2006-03-31

 

It’s Christmas! (again)

I got Scientific American’s The Amateur Scientist on CD yesterday.

I used to borrow The Amateur Scientist book from my high school library on a pretty much regular basis. I have searched for the book for years, but to no avail (I had considered going back to my HS and offer to buy it, but my loathing for it prevented me).

Imagine my delight when I discovered it was possible to get the entire collection on a CD (actually, I would have preferred a book).

Shopping around, I found it was generally being listed for about $120 – more than I was willing to pay (have I ever mentioned I am ... erm ... value driven?).

Anyway, I found a place that was selling it for $29.99 – just the bare CD, no fancy box, blah, blah, blah.

I was a bit surprised to discover the CD is a burned one, rather than a stamped one – so I immediately made backup copies of it.

The contents are simply wonderful. I spent a good deal of time last night browsing through it, rereading article on making cloud chambers, grinding telescope lenses, argon lasers, and inexpensive, but safe, X-ray generators (with the added warning that the project was potentially lethal – I guess measures of safety have changed over the decades).

One article I was glad to have found was on a magnetic resonance spectrometer.

It contains articles from the 1928 up until the end of the Amateur Scientist column. I was a little disappointed that the articles from the 20s, 30s, and 40s are exclusively concerned with astronomy and telescopes (I had been hoping for some physics and chemistry experiments).

The contents are easily browsable and there are useful topic links in the left margin. Some of the images are too small – especially, it seems, images of spectra.

If you are a science junkie and fancy yourself an amateur scientist, I can definitely recommend this product. The only thing that would make it better is if it was a book – for which I would definitely be willing to pay $120.

For those who missed the link, you can buy it here.

Image grabbed from here.

2006-03-30

 

Rebuttal

As I wrote to my friend this morning, I have a new insight into what I wrote and blogged about yesterday. This is part of the content of that e-mail:

As I write this, I see why I wrote what I did yesterday – because, I was not communicating with you, I was simply writing to you. While communication requires the active participation of two people – it is not about sharing, it is about caring.

But, you know what? Caring is hard. It is easier to fall into a pattern of complaining about things, of exchanging lists of information without feeling and emotion.

A few weeks ago you shared with me the meaning of HELLO and I would like to share it back to you:

(H)ow are you?
(E)verything all right?
(L)ike to hear from you
(L)ove to see you soon!
(O)bviously, I miss you

2006-03-29

 

Conditioned to be negative and materialistic?

I was composing an e-mail and realized that in this e-mail, like in others, I was writing negatively. I should point out this was a social e-mail, the equivalent of picking up the phone and saying "Hi".

Anyway ... the point is that even in social conversation (or maybe it is just me), conversation is monopolized by complaints, gossip, or gloating (I am conveniently ignoring discovery / self-revelation when people are learning about one another. There is small talk too, which I am hopeless at).

I don't gossip, so that's one topic less for me to include in my conversation.

We complain about the weather / politicians / prices / potholes / our numerous aches and pains / etc. For some reason these negative things are considered newsworthy. Not just in social conversation, but in all forms of conversation.

And then there is gloating, "I just got a new TV / Car / Boat / 6 weeks holiday / etc"

But how often, whether in the news, or in our daily lives, to we talk about a warming sunbeam, or the chirpy morning song of a robin. Not often.

I am more likely to write / gripe about work, corruption, pot-holes in the streets, good things coming my way (usually in the form of material wealth or significant leisure time). But am I going to talk / write about the kiss my children gave me before going to bed?

Amazingly, we will tolerate repetitively complaining about corruption, but we quickly tire of listening to me relate how I told Sofia, "I love you."

We will natter without tiring about potholes, but we quickly tire of hearing about robin redbreast’s morning song.

Are we conditioned to complain, gossip, and gloat?

Think how odd it feels to talk about the morning sunshine, or the glistening dew.

Image grabbed from here

2006-03-23

 

Not tink but SHWOOM!

Glass is a pretty remarkable material – though not as some claim a super cooled and super-viscous liquid. It is in fact a solid - an amorphous solid, but a solid nonetheless. An amorphous solid is a solid without any crystalline structure – which means that when it breaks, it just breaks in any old way rather than along facets. Actually, that is not entirely true. Amorphous substances (like obsidian and glass) have a tendency to break in a curved fashion – following the shock wave passing through them.

Glass is also quite durable and can survive quite a bit of knocking about – until enough micro-fractures and stresses have build up in it and poof it shatters for almost no apparent reason. Which is what happened to me this morning a few minutes before leaving the house.

