Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Making procrastination work - a great life mod!

A Stanford Philosophy professor has developed a method for turning procrastination into productivity. "Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing..."

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Yerba Mate

The UPS man dropped off a new shipment of Yerba Mate for me today. In fact he woke me from my afternoon snooze that was brought on by the game of golf. Is getting your tea delivered by UPS an extravagance?

I've tried a few brands of Yerba Mate but tend to prefer the brand that I cut my teeth on. Luckily this is also the cheapest brand that I've come across. I also prefer the coarse cut (with stems, or as they say on the package "con palos") because this requires a smaller vacuum to be formed in the mouth to extract the liquid.

I'm trying out a blend flavored with mint and lemon. Jury is still out.

Luckily Yerba Mate is an acquired taste - one that is rarely acquired by others and so I rarely offer to share my drink with them - which is strange - because that is what drinking Yerba Mate is all about.

Local Rules

We played golf this morning and made an unusual discovery. In the middle of the fairway on the 18th hole was an 18 inch large mouth bass. This fish was lifeless, but uninjured, leaving us to speculate how and why it had been relocated from the nearby water (too far to jump) to the middle of the fairway. My drive had gone into the water but was unlikely to be the cause of this displaced fish - anyway it was long dead - but not smelling yet.

I dropped a new ball not far from the large mouth bass and couldn't help noticing that the ball could have easily fit in the open mouth of this fish. On top of this the fish was facing the tee with its mouth open. Turning to the back of the score card I could find no local rule as to the action that should be taken if this had happened. On arriving at the clubhouse of Legends at Arrowhead the staff were of no help either. I hope that this did not bugger up anybody's game today.

This should be a reminder to golf clubs that they should take these sorts of events into account when publishing their local rules. Like a southern African golf club that has the local rule: "If there are lion lying on the fairway, players may skip that hole and more on to the next hole without penalty."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't mention Jesus

Yesterday evening my wife and I went to dinner. I started telling the story about the time when I asked a priest not to mention Jesus in his church. This story requires expanding on which I hope to do in the near future. (Do you remember the episode of Fawlty Towers called The Germans? Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese): "I mentioned the war but I think I got away with it.") What I want to mention now is the kick-under-the-table or in this case the several kicks and stamp on toes.

Our hosts had said grace before dinner began. Neither my wife nor I are Christians however we respected grace and closed our eyes and said amen at the end. In fact we respect all religions and are not atheists - but that's another story.

My wife obviously knew the story (she'd been there when it happened) and didn't want me to repeat it in front of our hosts and other guests who are deeply religious. I could tell that she didn't want me continue the story because of the way that my legs were being abused under the table. However, I was too far down the line to stop and could not think of any other direction in which to turn the story. Anyway, it wasn't (in my opinion) offensive to Christians if you listen to the whole story and hear that comment in context.

The difficulty at the leg kicking point is trying to focus on the story and move your legs at the same time - multi-tasking the tongue and the legs. Half my brain was trying to anticipate from which direction the next kick would come - which would allow me to reposition my legs to miss it - and the other half of my brain was trying to re-arrange the words in the story to ensure that it didn't cause any offense to anyone.

Did I succeed? Well the bruises on my legs are small so in that respect yes. We'll have to wait and see if we're invited back again to see about the other one...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chicken and egg debate unscrambled

"Chicken and egg debate unscrambled - Egg came first, 'eggsperts' agree

LONDON, England -- It's a question that has baffled scientists, academics and pub bores through the ages: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Now a team made up of a geneticist, philosopher and chicken farmer claim to have found an answer. It was the egg."

James Niehues - Ski Map

In the summer of 1999 I was traveling around North America (I drove 20,000 miles in 4.5 months and covered about 33 states) and stayed with a friend near Vail, Colorado. I went hiking in the local ski resort (summer - no snow) which was pretty much abandoned and I was the only one there that I could see.

I think I had to jump to reach a ski map in a holder on a pole because during the winter there is usually several feet of snow to lift you up there. I took the map and sat on the deck of one of the lodges and tried to construct what the surroundings must be like in the winters.

I then noticed a signature on the map that read J Niehues and I thought - this can't be. I was at school with this guy in Africa. He's an old friend of mine from Zambia. I was positive that this was the same guy because at school he was useless at everything except art, where he was a genius and scored top marks all the time.

Since then, for the last 7 years, I've been telling all other old school friends that I know what J Niehues is doing. He's drawing ski maps for a living in the USA.

Today I serendipitously came across J Niehues' web site and got really excited that I would be able to email this old school friend again. After further research on J Nieheus' web site I discover that he left school 20 years before us and on a completely different continent. Just a bunch of coincidences and now a very misinformed network of old boys from our school.

James Niehues - Map Artist - Vail

Looking for a college? Choose based on who plays the most Warcraft!

