Did you hear about the politicians who climbed up the famous Paris landmark? The Lib Dem and the Lab made it safely to the top, but the Tory fell.



When I was a large child, I often fancied myself in the role of MacGyver, but had fairly few opportunities to put this into practice.

Tonight, as I was walking away from the mailbox, I thought to myself, as I often do, that it was particularly foolish to have placed a drain so close to the box--someone is bound to be walking away with their keys and drop them down there. At the same time I was juggling the large amount of spam mail and letters from my employer informing me that they had lost a laptop with all of my personal details (social security number, salary, inside leg measurement, that sort of thing), when my keys jumped from my hand, landed on the drain with a clank, and slid through the gap with a miserable clang.

"Oh, sugarhillgang", I muttered to myself, as I squinted through the grate to see the keys just visible in the near darkness. But not to be daunted, I went back to the house (which fortunately I had left unlocked), and proceeded to collect some tools. First, I tried to heave up the drain cover, but it was stuck down tight. Then I tried to use a broom handle to gather the keys, but it was too short. A flashlight cast more light on the situation. I thought about dangling a magnet down to pick them up, but some experiments in the kitchen demonstrated that this was unlikely to work. Instead, I gathered up a paperclip, fashioned it into a hook, tied it with string to the end of the broom stick. Dangling this down the drain and directing the flash light and with only a little more swearing, the hook snagged the keys. Slowly drawing it up, and anticipating disappointment at any moment, I was delighted to recover the ring.

In conclusion:
-- It's amazing what you can do with a paperclip and a piece of string
-- Put the keys away safely before tripping past the drain
-- I am a genius

That is all.



Have you ever went over a friends house to eat and the food just ain't no good -- I mean the macaroni's soggy the peas are mushed and the chicken tastes like wood so you try to play it off like you think you can by saying that you're full and then your friend says "Momma, he's just being polite; he ain't finished" (uh uh that's bull). So your heart starts pumping and you think of a lie and you say that you already ate and your friend says, "Man, there's plenty of food", so you pile some more on your plate while the stinky foods steaming your mind starts to dreaming
of the moment that it's time to leave, and then you look at your plate and your chickens slowly rotting into something that looks like cheese. So you say "That's it, I got to leave this place. I don't care what these people think. I'm just sitting here making myself nauseous with this ugly food that stinks." So you bust out the door while it's still closed, still sick from the food you ate, and then you run to the store for quick relief from a bottle of kaopectate.


Call This Progress?

I took a break from my hectic schedule of misanthropy yesterday to see the summer blockbuster movie "I, Ronman" (I think it's supposed to be a sequel to "I, Robot"). The lead character is Tony Stark, not to be confused with Tony Shaloub as Ian Stark. When is the big screen adaptation of "Stark Raving Mad" going to arrive? When?

For all the movies big action and special effects, it's worth noting that the three main moments of tension are as follows:

  • Waiting for a progress bar to reach 100%
  • Waiting for some files to be copied onto a flash drive
  • Trying to complete a task before a battery runs out of power

It makes you wonder why millions of Americans flock to the cineplex for this kind of entertainment when they could be out there having similar exciting adventures simply by trying to operate a laptop computer running Windows. It makes you wonder if in a few decades all these movies will look very silly and archaic.

Rights Lapse for "Bizarre" Song

New Zealand songsters OMC had a worldwide smash in the mid-nineties with How Bizarre, which catalogued a sequence of mundane events followed by the exclamation "How Bizarre". The song ended with the enigmatic come-on "Wanna know the rest? Hey, buy the rights!". Following a frenetic bidding war, the rights were optioned for a record $5M NZD ($3.50 US). However, a decade later, the option has lapsed and the "How Bizarre" movie seems unlikely to ever be made.

The project was troubled from the start. Over a dozen different screenwriters were brought in to submit drafts. The movie was originally planned as a vanity project for Jim Carrey, but subsequently Adam Sandler, Brandon Fraser, Corey Feldman, and, following one particularly radical rewrite, Whoopi Goldberg. While the project is officially described as "still underdevelopment", it seems unlikely the full story promised in the song will ever be known. In response to this wholly predictable and unremarkable series of events, the song's singer and composer Pauly Fuemana commented "How Bizarre!". --- AP


Stupid Things I Have Read in Wired This Month

Wired Magazine (you remember magazines, they were like websites, only they only updated once a month) usually manages to make several ridiculous or idiotic statements each issue. This month, the first was in the very first article, on prediction markets. It reads "The big blow came in January, when the markets gave Barack Obama a 91% chance of beating Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Clinton won..." and proceeds to use this as an opportunity to pour scorn on the very concept.

But wait-- the market predicted a 91% chance. How does the fact that the 9% chance came up refute the very existence of such markets? If the bookie's favourite always came in first, there wouldn't be much point in betting (well...). You expect a basic lack of understanding of probability theory in most mass market publications, but you'd hope for something a bit better in a tech mag. And you'd be disappointed.

