Sunday, November 10, 2013


Confounded by UK placenames? It's simple.

There are the 'Fords'
  • Oxford
  • Bradford
  • Stratford
  • etc.
The 'Shires'
  • The infamous Worcestershire
  • Hertfrordshire
  • etc
The 'Wicks'
  • Chiswick
  • Keswick
  • ...
The 'Mouths'
  • Bournemouth
  • Plymouth
The 'Hams'
  • Birmingham
  • Tottenham
The 'Sters'
  • Gloucester
  • Leicester
And the '-on-', '-under-', '-whatever-' places
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Bidford-on-Avon
  • Newcastle-under-Lyme
Forget what these names mean, the biggest question is often How do you pronounce these places? It's apparently all down to the schwa, or 'neutral vowel'. Now you know.
What is a ‘schwa’ or neutral vowel?
What is a ‘schwa’ or neutral vowel?
What is a ‘schwa’ or neutral vowel?

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Useless Definition of the quarter: heteroscedasticity, a form of heteroscedastic:

heteroscedastic [ˌhɛtərəʊskɪˈdæstɪk]
adj Statistics
1. (Mathematics & Measurements / Statistics) (of several distributions) having different variances
2. (Mathematics & Measurements / Statistics) (of a bivariate or multivariate distribution) not having any variable whose variance is the same for all values of the other or others
3. (Mathematics & Measurements / Statistics) (of a random variable) having different variances for different values of the others in a multivariate distribution Compare homoscedastic
[from hetero- + scedastic, from Greek skedasis a scattering, dispersal]
heteroscedasticity  [ˌhɛtərəʊskɪdæsˈtɪsɪtɪ] n
Examples, from
Heteroscedasticity often occurs when there is a large difference among the sizes of the observations.
  • A classic example of heteroscedasticity is that of income versus expenditure on meals. As one's income increases, the variability of food consumption will increase. A poorer person will spend a rather constant amount by always eating inexpensive food; a wealthier person may occasionally buy inexpensive food and at other times eat expensive meals. Those with higher incomes display a greater variability of food consumption.

  • Imagine you are watching a rocket take off nearby and measuring the distance it has traveled once each second. In the first couple of seconds your measurements may be accurate to the nearest centimeter, say. However, 5 minutes later as the rocket recedes into space, the accuracy of your measurements may only be good to 100 m, because of the increased distance, atmospheric distortion and a variety of other factors. The data you collect would exhibit heteroscedasticity.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Port Red Left

The word starboard comes from Old English steorbord, literally meaning the side on which the ship is steered, descendant from the Old Norse words stýri meaning "rudder" (from the verb stýra, literally "being at the helm", "having a hand in") and bor. The starboard side of a ship is indicated by a green light.

An early version of "port" is larboard, which itself derives from Middle-English ladebord via corruption in the 16th century by association with starboard. The term larboard, when shouted in the wind, was presumably too easy to confuse with starboard and so the word port came to replace it. Port is derived from the practice of sailors mooring ships on the left side at ports in order to prevent the steering oar from being crushed. The port side of a ship is indicated by a red light.

In case you ever forget that port is left and starboard is right (when facing the bow of course), there is no shortage of mnemonics to help you remember:

  • A ship that is out on the ocean has "left port".
    • The sailor left port with a red nose.
  • Port and left both contain four letters.
  • "Port wine is red; so is the port light."
  • "Port is not right for children" (Port wine is red and not being "right for children" is therefore "left".)
  • The phrase "Any red port left in the can?" can be a useful reminder. It breaks down as follows:
    • The drink port is a fortified red wine—which links the word "port" with the color red, used for navigational lights (see below).
    • "Left" comes from the phrase and so port must be on the left.
    • The reference to "can" relates to the fact that port-hand buoys are "can"-shaped.
  • A variation on the above is "Two drops of red port left in the bottle."
  • Another variation: "Port is the red wine that is left in the glass."
  • The common abbreviation P.S. (for English postscript, derived from Latin post scriptum) can be viewed as port ("left") and starboard ("right").
  • "Star light, star bright, starboard is to the right."
  • "There is no red port wine left".
  • Terms referring to the right side are longer words ("starboard", "right", and "green"), while terms referring to the other side are shorter words ("port", "left", and "red").
  • Starboard contains two letter "R"s, compared to only one in port; therefore, starboard refers to the right side.
  • Red is the representative color for some major ideologies of the political Left, e.g. socialism or communism; whereas green is the color of US cash and is often synonymous with wealth.
  • In countries that drive on the left side of the road: If someone is drinking Port, they should be on the passenger side; the "star" of the boat, or person who is in control of the boat, is on the driver's side.
  • Port and starboard are in alphabetical order, which can be associated in European languages with reading from left to right. So they are in the same order as reading text. Left and right are in the same order.
  • Green and two E's, Starboard has two R's, so starboard, green right
adapted from wikipedia