The Truth about Physics

The Truth about Physics

Physics likes to think it produces “universal laws”. It doesn’t.

It produces models which describe reality with various degrees of accuracy. Nothing more.

For example: General Relativity is a model which describes gravity with more accuracy than Newton’s model.

And one day something will come along that beats General Relativity. That’s physics.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

DIY Solar Power - Fast and Easy

DIY Solar Power - Fast and Easy

Several companies now offer easy DIY kits for solar power.

You get the latest super thin flexible solar panel and a controller that lets you hook it up to charge a battery. They even sell high capacity storage batteries. Perfect for people on the go such as RVs. Or anyone who wants their own solar power system.

I'm thinking of using one of these thin flexible panels in my car while it's parked in the baking sun. Just stick it inside against the windcreeen. It will shade the car and generates power!!!

And you can even get a box to convert the battery DC power into regular AC power.

Here's an example: Renogy

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Solar Power Gets Easier

Solar Power Gets Easier

Several companies now offer easy DIY kits for solar power.

You get the latest flexible solar panel and a controller that lets you hook it up to charge a battery. They even sell high capacity storage batteries. Perfect for people on the go such as RVs. Or anyone who wants their own solar power system.

I'm thinking of using one of these thin flexible panels in my car while it's parked in the baking sun. Just stick it inside against the windcreeen. It will shade the car and generates power!!!

And you can even get a box to convert the battery DC power into regular AC power.

Here's an example: Renogy

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Prime Patterns

Prime Patterns

There are many ways of generating primes from primes.

Take 3=11 in binary. It has a sequence of 2 adjacent 1's so simply insert a 0 between them to get 101=5 and prime.

Or take 7=111 here we have two ways to insert a 0, one is 1011=11 and prime, the other way is 1101=13 and prime. And in this case we actually generate a prime pair!

Of course, this simple method does not always work.

Here's another interesting observation..

Again in binary. 11 is prime, 111 is prime, 11111 is prime, 1111111 is prime.

Or look at the prime pair (11,13)=(1011,1101). Each is the other read backwards.

Or take the prime pair (1049,1051)=(10000011001,10000011011). Now concatenate the binary streams to get 1000001100110000011011=2149403 which is a prime. What's the probability of that?

But alas, as with all "prime patterns", they work for a while and then fail. Primes are truly unpredictable. But it's still fun looking for patterns. Maybe one day!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Generating Primes from Primes

Generating Primes from Primes

There are many ways of generating primes from primes.

Take 3=11 in binary. It has a sequence of 2 adjacent 1's so simply insert a 0 between them to get 101=5 and prime.

Or take 7=111 here we have two ways to insert a 0, one is 1011=11 and prime, the other way is 1101=13 and prime. And in this case we actually generate a prime pair!!!

Of course, this simple method does not always work.

Here's another interesting observation..

Again in binary. 11 is prime, 111 is prime, 11111 is prime, 1111111 is prime. Notice any pattern here?

But alas, as with all "prime patterns", they work for a while and then fail. Primes are truly unpredictable. But it's still fun looking for patterns. Maybe one day!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

How to build a universe from 3 objects

How to build a universe from 3 objects

Let's suppose you have a set of just 3 objects. It doesn't matter what the objects are, so we can write the set S as..

S={a,b,c}

All very simple. Just 3 objects in a set.

But a set of 3 objects has 2^3=8 subsets. So the set of subsets of S, let's call it S1, has 8 objects. That means S2, the set of subsets of S1 has 2^8=256 objects.

That means S3, the set of subsets of S2, has 2^256 objects. And that's big. It's about the estimated number of protons in the universe!

So from S to S3 we went from 3 objects to a universe.

It's probably best we don't talk about S4.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

How to retire at 21

How to retire at 21

First get your hands on $5 million and then do this..

Stick it into a good investment account (mine is with Morgan Stanley) and live off the cash flow. My cash flow at the moment is 4.2% per year.

That means on $5 million you get $210,000 per year in pure cash. That's your daily living expense.

But in addition to cash flow you have underlying asset appreciation and mine is currently around 16% per year. That's your retirement. Or should I say your retirement from your retirement.

So get $5 million, invest correctly and you're set for life.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Ode to Costco

Ode to Costco

I'm trying poetry. Should I give up my day job? LOL.

Ode to Costco --
they have big TVs for tiny dollars
and lamb chops that come all the way from Zealand
and wild cod by the kilo
and all sorts of other things
which you know you don't need
but you still want anyway
and it's packaged in vast quantity
which makes it more attractive
and you need to be a member
with your executive membership card
and it makes you half crazy
but then that's why you want to shop there
and olive oil is on sale
so you get a forklift and buy a pallet
and it's all just such a bargain
and it's all just so surreal
then you drive home in a frenzy
and you take your medication

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Ketamine infusions for Anxiety and Depression - One patient's experience

Ketamine infusions for Anxiety and Depression - One patient's experience

Ketamine infusions are being used to treat anxiety and medication resistant depression. I spoke to a patient who just tried this. In their own words..

"I just got back from my 3rd infusion. $400 each. I will do another 1 or 2 and then go into "as needed" maintenance mode. It has been extremely helpful for me. Each time there's a cumulative impact that I feel a general sense of ease and significantly less anxiety. For me it's been wonderful. I don't know if it works the same for everyone. But I'm VERY happy I did it."

Disclaimer: I'm not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. I'm posting it because people may find it helpful. Consult a doctor before you do any medical treatment.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Risotto, fast, easy and delish

Risotto, fast, easy and delish

Pour half a cup of rice into a pan. Arborio rice is the best for this dish.

Add a pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper, finely chopped fresh garlic, a few small pieces of cinnamon stick, a few cloves and a few snippets of procuitto de parma.

Add half a cup of water and half a cup of chicken stock. Boil on low heat stirring often.

Add a few small chunks of butter and a slash of cream.

Simmer until the rice is just tender. Switch off the heat and let it sit. Add a bit more butter and cream, grate on some fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese and serve.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Getting mystery packages from Amazon? Here's why

Getting mystery packages from Amazon?

There's a good change it's not an Amazon shipping error. You may be a victim of a scam called "Amazon Brushing".

This is when an Amazon seller wants good reviews on Amazon. Because good reviews are a big deal. So they setup a fake account and buy their own product.

But it needs to be shipped to a real address, and preferably that of a certified Amazon customer. That's where you come in!

Then they (or you) write a great review of the product. After all, you got it for free.

They also increase their sales numbers making them more popular with Amazon.

The product is yours to keep or donate. The seller does not care about the product. It's the review and sales activity they want. But beware, your Amazon account may heve been hacked, so change your Amazon login password.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Why I love Curry

Why I love Curry

Just before WW2 my father was stationed in India (he saw a ton of brutal fighting after India, but that's another story) and so I picked up a love of curry.

I've been eating curry since I was a kid.

Now some supermarkets have come out with a line of 60 second curry dishes. As a curry expert these things are not so bad.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

What is Category Theory?

What is Category Theory?

Samuel Eilenberg and Saunders Mac Lane introduced categories, functors, and natural transformations from 1942–45 in their study of algebraic topology, with the goal of understanding the processes that preserve mathematical structure.

Category theory has practical applications in programming language theory. It may also be used as an axiomatic foundation for mathematics as an alternative to set theory and other proposed foundations.

Category theory models mathematical structure in terms of a labeled directed graph called a category. The nodes are called objects, and labelled directed edges are called arrows.

A category has two basic properties: the ability to compose the arrows associatively, and the existence of an identity arrow for each object.

Category theory has been used to formalize concepts of other high-level abstractions such as sets, rings, and groups. Informally, category theory is a general theory of functions.

Some terms used in category theory, including the term "morphism", are used differently from their uses in the rest of mathematics. In category theory, morphisms obey conditions specific to category theory itself.



Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Why I hate Mortgages

Why I hate Mortgages

Yup. I never did like mortgages..

Suppose you need to borrow a mere $100K from a mortgage lender. (This is after you've given the seller your down payment.)

You get a 15 year fixed mortgage at the "incredibly low rate" of 3%.

That's 3% per year, so it's 3*15=45% over the life of the mortgage. That's $45K.

So, for the pleasure of borrowing just $100K you pay a fee of $45K (in addition to paying the $100K back.)

Moral of the story: If there's any way you can avoid a mortgage do it. Sadly many can't and are stuck with crazy monthly payments forever.



Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Broccoli with intense Garlic

Broccoli with intense Garlic

Broccoli is supposed to be a strong anti-inflammatory. And garlic is always good. So let's do this..

Chop a ton of fresh garlic. Chop a small amount of onion. Peel the Broccoli stems and then chop all, tops and stems.

Place everything in a pan, grind on some fresh pepper and a bit of salt, add a splash of chicken stock and white wine, cover and bake in a 350F oven for 20 mins.

Done. Healthy and yummy!



Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Apple, M4 Chip, TSMC and Phoenix AZ

Apple, M4 Chip, TSMC and Phoenix AZ

Apple has turned to TSMC to manufacture its new generation on M chips. The first of the series, the M1, has just begun to appear in Apple machines. It is based on 5 nm fabrication technology and has 16 billion transistors.

And now TSMC plans to build a huge chip fabrication plant just outside Phoenix AZ.

Not only that, but they plan to ship chips based on 2 nm fabrication technology by 2024.

Fabrication at 2 nm is on the edge of the x-ray spectrum and I estimate a 2 nm chip would have...

16*(5^2)/(2^2)=100 billion transistors!

For Apple it would be the M4 chip.
Needless to say, I just bought TSMC stock.

A note about TSMC: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is a Taiwanese multinational semiconductor contract manufacturing and design company. TSMC is the first foundry to provide 5 nanometer production capabilities, and the first to commercialize extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography technology in high volume. It trades on the New York Stock Exchange under symbol TSM.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Apple's M2 Chip - How Many Transistors?

