Archive for March, 2005

We Need a 40-Hour Internet Famine

Two posts from different blogs which showed up in my aggregator today, both discussing the human [in]ability to multitask:

  1. Collision Detection: “Attention Deficit Trait” – References the article Why can’t you pay attention anymore? describing a very modern phenomenon similar to ADD.
  2. Neopoleon: Fiji… DOS? – Rory describes his own realization along similar lines, when he actually takes a proper vacation.

This issue is cropping up a lot lately, and I’m not surprised. I myself am all too susceptible to the distractions of multitasking. This is why I stopped using IM almost a year ago, and switched off notification sounds in my email client. Still, it may not be enough.

When you’re a programmer and you’re trying to concentrate on a hard/boring task, having all the world’s knowledge* at your fingertips is not such a good thing. Especially when you throw in movies, shopping and blog comments. You’re sitting there, staring at some janky piece of code trying to work out what it’s supposed to be doing, and then suddenly, “Hey, there’s a new Hitch-Hiker’s trailer out!” or, “Scientists discover signs of life on Mars again – this time we really mean it!” and you haven’t got a hope in hell of regaining your train of thought.

Maybe it’s time I spent a week internet-free.

– or perhaps just a day.

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* I realize that not all the world’s knowledge is publicly accessible via the internet, but the effect is much the same.

Revisionism

Have been digging back through intepid, splitting apart entries which should never have been combined and capitalizing all instances of the personal pronoun I . Since a lot of external links go dead anyway, I figure there’s not too much point treating past content as sacred, and with the new randomizing sidebar I was noticing that a lot of the titles were pretty unhelpful [lots of "Stuff" and "Things"].

Incoming

This month’s top referrer: Edward Tufte! In the lastest entry of his Sparklines discussion he points to my own post on the subject [in a positive way too – Yay!]

Last month’s top referrer was Wikipedia, although the links are actually to a specific page stored on jujusoft and not intepid. Check out Wikipedia’s [slightly dodgy] entry on DONKEY.BAS with links at the bottom to source and executable stored on my site.

Doppler

Downloaded it, installed it, ran it, got bored, uninstalled it a few days later. A typical software experience. In general I’m getting really sick of the desktop software paradigm [download - install - configure - break - uninstall - repeat].

Web-based applications = cross-platform install-free goodness. Eg, the idea of going back to a desktop aggregator after using Bloglines seems laughable to me now.

Speaking of broken desktop software…

Recently got to the bottom of a Daylight Savings issue that’s been plaguing me for years!

No Style

Click here to see what intepid looks like without style sheets applied [ugly! be sure to click again to re-enable them]. Copy the link as a bookmark and it should work for any site you’re browsing; very handy for the amateur web designer.

True Crime

After reading this exciting story about a guy who was instrumental in the capture of a couple of other guys for ripping off his credit cards, I was reminded of an incident that happened at my house a while back. It doesn’t involve me being particularly clever or brave, and it has nothing to do with the internet, but it was fairly exciting at the time and will hopefully make for an interesting read.

The following is based on an account written shortly after the event [which I didn't feel like posting publicly at the time].

Read more…

Credophilia

A while back I followed a link to this article: Can This Black Box See Into the Future? which tells of a device which may be able to detect and even foretell significant events with the aid of a random number generator and some undisclosed statistical analysis.

Read more…

Holy Frak!

It’s always good to see something done well, but sometimes it can also be very annoying, particularly when said thing makes your own achievements look a lot less interesting.

It seems that Target [the chain store] has been stealing my thoughts as I sleep, as evidenced by this sexy ad which is showing in Australian cinemas right now.

Remind you of anything…? Like maybe a certain pet project of mine, if I were to get really really motivated and work on it non-stop for a year…?1

*sniff*

So why is it that I actually feel a bit depressed when I see this? Partly I think it’s for the same reason that anyone can be disheartened when they compare their own work to someone else’s; but mostly I think it’s because now I will find it hard to avoid using this imagery as a kind of goal or benchmark for future work on Drivey; thus creating a real danger that my own [occasionally original] ideas will be overshadowed by the urge to match someone else’s vision.

I guess this is a problem within any creative field; in fact one reason why I am attracted to programming+design2 in the first place is that it is still a pretty sparsely populated domain, with plenty of room for innovation/originality – Unlike writing a book, playing an instrument etc, where you can always find ample evidence that you are a talentless amateur and everyone else is a million times better than you can ever hope to be…

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1. I am aware that similarly styled imagery has been popping up all over the place the last few years, but nothing else I have seen has given me such a strong feeling of déjà vu.

2. For want of a better term. "Design-centric programming" perhaps…? I’m not even sure that I know what I mean now…

Furny

Went to to see Bill Bailey [perform] at the Sydney Theatre last night. It was a good show, and included an impromptu foray into the near limitless powers of our own Dr Karl1. Bill Bailey was fabulous as Manny in Black Books, and generally he’s one of the more likeable comedians about.

