Cam's Blog

January 29, 2011

The magistrate’s falconer’s guano sweeper

Filed under: Books — cfranc @ 5:50 pm

I got around to starting The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet this week. The link points to Amazon and not a review because (a) it’s a great book thus far and I recommend it, and (b) I wouldn’t wish to spoil any of the plot with an overly informative review.

Instead I’ll pique your interest with a quotation that made me chuckle out loud on the bus:

“I am sick,” Vorstenbosch complains to heaven, “sick of these damned” — he thumps the scroll on the table, causing the Japanese to gasp in horror at the disrespect — “‘tokens of esteem’! On Mondays it is ‘The magistrate’s falconer’s guano sweeper asks for a roll of Bangalore chintz’; on Wednesdays, ‘The city elders’ monkey-keeper requires a box of cloves’; on Fridays it is ‘His Lord So-and-so of Such-and-such admires your whalebone cutlery: he is a powerful friend of foreigners,’ so, hey diddle diddle, it is chipped pewter spoons for me. Yet when we need assistance, where are these ‘powerful friends of foreigners’ to be found?”

I picture a David Mitchell very pleased with himself after inventing the magistrate’s falconer’s guano sweeper.


January 28, 2011

A conservative definition of geodesic

Filed under: Innumeracy, Math — cfranc @ 7:53 pm

Jenna just pointed me towards the Conservapedia article on geodesics. It’s startling, really. Since the content could change, I’m going to copy it below:

A geodesic is the path of shortest distance between two points in a metric curved geometry. Because of the curvature, these distances are usually greater than the distance of a straight line between the two points. These geometries defy the common saying that “The shortest distance between two points is a line”; in fact, it’s a geodesic.

Cartographers must account for geodesics when taking their measurements and surveying the land. Cartography is the modern form of geodesy, the study of measurements along the surface of the Earth. The Earth is a spherical geometry, the most common curved geometry.

The second sentence boggles my mind.

And after this definition, the article gives an example of a “geodesic”:

Epcot at Disney World is perhaps the most recognizable example of a geodesic.

Not only is it idiotic, but it doesn’t even fit the definition that they just gave!

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