Posts from 26th May 2004

May 04

Our sister blog

Proven By Science4 comments • 703 views

Our sister blog Pumpkin Publog just hit on my party trick: figuring out what a fraction is based on the first few places of the decimal version. It can be done pretty quickly with a bit of spare paper and a calculator that supports x->1/x (or if you’re hardcore and the numbers are small, log tables).

First, the science bit: It’s based on a method by Euler (I think) for finding the highest common factor (HCF) of two integers: you take the larger one, and subtract the little one from it until you you get to the remainder. You write down “big number is made out of this many of small number and one remainder) then because it’s smaller, you switch and continue. Eventually, you get down to an integer and zero, so everything further up the chain must be a combination of the two numbers, IE a multiple of the HCF.

Next: the other science bit: you have this string of digits, so you keep inverting it and subtracting the integer parts:

0.566265 = a1/a0
a0 = 1.765958 * a1, so say a0 = a1 + a2 -> a2 = .765958 * a1. now invert
a1 = 1.305555 * a2, so say a1 = a2 + a3 -> a3 = .305555 * a2. “”
a2 = 3.272731 * a3, so say a2 = 3*a3 + a4 -> a4 = .272731 * a3
a3 = 3.666666 * a4, and we can go on, but we can see where this is going, and in fact we’re there already.

a3 = 11/3 * a4, so because we’re looking for numbers without common factors, we’ll stick to a3 = 11 and a4 = 3. and work our way back up the chain 3->11->36->47->83. All you need to jot down is the bits left of the decimal point: 1,1,3,(3,1,2 would be the numbers you get next) then stick in the numbers as you go back up.

Superfast way: this takes two columns of numbers, atarting with 1 0(after infinity, everything’s a good guess). The first time you get a number left of the decimal point, write it down below 1, and write 1 below 0. From then on, instead of writing these whole numbers down, just mutiply them by the bottom row and add the top row. Your approximation will get better with each step.

start: 1  0
1:     1  1
1:     2  1
3:     7  4
3:     23 13
1:     30 17
2:     83 47

And we’re there.

Because you can stop when you want, this is a great way of finding approximations of irrational numbers: for pi you get the old standard 22/7 immediately, then a couple of places down 113/355, accurate to six decimal places, and you only have to remember the first three odd numbers.

Note: if you actually try this example and don’t stop at the point where it becomes “obvious”, you’ll find a problem: instead of 3.666 -> 1.5 -> 2.0, the last number comes in at slightly less than two, and then then next one comes in at slightly more than 1, then the tiny remainder inverts to 2410! But that’s what you’d expect: 1,1,3,3,1,1,2410 is exactly the right sequence for 566265/1000000, which is the actual number we started from. But in practice machine error will creep in, and you won’t hit the eventual integer exactly, so you’ll have to decide yourself at what point to take the numerator and run.

Authors you’re too old to read at 34 (part 2) Virginia Andrews

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 396 views

Authors you’re too old to read at 34 (part 2)
Virginia Andrews

I Love Books has been tossing around the notion of re-reading, reflecting changes of taste and how the reader’s judgement alters throughout the years. In the middle of the discussion, in swept the 80’s gothic fiction writer, Virginia Andrews (latterly marketed as VC Andrews for reasons I’ll explain). Forthright opinions followed, an impression of slight shame emerged. These, apparently were books of their time, relegated to charity shops once teenage turned to twenties.

When I was a 15 year old casual, I liked nothing better than to read Virginia Andrews as I poured Slush Puppies down my Pringle jumper. Even the hard kids at school couldn’t resist and would read a quick chapter between fights. Flowers in the Attic was the catalyst, followed by several sequels, a prequel and a fairly successful movie. You knew what you were getting with Virginia; families with skeletons in every closet and a final third of twists and spins. And of course, incest. Let’s cut to the chase, nearly every story contained some inter-sibling sex. And she didn’t shun the descriptive side. This wasn’t Jane Austen sex, all he brushed her arm and nine months later Abigail was born, but the real thing, albeit with a gothic touch; all manhoods and exhilarating sensations.

I reread Flowers just last week. And in retrospect, I wish I left it where it lay (on the shelf in my teenage bedroom, by the Altered Images poster). The phrasing is odd to say the least, Good Golly Day! being a common expression of surprise. Several characters are no more than cardboard cut-outs and the children speak well beyond their years.

The fascinating thing to throw in the mix is Virginia herself. Every year another book is released, embossed cover, entwined roses, aunt shagging storyline. Virginia herself would be amused. She died in 1986. Subsequent books have been carefully worded, “based on the original drafts” became “sourced from the original plotline” as the years passed and Virginia’s death proved no barrier to further publication. The truth came out eventually, step forward horror fiction writer Andrew Neiderman. A bloke! Authorised by the Andrews estate to “continue the story-telling genius of VC Andrews”.

I watched a girl reading the latest VC Andrews cliffhanger on the bus the other day, pupils wide, fully absorbed. It was titled Willow of Fate or somesuch. She glanced up as the bus braked and looked bewildered, then bundled her book into a bag and begged the driver to let her off; her stop, I guess, some distance back. He refused (correctly, as we were clinging to a busy roundabout) and she left in a huff at the next stop. I watched her disappear back down the road, reading as she walked.

FT Top 100 Films 95: SOME LIKE IT HOT

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,322 views

Oddly, as I went to start this piece “Some Like It Hot” by the Power Station came on my mp3 player. Not really much of a commentary on the film, it did isolate one of the most bizarre things about the film. Its title. No-one likes it hot in the film. Neither in a temperate or metaphorical way (the heat is certainly on Joe and Jerry but the do not seem comfortable). The slightly generic title almost means the 1939 Bob Hope comedy of the same name has almost completely been wiped from consciousness. Trust me, it is well worth seeking out if you like jazz drumming.

