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.

10 thoughts on “Wednesday, 31 August 2011”

  1. Yes, but in the units of ancient Rome, you’re about 6’6″. Or, in Biblical units, you’d have been a giant, since the best estimate of Goliath’s height was that he was actually only about our size.

    Alas, if only my mother hadn’t smoked while she was pregnant with me, and if only I hadn’t started drinking coffee when I was six years old (both of which supposedly “stunted my growth”), I’d probably have had a highly-paid career as an NFL defensive tackle or an NBA center.

    Which also makes me think of the tennis player John Isner, who at 6’9″ has an overpowering serve (although the rest of his game pretty much sucks). What I could have done with those extra few inches of height and reach.

  2. Expectant parents tend to be paranoid about things like FAS. My wife didn’t have the first drink while she was pregnant. I thought a drink or two wouldn’t hurt, but was happy to go along with zero.

  3. Better-safe-than-sorry is the way to go where a real risk is present. But assuming everything is dangerous if it has not definitively been proven safe is the modern mindset. The problem is that if one uses reductio ad absurdium no one could do anything under that standard.

    In particular, fear of nonexistent dangers can lead to actions that incur very real risks. For example, the anti-vaxxers avoid a non-existent danger at the very real risk of their children dying from preventable diseases. What’s worse is that by not having their children vaccinated, they also endanger other children of more responsible parents. (Vaccinations are not 100% effective; they don’t “take” on some people. Ordinarily, no one would know that a particular person was not immune, because herd immunity would prevent that person from ever being exposed to the pathogen. Now, with large numbers of parents failing to have their children innoculated, herd immunity is decreasing and in some cases sufficiently that innoculated children may be infected by pathogens to which their parents thought they were immune.)

  4. There is another group at risk from the anti-vaxxers. Those who haven’t been vaccinated because they are too young. Babies only get one vaccine before they leave the hospital. My daughter will get her third round of vaccinations Friday, and she still won’t be halfway through the process.

    I wouldn’t call the risk of vaccines as non-existent. I’d call it insignificant compared to the risk of going without vaccines, but it’s still a risk. I haven’t seen any indication though that autism is a risk associated with vaccines.

  5. Actually, pre-pubescent Type I diabetes is known to stunt growth.

    Just sayin’. I coulda been a contenda.

  6. I may reconsider having the camera set to save both RAW and JPG by default.

    As I use Lightroom the processing of RAW is exactly the same as JPG so I have no gain by doing JPG. Only reason I could see using JPG rather than RAW is the camera may do a more pleasing job of creating JPG for the particular person doing the images. Until you get camera profiles in LR the camera may do a better job. Again, that is really subjective and really requires a calibrated monitor.

    Storage space is not a problem so doing both if that is what you want then that is a fairly compelling reason to do so.

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