Archive for the ‘miscellaneous’ Category

Farce of the week: prison break out… by courier!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

From the BBC –

A manhunt is under way in western Germany for a convicted drug dealer who escaped by mailing himself out of jail.

The 42-year-old Turkish citizen – who was serving a seven-year sentence – had been making stationery with other prisoners destined for the shops.

At the end of his shift, the inmate climbed into a cardboard box and was taken out of prison by express courier. His whereabouts are still unknown.

The chief warden of the jail told the BBC this was an embarrassing incident.

To say the least.  Priceless.

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Making the connection: emotions, voting and leadership

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is interesting –

I suspect that the answer to the question –

What is it the Independent male voters are reacting to when they register ‘disagreement’ with Clinton?

– are the emotions she expresses, namely, frustration and complaint.

I suspect that these qualities are not ones a sizeable proportion of citizens would want in their leader. Rather, they would probably prefer a ‘can-do’ attitude and the implicit assurance that difficult situations, no matter how grizzly or seemingly unfair, can at the very least be addressed and possibly improved.

Then again, of course, they might relate to the sense of injustice and see in the other a mirror of their own complaining behaviour…

Building where the sun don’t shine

Saturday, August 25, 2007

If I had my millions, lived in a part of London where there are strict conservation laws, and couldn’t think of better things to do with my money, I’d probably enjoy building underground. Apparently, the uber-rich are doing just this, sometimes digging fifty feet below their Georgian mansions, and propping up the original house with steel stilts. Et voilà, listed-building headaches avoided! Installations of choice include tennis courts and swimming pools with adjustable depths – paddling pools for the kids transforming to diving pools by nifty hydraulics. And for the really lazy swimmer, there’s even a home in north London that

has a bespoke chute covered in a special slippery paint, which enables the owner, who loves swimming first thing in the morning, but hates the fuss of dressing, to step out of bed and slide straight into the water a couple of storeys below.

Article in the Times, courtesy of BLDGBLOG. (Mind you, isn’t the water table in London supposed to be rising a rate of about 3cm a year? don’t quote me on that. If city, subterranean living isn’t your kind of thing, and you’ve got enough dosh to stick two fingers up at rising sea levels, you could always buy a Fijian island on eBay. Bye bye.)

19 paupers and a billionaire in a room…

Friday, July 27, 2007

I’ve never had much time for mathematics, particularly being bedevilled by statistics. And so it was welcome to receive in my email this morning a fairly clear explanation, courtesy of wikipedia, of the distinction between the mean and the median. Finally!

Suppose 19 paupers and 1 billionaire are in a room. Everyone removes all money from their pockets and puts it on a table. Each pauper puts $5 on the table; the billionaire puts $1 billion. The total is $1,000,000,095. The money is then divided equally among the 20 people, each gets $50,000,004.75 – this amount is the mean (or “average”) amount of money that the 20 people brought into the room.

But the median amount is $5, since one may divide the group into two groups of 10 people each, and say that everyone in the first group brought in no more than $5, and each person in the second group brought in no less than $5. In a sense, the median is the amount that the typical person brought in.

By contrast, the mean (or “average”) is not at all typical, since nobody in the room brought in an amount approximating $50,000,004.75.

Now I need to put the distinction into practice… (I wouldn’t mind joining them in that room. Sounds like a nice room.)

Quote of the day

Monday, July 23, 2007

John Naughton is the Professor of Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University. He’s also a journalist and is clever with words. Today on his blog, reflecting on fitness fanatics, he writes,

…the only exercise I get comes from jumping to conclusions.

(… which reminds me of Tom Stoppard’s brilliant play, Jumpers.) He goes on to relate an amusing anecdote about Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor. (You should know, if you don’t already, that Rory Bremner is a UK satirical mimic, and Clare Short is a former Cabinet Minister): ‘Campbell was obsessed with his body and was forever running marathons etc. According to [Clare] Short, what riled Campbell most about Rory Bremner’s satirical renditions of the Blair-Campbell relationship was the fact that the actor chosen to play him was — in his words — “a fat bastard”.’

The anecdote may reflect something of Blair and Campbell’s perspective on the activity of contemplation, in contrast to impulsive action; contemplatives probably tend not to be fitness fanatics. I imagine Gordon Brown, for example, to be more of the introverted, contemplative type. Mind you, Bryan Appleyard, writing in the Sunday Times yesterday, thinks little of personality tests – and he himself seems quite a wise owl.

The possibility of happiness

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Here’s a lovely posting, to the Picture Post blog, about islanders on the South Pacific island of Pentecost, who’s land diving inspired bungee jumping:

The people of Pentecost belong to one of the last unspoilt indigenous societies on earth. According to a lovely little BBC news item that I watched the other night, there is no hunger, no tax, no crime, no police force – and everybody is chilled out and blissfully happy. Whilst some of the other Vanuatan islands have sold out and let the developers and the tourism industry in, paving the way for concrete boxes, consumer crap and foreign exchange, Pentecost remains suspended in a time warp because they have deemed their way of life to be fine just the way it is. Their official currency is based on pig tusks – which is more sophisticated than it sounds. The central bank reserves are quite a sight!

The possibility of happiness has tended to be debunked by knee-jerking anthropologists; but as has been the case on Pentecost, so in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, according to its first Ladakhi lexicographer, Helena Norberg-Hodge.

I Sing of Change

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My brother has just written a beautiful reflection on his experience of encountering a poem on the London’s underground. You may or may not share his theology, and/or his analysis – for example, I think the poem is probably written from a different experience to that of ‘living in an apparently silent universe’. That said, his articulation of his theology, and his politics, is a good read and conveys sensitive handling of a lovely poem.

Automatic paper towel dispenser

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Good music… Suggestions, please, for identifying this gadget’s target market.

The ecology of conflict

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The new United Nations chief, Ban Ki Moon, writes insightfully in the Washington Post:

Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand — an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.