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11/20/06

  08:00:42 pm, by Nimble   , 170 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Internet

Badware

I was trying to look up the lyrics to a few Scissor Sisters songs, since they sound Bee Gees-like and my mother loved the Bee Gees, just because I'd heard that some of their lyrics were questionable.

So I click on the first lyrics site (lyrics and songs . com) on Google for the questionable song, and see this warning:


Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer!


You can learn more about harmful web content and how to protect your computer at StopBadware.org

That's a new one on me. Normally, I would suspect a new advertising technique, but that's a little more rare for .org sites, and I hadn't heard hide nor hair of new Google ad techniques (though I expect something eventually).

No, it looks like a collective operation to ferret out sites that promulgate badly-behaving software. Most of this is software that experienced users would never click on in their right mind, but applications like Fake Mailer might seem appealing to the unsuspecting.

Interesting development, this.

  02:44:50 am, by Nimble   , 147 words  
Categories: Distractions, Toys

Prodikeys

Link: http://www.prodikeys.com/

I had been gazing at the Saitek Eclipse II Backlit Keyboard with some longing, but now there's another product that is giving it some serious competition in the Ritchie saliva production department: Prodikeys.

I have long lamented that I have no space to set up my old Roland keyboard, but this could certainly sate some of my plinking cravings. The Prodikey is a keyboard plus a velocity sensitive mini-piano keyboard (about the same size of keys as my old Yamaha) on the bottom of the keyboard.

I'm a little worried as to whether it would work with my rather old Sound Blaster Live, but it does claim to work with them.

It's not available at Future Shop or Best Buy around here, but it can be ordered from good old ThinkGeek, who have been pretty excellent (and fast!) with their orders.

Leave me to my furious pondering...

11/17/06

  11:00:11 pm, by Nimble   , 136 words  
Categories: Distractions

How To Dunk A Biscuit

Len Fisher, author of How To Dunk A Doughnut came to the aid of the Mad Labs crew to try to help perfect dunking biscuits for the maximum in slightly soggy flavour-boosting without the dreaded plop of soaked-through cookie crumbs into the bottom of your cup of hot liquid.

What he determined was that the best dunk is a flat, one-sided dunk. Let only one flat side of your tasty treat touch the liquid, and you'll have the best soggy/solid dunk.

They didn't touch on how awkward that might be if you have less than a full cup, or small-mouthed cup, but they did seem like they might have won a few converts at the test in the café.

Plus, I just wanted to have an excuse to try out more doodling with Xara :)

Dunking your biscuit flat

  02:07:55 am, by Nimble   , 337 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Thoughts, Common Sense, People

Microlending Earns The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize

I caught an interview with Muhammad Yunus on the Daily Show, founder and director of the Grameen Foundation. He and the foundation split the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for work on microfinance and microlending as a tool against poverty.

Microfinance is a great way of turning the banking paradigm on its head. As Robert Frost put traditional banking:

"A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain."

Full story »

  01:45:47 am, by Nimble   , 113 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

Permanent Stamps

Link: http://www.canadapost.ca/personal/corporate/about/newsroom/pr/default-e.asp?prid=1182

I had to blink a few times when I was picking up a parcel today, from a sign I saw at the post office.

Canada Post has at last brought the concept of the "permanent stamp" across the pond. This is a stamp for a particular function (in this case, domestic letters), and it is always worth the going rate.

This would be a great help around our household, where we just don't send a lot of letters, and we let stamp packs accumulate. No more wheelbarrows of 1 cent stamps, or even a need to look up the current going rate for letters.

More than a golf clap from me, Canada Post. Bravo.

11/16/06

  06:56:29 pm, by Nimble   , 40 words  
Categories: Distractions

Poland Will Appear Again

According to this blog on MSDN, Poland has been missing for quite a while. Is it Brigadoon Poland? Is it really a sea?

Apparently, Poland will rejoin us in Windows Vista. Until then, enjoy the mystery of the Polish Triangle.

