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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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Single point of failure :-(

Two engines, two instrument panels, two altimeters, two radios, and two pilots. One locked door. RIP Germanwings 4U9525 :-(

Comments (1) :
Ed (USA) complains "That's all you've got?" That's all we know, Ed, the rest is - so far - speculation. Let's wait for the official report.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

In CEST tomorrow ;-)

At 2.a.m. CET on sunday morning in Germany we move our clocks forward one hour onto 3 a.m. CEST (Central European Summer Time) thus losing an hour's sleep.

This is as opposed to the US State of Indiana, who recently put their clocks back by several years. To be precise, 55½ years. In months, that's 666 :-(

Comments (1) :
David (USA) asks "Nice pun! BTW, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is gay. So will it soon be illegal to buy Apple gear in Indiana?" Wouldn't surprise me ;-)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Maths is hard....

... to typeset in HTML4 {this blog is handwritten HTML 4.0 btw} :-(

That's because HTML4 was designed for TEXTs which are linear strings, but maths (e.g. algebra, calculus, matrices, tensors) uses equations and formulae which are two-dimensional structured objects. Okay, okay, HTML makes provision for superscripts and subscripts, so it is easy to write x23 meaning the cube of the second element of an array. And there are special characters for the Greek letters often used, such as α β γ δ φ π θ etc. Similarly, they can be capitalised Α Β Γ Δ Φ Π Θ, but their exact appearance will depend on the font used on the target machine. Modern browsers support these, but it depends on the font. Some fonts have these symbols and others don't.

Let's just look at solving a quadratic equation, as we all learned in school.

a.x2 + b.x + c = 0

The easiest way for me to display the general solution is to write it down on a piece of paper which I then scan, giving

Total time is 8 seconds to write and 15 seconds to scan & resize. But it doesn't look particulary neat; OK for this blog but not for a professional publication.

More complicated is to write the expression in Latex (another markup language to learn :-( ) and then use a Latex pre-processor to generate an image (eg : gif or png (which is scaleable), giving this neat png image.

Total time is 60 seconds to write and 15 seconds to pre-process and 5 seconds to resize as needed, ignoring the weeks needed to learn Latex :-(

Typesetting the equation in HTML is even harder. Despite objections from the purists (misuse of tables), I wrote a 2 column table. The "x =" goes on the left, the fraction on the right. For the formula I needed two Unicode special characters "±" and √ (most browsers can render these). But because of the squaring superscript on b2, I needed to increase the font size of the radic to 200%, thus . I also needed some CSS for the upper line and margins in the fraction.

All in all, 22 lines of CSS and HTML just for this one simple equation :-(

And it still isn't quite how I would like it to be (the central fraction line should be longer, as in the PNG graphic).

x =    - b ±  b2 - 4 a c
  2 a  

So that's why I don't usually write equations etc in this blog :-(

Further online reading : Erik Neumann's page and Yucca Korpela's page.

Having read both of those pages, try your hand at writing this equation in HTML :-

You have until the end of the month to get the HTML right ;-)

But remember, there's more to life than just maths ;-)

Comments (5) :
Renke (D) has a suggestion "You could take a look at MathML, a mark-up language for mathematical formulars supported in most browsers as part of the HTML 5 standard (but HTML 5 is probably too crazy and nested to write a complete page with rendering and layout definitions completely by hand without the help of a framework or IDE). Specs: and WP:" I was trying to avoid learning yet another markup language, it's easier just to blog without using formulae.
Renke (D) continued " Forgot to include my homework ;) The attached html displays the left side of your equation with the help of mathml - the rest is up to you (or your readers)" OK, thanks. I've linked it as a jpg so that readers see the source code rather than the rendering (which is correct).
Gerald (D) sent a thankyou-note, but in German, so Google translates " I read your blog regularly and enjoy it. And it was a pleasure not to find there today speculation on the aircraft accident, although you have more aeronautical competence than most of the reporting journalists. So I wanted to take this opportunity to say: Thank you for your blog!" De nada; now I am combing the honey from out of my beard, as we say here :-)
Frank-Christian (D) suggests " You may find MathJax quite useful." Thanks for the heads-up on MathJax :-) I see you are based in Worpswede; I'm envious!
X E (USA) and half a dozen others want a (simple) explanation of the Airbus accident. So I'll bring one monday which is even acceptable to Gerald, OK?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I say no sooth

Very few of us ever get the chance of an objective assessment of our abilities as an oracle, predicting the future. Simply because no-one ever wrote down what we said thirty years ago! Turns out, I was an exception; here's the anecdote, from an AI lecture of mine.

