Archive for the 'World' Category

A man, a plan

September 25th, 2009

This is not original but I had to share it with you. Most of you will probably know the Panama palindrome:

A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!

If you somehow don’t know what a palindrome is, the letters read the same forwards or backwords (O No!).

In 1984, a programmer named Dan Hoey wrote a neat algorithm which took a word list and generated a very long version. It includes not only a man, a plan and a canal but also a cat, a leek, a baronet and much, much more.

For your delectation:

A man, a plan, a caret, a ban, a myriad, a sum, a lac, a liar, a hoop, a pint, a catalpa, a gas, an oil, a bird, a yell, a vat, a caw, a pax, a wag, a tax, a nay, a ram, a cap, a yam, a gay, a tsar, a wall, a car, a luger, a ward, a bin, a woman, a vassal, a wolf, a tuna, a nit, a pall, a fret, a watt, a bay, a daub, a tan, a cab, a datum, a gall, a hat, a fag, a zap, a say, a jaw, a lay, a wet, a gallop, a tug, a trot, a trap, a tram, a torr, a caper, a top, a tonk, a toll, a ball, a fair, a sax, a minim, a tenor, a bass, a passer, a capital, a rut, an amen, a ted, a cabal, a tang, a sun, an ass, a maw, a sag, a jam, a dam, a sub, a salt, an axon, a sail, an ad, a wadi, a radian, a room, a rood, a rip, a tad, a pariah, a revel, a reel, a reed, a pool, a plug, a pin, a peek, a parabola, a dog, a pat, a cud, a nu, a fan, a pal, a rum, a nod, an eta, a lag, an eel, a batik, a mug, a mot, a nap, a maxim, a mood, a leek, a grub, a gob, a gel, a drab, a citadel, a total, a cedar, a tap, a gag, a rat, a manor, a bar, a gal, a cola, a pap, a yaw, a tab, a raj, a gab, a nag, a pagan, a bag, a jar, a bat, a way, a papa, a local, a gar, a baron, a mat, a rag, a gap, a tar, a decal, a tot, a led, a tic, a bard, a leg, a bog, a burg, a keel, a doom, a mix, a map, an atom, a gum, a kit, a baleen, a gala, a ten, a don, a mural, a pan, a faun, a ducat, a pagoda, a lob, a rap, a keep, a nip, a gulp, a loop, a deer, a leer, a lever, a hair, a pad, a tapir, a door, a moor, an aid, a raid, a wad, an alias, an ox, an atlas, a bus, a madam, a jag, a saw, a mass, an anus, a gnat, a lab, a cadet, an em, a natural, a tip, a caress, a pass, a baronet, a minimax, a sari, a fall, a ballot, a knot, a pot, a rep, a carrot, a mart, a part, a tort, a gut, a poll, a gateway, a law, a jay, a sap, a zag, a fat, a hall, a gamut, a dab, a can, a tabu, a day, a batt, a waterfall, a patina, a nut, a flow, a lass, a van, a mow, a nib, a draw, a regular, a call, a war, a stay, a gam, a yap, a cam, a ray, an ax, a tag, a wax, a paw, a cat, a valley, a drib, a lion, a saga, a plat, a catnip, a pooh, a rail, a calamus, a dairyman, a bater, a canal – Panama!

(In case you are wondering, I checked it with the following bit of perl code and it is correct)

my $str = 'the string to verify';

$str =~ s/\W//g;    # remove any non-word characters
$str = lc $str;     # lower case everything

print (($str eq (reverse $str)) 
    ? "Is a palindrome\n"
    : "Is not a palindrome\n");

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His Noodly Appendage

June 14th, 2008

His Noodleship

I have seen the light. I am now a born-again Pastafarian and follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I worship at His online church.

For those of you who have never heard of His Noodleship, the FSM is the creation of a man named Bobby Henderson. During the infamous attempt by a Kansas school board to introduce Intelligent Design into science courses he wrote them an open letter which is well worth reading.

In it he expressed the belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster and, on the basis that this was at least as likely as ID, insisted that FSM should also be taught. He offered a wonderful example of correlation as causation noting the fact that as piracy declined the global temperature increased. He also explained awkward C-14 dates by letting us know that the FSM changed the results with His Noodly Appendage.

It is a piece of satire worthy of Jonathan Swift. Moreover, it seems to have taken on a life of its own. FSM t-shirts, samplers, birthday cakes and sundry other manifestations have proliferated. One follower has even spotted the FSM in an organic molecule. It’s all on the website.