~

I’ve never personally understood why anyone would want to do stand-up, but for a time I was quite keen on doing a bit of comedy writing. Unfortunately my output was a little on the low side, and so to date I have only seen one of my scripts actually performed. It was about ten years ago, and was performed by my girlfriend at the time and another friend, neither of whom have I seen for ages. My recollection is that it went quite well, although obviously not well enough to inspire me to greater things.

And so, for the record, published here for the very first time in the history of humanity is: The Goldfish Sketch

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1. Dr Karl is very popular here; I once saw evidence of this when a physics lecture I was attending got derailed by a huge number of people turning up early for a "fun with science" talk he was to give there.

Untitled #393

Testing… testing… a post with no title – Not sure whether this will break anything.

I’ve added a random-ish set of links to past posts in the sidebar, since no one ever clicks the monthly archive links anyway. Maybe no one will click on these either, but at least if you do you’ll have some idea what you’re clicking on. Since there are posts [like this one] which don’t really need to show up in a month’s time, I thought maybe not having a title would be a good way to avoid this.

Self Assessment

Being the kind of person that I am, I’ve tried out quite a few of the online IQ/personality type tests, and generally I fare pretty well, with a guilty understanding that the more often I do them, the higher I am likely to score [due to familiarity with the general style and format].

Strangely, it never occurred to me that the results might actually be rigged, so that even answering randomly in the Tickle IQ test still gets me a score of 90, accompanied by the feel-good blurb:

Your Intellectual Type is Precision Processor. This means you’re exceptionally good at discovering quick solutions to problems, especially ones that involve math or logic. You’re also resourceful and able to think on your feet. And that’s just some of what we know about you from your test results.*

Rather annoyed by this, I went off to try to find a "real" test… and this is where I probably should have remembered that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for…"

Suffice it to say that www.intelligencetest.com is tougher than most, largely because of its rigidly enforced time limit, after which it closes the page automatically – it’s just like having someone yell "Time’s up!" and snatch away your test paper! And if you don’t finish within the allotted 15 minutes you can’t just go back and take the test again… not unless you change your IP and sign in with a different email [and doing that would make you a dirty cheater].

Ow… my ego!

So after that annoyingly realistic test, I recommend the palate-cleansing www.iqtest.com, which once you’ve completed it will tell you [for the first time]:

Your Complete Personal Intelligence Profile has been generated and can be accessed immediately for only $9.95.

…and wouldn’t ya know it, I score wa-a-a-ay better on this one! [they also send you your basic score via email, in the hope that you'll purchase the "complete profile"].

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* I should note that tucked further down the page, after the bit telling me how smart I am and trying to sell me something, is a small paragraph which reads: "You may have adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a condition your doctor can help treat. Take a brief screener to find out if you may have the symptoms." [Uh-oh...]

Another time [1988]

This is from a project I spent the bulk of my 10th grade art class working on. It’s a section of the plans for a real physical object, which I went on to actually build with my own two hands.

Sometimes I miss those pre-computer days of creativity. Back then when I had an idea I would draw it or make it, using pencils, paper, cardboard, glue, wire, etc. Now it seems that everything I make consists of software, or at least is utterly reliant on it.*

Of course physical objects decay, combust, get lost, etc, which is where these new fangled computers come in jolly handy for digitizing whatever scraps remain. And if you’d shown me something like this in 1988, my eyes would have probably popped out of their sockets.

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* Hence my delight with concepts like Print On Demand, where you can turn your data into a real object – see earlier post Pulp Fetish.

Multiverse

I’ve just posted a new entry to jujublog, about JujuScript and C/C++ operators. I thought about cross-posting it here, but decided against it because I’m not a fan of such duplication [well not that kind of duplication anyway].

So instead of posting it here, or re-posting it here, I am writing about not posting it here.

I guess this multiple blog thing is probably a bit annoying if you don’t use an aggregator [I use bloglines, so I have no problem reading multiple blogs], but I just want to take the technical detail out of intepid a little, so that I can be a little more "conversational" here without worrying about pushing technical posts off the page [the viewer stats on some of my technical articles are quite low considering the time it takes to write them].

So tech stuff will probably start appearing more on jujublog or in separate articles so as not to be buried under my more bla-bla posts.

An alternative approach [to achieve this separation] would be a two or three column layout for the front page, segregating posts into "important" and "trivial" categories. This way important stuff could stay visible in one column while trivial stuff could flow down another, with a separate RSS feed for each. I quite like this idea but haven’t tried it yet because of the hassle of setting it up [ Also, in column view image sizing could be an issue, although there are some ways around that ].

Sans Flesh

I love the haunting images from FilmWise’s Invisibles section; movie stills with actors totally [and expertly] photoshopped out. There’s something so eerily peaceful about them.

~

In other news, I think I’m in love with Battlestar Galactica, and am seriously thinking about marrying it.

The Anticlimax of Optimization

Enabled positionable color gradients in JujuDrivey, and was kind of disconcerted to note that even though the core C loop looked like it needed optimizing, timings show it hardly makes a speck of difference.

Having just implemented palette splitting it does tend to accentuate the banding a little [visible in the full size image]. Unless I want to add dithering [nope] I’ll just have to lump it.