Round the Bays

Astronaut's photo of Wellington, New Zealand. ...
Astronaut’s photo of Wellington, New Zealand. North roughly at top of image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, today I took part in the local “Round the Bays” event. Thousands of people gave up their Sundays to run or walk en mass along the roads that circle the bays of this city. Many other cities have similar events. Participants can choose to run or walk or something in between, over distances ranging from 6.5km to a half marathon (just over 21km). I chose the middle 10km option.

As I was walking by myself this year I caught the train to town and therefore arrived before the runners who chose the longer distance had been started off. The start area was filled with people stretching various muscles and sinews, some contorting themselves strangely and probably uncomfortably.

There were groups stretching in synchrony and individuals doing their own stretching exercises. I suppose that these people would be pushing their bodies pretty hard and really needed to “loosen them up”. There were others, like myself, just wandering around, having presumably decided that they would not be pushing themselves that hard and such vigorous loosening up was not necessary!

Since the race bibs were colour coded it was easy to tell which event someone was entered for. Young and old were represented and of course all ages in between. Some were probably even older than me! All frames from skinny to very much over large were represented.

As the half-marathon was about to kick off, all participants were called to the line. Well, actually, the fastest, the “elite” were called to the line, and people were asked to place themselves in order of fastest at the front, slowest at the back. To assist with this some of the organising people held notices on poles with an estimated finish time,  so that slower starters would not impede the faster, or to put it another way, the slower participants would not be trampled by the more speedy.

There was the usual “10, 9, 8,….” countdown and someone fired a maroon, and off they went, disappearing down the road. An event like this causes massive disruptions as roads are closed for obvious reasons.

English: 2007 peachtree road race crowd shot
English: 2007 peachtree road race crowd shot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each runner or walker has attached to his or her shoe a little tag, which records the time that they cross the start and finish lines. As a consequence of this the participant can delay his or her start if the start line is too crowded. In fact, since the pack of runners and walkers extended 30 or 40 metres back from the start line, the shoe tags meant a participant could cross the start line minutes after the start and still get an accurate time for the journey.

Many people did in fact decide not to be too prompt to cross the line and there were queues for the loos right up to and after the official start. However, eventually everyone was away, though participants continued to trickle through the start for a while.

start line
start line (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A bit later they called for the 10km runners and walkers, and again, the fastest were asked to go to the front and the slower people were urged to stay at the back. Once more the maroon went off and people started passing the start line. I held back because I knew that there was always congestion at the start line, even with the shoe tags helping to spread the rush.

When I came to cross the line there was a slight slowdown, but I’d fortunately judged it quite well, and we were away. I’m always wary of starting too fast and getting tired at the end so I didn’t try to push through the throng too much, but it spread out pretty quickly.

2011 Boston Marathon finishing line pavillion ...
2011 Boston Marathon finishing line pavillion on Boylston Street. Looking west; runners would be coming from the east. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first part of the course is actually a block away from the waterfront, past Te Papa, the national museum, and only joins the waterfront after a few hundred metres. The rest of the course though follows the coast quite closely, first going out to a headland and then back into the next bay around the harbour.

Of course, with thousands of people on the road, it is closed to traffic, but people don’t seem to mind this. Most car parks were empty, both those on the side of the road and those on private properties, so locals seem to have made plans to cope with the road closures.

After a couple of kilometres I put on some pace and started passing a fair number of other walkers. Others with similar plans but fitter bodies were also passing me, I should mention!

With thousands of people thundering up the road, there were no bicycles or skateboards, but there were a few runners without race bibs who had either not heard about the event or who had decided to run along the course anyway. Along one part of the Parade there is a quite large fountain, and this was playing as we made out way past.

English: Turning for home Runners in the Leeds...
English: Turning for home Runners in the Leeds Half-Marathon 2007 turn from Hawksworth Road onto Abbey Road, the point at which they start to head back to the city centre and the finish – but there’s still 4 miles to go. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second stage of the course winds round some small bays which border much larger bay. We lost the view of the city as we looped through these bays. Quite a few of the local residents were watching from their balconies as we passed. A few had hoses out and offered cooling showers, but the day was not too hot and they had few takers.

