Archive for July, 2004

Move over Dave Gorman

Posted on 26/07/04 | in ideas, play

I regret to say that I can’t quite recall what started this. (That’s a lie: it was listening to Marty Feldman’s ‘whack’ song again, and then giving it an exciting canardine twist.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the Google Quack Count. Thus, in terms of numbers of results:

quack = 424,000
quack quack = 220,000
quack quack quack = 225,000 (er, eh?)
quack quack quack quack = 217,000
quack quack quack quack quack = 217,000
quack quack quack quack quack quack = 217,000
quack quack quack quack quack quack quack = 221,000 (huh?)
quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack = 221,000
quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack = 220,000
quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack = 217,000

Alas, Google is limited to 10 elements in the search, so that’s all you can have. So we can’t, er, work out how many quacks it takes to googlewhack. Ahem.

(I think the weird periodicity here may be something to do with the ‘Google dance’ – different Google servers give slightly different results when you access them; and I suppose it suggests anything more than two repetitions is treated as exactly two.)

It’s very gratifying to see the top line in the results of the last one in the list above:

“News results for quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack¬†–¬†View today’s top stories”

Click on the link, and it then says:

“Did you mean: quack duck quack duck quack duck quack duck quack quack”

Glorious.

OK, we need to get serious about this. If we want to see the Law of Quack Quotients in play, we’ll have to use quote marks. Thus:

“quack” = 424,000
“quack quack” = 33,000
“quack quack quack” = 7.970
“quack quack quack quack” = 2,170
“quack quack quack quack quack” = 679
“quack quack quack quack quack quack = 1030 (bit of a popular classic, this one, clearly)
“quack quack quack quack quack quack quack” = 607
“quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack” = 357 (5th hit is ‘I like ducks’*)
“quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack” = 298
“quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack” = 246

There does rather seem to be an almost inexhaustible supply of quacks. The top hit in the last in the list, in fact, boasts 504 quacks – it’s at http://www.catharsis.org/index.php?mode=show&section=quack

I’m sure you’ll find it helpful to see the Quack Quotient illustrated graphically:

The second hit from the 10-quack search – known hereafter as q(10) – is here, showing that the webquack is clearly in common currency.

I say ‘hereafter’ – but of course, I must lie down now.

(PS. If you extend ‘quack’ to ‘quaack’ and so on, you do eventually get to just 1 hit: from ‘quaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack’, in faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaact. Rather alarmingly, the title of this hit is ‘And you wonder why me and Helen are mad’.)

Giant thoughts

Posted on 26/07/04 | in ideas, places

The July issue of British Archaeology magazine has an article claiming that the Long Man of Wilmington and the Cerne Abbas giant both date only from the 17th century.

I admit I only skimmed the article, which was about things like remnants of brick, but I find this astonishing. I understand that the origins of these figures are hard to pin down, and that clearly much restoration or alteration may have taken place over the years – but what seems the strongest reason against the 17th century theory for me is their aesthetic.

The article rather lamely suggests that the Cerne figure’s priapic state is some sort of satire against Puritans or whatever – but I can’t really believe that someone in that age could have got away with such a stark image. And why, more importantly, would they have given an aesthetic with such an ancient feel to it? The Wilmington figure is weirder, less appreciable within a context of artistic development, perhaps, but the Cerne one in particular just doesn’t look like something anyone would have created in the 17th century.

Perhaps I’m just disappointed and defensive because I want to believe these sites really are ancient. But I still do.

On the flats, etc

Posted on 08/07/04 | in ideas, places

1. Enjoyable cycle ride from Ely to Cambridge last month with T. – though I have to confess I don’t find the landscape round there very inspiring. The great acres of sky are fascinating – and helpful for avoiding the looming rain clouds – but the ground level is dull as fenwater. The atmosphere is so strange – and not just because of the ubiquitous smell of cabbage plantations: one expects an angry Tony Martin figure to brandish a shotgun at any moment. The countryside and villages improve towards Cambridge, with Reach very attractive, and then through Swaffham Prior with its preposterous two churches immediately next to each other. Also, a beautiful leper chapel on the edge of Cambridge – next ti the site of what is claimed to have been the largest fair in mediaeval Europe.

2. Also a very pleasant walk in Wiltshire last weekend with 7 friends, as a sort of anniversary to last year’s cycle ride. Ghastly train bureaucracy prevented us cycling this year (and, as it turned out, the weather), but on foot we enjoyed a great oub, an indifferent pub, and my favourite castle, the inevitable Old Wardour. No sign of what I hid there six years ago, but rather time to move on anyway. The best bit was throwing a frisbee around in the grounds.

3. My house is now officially on the market, so I must wean myself off the beautiful Wiltshire countryside and look for new adventures in Oxfordshire – assuming I can find a buyer.

4. Reading matters: have been consumed by James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds – though my attempts to develop a horse-racing system inspired by it and using Google as an index of mass opinion have not led to fame and fortune alas… The book’s not perfect, but the central premise is very beguiling.