Back in 1985, a discussion panel had been set up, aiming to educate government personnel, top civil servants, top industrial managers, press et al about what might be expected of Artificial Intelligence. Protagonists were to be Prof. Siekmann (pro-AI) vs. Prof. Hoimar von Ditfurth, so a right-royal academic battle was expected. Turns out that Siekmann got stuck in Madrid, so at short notice - and with NO briefing - I got to take his place.

Given such a doughty and illustrious co-lecturer, I decided to play it low-key - no hype - only what I thought (in 1985) were realistic expectations.

Now here we are, 30 years on, and I found the stenographers' transcription in my bookshelves. So I have the retrospective opportunity to compare today's reality with what I predicted 30 years ago. How do you spell Hubris? ;-)

Page 10 predictions : Knowledge based expert systems (yes, but far fewer than I had hoped for). Intelligent teaching systems based on the explanation component of expert systems ( no, we use Wikipedia to look up human-written texts instead). Natural language access (yes, ask Siri). Automated knowledge acquisition not expected to be achieved (still not here yet). Intelligent Robots not here yet (but autonomous cars expected next year). Real-time arbitrary scene analysis not yet feasible (in a military context partially yes, otherwise not yet). So I was about half right.

Page 22 prediction : automated investment advisor in every bank branch (no, no sign of that yet).

Page 23 prediction : automated wide-spectrum diagnoses at every village doctors' practice (no, but many narrow-spectrum sensor based systems, leaving the doctor to do the deductions).

Page 25 predictions : automated wide-spectrum diagnoses of failures in technical devices (no, but many narrow-spectrum sensor based systems).

Page 31 prediction : upload parts needed (SW/HW) to a space-ship enroute. (Yes, but I missed the 3-D printer aboard the space-ship/ISS).

Mentioned in passing : P.69 : speech-to-text typewriter (yes). Translating telephones (just becoming feasible). AI-programs making patentable discoveries (few and very far between).

I think my boss at the time (H.F) set me up to do some marketing maybe, but our sales force didn't follow through.

The parliamentary stenographers' transcript shows that the panel gave me a hard time for avoiding hype and pitching my lecture low-key, but that several members of the audience praised this approach, deeming it very realistic.

Overall, I was only barely half-right, looking back with 30 years of hindsight.

The Singularity (John von Neumann) : a runaway effect wherein AI will exceed the intellectual capacity (and control!) of humans.

So I said no sooth reliably, I'm no haruspex, because I don't even have a gut feel ;-)

Meanwhile, Kurzweil predicts The Singularity to occur around 2045, whereas Vinge predicts some time before 2030. At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Armstrong did a study of artificial general intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040 AD. I avoided the subject in 1985 - classifying it as hype - but still don't expect to see it in my lifetime (I'm 70 now). If you want HYPE nowadays, you could try reading Martine Rothblatt's keynote speech at SXSW this year :-(

Something else I missed then was the ridiculous spread nowadays on the Amazon prices of a book of mine published that year (1985). Methinks the first used-book dealer is a bit of an optimist, the 2nd maybe a pessimist ;-)

You also might like to know the one thing that Nostradamus got absolutely right :-)

Comments (4) :
John (UK) chides me "You are getting too highbrow again! Your vocabulary is much larger than mine. I had to look up sooth[=truth], doughty[=valiant], singularity[=computers taking over] and haruspex[entrail-diviner] (now I get the joke, btw). So, KISS[=Keep It Simple,Stu(pid]!!" Point taken :-) There's one more hard one in the pipeline for friday, then, in April, I'll go back to showing more photos and commenting them, OK? I'll try to keep my vocabulary under control too; thanks for the heads-up :-)
Renke (D) answers my rhetorical question "How do you spell Hubris?" thus " Hah, this is an easy one: Nearly everywhere Hybris (and similar forms) with a few exceptions (e.g. Hibris (Spanish) or Hübrisz (Hungarian))."
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "Sure it's not oneiromancy?" Hah, THAT's a word even I had to look up. Kudos to you :-) But, no.
Cop Car (USA) wrote " Interesting items from 1985, Stu. You did well! Most seers don't come close to your percentage. I notice one prognostication about speech-to-text typewriter development. In the mid-1970s, my father-in-law called me to get my collaboration on a product he hoped to patent: a speech-to-text typewriter! (Don't ask me why he didn't approach his son, an electronics engineer!) I chatted with Pop for a long time before convincing him that, among the whole family, we hadn't the funds to pay for the computer time (that would have been required in those days) to do the speech analysis and synthesis. He was quite disappointed, but went back to work on other projects that didn't require the extensive data crunching. AFAIK, none of his few patents produced money; but, he had fun trying! I show no excess bravery in making a prediction for 2045: I won't be around to know about the singularity! (Age: 77) Gut feel, indeed!" Unless we are all in the Matrix by then ;-)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Risking their jobs :-(