But to the cross-dressing farago that is Some Like It Hot. An intensely violent opening act, moving on to sexism, homophobia and a nice round off with more violence. Not your average focus group comedy. One of the most documented film shoots of all time, and one which Tony Curtis has dined out on for much of his life. The secret of Some Like It Hot’s success is doing both the cross-dressing plots at once. You get the bloke who looks quite good as a girl befriending the girl he fancies (Tony Curtis), and you get the girl who looks terrible as a girl being the object of affection of a bloke (Jack Lemmon). Tootsie rolls these characters implausibly into one to use both plots and does not pull it off quite as well.

The on the run from the mob plot has been stolen so many times since it is difficult to believe how violent the early sequences of the films are. Sanitized in Sister Act, True Identity etc: the idea of your own home made witness protection programme is frankly far fetched. But hey, remember, this is screwball comedy and this leads us away from the real grim and gritty St Valentines Day massacre, to a sunny beach with girls and Marilyn Monroe. It is however missing the an appearance from Cary Grant, popping his head up in the final reel to bop Curtis on the nose for his impudence.

But Anthony Easton Says…

Its not as funny or as accomplished as people think it is. Its not as weird or camp as Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend (where both the drag and the female impersonation is done by women), not as sad as The Apartment (and this movie is supposed to be as sad as it is funny) and not as queer as Spartacus (but then two men in a roman tub would make anything queer.) Its accomplished, though but accomplished as vaudeville, and in that way its a paean to a dying form. A couple of good lines and some decent performances do not extend this past a rather boring relic.


Pumpkin Publog2 comments • 2,732 views


This, even by the standards of bizarre pub quiz questions, is a little bit on the random front. The feeling of achievement when the result was finally discerned was tangible.

Q: Two prime numbers under 100 when one is divided into the other give a result of 0.566265. What are the two numbers?

(I tried to draw a graph to start off but the beer stained question sheet did not help.)

Summer Of Smut II

Do You SeePost a comment • 941 views

Summer Of Smut II: This week’s best Marketing story involves Trojan’s new condom ad. The 20-second ad, which will go out in a Big Brother break, is apparently the ‘first ever’ to show an orgasm on UK TV. Can this really be true?

Tanya’s Round of Rubbish: BRANDY & MONICA – “The Boy Is Mine”

I Hate Music2 comments • 1,056 views

I don’t really care who the boy “belongs” to, I just want you two to stop caterwauling about him. Feel free to get out the claws and have a girl-on-girl, finger in the eyes fight, no-one ever won the right to date a guy just by singing about him. If two blokes tried a singing competition over me, there would be no winners. Except me when I had cruelly – but kindly – removed their larynx’s.

Frankly I would imagine if I was in the area, the boy would be mine. Not only do I have all the positive aspects to my personality that this website constantly displays, but I would not fanny about with a discussion like this. Monica would certainly get hurt in the ensuing battle, and Brandy, well Brandy Snaps.

WMD reports based on lame spook’s BAD SCIENCE shockah zzz

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 228 views

WMD reports based on lame spook’s BAD SCIENCE shockah zzz

“As veterans of the Iraqi bomb program have subsequently revealed, Hamza grossly exaggerated his nuclear bombmaking credentials while downplaying the role his Ba’athist connections had played in advancing his scientific career. Imad Khadduri, the Iraqi nuclear physicist in charge of all documentation for the bomb project, later scathingly reported that Hamza had a ‘deep inner fear of radiation’ which ‘prevented him from ever entering the reactor hall or touching any scientific gadgets, probably owing to his continual fear of an electric jolt that he experienced as a child.’ This paranoia, a significant drawback for a nuclear weapons builder [!!!], meant that his work was confined to theoretical research, well away from any actual experimentation.”

[ps guardian spelling, grammar and punctuation corrected by grumpy poster]

The Onion AV Club runs through some

Do You SeePost a comment • 314 views

The Onion AV Club runs through some scenes which were rightly deleted from films which hopefully DVD has saved us from official inclusion as some form of directors cut. This subject came up the other day after an experiment between watching Terminator 2 (Special Edition) and the video which displayed that the special edition buffed up a few effects and re cut the entire beginning of the film.

Of course I was accused of rockism when conversation drifted over to the Star Wars question (ie you literally cannot see the 1977 cut), and I guess the accusation may be justified. Sure revisionism happens all the time, but the creeping re:dub of the recent release of Tom & Jerry when the southern Mammie’s voice has been dubbed with a Hispanic voice* alters the history and understanding of the background of these scenes. I can see why the might want to do it but just tell us if you do it ather than release these cuts as the real deal. Its just another incidence of history rewriting itself.

*The suggestion being that it is no longer fitting to have black people in positions of servitude, but its okay to have a Puerto Rican maid.

NEW! FreakyTrigger RSS

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 194 views

NEW! FreakyTrigger RSS
It lists the last 15 posts across all the FT blogs &ndash hurrah! It’s Atom (cos we’re Blogger, innit). I was getting a bit self-conscious of having the FT page open on my desktop all the time at work, so now I’ve got a little “ticker” showing this feed and can see when there’s something new going on…

Microsoft pay peanuts to keep Opera quiet

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 969 views

Microsoft pay peanuts to keep Opera quiet
Another tiny round in MS’s attempts to wrap up criticisms of its anti-competetive practices.

This one is for all the web-designers out there that have to sabotage their own neat coding just to make it work with IE6. It’s the most common browser to reach any site in the world, but it’s old (2001) and still not doing CSS right at all – I know I was attempting to use a float: right on the FT front page last night, and gave up when I saw the result in IE.