Apple's M2 Chip - How Many Transistors?

As Apple pushed the amazing M1 chip out into the world rumor says TSMC is already in production with the M2 chip based on 4 nm fabrication technology.

So, back of envelope calculation..

The M1 is based on 5 nm technology and has 16 billion transistors.
So the M2 based on 4 nm technology should have..

16*5^2/4^2 = 16*25/16 = 25 billion transistors.

Nice round number.
What a chip!

The future:
If you want to push significantly below 4 nm you may need to have a chat with the laws of physics first.

A note about TSMC: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is a Taiwanese multinational semiconductor contract manufacturing and design company. TSMC is the first foundry to provide 5 nanometer production capabilities, and the first to commercialize extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography technology in high volume. It trades on the New York Stock Exchange under symbol TSM.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Pasta from scratch



























Pasta from scratch

You're going to need the right flour. So get the "00" flour imported from Italy.

Sift 2 cups into a bowl. Don't just scoop out the flour, sift it. Add a few grinds of salt and a small splash of fine olive oil. Beat 3 organic free range eggs and add to the flour. Mix into a dough.

Lift out the glob of dough and kneed it for a few minutes on a floured surface. Then wrap and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove from refrigerator, roll flat with a rolling pin on a floured surface.

Cut into any shapes you want, then boil as usual. Boil in salted water, or even better, chicken soup.

And remember, homemade pasta like this cooks much faster than the stuff you get from the supermarket.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com


Watermelon Salad



























Watermelon Salad

Get a watermelon, peel and cut into cubes. Get some fresh mint, organic if you can. Get a small slab of feta cheese, imported from Greece if possible. Then some Balsamic Vinegar, imported from Moderna, Italy if possible.

Place watermelon cubes into a large bowl. Remove all the leaves from the mint and chop them finely, do not use the stems. Chop the slab of feta cheese into small pieces.

Add the mint and feta cheese to the watermelon in the bowl and mix. Drizzel with the Balsamic vinegar. Chill in refrigerator. Mix before serving.

Picking the perfect watermelon:
It should be dull, not shiny.
It should feel heavy for its size.
It should have buttery yellow spots on the skin.
It should have deep red flesh.

Remember, as with any recipe, as with any cooking, the quality of the ingredients is the most important factor.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com


Newton's Law of Gravitation - Derived From Scratch

Newton's Law of Gravitation - Derived From Scratch

A simple way to model the gravitational field of an object is to imagine a fixed number of "lines of force" that radiate from the object evenly into space.

Assumption #1
Let's suppose the number of lines of force produced by an object is directly proportional to its mass, so..

n=k*m

where n is the number of lines of force produced by the mass m and k is a constant.

Assumption #2
Now assume the density of the lines at any given point in space represents the strength of the gravitational field at that point. So at a distance r from the object the density of the lines of force is..

n/(surface area of a sphere of radius r) which is..

n/(4*pi*r^2)=k*m/(4*pi*r^2)=G*m/(r^2)

where G=k/4*pi is a constant.

This is Newton's famous law of gravitation. G is called the "universal gravitational constant". I think the more interesting thing here is the 1/(r^2) term.

I wonder if this simple method could be modified to give Einsteinian gravity, meaning the General Relativity model of gravity?

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Find out if you're obese

Find out if you're obese

BMI is "Body Mass Index" and it's a measure of your weight in relationship to your height. It's the generally accepted method of defining obesity in both children and adults. Obesity is the accumulation of excess body fat and is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide.

It's easy to get your BMI, just use one of the BMI calculators below. Enter your weight and height and the calculator will do the rest.

What does your BMI number mean?
The BMI is calculated in exactly the same way for children and adults but the interpretation of the BMI number is different.

For Adults
For adults (defined as men or women over the age of 20) the BMI definitions below were established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This BMI Calculator for Adults is provided by the U.S. Department of Health.

A BMI less than 18.5 is underweight
A BMI in the range 18.5–24.9 is normal weight
A BMI in the range 25–29.9 is overweight
A BMI in the range 30.0–34.9 is class 1 obesity
A BMI in the range 35.0–39.9 is class 2 obesity
A BMI of 40.0 or greater is class 3 obesity

For Children
For children (defined as girls and boys in the age range 2-20) the interpretation of the BMI number depends on age and gender. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has published tables that give the BMI interpretation for children.

It's important to realize that in child obesity is indicated at lower BMI numbers than in adults. For example, a 12 year old boy is considered obese if his BMI is over 24, and for a 12 year old girl the BMI number for obesity is 24.5

This BMI Calculator for Children and Teens is provided by the CDC and gives the interpretation of the BMI number for children by age and gender.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

How to Claim Lost Money

How to Claim Lost Money

The United States is currently holding about $58 BILLION in lost money. Check if any is yours and claim it. I've claimed several times and got money!

Select a State below to go to the website of the State Comptroller. Then do a search for money.



Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

US Infrastructure - Rail

































US Infrastructure - Rail

We have a lot of catching up to do.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com


Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, Honey and Pistachios

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, Honey and Pistachios

Get a fresh natural chicken, preferably from a farmer's market. Don't use frozen or mass produced chicken. Clean out anything that may be inside and dry all over with a paper towel.

Prop the chicken on the side of a shallow casserole so the cavity is open. Grind in some fresh pepper. Add a pinch of salt. Put in a bulb of garlic and a chopped lemon. Sprinkle in some herbs. Use fresh herbs if you can, they give a far better flavor. Now close the cavity.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Pour some olive oil in your hand, pick up the chicken and massage the oil all over. Top, bottom, legs, wings. Wipe your hands off on a paper towel.

Throw some bay leaves into the casserole and sit the chicken on them. Grind on fresh pepper. Sprinkle with Paprika, use Hungarian Paprika if you have it. Throw a handful of chopped garlic over the chicken. Or sprinkle with garlic powder. If you have any fresh herbs left throw that on also. Throw on a handful of chopped pistachio nuts, then drizzle honey all over the chicken.

Bake in oven until skin browns and goes a bit crispy.

You may need to add some liquid to stop the bottom of the casserole from burning. Liquid can be cider, apple juice, white wine, chicken stock or water. If you found anything in the cavity when you cleaned the chicken throw it in the casserole half way through cooking.

Remove, let sit for a few minutes than place on a carving board and serve.

Carving board juices make a natural gravy. You may need to degrease them before using.

The "stuffing" inside the cavity is not for eating, it's only for flavor.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com


India is Exploding

India is Exploding

India is Exploding. Take a look at this chart of Covid Deaths in India (updated May 4, 2021).















Covid Relief Campaign for India.. India Development and Relief Fund

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The Secret of Making Pastry

The Secret of Making Pastry

Few people can make great pastry, even many professional chefs can't do it. Master this and you'll be in great demand!

Think cold.. cold kitchen, cold hands, cold ingredients, cold equipment. Cold is the secret of great pastry.

Make sure your kitchen is cold. If it's winter turn your heating off. If it's summer switch up your air conditioning. If you don't have air conditioning try to pick a cool day with no humidity. Never try to make pastry in a hot or humid kitchen. It will be a total failure.

Grab your ingredients (plain white flour, high quality unsalted butter, shortening such as Crisco, and water) and stick them in the refrigerator for a few hours. Sometimes I use spring water instead of usual tap water. Ingredients matter.

Get your equipment (knife, steel mixing bowl, cup measure, wooden rolling pin and pastry marble) and stick them in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Now prep your ingredients..

You'll need 2 cups of flour, but don't just scoop 2 cups out of the package, that would be a disaster. Use a sifter to sift the flour into the cup measure and then wipe the top level with the back of your knife. Put the 2 cups in the bowl, add a pinch of salt, and put the bowl to the freezer.

Take a stick of butter, cut it into small pieces about 1/2 inch thick and add it to the mixing bowl. Also add 2 tablespoons of the shortening.

Wait a few minutes for everything to chill down.

Hold your cold rolling pin for a minute to chill your hands, especially the tips of your fingers. Then put the rolling pin in the freezer.

Take out the bowl and using only the tips of your fingers break up the butter and shortening into small pieces. But only work for 20 seconds before putting the bowl back into the freezer for a few minutes. So, it's 20 seconds of work and a few minutes of freezer time. Repeat this until the butter is the size of flakes. Don't forget to chill your fingers before each work session.

Pull the bowl out of the freezer and add a small amount of the cold water. Mix with the tips of your chilled fingers or you could use a (chilled) wooden spoon. Repeat until the dough starts to hold together in a rough ball. This is an important step, be careful not to add too much water. The dough should not be sticky, it should be just moist enough to hold together. Return the bowl to the freezer for a few minutes.

Dust your countertop with chilled flour. Chill your hands, this time your palms. NOTE: If possible use a pastry marble in place of your countertop, but remember to chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours before use.

Take the dough out of the bowl, place it on the countertop (or pastry marble) and dust it lightly with chilled flour. Using your palm press the dough ball out into a strip in one straight motion. Collect it back into a ball, rotate a bit and repeat. Then repeat one more time. This process is just helping mix the butter and flour.

Sprinkle with flour and wrap the ball of dough in greaseproof paper and place in the refrigerator (not the freezer). Let it sit overnight. Yes, overnight!

Congratulations, you're done! You just made basic pastry. The French call it Pate Brisee. It's a top quality pastry. It can be used for a wide range of things such as pie crusts, fruit tarts, or even gourmet pizzas. Plus, it's used to make laminated (multi-layer) pastry. Master that pastry and you'll be regarded in awe! And laminated pastry is a critical part of croissants. Master those and you'll be a world class pastry chef! But for now let's be happy with Pate Brisee.

A note about using this pastry..

Be very careful how you use your pastry.

Roll the pastry with a chilled rolling pin. Always roll the pastry in one direction - away from you. Rotate the pastry and roll again. Never roll pastry back and forth. Never roll for more than 20 seconds. Return to the freezer for a few minutes to chill between each rolling. Use a lightweight wooden rolling pin. Don't use those fancy marble things, they are heavy and crush the pastry.

