Time is relative

I find long periods of time quite difficult to visualise. Anything more than about six weeks, and it becomes "a long time", but without a comparator, it’s difficult to give it a frame of reference.

I’m looking forward to a big event due in about 75 days’ time. A little under eleven weeks. In order to picture this, I work back from today by the same amount of time and imagine a relatively memorable event that took place that many days ago. 67 days ago today, I took a trip to Newcastle on business. I can vividly remember that event, and it doesn’t seem that long ago at all, and that’s roughly how long I have to wait until the big event.

It would be good if I had a little app. that plucked the nearest such event from my Google Calendar to give me a comparator for any given date I’m eagerly awaiting.

Quote of Celebrity Big Brother 2007

Shilpa Shetty: "This is what today’s UK is? It’s scary."

Thanks, Jo. Thanks, Jade. Thanks, Danielle. Thanks, Jackiey. What a dreadful indictment of modern Britain.

Steaming crap and Paddington bare

A few shots from the last couple of days.

First, a sign embedded in the pavement on the eastern junction of Chenies Street and North Crescent, just off Tottenham Court Road.

Steaming crap

Next, a couple of shots of Paddington Station taken at 5.44am this morning, before boarding the 5.55am Heathrow Express. You rarely see it quite like this, given that over 25m people go through Paddington each year.

Paddington Station (1)

Paddington Station (2)

New static copy on the BBC website

I think that the BBC has introduced some new static copy on its News homepage. Just under the Sport Headlines title on the right-hand side, it reads:

Cricket: Dismal England collapse

I’m pretty sure it’s static. I think it’s been there ever since the Australia tour began on 10 November. I can’t imagine there’s a need for it to be content manageable.

Inconsistent user experience

I’m annoyed. Very annoyed. Here’s why.

In Internet Explorer 6, CTRL + central mouse wheel used to change the font size. It used to drag the fonts from smallest to smaller to medium to large to largest. As far as I can recollect, wheel towards you increased the font sizes; wheel away from you reduced them.

In IE7, two changes have occurred:

The first of these issues doesn’t seem to take into account stylesheets particularly well. For the BBC News website, things look fine. For this site, the different components drift towards or away from one another, as you zoom out and zoom in respectively.

The latter is annoying not because of its inconsistency with IE6, but because of that with Firefox 2.0.

Now I’m not saying Microsoft is wrong. There are certainly arguments for zoom rather than font scaling from an accessibility perspective. And as for the zoom direction, you could argue that either Mozilla or Microsoft is right:

My issue is with the inconsistency this causes in people’s user experiences. While Microsoft may have had some logical explanation for changing the behaviour of the scroll-wheel, the fact that people had got used to its old behaviour meant that (in my view) it was too deep-rooted to change.

So, now we have two products, both of which I use to do the same thing (in different contexts—sometimes things don’t work properly in Firefox, and other times I want to do a spot of IE testing), the two of which react in diametrically opposite ways when I perform the same function.

I’m annoyed

Where grammar and geekery collide

It seems that these two ‘qualities’ are mutually exclusive: a healthy understanding of grammar and an above average appetite for all things technical.

While I’ve already referred to the sliding standards of people at large, it seems this trend is particularly prevalent among techies.

To prove this point, simply scroll down the titles and short summaries of articles on digg, and cringe away. Inconsistent mixed-casing, heinous apostrophe crimes and overall grammatical disappointment abound. It’s not as if they have to write long essays; digg summaries are really short.

I’m not sure whether it’s an education issue or one of attention to detail. Either way, it’s distressing, and one of the reasons you rarely get well-rounded techies.

DotP t-shirt

Today I’m wearing my DotP t-shirt, under the assumption that it will be replaced as the platform for Directgov this weekend. Fingers crossed.

It will still exist, supporting DH, for the time being. But I don’t think it will reach its fourth birthday, which is 94 days away.

For the record, you’ll be pleased to know that the t-shirt is covered with a jumper.

More intelligent handwriting font systems

I came across this site recently via digg. It’s a collection of handwriting fonts that can be downloaded directly from the page. Some of them are quite neat, but it reminded me of a problem with these fonts, and a possible solution.

The very nature of handwriting (mine in particular) is that we rarely write a particular letter the same way twice. Furthermore, the letters that we form are often dependent on the preceding letter. In the word letter, for instance, the first e is affected by it appearing after an l, the t is affected by the preceding e and so on. As far as I’m aware, these two characteristics are never addressed in fonts, as each character is treated as an independent entity, and every instance of a particular letter is technically equal.

I’m proposing a twofold solution:

For the former, the character would only be displayed to its half-way point. The latter half of a character would be displayed as part of the next character. So you’d also need 26 space characters (one to succeed each letter) and 26 of each punctuation mark.

It would be a complex font system (the two requirements requiring upwards of 3,500 characters), but it would much closer mimic real handwriting than do the current offerings, which limit themselves to work within our current understanding of character sets.

It’s interesting how the Luna Bar font on the page linked to above uses horizontal overlaps between the characters. Maybe there is something there that could be used.


Self-referential formula

Thanks to Francis for pointing to this ridiculous stroke of luck/ridiculously contrived inequality.

In the 1,802-byte range where 0 <= x <= 105 and some ridiculously high 17-integer range for y, the formula plots itself. Absolutely phenomenal.

The formula:

1/2 < [mod([y/17]*2^(-17[x]-mod([y],17)),2)]

Big Brother

Steve has accurately summed up the Goody family in his recent post, Sterilise the Goodys for the future of mankind. However, I feel that he’s missed out on fully evaluating the full extent of the backwardness of the Celebrity Big Brother housemates, in two notable omissions:

The two of them are vindictive racists. They are horrible people. Their respective bungs for going into the house should be withheld when they leave, and their careers should fall into nothingness.

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