philmophlegm: (NFL draft)
Later this afternoon, the New York Jets* will play the Miami Dolphins* at Wembley. Moving an entire NFL team across the Atlantic for a single game is a major logistic exercise. The New York Times recently interviewed the Jets' Operations Manager about the extra work such a game entailed.

"Degerness learned which gate the plane would pull into, which door the team would exit and where the jet bridge would deposit the group. [OK, seems a little anal, but presumably this guy has to check for any eventuality because that's his job. Fair enough.] He also learned that when the Jets flew home, their walkway would meander past duty-free shops, and that worries him, if only a little. [Is it really a problem if the players buy the odd bottle of single malt on the way home?]

“It’s hard to tell the guys: ‘Don’t stop. Just keep walking,’ ” Degerness said. “Those are the things that keep us up at night — that we get through security, someone stops at duty free, and we leave Ryan Fitzpatrick because we didn’t know he wasn’t there.” In that unlikely event, the Jets have a solution: As each player boards the plane, a team official will cross off the player’s name with a highlighter. [These are highly paid adults, and apparently the only way to reliably ensure that they all board the plane is to treat them like children on a school trip. Do you think they'll be made to hold hands with a partner and told not to speak to strangers? Ryan Fitzpatrick, the player singled out, is the Jets' starting quarterback. He has an Economics degree from Harvard.]

If the Jets were playing in South Florida, for instance, they would not have needed to pack more than 5,000 items — ranging from cereal [Yeah, because we don't eat breakfast cereal in the UK. Come to think of it, aren't the three biggest breakfast cereal manufacturers in the UK market - Kelloggs, Quaker and Nabisco all American companies?] and extension cords to gauze pads and wrist bands — onto a ship containing supplies for all six N.F.L. teams playing in London this season.

They would not have needed to list the value and country of origin for the contents in every trunk or bag. Or find an industrial launderer to pick up soiled practice clothing at one location and deliver it clean to another. Or fly in the chef at their London hotel to observe how food is cooked and served at team headquarters. [OK, fair enough.]

Or order 350 rolls of toilet paper to replace the thinner version used in England. [Wait...what?]

The toilet paper side of the story has been picked up by Pro Football Talk and the BBC among others. The BBC investigated further: "There was an intern who had been over to London numerous times. "He noticed when he was there that - and I quote - 'the toilet paper was very thin because their plumbing isn't as good'. "So, the intern informed the operations staff, and the Jets ordered 350 rolls of toilet paper for the hotel and the stadium."

So an organisation of a few hundred people apparently had to rely on a single intern to tell them what one of the world's most important cities and most popular tourist destinations was like. Where did the thin toilet paper idea come from? Apparently, American toilet paper is "2-ply". Well, so is British toilet paper. Here's the toilet paper section of Britain's biggest supermarket chain's online website.  All of the toilet paper, even the dirt cheap 'Tesco Everyday Value' stuff, is 2-ply. In my life, the only time when I have ever seen single-ply toilet paper in the UK was at a grotty campsite in the late 1970s. If a major hotel is providing single-ply toilet paper to its guests, then you're in the wrong hotel. (It occurs to me that the intern who had experienced thin toilet paper had been dirt poor when he visited London and maybe stayed in a really awful hotel. Even then, I think he'd have been unlucky to experience single ply toilet paper.)

I wonder if this could lead to one of those odd stereotypes that Americans have of the British. We all drink tea and nobody drinks coffee. Beer is served warm. That kind of thing. Oh, and British people have bad teeth.

Where the hell did the bad teeth stereotype come from? It presumably predates this scene from The Simpsons:

I've seen it in plenty of places since then. Yet British dental health is generally considered to be among the best in the world. Here's an OECD study that said that British children have the healthiest teeth of all the OECD countries. (You'll note that American children had only average teeth - not as good as the French, and a long way short of Germany and the UK.)

* Or, as the BBC announcer rather incompetently says "New Yorks Jets will play Miami Dolphins". What, any jets? Any dolphins? Is a random collection of airliners from JFK International going to show up to thrash a bunch of small cetaceans?
philmophlegm: (Mist over the Tamar)
Can anyone recommend a good cloud storage / backup / sync service? Doesn't have to be free. Looking for unlimited storage. I'd prefer a service that keeps the same directory structure and one where you tell the application which folders to backup rather than one of the oversimplified ones that automatically search for files to back up.
philmophlegm: (Doom)
1. Does anyone know the name of the font that MS-DOS used?

2. When I was at infant school (1976 - 1979), lots of things like reading flash cards and name badges seemed to have the same sans serif typeface. Is this still used and what is / was it called?
philmophlegm: (dashboard)
 This is a post for my own future reference as much as anything else.

Problem: Printer prints pdf files ridiculously slowly.

Diagnosis: It's a driver problem with the PS driver.