Make sure your oven is pre-heated to 350F. Never put pastry into an oven that's still warming up.

The type of oven matters big time. Pastry needs a quiet still oven. So if you have a convection oven switch off the convention feature. If you can't switch it off then you'll need to find another oven!

No matter what you're making always paint the pastry before it goes into the oven. For meat or vegetable pies paint the pastry with a beaten egg, sugar and cream mixture. For fruit tarts paint the pastry with an apricot preserve, fresh lemon juice and cognac mixture.

Blueberry Tart..

I use this pastry to make a blueberry tart. The filling is wild blueberries marinated in an apricot preserve, fresh lemon juice and cognac mixture. Roll out the pastry, paint it, add the filling and bake.

And finally a note for Blueberry lovers..

Try Huckleberries (in England they are called Wimberries). They are related to the Blueberry family, but have a more intense taste. Blueberries on steroids! They also stain like crazy, so in England the slang for Wimberry Pie is "Mucky Mouth Pie". It's one of my all time favorites!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

US Covid Deaths - The Chart

US Covid Deaths - The Chart

The downward trend has stalled and it looks like it's leveling off at around 700 deaths per day. The virus is still here.

















Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Go to University - Online and FREE

Go to University - Online and FREE

Perfect for Covid or anytime! The world's Universities offer about 30,000 online courses. And many are FREE.

Harvard, Stamford, Oxford, Cambridge and many more.

The Course List

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Was Einstein a Genius?

Was Einstein a Genius?

Yes. But he worked incredibly hard to be a genius.

He started pondering light when he was just a kid, “if I could run fast enough to catch up with a light beam what would it look like”. This developed into Special Relativity.

He slogged at General Relativity non-stop for another 10 years before he got it.

And he completely and totally devoted his life to physics… everything else just an aside. Few people can do this. Few people want to do this.

Even when he was wrong he was right. I’m thinking about the cosmological constant.

But in his later years he produced nothing. It was junk. He was at heart a totally classical physicist, and he could never break away from that. But, Einstein being Einstein, perhaps he will turn out to be correct in that also. Never gamble against Einstein.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

What is time?

What is time?

I think it was Feynman who said that a great way to understand something is to look at how it's measured.

I have a system which can exist in just 2 states and it transitions between them constantly. I'll call this system a "clock" and one transition a "tick".

Now I have another system that I'm trying to study. It makes just one big transition.

So while the system makes one big transition how many ticks does my clock make?

The answer is called time.

All I'm doing is comparing two systems, the one I'm studying and the one I've designated as a reference system.

If we take this as our definition of time then such things as "time travel" are difficult to explain. To say the least.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Ken's Drinking Calculator

Ken's Drinking Calculator

First I define a fundamental unit - the "Standard Drink". It's any drink that needs one hour for its alcohol content to be metabolized. In other words it takes one hour to get out of your system. Examples are 50ml of 80 proof liquor, a 12 fluid ounce bottle of beer, or a 5 fluid ounce glass of wine.

Using this fundamental unit we can then measure drinks..

Liquor (80 Proof - 40% Alcohol by volume)
"Handle" 1,750ml = 35 Standard Drinks
“Liter” 1,000ml = 20 Standard Drinks
“Bottle” 750ml = 15 Standard Drinks
"Half Pint" 200ml = 4 Standard Drinks
“Miniature” 50ml = 1 Standard Drink

BTW: A Martini is about 200ml of 80 proof liquor which is 4 Standard Drinks and 432 calories.

Wine (13% Alcohol by volume)
“Bottle” 750ml = 5.5 Standard Drinks
“Big Glass” (10 fluid ounces) = 2 Standard Drinks
“Glass” (5 fluid ounces) = 1 Standard Drink

Beer (5% Alcohol by volume)
“Bottle” (12 fluid ounces) = 1 Standard Drink

I think the big surprise here is the Martini. Knock back just 2 Martinis and you've had 8 drinks plus 864 calories. It's going to take 8 hours to get the alcohol out of your system, and a whole lot longer to get the 864 calories off your waist!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Thai Shrimp Curry

Thai Shrimp Curry



















Chop half an onion. Then peel and chop a chunk of ginger root. Crush a few garlic cloves.

Using fine olive oil saute them in a casserole. When the onions are tender add a small splash of Thai Red Curry Paste. Stir, and saute for a few seconds to release the flavor of the Curry Paste.

Now add a small amount of conconut milk and a tablespoon of flour. Boil. Be careful not to let anything burn.

Now add fresh coriander and basil, chopped to release their flavor.

Now add a splash of white wine (and/or chicken stock) and a pinch of Paprika and a grind of fresh pepper, and squeze in some lime juice.

Optional: Slice 1/2 an orange pepper into strips and add. If you're not a fan of orange peppers try chunks of fresh mango.

Now add the rest of the conconut milk and add a package of frozen peas. Boil. Add water (or chicken stock) if necessary to make sure nothing burns.

Finally, add the shrimp, boil until the shrimp are cooked and then serve.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The Rope Problem (and its solution)

The Rope Problem (and its solution)



















The pic shows a rope of length 80 feet strung between two 50 foot poles.

At its lowest point the rope is just 10 feet from the ground.
What is x, the separation of the poles?

Solution provided on request.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

A Tiling (Tessilation) Surprise

A Tiling (Tessilation) Surprise













Tiling, which mathematicians call Tessilation, is the art of covering a flat surface with tiles with no gaps.

An obvious easy case is to use a square tile. But are there others?

There are indeed, and some can be quite surprising. Like this one, using a tile in the shape of a convex pentagon. Yes, all the tiles are identical. There is only one shape used here. And the tiling is perfect with no gaps.

This tiling was only discovered in 2015 using computer searches. So if you plan to tile your bathroom floor, and you want something really rare this is it!









Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

How the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines work

How the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines work

You've probably seen pictures of the Covid Virus with lots of spikes on the surface. These are proteins that let the virus trick a human cell and get inside. Once inside it replicates. When all the copies of the virus leave the human cell, in search of other cells to infect, the human cell is killed. Good for the virus. Bad for the human.

So the spikes are essential for the virus to operate. The Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines uses this to their advantage. They consist of a snippet of the virus genetic code - the exact snippet that tells how to produce these spikes.

When the vaccine is injected your cells read the snippet and start manufacturing spikes. This fools your immune system into thinking it's being attacked by the Covid virus. It's not, because the snippet of genetic code is harmless and can only make spikes and not the complete virus. But your immune system is not sure, so it goes ahead and manufactures the antibodies to disable the Covid virus.

These antibodies remain in your system. So if the real Covid virus comes along they will kill it.

The vaccine does not kill the virus. It simply preps your immune system to do the job.

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

FreshDirect - Join now and get $50

FreshDirect - Join now and get $50

I just joined FreshDirect. It's a delivery service for food and wine. The choice is amazing - fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poulty, seafood, beer and wine.

And for those who don't want to cook they also offer prepared food and party platters!

Join now and get $50 off your first order (order must be $99 or more).

Just click below to join and then use code: FDJAN22 when checking out.
Offer EXPIRES Feb 17, 2021

FreshDirect - Join now and get $50

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The US, COVID and WW2

The US, COVID and WW2

US Covid deaths (to date) - 518,000
US Deaths in WW2 - 418,500
Updated: March 4, 2021

How the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines works

You've probably seen pictures of the Covid Virus with lots of spikes on the surface. These are proteins that let the virus trick a human cell and get inside. Once inside it replicates. When all the copies of the virus leave the human cell, in search of other cells to infect, the human cell is killed. OK for the virus. Bad for the human.

So the spikes are essential for the virus to operate. The Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines uses this to their advantage. They consist of a snippet of the virus genetic code - the exact snippet that tells how to produce these spikes.

When the vaccine is injected your cells read the snippet and start manufacturing spikes. This fools your immune system into thinking it's being attacked by the Covid virus. It's not, because the snippet of genetic code is harmless and can only make spikes and not the complete virus. But your immune system is not sure, so it goes ahead and manufactures the antibodies to disable the Covid virus.

These antibodies remain in your system. So if the real Covid virus comes along they will kill it.

The vaccine does not kill the virus. It simply preps your immune system to do the job.

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Vaccine 101 - How the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines work

Vaccine 101 - How the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines work

You've probably seen pictures of the Covid Virus with lots of spikes on the surface. These are proteins that let the virus trick a human cell and get inside. Once inside it replicates. When all the copies of the virus leave the human cell, in search of other cells to infect, the human cell is killed. OK for the virus. Bad for the human.

So the spikes are essential for the virus to operate. The Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines uses this to their advantage. They consist of a snippet of the virus genetic code - the exact snippet that tells how to produce these spikes.

When the vaccine is injected your cells read the snippet and start manufacturing spikes. This fools your immune system into thinking it's being attacked by the Covid virus. It's not, because the snippet of genetic code is harmless and can only make spikes and not the complete virus. But your immune system is not sure, so it goes ahead and manufactures the antibodies to disable the Covid virus.

These antibodies remain in your system. So if the real Covid virus comes along they will kill it.

The vaccine does not kill the virus. It simply preps your immune system to do the job.

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Adding a Duality to The Standard Model

Adding a Duality to The Standard Model



I would like to make a conjecture. It says: every elementary particle in the Standard Model (except the Higgs) of spin s has a dual partner of spin 1/s.

So the fermions (spin 1/2) in the Standard Model would have spin 2 dual partners and the bosons (spin 1) in the Standard Model would be their own dual.

Of course, for this to work we need to have at least one spin 2 particle. Maybe many more. So gravity appears automatically.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Covid Vaccination - The Numbers

Covid Vaccination - The Numbers

I like to estimate systems by doing "back of the envelope" calculations.

My latest is on vaccinations.

