Sunday, 30 September 2007

The Sunday Mok - Dan and Lotte's wedding

Sunday - I slept in for a while and decided against going for a run. After the morning church service Deb and I did our grocery shopping and watched The Matrix Revolutions to finish our recent viewing of the series. We got pizza for dinner, then I sang in the evening church service.
Monday - I worked most of the week on data imports for Knowledge Workbench without making much progress. While Deb was at her Mary Kay meeting in the evening I cleaned up the house a bit and played City of Heroes.
Tuesday - I worked all morning on a Microsoft Office 2003 "smart document" solution for our requirements editing, but couldn't run it properly in the end. Deb and I had dinner at Mal and Linda's instead of me going to karate. Back home we did some work on a jigsaw puzzle and chatted with The Awful Truth playing in the background.
Wednesday - In the evening we made a second attempt to eat at Crushers Leagues Club, this time passing the dress code examination. This effectively made it Anthony's third birthday dinner for the year.
Thursday - Before and after dinner at Dad and Beth's, I watched an episode of Prison Break with Dean. However, since it was season 3 (I think) and I stopped watching in season 1, I was a bit lost. Back at home we watched more Awful Truth and worked on Deb's jigsaw puzzle some more.
Friday - I slept in a bit and had breakfast at work. When I was walking home from the afternoon bus, Deb happened to pick me up on her way to get Mia. While the girls were otherwise occupied, I did some dishes and laundry. I made some of dinner, then we watched Punch-Drunk Love, which was very surreal.
Saturday - After a morning trip to pick up my reserved Stargate SG-1 season 10 box set, we had lunch with Mal and Linda, then drove to Dan and Lotte's wedding. I thought it was beautiful all around, and we got home at about 22:20.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It was good to catch up with people again.
PPS - We left before the bride and groom.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Pre-emptive insurance claims

Let's say hypothetically that you have a number of large trees in your back yard and that it would cost several thousand dollars to remove them. Let's also say that very large branches occasionally fall from these trees with force enough to kill people. Now, as an insurer for the property, would you rather wait out the people-crushing and receive big claims for property and life damage, or would you pay the much smaller cost of having the trees removed?

Now imagine you are a health insurer. Let's say that early detection and removal of cancerous skin growths costs one tenth of the average insurance claim for one detected late. Let's also say that a yearly skin checkup costs a negligible amount per person. Would you allow small claims for regular skin checkups, or would you wait for the larger, but less frequent, actual cancer claims?

Unfortunately I think it would often be worth more money to the insurer to wait for the larger claims.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You'd need actual statistics to prove it, though.
PPS - And the it's their job to know that kind of thing.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Bus zombies

This article defines a "bus zombie" as a person who is almost, but not quite, asleep on public transport. The dazed fatigue state where the eyes are half closed and the person is technically awake, but really somewhere between there and asleep. That's been me more often than I care to admit.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - An interesting image.
PPS - It's a good thing they don't want brains.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Mousing goofy to improve brain power

I read an article summary yesterday that said using your computer mouse with your "off" hand improves neural pathways between your brain hemispheres. So I started trying it. I was still frequently reaching for the mouse with my right hand, sometimes even when it was held in my left. I also have a tendency to turn it side-on so I can still left-click with my index finger, which leaves me right-clicking with my thumb. At the very least I hope to gain a little more practice with my south paw.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm going to keep it up at least for today.
PPS - I might be a bit too frustrated to continue beyond that.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

A small set of random thoughts

- I want to be able to take a vow of silence for a day and communicate only through signs, gestures and written words. I think it would be very interesting.
- Frame interpolation for slowing down film further. I'd be surprised if someone isn't doing this already.
- You should never believe a TV magician who says he doesn't use camera tricks. Why should we take at face value the word of a person whose job is devising new and entertaining ways to trick us?
- To keep drinking coffee because you get headaches when you stop is like staying on heroin because withdrawals make you vomit.
- What if we had hundred of tiny spider robots to maintain our cars on the go? They'd just crawl around inside the engine, fixing problems as they occur, like leaks and loose bolts.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I didn't think I could stretch any of these into a decent full post.
PPS - And they're too long for my Messenger quotes.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Offshore outsourcing is from the Dark Side

There are undeniable short term benefits (lower wages to pay) for outsourcing certain company operations to, say, foreign call centres. However, in the long term, it hurts the company by eroding their reputation. A company that cares about their English speaking customers hires native English speakers just as a company that cares about their Chinese speaking customers would hire native Chinese speakers. Short term gains at the expense of the long-term is just the kind of thinking I associate with The Dark Side.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That doesn't mean I'm right, though.
PPS - But I like to think I am.