Perhaps the most valuable thing an office worker has is his/her job, because employers regard office staff as a commodity, i.e. interchangeable. Fire one? Just hire another. Office drones.

Thus it was with some surprise that I read a report (by gfk fuer that one quarter of german office-workers steal office supplies from their employer, risking their job for cheap items (€1 to €10 ?). Half of those who confessed did not even have a bad conscience. The El Cheapo items being stolen, in order of popularity, were : ballpoint pens (24c each), paper (3 €/box), paperclips (3.30 €/box), envelopes (3 €/box) glue (2.50 € ea.), files (1.30€ ea.), paper-punches(6€ ea.), blank CDs(12€/box), pocket calculator(6€ ea.), toner(6€/box). All of these are cheap items, nothing worth risking your job for. What were these thieves thinking (if at all?) ?

Friday, March 20, 2015

As the moon drifts away...

There was an eclipse of the sun today, but it was only partial (¾) here. The track of the total eclipse started south of Greenland, moved across the Faroes (islands in the Atlantic between Scotland and Iceland) and Svalbard (Spitzbergen) and ended up at the North Pole. The sketch on the left shows the partial eclipse as seen from here, the moon is near perigee today. And it is Spring equinox too :-)

We live at a lucky time in the history of our planet, as we still see total eclipses AND sometimes annular eclipses. This is because the moon has a 5½% eccentric elliptical orbit around the Earth, when it is closer we get total eclipses, when it is further away we see annular eclipses, because moon and sun subtend almost the same angle as seen from the Earth.

But let us look at the situation in the (far) past P, now N and the future F.

The tidal effects of the moon extract energy from the Earth-Moon system. The Earth's rotation is slowed by the tidal effects (by about 2 milliseconds per century) and the moon drifts away from the Earth by about 1½ inches per year. In the sketch above (NOT TO SCALE), we see that in the far past (P), the moon was much closer to the Earth and so blocked out the sun for longer at total eclipses. Conversely, in the far future (F), the moon will be much farther from the Earth, so there will be NO total eclipses, but only annular (=ring-shaped) eclipses. At our position now (N) we get total eclipses when the moon is at perigee (362,600 kms away) but annular eclipses when the moon is at apogee (405,400 kms away) in its elliptical orbit.

BTW, don't you think that "As the moon drifts away..." would have been a great title for a psychodelic rock song? Stones, Hendrix, Hawkwind, Oldfield?

Comments (2) :
Doug (Canada) chimed in "PinK Floyd - most assuredly" Oh Yes indeed! I love Dark Side Of The Moon :-)
Gian (CH) relates this tall tale " This morning on the (vet's) phone: "Doctor, I need to move the appointment for my turtles," "Yes, why" "Because it is the eclipse now, and I do not trust me driving a car because I could not get eclipse glasses any more and without glasses you can go blind, or? "........ silence on my part, then I remembered to answer: "You'll have the sun on your back, coming from B., so it's safe! " then she came and the turtles were treated and she sat in the waiting room until the eclipse was over and then went home pleased!" Hilarious story, Gian, thanks for sharing it :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

World Wide Cafe´s

There are Cafe´s (coffee shops) which are crap. Undercapitalised "pop-up" coffee shops in London (UK) are included in some of the worst. Narrow door leads into long tube-shaped quasi-corridors disappearing into the darkness at the back. Ankh-Morpork is better. People who left school with no formal qualifications describe themselves with the high-falutin' title of Barista - the coffein equivalent of a soda-jerk - and giving themselves airs for being able to press a button on a machine :-(

Now I'm no expert in the coffee itself, we'd have to get friend and fellow blogger Renke - coffee addict and aficionado - to rate the coffee there, but I do like the place to have a nice flair, an ambience, an atmosphere. I'm not too keen in the traditional Vienna Cafe´s, too dark inside and full of third men in wet raincoats wearing piebald shoes. I prefer a Cafe´ with lots of light inside, or even with seating outside in the summer (as long as it's not right on the street, with its stinking noisy traffic).

