Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sick sick sick

I've just survived three days with a cold. Vicious head cold. Starting with the characteristic sore throat with a sanity destroying headache to follow - which meant I could not go outside - light too bright. I was medicating my throat with Jamesons (cuts the phlegm) which works pretty well but it also meant I couldn't take a sleeping pill and so suffered through the night.

I was sick enough at this stage to actually worry the cat.

Next day I was unable to hold anything down (and it wasn't the whiskey). I was chewing ice all day and munching down the coldrex like lollies. Smeagol stayed out of my way. Most of the time I couldn't see! Passed out at about 2am this morning and woke up stuck to the pillow (don't ask) about midday.

I really didn't want to get up - I could feel this huge mass in my chest and the second I moved it would have to come up. Bladder will not be ignored for long - and we cut to a commercial break.

An object moving at a constant velocity does not mean that all parts have the same velocity. If it is jelly for example. All parts at the same velocity is most of the definition of a rigid object. However, and rigid object moving about a fixed point, like a water butte, is not moving at a constant velocity - even if it maintains a constant speed. This is because it's direction is changing. So take that VW! Back to our scheduled programming.

I stumbled into the kitchen, feeling like I'd been stepped on. Sucking ice against the razor-slit throat and set about opening the house up for some fresh air.

Aside: the sucking ice bit was a trick I learned from lots of stays in hospital. If you are very delicate, try it. Ice blocks are also good but I didn't have any. Same if you have a very sick child. Basically it lets you stay hydrated and you can add stuff like honey to the water first so you can take in some nutrition too. This sort of thing is vital for shortening the duration of an illness.

For all the aches and pains, my fever had broken and the symptoms lacked that chainsawed edge that tells you the virus is still resident. Good news.

This is the point of recovery where it is essential to remove all signs of illness from your surroundings. If you are lucky enough to have someone else to look after you this will happen by itself. I live alone, so it took a while. Aired the whole place out. Ran the bath.

This afternoon I am an and out of a Lush(TM) bath. This has loosened things up nicely ... color not too good (a bit green) but I can hold stuff down. Afternoon tea is a creamy leak and potato soup... bland carbs. I'll leave it a bit before eating anything else.

This has been murder on my asthma - first time using the inhalers since last year. I hate being dependent on drugs. Apart from the tightness in my chest I'm feeling all hollowed out. It'll be bath-TV-bath-TV all evening - put B5 on back-to-back if the TV fails me (likely - it's Sunday) - and just try to survive. I may yet be desperate enough for a zopiclone - which is a kind of sleeping tablet whose active ingredient is mixed with stuff to make the experience as unpleasant as possible so I don't get addicted the bastards. Can I get a valium - oh no!

Friday, 17 June 2011


I've accessed the HBCLUG website and updated it to reflect recent events - namely that I am no longer running it. Annoying as things were just picking up. I'm still getting "can I join up" requests which I pass on to one of the others still there who I still have an email address for.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

From the inbox:

Warmest Greetings;
I am Yusuf Mohammed,The Personal Assistant on financial matters to the Former President Mubarak of Egypt who is facing trail presently in my Country Egypt.I want you to see this as an opportunity for us to establish a very good relationship,I made away with the sum of $148 million and escaped from my country Egypt before the arrest of my Boss since this funds were in my Custody.
I am presently in Nigeria  and have deposited the money which came along with in a security company in Ghana before arriving Nigeria to take a shelter, but the Security Company advised me to lodge the money with Zenith Bank here in Nigeria due to money laundry restrictions they have in Ghana. Please I want you to reply me now so I can give you more information's as we go into Partnership and how I want this funds to be invested in your country before I can finally come over with my family hence i want you to keep this transaction to yourself In the event you are not interested, I sincerely ask that you disregard this email and tell no one about it as i am seriously in need of you to be of help to me now. I hope you can be trusted in this regard. Yours truly, Yusuf Mohammed.

Oh come on: they are called Nigerian scams for a reason! If you want me to fall for this at least don't be based in Nigeria.  It has got to the point that the genuine money launderers cannot do business from there.

I like the way Mobarak is used here though. An interesting wrincle here is that googling the text comes up zip. Unusual. It's only when you google the themes that you find the others. Basically, all the news and general gossip about Egypt has washed out the scam reports. Do I need to go through the red flags?