I was helping JJ brush his teeth when I put the rinsing glass into the sink – out of the way. It slipped and fell a fraction of a centimeter – something you would expect to go tink, but not much more. In my case it literally exploded. Sending glass flying all over the bathroom and out into the hall. The flying glass ended up scratching / cutting me in two places on the right arm (fortunately, I am left handed, so I could deal with my injury – okay, okay, they were really small cuts, that slowly and reluctantly seeped a little blood).

What astounded me was how the glass had broke (I suppose I should be thankful none of it landed in my eye), it broke in little pieces - like safety glass should (safety glass is designed to break into small squarish, not too sharp pieces – not long shards) – unlike safety glass, these were sharp. And, as mentioned it sprayed out of the sink all over the place, rather than being confined in the sink bowl.

So, I had to check that JJ was glass free, pick bits of glass off me, carry him out of the bathroom and then quickly vacuum up and leave to drop the kids off and get to work.

2006-03-22

 

Blogging - joy or burden?

One of the problems I have with blogging is actually writing – the act of putting thoughts to paper in some coherent fashion.

I have never been a journal keeper (the thought of filling a diary or journal with my uncensored thoughts holds no appeal to me – I am private and I keep my innermost thoughts to myself).

So … this blog was never an attempt at being an online diary or journal. It exists for numerous reasons, one of which is the desire for publicity and the need for privacy, this blog exists.

I have no shortage of ideas or a lack of desire to blog … but, I have no desire to ramble, nor be didactic – so nice crisp, reasonably focussed entries are not always forthcoming.

Anyway, I prefer to engage in discourse rather than soliloquy.

I suppose part of the problem is that I am not sufficiently narcissistic to write only for myself, nor do I do not really target any particular audience.

Originally, I imagined I would blog on a diverse miscellany of topics – but I soon realized that it is rather difficult to do without being impersonal or preachy or opinionated.

People who think they know it all are especially annoying to those of us who do. – Anonymous (on an engraved paper weight Sofia gave me)

2006-03-21

 

Are you your blog?

One of the interesting things about blogs is that there is no, or very little, personal exposure to the person.

Some people post pictures of themselves, others just an avatar and yet others nothing.

I can read a person’s profile and get some idea of them, but is it a complete picture? Unlikely.

There is no audio feedback – unless, they incorporate their voice into their blog – but, since my audio is generally turned off, I wouldn’t hear it anyway.

So, I am left interpreting the words, the content, and the images I find on a blog – forming impressions from what people surround themselves with. I suppose it is rather like archeology – finding a jumbled assortment of artifacts (I browse through people older listings to get a better idea of them). Then I begin to infer things from it.

So? Are you your blog? Would somebody who met you say, “Wow! You are just like I imagined you’d be!” Or are they going to say, “Gee, I thought you’d be taller / younger / wittier / more dynamic / etc”?

While there is no pretense in my blogging and my writing is an honest reflection of what is going on up in my brain, I suspect that people who would meet me would not find me quite like my blog. I think they would say, “Gee, I thought you would be more approachable.”

2006-03-20

 

Regular Workweek = Short Weekend

Started back on a regular workweek today - for the past year and a half or so, when I have been working, I was only working a 4 day week (at a corresponding 80% of pay).

I had scheduled it such that I took Monday’s off. Friday would be a more typical choice, but I have garbage pick up on Friday’s in Ottawa, so I needed to be around to take the garbage to the curb and pick up the garbage and recycling bins (otherwise they would stay there the whole weekend).

In hindsight and with the experience of only a two day weekend this past weekend, I realize that taking Monday off was much smarter than taking Friday off.

Why?

Because on Monday, with the kids in school and Sofia at work, I had pretty much the whole day to do nothing and simply unwind - which in my case is essential.

Going back to work today, I am tired and unrefreshed. I had a nice time with the kids over the weekend (and hope the rest of the week follows suite), but I did not have enough me time. Of course, the three of us all sleeping on a Queen sized futon probably doesn’t help much either – sleep arrangements are limited in Ottawa. They assume normal sleep positions, I try to accommodate myself by curling up in the space left around the foot of the futon (I stand about 6’1” – 185cm). I suppose I could sleep on the floor, but, to be honest, it is not very refreshing – even if I do prefer a firm surface.

When the compressed workweek kicks in in two weeks time, and I get every second Friday off, I am under the impression that although Friday will be a me day for me, it will not be as satisfying occurring before the weekend as after the weekend. Hey! Who knows, I could be wrong, perhaps it will lead to better weekends?

