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Number Crunching

Other than the birth of my children, the achievement of which I am most proud is having obtained an A at Maths GCSE. I’m pleased to say that my Maths teacher almost needed smelling salts when the results were pinned to the board, having told me I was a hopeless case for several years. (I have a stubborn streak, and schadenfreude is one of my many sins).

In a lot of ways she was right – my brain just doesn’t seem to be wired to understand abstract concepts. Addition, substraction, multiplication & division are no problem – can do the numbers game on Countdown/les chiffres et les lettres, better than the Grouch, who did not one, but three maths A-levels. Spatial awareness is fine -as illustrated by my having to show the removal men how to get my now defunct and crushed fridge into the house via a doorway, rather than horizontally through the window, and have lost count of the number of passengers holding their breath and adopting the brace position whilst I manoever my somewhat wider than standard car through narrow medieval alleyways.

But try and explain calculus/differentiation or triangles to me and a glazed expression of utter confusion will beset my features.

The reason for the above confession is that my daughter’s homework has me stumped. Luckily, once I’d translated it from French to English the Grouch was able to explain how to work out the area of a small square inside a larger one, given only that the large square was 7cm wider (& taller, I’m not that THAT thick) than the smaller and that the area of the large square minus that of the small square is 189cm2.

Anyway, the point of the post is not that I am NOT a  ‘mathos’, but that I had blithely assumed that the answer would be the same both here and in UK, maths & science being the universal language, so here’s the question :


Given that there were no brackets present I blithely assumed the answer to be 55.

Apparently not.  In France multiplication takes precedence over the order in which the calculation is written, making the answer 27.

Go figure!

PS Answers plus methodology welcome in comments!


The client is always in the wrong

Yippee!  At the risk of tempting fate, for the first time in over a year I know how to use my no-longer so shiny, no-longer so new, laptop.  With Windows 95 I was still able to programme, though by XP I was down to just using the software, but could still understand what the PC was doing and sort out problems. Have now become a complete techno-numpty.

The trouble started after the mouse played up with the PC -the small furry variety, that is. We’d taken off the cover to install a bigger memory and weren’t quite quick enough replacing it. The fan makes it a lovely warm spot, and all those lovely wires to chew. Youngest cat may also have contributed to the demise as various cables were pulled from their moorings and there was a strange yet familiar aroma of eau de félin. In short, a dead PC.

Santa Grouch decided he was too busy to build me a new PC from the various components we have lurking in drawers so a visit to the Pewter shop loomed. Yay!

I chose a laptop,(so that the Grouch couldn’t dismantle it!) with a useable keyboard and Windows Home Premium, in the erroneous belief that one could change language  – my mistake, I admit it, mea culpa – the quick research I did was wrong . All it did was offer to translate text from English to French,  and had no effect whatsoever on the OS display.

Not only that, but it was a cobbled together mixture of Vista beta & XP.  Ctrl+Alt+Suppr did nothing – no Task Manager. I found a Vista shortcuts list on the web and eventually found the Gestionnaire des Tâches, but when you typed that into the ‘super dooper’ new Vista search – nichts, nada, nyet!   I was completely at sea! No longer could I find out why it wasn’t doing as it was told, but was reduced to wailing the all too familiar – “What’s it doing now?”  Even the French IT bod living next door couldn’t fathom it.

Next came the fun bit – back to the shop :

  • you said this was Premium, it isn’t, it’s Basic
  • you said it would be in English, it isn’t
  • you said it was Vista, it isn’t, at least not as I know it

No problem, said shop, just phone the manufacturer, they’ve made a mistake with the packaging

I think we can all see where this is going – 6 weeks of ping-pong/wiff-waff/wimbledon between the Manufacturer and the retailer, both blaming the other, before I gave up and vowed never to buy anything from either again.

So, during our ‘holiday’ I bought another copy of Home Basic and now, 20 months later, my ‘new’ lappy is finally doing what it said on the tin. Though,of course it wasn’t quite as simple as that. The upgrade function wouldn’t work with change of language so had to install it from scratch.

Having backed up all files and folders on an external drive I confidently clicked the install as new button, only to find that when I later tried to re-upload my documents and programmes, that the whole system reverted to the Windows Old French version. Growl. Re-install with the attendant phone call to Microsoft that no I wasn’t trying to load one copy onto more than one computer etc etc etc. Somewhat galling, as I’d effectively bought two copies of Vista for one computer.

The admittedly long-winded solution I’ve found is to attach the external drive to the other PC and to e-mail my documents to myself.

Surely there has to be an easier way.