Playfair decipherment solution

Here is the solution to the decipherment challenge in my post about the Playfair cipher from a couple of weeks ago.


Cipher square:




























Plaintext: This you must ken / From one make ten, / And two let be, / make even three, / Then rich you’ll be. / Skip o’er the four! / From five and six, / The Witch’s tricks, / Make seven and eight, / ‘Tis finished straight; / And nine is one, / And ten is none, / That is the witch’s one-times-one!

This poem is a translation of an excerpt from Goethe’s Faust that I happen to like ^^


The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies, by Si King and Dave Myers (published 2011)

I love the Hairy Bikers. They’re my favourite TV foodies, with their cheerful, friendly manner, their wonderful and very real friendship, their skills and knowledge in the kitchen, and their great and genuine passion for their subject. These qualities come through in their Perfect Pies recipe book, which (as the post title indicates) is the subject of my rambling today.

I don’t need to say what this book is about, do I? Heh heh heh… Ok, I’ll say this much: it is a heartfelt love letter to the many faces of pie, from sweet to savoury, from meaty to veggie, from single crust to double crust, shortcrust to suet to puff pastry to raised hot-water crusts. It is beautiful!

There’s so much stuff in there that a comprehensive description would involve reproducing most of the book (which would annoy the copyright holders) and, as tends to happen if I don’t restrain myself when talking about something I like a lot, be semi-coherent at best (which would annoy blog readers). I’ll just say that if you can think of it, it’s probably in here. Classic steak and kidney pie? Check. Chicken and mushroom? Check. Apple pie? Yup. Summer fruit tart? Ooooh yes. Suet-crust steak and kidney pudding? I’m running out of affirmatives ūüėÄ I was a little surprised to find recipes for pasties, calzone, baklava, and canap√©s, as I hadn’t thought that any of these counted as pies, but they are there and they look delicious.

I haven’t had much of a chance to try out any of the recipes yet (that will have to wait until I have my own place). However, I would very much like to have a bash at calzones, which look like they might be a good ‘make multiple meals’ worth and put them in the fridge or freezer’ dish, and one of the recipes that uses a raised hot-water crust. This looks like it would be rather fiddly, but the effort will undoubtedly be worth it.

Apart from the delicious variety of pies described, there are also sections on such tasty topics as side dishes, salads, condiments, and stuff to make with leftover bits of pastry. There’s also a fairly comprehensive section at the end of the book, which talks about kitchen tools for pie-making, the basics of pastry-wrangling, and some more advanced ideas for putting a bit of variety into one’s pastry.

The book is liberally illustrated with photographs of every dish described within its pages. These serve a dual purpose: displaying what each finished dish should look like, and making the viewer hungry enough to rush to the kitchen and start cooking. I’m not sure how far that second effect was actually intended, but it happens nonetheless. Even without the ingredients for any of the recipes, I could look at the pictures for hours.

I do have a few minor criticisms:

  1. Many of the recipes contain added salt; flaked sea salt (or some other variant) is listed in the ingredients list, and the recipe itself instructs something along the lines of ‘add salt to taste’ at some point, even when the dish is already quite salty due to the other ingredients. This seems a bit excessive, and is not good for the heart. The extra salt can easily be omitted altogether in the vast majority of cases, especially when it comes to the pastry, without having any adverse effect on the final dish.
  2. The method given for making vol-au-vent cases seems prima facie to be a bit wasteful. It involves cooking squares of puff pastry and then removing a smaller square from the centre of each of them. No further instruction is given regarding the removed pastry, so the assumption seems to be that it is discarded. This seems absurdly wasteful. I can think of two ways to use up this removed pastry: mix it in with excess filling as a sustaining nibble for the chef, or cut it into small pieces and stir it into the filling to make it stretch further. Delicious!
  3. This is more of a personal thing, but one or two of the recipes for side dishes involve deep-frying. For health reasons, I prefer to shallow fry or, ideally, grill/oven-bake instead.
  4. Another personal thing: most of the recipes, when it comes to pastry, instruct the cook to mix the pastry in a blender or food processor. I prefer to mix pastry by hand where possible. This is partly for the sheer tactile pleasure of it, and partly because the pastry always seems to come out better if made using this method. It also makes the washing-up considerably less complicated. Thankfully, the section on pastry-wrangling (though the book doesn’t call it that!) has some good tips on hand-making pastry.

Apart from these points, I have no complaints about the book at all. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wanted to know more about the noble art of pies!

Gourmet Adventures Programme for 2016

Diane Seed

Seville 9-15 April and Marrakech 15-19 April ‚Äď Both tours can be booked separately

Seville Flamenco

Andalusia is a joyful region of extremes, rich in history, culture and gastronomic treasures. In towns and villages the narrow streets pulse with life and after dark sounds of music and laughter drift into the air. The shades of Bizet’s Carmen and Rossini’s Figaro lurk round the corner and many of the local young men seem to be inspired by the legendry Don Juan.


