Wednesday, 31 August 2011

09:20 – We’re well into the endgame for the euro. Even with the ECB buying huge amounts of Italian debt on the secondary market, yields on new Italian debt crept above 5% yesterday in the first auction since the ECB began propping up Italy. And one of the German heavy-hitters has finally publicly come out in favor of Germany leaving the euro. (Of course, he’s merely said out loud what most Germans are already thinking.)

German business chief calls for country to quit euro and join new currency with Austria, Holland and Finland

If (when) that happens, the Euro crashes and burns. Those holding euro-denominated debt are likely to lose nearly all of their investments. Without the northern tier backing it, the euro is backed only by countries that are already bankrupt, and will have no option but to inflate the euro into worthlessness. A 100 euro note may buy a cup of coffee, if you’re lucky. Of course, the upside is that Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and France won’t have to default on their debts. They’ll simply pay them off in worthless euros, after which no doubt these weak economies will soon revert to their former local currencies. The other upside is that having devalued their currencies, these weak countries will be able to export much, much more to nations with stronger currencies, thereby allowing their economies to grow again after many years of zero or negative growth. That may be some consolation to their citizens, who won’t be able to afford to import goods from wealthier countries.

Barbara and I were watching something the other night in which one of the characters was pregnant and several of them were sitting around discussing what a horrible idea it was for a pregnant woman to drink any alcohol at all. This is one of those things that everyone knows that turns out not to be true. There is zero evidence that light to moderate alcohol consumption is dangerous for the mother or the fetus, and in fact there is some evidence that one drink or less per day is actually beneficial. Intuitively, it would seem to most reasonable people that heavy drinking is a really bad idea for a pregnant women, but then it’s a really bad idea for anyone else as well.

When I visited the Wikipedia page on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I learned that 30% to 33% of pregnant women who consume 18 drinks per day or more give birth to babies with FAS. I assume they meant 18 drinks per week; at 18 drinks per day the baby would be born an alcoholic. But perhaps they really did mean 18 drinks per day, because FAS is relatively rare, so perhaps a 30% to 33% incidence does require that much alcohol consumption.

Clicking around Wikipedia, I came across something that made me wonder if there are words other than “foot” whose plurals vary depending on context. Not usage; those are relatively common. Context. The phrase in question concerned someone’s height, which it gave as “five feet and eight inches”. My first thought was that the person who wrote the article was not a native English speaker, or at least not a native US English speaker. In US English, when referring to a person’s height, the plural of “foot” is “foot”, “and” is never used between the numbers, and “inches” is always understood rather than spoken. For example, if someone asked me how tall my friend Paul Jones is, I would reply “six foot four” (or just “six four”). Conversely, if someone asked me how tall the Washington Monument is, I would reply “555 feet, 5 inches”. So, are there any other words whose plurals are context-dependent? I can’t think of any.

12:28 – Barbara was playing around with the new Pentax K-r DSLR the other day, and shot a few images of Colin at 28 weeks old. Here’s a crop (about 4.8 MP from the original 12.2 MP file).

There’s nothing in the image to provide scale, but Colin is one huge Border Collie puppy. He’s about as large at 28 weeks as a typical adult male BC. We don’t have a scale, but I estimate his weight is in the 50 pound (23 kilo) range already and he can stand with his paws on my chest.

I may reconsider having the camera set to save both RAW and JPG by default. The JPG images it produces are fairly large (about 5.5 MB), and the camera’s processor does a very good job of compression. I looked at zoomed in portions of various images in RAW and JPG form. RAW has a bit more detail, but not much. So I’ll probably reserve RAW form for times when white balance or brightness range is likely to be a problem.