Archive for August, 2007

early early

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Got to the office at quarter to six this morning – I had a call with some of our folks in the Bangalore office. So this meant getting up at quarter to five, and walking in through a lot of humidity. We had big storms last night, which kept me awake till after midnight – very loud and exciting. Also I didn’t get much sleep because my body was doing that thing when you know you have an early start, so you keep waking up.

geek tip – reduce excel file sizes

Monday, August 13th, 2007

I’ve been working with an expenses spreadsheet for a little while, and was rather alarmed at how big the file was getting. There are 7 columns and 56 rows on one workbook, and a 14×10 pivot table on a second workbook. With this small amount of data, the file was reaching 2Mb, which totally didn’t make sense.

The savvy readers will have realized that using a pivot table is the cause – I found a top tip which suggested I do the following:

Right click on the pivot table, and choose the PivotTable Wizard.
Click Options…
Clear the Save data with table layout
Click OK, then Finish
Save the file

Now my file is a much more reasonable 25K.

the star wars

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Yesterday was a kind of rainy Saturday (the first rain we’ve had in weeks) so it seemed the perfect kind of day to have Toby watch Star Wars for the first time.

I remember quite clearly when my dad took me to see it when it first came out – I would have been five. Toby usually gets to see animated movies, so I wasn’t sure how he’d take to it, but I think it went over really well. He spent a lot of time asking questions about what was going on and who the people were; a lot of time just glued to the action; and some of the time shouting “Ha-haaaa!” when there was lightsaber action going on. Judging by the amount of time he’s been talking about it since, it was a hit with him.

Just a few things to clear up though – although when he concentrates he’ll say Darth Vader instead of Dark Vader, he still says lightsaver. And my favorite – he is convinced that one of the main heroes is Toby-Wan Kenobi.

hand of …

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Well, it was just a matter of time till someone was quoted on this:

“If you ever need proof of the hand of God, just look where that bus is. Two seconds later, there’s a massive fire right where the cab of that truck is, and those kids would have been killed in a fire. Two seconds earlier, and it’s in the river.”

– Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Rob Allen, standing on a hill by the flattened I-35W bridge, showing First Lady Laura Bush how a school bus packed with 50 campers returning from a day at a water park came to symbolize an incredibly low casualty count.

“Unbelievable,” Mrs. Bush said.

(from the Chicago Tribune story)

Well, quite Mrs. Bush – for once I agree with you. An unbelievable comment indeed.

Yes, it was a very low casualty count in the bridge collapse (partly because only one lane was open in each direction) and yes, it seems a miracle that the school bus was not lost in a fire or in the river – almost incredible.

But, no matter where you stand on the existence of God, or what God does (interventionist God or not) surely saying that the fact that some people were saved while others were not proves the existence of God seems firstly dubious proof (because you can’t actually prove that God saved the bus unless someone actually documented in some way that it really, truly was God doing it) and secondly offensive to the people who were lost: why would God have chosen that the school bus should be saved, but the young Somali woman and her two-year-old should not, or the father of the young baby should not? By the way, the driver of the truck who was in the cab which had a massive fire was killed too.

Perhaps the police chief meant it as a figure of speech, but I don’t think that’s any excuse. This, basically, is the old argument: 300 people were killed in an air crash, but one child survived, therefore God exists.

scottish royal follow-up

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

And another thing about the royal family tree. You may have noticed that Henry VII’s daughter, Margaret Tudor, married King James IV of Scotland. This means that using the power of the internet I find that I can trace that line back directly through his father, James III (1451/1452 – June 11, 1488), then through his father, James II (October 16, 1430 – August 3, 1460) – take a look at the picture at that link and you’ll understand how I got my dashing physique – then through his father, you guessed it, James I of Scotland (December 10, 1394 – February 21, 1437). He seems to have had an amazingly eventful life, to say the least.

James the First’s father was Robert III of Scotland (c. 1340 – April 4, 1406), who was eldest son of King Robert II (March 2, 1316 – April 19, 1390). Robert II wasn’t the son of a king – he was the sole son of Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland (1293 – 9 April 1326), who fought on the Scottish side at the Battle of Bannockburn, and Marjorie Bruce (December, 1296 – March 2, 1316), daughter of King Robert I of Scotland (11 July 1274 – 7 June 1329), also known as Robert the Bruce.

If you like you can keep following the wikipedia links further and further back in time, for example David of Scotland (c. 1144 – 17 June 1219) Earl of Huntingdon; Duncan I of Scotland (d. 14 August 1040), upon whom King Duncan in Shakespeare’s Macbeth is based; Donald II, King of the Picts in the late 9th century, nicknamed as a violent madman, and killed in battle at Dunnottar, just down the road from where my mother lives now.

The furthest back I managed to trace from the links was Kenneth I of Scotland – Cináed mac Ailpín if you prefer to be Scottish (after 800 – 13 February 858). From the wikipedia article:

he was king of the Picts and, according to national myth, first king of Scots. Cináed’s undisputed legacy was to produce a dynasty of rulers who claimed descent from him. Even though he cannot be regarded as the father of Scotland, he was the founder of the dynasty which ruled that country for much of the medieval period.

Before that it gets a bit confused, as you would expect with a lot of middle ages legend mixed with history. I would guess that having Viking marauders around would confuse things somewhat also. This article explains further, suggesting that the trail may go back to legendary Irish kings such as Conaire Mor, waaaay back in the second century BC.

