Category Archives: Blog

General thoughts on life, the universe and everything. Stuff that doesn’t fit in the other categories!

F.A.Q.

Most sites have a Frequently Asked Questions section and I don’t want to feel left out. So far no-one has actually asked any questions, so I am just guessing.

How are you?

I find that I annoy myself by saying “I’m good” when asked that question. I’m just not convinced it’s actually valid English. I got into the habit when I found that many Americans stare at you blankly if you answer any other way.

Who are you?

That’s a very deep question. Perhaps we could start with something a bit easier? If you’re impatient I suggest you ask someone with a Psychology or Philosophy degree and not someone like me who has one in Computer Science.

What do you want?

Never ask that question.

I live in Nigeria and would like to transfer a large sum of money out of the country. Can you help me?

Ha! Like I’d make that mistake again.

What’s red, round and ticks?

A clock-work tomato.

Will you promise never to tell a joke that bad again?

I’m afraid all my jokes are that bad.

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

I don’t like the sound of where this is going, but in answer to your question, no. As I am a male Caucasian it’s probably best that I don’t try to dance.

What’s the state capital of California?

Only a few people will know why this is funny. I’m not going to explain.

Why won’t my file open when I’m eating toast?

That is the most stupid question ever! Do not have children! (This from the Daily Dilbert mailing on the 7th October, 2005.)

Are you really as dumb as you seem from this blog?

Such rudeness. But probably.

Well, I hope you found that enlightening. Feel free to add a comment with any new questions you have.

Unappreciated technology

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” or so said Arthur C. Clarke. What struck me when I was on holiday a couple of weeks ago is that there’s a level beyond that: when you don’t even notice.

We were sat in a restaurant having dinner and for reasons that I can no longer recall, conversation came round to the first UK hit by the Rolling Stones. ‘H’ said that it was “Come On,” ‘J’ swore that it was something entirely different. This all being at least ten years before I was born I had no real opinion on the subject but I did know a man who would have the answer. I immediately took out my mobile and texted him. A few minutes later the answer came back (‘H’ was right).

Of course, this was all taken for granted, except ‘J’ who now owed ten thousand dong. But have you ever considered the level of technology required to make this happen?

A very much simplified sequence of events looks something like this: my phone sends the message to the local cell tower (those things they put on top of schools that fry pigeons and cheaply microwave the chicken nuggets the kids are having for dinner). The cell tower transfers the message on to some “command centre,” a big room with stacks of computers, noisy fans and flashing lights being maintained by men in white coats clutching clip-boards. From here it zips all six thousand miles back to the UK, only pausing to make a note in the billing system. Once back in Blighty the network tries to find the phone, transfers the message to the nearest cell and on to the phone itself. The return trip would be similar but with the added complexity of having a UK phone operating on a foreign network.

All this happens faultlessly in just a few seconds. Isn’t that amazing?

Of course I’m not claiming to be the first to notice this. I remember hearing an interview with Douglas Adams where he marvels at the complexity lying behind a light switch. The difference, in my mind at least, is how quickly this immensely complicated technology has moved from magic to invisibility.