Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

Saltburn and slavery

June 7, 2020


UCL have produced a map of the addresses of slaveowners claiming compensation after slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834 .   There are not many in Yorkshire, but of these two are rather close to Saltburn.

The Hon. George Heneage Lawrence Dundas of Upleatham Hall, Upleatham, who claimed £4,818 0s 6d as compensation for his freed slaves, also appears to have provided some support for UCL itself in its very early years…

Hmmmmmm not that surprising I suppose. Will not be able to walk on Dundas St without remembering this.

Actually, I was quite surprised since:

(i) you associate Saltburn with the Quakers, who were resolutely opposed to slavery. (But the development of Saltburn as we presently know it dates from 15 or 20 years after these slaveowner payouts, so this is not in fact relevant.);

(ii) there really weren’t that many of these claimants in Yorkshire or the NE–which makes sense, since there were lots of investment opportunities in mines and such closer to home.

In any case,  various things called Zetland (‘noble’ title of the Dundas family) are implicated:


Zetland Court, Dundas Street, Saltburn

Feminist surgery and private schools

October 4, 2019


This announcement outside a private girls’ school in Newcastle made me wonder whether it represented a welcome broadening of girls’ aspirations or a further entrenching of class privilege.

The answer could regrettably be both, of course.

You could say that they may be inviting kids from all local schools (in relatively small letters).  But this is Jesmond and if there are any state secondary schools (or their pupils) in the immediate vicinity then they will be having a hard time of it.

Looking at the prices


and list of participating institutions


on the website leaves little room for optimism.

So you tend to think that this is just a piece of advertising aimed at well-heeled local parents, since the girls at the school will know well enough what is in prospect.  Generally in the North East you would say that limited and limiting aspirations for girls are far more of a problem than the evil that is private education, but Jesmond is different…



September 22, 2019


Not only is Jerusalem the same place as Tel Aviv, it’s also beside the sea. You live and learn…

‘Tel Aviv-Yoffa (Jaffa)’ is a perfectly valid concept since there’s no intervening space free of places of entertainment. It may be somebody only knew one place in Israel beginning with ‘J’, or just got confused. .. I’m not sure that continuing to think about this is entirely healthy though…

A diverting ticket offer for the Bolshoi

August 3, 2019


So I got this email inviting me to open the attachment for an exciting ticket offer.  That definitely looked like a scam at first glance–why have an attachment in the first place?  Then I thought you would tend to have a hyperlink or a pdf for a scam and the ballet was somewhat of a minority interest.


And when I opened the document the relevant information was presented:


However, (upon several attempts) the link didn’t work:


So I rang the ROH box office, who were very helpful.  They had heard of the offer but thought it was operative from Saturday.  Then they found it on their system.  They agreed that the link didn’t work but didn’t know the right one offhand.

So in the end I managed to book a ticket..I think…

But what a lot of learning points there are here:

  1. Don’t use a % sign in a link–HTTP will be upset
  2. Put stuff in the email body rather than an attachment if at all possible
  3. Don’t send stuff out outside of office hours–it’s difficult to fix if things go wrong.

Bicycling and the permanent headwind

July 30, 2019


Discussion on Facebook

Interesting that the permanent headwind which blows in your face whatever direction you cycle still operates in the hot weather. Clearly its intelligence does not yet equal its malice and agility.

I find that crosswinds are treacherous because: a) they have a similar drag effect to a headwind and b) they have a vastly greater angular range than just head on. Unfortunately that pretty much encapsulates any wind direction. Get out early if you can, before the thermals kick in.

Have you seen the study that shows the wind is always against you? It’s summarized in New Scientist here and the original paper is here.

Further analysis

OK so now we’ve got onto the purely hypothetical case where you cycle from A to B and then back from B to A and the wind continues to blow from B to A as though nothing had happened.  Even so, the analysis in the references above looks rather complicated.

Let’s ignore rolling resistance and consider a cyclist who wants to cycle on the flat from A to B and back again.  He cycles with a power P which gives a limiting velocity V relative to the air. (In the absence of rolling resistance we ignore interactions with the ground.)

So let’s say as an example B is 10 km from A and V is 20 km/h.  In the absence of any wind it takes 0.5 hours to go from A to B, another 0.5 hours to go from B to A, for a total of 1 hour or 60*60 =3600 seconds.  Then with P measured in joules/second, the energy expended will be 3600*P J.

Now a wind of 10 km/h blows from B to A.  The cyclist’s speed relative to the ground is then 10 km/h on the outward leg and 30 km/h on the return leg.  So the time taken is 60+20  = 80 minutes or 4800 seconds and the energy expended is 4800*P J.

The cyclist has spent more time and expended more energy even with a completely unchanging wind.

This analysis clearly applies to any situation where there is a component of the wind along the cyclist’s direction of motion, even if it doesn’t turn round on you…


Prospects for a new team in Division 4 of the London Chess League

June 16, 2019


The table above shows results from the 2018/19 season of Division 4 of the London Chess League in terms of the final position of the various teams, the percentage of possible game points they achieved, the mean grade of the sides they fielded and the mean grade of the teams they faced.  We can see that the position followed the strength (mean grade) of the teams very closely and there was no significant difference in the strength of the opposition that different teams faced.


