Friday 29 April 2022

Salixing the bank

Back in January I wrote note to self: more willow cuttings needed . . . to protect our bank of the river from further flood-damage erosion. But notes to self are much less useful than actioning the thought. And it turned out that, back in Jan I had at least one eye on future forest. While dismembering the fallen trees and sorting into brash vs fire-wood, I had sidelined a couple of bags for straight willow branchlets. These scions I brought back home and dumped, cut-end down into a bucket of water. That worked a treat. Willow Salix spp. typically tolerate a good deal of wet in the ground and will naturally root if a leaning branch comes into contact with wet soil. They say that you can leverage this natural tendency to root as a source of natural ?woowillow? rooting hormone.

As Winter turned over to Spring, knobby white rootlets could be seen poking into the water of my propagation bucket. We had all the descendants on site over Easter. They tend to be champing at the bit to be useful about the property which is a boon and a blessing. The Boy was very happy to carry the now-rooted willow whips down to the river, while I carried the iron spike for making holes in the bank into which they might be popped.

It really only took a few minutes and now we have a couple of dozen incipient trees, running along maybe 20m of bank, ready to fight their corner against all comers. I reckon they won't fight too hard against the blue-bells Coinnle corra Hyacinthoides non-scripta and white campion Coireán bán Silene latifolia which currently cover the bank below the badger sett. But their task, for us, is to contribute a dense tangle of roots to retain earth and small stones against the rushing water. It doesn't look very rushing in the picture above: it would be hard to get the water to over-top your wellingtons. But after a spill of rain on the hills this quiet beck becomes shoulder-deep maelstrom which carries all before it.  Side note: I explained the non-scripta part of the bluebell's name at the birth of The Blob.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Turkey dangle

The challenging flubbers of bare flesh hanging from a turkey's [Meleagris galloparva] neck are a) called wattles b) something else entirely. Today we address [a small but politically significant part of] the country which straddles Europe and Asia. Time was that Turkey aspired to join the EU, as it had been a key member of NATO - joined 1952. The idea of Turkey joining the EU got a lot of side-eye from Greece which has had issues with the Turks since Byron or Smyrna. Turkey was the clue/answer to Worldle last Thursday [see R]. When you rip an outline map from its context, it exaggerates any distortions in the border - as recently Lithuania. Thanks to my very expensive education, I got Turkey.worldle in one go - hint: looks like a brick and there is Gallipoli and the Dardanelles over in the NW. But WTF is the dong-shaped penisula halfway along the South coast? A: not a peninsula at all!

It is a chunk of land, but only its Western border is wet. For 170 years from 1098, it was part of the Crusader Principality of Antioch and eventually was subsumed into the Ottoman Empire. After WWI, The Empire was stripped of everything that could be considered a colony, with these bits gobbled up by France and Britain as "Mandates". France taking what we now known as Syria and Lebanon, with the Brits shouldering the burden of Palestine and Iraq.  The Mandat pour la Syrie et le Liban was a real melting pot: mostly Arabs, but also Kurds, Turks, Assyrians, Armenians, Circassians, Mandaeans, and Greeks. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandaeans, Shiites, Salafis, and Yazidis.  The administration divided their territory up into 5 States centred on Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, Latakia & Swaida. Some of these places are household names in the West after years of bloody sectarian and internecine conflict. Others less so because our news coverage and education is partial in both sense of that word. From 1923 to 1939, the NW corner of the Mandate was promoted to an autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta; at least partly as a sop to the new state of Turkey and the ethnic Turks who made up a substantive minority in that micro-region. 

As the World shaped up for War again in the 1930s, France had realpolitik reasons for keeping Turkey sweet with The Allied Powers rather than, as in WWI, throwing their lot in with the Germans. The French were also trying to divest themselves of their Mandate territories in the Near East as soon as she deemed them to be sufficiently evolué to manage their own affairs. In 1938 the Sanjak of Alexandretta was rebranded as Hatay State aka The Republic of Hatay. And the following year, the Turks finessed a plebiscite to determine the future status of the province.   On dit que the plebiscite was packed with ringers who were no longer domiciled in Hatay. Whatevs! the count brought in a majority in favour of [re]joining Turkey and the area was annexed by Turkey on 22nd July 1939. The President of Syria resigned in protest but the French barrelled on regardless - their minds distracted by events along their own border . . . not to mention the Anschluss Österreichs in March 1938 and the Munich Betrayal of the Sudentenland in September 1938.