There's one just off Ghirardelli Square (in San Francisco), I think it was called "Black Point", which has a great view across the bay towards Sausalito, which I like. They did good small snacks too :-)

There's another in Faneuil Hall (Boston) called "Red Barn", part of a Massachusetts chain as far as I know. Although the ambience comes from the great Faneuil Hall market, the beans were roasted nicely.

But the biggest surprise for me was finding there is a modern Cafe´ in Novosibirsk! Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia; bang in the middle of the country, on the river Ob. Think Siberia, grey and bleak, I thought, but in summer it has a pleasant climate. Anyway, my tip (and this is for you, Ivan) is to stay in the Kranskky Prospect area, then stop over at Cafe´ Pelman just for the flair (cheap, modern furniture, but they do good snacks). Turns out it's part of a chain, there are three in Moscow too, right on your doorstep, Ivan :-) They now have a website, enable scripting to see the photos.

Mind you, Novosibirsk also now has a KFC and a bunch of other western chains, so its got creeping capitalism already, not just the usual Soviet-era derelict children's playground with a rusty ferris wheel :-( BTW, follow that link for a bunch of photos showing you what Novosibirsk looks like nowadays.

Comments (7) :
Morag (UK) asks "In a related category: who does the best pub lunch in the UK?" Definitely that seafront pub in Applecross, best after riding your motorcycle across the pass at Bealach Na Ba on a clear day :-)
Brian (UK & USA) asks (jokingly?) "And where is the vilest Cafe´?" If I wrote any one here, they'd probably sue me! In the UK it would be a toss up between a motorway facility and a main line railway station, most likely ;-)
Brian replied "Then let me rephrase that : what are the vilest things you have had to eat and drink?" To drink? Some lukewarm 'beverage' with a lump of Yak butter in it. To eat? Kangaroo and fruit bat pizza(?) in the Outback of Oz. Or a gristle, skin and bone bits goat sausage in the mountains of Crete (Greece). And that said by someone who actually likes Haggis :-) I guess most dislikes are due to culture shock.
Biker-lady Ike (D) asks "Where was that little village cake shop that did tree-cake (Baumküchen) that you showed us on the way back from the Harz mountains?" That was Cafe´Lücke in Uslar. Perhaps other blogreaders would care to share their Cafe´tips?
Renke wrote " Thanks for mentioning me (though I'm 99 % addict and only 1 % aficionado - quantity is often more important than quality ;)) - and my preferred caffeine dealer here in Ausgburg is the Ansprechbar. While the coffee is very good a totally different attribute makes this cafe my preferred one: They know me. I don't have to talk AT ALL (the barkeepers can live the antithesis of the cafe's name) - when entering the place I'm greeted with a friedly "Hallo Renke!" and a few minutes later next to my hand a steaming mug of coffee greets me. For a refill all I have to do is pushing the unfriendly (emptiness is unkindliness) cup to the table's edge and magic happens, as if they use mugs of plenty :)" So the non-Germans get the pun : 'Ansprechbar' means 'responsive' :-) And when Renke mentions the "unkindly cup" he is punning on J.H.Rice's 1808 oratory "the most unkindly CUT (not cup) of all" about Brutus stabbing Caesar. My blogreaders are nothing if not erudite! :-)
FergusonMan (sic!), USA, wrote "#HaterCortege :-(" Oh, nice anagram!
Jenny (Ibiza) grins "This link is for Renke ;-)" Yup, that's about right for Renke, LOL ;-)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dubitable Darwin Device

There are some products on offer on the internet so dubious that I think they should be banned from the market. I'd call the purchasers Darwin Award candidates. Darwin Awards are assigned posthumously to those who die by their own hand, doing something really stupid.

The latest example is the "Belt-Dummy" as an attachment for your keyring. It is the metal tongue from a car's safety belt. The idea is that you plug this into the safety-belt socket to stop the car's incessant whining that you haven't belted up! How stupid is that? For less effort than undoing the belt-dummy from your key-ring and inserting it, you could just actually plug the safety belt in its socket, getting the benefit of added safety in the event of a crash.