Monday, 24 September 2007

The increasing pace of life

Life gets faster every year. We give out "long service" awards to employees who stick around for five years because that's so uncommon. There are plenty of other examples of which I'm sure you're aware. Bottom line is that things are getting faster and we'd better be ready for it, because that trend is not going away any time soon. I don't see a future where we have longer to deal with our current situation. I see people growing more and more impatient as life accelerates ever further. Reaching your first wedding anniversary will be cause for massive celebration. Taking a six month university course would put you way too far behind your peers in work experience. Companies will give out long service awards for three-month contractors.

Or will they? By the time the world is moving at that speed, attitudes towards things like marriage, study and employment will be very different indeed. Long term goals will simply fade into the background because Now is so demanding. Taking on permanent commitments will be simply impossible. The marriage rate will drop, as will the birth rate, because who knows what your circumstances will be like next month? How can you commit to a nine month pregnancy, let alone the equivalent of an eighteen year care contract?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We'll find another way to reproduce, I'm sure.
PPS - But the people who work it will choose another career in a year or two.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The Sunday Mok - Man of the Year

Sunday - I slept in for a short time in the morning, then went for a run. Deb and I attended a combined church service in the morning, which meant no church in the evening. We did grocery shopping in the afternoon, then spent the rest of the day with Murrae and Tracey, including renting Man of the Year.
Monday - I did some overdue documentation at work in the morning, then discussed some new code features with Ross for Knowledge Workbench. While Deb was at her meeting in the evening, I played City of Heroes for a while.
Tuesday - Before I'd logged in for the day, Ross came to my desk to continue our discussion on code features. I went to karate in the evening, despite not feeling like it in advance. I made tuna casserole for dinner, and the rest of the evening was uneventful.
Wednesday - I worked all day on data imports for Knowledge Workbench, which was not that stimulating. After dinner Deb and I headed to Mal and Linda's with Taboo and played a few rounds.
Thursday - I've been getting some knots in my back recently, so I think I've got a bit of stress. I tried to break up the work routine a bit to combat this feeling. We went to dinner at Dad and Beth's then did a little laundry at home.
Friday - I put the car in for a service and caught the early bus to work. I was surprised by how many people were in an hour early. In the evening for youth group we just hung out, played Wii games and half-finished a game of Zombies.
Saturday - Deb and I both slept in and I did the dishes after breakfast. We went to lunch with Mal's siblings who are here on holiday and played some French cricket too. In the evening we went to the Newmarket Hotel for Miv's birthday. We left kind of early, but it was good to see everyone to catch up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think my Sunday Mok subtitles have been a bit lame recently.
PPS - I'll try to do better.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging - Marvel Zombies series 2

The Marvel Zombies series of comics about superheroes turned undead has reached a second series. I haven't had the opportunity to read either series, but it's a very interesting concept to me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - They'd have to be fast.
PPS - Otherwise there'd be no point to them being super heroes.

A tank in the Matrix

Hey, couldn't Neo have asked for a tank instead of "Guns. Lots of guns."? Then he and Trinity could have stormed the military building in relative safety and comfort, though the scene in the movie might have been less dramatic and cool.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And they still got out without a scratch.
PPS - Plus they wouldn't get that tank up the lift shaft with them.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Mind-mapping for general information storage

I've started keeping mind maps of various bits of information I collect or produce, just because it's a better way to visualise some things. Object design for programs comes particularly naturally this way for me, though to define a more solid data design I turn to ORM in Visio. Still, when my thoughts are bubbling and boiling, I feel rested after getting things down this way, and that's a sure sign that I subconsciously accept this as a valid information management option.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I use FreeMind to make my maps.
PPS - Generally, I like it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Excerpts from my grade 1 report card

One thing I came across when cleaning out another part of my old room was my grade 1 report card. It said things that are still true today (good numeracy skills) and things that I seem to have overcome. For instance, I needed "improvement" in physical education, which in grade 1 consists of running, skipping, hopping and galloping. It's a bit embarrassing to think how challenging that could possibly be and yet have failed to meet the mark.