And that, kids, is why Turkey occupies both sides of the Gulf of Alexandretta aka İskenderun Körfezi.

Monday 25 April 2022

Systems and users

 A while back I self-referentially ended a Blob about a book noting that Borrowbox came to officious life and <klang!> closed my account as I was finishing the book. It was mildly more confusing because I was up on the hill without my specs, so could barely read the close-out message . . . let alone respond effectively to it. Dropping out of the system so abruptly caught me with my panzers down on a) by Borrowbox backcatalog - the list of all the books I've heard over the last tuthree years b) the title of the interesting book on which I put a reserve. The last was aggravating.

Luckily I have unlimited access to a Family Librarian who has the covetted AAAB access all areas badge in  all matters relating to LMS and OPAC  = Library Management System and OnLine Public Access Catalogue. The problem condensed around two un-related changes in my relationship with the now national library service. 

  1. Our Family Librarian F.L. had sorted me with a Dublin Library card flagging my "Home Library" as Tramore, Co Déise, which is 180km South of Dublin. Goodo, except that the bar-code on that card would never scan, so the long-suffering librarian had to type in the 14 digit number. A week before the F.L. had sent me a new card hoping that the whatever UV problem glitch wouldn't replicate.
  2. The whole nation had, two days prior, switched from one LMS [Sierra] and OPAC [Encore] to another integrated LMS/OPAC system called Spydus.

My problem [it is all about me, after all] was compounded by both issues. F.L. got onto Borrowbox customer service and they merged their records for the two different cards. >!Shazzam!< not only did the back-catalog and my reservation come back to me but so did my access to the book I had been reading the day before with the bottom dropped out of my digital world. That was bonzer.

The access problem was system-wide. The /etc/passwd file in which all the user PIN codes were encrypted could not be ported to the new Spydus system and all the passwords in the country had to be reset. The transition to the new, better system had been outsourced to external IT consultants who, for all the €million$ they had trousered for that contract, had been unable to leap this small user-interface hurdle but off-loaded the task on librarians across the nation who, over a million transactions involving hundreds of billable hours were able to get the new system up and running with users whose PIN was recognised. Not a million miles from the €20million EirCode debacle / boondoggle.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Sun Apr 24t

Orthodox Easter today: Щасливого Великодня!

Friday 22 April 2022

Lith's wart

Most mornings for a while now we [me, Dau.I the Librarian, Dau.II O'Sporcle] have been playing worldle a guess the country from its silhouette game. We'll all be ace at any political geography jigsaw now. Easter Monday, I was less ace than my "very expensive education" average:

I was able to do better on an earlier Worldle of Bouvet Island because Bouvet had been blobbed. In my guess with Réunion, I was attempting to relive past gloire by having a punt at another speck in the Southern Ocean. But anything can be grist to the Blobbomill and I was intrigued by the skin-tag attached to the SE border of this new geographic entity. Indeed, believing that it might be a sea-stack tipped my first thoughts towards "island nation". 

But, in this case, we are staring at a political rather than geological feature called the Dieveniškės [Polish: Dziewieniszki, Belarusian: Дзевянішкі] "appendix" extending to I'm giving three renderings of the toponym [all of which mean God's Place or maybe Layers of Red Sand] because the region shrieks ethnographic melting-pot on a par with Breslau=Wrocław [prev]. In the late 19thC, 75% of the inhabitants were Jewish but they were all killed in the second half of 1941, immediately after the Nazis rolled the Soviets out of the Lithuanian SSR. The Soviets rolled back in during 1944 and within a couple of years most of the local physical attributes of national border were taken down or allowed to decay.

That left a few hundred small farmers [like Katija Stankiewicz L] mainly Poles but with minority Lithuanians and Belorussians. The Roads and Kingdoms blog made a rather good post about the semi-clave in 2016. In the midst of the Soviet era in 1956, after a resident's petition to the central praesidium, Dieveniškės was reassigned to the Lithuanian SSR despite being almost entirely surrounded by the  Belarus SSR. This made very little difference to the subsistence economy of the inhabitants and neither did the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991. But the accession of Lithuania to the EU, and Schengen, in 2004 required a physical barrier between the EU the alien hordes of Belarus. In 2007 a chain-link fence was erected which meant that Katija had to make a 90km trek to have official tea with her sister on the other side of their village. That seems a poor outcome for poor people.