This isn't a belt-dummy it's a belt for dummies! :-(

While talking about dubitable devices, I read that Apple have now announced their smart watch. A device which lets you do (some of) what your smartphone can, but which needs you to have a smartphone anyway, to operate it. Talk about superfluous; who needs that? They claim hundreds of Apps have been written for the iWatch; rest assured most of them will be crappy. iFart now on your wrist? :-(

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Vacation reading

As usual, I took too few books with me on (the Lanzarote) vacation; just four. So after four days I'd finished them and turned to the hotel's lounge "library" for two more. The hotel had only 8 rooms so the choice was limited, just 41 books, some in German, some Spanish, and some English, which previous guests had left there. My first choice was a bad one: Peter Kay's autobiography. He claims to be a UK comedian, leaving school without any formal qualifications, and it showed :-( The second book was much better, weird and convoluted humour, Tom Holt's "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of sausages". So much better, that upon return home I have ordered two more Tom Holt books (used, via Amazon) : "Doughnut" and "Blonde Bombshell". I haven't started them yet (as the post just brought them), but the cover blurbs sound encouraging. I'll let you know how I liked them.

Just 7 hours after writing that first paragraph, I've now finished reading "Blonde Bombshell". A most enjoyable book, a strange mixture of science-fiction, comedy, and the detective-story style where you and the protagonist are always struggling to find out what is going on! In this respect, it has the same recipe as "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of sausages" :-)

Just 3 hours after writing the previous paragraph, I've given up trying to read "Doughnut", which I found exhausting and not nearly as well done - either in comedy or SF - as the two aforementioned books. Swings and roundabouts.

Comments (2) :
Jenny (Ibiza) wrote that "...Tom Holt is a very fecund writer." Maybe. That's not the word I would have used, I prefer to say prolific ;-)
Olaf (D) grinned " That's very subtle, using the musical notation for a pause (in your blogging), while you read the books. Like! :-)" You noticed! :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Top Gear-Knob ;-)

Top Gear TV-presenter Jeremy Clarkson - seemingly in need of some Anger Management training - has gotten himself suspended by the BBC. Sadly the program Top Gear has also been withdrawn by the BBC, somewhat of an overreaction IMHO.

In view of this, I propose a new gear-change logo for Clarkson, to be known as The Top Gear-Knob ;-)

Comments (3) :
John (UK) wrote "I was expecting you to write about PI day :-(" At least I made the gear-knob logo circular :-) But I could also have written about Einstein's birthday today. Sometimes one makes a choice based on topicality.
John (UK) replied "OK, but today was a once-in-a-lifetime PI-day. There was a second when Americans could have seen their clocks showing 3.14.15 9:26:54 ;-)" It doesn't come better than that :-)
Anon (UK) grins "If that knob was a person, it would be a totally backward one ;-)" I put in 7 reverse gears to indicate that C. needs to take a step (or several) backwards.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ave atque Vale

Thanks to the wonderful interconnectedness of the Internet and the young lady who wrote his obituary, I have just discovered that an old friend Len Mor died last year. Requiescat in pace.

Len was an Australian who lived most of his later life in France. He and I worked together 1969/1970 writing a Cobol compiler for Telefunken in Konstanz and I'd lost track of him since our ways parted. He is survived by his wife Ros and daughters Rebecca and Rachel(whose zeroeth birthday party I vaguely remember). Len was much more sporting and health-oriented than I am; he played squash all his life. I am more the lazy sod, but we'd each tease one another back then "Your lifestyle will kill you first". So I was right:-( Thus I will be drinking a Scotch and toasting your memory, Len. You had a good life.

Friday the 13th also brings the sad news that pTerry died yesterday aged just 66 after the increasing ravages of Alzheimer's disease. Sir Terry Pratchett was my favourite fantasy author; I have all of his Discworld books, most of his books for children as well, and all his short stories. He became an active campaigner for assisted dying and has influenced the UK government on this subject to some extent. All his fans will miss him; expect an outburst of empathetic obits. His legacy will live on. It aten't ded!

What an 'embuggerance' :-( Noli timere messorem!

Comments (3) :
Doug (Canada) wrote " Love that family motto (Noli timere messorem = Do not fear the reaper). There is no point in fearing the reaper - we are all mortal and will meet him/her/it/nul in due time. While I wasn't a big fan of his he was a tremendous writer and his craft will be missed." His daughter may continue with the Discworld series, we are told.
John (USA) wrote " Just read your post of Sir Pratchett's death. I am a fan - started his Science of Discworld last evening, having read volume II several weeks ago. Probably the two most interesting science texts I've had the pleasure of reading. Wish I could say that I have all his books - I'm slowly getting there. Thanks for the post, even though it makes me sad. I will have a glass of scotch in his memory tonight." There are 4 books in The Science of Discworld series; my impression is that co-author Ian Stewart did most of the work, anybody know? AFAIK, when someone is knighted in the UK, their given name is used. Hence Sir Terry rather than Sir Pratchett; OK?
Ed (USA) asks "What does Ave atque Vale mean?" It's Latin for "Hail and Farewell" and is used to list new arrivals and departures e.g. in college.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lanzarote Fun

We didn't spend the whole week just sunbathing & swimming on Lanzarote, so let me wrap up the trip report with a few photos of some of our (typical tourist) fun outings.