And then we were 500m from the finish! But we had only travelled just over 5km! So we took a left and travelled around 2.5km and the same back again. This loop took us past the airport and several flights blasted off as we passed. It can be quite loud and surprising down on the road as the runway is elevated, so you can see or hear them coming until the last minute.

People running at the 2007 20 kilometer road r...
People running at the 2007 20 kilometer road race through Brussels. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we went out, we were passing the half-marathoners and the faster 10km runners who were on their way back, travelling the last few kilometres to the finish. The turning point was a great relief and I knew that there was not much left to do. When I finished the out and back the course merged with the course that the 6.5km participants followed (and which we followed up to the point where we followed the loop). Many of the 6.5 participants had already reached that point.

So eventually we all, half-marathoners, 10km runners and walkers and 6.5km runners and walkers, arrived at the finish pretty much at the same time! The result was not chaos though as people were efficiently passed through the channel, given a banana and a drink, and issued into the wider park behind. Oh, and I was relieved of my shoe tag too.

Peeled, whole, and longitudinal section
Peeled, whole, and longitudinal section (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The park was crammed with participants and their “support teams” and various booths set up for participants of various teams, there was a band on stage and much going on. But for me it was simply a matter of catching the shuttle back to the station to get home, having had a great time.

The whole event was smoothly organised by Sport Wellington, sponsored by Cigna Life Insurance, and supported by Wellington City Council and Wellington busses and trains, and many others. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event.

English: Airport Express Shuttle Bus
English: Airport Express Shuttle Bus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Breaking the Chain

An elephant named Neelakantan owned by trying ...
An elephant named Neelakantan owned by trying to break its chain on . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good friend of mine has posted at least one picture a day for a long time now. He has posted for well over a thousand days without a break. It’s a phenomenal achievement and I’m in awe of his accomplishment.

Just recently he has been ill and confessed yesterday that he had been close to breaking the chain, which would have been a real shame. But his predicament led me to consider my own blogging and the drives that make me add a new post every week and prevent me from breaking my particular chain.

Figural sculpture representing 'Introspection'...
Figural sculpture representing ‘Introspection’ at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t speak for him of course, obviously, but I can do a bit of introspection on my own blogging. When it comes down to it one can only speak for oneself and attempts to speak for others are doomed from the outset.

I have tried before to create a blog and failed. I’d get three or four weeks into it, I’d forget and then months would pass before I thought of it again. This time I’m well past the 100 posts and pushing on. To put it another way I’ve been burbling on for around two years and I’m still going.

25 Years – The Chain
25 Years – The Chain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t do it for an audience, though around 100 people have “followed” this blog over the months. I don’t know how many people, if any, actually read this blog on a weekly basis. So although I put it “out there”, I do it mainly for myself, even though I hope that those who stumble across it like it.

So what is different this time? When I started this blog it was intended to be a record of my culinary activities and each entry was just a few hundred words. Then I switched to posting more general stuff and the number of words reached 1000 per post. Early on I decided to post once a week. Now I post pretty much only “general stuff” and waffle on for 1000 words.

English: cooking in desert
English: cooking in desert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I posted earlier on how I choose the subjects that I post on. Roughly speaking something suggests itself to me or I sit down and pluck a subject out the air at the last minute. I don’t generally find it difficult to reach 1000 words – Look! I’ve already typed more than 300 words and I haven’t yet got to where I thought I was going when I started!

I was going to talk about the urge to keep the chain going. Come Saturday I might have an idea in mind, maybe not. If not I might not have even thought about the blog, but come Sunday it is nagging at the back of my mind.

The grotesque nagging wife
The grotesque nagging wife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s no question that I am going to write the blog entry, but my enthusiasm may be low. It may seem a chore, something that is going to take up my time, when I could be slouching around doing nothing. I call that relaxing.

But I may also have thought of something that I want to write about. I may have some idea of the points that I want to make, but I always think that I won’t have enough ideas to bulk out the article to 1000 words, even though I have never failed to reach that limit every time!