Yusuf Mohammed is a popular enough name - in fact he's a Nigerian footballer. The Nigeria connection is odd but no red flag.
"Personal Assistant on financial matters": how is this a real title? I'd buy: "personal accountant" or "personal financial adviser"... but I'd expect him to give his title in his own language and translate it.
Bad grammar: though its getting quite good.
The sum is given in dollars - possible - but you'd think if he smuggled money out on his person it would be in a more available currency, or converted so something more portable. Anyway - isn't Mubarak's money supposed to be in Swiss bank accounts or something?
"I am presently in Nigeria" - puh-lease!
There is also no mention of how he came to pick me as the person to help out with this: surely someone in a position to smuggle like this also has international contact who will, like, know them personally?

There are a bunch of variations on this theme - where there is strife and tragedy, some scammer is trying to exploit it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

1st Waiheke Toastmasters today

Went to Toastmasters meeting tonight ... got roped into table-topics: "what was you weirdest moment?" For goodness sake - me? I am the weird thing that happens to other people: how do I pick.

Curiously I was the worst dressed person present.

I deliberately tried to dress a bit down because it never pays to outdress someone you want to impress and there may have been a few there ... but this is Waiheke, pretty informal anyway, so it was tricky to work out the level. One worthy managed to appear in almost-academic-dress (it was a jacket+hood style) - the colors corresponded to MPhil too.

It looks like I'll be joining - that will put their membership up to 20 people. That's a special number for reasons I'm not too clear on. Hopefully that will be a regular social thing for me - gets me away from the computer.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Here's a Subtle One ...

Dear Webmaster,
I recently came across through search and I really like it. I was wondering if you would like to exchange links with me?
You may be aware that exchanging links would be mutually beneficial and also very helpful in increasing traffic or visitors for both yours and my websites. If you are interested in exchanging links, please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience and I will send you more details.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Best regards,
Yeah, I have some questions:
1. If you really visited my site, why didn't you use the feedback link there to contact me?
2. If you really visited my site, how come you have made no reference anything on it in you email?
3. If you really visited my site, then how come you don't know my name?
4. If exchanging links is to be beneficial, our sites need to be complimentary in some way ... yet you have provided no clue as to what your site is about. How come? The address is for, which is a gokarting site - how would you introduce a link to a linux site to readers of kart-racing stuff?
5. Why did you use a standard "canned" email typically used by scam artists?

That's right, this is a scam email. If you respond, the scammer will know that your email is active and will then add you to a spammers mailing list. As usual, googling the text of the email shows many thousands just like it.

If you want to link to someone from your site - just do it: this is the internet. It is polite to tell the owner of the linked page that you've done this, and they may link back to you in turn, but you don't have to.

When you want to communicate with a stranger online, you have to take steps to make sure you do not look like a scammer. Do not send generic emails, like above, that could apply to anyone or be from anyone. You like someone's website: tell them why.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Of Church and State

Emerson. Anne Marie, Prayer controversy: Clive Solomon walks out of meeting (Wanganui Cronicle May 31 2011)

In a nutshell: Wanganui District Councellors insist on having their opening prayers while actually in session. Micheal Laws insists that the council does not have to respect human rights (well OK: he claims that the Human Rights Tribunal has no jurisdiction over them.) Another councellor walks out over the events.

WDC is not the only councel, or even the only governing body, to hold prayers or some kind of religious ceremony as part of it's procedings. There are growing murmers about raising theocracy, religious discrimination and so on. So what is the actual status of church re state in New Zealand?

In a nutshell: there is no formal separation in law. In practise, governing bodies walk a tightrope of public opinion on this issue and so try to keep a neutral approach to religion.

The USA, by comparison, has a formal separation of church and state written into their bill of rights - called the "establishment clause".

New Zealand has a Bill of Rights, called "NZBORA".

s3b extends the act to cover "by any person or body in the performance of any public function, power, or duty conferred or imposed on that person or body by or pursuant to law." That would be District Councils - the duties are conferred or imposed by the Local Government Acts (1974 and 2002). So Mr Laws, with all due respect, pththththt!

In fact, the LGA (both of them) require that councils carry out their duties in accordance with all other acts - which would include NZBORA. So, unless there is a statute someplace which says that Councls must have a wee prayer to start session, then said prayer must be carried out according to the principles in the Bill of Rights.

Four sections are important here:
13, Freedom of religion; 15, manifestation of religion; 19, freedom from discrimination; and 20, rights of minorities.

So - each councellor individually has the right to have and practise their religions in private or in public (within the rest of the law - if your religion requires human sacrifice you dont get to claim a human rights violation when you get arrested for murder). The trouble comes when they act as members of a governing body ... when they hold a particular religious ceremony as part of being the folk in charge, they are making a statement, not of personal faith, but of what the geverning body values.