The US population over 18 years of age is approx 248 million and lets assume 75% get vaccinated (each needs 2 doses) so that's a total of 372 million doses. Now let's suppose the US does this with one giant drive-through with 5,000 lanes!!! It takes 5 mins for one inoculation (including paperwork) and it runs 24/7.

Then it would take about 8 months to complete vaccinations!!!!!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Gravity in One Dimension

Gravity in One Dimension

You're a point mass and you live on the x axis. That's your entire world. It's "Lineland". What's your life like?

First, as regards moving, you only have two directions, forward and backwards. And if you meet another point mass you cannot pass. So you can only know two other masses. You have just two friends maximum!

You have no reason to count objects beyond two, so you might be slow in developing the concept of integers. Or perhaps you never develop the concept at all. You simply have no need for it.

What about Gravity in Lineland?

Consider Newtonian Gravity. You're a point mass, so you have mass, let's say m. Another point mass could have a different mass, say M. So at least Newtonian gravity exists, right? It does, but it has a strange form. Newton's formula for the gravitational force F between two masses m and M is..

F=G*M*m/(r^2)

where G is a constant and r is the distance between the two masses.

The r^2 term is good in a 3D space, but in general it's r^(n-1) where n is the dimension of the space. Putting n=1 for Lineland we get..

r^(1-1)=r^0=1 so F=G*M*m

Which means F is independent of distance! Gravity has the same strength no matter how far apart the objects are. So physics in Lineland is very different.

This is Lineland on the x axis. What if Lineland is the circumference of a circle? That's even more interesting. Would you be aware that Lineland had a "curvature"? What does gravity do now that Lineland is a closed loop?

What happens if Lineland is a closed loop that intersects itself at several points? What happens at these intersection points and how do they contribute to gravity?

How do things change as the number of point masses in Lineland changes?

It turns out that even one dimension can be very complex!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Lineland - Life and Physics in 1 Dimension

Lineland - Life and Physics in 1 Dimension

You're a point mass and you live on the x axis. That's your entire world. It's "Lineland". What's your life like?

First, as regards moving, you only have two directions, forward and backwards. And if you meet another point mass you cannot pass. So you can only know two other masses. You have just two friends maximum!

You have no reason to count objects beyond two, so you might be slow in developing the concept of integers. Or perhaps you never develop the concept at all. You simply have no need for it.

What about Physics in Lineland?

Consider Newtonian Gravity. You're a point mass, so you have mass, let's say m. Another point mass could have a different mass, say M. So at least Newtonian gravity exists, right? It does, but it has a strange form. Newton's formula for the gravitational force F between two masses m and M is..

F=G*M*m/(r^2)

where G is a constant and r is the distance between the two masses.

The r^2 term is good in a 3D space, but in general it's r^(n-1) where n is the dimension of the space. Putting n=1 for Lineland we get..

r^(1-1)=r^0=1 so F=G*M*m

Which means F is independent of distance! Gravity has the same strength no matter how far apart the objects are. So physics in Lineland is very different.

This is Lineland on the x axis. What if Lineland is the circumference of a circle? That's even more interesting. Would you be aware that Lineland had a "curvature"? What does gravity do now that Lineland is a closed loop?

What happens if Lineland is a closed loop that intersects itself at several points? What happens at these intersection points and how do they contribute to gravity?

How do things change as the number of point masses in Lineland changes?

It turns out that even 1 dimension can be very complex!

Just think, there's probably a 4D world somewhere with physics teachers looking for a nasty problem to set on an exam. Finally they come up with one, "explain how physics would have developed if our world was constrained to only 3 dimensions".

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Mathematical Analysis - A Book with a Story

Mathematical Analysis - A Book with a Story

When I studied mathematical physics at Sussex University back in 1967-70 one of my math professors was Bernard Scott.

I remember his lectures well and I bought the course book, "Mathematical Analysis - An Introduction" - which was by him. That was that.

Then just recently, over 50 years later, I learn that Scott was one of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park during WW2. He broke the Soviet Comintern code in late 1943.

I still have his book, the very copy I purchased from the university bookstore on Oct 10, 1967.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Sailing Ships - A Radical New Design

Sailing Ships - A Radical New Design

Blowing in the Wind. A new generation of sailing ship will use giant aerofoils instead of conventional sails.

The ship will do transatlantic runs in 12 days using 90% less fuel.

The first one is planned to go into service in 2024. It will be a car transporter with capacity for 7,000 cars.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Dark Matter - Is Dark Matter Sterile Neutrinos?

Dark Matter - Is Dark Matter Sterile Neutrinos?

Dark matter is still a mystery, but sterile neutrinos may be the answer.

Let's model the topological aspects of the graviton using a simple paper strip.

Give it 4 half twists and then join the ends. One half twist correcponds to spin 1/2 so 4 half twists gives spin 2 which matches the graviton.

But this simple paper strip has a very interesting property. It can "flip" into a double thickness paper strip with just one half twist. That's a spin 1/2 fermion.

This fermion is oviously neutral and interacts only with the gravitational field, because it's just an "oscillation" of the graviton. All elementary fermions have mass, so it's a good bet this particle has mass.

The sterile neutrino is like a neutrino, but it's not a neutrino. So it does not violate the 3-generation heirachy of the Standard Model. And things get even better..

The sterile neutrino is the perfect candidate for dark matter.

But it will be incredibly difficult to detect. They don't call it dark matter for nothing.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Sterile Neutrino not a Neutrino?

Sterile Neutrino not a Neutrino?

Sterile neutrinos may be something way more interesting.

Let's model the topological aspects of the graviton using a simple paper strip.

Give it 4 half twists and then join the ends. One half twist corresponds to spin 1/2 so 4 half twists gives spin 2 which matches the graviton.

But this simple paper strip has a very interesting property. It can "flip" into a double thickness paper strip with just one half twist. That's a spin 1/2 fermion.

This fermion is oviously neutral and interacts only with the gravitational field, because it's just an "oscillation" of the graviton. All elementary fermions have mass, so it's a good bet this particle has mass.

The sterile neutrino is like a neutrino, but it's not a neutrino. So it does not violate the 3-generation heirachy of the Standard Model. And things get even better..

The sterile neutrino is the perfect candidate for dark matter!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Entropy of the Prime Numbers

Entropy of the Prime Numbers

The Prime Number Theorem is one of the most famous theorems in mathematics. It tells us something about the distribution of the prime numbers.

How many of the first n integers 1,2,3,4,....,n are prime? The Prime Number Theorem says the number of primes is approximately n/log(n) where the log is base e.

This is not an exact count, n/log(n) is only an approximation, but as n gets bigger the approximation gets better and better.

Let's use the change of base formula for logarithms to convert this to log base 2. So we get n*log(e)/log(n) where the logs are now base 2.

The Prime Number Theorem is also a statement about the Shannon Entropy of the primes! Here's how..

Suppose you have a machine with a big red button. Each time you punch the button the machine responds by displaying an integer in the range 1,2,3,....,n. After much experimentation you discover that the probability of getting integer j is pj. Then physics defines the Shannon Entropy (also called Information Entropy) of this machine as..

Shannon Entropy=(-1)*sum (pj*log(pj)) for j=1,2,3,...,n and the log is base 2.

In the special case where all numbers occur with equal probability pj=1/n for all j and we get the famous result for the Shannon Entropy of the machine..

Shannon Entropy=(-1)*n*(1/n)*log(1/n)=log(n)

Now imagine this is "distributed" equally across all numbers, so on average an individual integer has log(n)/n entropy.

If the integers 1,2,3,....,n contain m primes then the Shannon Entropy of the primes is simply m*log(n)/n

But the prime number theorem says that m=n*log(e)/log(n) approximately. So the approximate Shannon Entropy becomes..

Shannon Entropy=m*log(n)/n=log(e)

and as n approaches infinity this approximation becomes exact. So we can say..

"The Shannon Entropy of the Primes is log(e)=1.442695.."

This statement is equivalent to the prime number theorem. How strange!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Coronavirus - Stats and Predictions for the US

Coronavirus - Stats and Predictions for the US

The current prediction is for 371,000 US deaths by the end of 2020. But note what happens if mandates are removed - the prediction skyrockets.

Here's the chart..

Coronavirus - Stats and Predictions for the US

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Goldbach's Conjecture and Mirror Symmetry

Goldbach's Conjecture and Mirror Symmetry.

Goldbach's Conjecture implies the primes have a limited mirror reflection symmetry. It's easy to see this..

Let n be any even integer >2. Then consider the sequence 1,2,3,..., (n-1)

Since n is even (n-1) is odd so the sequence has an integer at the center. Take the right hand side of the sequece and reflect it through the center and then add pairs of numbers. All pairs add to n.

Godldach's Conjecture implies there must be at least one prime on the right hand side that reflects into a prime on the left hand side.

That's a limited reflection symmetry for the primes.

Or to put it another way.. under this reflection operation primes can never totally avoid each other.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Einstein - The Path to General Relativity

Einstein - The Path to General Relativity

Was it amazing luck or was it amazing insight? Whichever it was, at some point Einstein realized..

At a given point in space it’s impossible to distinguish between the effects of gravity and the effects of acceleration.

So, when he was trying to generalize Special Relativity to accelerating frames of reference he got an incredible bonus.. gravity suddenly appeared.. and General Relativity became a theory of gravity.

The rest is history.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

US Presidential Election - 3 Ways to Vote

US Presidential Election - 3 Ways to Vote

For the US Presidential Election on Nov 3, 2020 you have 3 voting options..

1. Vote by mail. Also know as an Absentee Ballot. You need to apply for one. Get your application form here. It's automatically customized to your specific location. Fast and Easy. Vote.Org

2. Early Voting. Many States allow this and it's a great way to avoid the crowds. For example, in NY early voting is from Oct 24 to Nov 1, 2020. That's 9 days of early voting before Election Day! Check the early voting rules in your State.