...More Than 1000 Words
…More Than 1000 Words (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I expect that in the early days of my blog, if I had missed a week that would be it. I doubt that I would have picked up the thread again. The chain got longer and longer and it would seem to be a shame if I were to break it now

As it was, I nearly broke the chain when I and my wife went away for a weekend, and I didn’t have the time to write the blog for that weekend. However, I had posted that I was going to catch up, and catch up I did, thank the little gods. Even though I may not have many regular readers, I felt an obligation to any that I might have to keep the chain complete.

English: The M2 missing link, Ballymena See 19...
English: The M2 missing link, Ballymena See 190444. A view of the site for the missing motorway, some eleven years after the M2 had opened. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a period coming up in the future when it will be very difficult for me to post weekly as usual. I will be away from home for a month or so and will not have easy access to my usual computer. I will have to work out a way of getting past this period, either by cutting down my posts in size or just by declaring that I will be skipping a few weeks.

Preparing and planning for a break is a bit different to having difficulties in posting because of illness or some other reason. If illness or other reason prevents one from posting and forces a break there is of course the possibility of making an extra post to re-link the chain. Posting weekly as I do, I have a week to catch up, but my friend does not have that luxury as he posts every day. I’ve been able to catch up before my next post is due, so far at least, so it is less likely that a break in my chain would be fatal.

The missing-link between corset and corselette...
The missing-link between corset and corselette from 1914 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, when we talk about likelihoods, we must take into account the people involved. The blog in question has gone through several versions, including a version on Usenet newsgroups and a web-based version. It started as a newsletter for New Zealand expatriates, but has evolved into a blog featuring my friend’s interest in photography. And birds. So it has survived and evolved, and I hope and suspect that it would continue to survive and evolve even if some event should occur which causes a hiatus.

English: Sgùrr a' Mhaim and the Devil's Ridge ...
English: Sgùrr a’ Mhaim and the Devil’s Ridge Taken just as the ridge drops down to the hiatus in the ridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about mine? Well I’m frankly amazed that I have managed to keep going for so long. My previous efforts have lasted a few posts at the most. Obviously, at some time or other my blog will cease. I just hope that I can keep it going for a long time yet.

I don’t think that I will run out of ideas and if I do I can just take a metaphorical pin and stick it in the Internet somewhere and pull out a topic. After all, Google has an “I feel lucky” button. Pressing that button reveals that 22 January 2015 was Grandfather’s Day in Poland. Hmmm, I could make something out of that, I think.

"The Favorite" - Grandfather and Gra...
“The Favorite” – Grandfather and Grandson – “Ο Αγαπημένος του Παππού” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

All things are connected

English: computer network IP address
English: computer network IP address (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are networks everywhere. Not just the Internet or the LAN at work, but everywhere. A network could loosely be defined as being comprised of a number of nodes and a number of connections between them. A node is a point or thing which is connected through a connection to another node. A connection is what joins nodes together. This rather circular definition will do for now.

A family can be described by a network. Let’s consider a typical average nuclear family with parents and 2.4 kids. Errm, on second thoughts, lets make that 3 kids. If each person in the family is a node, we can’t really have 0.4 of a kid.

A Date with Your Family
A Date with Your Family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So there are multiple connections between any one family member and another. The father has a connection with his wife, his daughter and his sons. The daughter has connections with her father, her mother and her brothers. One way that this could be shown in a diagram is to draw a pentagon, each vertex of which is a member of the family and lines between the family member showing the relationships.

That’s a total of 15 interrelationships in a small family. Actually depending on the way you look at it, there may be more, as the father is the father of his daughter but the daughter is not the father of the father (obviously). This can be looked at at two relationships, one from father to daughter (A is B’s father) and another from the daughter to the father (B is A’s daughter), or one relationship between father and daughter.


Embed from Getty Images

If you consider that there are two relationships between any two family members, then each relationship can be considered to have a direction and a value. “A is B’s brother” and “B is A’s brother”, for example. Alternatively the relationship could be simple viewed as “brothers”, in which case the relationship has a value, but is non-directional.