One thing particularly that stood out, though, was the statement that I was a slow worker who needed to be hurried up. I wonder what implications it has for me today, since the other things seem to be true enough. I am aware that I spend a bit of time daydreaming. I wonder if I was meant to choose a slightly different career path, like an author. Someone self-employed for thinking, not grind work. Based on my first year report card, this is not quite where I was meant to end up. The good news is that there's time to change yet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Just about everything I write here comes in a fit of daydreaming.
PPS - It seems to be my natural state.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Time-compressing video

I recently linked to a fascinating video on image resizing. I think the same concept could be applied to video, not just to resize individual frames, but to shrink the whole thing time-wise into a more compact form.

Imagine a video as a translucent 3-D block on your desk. You see the frames as they change over time. Now, to time-compress the block, you find a wavy plane that cuts the block from one side to the other at the "least interesting" point. It will encompass the least detailed and most static portions of the block as defined by the "energy function". By applying this "curved frame" deletion many times, we can time-shrink a video to re-target it at audiences with shorter attention spans.

Compressed too far, it will start to lose some more important information, of course, the same way seam-carved retargeted images lose information when shrunk too far. I have also not addressed the issue of sound, which is tricky, because the sound portion to discard for a curved frame is not clear.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Titanic could have used this.
PPS - And Marie Antoinette, too.

Monday, 17 September 2007

The emotional pain of upgrading computers

It's tough for me to let go of an old computer. It's not just that I like having the machines around, because in that case I'd be just as happy to have a new one. It's that I spend a lot of time setting them up just the way I like them, and by that time I have to tear it up and do it all over again. It's a bit worse this time around, though, because I'm getting a new machine at work and my home box is due for upgrading too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - At least I can put off the home upgrades if I want.
PPS - And I may have to.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

The Sunday Mok - Ratatouille

Sunday - I did two loads of washing in the morning before church. Afterwards, Deb and I went to Michelle's house warming party and brought a cake. I always eat too much when presented with lots of food in small portions. I went for a run and Deb and I watched The Matrix together. We ate dinner at the church because we were running a bit late.
Monday - I ate breakfast at work, then we had a long meeting about our Knowledge Workbench program. I took a different bus home than usual because I was in no rush. After dinner Deb and I watched The Matrix Reloaded. Before bed I did my daily Brain Training for the first time in a month.
Tuesday - I worked on ways to import old data into Knowledge Workbench. It'll be tedious to do. I skipped karate in the evening to attend a church committee meeting and left in pieces. I don't know exactly what affected me like that. I was probably just highly strung that day.
Wednesday - I started writing some code generation routines for Cornerstone, our internal .NET library, including a port of the useful "Inflector" class from Ruby on Rails. In the evening Dad, Anthony, Deb and I tried to go to Crushers Leagues Club to celebrate Anthony's birthday, but they turned us away because of Deb's rubber thongs. It upset us all in different ways.
Thursday - On the walk from the bus to the house, I nearly stepped on a snake near the creek. It didn't seem to be too active, what with the sun having already gone down, but it still gave me a start. After family dinner Deb and I finished watching a disc of Star Trek TNG.
Friday - I figured out how to get a grammar check for undesirable terms in technical writing by using and LanguageTool. We took the youth group boys to play pool, but they seemed more interested in Silent Scope and their iPods.
Saturday - I slept in a bit and watched videos online. For lunch, Deb and I took Mia to Indooroopilly and saw Ratatouille while we were there. In the evening we watched Becoming Jane and Marie Antoinette. We should have stopped the second one halfway through.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Marie Antoinette could have been 45 minutes long.
PPS - Not much substance, but lots of costumes.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Microsoft Word summarises the Bible

Having discovered Microsoft Word's AutoSummarise feature, I set it to task on the Bible. Here's the result:
How long, O Lord? says the Lord. says the Lord.
Then said I, Ah, Lord God! says the Lord. says the Lord.
says the Lord. says the Lord.
says the Lord.
says the Lord.
says the Lord.
says the Lord.
says the Lord. says the Lord.
Now, I'll admit that I crunched it down pretty hard to get this level of summary, but my reading of this is that the Bible internally is very much about what God says.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Unfortunately, it's not particularly coherent.
PPS - That seems to be common with summaries.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Crawling torso toy

This wind-up zombie toy consists of just a head, arms and torso that crawls along the ground at a decent pace. Pity it's not life-sized.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Also the distinct buzzing sound is less than terrifying.
PPS - Life-sized and with realistic sounds, this could possibly cause a crowd panic.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Organising communication: now/later/never

There are emails I want to see right now, whenever they arrive, some that can wait a while, and some that I never want to see. They are referred to as ham, bacn and spam respectively. I think the "now/later/never" framework can be applied to other communications as well. For instance, there are some phone calls that I want to take no matter the circumstances, some that I can defer and call back later if necessary and some that I never want to get. These are mostly defined by who is calling.