Lies, Damned Lies...

In the attached over-exposed picture, you can see an advertisement for a local (real) estate agent [They're called Real Estate Agents over here; presumably, there was once a problem with fake estate agents]. It took me a very long time to work out what the main graph was showing. Perhaps you can figure it out more quickly than I did?



Yay! My web page is now the number one result for querying my surname on google. I call that a result.

And, just as I am writing this, I learn that I have been given 5 extra days of vacation a year.


Is there enough pathetic juvenile innuendo-laden humour in your life? You know, I don't think there is. So have this embedded video of AC-DC's wonderfully tacky single-entendre "Big Balls"

Makes you wonder if this record could have been the inspiration for The Upper Crust, a band who play their entire set in perriwigs, and are responsible for such songs as Rock'n'Roll Butler, Finished with Finishing School, Ascot in My Dickie, and (below) Let them eat rock!


And now, with pictures

As I've mentioned before, my email address gets quite a lot of mail that seems to be intended for someone else. Today was a first though: a cameraphone picture sent directly to my account. The picture is below

Note that this is actual size (must be a pretty lowres camera then). The return address is a cell phone number in New York somewhere, I think -- the area code is 585.

Also sent to this address recently is a stray invitation to connect to someone I've never heard of on LinkedIn, and the following urgent missive:

My name is Dustin Heenan from Prairie Plumbing and Heating in oshawa, we are currently doing some work in your building on 250 Bayly st in Ajax. We are trying to tie some underground in on site right now, but my plumber is having a difficult time trying to make sure that he is tying into the sanitary on site and not the storm with the new plumbing work being installed. Is there any chance that you have a set of orginal drawings for the base building of that plaza so that we can be sure of what we are tying into. Any chance you could get back to asap that would be great as we are trying to do this work over the next couple days. Much appreciated. Take care

Hand Gestures

In society, we have a small number of hand gestures for certain key activities. There must be something special about these activities -- that they need some amount of emphasis, or to be communicated in noisy environments or across a crowded room. Here are all the gestures that I can think of (add more in comments if you think of any). Picture them in your mind as you read them:

The bill (in a restaurant)
Phone / call me

Yesterday, I realized that we have silently agreed on a new gesture in the last few decades: Mouse click

I find it interesting [and, as usual, I feel it unnecessary to provide the obvious caveat that you probably won't] that these gestures are weird exaggerations of the activity that they represent. Also, note how some are more common that others: I can think of a gesture for eat/eating, but it seems much less standard than drink/drinking. Similarly, there is one for typing (well, really, any keyboard activity such as piano playing), but it doesn't seem as useful as the mouse one.

Have I missed any? Do "the kids" have a hand gesture for texting, or hanging out on the Face Book web page? As I've said about many things in the past, I'm sure that there's a sociology thesis in there somewhere (probably titled something like "Evolution of Colloquial Sign Language in The Internet Age"), and probably no one will ever write it.


Word Up

When reviewing papers, I usually try to note which ones are written in Word, since this usually correlates well with a bad paper. It's usually pretty easy -- although body text in TNR looks quite similar, italics, mathematical notation and subscripts are usually clear indicators. Lately though I seem to have been finding it a little tricker to tell at a glance. So I've resorted to checking one clear indicator: ligatures. I'm sure it's possible to insert ligatures in Word, but no-one ever does it, so a quick search for ff or fl helps resolve the matter.


This is 1999 calling...

I was going to post about how much better things have got in the last week in terms of unsolicited phone calls, when I got a call from a [muffled] internet service provider. Given that my current ISP is a nice person with an open-WiFi router, I was slightly more prepared to listen than usual. The rather incomprehensible caller went on to explain that they had a special offer available on accelerated dial-up service that could be up to six times faster than...

Wait a moment. *dial-up* service? People still sell that? I mean, I'm sure that there's a market for it in rural areas and for people temporarily shafted by their phone company who takes over a month to get DSL service up and running, but surely that's a fairly small market, and not worth nuisance-calling over. So, after expressing my surprise, I told the caller to get lost, and when they insisted that their dial-up service was too good to miss, I started to vaguely threaten them with the federal DNC (it'll be nice when I've been on there long enough for it to be enforcable, of course).

Still, dial-up service in 2008? Wow.


I love u

New York Times shows that it is unable to spell the name of the Labour party.

Meanwhile, results in the Johnson / Livingstone (Seagull?) race are painfully slow to arrive. I'll just ignore it for another few hours, then.

Still, nice to see some kind of STV system in use. Maybe second preference votes will decide the race?

Misheard Lyrics

There's a song buzzing around my head that I've heard a few times on the radio over the past few months, but not caught the name of.

It features
-- A sort of childish singing (possibly a sample?)
-- The lyrics "the way you move is so (natural? good to me?)"
-- "Do your dance, do your dance" or similar

Can anyone tell me what it is really? Idle web searching on various permutations over the above fails to reveal the answer. Embedded youchoob link of the video for the first person who can tell me.