Never having ridden a camel, I gave this a try for a short ride through the national park. There is an A-frame in the camel's back, with a seat on each side. After the guide had seated us, he looked at me critically and added a 20 kilo sand-sack to the outside of SWMBOs seat, so that we would balance. The poor beast of burden didn't like that and tried to bite me, which is why they have those sacking guards around their mouths! We were then tied in, using a "safety-belt" aka a piece of baling-twine :-( The guide then shouted something at the camel, which then stood up, hind-legs first, almost pitching me out of the seat as I wasn't expecting the lurch! The next couple of miles consisted of lurching and staggering with SWMBO and I hanging on for dear life. I'd never actually been seasick on land before :-( I could not even enjoy a camel toe :-(

Next day, we visited some of the caves and took a guided tour through a longish lava tube, actually three tubes above one another. Attractively lit, which enabled my camera to capture some high-contrast views inside the lava tubes. The explanations were in Spanish (not my strong point) and what the guide said was English, although I didn't understand much of that either!

The next day's schedule included an hour's ride in a submarine. So now I can say I've been to the bed of the Atlantic, even if it was only about 100 feet down! We got to see a shipwreck acting as an artificial reef hosting shoals of different fish. There was a large manta-ray who came to be fed; the submarine had accompanying divers who fed it (see photo above). The manta has a really small mouth, located on the underside of its body, see photo above. All the underwater photos are bluish because the water filters out the longer wavelengths (reds etc). Visibility was good, 30 yards or more.

On the following day we headed north to the beach at Orzola, not for the beach but for the tall vertical cliffs there. In the winter, the wind often blows from the north directly onto the cliffs around this U-shaped cove. You can paraglide for HOURS! In fact it is difficult to get down! You need to head out to sea to lose altitude (1000 feet?) then head back to land on the town's football pitch as the locals do. Drier than landing on the spray-covered beach!

From Orzola you can take a ferry boat around the north cape to the flat island of Graciosa, a nature preserve, for some hiking or mountain biking. The photo above is taken from Mirador del Rio, a 1500 foot cliff on the north coast of Lanzarote. Mirador del Rio was created in the mid-seventies by the aforementioned local artist César Manrique in his typical architectural style, integrated into the lava cliff. The views over the abyss are stupendous, my photos don't do them justice :-(

Well, that's enough about our Lanzarote trip; back to being boring ;-)

Comments (1) :
Jenny (Ibiza) wrote "That's a dromedary (one hump). The two-humped ones are called bactrians." Whatever. Mean-minded misery-guts is what I called our camel. And what's that deep gut-rumbling noise they make? :-(

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Putting it down safely...

The papers here on friday were full of shit stories that actor Harrison Ford had "crashed" his aeroplane on a golf course. Not quite true.

Harrison Ford (72) had an engine failure just after take-off while flying a 1942 vintage open-cockpit Ryan trainer. A plane so light and so slow is JUST capable of killing you. But Ford responded correctly, no panic, he didn't even call Mayday. He aimed the plane at the golf course which is on the extended centreline of his departure airfield. He slowed to best glide speed, later to minimum sink-rate, judging by an amateur video. Unfortunately he clipped a tree at the last moment of his glide-in. He has minor cuts and lacerations we are told, nothing serious. Photo gallery of the plane after the mishap here.

So well done, Harrison Ford, as the saying goes "any landing you can walk away from is a good one". And he could, so it was :-)

As a flying instructor, emergency landings are something I'd practice a lot with my students until they could glide and put the plane down safely into a field of their choice. At the last moment, we'd restore power and fly away for another try. Glider pilots also spend a lot of time practising off-field landings, for obvious reasons. Especially when flying vintage small airplanes, I always have a task running in the back of my mind "If the engine fails NOW, I go for that field over there .... and if the engine fails NOW, I go for that country road/golf course/etc over there ...." Like you were wearing 7 league boots and striding through the sky. Your mental task watches smoke-plumes, wind-turbines, wavetops etc to keep a track of the wind direction, so you land more-or-less into the wind. See my article No turning back from May 2014.

