Category Archives: Anomalies at large

Strange things noticed.

New Rome bus routes


This is the third time this has happened to me. I open the Rome bus app (Roma Bus), click on the tab to check the route of a bus (it was the 32 this time) and a screen appears with a map of a large part of North-West Africa. Are there secret bus routes running down, for example, the border of Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria to a terminus near Lagos?

If there is bus of this kind what is its number: 13 ?

And what would it look like? Perhaps like this:

overloaded truck 3


A surprise intruder at my door


img_0976When I was in my twenties, I used to live in Bologna in a 6th floor flat together with 5 other people. The flat was on the outskirts of town  and I remember you could see a football pitch, a roller hockey rink, the motorway, the railway and just beyond it the airport and all the planes landing. The biggest room in the flat had a huge window which looked over all this civic activity and at night if you turned the light off, and in particular if you put the right music on (I especially remember one instance when Bach’s St. Matthew’s passion was playing), and watched the cars, the trains and the planes, it felt like you were on a spaceship.

One Friday I was alone in the house. Perhaps it was on the eve of a holiday, everyone else had gone back to their homes. I was up till late reading. The book I was reading was Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, which was made famous by the film adaptation which the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky made from it. Read more…

Signs for Pause

I read a lot and when I don’t have a book, I find it hard to avoid reading any of the signs and labels in my vicinity. Sometimes I come across one which makes me pause.

Here are a few examples

Dementia Bar


Read more…

Rome’s New Traffic Plan ?


I keep on walking past this hoarding half-way down via Giulia, in the one ugly spot on one of Rome’s most beautiful streets. I always wonder, “Is this Rome’s new traffic plan?” Because that’s what it says at the bottom: Rome – Traffic and Mobility Action Plan.


And I wonder “When is this going to start? It looks exciting. Am I ready for it? What is going to happen?” Read more…

The Businessman’s Kit

BKoutside This is something which I picked up in India once while interpreting for a rather unpleasant group of people. Luckily we had a very cheerful driver whose mood remained bright and sunny despite the black clouds which continued to settle inside his car.

I can’t remember his name, but I have come to think of him as Mr. Chatterjee, a name which conjures up his bubbling personality to me.

Once he turned up ten minutes late and the head of the delegation told me, “Ask him why the %$*! he’s late”. At which I said, “Mr. Chatterjee, is there any special reason why you are late?”

And Mr Chatterjee, wiggling his fingers and twinkling his head, with seeming glee, loudly exlaimed, “Oh! Communication Breakdown! Information Gap!”, a formula which I have taken to using myself as an excuse for almost anything. Read more…

Undiscovered Amazon Tribes

The other day an article appeared in the New York Times about ethnic jokes in Dagestan. I am not sure how accurate a portrayal this was of life in Dagestan but some of the jokes were very funny.

An Avar is driving through Makhachkala with a Lakh in the passenger seat. Spotting a red light, he pumps the accelerator and speeds through it. “You just ran a red light!” the Lakh says. “Avars don’t stop for red lights,” the Avar explains, and speeds through another. In a few minutes, they come to a green light, and the Avar stops. “Why did you
stop?” the Lakh asks. “You can’t be too careful,” his friend says, “an Avar might be coming the other way.”

Read more…

Sideways Anti-Aging Formula (Free !)

5fingerscopy This post is for people who have already grown as old as they want to be. As a result they don’t react as positively to questions about their age as the five-year old in the poem and sometimes can become extremely glum.
Some people seem to go actively looking for this kind of reaction. They can then express their own glumness  and start up a real glumfest. You can see walking glumfests every day on the streets, usually made up of two people so deeply enveloped in their dissatisfaction that they pay no attention to the world around them. If they did they might notice an interesting fact: the world is not really base-10.
We have fallen into the habit of counting things in tens. Perhaps because we have ten fingers – (although two of them are really weird). But there are lots of other possibilities. There are very few things in nature which actually divide into ten. Also we generally don’t use base-10 for anything to do with time. There were 10-day weeks in China and Ancient Egypt and the decimalist maniacs in the French Revolution also tried to introduce a 10 hour, 100 minute day, but most of us are used to  60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours, 7 days and so on.  So why is it that whenever we reach a multiple of ten in our age we feel it is a defining moment ? It is almost as if you become a different person when you reach 30, 40, 50 etc.
I think I have had an insight and I am going to share it with you: I believe our real ages are expressed using base-12 arithmetic. If you can’t remember what base-12 arithmetic is read this.

Read more…

Not for the chapattiless, Indian astrology

Looking back

Recently, I came across an Indian astrology website. It was not something to get involved with unless one was willing to make an effort.

Here, for example, are some of the things you needed to do to make sure the future turned out right.

