UPS Follies

11/14/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense

Wow, UPS is not making it into our good books this past week.

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Finnish Song Of Disguntlement

11/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Silly, YouTube


Truly, this YouTube video deserves to be the next internet big-thing.


Amazonian Shenanigans

11/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Music

Over the years I've migrated from buying the majority of my CDs from stores to buying online. The move is mostly due to availability of obscurities; I've bought pretty much all of the easy to find stuff and these days I'm after back catalogue, deleted material and things not released in North America. Popping into big box stores like Future Shop for these just doesn't work, and the collection at used CD stores like Tramps -- though wonderful overall -- is terrible when trying to find specific items.

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The Big Score

11/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Silly


Over at Kottke, there's a post about getting the big score, the post that drew the most people to the site -- the one that made the weblog what it is.

Over here, my big hitter with a grand total of 114 views as of this writing (yup, that's it!) is about Referrer Searches. Number two, with 106 views, is Tauren Plushie.

Suffice to say, I don't think I'm setting the blogging world alight. I can't figure out the variation in numbers either; if the readership was composed purely of search-bots ("Domo Arrigato, Mr Roboto!") alone, it would produce a relatively even distribution of reads over time but the numbers are all over the place.

I won't give numbers for him, but the most popular hits on Ritchie's side of the blog are Kinjo Sushi Review and Nimblog Moves House.

I have absolutely *no* idea what makes for an popular post based off the above, so you'll have to stick with whatever I find amusing. Sorry about that.


Laptop battery fire

11/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Latest arrival from the link-meisters at Engadget is this display of what happens when a laptop battery explodes. Unlike previous recorded fires, this one has been set up deliberately and gives a much better view of the progression as each battery cell blows.


Dolphins Cover the "Batman" Theme

11/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


Occasionally science reaches new heights; it attains unexpected successes; it moves forwards human knowledge, not merely by a step, but by a mile.

This isn't one of those things. On the other hand, a big woohoo for operant conditioning and pop culture!


Gracenote on CDDB

11/13/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Music, Copyright


A week or so ago, I made an offhand comment critical of Gracenote, the developer of CD recognition tool CDDB, about them taking a publically generated database commercial. I objected to this based on the fact that at the time no one knew they would be contributing to a privately owned, profit making enterprise. It felt quite two faced at the time.

Curiously enough, Wired has an interview with Steve Scherf, one of the owner/developers of Gracenote, that discusses this exact issue. I'm not sure I agree with his conclusions but it certainly gives a bit more background.

Take a look.


Robot Chicken : Season 1

11/11/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Television


Robot Chicken is one further step in the return of animation to the world of adults. Well, in this case, not drawn animation. Stop-motion animation. Isn't stop-motion animation expensive? Well, yeah, if you make all your models from scratch and stuff. What if you've got a doll and action figure collection somewhere? That would make it cheap!

The opening sequence really sets the tone for the show. Dead chicken, brought back to cyborg life to be treated to an MST3K-ish TV-watching experience.

The show is part action figures, part claymation, part sticking paper mouths on the action figures. There are short, often disturbing clips as the show "flips past channels" (though seeing as the robot chicken is watching sixty screens at once, why would there be channel-flipping static?), interspersed with longer parody shows and skits, like superheroes stuck together on a reality TV show, or the tooth fairy visiting and interfering with domestic violence, or the Transformers teaching you about prostate cancer.

There are a lot of references on the show, everything from Logan's Run to Big Brother to the Matrix to Debbie Does Dallas to You Can't Do That On Television. Unlike Mystery Science Theater 3000, though, I get the vast majority of the references in this show.

Many of the voices are impressive. Some are done by the actual actors or celebrities themselves, like Ryan Seacrest in Zombie Idol and his interpersed "Seacrest... out!" clips, or much of the cast of That 70's Show in an eerily well-done parody. Other voices aren't... or are uncredited, but are often good.

It's a smartly-written show in many spots, though there are plenty of jokes that miss the mark, go on too long, or are truly guilty chuckles. Some of the bits add one more twist than you would expect, which is most gratifying.

There's a lot of action figure blood spatter, vomit and adult themes. If you can stomach that, like parodies, and can stand some occasionally juvenline humour, this is a great little series to have around, in particular when television is grating on you.

The last show in the first season shows a full expectation of being cancelled. I'm gratified that there's actually a second season out there, though we don't get Adult Swim titles directly. Some good guilty guffaws to look forward to.


The Essence of Algorithms

11/09/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Programming

I was helping a co-worker puzzle out an algorithm or two today, and he got me to go back through the steps I took to come up with an appropriate algorithm. It's a skill I have that comes from the combination of experience and a little bit of ability, and it's to the point where I'm actually not sure how the solutions even pop out of my head.

It's a skill I'd like to help others acquire, though, since putting together workaday algorithms can be really helpful in day-to-day development work.

So I'll try my best to explain what was going on, and intersperse some general commentary in between.

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MacBook Core2Duo Out

11/09/06 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh


Looks as if Apple's moving towards a more PCClone release schedule; I wasn't expecting this to be out until February. If reviews of the Core2Duo version of the MacBook Pro are correct, this'll give you about a 10% speed increase over the earlier version and somewhat more battery life. All the other specifications look to be very similar in terms of support chipset, resources and so forth.