I’m not completely sure why it should be so popular but as soon as I read it I was a convert. It must the mixture of humour, imagery and the brilliant refutation-by-absurdity of the travesty that is Intelligent Design. ID deserves the derision of Christians and Scientists both and I am pleased to see the FSM doing His bit.

Henderson proposes in his letter that science should be taught as follows: One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

All hail his Noodliness!

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New York, New York

May 24th, 2008

Sitting in LaGuardia airport waiting to leave New York for Chicago and thence Madison WI. I’m not altogether sorry to be gone. I don’t think I’m a New York sort of person although there are a number of things I enjoyed.

The Empire State Building was great. There’s something about the crypto-fascist nature of 1930’s architecture which continues to fascinate me although God forbid that I’d actually have to live with it. We elected to pay the extra money to get up to the 102nd floor (rather than the standard 86th floor). The building is very small up there – sort of like being at the top of a lighthouse – but the view is fabulous. You can see Robert’s take on it here. Oh yes, and it is very, very tall. For a building as early as it is the height is extraordinary.

The Natural History Museum is the best I have ever seen. We didn’t have anything like enough time to see it all but the planetarium was great and the ‘scale of the universe’ display is both clever and informative. There is a huge suspended sphere maybe 20 metres across which is also the planetarium. Outside it are a series of ‘if this sphere is the size of X then this is the size of Y’. An example is the sphere as the sun with smaller spheres representing the planets. It goes from the largest scales (superclusters of galaxies in the observable universe) down to the smallest (a proton in a hydrogen atom).

The dinosaurs were much better than London and there were whole galleries we had to walk past because we just didn’t have time to explore them. I’d like to go back there some time.

Other good bits – we went to see the Lion King on Broadway. A spectacular production although the actual musical/story is not especially exciting. We had fun afterwards taking a little motorised trishaw back to the hotel. This seems typical of New York to me – a small niche market of people coming out of theatres who can’t find taxis filled by an inventive idea.

Robert and I managed a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to visit the Statue of Liberty. As we were queuing up for tickets in Battery Park they announced that it would be an hour and a half wait and there were no more tickets for the statue itself – all you would be able to do was walk around the outside. These things we declined to do.

F.A.O. Schwartz, the largest toy shop in the world or so they say, was worth seeing. They have turned stuff toys into an art form and this was by far and away the best part. Although I have to say the giant piano was pretty good as well – you can dance on the keyboard to make tunes.

On the whole however New York was too nervy and fast for me. I know a lot of people enjoy it for just those qualities and the fact that I was on antibiotics probably didn’t help but I can do without that sort of tension. Especially when I am on holiday. I notice I have used a lot of superlatives. That’s New York for you.

I have a feeling that Madison WI is going to be very different…

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Arrogant? Moi?

December 2nd, 2007

I don’t normally repeat things from newspapers in my blog but I had to share this one.

The background is that Donald Trump and associates were trying to build a golf resort in Scotland. They ran up against a Michael Forbes who looks like one of those old scotsmen carved out of Edinburgh granite. Mr Forbes not only refused to sell his land, he managed to convince the local council not to approve building a golf resort in a heritage area.

Good on you Mr Forbes but the really good bit is the reaction of George Sorial, a senior Trump lackey. Mr Sorial rejected claims that the Trump team had been “arrogant and patronising”. He said:

“”There’s a view we are arrogant. We are not arrogant. We set certain standards. It may be incomprehensible to smaller minds, but we have always set high standards. We presented them with a plan and hoped they could open their minds, but it was too much for them.”

Just as well they aren’t arrogant really. Otherwise they might have been forced to say something patronising.

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Thank You Linesmen

November 27th, 2007

First off, let me congratulate the Australian people for finally taking my advice and Voting the Little Bastard Out. See, I was right all along.

I stayed up to watch the whole election coverage. The only problem with that was by the time it finished I was too tired to dance in the streets. A colleague at work has told me that, in Darlinghurst where he lives, there was much rejoicing including dancing in the street, drinking and general feelings of merriment.

While Kevin07 is still an unknown quantity I am confident he cannot possibly be worse than the man he replaces. He is not, after all, superhuman. It is his task to drag Australia back into the 21st century where it ought to be and out of the slough of the 1950’s.