Sometimes our club would have spot-landing competitions onto an area we'd chalked out on the EDLP runway. A target line (no score if you landed short) followed R2L by 10 rectangles each 1 meter wide, as shown below.

Come over the line at 1000 feet above the field, cut the engine to idle, carb-heat ON, and glide into the spot-landing area. Some people missed the whole area! If you bounced, the furthest touchdown counted. No score if short. Lowest score wins, flying instructors in a separate category.

I got to be quite good at these. When visiting Oshkosh in 84 I took part in their spot-landing competition one day. Hubris! Wow, those Alaskan bush pilots etc are good at that! The judges were measuring distance from the line in feet and in the finals in inches! I did one spectacularly good one (for me) of only 18 inches from the line and still only ended up fourth! :-(

Apropos that 7-league boot mental subtask : only one time did it make me really nervous. Way back well before 9/11, I had filed VFR from Paderborn in Germany to Biggin Hill (just SE of London) with Elstree (just NW of London) as my alternate. On approach to Biggin Hill the runway was suddenly closed (some guy had upended his taildragger), so I called ATC for vectors to Elstree (see black line on the map below). ATC vectored me right across the middle of London to "Stay at or below 500 feet, crossing traffic R2L for Heathrow (runways marked in red) above you". I have often wondered if they knew I was a single-engined 1969 Piper Cherokee!

Visibility unlimited, the views were spectacular, but my camera was in my luggage :-( But my 7-league boot algorithm would have failed me, London is so built-up that despite parks and football-fields etc, 500 feet altitude does not leave you enough options and trading speed for altitude (in the event) was not part of my clearance :-(

In 4800+ hours flying, I have only twice had engine trouble, once due to carburettor icing and once due to a split fuel line. Both times I had sufficient altitude to glide to small airfields nearby (albeit having to land downwind once), so no sweat, but I did call PanPanPan , I'll admit :-)

Non vitae sed scholae discimus; we're learning for life, not for school ;-)

Comments (3) :
Blog a Bisserl (D) wrote " BBC : First watch the last of the 3 videos there, opined "extreley skilfull landing"..."in a style, his alter ego and all action heroes would be proud of". "Mail One" : this photo from this article. Too low to turn back, clipped a tree, these things probably don't glide well. Hit a hole with the gear?" Best glide ratio would be about 1:10. I wrote an article No turning back in May of last year, explaining the height needed for a return turn. I ASSUME his landing gear clipped a tree which tipped him forwards, accounting for the broken engine mount when pancaking in. It's a heavily built up area, with almost nowhere to put it down safely. Depending on altitude, wind, and position at engine-failure, I don't know whether he could have made it straight ahead to Venice Beach??? One can always offer alternatives after the fact and not having been there at the time :-( He decided not, and he was the pilot there at the time.
Petra (A) criticises me for "...too much pilot jargon" OK. Fair criticism. I was writing for Cop Car and my other aviation readers. Sorry.
Cop Car replied " I can surely sympathize with Petra, Stu. Please let her know that even I sometimes tire of all of our aviation jargon when we (pilots) get to hangar-flying face-to-face. Usually, we offend non-pilots without meaning to; but, I sometimes suspect that our motives aren't quite so pure. I've seen a small cluster who seemed to be excluding all non-pilots by carrying on in jargon. I know that you (Stu) and I wrote (to one another via email, I think) about my skipping your postings that weren't of particular interest to me, and I think you are secure enough that you could recommend that action for others of your blog friends?" True, but the fact is that I didn't even notice that I was doing it :-(

Friday, March 6, 2015

TomTom misses the boat :-(

Iam a convinced user of SatNavs. I prefer to use TomTom devices, or at least I did until today :-( I like the TomTom because both SWMBO and I prefer their simple user interface and their biker's SatNav, the TomTomRider, has an option to plan a route from A to B not in the fastest time but along the curviest route, a great feature for us bikers :-)

So we have 3 devices, one on the bike and one in each car. One of the car devices died yesterday, so I went out and got a new model 135. They cost less than €150, probably a repair would have cost more? However, the database on this model is buggy, it doesn't seem to know about major ferry connections.