3. Vote on Election Day, Nov 3, 2020

Remember: To vote it's not enough to be a US Citizen - you also have to be registered to vote. Register fast online here Vote.Org

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Hallucinations in Healthy Adults

Hallucinations in Healthy Adults

A "healthy adult" is one that has not been diagnosed with any mental issues.

Here's my instant overview:

- Hallucination in healthy adults (of all ages) is by no means uncommon.

- Hallucinations do not necessarily imply cognitive impairment and may be unrelated.

- A major contributing factor is reduction of sensory input, such as that caused by hearing loss, vision loss and social isolation. Basically, the brain is not getting the level of sensory input it expects so it invents some. Hallucinations can be auditory, visual and even olfactory.

- Lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor.

- Dehydration can also be a contributing factor.

- Another contribution factor is polypharmacy i.e. taking a wide range of medications each day. A survey of older adults found that 50% are taking medications that are not needed.

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor of medicine. This information is my personal opinion and is not intended as medical advice. For medical advice see a doctor of medicine.
Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

In Praise of the Photon

In Praise of the Photon

The human retina was totally designed to detect photons. And that makes sight. In fact, a rod cell in the retina can detect a single photon. It's incredibly sensitive.

Then we have photons shooting down super thin filaments of glass. That's fiber optic cable, which has revolutionized data connection speed on the internet. So a 1 Gigabit internet connection is now routine and cheap.

So what's the next frontier for the photon? It's computing itself. Could photons replace electrons is computer chips? That would be truly amazing. Perhaps even more amazing that quantum computing. So if you want to build an optical computer the first thing you need to do is develop a photon logic gate.

Now a research group says they have done just that.. photon gates

And let's not forget Quantum Mechanics. Photons are spin 1 bosons, while electrons are spin 1/2 fermions. Meaning photons play by a whole different set of rules than electrons.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Learn Fractions Fast

Learn Fractions Fast

The hardest thing about learning fractions is adding them. Multiplication is easy, but addition is usually taught as a complex multi-step process. It's a real pain.

But it doesn't have to be that way!

Take the two fractions to be added..

a c
-+-
b d

Take the diagonal numbers (top left and bottom right) and multiply them, a*d

Now do the other diagonal, c*b

Add the two results (a*d)+(c*b)

That's the "top" (numerator) of the answer.

The "bottom" (denominator) of the answer is much easier, just multiply the two bottoms, b*d

You're done!

Did you notice the pattern? It's two diagonals and a base.

A lot of mathematics involves patterns.

To multiply fractions just multiply the tops and multiply the bottoms. So..

a c
-*-
b d

is (a*c)/(b*d)

That's it. Fractions done in a few minutes. With the time saved why not study more interesting math topics!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Take the Google Mobile Friendly Test

Take the Google Mobile Friendly Test

Over 70% of people view websites from their cellphone.

If your website does not work great on a cellphone you're in trouble. And not just with your visitors, Google will penalize you also.

Take the Google Mobile Friendly Test

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

How I got into Cambridge University

How I got into Cambridge University

It was 1970, I was 21 and I just got my BSc in Theoretical Physics from Sussex University in the UK. So I went on vacation to Cornwall. I thought I might try surfing.

But my vacation was cut short by a telegram from my Father..

"I just heard from Cambridge. If you can be there by 9 am tomorrow morning they will interview you for a position as a PhD student".

I jumped into my car and drove overnight. I got to Cambridge around 7am. Everything was closed except for the public swimming pool. I swam and then had eggs on toast for breakfast. Yes, the public swimming pool served breakfast! Now I was ready for my interview.

It was with Richard Eden, the head of the Cavendish Lab. I fancied myself as a theoretical physicist, so I started spouting off about recent theories.

But very soon he stopped me..

"Ken, you're not good enough to do theoretical physics at Cambridge. But if you're willing to change to experimental physics you're in".

I changed and I was in.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Tensors and General Relativity - Explained Fast

Tensors and General Relativity - Explained Fast

Here's my attempt: Tensors are mathematical objects that are incredibly efficient at describing a material under strain and stress.

You can think of spacetime as a “material” that’s put under “strain and stress” by the presence of mass. So Tensors are all over General Relativity. And the “strain and stress of spacetime” is called Gravity.

If we had a Quantum theory of spacetime it might describe the situation totally differently. But we do not yet have such a theory.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Why do Massless Particles travel at the Speed of Light?

Why do Massless Particles travel at the Speed of Light?

The Short Answer: “Massless” is a loose term. It should really be “zero rest mass”.

And that means: if you find a reference frame in which the particle is at rest then it will have zero mass.

But if something has zero mass it doesn’t exist. So you’ll never find such a reference frame. So the particle is always moving.

The exact speed at which it moves (the speed of light) is determined by the “permittivity” of the vacuum. If we had a Quantum theory of the vacuum (i.e. spacetime) the source of this permittivity would be very clear. But we do not yet have such a theory.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Mars Bars

Mars Bars

Mars Bars Chapter 1 - Leaving the House

I awoke to find myself looking at the ceiling. This was not what I wanted, so I tilted my head slightly and cast my gaze at the window. Once it reached the window it required only a small mental effort to force it through and observe conditions in the outside world.

Now, in England, in the fifties, and especially on Saturdays it often rained. My parents and all adults I knew had a whole vocabulary for rain. Very heavy rain was "pelting down" or "it's really whipping down now." A normal rainfall was "it's not to bad" or "I think it will clear later." Light rain was "drizzle" or "it's just misting" and a beautiful sunny day was described as "it's not raining."

My window experiment told me it was not raining, so I got out of bed, gathered some clothes off the floor and dressed. I picked out sturdy shoes and carefully screwed on my roller skates, turning the key as tightly as possible so they would not come loose during the day. I slipped the key in my right pocket. My left pocket already contained a sixpence.

Having everything I needed for the day I kicked off, glided slowly across the bedroom and out onto the landing coming to rest at the top of the stairs in front of the toilet. I debated whether I should waste time going and decided it would be wise to pee since that would save time later. So I turned, stood in front of the bowl and lifted the lid. I peed accurately, controlling the stream carefully in order not to splash and make a mess. In fact, I was proud of my accuracy and I remembered once arguing the point with Nel. He claimed he could consistently hit a sixpence placed on the floor and I told him that was impossible. He said I was wrong and that he could do it every time. Such accuracy annoyed me because I knew I could not perform at that level and we argued the point for over ten minutes. I suppose an actual experiment would have settled the discussion, but it was never done.

Nel was my best friend and his real name was Terry Nelson. I called him Nel because me and my friends called each other by the last name or a piece of the last name. I was Abbott or Abbo. The reason for this came from school where the teachers always used our last names. In school first names did not exist. Nel told me this helped the teachers keep control of their classes.

The next task was to go down stairs. At this I knew I was better than Nel because his mother had told me about his nasty accidents going down stairs in roller skates. I never had a problem because I went down backwards with my left foot at an angle. On each step, I used the front left wheel of the right skate to interlock between the front right and back right wheels of the left skate. This was a method I'd carefully perfected and never disclosed to Nel despite intense questioning and sometimes even outright hostility. He lectured me that descending stairs in roller skates could result in serious accidents and the right thing was to take off the skates before going down, then put them back on at the bottom. This I never did.

I glided down our hallway, through the kitchen, past my mother making breakfast and into our living room where I plonked down at the table and raised my spoon. In our house this was the universal signal for "bring in the porridge."

My father worked on Saturdays for the Post Office. My mother took care of my baby sister Jean and ran the house. On the weekend she excused me from my chores so I could play the whole day. I took play seriously and the day always began with a healthy breakfast.

While I waited for the porridge I decided to think about World War II. The War had ended only a few years before me and my friends were born. It was exciting and we were sad we missed it. The men went off to war and got shot at. The mothers stayed home and got bombed. Nel's dad had been in the RAF and flew Wellington Bombers. My dad had joined the Army years before the war and was a Vickers Machine Gun instructor with the Cheshire Regiment.

My dad loved to talk about the War, but Nel's would never speak of it. This caused Nel problems because he was interested in weapons and had to get his information from me. He once gave me a list of questions to ask my dad about the Vickers Machine Gun. He said he needed to know the "rifling" and "muzzle velocity." When I asked my dad he smiled and talked about the gun like an old friend. He said the Vickers had Enfield rifling which gave the bullets one turn every ten inches as they travelled down the barrel, so they came out spinning at high speed. Muzzle velocity was 2,400 feet per second, and it threw a cigar shaped bullet profile. I gave the information to Nel who wrote it down in a notebook and said it was interesting. I never asked why the bullets needed to spin. Nel seemed to know the answer.

When the porridge arrived I added salt and shoveled it into my mouth as fast as possible. I then stood, pushed the chair to one side and slowly rolled back to the fireplace. Kicking with my right foot I glided forward across the dining room, through the kitchen, out the back door, around the back of the house, down the alley that led to the front of the house, past our small garden and into the street. I crossed the street to Nel's house and went to his back door. It was a normal Saturday. But that was about to change.

Chapter 2 - Disturbing News

I knocked on the door and while I waited for a response I decided to think about doors in more detail. The back door of any house on our block was only a few feet from the front door but it could have been a few miles. Front doors were only used for formal occasions such as births, wedding, funerals and Sunday visitors. Even most adults were nervous about using a front door, and it was unthinkable for a child to use one. A knock on the front door was regarded by the occupants as a serious signal and started talk about who should open it and why. Back doors were totally different. Lots of action occurred at the back door and they were friendly places. Almost always they were opened immediately, usually by mothers.

My door analysis was abruptly interrupted when the door opened. Mrs. Nelson appeared. She was wearing rubber gloves and was soaking wet. She seemed surprised to see me and before I could ask my question she supplied the answer.

"Oh, hello Ken. Terry's not in. He's out. He went out early this morning by himself. I thought he was going to your house. I'm sure you'll run into him. I'm doing a load of wash. Bye dear."