Wednesday 20 April 2022

I answer to Hey

Bob is not my real name! Nor is Blob. The name on my passport is common as porridge . . . in Scotland, and only slightly more exclusive in Ireland. I really don't identify with it; in the sense that I perk up when someone shares it. My adult kids each have a four lett name whch aint like that: I notice when those names trundle through my attention-sphere. Loada folks spull myown final famnm wrong despt being reall short . . . and common as bank; but that's for another day.

When I worked at The Institute, student names were supplied at registration and there was a helluva lot of on inertia trying to change them. One of the peculiarities of that train-wreck system was that common as fada Irish O' names were coded without the ' : O Reilly, O Shaughnessy. I always assumed that it was because three very similar glyphs have different unicodes:
' U+0027 apostrophe single-quote
‘ U+2018
’ U+2019
and only the first option was deemed necessary and sufficient in ascii, as 039. Some early IT person must have thrown up their hands and just left it blank. It was mildly annoying because the s pace in the n ame didn't always parse well when creating student lists for mark sheets from the official register, for which I expected First Name - Family Name. I really should have damped my expectations because I knew people whose handle didn't shoe-horn into that Western normality.

This-all came back to me last week when I tuned into an Ask.metafilter about whether Mac Beth was a new normal or legitimate variant of MacBeth. As often, the hive mind had some on the button comments. Like: "In Irish orthography, there is a space between Mac and the rest of the surname, e.g. Seán Mac Eoin, Seán Mac Stíofáin etc. In Wikipedia, therefore, a space should be included after Mac if the surname is in the Irish language. In English orthography, there is no space between the Mc or Mac and the rest of the surname" which refers to a revelatory Wikipedia article on respeck in Irish name-space. And Ó names are treated in the same way as Mac names when written in Irish "we refer to Máirtín Ó Cadhain . . . Tomás Ó Fiaich". Look l👁👁k that's a fada on the O and a space! That's why Irish names, in English, have an apostrophe - the accent has slipped off. 

The very same day as the Mc Mac question was an earnest request for help about calling people what they want to be called. Asker was updating their corporate database so that employees were not saddled forever with what a long-ago bureaucrat decided was their name. Come now, it really shouldn't be so hard because The Patriarchy has long accepted and codified change of name on marriage. Blimey, is that the reason the women were obliged to retire from the Civil Service upon marriage? It was just too much trouble for Dev's boy's to change the name on the payroll?? Nowadays, people change their names for reasons other than adoption and marriage. In our part of society, it's okay to change your bathroom to get into a skin that feels comfortable. Not everyone accepts this [yet] and some people get all hot and bothered about it. Changing your name is often a part of trans-processing; and it's only polite to address others as they want to be called not what you-or-I judge them to be - Miss Ms TERF I'm looking at you.

TIL that several South Asian family-names are caste signifiers and who wants that when they've landed a $ix-figur€ salary at Google in  Dublin Docklands? My name is Rajesh N.

While we're here, that McAsk cites the definitive rhetorical list "Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names" which opens a whole can o' worms . . . and don't get me started on «guillemets». Actually my quotes post is much more matter of life and death than french quotes.  And "My name is . . ." badges in hospital.

Monday 18 April 2022

Missed! just.

When, having survived another night, I throw open the front door to greet the day, the foreground of the view is largely occupied by a mighty ash tree Fraxinus excelsior at the bottom of the yard. Over 25 years under our care, it has grown a lot. It's a pity we had not the foresight to measure it back in 1996, when for two pins we could have chopped down its scrubby ass for firewood. The only thing to say is "My, haven't you grown?" which is patronising and not very quantitative. It is so tall that I have anxed, with Bishop Berkeley: "if a tree falls in the yard and there's nobody to hear, will it make a noise . . . as it smashes the windows of the house". A year ago, I did some guesstimating to calculate that a) the tree was 8.5 times taller that the adjacent 2016 woodshed b) that was quite enough to come knocking on (or through!) the front door . . .  roughly.

Two Sundays ago we had brilliant sunshine after lunch and, as I stood <burping quietly> on the stoop, it was clear that the shadows of the topmost twigs almost grazed the edge of the front door-step. Oh ho, I thought, as I slapped a trigonometry hat on my pointy head, if I knew what was the angle of altitude of the sun on this day at this time in Ireland then tan(x)= opposite/adjacent would tell me whether the vertical tree is taller than the distance to the door if it fell this way? 