Solution: Switch to the PCL driver.

philmophlegm: (You're Hired! Final 2010)
I've been puzzled about this before, but I don't remember if I ever asked anyone else about it, and if I did, I don't remember what the answer was.

When we do You're Hired!, the year group involved is the year that sits A/S levels, that is the year before they do their final A-level exams (A/2?) or as we called it in my day, "the Lower Sixth". Nowadays that year is referred to as "Year 12". The subsequent year is "Year 13".

When I went to school, I had three years of infant school, four years of junior school, five years of comprehensive school and two years of sixth form. That adds up to fourteen years.

Do children today have a year less of school than they did in my day? (I started in 1976 and did my A-levels in 1990.) Or was I somehow unusual? Or do they not count the first year of infants as "Year 1"?

Can anyone explain the discrepancy? How many years did you spend at school?
philmophlegm: (The Chick's in the Mail)
Can anyone suggest some examples of women who are probably quite introverted (or at least quiet), who have good presentation skills?

(Ideally, supply links to YouTube clips!)

Context: I gave a presentation skills course yesterday, and used some examples of different styles of presentation, and - and this hadn't occurred to me before a female participant pointed it out - all my examples were male. This particular participant self-desctribed herself as an introvert, so I'd like to find some good presentation models for her. The best we could come up with on the day were Hilary Clinton, Fiona Bruce and Teresa May.
philmophlegm: (Hivers)
Help me out with an alternate history scenario.

Alternate histories where Germany won the Second World War are pretty common - off the top of my head I can think of Robert Harris's 'Fatherland', Philip K. Dick's 'The Man in the High Castle' and that Star Trek episode with Joan Collins in it*. However, the scenario I need help with is one where Germany won the First World War.

What has happened is that the war of attrition of 1915 to 1917 dragged on into a stalemate. The United States stayed out of the war. The Russian Revolution happened as it had happened in our timeline. Germany was able to reduce British industrial capacity through Zeppelin raids. German U-Boats cut off the flow of raw materials from the British Empire. And slowly Germany was able to advance through France.

Britain and what is left of France and the rest of the allies surrender to Germany in 1934. Southern Britain is a lawless place with much of its infrastructure destroyed. Many people have fled to the north. The Royal Family has moved to Canada. Under the terms of the surrender, Ireland has been granted independence, guaranteed by Germany. Large parts of France have been carved off as vassal states of Germany, most notably Burgundy. The same has happened to Italy, with Lombardy now a separate kingdom subject to the German Kaiser.

That's about as far as I got. My question is: what does the world look like in 1935, with Germany the dominant European power?

* Well, ok that isn't actually set after a German victory, but it does show how the non-death of an American pacifist leads to German victory.
philmophlegm: (Watford)
bunn and I are making our way through SyFy HD's daily showing of ST:TNG (first time it's ever been broadcast in HD!). We're now late in the first series. A number of things have occurred to me, but the question I have for you is this:

Are there other senior Enterprise officers whom we never get to see? We see lots of:
Captain Picard
Commander Riker
Lt Commander Data
Doctor Crusher
An occasional chief engineer, who seems to change throughout the first series until Geordi gets the job
Lt Yar
Lt Worf
Lt Laforge

We do see other officers - but they're generally lieutenants or ensigns. Is there anyone else on board of say Lieutenant Commander rank? Would we see more senior officers on a 21st century sea-going warship with similar crew numbers?
philmophlegm: (Sumatra (2))
I'm looking to move away from Dropbox. In the past I was happy enough with it that I actually had a paid account, but I reduced my usage a couple of months ago and went back to a free (2gb) account. My current usage is about a quarter of this.

However, due to some glitch that I can't trace or find a solution for, both the Dropbox app and my online account are telling me that I am out of space. (I am suddenly "using 202.0% of my 2.0gb Dropbox allowance".)

I've done the usual googling and forum searching to see if this is a known problem, but it doesn't seem to be. So I put in a tech support request. Several days later I have received the following reply:


Thank you for your support request. Recently, we have been receiving a high volume of support requests and haven't been able to get back to you within a reasonable amount of time.

The volume of inquiries we receive on a daily basis prevents us from responding to all requests. Although requests from Pro and Teams users will be given priority assistance, we will do our best to get back to other inquiries when possible. If you are not a Pro or Teams user and you're looking to resolve your issue before we can respond, you may want to check out:

If you need to restore a large number of files and are unable to do so, please visit the following instructions to help us speed up the restoration for you:

If you are still experiencing problems, please reply to this message. We will try our best to get back to you, however we cannot guarantee a response. We're very sorry for the inconvenience.

The Dropbox Support Team"

So, that's not exactly helpful. And since there are alternatives to Dropbox out there, I'm wondering if I should just switch to another cloud storage / synching service. Any such service needs to support both Windows and iOS, and ideally Windows Phone too (although the latter isn't a dealbreaker). I'd much prefer a free service, and need a minimum of 1gb. It needs to synch automatically in much the same way as Dropbox does.

