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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Answer to the money puzzle

You have ten bags of coins, one of them full of fake coins, the rest real.  Each of the fake coins weighs one gram less than a real coin.  But, while you have scales, you are only allowed to weigh once.

Stumped?  Here is the answer.

You take one coin out of bag number one, two coins out of bag number two, three out of bag number three, and so on, until you take ten coins out of bag number ten.  Then you put all those coins on the scales.

If the weight is one gram less than it should be, then the fakes are in bag number one.
If the result is two grams less, then the second bag has the counterfeits.
If the weight is ten grams less, then the tenth bag is the one that should be discarded.

Brian Easton got it right.  I didn't.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


You have ten bags of coins. Nine of them contain genuine coins but one of them is full of counterfeits. You cannot see any difference between the coins or bags, or feel any difference when you lift them. However, you know that each of the counterfeit coins weighs one gram less than a real coin. You have an accurate scale, but are only allowed to use it once. How do you work out which bag has the fake money in it?

Good luck -- it had me properly fooled, and yet the answer is so-o-o logical

Answer tomorrow

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ponytail-pulling and Polynesian protocol


Our Prime Minister, John Key, has made himself the topic of international discussion -- because he repeatedly pulled the hair of a waitress at a cafe called Rosie's that he frequents in Parnell, the posher part of Auckland.

The waitress, Amanda Bailey, is a slip of a girl who looks much younger than her reported age of twenty-six.  The owners of the cafe -- her employers, Jackie Grant and Scott Brown, demand a high level of respect from their staff, as their clientele is on the rich and influential side.  Quoting from the cafe's facebook page, they say, "There are no excuses, under any circumstances, for our service to not be attentive, humble and extremely respectful towards our customers."

And "humble" is a potent word.  So there are several good reasons why Ms Bailey took a long time to express her distaste for the repeated tugging on her ponytail.  Apparently, this had no effect on the hair puller, so she resorted to the written word, sending a report to The Daily Blog.

No doubt you have all read the comments and opinions that have been expressed all over the world.  What surprises me is that there is so little (if any) local Maori comment. Because in Polynesia a person's head is tapu. It should not be touched without permission or a good reason.

To Maori, the head, upoku, is the most sacred part of the body. It is the same throughout the Pacific.  When Captain Wallis was in Tahiti in 1767, the chiefess Purea endowed him with "crowns" made of long plaited strands of her own hair, the greatest and most significant gift possible, as they came from the most tapu part of her body.

Even today, a Polynesian is uncomfortable if a hat, or eye-glasses (or even earphones or a cellphone) are placed on a table where cooked food is eaten.  I have noticed that a Maori man will survey me carefully before offering to hongi -- which is the greeting of touching noses -- to make sure that I won't be uncomfortable about anyone coming so close to my head.

But it seems that our prime minister is a deeply insensitive man.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

It's ANZAC day

April 25 is the day when everyone in Australia and New Zealand takes a holiday in commemoration of all the Australian and New Zealand servicemen who gave their lives to war.

It is special this year because it commemorates the 100th anniversary of the disastrous landing at Gallipoli, Turkey.  As the editor of the DomPost observes, because it is a "special" Anzac Day, "large crowds of New Zealanders are turning out to remember."

And, as he (or she) comments, "this might seem surprising.  Everybody now knows that the Gallipoli campaign was a bloody military fiasco. It ended in ignominious defeat.

"It cost the lives of 2800 New Zealanders."

So why celebrate the mess?

Because its a day that brings New Zealanders together.  Maori  bravely fought and died alongside their pakeha mates, and fellow Aussie soldiers.  It made the cohesion that we now call "Anzac."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ancient voyaging canoe uncovered

The New Zealand press is alive with it.  And, naturally, the Polynesian Voyaging Society is animated, while the scientific community is vastly intrigued.

The remains of an ancient voyaging canoe have been located in Anaweka, a remote spot in the South Island of New Zealand.  

We know it was built here, because the timber is  NZ matai, an indigenous pine. And, according to carbon dating of the caulking material, the canoe was last caulked back about 1400 -- which might mean that the canoe itself is quite a bit older, as the craft were re-caulked at regular intervals.

