Monday, May 30, 2011

On Radio Advertising


There is currently an advertisement running its course for a certain car manufacturer’s “Auto Stop-Start” feature, which switches off the engine when the car is at a complete stop. The amusing part of the advert comes when it states that "when your car comes to a stop, all you will here is this..." Which is followed by a brief period of no noise apart from the sound of my own car's engine idling. I wonder if the marketing team that came up with the advert realised that a large portion of radio listeners do the majority of their listening while in the car, and would either already have a silent car, in which case their marketed idea would not appeal to them, or woud hear the sound of their own car engine during the period of silence. It's exactly the same as those TV adverts.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

On the Uneasiness of Electromagnetic Trespassing


It is particularly disturbing when I am sitting in my bedroom at home working on my laptop, and I get signal from my neighbour’s Wi-Fi. I know it’s somewhat less intrusive than having a neighbour’s cat walk muddy paw prints over my car, but it still gives me the vague impression that I am not alone. It is just as nerve-wracking to see the signal strength fluctuate eerily as the wind changes, almost as if the source of the signal is wandering around the house like a ghost. I’m comfortable with most technology, but that is the one thing that gives me the heebie jeebies.

I know there are an endless number of electromagnetic signals passing through my bedroom all the time, but none of them are as personal as Wi-Fi. They don’t have your neighbour’s name attached to them. Anyway, I’d better get on with my work... There are four different Wi-Fi signals roaming through my office, keeping watch.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On Towel Day Part II


I dislike regurgitating the same post, but that important time of year has come around again. In memory of the death of the great Douglas Adams on the 11th of May 2001, and in celebration of the premier of the Star Wars episode IV on the 25th of May 1977, I’d like to remind every geek and nerd out there to remember to carry their towels with them tomorrow.

For does the Guide itself not say:
      "A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

      "More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."


Even if you never read the Guide and don’t understand the significance of Towel Day do it for the sake of Geek Pride Day tomorrow. And if you are really so geeky that a towel is not enough for you, then make sure to carry your hard boiled egg and lilac with you for the Glorious Revolution of the 25th of May, as a tribute to Terry Pratchett, and to help raise awareness for Alzheimer's research.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

On My Neon Coloured Inflatable Safety Device


I carry my lunch in a neon green cooler bag (or a neon orange one, if I forget the green one in my desk drawer the day before). When people ask, I tell them that it is an inflatable safety device in case I fall into a lake. The real reason is simpler, but the full story is rather long-winded. I will give it a try, nonetheless.

All through school and for my undergraduate years at university, I carried only one bag around with me with all of my books as well as my lunch and juice. In high school, the sheer size of my bag earned me a bit of a reputation. Most people packed their bags in the morning or the night before, and only packed the books that they needed for that day. I was never the sort to be able to get into a routine (never mind have to work out what day it is, every single day), and after several occasions where I went to school taking books packed for the wrong day, I decided that such a system could never work. Instead, I adjusted the system to use terms instead of days. This way, I only needed to pack my bag with all of the books I would need in the next three months, and only needed to remember to do so every three months. (And although I often have difficult remembering what day yesterday was, I usually find it easier to remember which term the last one was (since three months does give it time to sink into my long term memory).)

However, at university, the books grew bigger, the distances between classes grew further, I grew lazier, and large bags grew more expensive. It did not take long for the immense compressive forces inside my bag to cause a bottle of grape juice to pop its lid – an accident which left my unfortunate chemistry textbook permanently disfigured (and stained pink, which I’m sure is the source of much teasing from the other books). Thanks to this (and one or two other close calls), I learned to leave my text books at home, and take only a notepad and some pencils with me to lectures, and then empty the previous days notes out when I got home. That way, I would lose at most one day’s work in case of a catastrophic leak. Unfortunately, by third year (which I reached in five years, due to my inability to decide what I what I want to be if I eventually grow up), I began to carry my laptop with me to classes, and still used only one bag. (Actually two on some days, because of the immense number of reference material that my aircraft design lecturer insisted we had with us all the time, but there was no way I was going to risk damaging the thousand odd pages of charts and tables and diagrams, so my laptop and lunch remained in one bag.)

(On a side note, when I did carry two bags, I had to tie them together. The awkwardness of having a piece of string to deal with every time you moved or pick up the bags was far preferable to realising that you had forgotten one bag somewhere several hours previously.)

I was very careful, and for almost one and a half years my laptop survived sharing a bag with not just one juice bottle, but a half litre water bottle as well. However, one day (19 January 2010, before 11:24 am, judging by my facebook status update regarding the event), The water bottle, apparently jealous of the bag being dry inside, decided that the bag should carry half the water as well. I pulled out my sopping wet laptop, pulled out the keys and patted it down with toilet paper. (Very bad idea. It sticks to everything when it gets wet, and it turns out that removing the bits of toilet paper is a real mission.) Fortunately, the laptop made it through with absolutely no damage (apart from toilet paper stuck to the backs of one or two keys).

From that day onwards, I have been carrying my juice and water bottles in a nice black cooler bag that my father once got for free at some company function.

Oh... wait. That explains the black cooler bag, and not the neon green one, doesn’t it? I started carrying the neon green one several months before the laptop-water incident because the large bowls of leftovers that I regularly take for lunch don’t fit in the bag with my laptop, didn’t I? Ah, apparently it's not so long-winded after all.
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Monday, May 9, 2011

On Hypocrisy


The label “hypocrite” is often used in an insulting way, or as a means to discredit a person. In my opinion, the exact opposite is often true. In an argument, if one were to label ones opponent a hypocrite, it would not only be a fallacy ad hominem (what a person does has no affect on the validity of their statements), but may even lend support to their statement. I am often a hypocrite, and usually proud (or at least indifferent) to the fact. Usually it just means that I am able to back up what I am saying with personal experience, which in a way, takes me that much closer to being an expert on the matter.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with warning people about putting their hand in the fire if you’re busy burning your own hand.

(On a side note: This may or may not be related to making spelling errors when correcting someone else's spelling errors.)

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On the Origin of the Readers


Yesterday, bored, I checked where the majority of the traffic to this site comes from. Fascinated, and because I like graphs, I decided to plot a nice pretty Pac Man chart. I made a nice looking graph, but realised too late that it didn’t fit in with my colour scheme. Anyway, it was interesting enough to be shared. Click on the image for a higher resolution version.



I thought of making some more, but the graph making urge had been satisfied.
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On the Firmly Embedded Lyricless Music


I have a tendency to not really listen to music. I was gifted with the ability to completely shut out all outside distractions when I want to work (which, unfortunately, does not improve my concentration). It makes it difficult to decide which songs from new albums to put onto mix CDs for my car, but that is only part of the problem. The biggest annoyance is that occasionally I hear the first couple of bars to a song, but my mind switches off before I can ever get to the rest of the song. The first few bars get stuck in my head, and I’m driven crazy because that’s where it stops every time.

Also frustrating are those parts in instrumental pieces (especially in classical music) where two (or more) instruments play opposing tunes. It is impossible to hum it mentally and get the exact tone. I spend hours trying to get the tone correct in my mind,

A similar thing happens when I hear a catchy song on the radio, and I only know one line. I can only repeat that line over and over in my head, and a sense of frustration creeps in when I can never make it past that line.

The most annoying part, perhaps, is that the action of my mind playing songs back to me is completely involuntary.
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