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The following article, accompanied by a photograph of the two women, appeared in *The Sunday Mail* in Queensland, Australia, on March 10, 1996:
Hey, Belinda, meet Belinda
They could not look more at odds, but these two women are "twins" locked in a bureaucratic nightmare. Banks, building societies, government agencies, the Electoral Commission and even the local library cannot tell them apart. When one went for a loan, the other found her credit cancelled. When one enrolled in university she was offered the other's completed degree. Though one is an Aborigine with melting dark eyes and curly brown hair and the other a straight-haired, blue-eyed blonde, computers across Australia refuse to accept they are not one and the same person.
The problem is not simply that they bear the identical name: Belinda Lee Perry. Even more uncannily, B1 and B2 have the same date of birth January 7, 1969. The two Belindas stretch the bounds of mathematical probability.
Sports betting agency Centrebet figures the odds against such a biographical collision are five million to one.
The first time blonde Belinda suspected she might have a double was back when she was still in high school. A mix-up at the Medicare office had her with a broken arm instead of an injured hand.
The next problem arose when blonde Belinda, who was born and raised at Caves Beach near Newcastle in NSW, tried to claim social security benefits. The CES [Commonwealth Employment Service] already had her on the books.
The following year the other Belinda joined the City of Sydney library and suddenly her namesake found her library card cancelled because the computer recognised only one Belinda Lee Perry. Blonde Belinda then had her name struck off the electoral roll after the other Belinda changed address.
But brunette Belinda also had problems. She had applied for an Abstudy (Aboriginal Studies) grant and was informed she already had an Austudy loan.
Later she was sent a bill for $3000. And blonde Belinda has been unable to transfer her Visa card to another bank because of the "twin" mix-up. But, despite the difficulties, the two women hit it off from the moment they met. "It's like we're related," they both said.
[The risk? With an Australian population of around eighteen million, and
odds of one in five million, where is the *third* Belinda Lee Perry born
on January 7, 1969? TM]
I read somewhere that the chances of winning the lottery are the same whether you enter or not. According to a report in the Irish Times (February the 24th — I get mine sent to me in Munich) a man is suing the
National Lottery for payment of 250 000 Irish pounds (nearly 400 000 US dollars) because his winning lotto panel was not entered into the system. The man submitted 32 panels of numbers, but one of the panels was entered twice, so the winning panel was left out. He has little chance of winning his case, as each lotto receipt bears the warning "Before leaving the Lotto agent's premises, check the numbers on your tickets..."
The risk? People forget that the probability of the agent miskeying your numbers is much greater than the probability of winning the lottery, even (especially?) if you submit 32 panels at once. The best way to avoid the
risk is not to play, of course. I'm waiting patiently for a (misaddressed) lotto cheque to drop in my mail box any day now...
[PGN Abstracting of an AP article, Courtesy of Associated Press andUse of the Air Force's satellite-aided navigation system is being proposed for keeping track of trains throughout the U.S. The system would sound warnings to train engineers if inter-train distances were too small, and would actively cause trains to slow down or stop if it anticipated an imminent collision. `Because the satellite would establish locations with greater accuracy, trains could travel faster and closer to one another than the widely varying guidelines being used today.'
CompuServe's Executive News Service:]
``Before making a commitment to something like this, you really have to make
sure it works,'' said Tom White, spokesman for the American Association of Railroads.
[Who is YOU, White-man? Wow, the potential risks here are fascinating, but beyond the scope of my habitual interstitiation. This is intended not to prompt further discussion here, but rather to alert you all to this possibility. PGN]
I noticed, while loading a web page, that there was a mailto: URL active (using the "Easter Egg" Ctrl-Alt-T popup to see active URLs). Sure enough, after I cancelled that and examined the source, I saw something like this: