The Ulster Covenant: part of my heritage?

I’m an Irishman from Belfast currently living in Scotland. I have to admit that I’ve never really understood what exactly being British means, but there are probably half a million people in Ireland, for whom that is the national identity they feel most comfortable with.

On this day 100 years ago, half a million people lined up across the north of Ireland and beyond to sign the Ulster Covenant. A little dig around my family history reveals a mixture of catholic and presbyterian ancestry, so some of those covenanters were family of mine. I had a look at the PRONI archive to see how many I could spot.
Ulster Covenant (men) Continue reading “The Ulster Covenant: part of my heritage?”

A Blast From The Past

Car bomb rocks Drumsurn villageOn Thursday 26 July 1973, loyalists exploded a car bomb outside my uncle’s pub in the small village of Drumsurn, Co. Derry. Although I was only six, I remember it quite well as we were visiting at the time. I was staying the night upstairs above the pub with 3 of my siblings and half a dozen or more cousins. Luckily there were no serious casualties.

Recently I was curious to find out the exact timing and circumstances of the bomb attack and had a look through the newspapers of the time at Belfast Central Library. I could find no coverage of the blast in any of the Belfast or Derry City newspapers – a car bomb in a rural village inflicting relatively minor injury and damage obviously struggled to compete for column inches with all the other stuff going on in the summer of 1973. Continue reading “A Blast From The Past”

2016 Olympics conundrum for Northern Ireland’s top golfers

Photo by Lauren Teague
Golf returns to the Olympics in 2016, last appearing in 1904 where only two countries were represented (Canada and the USA). The International Golf Federation have proposed the following eligibility scheme to determine which of the world’s top golfers will challenge for Olympic medals in Rio:

The IGF is recommending an Olympic field of 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s competition, utilizing the official world golf rankings as a method of determining eligibility. The top 15 world-ranked players would be eligible for the Olympics, regardless of the number of players from a given country. Beyond the top 15, players would be eligible based on world ranking, with a maximum of two available players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

Currently golf’s top 15 male players are drawn from the USA (9), England (3), Northern Ireland (2) and Australia (1). It may look different in four years’ time, but wherever they are ranked, Northern Ireland’s top golfers will face a unique and delicate choice between TeamGB and Ireland. We might see pragmatism or friendship put before personal feelings of national identity. Continue reading “2016 Olympics conundrum for Northern Ireland’s top golfers”

Exporting “Safe Senders” from Windows Live Mail

This note relates to Windows Live Mail version 2009 (Build 14.0.8117.0416) running in Windows XP.

I found it impossible to export or copy ‘n’ paste the Safe Senders the addresses from Tools->Safety Options in my Windows Live Mail. I wanted to do this to import the list to the server-based Junk Mail filter provided by my email host.

A bit of digging about in the registry exposed the location of the Safe Senders list as


[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Live Mail\PerPassportSettings\0\Junk Mail\Safe Senders List]

Unfortunately each address is saved in a separate registry subkey, so a bit of text manipulation is required after exporting the above Registry key to a .REG file. I used Edit-Plus to sort the file, strip out the non-pertinent stuff and perform a find-and-replace on the lines containing the email addresses, which are of the format


"Exception"="goodfriend@gmail.com"

Broccoli Burritos with chickpea and roasted pepper filling

This has been a staple favourite of mine if I’m entertaining as it works well as a party buffet snack (chopped in quarters) or as part of a main meal served with rice and salad. These are dead easy (a food processor is required) to prepare and turn out extremely tasty.

Continue reading “Broccoli Burritos with chickpea and roasted pepper filling”

Vegan chocolate tray bake topped with ganache

Vegan chocolate tray bakeI went along to my first meetup of the Edinburgh Cinema group and Elise the facilitator had generously baked a chocolate cake for everyone. This was my first knowing encounter with ganache as an icing alternative and I was pointed towards Beatty’s Chocolate Cake for the recipe of the deliciously moist cake.

Inspired by this, I fancied adapting this into a vegan tray-bake and my first attempt turned out no’ too bad.
Continue reading “Vegan chocolate tray bake topped with ganache”

Writing the script for Spain v Scotland

Even if, like me, you’re not a Scot, you probably still feel a sense of a pre-ordained script for tonight’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Alicante. Scotland have that traditional glimmer of a chance at making it to the next stage. It is even in their hands – beat Spain and they are through to the play-offs.

But Scottish sport doesn’t usually work like that. The script generally goes like this:

The small glimmer of hope is consolidated by valiant and sometimes heroic efforts.

Here is a knockout formula

a = 2 (n – R)

I always like a good real-world application of mathematics, in this case algebra.

FA Cup draw
Photo by Matlock

The question

If you’re organising a knockout tournament for something and the number of players or teams is not a neat power of two, how many players have to be drawn in round 1, so that round 2 is a neat power of two? I figured this out by solving this pair of equations:

a + b = n
0.5a + b = R

where a is the number of players to be drawn in round 1, b is the remainder of players to be drawn in round 2, n is the total no. of players and R is the largest power of two less than or equal to n.

Solving the equations

0.5a + (n-a) = R
a + 2n - 2a = 2R
2n - a = 2R
a = 2n - 2R
a = 2(n - R)

An example

91 players enter our tournament, how many must be drawn in round 1?
n = 91, R = 64
a = 2 x (91 - 64)
a = 54
So we draw 54 players in round 1, which produces 27 winners to meet the remaining 37 players in round 2.