Forget academic or pre-season football rankings, here are the Top 25 Schools ranked according to how many of their students play World of Warcraft.

I didn't realize that it was previously the academic OR pre-season football rankings that determined which college that you went to. I was always of the impression that you looked at the male to female ratio and depending on your gender and sexual preference chose accordingly.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Photoworks/Snapfish - part 2

May 25, 2006 - Thursday. Would you believe it but they both arrived at the same time. So I can't rate one over the other for speed. There goes one test.

The price comparison was easy. Photoworks charges more for each photo (0.15) and for shipping (2.90) versus Snapfish (0.12/photo) and 2.05 for shipping. Snapfish wins.

Quality? I really made a mess of this one. The bunch of photos that I uploaded to Snapfish were cropped and reduced in all sorts of manner while the ones uploaded to Photoworks were a homogenous bunch of fairly high quality digital images. As such the Photoworks release appears to be of better quality but when comparing like with like (i.e. the Snapfish that I didn't bugger up) the quality appears to be the same.

Given that all was equal except the price means that Snapfish win. Both shipping and photo prices are cheaper.

Well done Snapfish. Take the rest of the day off.

An Afternoon with Alice Cooper

On the now exceptionally popular one red paperclip blog he is trying to trade up an afternoon with Alice Cooper. I think that a lot of people may view the trade to Alice Cooper as a trade down and not a trade up, however, if there's one thing that one red paperclip has showed us and that is the value that you give to one item is very different from the value that someone else gives to that same item.

What has surprised me is that we are moving from tangibles to non-tangibles in an effort to get to brick and mortar - very tangible.

Anyway back to the matter at hand. Getting Kyle a house. Well Dan from BuyDansHouse.com is trying to sell his house for $630,000. I am just wondering what value Dan attaches to an afternoonn with Alice Cooper? $630,000? Unlikely, but possible. I'm going to put the two of them in touch with each other...

Good luck Kyle!
Good luck Dan!

Lance Armstrong

"No I'm not Lance Armstrong," I said for the second time. After being falsly mistaken for Lance Armstrong, twice, I went to the web to check out his photo. I tried to find any small features of resemblance but there were and are none. To clear up the confusion I am posting a picture of myself (above) and of Lance Armstrong (below). You can immediately see that we look nothing alike. End of discussion.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Blip TV

What is blip.tv?

blip.tv is a video sharing site. Their goal is to change the world by bringing excellent free video publishing services to people who are unable or unwilling to get outlets from major media organizations in the United States and throughout the world. Their passion is democratization.

Okay, but who are they?

They're five friends in New York City who believe in open media and all those nice buzzwords. They believe the world becomes a better place when the printing press becomes cheaper. They want to enable everyone to share video with the world.

Jared is Geek Boy, Mike has a vanity site, Justin runs Linkfilter, Dina has a vlog and Charles has a page.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SQL Prompt

SQL Prompt by Red Gate Software looks like a very neat utility. It uses intellisense auto-complete to help you finish sections of SQL statements that you might be writing. Being only 80% fluent in SQL syntax like 99% of all SQL syntax writers this sort of help is very useful. Not only does it provide accurate completion of a sentence, more importantly it teaches you correct syntax the first time you type and thereby naturally enforces learning by repetition.

I haven't tried it yet but was sufficiently impressed to blog it though.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Amanda UnBoomed

I've just discovered that Amanda Congdon has both a personal blog here on blogger.com: Amanda UnBoomed and a personal web site: Amanda Congdon which I wanted to included here for completeness.

Actually that completeness stuff is a bit of a lie. The reason that I have finally started posting to this blog (after ignoring it for over a year) is to do away with the millions of notes on my desktop and to store everything somewhere that I can easily find it AND I can now say "the info that I've just mentioned is on my blog" instead of "I'll try and remember to email you the link when I get home."

By the way - very impressed with the special FX on Amanda's personal site - kudos to the designer/programmer who did that.

Here's a questions for you (leave a comment with the answer): Where did you first hear of Rocketboom from (assuming that it was not here)?
My answer: From the CSI episode in which Amanda played herself.


Who is this woman and why should you care?

This is Amanda Congdon from Rocketboom.

Rocketboom, if you're not familiar with the videoblog (vlog) concept is an excellent, esoteric and slightly eccentric videoblog that she presents on weekdays. It runs for about 3 to 5 minutes each day and is an excellent watch during your lunch break when you can't use the keyboard because the tuna mayo filling has come out of your sandwich and is making a break for that gap between the G and H keys.

My advice: Don't let the tuna go there. Watch Amanda instead and your IT department will thank you for not jamming those keys - seriously.

