DAY 50 – Ramadan

July 10th, 2013 § 0 comments

We’ve got through Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, all those Christian festivities – and it’s finally Ramadan. And a great Ramadan to you all, my fasting readers. Avoid dates from settlements, and you can’t go wrong.

And yes, there is no truth in the reports that Andy Murray is about to be fast-tracked into canonization. Apart from anything else, he is still alive, although the Italians have a way of dealing with these problems. The Pope might make him an offer he can’t refuse.

More seriously: I have, as the poet said, promises to keep (i.e. things I said I’d explain in previous postings) and miles of road not taken to go. Number one was my grandmother’s recipe for eggs and bacon: which is perhaps a bit too trivial even for this column.

baconeggsShe advised me to fry the bacon first; and then, if you fry the eggs in the bacon fat, you won’t need to salt them. Something like this may have occurred to you, but I pass it on anyway. Her (my grandmother’s) meringues, though, were truly memorable, and if I get time, I’ll jot down that recipe. I expect it’s the same as anyone else’s, but it’s useful if you’ve been making mayonnaise and have all those whites left over as we pensioners so often find is the situation. Separating eggs, as you will recall, is a perfect instance of the early construction of part objects resulting in what Lacan calls the ‘hommelette’. But enough of that.

And secondly, much longer ago, readers, I said that I’d explain – to those of you who don’t already know – how GPS works. How rash and ill-advised. But as Nietzsche said, it’s taken millennia of torture to make us realize that you have to keep promises. Here goes.

First: your phone can do a feeble kind of where-am-I based on where the nearby radio masts are – up your street, at Crystal Palace, wherever – it’s not that reliable (I think that’s why my phone thought I was in Vienna for a week after I came back), but it doesn’t use up your battery too fast. To really get an answer you and your phone need GPS. Up there in the sky, orbiting the earth, there are 31 satellites (because it’s a prime number?).

gpsThey were, as we all know, dreamed up by the U.S. military in the 1970s precisely for the purpose; and then the manufacturers saw that while there were advantages in confining their use to the military, if you let civilians have access you could (a) avoid spectacular aviation disasters and (b) make lots of money by selling the technology. It’s obvious. The altitude is ‘approximately’ 20,200 km (or 2.02×109 cm); so if it’s directly overhead, a radio signal from a satellite will take about ⅔×10-1  secs to get to your phone. (Hope I’ve got that right – it seems a bit large.)

All the time, thanks to the Army, the satellite is broadcasting a signal telling you which one it is, where it is, and what time it thinks it is. You pick up the signal; and because the satellite’s clock and yours are a bit different – that 10-1  sec or so – you can tell how far away it is, just as you can tell how far away thunder is by counting. (That was a populist image to make it seem easy.)

Now you know how far one satellite is; and there are lots of them – 31, remember.

GPS2If you know your distance from three of them, you know where you are. In principle. (Think: if you know your distance from two trees on Hampstead Heath, say, you must be in one of two places – unless you’re in the air.)

At this point we get into the really fun fine detail – many of the satellites are getting old, their clocks may be slightly off, one or more of the signals may not be reliable; better use four satellites at least to have a check and then jiggle around until you (the GPS system) thinks you’ve done the best you can. As you probably know, this can take time. Meanwhile, the driver of the car is saying ‘What do you mean, you don’t know where we are?’ Try explaining all these facts, patiently. Remind her or him that each satellite’s basic message takes 12½ minutes to broadcast, more than three MP3 tracks. What’s the hurry? Keep calm and listen to the tracks.

Bring Shaker Aamer Home

Amnesty has sent me a reminder – which you may not need:

Shaker Aamer is 44 years old. He has been held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for over 11 years. He has not seen his wife or children during this time and claims to have been tortured.

Shaker has long been approved for transfer and the UK government has repeatedly called on the US to send Shaker back to the UK. Amnesty suggest writing to Cameron – well, you can always try. Here’s Shaker’s poem:



Peace, they say.

Peace of mind?

Peace on earth?

Peace of what kind?


I see them talking, arguing, fighting -

What kind of peace are they looking for?

Why do they kill? What are they planning?


Is it just talk? Why do they argue?

Is it so simple to kill? Is this their plan?


Yes, of course!

They talk, they argue, they kill -

They fight for peace.


Music: here’s a catchy number related to the Gezi Park Istanbul fight, under the name of ‘Resistanbul

And, for light relief, Frank Zappa’s ‘Let’s Make the Water Turn Black‘ – I haven’t posted it before, have I? (Need a filing system)

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