Monday, August 29, 2011

On Calculators


And yes, I am talking about the little battery operated pocket calculator. The one I have used maybe twice in the two years since my final exams at University. In fact, I am not even sure if it still works. (Note: I just checked. It does work. It just needs a whack against the desk to get the display to turn on.)

The thing with calculators is that people tend to take them for granted. I have learnt the hard way that they are vastly overrated. During test and exams, both at school and university, students were required to take out the stationery that they would need, and leave their bags at the back of the venue. Since I've always had a tendency to take the more mathematical subjects, The majority of exams I have written have required a calculator.

The first time I remember forgetting to take my calculator out was during an accounting exam in high school. As soon as I realised that I had forgotten, I thought of raising my hand and asking if I could go fetch it, but something inside me saw it more as a personal challenge, and that raising my hand would be giving up. Instead, I wrote the exam without my calculator, doing all the adding in my head and doing the more complicated depreciation and interest calculations in the margins. Somehow, I managed an A for that exam, and I felt immensely more proud of myself than I would have if my calculator had done half the work.

A couple of years later, sitting done for my mid-year physics exam at university, I realised that I had not taken a calculator out of my bag. (The irony was that I had by that time started carrying a spare calculator to exams, just in case one stopped working.) Once again, I considered raising my hand, but something in me was excited about the challenge. This time however, the calculations were somewhat more challenging than mere addition and subtraction. Many of them involved trigonometric functions and square roots - the sorts of calculation I cannot easily work out on a piece of paper without considerable time. Needless to say, I failed the exam completely.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that I should not listen to the little voices in my head that get excited whenever something challenging comes up. The only problem is that I don't think I can.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

On Making Telephone Calls


I am a little shy in some situations. I have no problem getting up in front of a crowded room and talking, but some things make me extremely nervous. Telephone calls, for example. When receiving them, I have to take a couple of deep breaths to psych myself up before picking up the phone. During the conversation, I'll usually limit myself to yes or no answers, even in cases where it doesn't really answer the question asked. I often find myself saying goodbye prematurely, typically several times before the conversation actually comes to an end.

Far worse than receiving phone calls is making them. In general, I try keep most contact - both business and personal - to emails, texts and instant messaging. On those rare occasions when I receive the dreaded email, "Please contact me on 012 345-6789", my pulse starts to rise, and sweat instantly appears in the palms of my hands. After taking several deep breaths, I get up and walk to my phone. After several more deep breaths while just standing there, I go back to my computer, just in case I see a message, "Never mind, we can sort it out over email", which I have to date never received. I go back to my phone, sit down and start dialling the number. Before I finish, I cancel the call, and go to the toilet to empty my bladder. When I get back, I check my email again, still hoping for them to change their mind. Finally, I resign to the fact that I'll have to make the call, and just get on with it.

Fortunately, I don't have to do it often. I can get away with making as few as three or four phone calls a year, including calls to my family, girlfriend and friends. Fortunately the age where phone calls are a daily necessity has passed.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

On the Amusing Hat Day Part II


There are 18 days left (or something like that, I think) until Amusing Hat Day for Incompetence Awareness... I spent a full twenty-or-so minutes setting up a website some time last week, and after registering a domain, and spending several days procrastinating, it is on-line. You should find the official website at www.amusinghatday.za.org without having to do too much searching.

If you enjoy using the Short-Spam-Engine, then you can follow @AmusingHatDay on twitter. And of course, if you haven't already done so, then RSVP to the Facebook event.

If you still haven't thought of what hat you are going to wear, then consider one of the following: underwear; a pot plant; a cardboard box; a brick (if you have strong neck muscles); an inside out T-shirt; a wooden plank; a plastic cup (I would not recommend glass); a small electric appliance; a book (an old boring one that no one would want to read, preferably); or a plastic bag (don't suffocate yourself though).

If you have any ideas that are not listed here, then feel free to suggest them in the comments.

Feel free to send an email to the event organisers at amusinghat@alphasheep.co.za.
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Monday, August 1, 2011

On the Nasal Athlete: Part II


For as long as I can remember, I have always had an overly athletic nose in July. For the last couple of years, it seems to have been getting lazier. Last year, I was amazed at how long it stayed away, but this year definitely squashes the pie. It took until the evening of the 31st for the first signs of of a running nose to appear. It wasn't exactly an olympic medal winning performance - more along the lines of a (possibly reluctant) late afternoon jog - but it was a run, nonetheless. Of course, now that it is August, my nose has returned to it's usual peaceful pedestrian state, apart from what feels like a broken down truck in my right nostril.
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