Archive for category Humour
Just got a bedside chest of drawers from B&Q. It came as a flat-pack, which pleased me no end of course. A kit! I loved those when I was about twelve. It would be just like making a model aircraft again – albeit one with unusually poor aerodynamics.
Well no, as it turned out. Not really. The difference is that with a model, at least half of what you’re paying for is the process. Owning a plastic plane is as nothing compared to seeing it materialise beneath your hands. With flat-pack furniture though, you’re paying for furniture. Very few people , you’ll notice, spend their evenings building model wardrobes.
The assembly is not a thrill, but something you do to save money. At least that’s the theory. This thing cost nearly €100, which seemed like a reasonable price when displayed on an example of the finished object. After making it myself, I reckoned €100 was roughly what B&Q owed me. This was several hours of not wholly unskilled labour, and frankly a small wooden box seemed insufficient reward. Five different sizes of screw, plus assorted bolts, plugs and nails. Three sliding draws on metal runners. Twenty-three variously shaped pieces of timber. While it’s true that when I was a child the best model was the one with the greatest number of interesting parts, this is not a sought-after quality in furnishings.
And I got a splinter.
The parts are of reasonably good quality. Light yet solid pine stained to look like a more expensive tree, but no tacky plastic or MDF. It all fit together nicely, and the results felt solid – or at least they did when I added a few nails and doubled down on the amount of woodglue it came with. (In particular, using it to help keep the handles in place. Knobs that screw on, screw off.) The problem was that the instructions were way less helpful than they could have been.
The thing is full of screw holes that go unused – presumably the same bits make many different pieces – but you absolutely must use the correct ones, which makes assembly far more fiddly and the risk of error far higher than it really needs to be. And while the diagrams are never actually wrong, they could be a whole hell of a lot clearer. Much time will be wasted glaring at the pictures in an effort to ascertain exactly which of seven closely-clumped holes is being indicated – or alternatively, on the non-amusing task of taking it apart and putting it back together right. They’re often the butt of jokes, but IKEA‘s instructions are a model of clarity compared to B&Q’s Danish imposter.
Still, you end up with an almost entirely style-free but not unattractive piece or furniture. Whenever I look at it – which should be most days as I’m keeping my socks in it – I’ll be able to say “I made that, with my very own two hands, the day I was held captive and forced to work by that chain of British hardware stores”.
- MIT creates autonomous flat-pack furniture assembling IKEABot (extremetech.com)
Another exam this morning. Christ what a paper. Answer three questions out of four; was going to be out of five but they had to cancel a lecture or two so they curtailed our choice to compensate… Which meant that being weak in even one area was a big risk.
And I was weak in one. This paper was Information System Innovation, a strange mix of investment decision-making, Intellectual Property law, and Open Source idealism. At all costs I wanted to avoid a question on business metrics, the tedium of which makes my brain cry.
I got lucky. My favourite area – Open Source Software – came up in two questions. If anyone on the course had been trying to avoid Open Source on the other hand, they were pretty much stuffed and mounted. And this after they told us explicitly that there would be no overlaps.
My only real problem with the paper was that there wasn’t time to say all I wanted to say. So strange to be answering questions about the likes of Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds, people who before this seemed more like figures out of folklore. Weirder still to think that when I graduated with my primary degree, none of the stuff on this course had happened yet.
So despite the stress I actually enjoyed the exam. This may not be a good sign, as it means I managed to go on at some length about things I have opinions on. Apple versus Samsung, Menlo Park versus Xerox PARC, IP in an age of 3D printing. Did they even want opinion? Did I show I was fully engaged with the material, or rave about stuff that was only tangentially related? Essentially, I can only have done either a brilliant or a disastrous paper.
But I have the whole summer to worry about that.
- Linus Torvalds Announces Release of Linux 3.9 (hothardware.com)
- Happy 60th Birthday, Richard Stallman, Free Software God! (readwrite.com)
- Geek Madness: Nikola Tesla named greatest geek ever after trouncing Torvalds (geekwire.com)
It’s that time of year again. The time when I do my taxes. Yeah, I know it’s not the time you do your taxes, but it is the time I do mine. About six months late, on average.
Once again, we open the form all a-tremble, excited to see just how many wholly indecipherable questions – perhaps entire pages – they’ve added this time. It’s not so long since they re-formed the form for the self employed so that non-accountants could read it. Year on year since though, entropy has dripped back in. A clause here, a category there, and now about 90% of it doesn’t even seem to apply to me. I guess some people’s businesses must be very different from mine, making very different things.
Money, to name one.
At least the online version has asterisks to mark the required fields. I figure I can’t go too wrong if I just fill all those. Then I scan for places to put in expenses and allowances I can apply for. Did you know by the way that if you are getting any form of social welfare payment you are entitled to a PAYE tax credit on top of your normal tax free allowance? I have no idea why, I can only guess it’s because tax is deducted at source from welfare payments – in some sort of entirely notional way. Anyway, ours is not to reason why, ours is to remember to tick the box. It may come in useful if they disallow some of my larger expenses again.
Antique erotic netsuke are research materials, dammit.
While getting my tax affairs in order, I remembered that I’d received an email from the new Local Property Tax agency. We didn’t use to have any residence-based taxes in Ireland, a Fianna Fáil government abolished them one time in a spree of vote-buying. Now that another FF administration has driven the economy off a cliff we have to have them back – though of course it’s the parties now in power that get the blame for it. Political lesson: If you create the most mess, nobody asks you to clean up.
Anyway I hadn’t paid much attention to the email. It’s a tax for property owners and I don’t own any property, I just rent a small apartment in an old four-storey building in the middle of town. Reading it now though, I find that seemingly I do. According to “our records”, as the tax people put it – by which I think they mean a hat – I own the building. Not just the room I live in. The whole. Fucking. Building. Walls of solid stone four feet thick, older than the United States, a good restaurant downstairs. According to an official government agency, it is all mine.
I tell you one thing, I’m not paying any more rent.
Done. Just submitted my first ever systems analysis of a real company. It’s an assignment, I think it went OK. We (a team of three) freely admit we could have used more information than we had access to, but I reckon we probably did reach useful conclusions about the dangers this little software company faces – and what they might do about them.
Think it’s a good team. Funny reading the report afterwards; even edited together you can clearly see the difference in our styles. The others did things like bringing in detail and applying theory. My part is, well, narrative. I’m writing stories. Which is a little weird, but maybe it works. You need all of that in a report. It just maybe needs to be a bit more… blended. The sudden gear-changes from academic to emotive prose are probably more fun than they really ought to be.
Just one question remains. Why am I doing systems analysis again?
The window of McCambridge’s is one of the great places in Galway to have coffee. Looking onto the main shopping thoroughfare, it combines all that’s best about walking around town with all that’s best about sitting inside not doing that.
With our weather – and the last time I was here I watched a wooden forklift pallet being blown down the road – it’s a priceless resource.
The name of that thoroughfare by the way is Shop Street. I’ve always liked the excessive literalness of that. The adjoining High Street meanwhile is full of pubs. All we really need is for the banks to be down Arsehole Avenue.
But I must stop avoiding the issue, I’m here to apologise. This has been one of the longest breaks I’ve ever taken from writing here. What siren has lured me away with her haunted song? I’ll tell you honestly. Flagrant geekery. Part of the time it’s been Java. Not the coffee, the programming language. Part of the time it’s been Linux. All of it, in short, stuff that most people neither understand nor – and here’s the really tricky part – particularly want to understand.
So writing about them in an entertaining way may be a little tricky. But I will give it a go.
American football is like rugby with all the bits I understand taken out. Admittedly that leaves plenty to be getting on with, but it seems to consist pretty much entirely of men charging directly at one another. That can’t be the most efficient way to accomplish anything. To make it even more confusing, when I tuned in no one was doing anything at all. I’d heard there were pauses in the play, but hadn’t expected them to last half an hour.
I gather though that the power cut is not an official aspect of the sport. Which is a shame, in many ways it seemed the best bit. Like the half-time show but with far more scope for improvisation. You’d think this would be cripplingly embarrassing to the Americans, having probably their most-watched event globally turning into an advert for inadequate engineering. Fortunately however they can all blame it on the political party they don’t support, thereby avoiding any conception of collective failure. Democracy in inaction.
Seriously, we did this in class. OK, a lecture. It brought me back to a very different, though in some ways surprisingly similar, but mostly different school I went to many years ago.
I drew a house there too, maybe on my very first day. It’s certainly one of the first things I remember. I distinctly recall having trouble making the place I finished drawing the roof be the same as the place I started. Triangles are the hardest basic shape.
