31 March, 2006


Our students this year...

... are quite a wholesome and dedicated bunch.

I bet they're all at home now, over the Easter break, working away, getting ready for the last weeks of the year.

Hold on a moment...

30 March, 2006



Through a post in Signal vs. Noise, the blog of 37signals, I came across these amazing insect photos.

Some of my favourites:

insect photo
insect photo

28 March, 2006


Don't go outside

Quite a few years ago, as a kid, I read an article about a fungus that changed the behaviour of insects. I think it was an article in Focus.

I had nightmares for ages afterwards.

This fungus, upon infesting an insect, causes it to change its behaviour and climb to a high point - at the top of a plant, say. Once there, the insect kills itself. At this point, the fungus grows tendrils packed with spores and spreads them from the nice high vantage point.

There were photos.

It seemed such a frightening, creepy, alien thing. Like prawns, but worse.

And now I find out that there's an organism called Toxoplasma gondii that pulls the same freaky Jedi trick on mammals. To increase the likelihood of being passed on, T. Gondii causes the host to become reckless, rash and foolhardy (and probably a bit of a cad and a bounder, to boot!), with the intention of causing an early death. Dead animals get eaten by other animals and that's how T. gondii finds a new host.

The scary thing is that it affects humans in the same way. Consistently drive too fast on the motorway? Maybe you have it already.

It's even been linked to schizophrenia, with higher rates of infection in schizophrenics.

Who knows how many other mind controlling nasties haven't yet been discovered?

Here's an article I found on insects and fungi - look at the second photo and try not to have dreams about sprouting long, bulbously terminated "fruiting bodies". And here's the Wikipedia article on T. gondii.

Sleep tight.

21 March, 2006


The zen of python

>>> import this
The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than *right* now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

From this post.



13 March, 2006


Danger. High voltage.

Following a chain of audio-related web sites, I ran across Bottlehead. They sell tube amps to audiophiles.

The odd thing about the site is their products page. Almost every product is accompanied by a naked woman, censored only by the product itself and careful cropping of the images. Even interconnect cables.

I think it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but what do I know?

12 March, 2006


Dust. Anybody?

Blargh! I've been swearing at my computer.

I've been trying to collect data on the error between an actual and approximated surface with various parameters. It's quite CPU intensive - annoyingly, calculating error is more costly than making the approximation.

Every time it gets a few runs through, it's been rebooting. I guessed (correctly) that it was getting too hot. I blamed (incorrectly) the people who made the machine for not putting in adequate cooling.

After hours of swearing, messing around with a desk fan pointed at the open side of the case, under clocking and littering my code with sleep statements, I decided to take the fan off my processor.

Underneath, jammed between the fan and the heat-sink and even into the fins of the heat-sink, was about two years worth of dust.

A quick busting of the dust with the dust buster and all is well.

Better than well. My machine is actually running appreciably faster, since CPU scaling isn't kicking in any more.

I might tackle the grey fuzzy blob that used to be my graphics card next.

04 March, 2006



Adidas advert

03 March, 2006


Things left for others to find


02 March, 2006


Free textbooks!

That's right, FREE textbooks.

There's a bit of a catch, though: you have to write them first.

Amedeo are offering cash rewards for people who write textbooks that are freely available on t'internet.

The first award is for a textbook on tuberculosis. The award is for €12,500.

They're planning to do more, but need people to help with the cash for awards. If you have tens of Euros lying around that you can't find a use for, let them know.

Amedeo are interested in medical texts, but this is such a good idea I hope we'll see it copied in other areas.

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