That has just reminded me of a story from when I once did IT support. I got a call: "My keyboard has stopped working."
So I went around to the computer in question and checked it out. I was surprised that Anne-Marie was so adamant that it was the keyboard and I checked out a few other things that could be preventing the keys from working - like a loose connection between the cable and the box. I finally agreed with her that it must be the keyboard and so I picked it up and put it under my arm and walked away.
A few seconds down the corridor I felt water running down my leg and soaking through my suit pants. The keyboard was leaking. I returned to Anne-Marie and had a few more questions for her.
Apparently it was a full cup of tea that had entered the keyboard.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Finally I have a grep program that works. I had been using PRGrep 8.5 but it kept on coming up with errors if I gave it anything too challenging to do. For some reason I've never managed to get the grep style facility in Windows Explorer to work. Maybe it's the way that the dog wags its tail but it would just never find anything - even things that were definitely there.

I've loaded and run Agent Ransack (version 1.7.3) and this grep program found everything that I was looking for. I didn't challenge it but in time to come I will.

What has particularly surprised me while looking for a solid and free windows based grep utility is that there doesn't appear to be any out there. This is such an old requirement for any computer system that I would have thought that there would be several excellent utilities available with open source and a well supported community as there are with so many of the other essential utilities.

I can remember writing my own DOS version of grep in 1991 and could easily do the same again now but I don't want to spend several hours putting together what several hundred programmers must have already done and made available to everyone else.

When a dog is not a dog

When a dog spends more of the day in the water is it still called a dog?

Volcano and Cloud

You have probably seen this photo before. It has been past around the web with 4 other photos variously titled "the best photos of 2003" etc. I have some questions about this photo and would love to know the following: Where is this (country, closest town)? What is the meteorological phenomenon that caused the cloud to shape like that?

Dolphins don't fish

I have a theory. My theory is that dolphins don't fish. Dolphins don't hunt for fish. What they do is play. Play with each other, in the wakes of boats and anywhere else they want. While doing this they incidentally come across fish and eat them which satisfies their need for food. But they never go out looking for food.

Of course, when you watch documentaries about how they "heard" schools of fish into shallow waters or into columns of confusion you might think that this theory is not true or a bit wacky. But consider this. When they are herding and controlling these fish are they hunting or are they playing? Are they like the modern man when he goes hunting? The man who hunts for sport and not the need to eat. The enjoyment of the hunt and not the necessity of the hunt.

So do dolphins fish for food? Or are they just playing?

The Problem with Journalism

All industries suffer from the commonality that there are a few people at either end of the scale (the extremities) that will break a particular rule, ethic or law.

In football we have the ethical players that will never even consider performance enhancing drugs or steroids. We have the others who won't think twice about doing that. These are the extremes and a small percentage of the players.

In journalism you have the same makeup. You have the exceptionally ethical who will go to prison instead of revealing their source. You have others that will be anything but ethical.

The problem with journalism is that it relies on the fact that everyone is ethical. Without that journalism as an industry fails. It doesn't matter if a few football players use performance enhancing drugs; it doesn't detract from the product that the football players are producing: great sports entertainment. In fact it often adds to the product.

In journalism this extreme not only undermines the product (trustworthy reporting) but destroys the reputation of the entire industry. The fact that you have no idea how true something is that you're reading is THE problem. At what point do you start trusting a journalist? How do you know what percentage of what he/she is saying is true? How much of their work was "invented" to fill the gap?

Photoworks or Snapfish?

Photoworks or Snapfish? This week I registered with both Photoworks and Snapfish because I fancied getting some photos printed and they both sent me emails suggesting 25 free prints. I decided that I'd get 25 done on each and compare them.

Saturday May 20, 2006 I uploaded and ordered 25 from each of them. Snapfish, it appears charges 0.12 per photo and so gave me $3.00 credit towards my purchase. They then added on $2.05 shipping and handling of which 0.08 was tax. Photoworks charges 0.15 per print and so gave me $3.60 credit and added on $2.90 for shipping and handling.
I ended up $5 lighter after ordering those 50 photos.

I will now sit back and see what happens. I'm going to rate the 2 companies from 3 different perspectives: 1. Price 2. Performance (speed of delivery) and 3. Quality. I will keep you posted about who does the best. If there are other companies that print photos that you've heard of then post a comment to this blog and I'll do the same with them and let's see who comes out tops.

Scamming the scammers

I hate scammers, con artists, thief’s etc. Most people do. What I detest the most are the ones that operate on the internet. That’s because they operate in my play area and make it an unsafe place for people to transact business. If you have a drug dealer on the corner in your neighborhood then you feel the same about them. The internet is my neighborhood.

We today I came across a fantastic posting where the scammer got stung by a reverse scam. I was so impressed with this story. In fact I was glued to the screen while I read it. It read live an exciting novel and is very well written. Here it is:

My friend James gave me a link to the www.419Eater.com web site a few years ago and in the same cool and clever style they scam the scammers. Another great service for the internet society.