I recall my contempt for the children who drew their square windows in the very corners of their square house. Imagine that! Had they no powers of observation? Obviously the windows should be a little bit in from the corners. I mean, otherwise you’d see the edges of the side walls through the glass. Sheesh.
The biggest difference is that I drew that house with a pencil. Today in school we drew houses with the Java programming language. It’s harder, drawing your house with the Java programming language. For example, at the age of four I didn’t spend a weekend staring at my pencil and paper going “How the **** is this supposed to work?”
So you’re seeing here the first thing I ever made in Java. I really do feel a little like a small child in school again. At the end of the class I printed it out and gave it to the teacher.
- Why Java Is Still Relevant in the Mobile Age (sys-con.com)
There’s nothing wrong with horse meat. Horses are healthy, clean, athletic, and mad. Their flesh is low in fat and full of flavour – rather like Labrador. No, the problem is not with horses per se. There are other, quite valid, reasons to object to this animal turning up unexpectedly in your burger.
The first of course is that an animal has turned up unexpectedly in your burger. It’s more than a bit disconcerting. And, disrespectful. If a waiter brought you something you didn’t order and when you objected told you it didn’t actually matter what you ate, you’d be annoyed. We want to know what we’re putting in our mouths. To an extent I mean. We’re all aware that sausages are made out of eyelashes and earwax, but we’re prepared for that. Beef – or ‘beef’ – we at least expect to be made out of cows’ eyelashes and earwax.
And then there’s this worry: Remember bovine brain and spine matter. How can we feel sure they’re successfully keeping that out if entire horses can slip in? It’s an awful thing for the image of the food industry. Now probably it’s perfectly good terribly bad meat, sourced on the continent as a legal, safe, and seriously cheap filler ingredient for barely-edible bargain burgers. It’s just that somewhere along the way someone missed a memo about what is considered a food in some markets and a friend in others.
So I think it shouldn’t be destroyed. I’d eat it. Once they test it for everything from BSE to cat AIDS, I’d eat it. Whatever about the morality of meat, it’s clearly immoral to kill something and then refuse to eat it – not to mention rude. And as meat in itself is incredibly wasteful – the same amount of land feeds around twenty times as many people on a vegetable diet – it’s just stupendously wasteful to waste meat.
Or well, waste hair follicles and mechanically recovered connective tissue.
Something weird happened today.
I was doing an electronics job, replacing the LNB on a. That’s the receiver bit at the focus there; it’s much more than just an antenna though. Controlled by the set-top box, the LNB is actually re-tuned to the particular frequency you’re looking for. The microwave signals are too tenuous to bring down a wire to a tuner, so it has to be done right here. Which is why you can’t watch one satellite channel while recording another, and have to find something on RTÉ to watch instead.
Before I understood this I’d tried to split the signal from a dish into two boxes, with predictably unpredictable results. What you need is an LNB that has multiple outputs. Here we went with four, so you can record two satellite channels while watching two others. Say.
A word of warning if you’re considering doing this – I got the LNB in Maplin. Don’t do that. Maplin are well known to be on the pricey side for some things, but in the case of the LNB I paid at least double what I could’ve got this for online. They provide a great service and I like to patronise them, but that’s a bit much.
Especially as it wouldn’t fit. The current LNB (pictured) has an integral bracket, The new one doesn’t, so I had to go back for one. Also – now that I’d actually done research – some silicone grease and self-amalgamating tape. The former is a jelly-like waterproofing agent in a tube, the latter a strange sort of rubbery tape that melds with itself to make seals for the cable connections. And if the LNB was overpriced, these accessories were eye-watering. The bracket, a small piece of plastic that bends into shape, fetched €16.49. Here’s the same thing for a fiver. The job could have been done for half nothing with a little planning.
But anyway, armed with all the right bits today I climbed the ladder, undid the cable and pulled off the old LNB, pushed in the new one with its bracket, did up the cable, came inside and turned on the TV. And this is where the weird thing happened.
It worked first time. No hitches, no inexplicable problems, no wasted hours figuring out what I did wrong. Swap the units over… TV pictures. I didn’t have to alter the positioning of the LNB, futz with its polarisation angle, re-scan the channels, nothin’. The job was just done.
It’s a strangely uncomfortable feeling.
Second shoe, where are you?