Archive for December, 2015

Happy New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2015 by telescoper

Although midnight is hours away here in Cardiff I realise that it’s already 2016 in some parts of the world so I thought I’d get my New Year’s greeting in early!


I have to admit that 2015 hasn’t exactly been the best year of my life, either personally or professionally, but that’s all the more reason to think positively about the future.

To all the readers of this blog, wherever you may be, I wish you and your loved ones peace and good fortune for the year ahead.

2015 in review

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2015 by telescoper

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 410,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 18 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bridge Puzzlement

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 30, 2015 by telescoper


I don’t often have time to peruse the Bridge columns but this one by Maureen Hiron in today’s Independent caught my eye.

South ended up as declarer in 3 No Trumps, against which the standard lead by West would be the 8♥ (4th highest of longest suit). This turns out very badly for the defence, however, as it makes South’s Queen into a winner. Keeping the A♥ in place to prevent a heart attack (!), South can then easily win 12 tricks, losing only one (to the K♦).

In the game discussed in the column. West (Zia Manhood, actually) correctly surmised that South’s No Trump bid indicated that he had a defence against hearts and tried an unorthodox lead of a low club. South played the Ace from dummy to win then crossed back to his hand by playing a spade from dummy to the A♠.

So far so good, two tricks down. Seven to go…

However South now tried a diamond finesse (perhaps confused by West’s earlier bid of 2♦ which did not indicate a diamond holding but a weak hand with a long major suit, ie hearts). Anyway the finesse fails because East has the King. South then has to look on as the defence win four club tricks;.the contract fails by one.

There’s no doubt that the club lead is better than hearts here but what puzzled  me at first is why South went for the diamond finesse straight away, as it seemed very risky to me.

Looking at South’s hand and dummy only it is clear that there are 5 spade tricks to be taken unless the remainder split 5-0; South’s cross to hand at trick 2 shows this is not the case. Taking the opening trick plus five spade tricks leaves South only needing three more tricks to make the contract. There are however only two obvious winners remaining: A♦ in dummy and A♥ in hand.  South needs either the diamond finesse mentioned above or to somehow turn Q♥ into a winner. The finesse doesn’t work in that case either and West is highly unlikely to lead a heart into South’s tenace given that he didn’t lead one at the start!

It seems to me that East and West have four club tricks and one Diamond trick in the bag so South must go one off after that lead, unless of course East had been foolish enough to discard a club on one or more of South’s spade winners….

..  and only an idiot like me would do that!

PS. Standard advice would be for South to duck the first club trick, but it doesn’t help in this case.

Moeen, Man of the Match

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on December 30, 2015 by telescoper

He may not have won this year’s Beard of the Year award but Moeen Ali did his best to compensate this morning by taking three quick wickets as England bowled out South Africa to win the First Test in Durban by the impressive margin of 241 runs.


With overall figures of 7 for 116 including the key wicket of AB De Villiers early on this morning, he thoroughly deserved his Man Of The Match award. Beard power strikes again!

South Africa had been set a total of  416 with a day and a half to play (140 overs). Some were arguing that Cook should have declared but I think he was right in batting on. I said so on Twitter and my comment made it onto the bbc Web feed


I felt an earlier declaration would have been reckless and unnecessary: There was plenty of time to bowl out South Africa on a turning wicket so why give them even a sniff of victory?

As it turned out there was no declaration anyway: England were all out for 326 in their second innings. South Africa batted well to start with, scoring steadily at five an over, but lost key wickets to close on 136-4 last night. Had they been able to bat all the last  day they would not only have saved the game but have had a chance if winning it, but once De Villiers was out, in Moeen’s first over, South Africa were doomed.

Well played Moeen and the rest of the England team!

Storm Warnings

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 28, 2015 by telescoper

The glass has been falling all the afternoon, 
And knowing better than the instrument 
What winds are walking overhead, what zone 
Of grey unrest is moving across the land, 
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair 
And walk from window to closed window, watching 
Boughs strain against the sky

And think again, as often when the air 
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting, 
How with a single purpose time has traveled 
By secret currents of the undiscerned 
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad 
And weather in the heart alike come on 
Regardless of prediction.

Between foreseeing and averting change 
Lies all the mastery of elements 
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter. 
Time in the hand is not control of time, 
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument 
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black 
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass 
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine 
Of weather through the unsealed aperture. 
This is our sole defense against the season; 
These are the things we have learned to do 
Who live in troubled regions.

by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Boxing Day on the Beach

Posted in Uncategorized on December 26, 2015 by telescoper

This afternoon’s traditional Boxing Day run out in the car took us to Tynemouth and Cullercoats where some hardy folk were attempting to surf in the North Sea despite the inclement weather. Here are some pictures..







Traditional Christmas Message

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2015 by telescoper

I am here enjoying the Festive Season in my ancestral home of Newcastle upon Tyne which is not in the Midlands. As you can see we have spared no expense.


Anyway before we embark on an appropriately extravagant dinner I thought I would take the opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, wherever you are in the world!