I uploaded all my standard routes onto the device, one being the trip to the Isle of Man, a Mecca for motorcyclists. It usually looks like this :-

Ride 320 kms to Ijmuiden, NW of Amsterdam, take the overnight ferry to Newcastle (England) - alternatively to Hull (England) - ride across England to Heysham or Liverpool(from Hull), then take the ferry from Heysham or Liverpool to Douglas (IOM). All shown in the sketch above. Simple, easy, two half-day rides, two ferries.

This new TomTom model 135 misses the boat though! See screenshot below.

I would have me ride all the way to Calais (France), take the cross-channel ferry, ride from Dover up to Anglesey (Wales), take a ferry there to Dublin (Ireland), then another ferry back from Ireland to the IOM. What a stupid routing!! Just as well this is a car SatNav; I'd never do this route in a car anyway, always on the bike to the IOM.

It seems their database does not know about the overnight ferries across the North Sea, nor does it know about the ferries to IOM from England :-(

TomTom, you literally missed the boat! Update your databases asap, please!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

César Manrique

While we were on Lanzarote island last month, we made sure to visit the César Manrique foundation. César Manrique (1919-1992) was Lanzarote's famous artist and architect. The César Manrique foundation is located in one of the semi-subterranean houses in which he lived and worked. The photo on the left below shows the foundation's logo. The photo on the right shows one of his mobiles, all different, typically located on roundabouts / traffic islands on the major roads; almost ubiquitous.

We both quite liked this mural of his in the garden of the foundation; rather in the style of Miro, we thought. Pity that cacti obscure some of it though.

Part of his house was below ground, built in lava tubes. Some of the rooms, like this lounge, are built in lava bubbles of a 300 year-old volcanic outflow.

Although I liked the unique architecture, I wasn't so keen on some of his paintings. This red and gold one I found just confusing. Not to my taste :-(

One positive thing I will say though : he persuaded the island authorities to put a stop to high-rise buildings. So most buildings are just 2 storeys high. All painted white (to combat the sun); as we drove around in our tiny rental car (an underpowered Citroen, dammit) I found myself incessantly singing Pete Seeger's ditty "Little Boxes", just for the title, not the lyrics ;-)

Comments (1) :
Cop Car (USA) wrote " You wrote "- in the style of Miro, we thought." I heartily agree with you. There is a striking resemblance! You also wrote "This red and gold one..." I find it quite attractive. No accounting for taste, eh?" The mural is actually a mosaic, seen close up. The César Manrique foundation's gallery includes original sketches by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró which we enjoyed too.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The new €20 note : insecure already :-(

Just last week the ECB (European Central Bank) announced the new €20 note, to be introduced into general circulation in November. The specimen notes now being printed in small numbers are for use by ATM (automated teller machines) manufacturers and manufacturers of vending and ticket automata so they can reprogram their machines to accept the forthcoming notes with their added security features.

The ECB claims the new note (see picture on the left) has additional security features like holograms and see-through pictures of Europa, a mythological Greek figure. However, my eagle eye has noted a big INSECURITY feature, shown in the close-up on the right, where it reads EYPΩ !

That's Greek for Euro. So the European Central Bank has already made up what passes for its mind that Greece will still be in the Euro in november, regardless of whether various contributing(sic!) countries want a Grexit :-( Surely, this is the biggest INSECURITY for the Euro?

And it implies that all "independent" votes by national parliaments are a farce. Which they are here anyway. Our weak-spined politicians insisted last week on throwing more good money after bad, by granting Greece more loans alms, which they will NEVER repay :-( Already, they are screaming they will need another tranche of 6 billions in April AND still want all their existing debts cancelled. When you read the Greek governments' wishy-washy, vague, socalled "reform paper" letter to Brussels, most of it is about their proposals for Marxist redistribution of wealth and NONE about making major improvements to Greek productivity :-(

Demand the Grexit NOW, as the only reasonable solution to their eternal begging! Back to the Drachma, devalue it until they learn to become honest and competitive again.

And the next catastrophe is already in the pipeline : TTIP :-(

Comments (2) :
Schorsch (D) wrote "No, the next catastrophe is that the US bio-weapons research lab in Louisiana has just "lost" a bunch of Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria!" Oh wow, they ARE highly infectious! And with TTIP we could get them tax- and duty-free too :-(
Renke wrote " hmm ...Greek alphabet, Euro as currency... Do you propose not only GREXIT but also CYPXIT? :)" Ah but Exit is a latin word, if this editor had all the greek characters I'd have to write something like "Elleniki exodos" ?

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TomTom misses the boat
César Manrique
The new €20 note
Dif-tor heh smusma
Lanzarote Cactus Garden
Lanzarote Lava
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