The colonization of the islands of East Polynesia was a remarkable episode in the history of human migration and seafaring.
Early Polynesians were a seafaring people with highly developed navigation skills. They colonized previously unsettled islands by making long canoe voyages.
There is evidence that by about 1280 CE, they had settled the vast Polynesian triangle with its eastern corner at Easter Island, the northern corner at Hawai’i, and the southern corner in New Zealand.
Until now, reconstructions of the canoes used by Polynesians have been based mainly on much later observations from European explorers.
In 2012, Auckland University archaeologist Dr Dilys Johns and her colleagues found a 6-meter section of an ancient canoe on the remote northwestern end of New Zealand’s South Island a short distance from the sheltered Anaweka estuary.
According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the canoe – dubbed Anaweka canoe – was built of wood in New Zealand and made its last voyage around 1400 CE.
Reconstruction of the complete Anaweka canoe. Image credit: Geoffrey Irwin / University of Auckland /
Reconstruction of the complete Anaweka canoe. Image credit: Geoffrey Irwin / University of Auckland /
It was about 20 meters in length. The wood was identified as New Zealand matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia).
The Anaweka canoe has a sea turtle carved on its hull that makes symbolic connections with ancestral Polynesian culture and art.
“A remarkable feature is a sea turtle carved in raised relief at the shaped end of the canoe. A raised ridge behind the turtle could represent its wake as it moved through the water, or is possibly suggestive of an extended tail,” the scientists wrote in the PNAS paper.
“Turtle designs are rare in pre-European Maori carving; however, turtles are known in New Zealand waters. It is likely that the turtle motif relates to the early age of the canoe and its cultural associations with tropical Polynesia.”
“The Anaweka canoe provides new information about ancestral Maori canoe technology and insights into early technology and seafaring in tropical East Polynesia,” they concluded.

Monday, April 20, 2015

TITANIC deck chair

It's amazing what people will collect.

According to the newspapers, including The Guardian, there was busy bidding for an old deck chair that is too fragile to serve as a seat.

It's because it was retrieved from the wreck of the Titanic

The Nantucket wooden chair was on the first-class promenade deck when the luxury liner sank in the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912.
The chair was sold at the auction house Henry Aldridge and Son to an unnamed UK-based collector who has a passion for buying pieces of historic importance, auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said. He added that he was “very, very pleased” with the price.
Aldridge described the chair, which was salvaged from the ocean by a team sent to recover bodies after the Titanic sank, as “one of the rarest types of Titanic collectible”.
About 1,500 people died when the Titanic sank after striking an iceberg on 14 April 1912 en route to New York from Southampton.
The deckchair was found bobbing on the surface of the Atlantic by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett, who were sent to recover the bodies of the victims.
The Mackay-Bennett’s log records six or seven deckchairs being picked up and taken back to port in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
One was given to a former crewmate, Captain Julien Lemarteleur. It has since been owned for 15 years by an English Titanic collector who kept it by a large window overlooking the sea at his home on the south coast.
The seller had never sat on it due to its fragile state and instead used it as a display item.
The chair, which was professionally conserved several years ago, had a sale estimate of £70,000 to £80,000.
It fetched just over one hundred thousand pounds.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Amazing s.s. City of Cairo

The story of her sinking is one of the dramas of World War 2.

Now the story is augmented by a sensational tale of salvage.

From The Telegraph -- where the writer seems addicted to the word "boat"...

British salvage boat recovers treasure from wreck of SS City of Cairo

British salvage boat breaks world undersea salvage record by recovering bulk of 100-ton treasure from wreck of British wartime steamboat SS City of Cairo at depth of 17,000 feet – some 4,500 feet deeper than the Titanic.
The SS City of Cairo was sunk by a German submarine 480 miles south of St. Helena on November 4 1942 en route from Bombay to England with 100 tons of silver coins on board housed in 2,000 rectangular black boxes.
The U-68 struck the slow-moving steamship with one torpedo but waited a further 20 minutes before inflicting the coup de grace, thus allowing all but six of the ship's 302 passengers and crew to escape on to lifeboats.
The German captain, Karl-Friedrich Merten, then approached the lifeboats and famously told the survivors in perfect English: "Goodnight, sorry for sinking you."
It took three weeks before the bulk of the crew were rescued, by which time 104 people on board the lifeboats had died.
The ship's vast treasure in silver rupees belonging to the UK Treasury was thought lost forever.
However, a team led by Briton John Kingsford, a search and salvage veteran, managed to track down the elusive cargo using a powerful survey and salvage vessel equipped with sonar and robotics.

