from making myself heard :-(
Brenda, writing from Islington (UK), tells me that "The artist of the twisted ring war memorial sculpture in Islington is John Maine RA" Thankyou, Brenda. I've just googled him to see his other sculptures too :-) But oh boy, his website is really slow to load :-(

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Class of 66 Physicists' Reunion :-)

Popped over to London (UK) last weekend for the 48th reunion of the Class of 66 at City University (London,UK) where 10 of us who had all finished a B.Sc.(Hons) in Physics in 1966 got together to reminisce, enjoy a dinner and a tourist trip to Greenwich etc, about which more later.

Left to right, front row : Peter, Ron,Derek,Bill and Mike.
Left to right, back row : Myself, Derek, John, Bob and Vic.
Our two girl students, Anne and Lena, did not attend :-( Other alumni from our class have sadly already shuttled off this mortal coil. As you see, some of us still had our scarves (albeit moth-eaten) from our student days :-)

We were given an ill-prepared slide presentation by the Dean on how the Alma Mater has changed over the last 50 years and given a tour of old and new buildings, seeing founding documents on display etc. Since the Dean is also responsible for the Computer Science faculty, I gave him a signed copy of one of the textbooks I've written, by way of thanks (or revenge ;-).

This is the old entrance under the clock tower on St.John's Street which was the main entrance in our day where we'd go to squeeze between (or past, mostly past) the pillars of wisdom (shown below) ;-)

Actually, we were probably more likely to be found just across the square in the nearest students' pub [which has changed its name several times we were told, so that it might regain its licence maybe ?] ;-)

Alternatively, I could be found down in the basement, using the Pegasus computer which used valves (=tubes). Less power than your iWatch has nowadays, but had 40-bit words, just 56 of them in main memory and 5120 on a drum. There was also a Mercury computer there. Both had a 'high-level' language called Autocode. Wikipedia has the instruction manual as a PDF.

And so, just to show you where we earned our wings, I took this angelic selfie at the nearby Angel, Islington. Looks more like Thor's helmet though!

Comments (2) :
Cop Car (USA) wrote " "-two girl students-" I had thought you more enlightened, Stu! *laughing* Your surroundings were certainly a lot classier, in university, than those in which I found myself. It looks like a wonderful campus and environs. Undoubtedly, that accounts for your being so much brighter than us dullards who were graduated in my class - Not! It is obvious that you have fond memories. Well done!" Big changes : lots of newer buildings there too, so difficult to recognise parts of the Uni. And the poor(sic!) students now have to pay £9,000 a term fees whereas we got free grants to attend back then because the country needed scientists :-)
Ron and Hillary (UK) sent this photo of most of us behind the horsetrough into which I remember being unceremoniously submerged, for being such an obnoxious knowitall. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. ;-)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Taxi! Maybe not?

Currently taxi drivers in Germany get paid about €6 to €6½ per hour, I'm told. However, due to new legislation on the minimum wage, this may have to increase to €8½ per hour. So, either taxi prices will rise by 25% which may cause some loss of demand or there may be a change of business model by the taxi fleet owners.

Consider the following weekdaily demand curve for taxis, hypothetical but not improbable. I'm ignoring bad-weather effects.

After midnight revellers have been brought home, demand drops to a low level overnight. It then rises as work begins, peaking with people being transported to airports, train-stations etc. During the day there are patients to and from hospitals etc, maybe a small peak as others go out for a business lunch. In the evening passengers want transport back from airports, stations etc and want to go out for a meal, party etc.

At a low pay-level for the drivers (level A), fleet owners may operate (some of their) taxis 24/7 so there are taxis available on call even at times of low demand. If the drivers' pay rises to level B, fleet operators may change their business model. Taxis stay in the garage at times of low demand, third-shift drivers perhaps being laid off, taxis not being profitable at these times. Taxi operation becomes profitable again at the morning peak and continues until the end of the evening peak (where level B intersects the demand line).