So can anyone recommend such a service?
philmophlegm: (Cthulhu)
Judging by my facebook homepage this morning, many, many of my facebook friends went to Halloween parties last night.

When did this start?

I don't remember there being Halloween parties when I was at university or in my twenties. I thought of Halloween as something vaguely American and mostly for kids or an opportunity for chavvy teenagers to throw eggs at your window.

All the parties seem to be fancy dress and horror-themed. My impression from American TV is that American Halloween fancy dress is not confined to horror themes. As far as I can tell from facebook though, it's all horror themed - slutty zombies, that sort of thing, often with quite elaborate makeup.
philmophlegm: (Invasion Earth)
One unfortunate side-effect of my soon-to-be-reduced circumstances is that I'll have to actually buy a mobile phone. This is something I haven't had to do this millennium because my soon-to-be-former employer was nice enough to buy me one (most recently an iPhone 4, before that a pre-3G Blackberry Curve and before that a Motorola Razr V3 (remember them?)).

I make very infrequent calls. How infrequent? Put it this way, when I had to separate out personal calls on my monthly bills, they usually came to less than £1. Still, it's useful to have a mobile phone handy for emergencies like old ladies collapsing and falling off walls as you're driving past*.

I quite like the portable internet browser and ability to play games while sitting waiting for stuff to happen when out and about of my iPhone, so some sort of smartphone would be preferred.

So how do I get a decent smartphone without spending lots on line rental? Tariffs? Network? Handset?

One option would be to pay off my work iPhone. I think I can do this for £100. And then presumably get a SIM-only deal.
A second option would be to dust off the ancient Blackberry and use that, although I don't know how good the battery is, and it's old enough to not have 3G.

* Something that happened in Tavistock a couple of Saturdays ago.
philmophlegm: (gordonfreeman)
Anyone used a modern mechanical keyboard? Any views on which colour Cherry switches are better for gaming / typing? I've used mechanical keyboards back in the day when they were mainstream, and prefer them, if not the clicky ones. I'm aware that not all Cherry switches are clicky, but I don't have any experience of those.
philmophlegm: (Dawn over the Tamar)
I'm about to buy some new bedding - sheets, duvets, pillowcases etc. Does anyone have recommendations on materials, thread count, durability, washability etc? And does anyone have any recommended online outlets?
philmophlegm: (Traveller)
I want a function that returns a value equal to (x six-sided dice minus y six-sided dice) but which returns the answer '0' if the formula would otherwise result in a negative answer.

Or, to put it in role-playing terms, something like "4d6-3d6, but show any negatives as zero".

Doing the 4d6-3d6 bit is easy:

I had thought of then putting this inside an IF function, so that if the formula above was >=0, it showed the formula above, but if it was <0, it showed 0:


Unfortunately, that second function doesn't work. The reason it doesn't work is that it is recalculating the 4d6-3d6 part. That means that if the original 4d6-3d6 is positive, the formula doesn't show that positive number. Instead it rolls 4d6-3d6 again and shows the answer to that.

Any ideas?
philmophlegm: (Hagia Sophia)
The BBC has a new high-profile series on Roman history called 'Meet the Romans, with Mary Beard' presented by celebrity historian Mary Beard. You can tell she's a celebrity historian because the programme isn't called 'Meet the Romans', it's called 'Meet the Romans, with MARY BEARD'. I watched the first episode with bunn. We're both interested in Roman history, although she's self-taught and I did it at A-level. We also have very different interests. She's into social history, ordinary Romans during Imperial times and Roman Britain. My main interest in Roman history is the politics of the late Republic. In fictional terms, she's a big 'Eagle of the Ninth' fan, while I much preferred the HBO series 'Rome'.

This difference in tastes probably explains why bunn liked the programme rather more than I did. In fact, I thought MTRWMB was a little bit dull*, a little bit childish**, a little bit sensationalist*** and, dare I say it, a little bit dumbed down.

Read more )
philmophlegm: (Traveller Book)
How do I do this in Excel?

I want to enter a value in the range 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,C,D,E,F (or similar) in one cell, and then in another cell show the entry from a table that corresponds to this value.

For example, I want to enter the value 'B' in the 'Atmosphere' column and then have my spreadsheet show in the next cell that Atmosphere B is 'Corrosive'. If I had put in '5', it would show 'Thin'.
philmophlegm: (Traveller Book)
A couple of weeks ago, bunn and I went out to dinner at a pub in Horsebridge (about ten minutes away by car but only about a mile up river).

On the windowsill next to our table in the restaurant was a box containing assorted gaming pieces. There were a couple of chess pieces, some counters, some common-or-garden six-sided dice and...

...a six-sided die numbered 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32.

My question is: In what game are dice like this used?
philmophlegm: (humpback)
When you see scuba divers and snorkellers enter the water from a boat, they usually do it by rolling in backwards and head first. Why? Wouldn't it be easier and safer to go in feet first?


philmophlegm: (Default)

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