Under contract to the UK Ministry of Transport, underwater company Deep Ocean Search (DOS), was authorised to recover several tens of tons of the coins.
"Our research came up with the usual contradictions between the positions given by the submarine and that from the ship's officers," said the company.
Miraculously, the team, which included 20 French oceanographers, finally pinpointed the stricken craft "broken in two and buried deep in the sea floor silt" at a depth of 5,150 metres (17,000 feet).
Recovery at this depth is a "world record", DOS said. By comparison, the Titanic rests at a depth of 3,800m, or 12,500 feet.
Maeva Onda, among the oceanographers on board the ship SV John Lethbridge, said the search submarine met with success on its first dive. "After two hours of underwater descent, the robot transmitted the first images of the wreck. It was incredible," she told Le Figaro.
Its identify was confirmed when the robot uncovered coins stamped with the Crown. "The emotion was tangible on the boat and when we brought the first coins up, it was even more intense," she said.
However, it was not plain sailing from there, as the extreme depth caused "serious difficulties" in recovering the bulk of the treasure, the team said. "The combination of pressure, temperature, repeated dives at this depth and other issues resulted in multiple breakdowns of systems such as we had not experienced before when working in 3000-4000m depths," it said.
The news item in today's Dominion Post has more on the sinking of the ship. Of the 311 souls who escaped, 104 died, all but six of them after reaching the overcrowded lifeboats. 

The main body of the lifeboat fleet made St Helena, but three were lost. Of those, one reached South America, with just two people alive, an officer and a female passenger.  As John Kingsford said, "I don't think people really understand what they [the merchant seamen] did and the losses there were in order to keep our country alive."

Kingsford's company keeps an unspecified proportion of the retrieved treasure.  He now has his eye on other wrecks -- also unspecified. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kiri Te Kanawa sponsors American football player

This is the good-feel story of the week.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has been credited with fostering the most unlikely of opera prodigies - an ex-professional American football player.
Tonga-born Ta'u Pupu'a, who lives in the United States, began his working life in 1995 as a defensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns, the NFL team that later became the Baltimore Ravens.
His career took an abrupt turn when a 158-kilogram opponent trod on him and broke the arch in one of his feet, forcing him to look at alternative livelihoods.
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
Inspired by a childhood spent singing in church alongside his father, a Methodist preacher, he resettled in New York in the hope of making it on Broadway.
"I had siblings who would sing in the Tongan choir, so that's how show music was introduced into my life, but the thing that really inspired me was Dame Kiri Te Kanawa," he said. "Knowing that one of the best singers in the world was of Polynesian origin meant a lot."
Although he got parts in amateur productions, Pupu'a was finding it tough when he spotted a poster saying that Te Kanawa would be signing books at the Metropolitan Opera bookshop.
"I got to the front and she looked up and saw that I was Polynesian. And she said, 'What are you doing here?'
"I puffed up like a peacock and said, 'I'm a tenor,' and she said, 'Where are you studying?' " When he admitted that he was not a student, she handed him her card and told him to call her later.
Pupu'a "floated home" in awe at what had happened, and spent the next three hours plucking up courage to call her. "I thought, what do I say to a dame?"
Te Kanawa arranged an audition at the Juilliard School in Manhattan, which contains one of the most prestigious singing academies in the world. Pupu'a won a full scholarship and trained for three years.

He emerged in 2011 and began his new career at San Francisco Opera. His appearance last week in The Ice Break is his second role outside America. He portrays a cocky character, apparently based on Muhammad Ali, who comes to a sticky end. "Come on, this is opera," Pupu'a said. "Everybody dies."
His football skills were surprisingly useful when it came to singing. "Opera and football go hand in hand. You need to pace yourself so you don't over-sing or you don't blow yourself out in the first quarter. The discipline is the same.
"You don't go out and party the night before. The diet is the same. You learn how to sing with finesse and with power and at the same time deliver a message.
"In Turandot everyone is waiting for that 'vincero' [the final word at the end of Nessun Dorma]. In football everyone's waiting for that touchdown."
 - The Dominion Post

The last few hours

The free offer of Eleanor's Odyssey ends tonight, US Pacific time, so I hope historical societies and maritime museums are taking advantage while the chance is still there.