The door closed and I stood there while my mind processed the information. After a brief mental effort it classified the information as disturbing and told me to panic. But it was not a simple panic. It was a real panic, the type of panic when your mind decides you're totally alone in the universe and vulnerable to immediate attack, injury or death and your only chance of survival is not to panic. This was daft, so I told a higher level of my mind to tell the lower level to shut up, which it did immediately.

The reason for the panic was simple. The fact that Nel was out alone meant that he was thinking. He was proud of his thinking sessions, but they were a problem for me because they led to ideas, which then led to plans. He introduced his plans by giving me long lectures, usually on subjects that seemed unrelated. Finally, I was allowed to execute the plans for him under his strict supervision. Something always seemed to go wrong during the execution of the plan and this would result in bodily injury to me, or a problem with parents, or a discussion with the local police. At this point Nel would disappear, sometimes for several days. When he reappeared he seemed to have no memory of the plan, and if I mentioned it he would explain how I messed it up by not executing it correctly. He would point out all the mistakes I made and how disappointed he was. I would then apologize.

I left Nel's house and skated slowly up the street. I was nervous because I knew Nel could appear at any time. As I went over the railway bridge I saw Brendan Ghan sitting on the tracks. He looked bored but I decided not to say hello because I was still upset about the clay stick incident from the Saturday before.

We had been wading in the willow swamp looking for wood to make a longbow. I saw some good branches for clay sticks and mentioned this to Ghan. He laughed and said I knew nothing about clay sticks. This annoyed me because it was known by the whole gang that I was the inventor of the clay stick. Even Nel agreed on this and once described my invention as the simplest weapon we had. He pointed out it was not the most dangerous, just the simplest. Nel rarely gave praise, so this made me proud.

The clay stick was a thin branch of willow six or seven feet long. You stuck a half pound lump of clay on the end, drew it back and then whipped it forward. It was similar to fly casting but with more power. The clay shot off at high speed. In the hands of an expert the clay stick could accurately hurl lumps of clay over a hundred yards. If they hit anyone they were painful. Ghan never got the hang of it and that's why we argued in the swamp. We never finished our argument because something crawled up my leg and I had to leave. But I was still annoyed.

I turned away as Ghan was idly tossing chunks of railway ballast. I rolled down the other side of the bridge to the main road. My parents did not allow me to cross the road but this was not a problem because I was going to the toffee shop on this side.

Chapter 3 - Nel Appears

I entered the small shop. As usual it was empty except for the shopkeeper. It was packed with toffee, sherberts, gob stoppers, chewing gum and much else. I looked at the shopkeeper. He looked at me and asked his usual question:

"Do you want a sherbert?"

I did not reply because we both knew I did not. I reached into my left pocket and slowly slid the sixpence into the center of the counter. He looked at me. I looked at him. He reached under the counter and got something. He slid it onto the counter parallel to the sixpence. The brown wrapper with the red and gold logo told me it was a real Mars Bar. I reached slowly, removed it and put it into my left pocket. He did not touch the sixpence. I then turned and glided to the door, and as I did I heard the ching of a cash register signify the close of our transaction.

There were two steps outside the door which I went down backwards as usual. There was no need to use my special technique because I held on to the door knob as I closed the door. As the door shut I looked into the glass panes and saw a reflection of the street. I noticed the traffic on the main road: cars, buses and lorries. I could also see the barber shop across the street. As I scanned the reflection a second time an image of Nel appeared. He was sitting on the wall right behind me.

Chapter 4 - A Lecture

Nel looked serious but relaxed. As I began to turn he made a worrying comment.

"I see you bought a Mars Bar."

I did not reply because I knew there was no time to waste. Nel enjoyed Mars Bars and I assumed he intended to enjoy mine. I took it out of my pocket, ripped of the wrapper and stuck the whole thing in my mouth. I needed to wedge it in on an angle and this caused both my cheeks to bulge. I then closed my mouth as best I could and began to chew.

I expected Nel to take some immediate action but he did not move. He seemed to have no interest in the Mars Bar. After studying me for a short while, during which time his eyes bulged, he broke the silence and confirmed my thoughts.

"I don't care about a Mars Bar."

I continued to chew. It was not easy because the large amount of chocolate in my mouth caused pressure to build. But then Nel suddenly changed the subject.

"Do you know about Rockefella?"

I shook my head.

"He's the richest man in the world. He's a millionaire. He's American. Do you know how he got rich?"

I shook my head.

"Oil. But he didn't drill it up and he didn't use it to run factories or make petrol. No, he just moved it from place to place, from the driller people to the people who needed to use it. Do you know what it's called when you just move something around?"

I shook my head.

"Distribution. There are big finances in distribution. I've been studying finances. I've been reading books about them. This morning I got up early and read the Financial Times before I left the house. It was an old copy that was used to wrap our fish and chips from last night. You want to know how finances work don't you?"

I nodded. A thick brown liquid leaked from the corner of my mouth and ran down my chin and neck and under my shirt. I wiped it up with my hand and wiped my hand on my pants. Nel continued his lecture.

"Rockefella was a genius. He bought a barrel of oil from the driller people for one pound. Except because he was American it was really American money, but we're English so I'll explain it to you in our money. Then he took the barrel to the people who needed it. That's the distribution part. He sold it to them for one pound and one penny. Do you see what he did here?"

I shook my head.

"He made a penny profit. That does not sound like much but if he moved six barrels he would get sixpence profit. That's a Mars Bar. If he moved twelve barrels he would make a shilling profit. But it can get much bigger. You want to know how?"

I nodded.

"You just repeat the whole thing I said twenty times and you make twenty shillings which is a pound. Then you do that a million times and you make a million pounds and you're a millionaire. This is called volume. It's the secret to getting rich. I read all about it. But forget it. It's a nice day. Let's to go for a walk."

Chapter 5 - The Wrong Decision

Nel was not in a rush to walk, so I decided to think about what he had said. I did not understand the content but the structure seemed interesting. One thing I liked about Nel was that he hated adjectives. In school the week before, our teacher Ms. Briggs had announced she would teach us "The structure of a proper English sentence", and that she would start with nouns and adjectives. I was excited. She explained that nouns were objects, like house, brick and window. All objects were nouns. Adjectives describe nouns.

Briggs was feared by every student. There were sixty in our class and we sat in six rows of ten. We were not allowed to speak unless spoken to and we were not allowed to look around even when Briggs went on one of her strolls. She had total control of the class, probably because she used our last names.

The situation with adjectives had occurred when Briggs asked me to give an example of a noun. I stood. I thought. Then I told the class that "red" was a noun because it was a word and words are objects and all objects are nouns. Briggs ignored me and continued the lesson. I sat down. She started to stroll around the classroom, talking as she went. After a few moments she appeared at the left side of my desk. She was now talking about adjectives. She stopped and told me to hold out my left hand palm up one inch from the top of the desk. While I was adjusting the one inch distance, which was not easy without a ruler, one suddenly appeared and beat me hard on the palm. My hand recoiled from the impact, hit the surface of the desk, and hurt my knuckles. In this way Briggs was able to inflict pain on both sides of my hand with just one stroke. It was a brilliant invention which she had perfected over her forty years as a teacher.

She continued walking and talking and I put my hand in my pocket to ease the pain. Briggs knew I was right handed so this would not stop me from writing during the rest of class. The class showed no reaction. It was a routine day. Finally Briggs returned to the front of the class and commented that her ruler was brown, and that brown was an adjective. I admired her for the invention of the double hand slap which rivaled my invention of the clay stick. It was simple and effective. But the thing about adjectives annoyed me and I vowed never to use them, or to use as few as possible.

Nel jumped off the wall and announced he did not want to walk. He said he was going home and locking himself in his room for the rest of the day to read the Financial Times.

"It's greasy because of the chips. I'll see you tomorrow."

This was bad news. So I suggested a short walk on this side of the road down to the traffic light and back. Nel said he would prefer to walk back over the railway bridge, but I had just come from that direction and told him we should go somewhere different. He asked if I was sure I wanted to walk by the road and I said yes. It was a bad decision.

Chapter 6 - Traffic Lights

Nel walked slowly. I skated alongside, zig-zagging sideways now and again so my forward speed matched his pace. We didn't talk. After about two minutes we reached the traffic lights at the end of town and stood there for a while watching the traffic. I was thinking about what to do for the rest of the day, and Nel seemed to be thinking also. Finally he asked a question.

"Can you see what's on at the picture house? My eyes aren't working well today. It's reading the Financial Times. It makes them bulge."

I spun around a few times clockwise, then locked my right foot against my rotating left foot to bring myself to a stop with my back to the main road. The picture house was down the side street and I squinted to look at what was showing. The sign was nearly parallel to my line of sight, so it was difficult to read. We went to the pictures every Saturday afternoon, so I knew it would be Batman, The Lone Ranger, Charlie Chaplin or Robin Hood. I told Nel it was probably Robin Hood. He didn't seem interested.

"I'm getting tired of Robin Hood. We can't get yew for our bows, only willow. Everyone knows English longbows were yew."

Nel was right as usual, and this was one of his favorite subjects. He had discovered that the only Yew trees left in England grew in Churchyards, and were therefore not available. I was happy with Willow, but Nel was serious about weapons and always complained about the lack of Yew. I continued to squint at the sign and expected Nel to talk more about longbows, but I was wrong.

"I've been studying traffic lights. Do you know the sequence?"

I wasn't sure, so I shook my head.

"Suppose I told you they go red, green, amber and then back to red. You would believe that, right?"

I nodded.

"Well, it's wrong. That's the way they go in America. Except in America amber is called yellow. In England they go red, red and amber together, green, amber and then back to red. You know what that means?"

I shook my head.

"English lights have four steps in the sequence, but American lights have three. So us English waste more time stopped at traffic lights. That's time we could use to make money like Rockefella."