I’ve described the familiar relationships in detail to hopefully bring out the facts that relationships between nodes and connections can be complex or describe complex situations. It’s entirely a matter of what you want the network to show.

English: Semantic Network with 7 nodes and 6 links
English: Semantic Network with 7 nodes and 6 links (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Internet is what people tend to think of when someone says “network” and it is indeed a complex network with myriads of interconnections across the globe, but in another way it is quite simple. Basically you have a computer, say your desktop or laptop, connected to the Internet. When you request a webpage, your request is sent to another node on the network, which then sends it to another node, and that forwards it on to yet another node and eventually the request arrives at the destination.

The clever part is that you might think that every “node” on the Internet needs to know where all the other nodes are, but in fact all it needs to know is where to send the request next.

English: nodes
English: nodes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems almost magical. Your computer doesn’t know where wordpress.com is, though it does look up its unique address (known as an IP address). It still doesn’t know where wordpress.com is, so it sends the request and the IP address to your ISP. Your ISP looks at the IP address and sees that it isn’t one local to the ISP, so it passes it on.

As noted above the message is passed on and on until it reaches its destination and then more magic happens as the remote machine responds to the request and sends the response all the way back. It may even travel back by a different route.


Embed from Getty Images

The magic is that some of the nodes know around 200,000 addresses on the Internet and where the next step should go. These addresses are in the most part partial in that the address will be like the street address, without the building number.

So although the Internet is a complex network with many many connections between nodes, the basic principle by which it works is simple, based on an address lookup system (DNS) and a simple unique address for each device on the Internet.


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(OK there’s more to it than that, but the complexities are mainly at the “edges” of the Internet and mainly spring from the need for security and for organisations to have a “gateway” or single address on the Internet).

When we plan a journey over the road network, we generally have some idea of where we are going or we get out a map. We then scan it for the start and end of our journey and work out what direction we need to travel and the intermediate towns.

1945 map of the Pentagon road network, includi...
1945 map of the Pentagon road network, including present-day State Route 27 and part of the Shirley Highway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But if we travelled like a message travels on the Internet we would first travel to the nearest town and ask someone where we need to go to get to our destination. He or she would point us to the next town to which he or she believes we should go. We would then travel to the next destination and ask again.

It would seem that such a process could result in us going round and round in circles, but eventually we will reach a place where the traffic director knows a large part of the roading network and is able to redirect us to another city which is known to be closer to our destination. Once we are on the right road, the process will eventually result in us reaching our destination.

Road to the A48 near Llancarfan - geograph.org...
Road to the A48 near Llancarfan – geograph.org.uk – 1297530 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another network is the network formed by people we know and the people that they know, and the people that they know and so on. There is a theory that to from you, to someone you know to someone they know and so on, it takes six or less steps to reach any person on the planet. This is referred to as “six degrees of separation“.

Similar numbers can be calculated for smaller sets of people. The Kevin Bacon Number relates movie stars through films that they have starred in with other people. Number higher than 4 are rare. The Erdős Number relates people by the number of scientific papers that they have co-authored.

head of Paul Erdös, Budapest fall 1992
head of Paul Erdös, Budapest fall 1992 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These somewhat whimsical numbers do demonstrate how closely linked the human race is. So far as I know no study has been done of the importance of bridging individuals is. I’m talking about those who perhaps emigrate to a country, thereby directly linking together two populations that may be less loosely connected, increasing the connectivity and reducing the number of degrees of separation.

Six degrees of separation.
Six degrees of separation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Phone amnesia and other things

English: Phone Box
English: Phone Box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Unfortunately I wrote this but forgot to publish it. Which is ironic given the title of this post. I will publish this week’s post shortly]

I suffer from phone amnesia. At least, that’s what I call it. Here’s how it works, or rather, doesn’t work. I answer the phone and talk for any amount of time. I put the phone down and my wife asks me who was on the phone. Often I cannot recall. I literally cannot recall who I was just talking to.

If I mentioned the persons name in my conversation, my wife will ask what “person X” wanted. Very often I will not remember at all what the point of the call was. The effort I make to remember is almost painful.

