Sunday, February 26, 2006

There are lesssons everywhere

The photograph to the left is filled with lessons. I shot it while I was riding in a taxi and we stopped for a red light.

There's also a mystery question for anyone who wants to accept my challenge. More about that later.

It the camera I have snapped the moment I asked it to snap, you would have seen a red light and the amber light lit at at the same time. That would have made the picture better, in terms of lessons.

I had to ask the driver to wait, because I wanted a picture or the sign. You see, they give drivers a hint that the light is about to turn green by adding the amber light. It's sort of like the starting lights at a drag race. People can rev up and punch it when it turns green. Of course, some see it as an invitation to burst through even before the green appears.

To man in the High Desert where I live, the signal lights mean, "Look left. Look Right. No police in sight? Punch it!"
They just have their own ways here.

The second lesson here is in how to understand a language you've never learned. Take a few minutes if you like and see if you can learn how to translate the Serbian and if you can learn to understand how some Cyrilic characters work. This is a great lesson, I think. Don't read further if you don't want to know.

OK, first, did you figure out what Pionirski Park is? It seems like a no brainer. You can almost figure out how to pronounce the vowels, because maybe it sounds a bit like a word in English.

Good work. Now look at the Cyrilic characters above each of the words in Serbian. What's cool about this is that it shows you, letter-by-letter, what the Cyrilic translation is. If you have any curiousity at all, you can figure out a half a dozen Cyrilic letters. I think it's cool, because the more of them I learn, the easier it is for me to get around in the city.

OK, here's your quiz: What's this Cyrilic word translate to? PECTOPAH

You should be able to do it.

The best lesson is the lighted number -- 097. You should be able to figure that one out also. And when you do, you'll have an answer to a question that many have asked: Are the Serbians catching up with us technologically? My response is, if we had signs like this on in Southern California, people wouldn't have to act like such jerks. They wouldn't panic as much.

Here's the challenge. Based on the sign and its contents only, tell me what the 097 represents. Here's a hint. The sign has nothing to do with that particular intersection or to do with general traffic-related stuff. The number is controlled at a remote location. The bonus question is: What is the word to the right of the 097? You cannot exactly translate it from Cyrilic based upon the characters you learn about in the photo. You could either find a place on the Internet that shows you how to convert the characters -- or you might guess based on the mystery question. E-mail me with the answer at

Just so you'll know, these are the kinds of challenges I give when I teach groups of wannabe investigators. It's sort of a screening test. In other words, if the puzzle doesn't puzzle you enough to make you obsessed with solving the puzzle, then you're probably not good investigator material. But that doesn't make you a bad person.

I'm home for a week and I'm reflecting on some most interesting thoughts and observations. I'll share those with you later.

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