To all my friends on marhst-l and All things nautical and my fellow authors with Old Salt Press, many thanks for the support. It has been a very interesting exercise. What pleases me is that people as far away as Germany, Italy, Japan, India, and Brazil are taking advantage of the free offer. It is so good to know that there are maritime enthusiasts all over the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Birthday present from me to you

It's my birthday, and here is my present to All Things Nautical, marhst-l, and my blog readers.

Eleanor's Odyssey is free until Monday -- the digital edition, that is. Hit the link and download it as you will.  If you think your library or your historical society would appreciate having it in their files, then tell them they are welcome.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Maritime essay competition

2015 Canadian Naval Memorial Trust Essay Competition

The Canadian Naval Review will be holding its annual essay competition,
again in 2015. There will be a prize of $1,000 for the best essay, provided
by the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust. The winning essay will be published
in CNR. (Other non-winning essays will also be considered for publication,
subject to editorial review.)
Essays submitted to the contest should relate to the following topics:
• Canadian maritime security;
• Canadian naval policy;
• Canadian naval issues;
• Canadian naval operations;
• History/historical operations of the Canadian Navy;
• Global maritime issues (such as piracy, smuggling, fishing, environment);
• Canadian oceans policy and issues;
• Arctic maritime issues;
• Maritime transport and shipping.
If you have any questions about a particular topic,
Contest Guidelines and Judging
• Submissions for the 2015 CNR essay competition must be received at by Monday, 22 June 2015.
• Submissions are not to exceed 3,000 words. Longer submissions will be
penalized in the adjudication process.
• Submissions cannot have been published elsewhere.
• All submissions must be in electronic format and any accompanying
photographs, images, or other graphics and tables must also be included as a
separate file.
The essays will be assessed by a panel of judges on the basis of a number of
criteria including readability, breadth, importance, accessibility and
relevance. The decision of the judges is final. All authors will be notified
of the judges’ decision within two months of the submission deadline.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Be your own censor

The blog on has an interesting discussion today.  First, it gives a brief history of censoring -- naming, of course, the interfering Mr. Bowdler -- and they it conveys startling news.

You can do it yourself!  Inadvertently downloaded a novel with a lot of graphic sex?  Sickening violence?  You can clean it up, and create a sex-free, violence-free sanitized version, which may be the most boring book on your Kindle, but never mind.

There's an app for it.  It sounds just like a virus checker -- or that robot that spits back any rude messages on a chatter site.

As the Bibliocom blogger says:

As of January, readers needn’t rely on academics or clerics to clean up their literature–there’s an app for that. For free, consumers can download “Clean Reader” through the Apple Store or Google Play. Once installed, the app promises a sanitized version of any e-book available for purchase. Clean Reader’s press release explains the process: “Clean Reader delivers the opportunity of reading any book without being exposed to profanity. By selecting how clean they want their books to appear, readers are presented the content of a book without offensive words and phrases. To preserve the context of the book, an alternative word with the same general meaning is available for each instance where a word is blocked from display.”
Readers can even select just how devoid of profanity they want their book; levels are categorized as Clean, Cleaner, and Squeaky Clean. I spoke with Kirsten Maughan, co-developer of the application, who said that the product has already been downloaded about 1,000 times, in every state in America and eighty countries. “People seem to like it, but we’ve heard from both sides,” she said. After our brief chat, Maughan called back, wishing to make clear that the Clean Reader app does not violate copyright laws – it doesn’t actually change the text, it merely allows readers to self-sanitize as they wish. “We had a lot of lawyers look at it. They say we aren’t violating author copyrights, and we are not censoring books. Users can even turn off the Clean Reader if they want. It’s just a filter.”
But, as he or she adds:
Is Clean Reader any different than the act of excising text in a physical book? Perhaps not. Clean Reader doesn’t permanently change a text, but it does point to a larger trend at work, where readers of e-books stand on shifting sands of permanence in an ever-increasingly pixelated literary landscape. Should we be more troubled that readers are volunteering to avoid potentially squeamish material in the name of comfort? How much pleasure, inspiration, or cause for discussion (and education) is lost when a reader selects a Squeaky-Clean version of a text because of the potential to offend? I’m reminded of that oft-repeated phrase from Thomas Gray’s poem “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” (1742): “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.”

