Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Idler, Monday, August 6, 2018


This human computer


Lusikisiki here I come,

Right back where I started from …

LAST week, in the context of hideous price increases, we carried a photograph of a 123-year-old National Cash Register that could not ring up more than one pound, nineteen shillings and ninepence (R3.97 in today's money). Nobody could possibly want to buy something costing more

It brought to mind a barman I knew in days of yore whose arithmetical brilliance had bestowed upon him the nickname National Cash.

National Cash was barman in the Royal Hotel, Lusikisiki, down in Pondoland. A pint of beer in those days cost 15 cents (Can you believe it?)

Three of us would walk into his bar. We'd order three beers. National Cash would serve them up then grab a piece of paper and write down 15, 15 15, stacked vertically, then draw two lines underneath.

Then he'd say: "Five and five's ten and five's fifteen carry one. One and one's two and one's three and one's four. Forty-five cents, gentlemen!"

Then he'd scrunch up the piece of paper and throw it away. If we ordered three more beers he'd go through the whole performance again.

He never made a mistake. The man was a marvel, a human computer, except we'd never heard of computers in those days, least of all in Lusikisiki. National Cash fully merited his moniker. But I think one pound, nineteen shillings and ninepence would have been just a bridge too far.



AND, while we're busy with tricky arithmetic, reader Naomi Stapersma asks what a billion is exactly?

"We read statements about billions of rands or other currencies and/or people and yet no-one tells us how much or many one billion is. Even looking it up on the internet yields an intriguingly ambiguous statement."

Naomi, I'm about the last person you should ask. I'm okay with tickeys and things, but higher than that I begin to flounder. I can say with certainty that a billion is what I don't have in my bank account, but beyond that I have to ask others.

A billion is a thousand million (and a million is a thousand thousand).

There was a time that when the Brits (and some South Africans) said "a billion", they meant a million million, which was a shedload if you were talking cash.

But the Yanks said a billion meant a thousand million, which was more reasonable and manageable, and eventually they prevailed.

If you're talking a million million, that's a trillion.

I hope I haven't confused anyone. To get it into perspective, when former president JZ was talking lightly to Vladimir Putin about signing up to the nuclear energy option, the figure bandied about was something like three trillion smackers.

His successor, Cyril, doesn't like tongue-twisters so - fortunately, many of us think – the nuclear deal is off. It's time to talk tickeys again.


Silky finesse

IS RUGBY not an unfathomable game? The Crusaders have something like 30% possession in the Super Rugby Final, yet they beat the Lions by what seems a comfortable margin.

A cracker of a game. The Lions dominated much of the first half. Several times they looked to be right back in contention. But they just couldn't finish off some very promising stuff.

New Zealand rugby has developed a silky finesse we've yet to match. We've got about a year. Pale toe!

Thames chase

WAS this a remake of the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough? Scotland Yard speedboats were chasing four jetskis on the Thames, past the Greenwich Peninsula toward central London. Was it a terror attack?

But it was not a remake of Pierce Brosnan's famous scene in the Bond movie, according to Sky News. Nor was it t errorism.They were just hooligan jetskiers on a stretch of the Thames where private craft are not allowed.

But a thrilling chase for onlookers ashore – past Canary Wharf, round the Isle of Dogs. Then the cops let them go as they left the prohibited section, "for safety reasons".


Paddy and Mick are out on the marshes hunting duck.

Mick: "All day out here, Paddy, and not a single duck!"

Paddy: "I tink next time dey fly over, we trow de dogs a little higher."

Last word

By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.


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