Polish Sea

11/15/06

  12:38:38 am, by Nimble   , 2337 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Programming

Delphi .NET Fun

I'm making a card game - a physical one, not a computer one, so I decided to give myself both a learning experience and a tool to help print out the cards by pulling down Turbo Delphi for .NET at home and try to program the entire thing with the .NET-only WinForms instead of the VCL.

Despite some setbacks, the tool took me just the greater part of a day, and I got to learn a few odd things while I was at it.

The experience also reinforced my view that it really is the library far more than the language involved that makes most of the learning curve.

Full story »

11/14/06

  10:05:49 pm, by Nimble   , 283 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense

UPS Follies

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

Full story »

11/11/06

  02:40:42 pm, by Nimble   , 386 words  
Categories: Reviews, Television

Robot Chicken : Season 1

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B000E0OE3K?ie=UTF8&tag=thecerealkill-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641&creativeASIN=B000E0OE3K

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.

11/09/06

  07:30:18 pm, by Nimble   , 1325 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Programming

The Essence of Algorithms

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.

Full story »

11/06/06

  10:52:45 pm, by Nimble   , 424 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Languages

The Accent Archive

Link: http://accent.gmu.edu/

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!

11/04/06

  03:34:37 pm, by Nimble   , 33 words  
Categories: Distractions, Stores, Toys

Anatomy & Science Gifts

Sites catering to anatomical supplies, in particular, have some pretty unusual gifts.

How about Bones Socks?

Bones Socks

Or, overwhelm your opponents with a Blinded by Science T-Shirt?

Blinded By Science T-Shirt

Or some syringe pens?

Syringe Pens

Amazingly goofy stuff :)

  03:03:00 pm, by Nimble   , 298 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Politics

The Ultimate Godwin

Link: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-230053234197623165

This video has been showing up in a few places. Sometimes associated with a "Don't Vote For Bush!" theme, sometimes not. It's an old educational video by the 'war department', and you can find it listed as "Don't Be A Sucker".

It's a 17 minute interesting watch, a visual version, in a way, of the Martin Niemöller poem, the First, they came... poem.

Godwin's Law is:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Today's trigger was a renewed realization of a Department of Homeland Security proposal, docket USCBP–2005–0003 filed mid-July, which would make airlines and cruise ships have to ask the DHS for permission for each one of their passengers to leave the country within six months after enactment. (Look at the proposal here, p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5 - substitute in the "page=" for further pages.)

One could say that effectively, this doesn't change things, since there's a No Fly List already, but it's far easier to do mass restrictions when you have to ask permission in the first place.

One obvious use of this would be in the case of a draft. Instead of throwing millions on a no-fly list, all you need is a birth date and gender cut-off. It's unlikely that this U.S. administration would institute a draft, though; they don't seem to believe high numbers of troops are required.

Another would be a global cut-off by nationality.

All speculation, of course, but why push for this sort of system in the first place if you don't plan on taking advantage of its features relative to the no-fly list?

The only feature of the entire proposal that seems sensible is making sure passenger manifests are sent 15 minutes before takeoff, instead of up to 15 minutes afterwards.

11/03/06

  12:49:01 am, by Nimble   , 608 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Programming

Peopleware - Productive Projects and Teams : DeMarco & Lister

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0932633439?ie=UTF8&tag=thecerealkill-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641&creativeASIN=0932633439

This is an interesting paperback concerning itself with how companies are run where the business is development, like code, as opposed to production, like cheeseburgers. In particular, there is a focus on what sort of management mismatches and business pathologies you may encounter.

If you are a developer, chances are that you will identify with some-to-many of the troubles in this book...

Full story »

11/01/06

  12:36:07 am, by Nimble   , 355 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

I Still Don't Get Virtual Particles

Having gone back and read about virtual particles once more, I must say that they have become less, rather than more clear.

Full story »

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