We can also consider the relationship between grading and percentage of possible game points achieved, as below.


On this basis, using the equation of the fitted trend line, we can estimate what average grading would be required to achieve various points percentages:


We do not believe that relegation operates from Division 4, but team members would hardly enjoy losing all the time, so we presume that a new team would wish to average at least 40% of game points, requiring an average grade of 113.  Or an average grade of 125 would be required for 50% performance.

We now consider the possible requirements for the specific boards, using the opposition faced by Team 9 (which scored 46%).


So we see that someone playing on Board 4 would meet opposition with a mean grade around 130 and should be of a strength to have a meaningful game with opposition graded between about 100 and about 150.  (Some figures in red italics are affected by the presence of defaults.)

Increase your illiteracy by 34%

June 5, 2019

Detail from an advert on the Tube

I was first of all impressed by the one observation over a whole month in the least representative possible location leading to the claimed 34% increase in income.  But the English language also came in for some rough treatment…


So let’s see what sense we can make of this:

Unlock the potential => let us make money out of you

potential = money

premium => it will cost somebody–everybody!–dear

solutions–perhaps this is ‘lettings’ in English

guest relations => don’t let them stay long enough to acquire any rights

housekeeping => (probably) we can charge you for what we make the ‘guests’ do

Prospects for Lewisham 2 in Division 3 of the London Chess League

June 2, 2019

Happy chess players celebrate promotion

Now that Lewisham Chess Club’s second team has secured promotion to Division 3 of the London Chess League, we can ask what lies in store next season.

The table below shows the ranking of the various teams in this year’s Division 3, together with the average (mean!) grade of the teams they put out and faced, based on information as at 1 June.



The first thing to note is that there is no real difference between the strength of the opposition the various teams faced.  Intuitively enough, the teams with higher mean grades also tended to finish in higher positions, as is shown in the graph below.



We see that you really need to put out teams with an average grading somewhat over 140 to ensure survival.

Next we ask what this means for the various different boards next season.  In Division 4, over 8 boards (as opposed to the ten in Div 3) Lewisham 2 averaged 149, so we take the team ranked 9 in Division 3 with an average grade of 147 as a proxy.



So we would say that someone playing Board 5 would face opponents with an average grade about 160 and should be of such a strength as to have a meaningful game with players graded between about 190 and about 140.


Le Brexit

May 25, 2019


Le Royaume-Uni, patrie du régime parlementaire, désormais sans majorité, désorienté, trébuchant, erratique, canard sans tête. Voici l’œuvre d’un référendum absurde, voulu par un irresponsable, cédant à une presse folle et furieuse, au terme d’une campagne manipulée et mensongère.  Dominique Reynié


Un canard qui nettoie les plumes de son aile gauche avec son bec

More Brexit planning assumptions

December 21, 2018

Man looks at unicorn and remains unconvinced

We have been asked for some further planning assumptions to go with the original set.  These are given below.

Asset prices

The optimistic assumption would be that Brexit does not happen or happens in a way that is not harmful so some of the correction is recovered from what had been priced in on that account.  So say a loss of 10%.  And the middle option would be 20%.

Investment performance

The most optimistic figure that has been canvassed is 3.5%, but this is surely too optimistic in the circumstances.  Say 3%, with a middle figure of 2%.


The question here is really what the difference between inflation and interest rates will be.  The BoE forecasts suggest a real interest rate of around -2%, as at present.  To be more scientific, real interest rates are currently something like -1.75% (0.75% Bank Rate – 2.5% inflation).  The BoE forecasts tend to imply a real interest rate of about -2%, but it would depend on how the rate was adjusted to counter inflation.  Say -2.5%/-2%/-1.5% for pessimistic/middle/optimistic.

As for inflation itself, the optimistic forecast would be that MPC manages to hold inflation to say 2.5% over the period, giving overall inflation of 13%.  So we take 22% as the middle point.

CS Pension

There seems to be no room for variation here.

State Pension

If one assumes 2.5 % inflation then the only room for growth even under the ‘triple lock’ would be if earnings rose faster than inflation.  The latest ONS figures show essentially no real growth in earnings over the period from 2005 (!), so one cannot expect any real increase there either.

Tax rates and allowances

Hard to see any room for giveaways here!

> 60 concessions

Too make things easy for ourselves, we assume that in the optimistic case these survive for the next 5 years, while in the middle case half of them do.


Table of assumptions (unless otherwise stated in real terms and for period 2019-20 to 2024-25)


The pessimistic scenario reflects a coherent view of unmediated Brexit plus asset price correction while the optimistic scenario also reflects a coherent (but unlikely) outcome where Brexit is rendered harmless.  It is hard to give such a definite interpretation to the middle scenario and as such it should be treated with caution.

The treatment of tax and pension changes  as proxied by >60 concessions is very likely insufficient–at the very least, one could consider allowances as being constant in nominal terms, thus reducing in real terms.

The present treatment also implicitly assumes that things remain as they are for the remainder of 2018-19, which is certainly open to challenge.