I would like to thank the following people for making it all possible:

  1. John Winston Howard for his hubris in attempting to stay on too long
  2. All the spineless jellybacks in his cabinet for letting him do it
  3. Peter Costello for managing to be considered a worse alternative than John Winston
  4. Maxine McKew for providing the unexpected entertainment of ousting the Prime Minister from his own seat of Bennelong
  5. Peter Costello again for taking his bat and ball and going home leaving the party with the unenviable alternatives of Abbot, Nelson and Turnbull for the new leader (my money on Malcolm Turnbull)
  6. Glenn Stevens and those wonderful people at the Reserve Bank for raising interest rates in the middle of the election campaign
  7. And last but by no means least all those Aussie Battlers who finally realised that the Liberal party was not on their side. Without you, none of this would have been possible

Thank you linesmen, thank you ballboys

[Exits singing]

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Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

November 17th, 2007

Scene 1: ASIO’s Cuddles Avenue Headquarters
B15: Are you thinking what I’m thinking B16?
B16: I think I am B15
Together: It’s Terrorist Time!

Scene 2: a nearby pub
B15: Hey, what about this guy Izhar ul-Haque?
B16: Doesn’t he play cricket for Pakistan?
B15: I don’t think so. He’s a doctor.
B16: Can a doctor be a terrorist?
B15: Well, he was a student first and all students are ratbags
B16: True. What University?
B15: Dunno. NSW maybe?
B16: Oh yeah, right. The one near the railway station.

Scene 3: the doctor’s house
B15: You’re under arrest
B16: Take him away
B17 (a very junior banana): Where sir?
B15: Goulburn Jail you idiot. Stick him in solitary and threaten to beat him up. We’ll be there later.
Dr Ul-Haque: Can I call my lawyer?
B15 and B16 (together): Of course not. You’re a terrorist.

Scene 4: the NSW supreme court
Judge: B15 and B16, you’ve been very naughty bananas.
B15: It wasn’t us, honest.
B16: Must have been some other fruit
Judge: I am satisfied that you committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law and also an offence under Section 86 of the Crimes Act 1900.
B15: Well, if you’re satisfied then we are too
Mr al-Downer (Government representative): We are too, your honour
B16: Can we go now?

Exeunt omnes, pursued by a teddy-bear

It’s hard to believe but the judge actually said all that stuff about criminal offences. He also remarked that the conduct of the otherwise unidentified bananas was “grossly improper and constituted an unjustified and unlawful interference with the personal liberty of the accused.”

He went on to remark that it was reminiscent of Kafka and “a gross interference by the agents of the state with the accused’s legal rights as a citizen.”

I don’t often rant about matters political but this one, as well as being a black comedy, is also extremely serious. The government has been desperate to find some terrorists in the lead-up to the election so they can look tough, even if they have to throw them overboard themselves. So some stupid bananas in ASIO decide to go along for the ride. (Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?)

Well, we’ll never get to hold anyone in government accountable except, in a general sort of way, at next week’s election (where I hope we finally kick the bastards out). But ASIO must be held to account. After the judge’s remarks I hope someone at the DPP’s office is taking a serious look at B15 and B16 and whoever gave them their orders.

Toss ’em in the salad bowl and throw away the key, I say. After all, there’s plenty of legislation which makes doing so perfectly acceptable…

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The Insurgent’s Dilemma

May 31st, 2006

I’ve been trying to understand the Iraq situation recently. Well, me and the pentagon both, but the main question I’ve been thinking about is:

Given that the forces who have liberated your country will leave when the country is peaceful, why are you fighting to get rid of them?

Surely what you need to do is stop fighting them. They will then leave, you have achieved your aims and nobody dies. Simple really.

Except that’s not what happens. I think what we have is a version of the prisoner’s dilemma. I’m sure you are familiar with it but just to recap:

Two people are arrested for a crime in which they were partners. If they both say nothing they have a reasonable chance of getting off but risk a heavy sentence. If one of them elects to give evidence against the other, they will both be convicted but the one giving the evidence will get a light sentence.

So, although they have the most to gain by saying nothing they are taking two big risks of a heavy sentence: the first that they will be convicted anyway and the second that the other person will dump them in it. So, quite often, one of them will crack and turn on the other. And the police know this.

How does this relate to Iraq? Well, the point is not when the liberators leave – they are bound to go sooner or later. The point is that you should be seen to be the one to get rid of them.

Thus, while the best option overall is for both Iraqi factions (I am simplifying here and am also excluding the Kurds who have no interest in Iraq per se and are busily fortifying their little corner of the future country of Kurdistan) is to do nothing, neither side can risk the other attacking the liberators and being seen to be the saviours of their country. So they are forced to fight.

There is no easy solution to this. Perhaps we should all just leave. We’re going to leave anyway. What was the expression – peace with honour?

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