Busy, Busy

I’ve recently moved into a new flat and it seems there’s a never ending list of things that need doing… and it’s all fairly mundane stuff as well, which doesn’t help.

I’ve been having to sort out council tax (and checking that the calculations I’ve received are correct), making sure I’m registered to vote at my new address, terminating my old gas account, signing up for a new electricity account (after perusing and comparing the various tariffs), sorting out my water account (and wondering just where on Earth the water meter cupboard is in this building), updating my address on my driver’s license, bank account and too many other things to remember, attending residents meetings…

The point is that I’ve been a little busy of late, but I think it’s beginning to settle down.

Sort of.

I found some time yesterday to try baking some bread, which seemed like a good idea given that I had no bread. It might be the in thing to cut carbs, but I’m not doing that myself yet, so I set about following a recipe for Easy White Bread – I mean, it’s easy right? Sounds like my kind of recipe.

Here are the fruits of my labour:

Home-baked bread

Not too shabby, eh? I can confirm that it tastes like bread and is, in fact, much nicer than a typical loaf of bread which you might buy in a supermarket. Nothing too surprising about that though. It’s also nice that I know exactly what went into this bread, of which salt was only a small part – probably far less per slice than a supermarket loaf. It’s also nice knowing what didn’t go into this loaf, such as the old packet of opened yeast I “discovered”… not a pleasant discovery by any means. Ick.

The only downside to making bread is that it’s very labour intensive, taking a little too long to be something that I’d want to do regularly. This loaf should keep me going for a few days though.

Nom nom nom.

Why you should talk to strangers

As someone who has mastered the art of sitting in solitude, a piece of research that’s been conducted about the effects of talking to strangers comes as something of a tough blow. It turns out – as hard as this is to believe (please make sure you’re sitting down at this point) – that talking to strangers is more pleasant than expected. In fact, it’s apparently better than sitting in solitude.

Mind. Blown.

Isn’t sitting quietly on public transport one of the great British institutions? Sitting quietly comes very naturally to me. Drumming up a conversation with someone else on the other hand… unthinkable.

Why You Should Talk to Strangers

As it happens though, I do have first-hand experience of being spoken to. That’s right – by a stranger. A total stranger. From my primary school education I’m only too keenly aware of “stranger danger”. Heck, back then we were even given police branded pencils, inscribed with “say no to strangers”. That’s a pretty simple message: strangers, bad. Admittedly this is a different kind of stranger from the one at hand though, so let me get back to my anecdote.

I used to commute to work on a bus, and it just so happens that someone reached out to me – I’ll spare you the grisly details of the incident that led to us first talking to each other (I never again want to sit near to anyone on a bus who’s feeling unwell), and instead settle for a subsequent encounter in which I used a Sudoku book as bait (a Carol Vorderman Sudoku book, in fact).

I like to credit myself with being canny enough to use a Sudoku book as bait (when you’re not the kind of person to start conversations, you can at least try and encourage them). When you think about it, a Sudoku book is a great signal for expressing a lot about you at a quick glance. First of all, Sudoku isn’t something that will appeal to the everyday layman – instead it says (for lack of humility), “I am smart [I think]“. Similarly, it could also be inferred that a Sudoku player might be thoughtful, patient, cultured… okay, perhaps I’m straying into self-praise here.

The point of this anecdote is that speaking to strangers can indeed be a nice thing.

Jinxy Jenkins & Lucky Lou

I came across this staff pick on Vimeo today and, well, I’m always partial to a bit of animation and this is a nice little short. I suppose it’s not too surprising that one of the people involved in the creation of this is an intern at Pixar.

Write more, draw more

jon

So it turns out that I rarely update this blog – no different to most people’s blogs then. It seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity though, so I’m going to strive to put some life into this website*. I mean, I enjoy writing and yet, outside of sending people emails, I rarely do any writing. Crazy.

Another thing I also don’t do a lot of is drawing – something I could easily spend an hour or two doing when I was younger (mostly of Sonic the Hedgehog, but that’s beside the point).

So this afternoon I decided to dust off my pen and paper and have a crack at drawing a cartoon version of myself – and the avatar you see for this post is the result. Not too bad I think, given that its been a while since I’ve done any drawing – I usually open Photoshop to do no more than, say, crop and resize images. Doing something genuinely a little arty feels like quite the novelty.

Yes, there’s some artistic licence perhaps… my beard isn’t quite as complete as that, for one thing.

You know what though? There’s something satisfying about colouring stuff in. I suppose flood-filling with Photoshop’s paintbucket isn’t quite the same, but there’s satisfaction to be had nevertheless. Incidentally I forgot to turn on the “Proof Colours” option in Photoshop (why isn’t it on by default?), so the colours have a bit more pop than I expected – I like it though and there’s nothing wrong with a bit more zing.

* Usually blog posts about intending to update more are a precursor to quite the opposite, but I’m feeling optimistic so let’s see what happens.

Therac-25

I find reading about real-life incidents involving software bugs to be very interesting; albeit often very sad and tragic for the innocent people involved or affected by the bugs. Today I was reading Reddit and came across a story relating to Therac-25 radiation therapy, in which a rare race condition could lead to an interlock failing, the consequences of which were very serious:

“The high-powered electron beam struck the patients with approximately 100 times the intended dose of radiation, delivering a potentially lethal dose of beta radiation”

In my line of work a race condition typically means part of a user-interface won’t work correctly; inadvertently over-radiating someone by an order of magnitude is shocking. You can read more about Therac-25 on Wikipedia, along with the root causes of the software bug.

Granted this happened in the mid-1980s but it’s stories like these that still make me a little wary about some aspects of technology.