So I looked it up
Time: 1406 3rd April any year
Altitude: 41°
Direction 193° SSW
as tan(41°) = 0.869 then the shadow must be longer than the vertical tree and therefore we are safe from tree-fall for this year. In pictures:

In fact, with the way the conundrum is structured, any angle less than 45° will be okay and any angle greater than 45° is a potential problem. All that talk about trigonometry and tan(x) was a big red herring! With ash-dieback scourging through the local trees and with the tree in question definitely symptomatic last year, we don't have to worry about the tree getting much taller. If there is an Easterly gale then all bets are off for the slated shed next door . . . and the car, which we always park between tree and shed, will have to take its chances.

Sunday 17 April 2022

Easter 22

Chrisen is risen!

Friday 15 April 2022

Accurately, precisely

Back in the day, my teenage brother, adding to his many other talents <grrrr>, won a couple of medals in inter-school target shooting competitions at The National Rifle Association NRA at Bisley near Woking, Surrey. This is a completely different crew from the USA's NRA prising guns from the cold dead hands of Charlton Heston <Not!>. A good shot needs to have a quality gun, a steady hand, a good eye and the ability to pay attention to, and adjust for, external conditions: especially wind speed and direction. 

There are two ways in which you can be off target. If your spread is precise [all close together] but inaccurate [as LL] then the shooter's internals are probably good but some adjustment need to be made to a) adjust the rifle-sights or b) account for wind or c) both.  In the LC "accurate not precise" case, the gun is correctly tuned but the shooter is having an off-day or is just not very good at the task. You will note that in neither case are any of the bullet holes near the bull's eye: and big game hunting is, at this time, ill-advised. If your result is neither accurate nor precise, then you should take up tiddlywinks before someonething gets killed.

Five years ago, I had occasion to be quite dissatisfied with Simon Winchester's book about The Atlantic. Luckily I'm not judgmental and/or hava short memory of previous duds because another Winchester volume was my current audiobook on Borrowbox. It's called Exactly because that sidesteps the issue of defining precision and accuracy which are entangled in most readers' minds. The book won a prize in 2018. The trope is that each chapter embraces a new finer level of exactitude as we move from steam engines to detectors of gravitational waves. Steam engines require that a piston moves up and down in a cylinder; and the efficiency of the machine depends on how close is the fit. The key breakthrough was a boring machine invented by proto-industrialist and iron-master John Wilkinson. The Wilkinson company cut its teeth reaming out the bores of cannon. This made a lot of money because the market for cannon was inexhaustible; and cannon that required less powder and did not explode in the wrong direction were much in demand. It was an obvious extension of the principle to bore cast-iron cylinders for piston engines. Wilkinson guaranteed his product accurate to <gasp> 1/10th of an inch = 2.5mm - the thickness of an old shilling.

Wilkinson reflects on the pursuit of ever more sensitivity because we can; and we can because the nano-engineers are in a perpetual cycle of competition to go smaller. Computers can now store unimaginably vast amounts of information on tiny chips . . . and we fill up the space with really crap photos and uncountable personal copies of the latest hilarious kitten-meme. The scientific triumph of detection is the LIGO interferometer which this I firmly believe measures the gravitation waves predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity. A couple of billions dollars has enabled the Ligoistas to clock the collision of two black holes a billion light years away. It's not clear what can be done with these data. When cranked to the max LIGO can detect a change in distance between its paired mirrors of 1/10,000th the width of a proton! This is like measuring the distance to Alpha Centauri (4.2 light years away) to an accuracy smaller than the width of a human hair.

One of the more interesting middle chapters is about the development of jet engines by Rolls-Royce. The 30-something son of a long-term pal is an engineer with Rolls-Royce; so he may have a part to play in making the turbine blades which function at a temperature well in excess of what it would take to melt the super-high-temperature alloy from which these palm-sized blades are manufactured. Actually manufacturered has long since become a misnomer because these things are untouched by human hand. Turbine blades can be made to work in these hellish temperatures if their surface can kept "cool" - only 500°C. And they are cooled by leaking a film of lower temperature air from their core to the surface through a pattern of microscopic holes 'drilled' by a computer driven laser. Clearly, holes are going to adversely affect the structural integrity of the surface so it is a delicately balanced optimisation problem.

Maybe it's the audio medium, maybe my ear is now tuned to the Winchester style; but I found Exactly compelling listening.

At the end of the last week, I was nearing the end of Exactly on Borrowbox when I was abruptly closed out of the system. So I don't know how it ends . . .