Monday, April 6, 2015


It's going to rain.

I knew it before the weatherman told me.

Because I trod on a spider.  I killed it.  Deliberately.

Though not a huge example -- like the 25mm Australian mouse-spider pictured above, which would have had me screaming for the trees -- I did not fancy the thought of it scuttling over my face while I slept.  Or running up my arm when I reached for something in a cupboard.  It is not that I am scared of spiders.  Not really.  After all, I like Alsatian dogs, and they are hairy fellows with long legs, too.

This morning while reading the DomPost I found that I did not have to feel ashamed of having killed the spider.  Apparently, arachnophobia is embedded in my genes.

Joshua New, a researcher at Columbia University in New York, has found that fear of spiders is a survival instinct. "A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate-specific venoms populated Africa long before hominids," he says.  And, for tens of millions of years, the two groups co-existed.  Sort of. Because one kept well out of the way of the other.

Our human ancestors in Africa were dead scared of spiders -- not because their venom was fatal, which it usually isn't, but because it incapacitated them for days, which meant they were easy fodder for any predator in the neighborhood.  And we still bear the vestiges of that very reasonable fear.  To test this, New and his colleague, Tamsin German, asked 252 people to study computer screens carrying abstract shapes, and to tell them what they spied lurking in the patterns. Of the shapes intended to produce disgust or fear, spiders were picked out the most quickly.

Vanessa LoBue, a researcher at Rutgers in New Jersey, has found with a similar test that even three-year-olds would spot spiders first among pictures of other threatening things, such as fungi and cockroaches.  

The human psyche is funny, though.  The story reminded me of an exhibit in the Australian Museum in Sydney, New South Wales, which is a big table where the top is a moving image of rippling water.  It is so well done that the viewer is drawn to touching at -- at which an Aussie nasty like a crocodile or snake comes rearing out of the "water," or a "spider" (uncannily like the one above) darts at your arm.  You can locate the exhibit by the sounds of delighted screaming.  People -- especially kids -- love being scared.  They approach that table time after time .. after time.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hungarian students hear the remarkable story of a Holocaust survivor

Some time ago, I posted a review of a fine biography of a violinist, by Sarah Gaitanos.

Clare Galambos Winter was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, who found a refuge in New Zealand, as a violinist in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Recently, her story was shared with Hungarian students.  Here is the story (by permission) from Sarah's website.

On Tuesday 24 March The Violinist was ‘launched’ in Hungary with a public event held in Veszprém, hosted by the University of Pannonia and the Library of Veszprém County. This event was inspired by the article András Dési wrote in Népszabadság
András was invited to take part in the presentation. He sent me this account:
First, I have to say that I’m still under the emotional impact of the event.
It was very well organized, about 50-60 students of the University of Veszprém attended.
 I can only appreciate the highest standards of the efforts of the organizers, Ms Eszter ADAM specialist at the Eötvös Károly County Library, Ms Boglárka FALUSSY, Director of the American Corner Veszprém and Ms Judit PALMANN, Director of the County Library. They really deserve all acknowledgement and honour.
The event began with music, two students played violin pieces of Béla Bartók.
After I read the message of Sarah, I introduced Sarah, and spoke about the book, and Boglarka read some excerpts of The Violinist.
Eszter found on the internet a video interview with Clare which was made on the occasion when she donated her two violins to music students in NZ.
It is an excellent video. Clare was saying that one violin was a “female one”, the other a “male one” and how much the latter one complicated her life. Some times she hated the male one, but mostly loved it.
The video was played and followed by a video message of Tibor Weinberger (Tibby Weston).
At the end of the event an old Jewish song was played from the internet, performed by a very famous Hungarian folk singer.
I think everybody attending the event was deeply moved.