This implies the end of 24/7 taxi operation perhaps, or at least longer waits to get one of the remaining 3rd-shift taxis. You might want to note the phone-number of self-employed taxi drivers rather than fleet operators.

So maybe Torsten was right to get out of the taxi-driving business before the minimum-wage induced layoffs start?

Now, I am neither an economist nor a taxi driver so maybe Hans-Georg and/or Torsten (or others) may care to comment on this post????

Comments (4) :
Doug (Canada) expounded " Raising the minimum wage across society (I'm assuming that's what is happening here and not just for hacks) puts more money into the economy in the pockets of those who must spend it to survive, the poor and the lower middle class. That raises the economy as a whole which in turn, in this instance, means more people will be able to afford taxis." Indeed, and I wholeheartedly agree with it, paying my part-time-helps above minimum wage. On the other hand, poverty-level is DEFINED here as 60% of the median wage. If that rises, then so does the poverty level - by definition - and so more people are defined as poor. That said, the median wage is a much more robust measure than if they had chosen to use (arithmetic) average wage. The Bill Gates of this world make earnings an L-shaped skewed distribution :-(
Renke (D) suggests modifying my graph :- " Your exception list is rather short, the most notable taxi demand driver in Konstanz was carnival - probably similar for other regions :), see here :-"

Karel (CZ) tells us "Minimum wage will raise the average (mean) wage but leave the median wage unchanged." Yes, that's what I meant by "robust".
Guido (D) wrote " Your attitude in favour of a minimum wage is noble and understandable but wrong from an economic point of view. A student of mine wrote a very short and pointed summary which reflects the state of the scientific debate - unfortunately in German:" His GG wage ignores the GG-wage employee being an "Aufstocker", which means that we taxpayers are subsidising the cheapskate employer, surely?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Patchwork Quilts

Several of my lady readers - especially those in the USA - are into quilting. So when I saw that the quilting-ladies of a nearby village (Fürstenburg) were displaying their quilts (on 27/28 Sept), SWMBO and I went along to see them and I took a bunch of photos so that you quilters can see what the local fans do. This first photo shows six of the seven Fürstenburg ladies who do the quilting, I'm afraid I took no names as I didn't have my (analog) notebook with me :-(

And here is a selection of the quilts which I photographed, so that you quilting experts can compare styles.

The colour mismatch at the top of the photos below is not real, it is an artefact of my camera-flash not illuminating the wide-angle photo uniformly.

My favourite quilt, on display outdoors, gave an illusion of being in 3D :-)

It inspired me to point one of the ladies to the art of M.C.Escher, who did a lot of pictures tesselating planes, here, here, and here, which might inspire them to some interesting quilts in the future ;-)

I have a contact Email address for the ladies there, it is, should you want to mail them. I don't think they have a website (yet) :-(

Comments (3) :
Cop Car (USA) wrote " I love the email address! I sent a quilting, blog friend to see your posting. Wrote she, "Thanks for the link to Stu's blog. That last quilt, the optical illusion, was beautifully done. I caught his comment about Escher, and I believe there are a number of quilts made of his work. I'm fairly sure the "Sky and Water" tessellation has been done as fiber art. I'll surf to see what I can find, and if there are images available I'll let him know." Thanks, CC.
Buffy (USA) herself then wrote " Hi, Stu! Cop Car is my friend, and when you posted pictures of the German quilt show, she encouraged me to visit your blog. THe optical illusion quilt is amazing, and an interesting test of piecing a design. Tesselating quilts are very popular in the U.S. If you go to Google, type in "tessellating quilts" and click on images, you'll fine a range of the more popular patterns being done. I'm fairly certain that I have seen "Sky and Water" done as fiber art. I have several books on tesselations, including one on Escher's works. I've done several of the simpler designs, including a multi-fabric maple leaf. A design board is a requirement, if you hope to get the figures to blend properly. Thanks for sharing the quilt show!" Glad you liked them; that last 3D one was my favourite too.
Anna (USA) asked "Who does that email address belong to?" It belongs to Elizabeth Luecke, third lady from the left in the group photo, above.

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