Thursday, August 31, 2006

baggage irregularity

We thought that the 7 hour delay flying out to Orlando, Florida from Manchester (UK) was annoying. The delay was less coming back (just 2 hours) but a tad more scary.

While we were waiting to take off, armed police came on to the plane and took two men off. We were on the right-hand side of the plane and they were on the other side in the row behind. Then two security ladies with rubber gloves on, came and searched their seats and the overhead lockers above. The pilot announced that two passengers and their luggage had been taken off the plane due to a 'baggage irregularity'. The Geordie gentleman behind me said that he'd noticed one of them looking at his watch over and over again, and had noticed that the other one was reading the inflight magazine upside-down (I think he meant that the magazine was upside-down not the man).

Then a large family group a few rows further down stood up and were talking to the cabin crew for a long time, before taking all their hand baggage and moving down the plane. The pilot then announced that there had been lightning around the airport and we weren't allowed to move and the ramp connecting us to the terminal had been locked for safety reasons (tropical storm Ernesto was just passing by at this time); after the weather-related incident was over, it seemed that the large family group disembarked and their luggage was taken off. I assume they were scared. Next - and seemingly prompted by concerned from passengers - the security ladies returned and searched all the seats that the family had vacated and all the nearby overhead lockers.

The pilot then announced that because we had been delayed we needed a new flight schedule and that this had to come from Bangkok but was delayed due to a technical glitch, I assumed at the time that this was some reference to outsourcing but I'm not sure what it means now. When we landed in Manchester it was raining just as hard as it had been under Tropical Storm Ernesto in Orlando, but then it does rain a lot in Manchester.

I couldn't find anything on the Internet about it, so I assume that the two men were just guilty of looking a bit swarthy, checking the time slightly too often and having irregular luggage. Fortunately my watch had stopped, which prevented me from looking suspicious; also, our luggage was in the form of regular cuboids.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Pareidolia is where you look at some form that is vague and random (like a cloud) and see something in it (like a face). There's a more precise description in the Skeptic's Dictionary and it's also mentioned is this week's James Randi newsletter.

So looking at the
Nun Bun and seeing Mother Theresa is an example of pareidolia.

This one's something similar with a blurred picture taken from a Spanish website.

The famous face on Mars.

The Pittsburgh Ghost Hunter's site has a warning for ghost-hunters about pareidolia; although they seem to have ignored their own advice when it came to the Curtain Face image - in fact check out the rest of their gallery for some very unspooky pictures - ooh, is that a ghostly orb or just a fleck of dust on the lens or in the air?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Death Clock

Eek! I saw a reference to the Death Clock on Notts Nurse's blog (Time).

Looks like I'm going to snuff it just before Christmas 2040. So the question would be: do I save money by not buying presents and so increase the value of the estate that I leave behind or do I buy them anyway so they can be received from beyond the grave?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Public Speaking

These tips came from an item on the BBC news about public speaking.

- Breathe slowly and deeply
- Warm up by pulling faces, yawning, eating pretend toffee
- Slow down first six words - that helps set smooth rhythm
- Emphasise key words
- Focus on individual faces in audience, making eye contact
- Cast yourself in role of storyteller

So now you know.


I was reading an article the other day (which I think was in the Economist although I can't find it on-line) about gambling and how you are more likely to win by backing the favourites than the rank outsiders (which is what most people do) - although what the statistics showed was that your net losses were less which isn't quite the same as winning.

In the article they puzzled over why people persist in betting on outside chances, but seemed to miss the obvious answer that people would prefer to risk a small amount on the chance of a big win (e.g. 100/1 odds) than to risk a bigger amount on the better odds of a much smaller win (e.g. 2/1 on).

I thought that this
item on the BBC News about people being encouraged to recycle by the offer of prizes was the same sort of thing; however unlikely the win, it provides motivation for the small effort involved which the marginal benefits of an individual act of recycling do not.

There are always mundane tasks to be done in a job, e.g. filling in timesheets so client's can be billed, and the usual way of handling these things is to send out entreaties urging staff to do the right thing or reprimands telling them off for not doing it. Would it not be more motivational for employers to offer entry into a prize draw for those staff who make the effort?

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Here's some things I stumble across on, or linked from, the Lukira website

[See Optical Illusion ]

[See Size of our world ]

... and don't miss the Farting Belgian Pig