Thursday 14 April 2022

Hazza goes Dublin

I've given a puff to Waiting For Smith previous. Well Smiffy is returning to Ireland supporting a singer-songster-technista from Kansas called I am Kawehi. She covers Nirvana

W4S is, or is fronted by, my nibling Hazza and I really like his stuff which, afaict, is all his own work. Well, almost all.

€20 will get you into Whelan's  at 8pm on Good Friday 15th April 2022 - that's tomo! I'd go for sure if it wasn't a holy day of obligation . . . and I'm the only person I know who hasn't yet copped a 'Rona.

Meanwhile in Cork W¡ld [yet more family talent] are living their own Enduring Summer Showers.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Everyone does a little

Well, my current Borrowbox ear-fodder is The Crowd and the Cosmos: Adventures in the Zooniverse by Chris Lintott it features penguins! I was describing it to Dau.II on the phonio last week and she said it sound real heavy. Must be the way I tell it.  It's not, I said, it reads like a thriller. Which was gilding the galaxy a bit but, despite being all about processing [eye-watering quantities of] data, it reads very easy on the ear.

Lintott and Kevin Schawinski co-founded Galaxy Zoo in 2007 as a way of getting on top of the data deluge in astrophysics. For reasons . . . they needed to shoe-horn galaxies into two different bins - spiral or elliptical. There are nearly 1 million images of these distant & enormous objects in the SDSS Sloan Digital Sky Survey. That's a lot and it would be easy if all the cases for classification were clearly one sort or the other - why then a computer program could do the whole task in a couple of minutes. Problem was that, in 2007, there was no digital solution that could reliably handle the edge[-on] cases - not all spiral galaxies appear like a catherine-wheel from Earth . . . because the Earth is not the centre of the cosmic merry-go-round. With enough committed volunteers, the project was able to call each galaxy dozens of times, so that the spirellipticity of each object could be determined to whatever degree of 'certainty' required by the particular question being asked. Everyone agreed that the L image above was 'spiral'. Edge cases could be discarded or referred to expert adjudication. And presumably, the assessment process could be periodically audited by the same experts to ensure that the volunteers weren't having jape at the project's expense had been effectively briefed and instructed.

And it cuts both ways. Just as some galaxies are easy to classify; some classifiers turned out to be more reliable than others. The data processing stream could therefore weight the calls of Effectives based on just how effective they were. You could imagine that adults would be better than children at this task OR you could assume that kids, having been digital all their lives, are more accurate than their parents. But the internal consistency checks allows the Galaxy Zoo Centraal to discover their best contributors by anonymous registration number rather than age, or zip code. 

I'm totally institutionalised! Could do Galaxy Zoo: learn the rules, and then keep clicking until bored. Hanny van Arkel, a teacher, and guitar-picker from Nederland, went a step above and beyond by asking WTF is that peculiar smudge of stardust ?! near [clearly spiral!] Galaxy IC 2497. It turned out to be super interesting "'n heel nieuw ding" as an example of star formation in the making 650 million light years from where we sleep. It could have been named Hanny's Dingetje but was dubbed Hanny's Voorwerp HsV and other similar clouds of ionized stellar matter are all called voorwerpjes. The thing about software, and institutionalised folks, is that they are only as good as the training set. Humans like Ms van Arkel can see beyond the tramlines of the task and be truly creative. Tedx!

Monday 11 April 2022

An nua Cnuas

In 1981 An Taoiseach  Charlie Haughey launched a free lunch for The Arts Block founded Aosdána to support a small number of creative people in a modest [2021= €20,180 / year] fashion. Cynics called it out a political smokescreen to distract The People from the latest scandal unravelling around Haughey and his merrie band of fixers and finaglers. But Cnuas, the stipend, was gratefully received by the chosen few [N = 200 initially; now 250] who, more or less, became more productive because the wolf was no longer right at the door. For them garrets were yesterday. Only an indigent subset of Aosdána took up the Cnuas: Seamus Heaney was doing alright thanks, what with sales and readings and lecturing gigs - especially after he landed his Nobel Prize. I'm delirah to report that our neighbour Rachel Joynt [illustrated below, her Keepsake – Cuimhneachán] was elected to Aosdána in September last year. That brings to 5/250 the number of Aosdánites with whom I've broken bread. Everyone has heard of some of the people [list] in this exclusive group.