Best electioneering slogan from the US today

11/07/06 | by Adam | Categories: Politics, American


Nice to see that the Republicans still have a sense of humour even while going down in flames:

Republicans have been simultaneously informing voters about the confusing process to vote for Negron—whose name doesn't appear on the ballot—and expressing symbolic anger for Foley: "Punch Foley to vote Negron" is their foremost campaign slogan.


Arguing on the internet

11/07/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

There's a joke that's been going around for a while -- typically Fark Photoshop related -- that arguing on the internet is a bit like competing in the Special Olympics; even if you win, you're still retarded. Having watched enough flamefests online, I'm inclined to agree. Generally when two (or more) people go at it online, they're both convinced they're right and neither is going to be disuaded. Invocation of Godwin's Law can only be a few replies away.

However, there is an interesting caveat to this that I should have considered before but didn't. From the comments thread over at The Gristmill, Coby Beck said:

.. in online forums the main point in responding, and responding with substance, not vitriol, is not to convince your opponent (you're right they are usually beyond redemption) but it is for the lurkers.

Whenever someone pops in a comment like the list of objections we are all so familiar with, there will always be a lot of people who have not heard it before and will pause and think, "hey, yea. What about that?". If the only answer they see is "what a load of crap!" or similar, it will only encourage them to trust the wrong person.

So do it for the lurkers, not the lost causes!

I think he's right.


Election tampering

11/07/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Politics


Over at QBlog, British computer scientist, Richard Bartle, points out an interesting conundrum about tamper tape on voting boxes. The summary is this: can you throw an election by tampering with a container such that it and its contents become suspect? It's an interesting question as it's applicable not only to the justifiably pilloried touch voting machines but any other receptacle such as the paper ballot boxes we use in Canada.


The Accent Archive

11/06/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Languages


Ah, a web project after my own heart. The Accent Archive is a project in which speakers of many backgrounds read the following paragraph:

Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.

You can browse by native language, and pick a speaker, then listen to the way they say it (Quicktime required).

The phonetic transcription is something you often see in many dictionaries, but may rarely pay attention to. Someone went to a fair bit of effort to transcribe these. There are many more symbols here than in standard English dictionaries, representing throaty r sounds or hollow d sounds, etc. It uses the International Phonetic Alphabet.

A linguistics junkie like me knows some of the things they list at the bottom of the page. Looking at one of the German pages, you see at the bottom, "Interdental fricative to stop".

Linguistic terms often refer to where the tongue is. Interdental means "between the teeth". Fricative means that you're basically forcing air through. That combination is the sound at the beginning of "think".

A "stop" is a consonant that... stops. You stop the airflow to make one of these. The letter sounds for t, p and k are examples.

What this means is that German speakers often turn interdental fricatives like the "th" in "think" into stops when they are speaking English, so "think" comes out "tink".

"Final obstruent devoicing" means that where native English speakers make their s sounds into z sounds when near other voiced sounds (like vowels, d, m, n, l, r, and anything else where your vocal cords are buzzing), Germans will tend to keep them as an S sound. So our houses, we would say "how-zez", but Germans may turn into "how-zess" or "how-sess".

A neat feature on the site is if you click on one of those linguistic things on the bottom, places where the speaker could have had an 'error' in speaking English are marked in blue, places where they actually committed the 'error' are marked in red.

Of course, if you're trying to imitate a foreign accent, intentionally committing these 'errors' will help you on your way :)

Looks like a labour of love, that site does!


"Ready, Aye, Ready"

11/05/06 | by Adam | Categories: Canadian

As we approach the sombre memorial of November 11th, Remembrance Day, I thought I'd take a moment to comment on the title I chose for the weblog.

"Ready, Aye, Ready" is a very Canadian term. It's been used a number of times in Canada's political history, initially as a rallying cry for the Empire loyalists and then later as a warning about Canada's lack of foreign policy independence. Coined originally by Wilfred Laurier as Canada prepared to join Britain and France in the First World War, it was later used by Arthur Meighan when trying to induce Canada to enter a conflict against Turkey in 1922. The latter was written off as a jingoistic endeavour and the slogan became tainted with the feeling of a blind following of another country's politics. It reappeared in 1956 during a debate over Canada's role in the Suez Canal Crisis where its new meaning was cemented by Lester Pearson:
It is equally bad to be a colonial chore boy running around shouting "Ready, aye, ready."

To me, the discarding of the term was a critical move towards Canada becoming its own country, and not merely a colony or satellite state of another. It was an important step in letting Canada define itself.

So back to the connection to Remembrance Day. Canadian soldiers are our soldiers. They represent Canada; they are not playing pieces for other countries. They should be honoured for being willing to die to protect and defend Canada. We should remember why Canada has deployed them; we should understand why they served and why they died. They are not figures in a wargame; they are not numbers in a spreadsheet. We don't send them to battle based on a shallow slogan. They are Canadians. This is the purpose of Remembrance Day. This is why we remember them.


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