The bosses opinions tend to take on a coersive air, wether intended or not. When the boss asks other to join him in a totally voluntary prayer meeting, what would you do? You'd feel pressure right? When this is a government, any creed seen to be favored by that government looks like an endorcement of that creed at the expence of others. See the potential for claiming discrimination? It's not unlike the boss asking you to sit on his/her lap while giving you instructions ... totally voluntary of course.

Especially discrimination against minorities. Section 20 is a logical result of s19 - but by explicitly protecting minorities the act wans that "majority rules" is not a mandate to ride roughshod over the minority.

But this could be stretching the definition of "discrimination" somewhat, especially as we tend to tolerate Maori spiritual ceremonies at special civic events. Whatever, it seems WDC is treading a bit of a thin line here: there is clearly a case to answer before the HRT.

We may be prepared to put up with a bit of religious observance in out councils since, if we dont like it, we can vote them out. Think: do we really want to be governed by a bunch of people who openly claim to put some religious view ahead of their duties as councillors? That technically contravenes s10 of the LGA defining the purpose of the council ...

It turns out there is similar legislation - the Education act. This act and associated case law explicitly prevents public schools from teaching religion during school hours on the grounds that this is not what the schools are set up for. The discrimination argument has long been held to apply to schools with regard to religious teaching, prayers in school and so forth. This would appear to be nicely analogous to the local government situation - as schools may teach religion on school property, they must do so outside statutary school hours; so the coucil may hold a religious observance on council property so long it is not part of the statutary council session. This also allows the usual Maori ceremonies at dedications and opening and so on since these are not actual council business (that has already concluded - the ceremony marks this.)

It is easy to argue that a separation of church and state is essential if we are to be a free participating democracy. Perhaps it is time New Zealand had a formal establishment clause in our Bill of Rights?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Cannon Balls

A cannon ball is shot out of a cannon and travels some distance before it hits the ground, at the same time a cannon ball is dropped out of the sky the same distance off the ground.
Which Cannon ball will hit the ground first?
I keep seeing this puzzle with a discussion that peters out without result. The distances involved varies, I've seen as low as 4 miles and as high as 10.

Now - a ball dropped and a ball fired horizontally from the same height will both hit the ground at the same time ... but note that they travel different distances. In this puzzle the balls travel the same distance. There is an ambiguity though: is the distance traveled by the fired ball the horizontal distance or the length of it's trajectory. Almost everyone thinks it is the former but I suspect the latter is meant.

Treated as normal ballistics, I can make the fired ball hit first by pointing the cannon directly down. The cannon and the dropped ball start at the same height in this case. I can make the fired ball come last by putting the cannon on the ground and firing directly upwards... the ball reaches a maximum height then falls to the ground, so the dropped ball starts at twice this height in order to travel the same distance. The fired ball then takes 1.4 times longer to hit the ground.

So much for normal ballistics. There are three wrinkles though:
1. air resistance may be significant. The dropped ball may reach it's terminal velocity (for a shot-put this is about 80m/s) before it hits ... over the distances involved, the dropped ball may be delayed enough that it always hits second.

2. gravity depends on height - so the dropped ball will, in general, encounter less initial acceleration. This may make it lag enough to come second.

3. the 10mi distance is suggestive - that is the top of the atmosphere (well, of the really dense part of it). At height, the atmosphere is thinned out, allowing a greater speed to be built up falling ... does the puzzle mean for us to realize that it takes place inside the dense part of the atmosphere and thus air-resistance is important or that the dropped ball starts out high enough to have a consistent advantage? I'm betting on the former.

Without actually doing the math, it looks like these wrinkles slightly favor the shot ball hitting first.

Speed Crackdown crock

QB weekend, and onwards, speed tolerances will drop - we are told this is in a bid to reduce road deaths.

So far the only effective way to reduce road deaths has been to increase the petrol price (people don't drive as much.) Fact is that speeding, by itself, is not a significant contribution to the road toll. Driving too fast for the conditions, even if within the speed limit, is pretty major though. The cures for that are (a) driver education and (b) experience. Sadly not things that look good in the news - particularly, these things are out of police control.

If speeding were really such a big deal, we can fix it in one go by mandating governors on all cars - set everyone's top speed to 105kmph so there are no excuses and make it an offence to bypass them. Transgressors will be easy to spot and it could be on the WOF check too.

Driver education is expensive. Getting the police to make a big noise about a crackdown may make unthinking drivers nervous enough to be more generally cautious. However, I expect there will not be a zero road toll any time soon.