I was just about to have my mind think about this traffic light problem when it received the last word of Nel's sentence and stopped. Something was wrong. I turned my head slightly to the left to look at the traffic lights. They were on amber, so red would be next. I looked at Nel. He looked at me. I started to sweat and the traffic light changed to red.

Chapter 7 - The Pyramid

As the light turned red Nel stuck his hand down the back of my neck and grabbed a handful of my shirt and jacket. This was strange, so I started to turn to ask him what was happening. Before I could say anything a sweeping kick hit my ankles and caused my roller skates to shoot forward. Nel was a good football player and could kick with power and precision. I started to fall to the ground but was stopped halfway by Nel's grip. I was tilted at forty five degrees and looked like a human wheel barrow.

Nel dragged me across the street. My wheels hit as we went down the curb, then we glided across the main road, and my wheels hit again as we mounted the curb on the other side. Nel dragged me a few more feet until we were in front of Townsend's window. He yanked me upright, turned me around, stuck my nose to the window and issued one of his simple directives.

"Look. Look at this."

I looked. The reflection in the window showed a double decker bus stopped at the light. The driver was laughing. His right hand pounded the steering wheel and his left was pointing at me. The conductor, hanging off the rear platform of the Leyland Route Master, was also laughing. But the reflection got me thinking about television sets.

Just a few years earlier my Dad bought a television to watch the Coronation. We had the first television on the block and all our neighbors crowded into our tiny living room to see the event. Some sat on the floor. Some crouched just above them. Some stood above them, and some tiny kids sat on their parent's shoulder. It was an amphitheater of viewing.

The television came in a big box but had a tiny screen. The picture was not very clear, and the television engineers removed all the color, so the picture was black and white. But we got a day off school and a silver Coronation spoon. The silver spoon was no good with my porridge, so I lost it.

I thought that one day televisions would be like Townsend's window, big, thin, with great quality picture and in color. But as I pondered the future Nel's voice suddenly brought me back to the present.

"Don't look at the window. Look through the window."

I re-focused my gaze through the window.

Then I saw it. Everything in the window had been removed and replaced by a pyramid. It was big. It was as tall as me. But the real shock was the construction material. It was built from Mars Bars. I had never seen anything like it in my life. My mouth fell open and Nel smiled.

My Dad had been in the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and before the war they were in India and Egypt. When he was in Egypt he got a day off and decided to climb the great Pyramid at Giza. It was not easy. The stone blocks were over 2 feet high, so he could not just walk up them like steps. He had to scramble up each block. He could not reach the very top because that still had the original casing stones in place. These made the pyramid perfectly smooth. He said that in the old days the pyramid was painted gold with giant red lettering and was the highest man-made thing for 3,000 years. The colors, red on gold, were the same as the Mars Bar.

My pyramid thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Nel.

"Look at the top. Do you see it?"

My gaze climbed the pyramid, one chocolate layer at a time, until it reached the top and saw a small sign.

"Mars Bars. 5p Each."

This violated reality as I knew it. If you had 6p you had a Mars Bar, and if you had a Mars Bar you had 6p. I looked at Nel in shock. He had a simple question.

"So do you know what this means?"

I told him it meant we could go into Townsend's with 6p, buy a Mars Bar, stuff it in our mouth and still have 1p change in our pocket.

Nel looked at me in disgust and started one of his lectures.

"Do you ever learn anything? I work hard to teach you but you never learn. Did you hear what I said about finances and Rockefella? It's distribution. We buy a lot of Mars bars at 5p each then sell then at 6p and make 1p profit on every one we sell. We do volume."

This made sense. I thought for a while and then pointed out a problem with Nel's plan. To buy a lot of Mars Bars we needed a lot of money, and all we had was 6p each. I was pleased with my clever analysis.

Surprisingly this seemed to make Nel happy.

"Exactly. Now you are getting it. We do need money. In financing this is called capital. That's why, after months of study, I have designed a financial transaction that will solve the problem and make us rich."

I asked Nel what a financial transaction was.

"It's a series of money steps you follow exactly, and at the end you become rich. I think I'm going to let you do my transaction. Do you want to hear it?"

I nodded.

Chapter 8 - Briggs

We stood by the side of the road waiting for a red light. Nel walked across and I pushed off from the curb and glided across. There was no need for any antics this time since I was returning to the allowed side of the road. We went down the side street to the picture house and sat on the wall opposite. A ticket line was forming for Robin Hood. Nel looked at the line and said it would soon be time for my job.

This was one of Nel's most popular projects and he allowed me to do it every Saturday. I would skate down the line, find members of the gang and collect a sixpence from each. That was the price of a ticket. I would then go into the picture house, buy all the tickets and give them to the gang. This allowed them to skip the line. They loved it. I could only go to the front of the line because Nel's Mom worked in the ticket office an Saturdays to earn a bit of extra money to buy bottles for her Rhubarb Wine production. She would see me coming, spin the tickets off the roll and take my collection of sixpences.

Nel turned to me and fixed me with his bulging eyes. He looked serious.

"There's something I need to tell you about my Mom and the picture house. It's very important. Are you paying attention?"

I nodded.

"Last night Mrs Gough came over to our house to have a drink with my Mom. You know, the Rhubarb wine. I was in the next room and I could hear them talking. Want to know what they said?"

I nodded.

"My Mom said it was a shame that many kids did not have a sixpence to go to the picture house. She said she's going to change that. She said she will accept Mars Bars as payment for a ticket."

I pondered this for a moment. It sounded like a good idea and I told Nel so.

"It's more than a good idea, it's the thing that allowed me to complete my financial transaction after months of careful planning and reading the Financial Times."

Nel then asked me how many sixpences I collect from the gang each Saturday and I told him 12. He started to slip into a state, he called it his "deep thinking state". It happened every time just before he revealed a plan to me. He was now muttering to himself.

"Perfect. It's a sign. 12 is a most wonderful number."

And with that Nel passed into a trance. The number 12 was indeed a wonderful number. I had an interesting discussion with Ms. Briggs about it only a few days earlier.

It was the end of class and I was waiting as usual at Brigg's desk for punishment. I forget what for. Small punishments like the double hand slap were done immediately in class, but bigger punishments were done after class. She was rummaging through her ruler drawer trying to find the right one. I was standing watching. I decided to see if I could distract her from the punishment and I asked my mind for ideas. It produced one pretty fast and I told Briggs all her rulers ended in 12.

She immediately stopped and slowly turned to look at me.

"Yes they do, but why do you say that Abbott. Is there something about 12 you want to tell me?"

I was surprised. Brigg's took my comment seriously. I needed a response. I said 12 was unusual because it was everywhere, there were 12 pennies in a shilling, 12 inches in a foot, five times 12 seconds in a minute and minutes in an hour, 12 hours in a day, 12 months in a year and 12 of anything in a dozen.

Briggs was now very serious. She scanned me slowly from head to toe. Her reply was interesting.

"Jesus had 12 Disciples, not 10."

Her mention of the number 10 was perfect because it gave me another response. I said we have 10 fingers, so you would expect 10 to be the main number. But it's not, 12 is. Then for dramatic effect I added that this was one of the great unsolved problems of mathematics.

Briggs smiled. But not just any smile. It was a knowing smile. It was the first time I had seen Briggs smile, knowing or otherwise.

Now I realized I could do more than delay the punishment. I could achieve the Holy Grail of punishment, which is to totally avoid it. All depended on my next response. I thought hard. I decided to use psychology. I did not know what psychology was, but I decided to use it anyway. The secret was the knowing smile. A knowing smile means the smiler knows something the other doesn't. But it also means they would like to tell what they know, otherwise they would just do a regular smile and not a knowing smile. So I asked Briggs if she had solved the problem of the number 12. Her response was direct.

"I've been teaching arithmetic for 40 years, and in every class I thought about the number 12. Then just a few weeks ago I solved the problem. Solved finally, after all these years, just before my retirement."

This was perfect. I simply asked if she would tell me the solution so I could learn. Her response was classic Briggs.

"Abbott, you're not the complete wastrel I took you for. The sawdust in your head seems capable of thought at some level."

Then she told all. The total solution. It had to do with sharing. The trick about sharing is that the stuff being shared must be cut into equal size pieces otherwise fights break out between those who got small pieces and those who got big pieces. Equal size pieces is the secret of sharing. 10 can be broken into 2 equal size pieces and also into 5 equal size pieces. So you have 2 ways to share 10 things. But 12 is different. It can be broken into 2 equal size pieces, or 3 equal size pieces, or 4 equal size pieces, or 6 equal size pieces. So you have 4 ways to share 12 things. That's double what you can do with 10. That's why in ancient times 12 became more popular than 10.

Briggs looked across the classroom at nothing. Then she told me to go home. I walked out, but at the door I paused and looked back. Briggs was packing papers into a leather satchel. It looked old. It looked like it had been with her through her 40 years of teaching. She never married. I wondered if she was happy. I wondered what she had achieved in her life. She helped many learn, but had she created anything? There was the double hand slap and her insight into the number 12. It was not much, but it was something. I wondered if I would do more.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Nel. He was out of his trance and said he was ready to explain the transaction. I told him to go ahead.


Chapter 9 - The Transaction

The way Nel explained it the transaction was simple. I was to collect the sixpences as usual and go into the picture house. But I would not go to the ticket counter. Nel would be waiting and I would give him the sixpences. He would sneak out the emergency exit, go Townsend's, buy 12 Mars Bars, return and give them to me. I would then go to Nel's Mom at the ticket counter, buy 12 tickets with the Mars Bars and give the tickets to the gang as usual. Then Nel explained what he called the "bottom line."

"We make 12p profit. That's 2 sixpences. One for each of us."

He asked if I understood.

I thought through the plan step by step and found a problem. When he left by the emergency exit how would he get back in? Emergency exits cannot be opened from the outside. Nel had the solution.

"As I leave I will plug the mechanism with Bubble Gum, so the door will close but not lock."