Marrakech is magical city. The pink and turquoise walls and buildings shimmer like a mirage and the shady tiled courtyards and gently-splashing fountains soothe the senses. In the Medina the smell of the heaped, exotic spices and grilling meat is all-pervasive and the vibrant colours and perpetual hubbub are almost a physical assault. The city has many moods and we will explore them all, on foot, from a horse-drawn caleche or…

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Caesar shift and Vigen√®re solutions

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post about the Vigen√®re cipher, including some comments on Caesar shift ciphers. In that post, I set a couple of ciphertext messages — one in Caesar shift, one in Vigen√®re — as a decipherment challenge for blog readers. I promised to post solutions in a couple of weeks from that point. A couple of weeks have now passed, so, as promised, here are the solutions:

Basic Caesar shift

Ciphertext: frzdugv glh pdqb wlphv ehiruh wkhlu ghdwkv tkh ydoldqw qhyhu wdvwh ri ghdwk exw rqfh ri doo wkh zrqghuv wkdw l bhw kdyh khdug lw vhhpv wr ph prvw vwudqjh wkdw phq vkrxog ihdu vhhlqj wkdw ghdwk d qhfhvvdub hqg zloo frph zkhq lw zloo frph

Shift type: Three spaces to the right

Plaintext: ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but once. / Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, / It seems to me most strange that men should fear; / Seeing that death, a necessary end, / Will come when it will come.’

Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar, Act 2 Scene 2

Full Vigenère cipher






Keyword: codebook (This is especially appropriate, given the original author of the plaintext)

Plaintext: The life that I have / Is all that I have / And the life that I have / Is yours. / The love that I have / Of the life that I have / Is yours and yours and yours. / A sleep I shall have / A rest I shall have / Yet death will be but a pause. / For the peace of my years / In the long green grass / Will be yours and yours and yours.

Leo Marks, Christmas 1943


The Philosopher's Eye

Welcome to the second Bioethics Digest, brought to you in association with the editors of the Bioethics Forum. This digest aims to bring you commentary on today’s most topical bioethics issues. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not The Hastings Center.

After the Supreme Court Decision on Lethal Injection Drug, More Questions

The execution of William Kemmler, August 6, 1890 The execution of William Kemmler, August 6, 1890

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma’s substitution of midazolam for sodium thiopental as a sedative in lethal injections does not violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Now, an important question is whether states will even be able to obtain drugs used in capital punishment. Increasing numbers of professional associations that are essential for providing and compounding lethal injection drugs are urging their members not to do so.

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) recently issued a statement discouraging pharmacists from…

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Le chiffre indéchiffrable

(Apologies for the lateness of this post — recent bad weather was making my internet connection rather unreliable)

They say that the mark of understanding for any concept is one’s ability to teach that concept to others. On that note, this post is going to be me rambling about the workings of the Vigen√®re cipher, with notes and a couple of challenges for the reader. The rest of the post is under a ‘read more’ tag.

Continue reading

Reproduction and the LGBT Parent; a Changing Narrative

The Philosopher's Eye

"Love Makes A Family"One historically important objection to gay and lesbians relationships is that they are inherently sterile and incapable of producing children. Many gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people have managed to have children anyway, through prior relationships, adoption and by relying on donated gametes and gestational surrogacy.  The prospect of synthetic gametes may lead to further options as well, if researchers can derive female gametes from men and male gametes from women.  With synthetic gametes, a same-sex couple would not need any third-party gamete donor in order to conceive a child. Inventive options are available for transgender people too. Some jurisdictions used to require evidence of sterility before re-categorizing people they treated as male to female, from female to male. Most jurisdictions no longer require sterilization that way, with the interesting result that some transgender men have gestated children.  Transgender women might in the future turn to uterus transplants in order…

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Next Steps in LGBT: Continuing Awareness

The Philosopher's Eye

‚ÄúThe first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒNathaniel Branden, American Psychologist

National Equality March 2009 Photo credit: Flicker‚ÄĒKyle Rush

Thank you, readers, for joining us on our month-long LGBT blog take-over. Together we turned a critical eye on the human rights and rhetoric surrounding the LGBT community. Expanding past the common belief that equality is purely a social issue, our guest editors and articles showed relevance in business, education, psychology, bioethics and more. To facilitate the continuation of our thoughts and communal work, we’re setting free more scholarly articles and book chapters focused on awareness as a crucial engine in social change. Take a look at our page to see the latest in research across the social sciences and humanities in awareness.

The engine for social change is a moving target; one that if we’re not reading and engaging with, it can stall out. LGBT Pride Month garnered significant…

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