To ward off evil impact of malefic planets for smoothing your life perform astral remedies given below.
Offer one sweetened chapatti or bread to the birds daily for propitiating malefic Rahu. OR Offer some part of your income to some old age home.
Offer one plain chapatti or bread to a stray dog daily for appeasing malefic Ketu.  OR Offer service or donation to orphanages.
Offer fresh water to birds daily for all malefic Venus.
Do five minute meditation daily in the morning for malefic Mars.
Offer water daily in the morning to the Sun for malefic Sun OR Service to the old aged persons or father in law.
Offer salted chapatti laced with mustered oil for malefic Saturn. OR Take care for poor and needy employees. Alternatively, you can offer some part of your breakfast (vegetarian) to birds and stray dogs daily as in case you are short of time for performing of these
Avoid the following colors: dark black, dark brown, dark steel grey, pink, sky blue and variegated in clothes, home, office for malefic Rahu, Ketu, Sun, Venus & Saturn.
Offer some yellow colored sweets to birds daily for malefic Jupiter
Offer some green food to the cow twice in a week for malefic Mercury

I was rather distressed by this. No problem dealing with the birds, I am surrounded by pigeons, seagulls, crows and sparrows, and I can certainly muster some oil,  but where would I find a cow to give green food to? Actually it says the cow, so I probably need to buy one (or rent one two days a week) and where shall I keep it? – where my neighbours keep their bicycles?) Where would I find a stray dog to share my breakfast with on a daily basis.But, considering that another website “Free Astrological Predictions of the Future & More! ” listed the following days as bad for the coming month –

3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 25, 27

  • I decided that there was no point standing around aimlessly.

-and so I loaded  a vehicle with mustered oil, green food, yellow sweets, sweetened, plain and salted chapattis and went straight out to distribute it to any birds, stray dogs and cows I could find.



Zagreb, the Balkan Bangkok


Ivan Gundulič and his tie


My Concise Dictionary of 26 Languages (not that I want in any way to vouch for its reliability) tells me that “tie” in Japanese is the charming ネクタイ (nekutai). In Russian it is галстук (Galstuk) which comes from German Halstuch (neckcloth), but German itself has Kravatte and then French has cravate, Spanish corbata, Italian cravatta, Portuguese gravata, Rumanian cravată Polish krawat, Czech kravata, Serbian кравата (kravata), Finnish kravatti, Turkish kravat, Greek γραβάτα (gravata) and Yiddish kravat.
The origin of this is generally ascribed to the fact that the Croatian mercenaries in the French army in the Thirty Years War wore linen scarves which became popular in France and that when Louis XIV took to wearing them their use spread throughout Europe. This is a suggested derivation:  Fr. cravate, from Cravate “Croatian,” from Ger. Krabate, from Serbo-Croat Hrvat “a Croat,” from O.Slav. Churvatinu “Croat,” lit. “mountaineer, highlander,” from churvam“mountain.” Cravate then is basically the same word as Croat.
Croatians seem to be inordinately proud of this. The website Croatia Online is subtitled “from the homeland of the first tie” and provides a much longer explanation of the passage of the word into other languages, taken from François Chaille’s La Grande Histoire de la Cravate (Flamarion, Paris, 1994), a book which had previously escaped my attention. It also provides explanations on how to tie a tie. However they fall well short of Thomas Fink and Yong Mao, two mathematicians who published a study in Nature, proposing a mathematical model to calculate and classify all possible tie knots.

Of the 85 found,” they say “we duly predicted the four knots in widespread use …and further introduced nine new aesthetic ones.” 
Pula tie
Croatia also hosts the Academia Cravatica which presents itself as follows:

Academia Cravatica is a non-profit institution
founded on 26th March 1997 and it studies, preserves and improves the
cravat as a part of Croatian and world heritage.

Academia Cravatica builds from an authentic
historical fact that the cravat emerged as an expression of the genius
of the Croatian people and that this fashion ornament is a medium able
to transmit many discreet messages to the world.

Academia Cravatica undertakes a number of fascinating projects, such as putting a tie around the Roman amphiteatre in Pula, putting a tie all around the borders of Croatia (Cravat around Croatia) and another one called Tie in the Rye which I haven’t fully understood.

In its news section, one entry reveals that his 1622 portrait proves that Ivan Gundulič wore a cravat before Louis XIV, which should at last put paid to those unpleasant all-night arguments I am sure we have all had.

Strangely enough the word for tie is kravata in Croatian as well.  So what were the Croatian mercenaries in the Thirty Years War calling it ? Maybe they were too busy to have a name, but I really hope it wasn’t galstuk or nekutai. Take care of this quickly Academia Cravatica.

There is another area I think they still have to research. When I was looking for information on the academy, I couldn’t remember what the name of the organisation was exactly and so I typed “Croatian academy of ties” into a search engine and the first result was  Chinese, Croatian Presidents hail bilateral ties. I believe I have never seen anybody or any two people wearing a bilateral tie. Perhaps they could tell us more about them and possibly enlist Fink and Mao’s help to provide instructions on all the ways to tie them.

The only point of all this is to point out that saying “Croatia” is just another way of saying  Tie-land.

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