This seemed fine, so I told Nel the plan was great. He asked if I was ready to do it. I thought it through one more time. I could not find any flaws, so I told Nel I was ready. He got up and said he was going into the lobby of the picture house to wait for me. I stood up, kicked off the curb, glided across the street, jumped the curb on the other side and started going down the line collecting sixpences. Everything was normal. I went into the lobby of the picture house, said hello to Mrs Nelson at the ticket counter, then gave Nel the sixpences. He took a huge piece of Bubble Gum from his mouth and disappeared through the emergency exit.

I waited. The lobby was covered in blue plush carpet which was not good for skating. So I walked around in my skates to ease my anxiety. It was not long before I heard a murmur from outside.

"Where's Abbo? Where's our tickets?"

The gang was getting restless. I had my back to the ticket counter and I was watching the emergency exit.

I decided to think about Nel's Dad. Although he never spoke about the War and flying Wellington Bombers he hung his flight suit in the hallway. It was complete with oxygen mask and tubes. He never touched it and nobody else would dream of touching it. It just hung there with the coats. Nel's Dad was making a quiet statement.

"I wore this coat so you could live and wear your coat."

My thoughts were interrupted when the emergency exit burst open. Nel entered clutching a brown paper bag and walked towards me. When he was about 20 feet away he suddenly stopped. His face showed panic and his eyes bulged even more than usual. He tossed the brown paper bag into the air. By the time I caught it he was gone through the emergency exit.

I thought this was strange and I did not remember it being in the plan. I turned and started to trudge toward the ticket counter. My head was down because I was checking the content of the paper bag. Sure enough, it was full of Mars Bars. This was wonderful. When I got to the counter I looked up, ready to place my order for 12 tickets. I took a second look at the person behind the counter. I was not looking at Mrs Nelson, I was looking at Mr Nelson. He looked at me. Then he looked at the bag and issued a statement with military precision.

"Son, if you don't take that bag and get out of here I'll stuff you in the Bomb Bay and drop you over Dresden."

I clutched the bag tightly to my chest and stepped back a few feet. Then I turned, trudged a few more feet and stopped to consider my options. To my right was the entrance and the noise outside had grown to a steady chant.

"Where's Abbo, where's Abbo, where's Abbo."

To my left was the emergency exit. I took it, then skated like heck down the alley to the main road, swerved left and skated down the pavement to the railway bridge. I paused for a few seconds to catch my breath then skated to the top of the bridge. Going down the other side of the bridge I crouched into the "little lady" position to get maximum speed. At the base of the bridge I swerved right and shot onto our block.

My heart was pounding, but my brain was still working, so I asked it for advice. It told me the gang would soon be on the move and would almost certainly go to my house. So I decided to go to Nel's house. I stopped at Nel's gate then skated up the path and around to the back door. Things were getting dangerous. Nel would help me out of the mess. I knocked on the door.

Chapter 10 - The Siege of Malta

As usual the door was opened by Mrs. Nelson.

"Oh hello Ken, I'm on my lunch break from the picture house, Mr Nelson is covering for me, I'm having bacon butties, do you want one?" I declined. I had more on my mind than bacon butties. I asked for Nel.

"Oh dear, I'm afraid you just missed him. He's taken the bus to Stockport with his Uncle Bert. From there they're going to catch the train to Rhyl and spend a new days by the seaside."

She spotted the pain on my face.

"Are you in trouble with the Gang again?"

I nodded. Mrs Nelson was familiar with the situation and supplied a solution.

"Don't worry dear, here's the key to the coal shed, just lock yourself in."

Coal was the fuel that provided heat and hot water and all the houses had a small shed to hold the supply of coal. I opened the door, climbed onto the pile, then locked the door from the inside and stuffed the key into my pocket next to my skate key. It was dark except for a tiny beam of light coming through the keyhole. There wasn't much to do so I decided to think about the island of Malta.

My Dad was on the island for 2 years during the war while it was under siege by the Italians and Germans. In 2 years they made 3,000 bombing runs over the island. My Dad and his buddies slept in caves which made perfect bomb shelters. But my Dad had trouble. He could sleep in the caves during the day, but at night he found it claustrophobic. So he came up with a simple solution. He volunteered for the night shift on the Ack Ack guns and then slept during the day.

The overnight shift was action packed. The gun was the Bofors 40mm anti aircraft gun. This was much bigger than the Vickers Machine gun, but still smaller than the heavy anti aircraft guns. It usually had a 7 man crew, 2 of which sat in small seats on the gun itself as it swiveled all over the place trying to hit the target. It fired shells that weighed just over 2 lbs each and it shot 2 shells per second. They were loaded in clips of 4, so once the gun was firing the loaders went frantic loading a clip every 2 seconds. Each shell produced a flash of light and smoke as it left the barrel. The barrel then recoiled and its recoil energy was used to eject the spent shell casing and load a new round. The casings bounced all over the place and had to be collected. To make it even more exciting firing was started with a foot pedal.

The gun was designed to fire in automatic mode. This was when a special box calculated range and direction and automatically swiveled the gun into position. But experienced Bofors gunners would take the gun out of automatic mode and fire it in manual mode using the sights. The reason was simple, it was more fun. Much of the fun came from the special shells the gun used. These were tracer shells. They had a small chamber at the back containing flare powder. Once the shell was in the air this power burned and showed the gunner exactly where his shells were going. It was like firing a stream of light bulbs. In manual mode the gunner could then swivel this stream anywhere he wanted. My Dad did this for 2 years. Some of his buddies were killed by the constant bombing, but he survived.

The Italians bombed Malta from very high altitude and were almost impossible to see. The German bombers came much lower and often their fighter escorts would go down to street level and strafe while flying just a few feet off the ground. When the plane ran out of ammunition the pilots would lean out of their cockpits and shoot at people with their pistols. They were pretty serious about killing.

Another time my Dad was gunning with his buddy in the second seat. A bomb dropped very close and blasted the gun with shrapnel. When the dust cleared my Dad looked at his buddy. He was still sitting, but had lost his head. I was just a few years old when my Dad told me the story and I remember asking if the man ever found his head.

My thinking was interrupted by a knock on Nel's door. I looked through the keyhole. It was Ghan and the gang. Mrs. Nelson answered the door and gave them the information about Nel. Then they asked about me. She said she had not seen me but I was probably around somewhere. She closed the door. They left mumbling.

"Traitor. We'll find him. He's a dirty rotten traitor."

I waited a few minutes and quietly let myself out of the coal shed. I was coughing coal dust. I pushed off the wall of Nel's house, flew round the corner of the coal shed and slammed into Ghan. He and the gang had not left, they had been waiting quietly just around the corner. They grabbed me.

"We got him. We got the dirty rotten traitor."

Ghan spotted the brown paper bag and grabbed it. He handed the Mars bars out to the gang and asked who gave me the bag. I could not lie so I said Nel did. Ghan addressed the gang. "See men, Nel always takes care of us. He gave us Mars bars. Now, what should we do with traitor Abbo?" The gang went quiet. They were not good at quickly coming up with ideas. Someone suggested I should be dragged backwards through the hedge, but this didn't get much interest. Then someone suggested they punch me and Ghan looked at him in disgust. Then a clear crystalline voice sang out.

"Let's bury him in my Mom's compost heap."

It was Gough, Nel's neighbor. Her full name was Denise Gough and she was the only girl in the gang. She was no good with weapons but had a talent for instantly solving problems.

The gang looked at each other and smiled. Gough had done it again. They dragged me through Nel's garden and into Gough's. There was no barrier of any kind between the gardens because that would hinder free trade between the two neighbors. The trade consisted mainly of rhubarb that Mrs Nelson imported from Mrs Gough for her rhubarb wine. Everyone on the block grew rhubarb, but all agreed Mrs Gough grew the best.

I was slammed onto the compost heap and held down. Gough produced a spade from her mother's garden shed and gave it to Ghan.

Chapter 11 - The Compost Heap

Ghan started to shovel and had just covered my legs when Gough interrupted.

"Use that section over there. That's not regular compost, it's manure."

Ghan paused for a second and thought aloud.

"Manure? How do you get manure in a compost heap?"

Gough spoke up clear and crystalline as usual.

"My Mom gets it to fertilize her rhubarb. She says it's the secret to world class rhubarb. It has to be warm and steaming when she puts it on. If there is any left over she dumps it in the compost heap."

Ghan asked Gough how her Mom could possibly get warm and steaming manure. Gough did not know. She said nobody knew. But I did.

Every Friday after I got home from school the Rag and Bone man came around on a cart pulled by an old horse. The cry "Rag and Bone" caused my Dad to snap into action. He would find me and give me my wellington boots, a bucket and a small hand shovel. I would slip on my wellies, grab the bucket and shovel and go out to follow the horse. The animal seemed to eat constantly from a nose bag and it was not long before it dropped a load. My job was to scoop the load into the bucket and get it back to my Dad quickly. It was embarrassing for me because as my friends would lean out of their windows laughing. Then somehow my Dad would sneak the bucket over to Mrs Gough who would dump it on her rhubarb while still hot and steaming. It was a trade secret. The only people that knew were me and my Dad. I wore my wellies because there was splatter when the horse dropped a load.

Ghan was now shoveling manure and most of my upper body was covered. He was just about to shovel a load onto my face when he suddenly stopped and looked up at the sky. It was starting to drizzle. He hesitated. Someone said it's not so bad and would clear soon. But within seconds it was pelting down. Ghan had enough.

"Let's go inside and eat our Mars Bars."

The gang vanished. I lay looking at the sky. The rain wet the manure and brought out the bouquet. It was fermented oats with a hint of hay and delicate overtones of methane. Compost heaps are exothermic, so I was warm. Tomorrow was Sunday and there would be no skates and no gang. It was Church and Sunday dinner. I felt positive. I was confident it would not rain on Sunday.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com
Copyright 2017 Ken Abbott



Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com