I don’t know about you, but my head’s reeling somewhat from all that. It’s pretty crazy to think that there was all that historical skullduggery going on, which eventually lead to so many ancestors descendants, one of whom is now sitting in a room in Minneapolis.

more royal news

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

I updated the royal family tree post with as many links as I could find from wikipedia to the people in the list. Hope it’s interesting to you.

Also, here’s the line of succession to the British throne, featuring the top 1,285 people in line. For some reason I’m not on it, suggesting that either there is some kind of mistake on wikipedia (in which case I guess I can edit it) or my task of eradication to reach the throne is going to be harder work than I thought.

Some great names though, notably:

Count Prosper of Castell-Castell
Countess Désirée of Castell-Castell (sounds foxy)
Fabian von Ritter Baron zu Groenesteyn (sounds dashing)
Countess Anna-Elisabeth Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau (sounds, um, kinsky?)
Alexandra Nikolaievna Eltchaninovna (over-syllabled, surely)
James Townsend (yawn)
Prince Alexis of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld (do not attempt to pronounce if you do not have a full complement of teeth)
Oda Hug (sounds dumpy but sweet)
Fie Bitsch (no need for that kind of language, thank you)
#1028: Karoline Matilde Vlangali-Handjeri (b. 1900), great-great-granddaughter of Louise Auguste of Denmark through her son Friedrich Emil August of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, and the oldest person on this list. (probably not going to ascend to the throne, realistically)
Dana Smith (I’m sure we can get more inventive)
Count Valdemar Georg of Rosenborg (that’s better)
Prince Emmanuel Emmanuelovich Galitzine

Well, you get the idea. Maybe a few prospective names in there for baby Mogendorff? I wonder if we could get away with any of those fantastically European names.

good question

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Question from Toby yesterday: “Dad, do you and my mom own me?”

Not sure how to respond really – I explained that we are responsible for him but nobody really owns anyone else. In some ways the way he rules our lives (in the nicest possible way) he owns us, and thinking back I do remember just after Toby was born making the joke that although Emma and I are not US citizens yet, we do own an American.

So – parents and children, what do you think? Does a parent own their child?


Friday, August 3rd, 2007

One of the books Toby enjoys reading at the moment is Our Family Tree which is a children’s version of the story of evolution. It’s a pretty nice book – great pictures and a somewhat necessarily over-simplified version of the evolution of life on earth, and the origins of humans. Over-simplified because it doesn’t discuss what DNA/genetic code actually is and how organisms change from generation to generation, or really how single-celled organisms lead to multi-cellular, but there are good notes in the back of the book for parents, plus I have enough biology education to be able to explain some of these concepts to Toby – he loves this kind of stuff. In the Amazon review, their mention of “It is controversial to some for religious reasons” just makes me grind my teeth; the follow-up “it is a challenging concept to present to a young audience without losing scientific veracity” is a fair point. Maybe that’s why a creation story is easier for young children: the old “well we don’t understand, therefore god did it.”

Anyway, getting back on topic – one of the discussions which has come out of reading this, and trips to the zoo, is the difference between mammals, lizards, fish etc. Especially with Emma’s pregnancy we’ve been talking about how mammals give birth and feed milk to their babies. I think Toby gets the concept quite well, and yesterday according to his teacher at daycare he was telling his friends that we are all mammals, and then had a discussion with one friend who misheard and said “yes, we are all animals.” This is where it gets somewhat philosophical, because while Toby is prepared to admit that humans are mammals, he doesn’t believe that humans are animals. We wrangled over this for quite some time over dinner last night – in his view certainly apes are animals, and possibly cavemen because they have lots of hair, but not humans. In the end he kind of won the argument with “well, if I was an animal, and not a human, then I would just have to be a shark. A talking shark.”

bridge collapse pictures

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Strange atmosphere at work today – as far as I know, nobody in my general circle was involved in the tragedy, although a number were close – crossing the bridge a half hour or less before the accident.

There’s a photo gallery at the Washington Post here and it’s just bizarre to see pictures of my city in this way.

royal follow up

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Emma tracked through the family tree list to find out how I’m descended from royalty:

Henry VII & Elizabeth of York
4 Margaret Tudor & James IV of Scotland
3 James V of Scotland & Eupheme Elphinstone
4 Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney (illegitimate) & Lady Jean Kennedy
6 Mary Stewart & Lord Grey
2 Jean Grey & John, 1st Earl of Wemyss
1 David, 2nd Earl of Wemyss & Margaret Leslie
12 Margaret, 3rd Countess of Weymss (title passed to youngest daughter when no male heir) & James Wemyss, Lord Burntisland
2 Lady Anne Wemyss & David Leslie
2 Alexander Leslie-Melville, 5th Earl of Leven & Elizabeth Monypenny
4 Lady Elizabeth Leslie-Melville & John Hope, 2nd Earl of Hopetoun
4 Lady Charlotte Hope & Charles Hope
3 James Hope & Elizabeth Boyle
2 David Boyle Hope & Letitia Augusta Crofton
1 James Arthur Hope & Geraldine Lucy Robinson
1 Arthur Henry Cecil Hope & Granny (Muriel Hope)
My mom (Elspeth Mary Neilson Hope) & my dad (Dolf Andries Mogendorff)

The numbers are the position in family, so Margaret was child 4.

Looks like a bit of illegitimacy and some cousin-cousin action in the past…