Fianna Fáil are back in [half-]power again and the current Taoiseach Micheál Martin is pushing out a pilot scheme entitled [!?!] Basic Income for the Arts. The applicant portal will be opened on 12th April 2022 TOMORROW and wannabe recipients have to get their stuff together and submitted before lunchtime of 12 May 22. 

Eligibility is somewhat arbitrary. In the film world, the following tasks qualify: Actor, Animator, Artistic Director, Cinematographer, Costume Designer Director, Editor, Screenwriter, Film Designer, Filmmaker, Film Editor, Lighting Designer/Engineer, Hair Designer, Make-up Designer, Prop Designer, Production Designer, Sound Designer/Engineer, Script Writer, Scenographer, Set Designer, Special Effects Designer, Scenic Artist, Visual Designer, Voice Over Artist, Writer. 

While the following do not: Armourer, Assistant Stage Manager, Audio-Describer, Chaperone, Costume Supervisor, Costume Assistant, Directors Assistant, Dresser, Editorial Assistant, Film Crew, Film Critic, Fly Operator, Hair Dresser, Lighting Technician/Operator, Make-Up Artist, Production Assistant, Production Manager, Props Master, Pyrotechnics Assistant, Rigger, Runner, Set Builder, Set Dresser, Sound Technician/Operator, Stage Crew, Stage Manager, Wardrobe Supervisor, Wardrobe Assistant, Video Technician

What about Best Boy, Key Grip and Boom-Operator ?? Riddle me that!

There's a few positives about the implementation. 

1) It's a lottery: if you meet the basic criteria you have as much chance as the next gal to secure one of 2,000 seats at the table.  It's not as gracious as Cnuas -- €325/week = €16,900/yr compared to €20,180 -- but better than Job Seeker's Allowance . . . and you don't need to seek jobs. Aosdána elects their own; so with the best will in the world, there will be a conservative tendency to accept new members in the image of the existing crew. With a random number generator we can hope for some really Out There creatives to bring their vision to the world. 

2) There's going to be [whoa! science!!] a control group who will get two weeks of hand-out €650/yr provided they fill in the same reports and evaluations as the lucky 2,000.
Q. Why would The Man need a control?
A. Because The Man is distributing €25 million through this scheme == 100 starter homes down the country. The Man, from their comfortable permanent and pensionable desk-job, must ensure that these Arts proles are delivering value for money.

The thinking must be something like: we'll measure the artistic productivity of those who are getting €16,900 and compare that to qualified but unsuccessful applicants who are only getting €650. A win will be a significant difference in output between the two groups.

Fie! and, like Pshaw! If you're doing stats you need to define your units: otherwise you're comparing oranges with an apple-pie bed. Metrology [on which The Blob has had much to say] to the rescue!:

  • 3 haiku = 1 sonnet
  • 5 sonnets = 1 sonata
  • 4 sonatas = 1 three-act play
  • 4 three-act plays = Excalibur!
  • etc.
PS Sorry for delay today:
a AM/PM error

Sunday 10 April 2022

sun Apr 2022

In touch with the numinous . . . and other matter

Friday 8 April 2022

ласкаво просимо до Ірландії

Transliterated: laskavo prosymo do Irlandiyi or, being translated, Welcome to Ireland

Back at the birth of The Blob, I was bemused and tickled that a large chunk of my readership seemed to have Ukrainian IP numbers. I had some harmless fun with myself greeting them specifically and making inclusive jokes about Europe and the Viking Kingdom of Kiev. These japes were met with the deafening silence they deserved. But I did wonder if Blogger's measuring robots needed adjustment - perhaps confusing Kiev with Killarney. And that sent me down a rabbit hole of superficial "research" about this almost mythical country at the other end of Europe.

It might be time to reprise my 2013 UkrEire post which riffed on a vague shape-similarity by twinning Irish counties [N = 26] with Ukrainian Oblasts [N = 25] - ya couldn't make this up. The executive summary is this handy map for pairing the administrative districts:

On Tuesday 05Apr I met my first Ukrainian refugee. She and her two boys are billeted on the other side of the valley: we can see their temporary home-from-home from our back garden. Her neighbour-&-landlady gave us 2 hours notice that she'd be bringing this guest of the nation to tea with us. Which was time enough to a) rustle up a batch of scones b) whip some cream c) knock off some basic Ukrainian. As you see from the post title, Ukrainian is one step more difficult than, say, Polish - because Cyrillic script. But by the time I'd gotten 12 words in Ukrainian into my noddle - and forgotten 6 of them - I twigged that it is quite close to Polish. This was brought home to me on Olga's 4-minute Ukrintro when she said я не розумію ya ne rozumiyu = I don't understand.  "Rozumiesz?" = geddit? was used as often as commas by Tadek our Polish wwooffer back in 2007. My agricultural Polish was much better than Tadek's English by the time he left. Knowing the Polish for rock kamień], spade [łopata] and oaktree [dąb] didn't help at all at all trying to buy train tickets in Warsaw when I went for the away fixture the following Summer.