English: Village Pond and phone box
English: Village Pond and phone box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve noticed that it is often the case people don’t recall what the point of the conversation was, and on the contrary if the person who takes the call wants to tell someone about the call immediately they will have no problems.

So it seems that when we hang up the phone we also hang up our recall at the same time, sort of like filing a letter away. A few minutes later we may remember the call and what it was about. If we’ve trying to remember what it was about, it comes as a great relief!


Embed from Getty Images

I appear to have a more extreme version of phone amnesia, but it seems to me that many people have this issue to some limited extent.

This all started me thinking about quizzes and recall. I like quizzes and do them all the time. What constantly surprises me is the answers that I know, in subjects which I have no interest in. I recently knew the answer to a question about women’s fashion, a topic which doesn’t interest me in the least.

Shell Quiz
Shell Quiz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another example was the question about the date of some historical event. I’ve never been good at history. I can’t remember dates, you see. But I knew the correct answer to a history question, the answer to which was a date! Of course I can’t now recall the question or even the quiz. All I can recall is that I was astounded that I knew the answer.

Yet if another history question were put to me, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to answer it. But I could be wrong about that just as easily.

Horn of plenty (4239161486)
Horn of plenty (4239161486) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that my brain is storing information about things that I have no interest in and I don’t recall even hearing, but for some reason a part of my mind decides to remember stuff.

If I try to memorise something, it means reading and re-reading and re-re-reading the information until it sort of sink in. It’s like parading the information in front of my mind until it can’t help but remember it. We sort of bore the mind into remembering the information.

English: Memories of Friday Wood I am sure the...
English: Memories of Friday Wood I am sure the pool to the right of the photo is where I drank from a spring as a child. The landscape has changed so much with the growth of secondary woodland that one can’t be sure. I remember the water bubbling up through the sand and running down the slope (behind the photographer) into a boggy bit that is still there hidden now among young trees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And all the while the mind is remembering fleeting facts that we barely notice as they flit by. Facts that are of little real interest to us.

Of course memories are not reliable. I “remember” something that happened to one of my sisters when she was small. Her push chair rolled down a small slope and crashed into the barrier round a small flower bed in the park. Over the other side of the barrier was a pond, I was worried that she would fall into the pond.

English: Burton Agnes Ornamental Pond
English: Burton Agnes Ornamental Pond (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I visited the spot many years later I was astounded. The flower bed was there and so was the pond. The distance between the barrier and the pond was such that she could never have fallen into the pond after hitting the barrier unless she was moving at a huge speed. Also there were no paths sloping down to the flowers and pond. The paths were all definitely up the hill.

It’s likely that there were some real events which led to me having this “false memory”. It may be that my sister’s push chair did roll away some time, or maybe my parents suggested that the push chair might roll away if I didn’t hold it tight. My mind could have turned the memory of the suggested event into a memory of the event as if it really had happened.


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My mind obviously built a worst case scenario around the event and associated it with somewhere that I knew. It altered a few details, the long hill down to the barrier and the pond, the narrow distance between the barrier and the water. It’s much more exciting that way, and “exciting” seems to be more memorable.

Back to the phone amnesia. When I do remember what the phone call was about (may be hours later), I can recall most if not all of the conversation, not word for word, but in general gist. It seems that the information was stored in memory, but the links to it were missing.


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This is similar to old feeling that something is “on the tip of your tongue”. You know (or believe) that the information is there, but you can’t access it. I expect that much of the time the memory is not there, and we only remember the times when it is recalled at a later time. That “tip of your tongue feeling can be very strong though.

It appears that our minds have memories of events (or pseudo-memories of events) and also memories of memories of events. The links between the two can fade out or maybe not be created properly in the first place, so that we can remember that we have a memory of something but we can’t access that memory, and the memories of memories of events are more easily accessible. It’s like a sort of unreliable index to the rest of the book that comprises our memories.


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The rest of the memory book, the actual memories, can be fact or fiction or both (like any biography or history book), which makes life interesting in so many ways. Every couple have had conversations about events that have happened to both, and in some cases the two people might be talking about different events, so different are their memories of it.

The Phone
The Phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)