My news feeds is another category of communication that could benefit from some now/later/never categorisation. By analysis of my reading patterns, it should be possible to determine which stories will interest me most, which I don't mind leaving a while and which ones do not interest me at all. Then when I'm in a rush I can just go over the most important ones and come back to the deferred ones later, never even bothering to see the others that don't concern me. Physical mail could go like this too (bills, postcards, advertising) and TV (say, news, sitcoms, soaps).

All that being said, however, the three-tiered filtration must be automatic and is only a focus and time management tool, not the primary way to organise your thinking.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Too few communication programs give great control over content.
PPS - Sometimes it's because they were designed too long ago.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Free navigation info

Should navigation info be gratis? Well, perhaps. There are arguments to make both ways, and since it seems that people are willing to pay for it, that's a good indication that it will likely remain a pay service in the near future. Then again, the streets are open to everyone who pays their taxes and registration, and that should probably include maps and directions - the information side of the upkeep.

Should navigation info be libre? There's no reason to keep it locked up in my opinion.

Online map services like Google Maps and tend to be gratis but not libre. That is, they're no-cost to use, but they're a bit locked up. If you could get access to either one while on the road and had a GPS receiver, you wouldn't need a dedicated navigation device.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't think that particular application is far off.
PPS - As the internet's reach grows, offline applications will be less necessary.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

What's the worst birthday gift you ever gave?

We've probably all given some below-average gifts over the years, and sometimes we're aware of it at the time. Sometimes we only become aware of it after the fact, like seeing a picture frame up in a cupboard and still empty.

So I was wondering: what's the worst birthday gift you ever gave?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Mine is probably in the shirt-worn-once category.
PPS - It's too easy to get carried away sometimes.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Legolas getting teased

Remember in the Lord of the Rings when Legolas summarises someone's description of the tactics for getting through the giant gate by saying "A diversion"? That always sounded a bit stupid to me, and it seems like the kind of thing his friends would tease him about for quite some time.
"Hey, Legolas?"
"Five across, nine letters, 'a feint intended to draw off attention from the main point of attack'?"
"Oh, yeah, thanks. What about eight down, nine letters again, 'a channel made to DIVERT the flow of water'?"
"... Diversion"
(snicker) "Ah, of course."
"Hey, one last one? British, a detour on a highway or road."
"You guys suck."
Mokalus of Borg

PS - Well, I think it's funny.
PPS - A bit, anyway.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

The Sunday Mok - Pirates, Ninjas and Dreamworld

Sunday - Deb and I went for a short walk in the morning before church. The sermon was good that morning. In the afternoon Deb did a skin care consultation while I played Heroscape with the men of the house. I sang in the evening service, then many of us had supper at the Coffee Club.
Monday - Our project at work is getting a little frustrating and hard to deal with. Anthony and I took Dad out to dinner for Father's Day, then I watched videos online while Deb was out at a meeting. When she got home we watched one Scrubs episode and read one Harry Potter chapter.
Tuesday - I've been feeling a bit of stress, and I think it's because I see most of my chores at home and spend most of my time at work. At karate we practised performing kata under close scrutiny. Deb and I watched Scrubs at home, then moved some furniture around so Deb could set up her office.
Wednesday - I started working on a small side project at work, which was good to break it up a bit. Bible study in the evening was the last one of the series, and we talked about self-sacrifice.
Thursday - I got home from work a bit later than I planned because the 17:45 bus didn't show up. Deb was out, so Dean picked Anthony and me up for family dinner at Dad & Beth's. I ran some maintenance tasks on Dad's PC which has been slowing down and having some troubles.
Friday - I had the day off work due to a re-scheduled Dreamworld trip. I decided to leave it that way so I could get some things done at home. I submitted my tax return, picked up a package from the post office and went looking for ninja costumes, but didn't find anything suitable.
Saturday - Deb and I went to Dreamworld and met Miv, Julia, Rory and Julie there. The Claw made me nauseous and the Giant Drop got postponed for safety concerns. In the evening we participated in a Pirates vs Ninjas Treasure Hunt and won by pure chance, even though we got lost along the way.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We have a fair amount of chocolate at home now.
PPS - I'll have to ration it out carefully to myself.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Friday Zombie Blogging: Boy on a Stick and Slither