As our tea-time guests came into the yard, I launched into " ласкаво просимо до Ірландії " at which one of them teared up. Quite emotional these Easterners. Indeed, Easterner is true because this family escaped from Суми = Sumy which is East of the R Dnieper (and only 50km from the border with Russia). Strictly, according to my realpolitik twinning scheme [above], coming from Суми, they should be in Kildare not Carlow but there is already a place in our hearts for them in the valley.

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Late return fees

 . . . won't be applied in the case of the missing notebooks. Librarians in Cambridge are, au contraire, cock-a-hoop that two of Charles Darwin's leather-bound notebooks, half-inched in the 00s, have been carefully wrapped up and returned in a pink gift bag. Anonymously, of course.

We can't be more specific about exactly when the notebooks were stolen because the security systems back then was so full of holes that any bad-hat could drive a coach and horses through them. A 19thC metaphor for a 19thC mindset, when the only people who would want, or obtain, access to archival manuscripts were gentlemen and scholars. Theft being unthinkable the librarians assumed the material in their charge was somewhere in the vaults. It took Jessica Gardner the new, and less complacent, director in 2017 to insist on a root and branch search and conclude that the notebooks had been stolen. If this is ringing a distant tinkle, it may be because you read about in The Blob at the end of 2020.

Back in the 1970s when I was studenting in Trinity College Dublin I requested, for my own extra-curricular researches, access to a 17thC book. I was sent up to the rare books room in the old library and a while later, the book was laid on the table in front of me. There were rather strict rules and regulations about bringing ink anywhere near the old books and manuscripts. Presumably in the knowledge that at least some of the gentleman-scholars might have a palsy while filling their pens adjacent to the priceless ancient paper. It would have been difficult for me to stuff the book I was reading up my jumper when I packed up. In the regular TCD Science Library at that time before magnetic bleeper strips, it was easy enough to liberate a book; ask me how I know.

The missing Darwin notebooks were a particular loss because one of them contained the Great Man's most famous doodle [see L]. This 1937 tree-of-life pic is widely disseminated as an example of the process whereby the ghost of an idea is developed into a stated hypothesis which can be shared with the community and, importantly, tested. Darwin was notably engaged with his many children, dragooning them to help him catch and mark humble bees or collect worm-casts in the garden at Down House. At least some of the doodles in the Darwin collection were contributed by his offspring.

The collection in Cambridge is huge, and I'm not in a position to chide them for not knowing where every item is at all and any times. But it really is a lesson for folks like me, who have a lot of books - and eek scientific notebooks, me - to speculate on the utility of maintaining an extensive personal library. Lucky that I R retire and have time on my hands because I spend silly amounts of my remain time on earth trying to . . . find . . . that paper . . . which . . . I know is somewhere in the house.

Monday 4 April 2022

Walking for the Bird

Seven weeks ago, I was getting tetchy about 1,000 strangers walking straight through the middle of our property without anyone troubling to ask if it was okay. I was allowing past experience of urinating, dog-owning walkers requiring me to clean up their mess after them to colour my expectations of the ClimbWithCharlie caravanserai. Then 3 weeks ago a sign appeared down on the "main" road at the cross:

My old boss used to laugh at the pretensions of Kiltealy, the last village in Co Wexford, which has road signs directing the unwitting to it from 30km away. Tourists expecting Great Things are met with a church, 30 houses, one-and-a-half pubs and a choice of three roads out of hamlet. Now t'buggers are annexing our hill despite it being in a different county!

The walk was clearly going to happen, come rain, com shine, last Saturday the 2nd April. On Thursday, The Beloved and I snatched up a couple of feed-sacks and litter-picked the verges from our gaff to the main road. We do this most years, so it was just a question of bringing forward the spring-clean chore a few weeks . . . and beating the obscuring flush of spring-time weeds.

Friday dawned frosty but by lunch had laid on the sunshine with a gurt buttery trowel and I took a yomp up the hill to see if there were more signs of preparation for the hordes of walkers. I had just reached the mountain gate, where the lane debouches to the commonage, when a beat-up 4x4 overtook me and puffed and groaned sloowwlly up the rutted potholed excuse for a drove-road. With HiViz jackets the two lads within were clearly on some sort of scoping expedition. And indeed when I came up with their parked vehicle a while later, I spotted them in the middle distance laboring up the last stretch of impossible "road" trying to control some large plastic signs against the stiffish breeze. 

They had turned and parked at the last fork on the lane where one branch heads straight for the Mt Leinster TV mast and the other curls away to zig-zag up the back of Knockroe. And Lo! The Christians have been out again and installed a not-unseemly indicator of the way to heaven [see R]. It's much safer, and possibly quicker, to reach the cross on the top of the hill by going the long way round rather than the direct crow-flies path; which is steep, covered in bushes to scratch or skirt and grikes to disappear a leg into. 

On Der Tag des Aufstiegs Ascension Saturday we hunkered down and cast a cloak of invisibility over the yard between 1000 and 1600 hrs. Two Civil Defense ambulances and a truck containing 3 portaloos went up past our yard and a stream of chatter could be heard following. All in all it was really not worse than a regular Saturday in the walking season and I could find no evidence of urination once again [cue Dubliners]. Elsewhere Charlie summitted Croagh Patrick [loud cheers; even if rather too much Ryan Tubridy in front of camera!]. And €2million has been raised for Charlie's charities. Unfortunately one man took ill and died on the slopes of Mt Brandon Co Kerry.

Friday 1 April 2022

Loose talk about φ

I am so, engaged in social media. I'm still pushing out The Blob, albeit now at a slower rate than May 2013 - May 2021> I guess that qualifies as social media, although it is quite one way [= out] in its traffic. My only other outlet [and inlet, it is very much more two-way] is Metafilter, which I tune into most days. One of the wings on that site is Ask(Metafilter) where subscribers put questions for the hive-mind at the rate of about one every hour. It really is a window into the human condition. Last week there was a solicitation for Fun Facts My contribution to this burning question included: ". . . your height from heel to pate is pretty damn close to the span to the fingertips of your outstretched hands and the height from heel to navel vs heel to pate is p.d.c. to φ the golden ratio 1 : 1.618 . . ." Which I stand by as it is stated there.

A couple of days later, in another thread about pseudoscience, participant = MeFite Zumbador offered: In art, and graphic design: The idea of the Golden Mean and that certain proportions are inherently both more beautiful and based on proportions in nature (shells, the human body etc). It's confirmation bias. Not based on science

I had to respond or get woollywoo-labelled, and did so thusly: Whoa! As I just made such an assertion over on MetaTalk I'd better qualify it with some data gathered from and by 200 students over several years at my last place of work. The average ratio between height vs height to navel = 1.63; standard deviation = 0.09; range (1.48-1.79) which is significantly (p ~ 0.02) higher than φ = 1.618. I'm glad we've cleared that up. The point I made in class was that humans in all their diversity still maintain consistent proportion in their growth and development that makes each of us recognisably different from, say, koalas. But not before [and not before time] I dug out my old laptop and hunted up the data from Cell Biology classes from 2015 -2019. Data which is summarised in the quote. "p.d.c. to φ the golden ratio 1 : 1.618" is loose talk it is rather close but no cigar close to 1.618. It is exactly the same to one significant figure [1.6 == 1.6] but the range among people is considerable, so it is only imprecisely true.

I have to acknowledge that Zumbador was right to diss loose talk about φ, the Golden Ratio. Their point about confirmation bias is that, IF you have a) a human body [applies to most readers] b) a quest to find the Golden Ratio, ANDIF c) you allow a certain flex because biological data THEN you will surely be able to find two lengths which approximate 1.618 : 1 - between this flap and that nodule. YTF are we choosing heel-head vs heel-navel to measure? Why not heel-head vs heel-nipple? or heel-crutch vs heel-knee? or the difference between the two phalanges of your thumb?

Turns out Dau.II and I had thrashed this out quite exhaustively way back in 2015. I'm not primarily bringing all this he said she said up here to vindicate myself. In these troubled, credulous, times we really need to be careful what we say and how we say it; it is too easy entirely to be taken up wrong by donogoodniks. Let's not give those creatures ammunition.