Boy on a Stick and Slither with a comic about mathematics. Almost.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's hard to think what else to say about it.
PPS - It does involve zombies.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

One of those days

Wake up tired. Miss the bus. Forget three things before even getting to work. Drop your coffee in the lift. Password expired. Scanner won't work. Leave not approved yet. It's just going to continue like this.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd like to be back home in bed.
PPS - Wouldn't we all?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Good audience participation

One of the coolest audience participation activities I've ever seen was a person who - without speaking a word - had the audience divide into quarters and each make percussion sounds (hand clapping, finger clicking, foot stomping and hand rubbing) that sounded together like a rain storm. It was awesome, and I'd love to try it again.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Unfortunately, I think it requires a few more people than I will ever be leading.
PPS - The original event took place with about 300 people.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Learning a language by labelling your household items

I've had an idea about learning a foreign language that I have yet to try out. The idea is based on some software called Rosetta Stone that I heard about some time ago. Rosetta Stone teaches you vocabulary in a foreign language by using photographic flash cards. For example, they'd show a picture of a tree labelled "árbol" (for Spanish) and you associate the Spanish word directly with your mental image of a tree. Learning via text-only flash cards would mean the associations are funnelled through your English grammar and potentially corrupted in the process.

So down to my idea. I would label all of the common, everyday objects in my house in Spanish (since that is the language I want to learn). Now when I pick up the phone I see the note "teléfono", and when I go to bed I see the bed frame labelled "cama". Eventually I learn these words subconsciously and they are second nature.
I have no theory on learning grammar, though, but I think day-to-day vocabulary would be a good first step. After all, isn't that how babies learn?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It might not be how babies learn.
PPS - I tried asking them, but they won't tell me.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Idea: molded clay chess set

The idea for the day is this: you buy a full clay chess set (plus some extra clay to add on to it) and are encouraged to twist, bend and style the pieces to your liking before firing them in your home oven. Painting afterwards is optional, since the clay would already be coloured light and dark for the opposing sides. I'm not sure if there's a kind of clay that can be fired at temperatures found in a home oven.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe the craft company could offer a firing service by mail.
PPS - Included in the cost of purchase, of course.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

The Sunday Mok - Cats on the brain

Sunday - Deb and I were at church a little early where a tag-team of three preachers filled in for the one who had lost his voice. We had Mal, Linda, Mia and Sam over for lunch, and it was nice to have the space to seat them all comfortably. I ran the computer for the evening church service.
Monday - The workers arrived in the morning to build us a new fence. At work I mostly did some MS Office smart tags proof of concept stuff. I walked to the Southbank cinemas to see The Bourne Ultimatum with Mal in the evening.
Tuesday - The fence guys finished the job while I was at work. In the evening, Deb and I attended a workshop on ministry to young families and children. It was informative and energising.
Wednesday - We had a meeting at work to discuss some design rationale that had thus far eluded me. In the evening we had dinner at the church and heard the consultant's presentation on a new plan and direction for the church. It felt exciting, scary and difficult, but right.
Thursday - I started a short caffeine fast to clear my system a bit, because I've been having iced coffee more as a habit than a genuine pick-me-up. Deb dropped me off at Dad and Beth's for dinner. After dinner I tried to help Dad with some printing problems he's been having, but didn't quite manage to fix it.
Friday - We took the youth group kids to Victoria Park Golf Club and worked through their putt-putt course, then finished with the driving range.
Saturday - I meant to go jogging in the morning, but never quite made it. Dad came around to help clean up some of the dirt and branches left by the fence builders. After lunch, Deb and I went to Indooroopilly to buy Tracey's birthday present and a few other things. We had dinner with Tracey and others at Toscani's and came home quite ready for sleep.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - All week I've had the music from Cats going through my mind.
PPS - Not always the same bits, thankfully.