2006-03-18

 

Single dad with two lovely kids ...

Sofia is currently in Curitiba, Brazil until 01-April-2006, so I have the kids with me up here in Ottawa.

They will be spending their days in a artistic camp while I work.

Today, I took JJ to the Canadian Museum of Nature - which, I take as a good omen, had free admission today.

Tania headed off with Sofia's cousin, Suzana, to go do "girl stuff" (whatever that is).

It's amazing how quickly the how gets messy when the kids are around - also had to stock up the fridge with more palatable foods for the kids than my normally ascetic diet would be.

2006-03-16

 

Desperately Seeking Souls

Saw this blog thing over at Lunafish's site and, since I liked my results, I decided to do it on my blog as well.

You Are a Seeker Soul

You are on a quest for knowledge and life challenges.
You love to be curious and ask a ton of questions.
Since you know so much, you make for an interesting conversationalist.
Mentally alert, you can outwit almost anyone (and have fun doing it!).

Very introspective, you can be silently critical of others.
And your quiet nature makes it difficult for people to get to know you.
You see yourself as a philosopher, and you take everything philosophically.
Your main talent is expressing and communicating ideas.

Souls you are most compatible with: Hunter Soul and Visionary Soul
What Kind of Soul Are You?

2006-03-15

 

Why John gets more e-mail than me.

In Stroking Thomas I wrote about my nom-de-plums experience with a fellow who promises to teach you how to write a book in 14 days.

Now, the price of the book (excluding all the valuable freebies if you paid full price) is listed at $399. John got an offer to get a downloadable PDF version for US $47.

Since John doesn’t have a credit card, Richard (me) decided to go for it.

The document is 186 pages long (approximately 30 pages of agents and publishers.

What was my impression? Was it worth US $47?

I guess that depends how you look at it. A friend of mine spent several hundred (at least) dollars attending a Power Within seminar with Dr. Phil McGraw and a bunch of other speakers. She thought it was worth it.

I think the ideas in the "How to Write a Book in 14 Days" were pretty good. It gave me some perspective on helping to manage procrastination, break down tasks into smaller units, etc. There is nothing terribly earth shattering in the contents, but on the other hand, it is fairly practical advice and it does have some useful tips. So, yeah, I think it was worth it.

Now, John, my alter ego, keeps getting e-mails - around 1 a day. On the other hand, Richard, the real me, only gets an e-mail when he has something he wants to sell me.

So why does John get more e-mails than me?

Because I’m a patsy. I bought the system without any real hard sell. John on the other hand, is a tougher nut to crack, he just acknowledges the receipt of e-mails, but doesn’t send any money.

About a week after John asked for more information, he was getting very high pressure e-mails encouraging quick action. The e-mails took two forms: (1) “John, if you are serious then order the system, otherwise stop wasting my time and your time”, (2) “John, I’m offering this special promotion, but only until the end of today. After today, your opportunity to buy it is gone forever. Don’t hesitate, don’t let this golden opportunity pass you by.”

(Note: pressure text is mine, since I’m too lazy to actually look up the e-mails).

2006-03-12

 

Repeat until second nature

Spent the weekend in Ottawa with the family. Normally I go down to Montreal, but this weekend I had tickets to Disney On Ice presents 3 Jungle Adventures.

Sitting there, all I could think off was, “Why do the performers do it? What satisfaction to the get from repeating the same sequence of events, in the same manner, over and over again?”

Clearly, some people do it for the money – they get a paycheque and put food on the table. Which, incidentally, is what motivates me to go to work in the morning – the realization I have a good job, rather than any deep satisfaction in what I do.

But then I think of other coworkers who show no interest in moving onto other projects or aspects of the project, who are content to work on their small piece.

I had commented that people are really good pattern matchers. I also attempted to show that we employ several shortcuts to aid us in pattern matching. Another thing people like is routine: eat the same food, take the same route to work, hang out with the same people, write the same blog topics over and over again ;-)

Why is routine rewarding for some people? And a rut for others?

Is a rut simply a routine that is not generating any sustained sense of pleasure?

And is it not generating pleasure because it is not fulfilling dreams / desires?

Certainly, my job fulfills my needs (well, some of them, anyway – like food and shelter – fairly important ones at that), but … there is always something lacking. I always feel I can give more to the world, but my job (or maybe the excuse I label my job) holds me back. Without the job, lack of security and substance would hold me back.

Sometimes I wish I could just let go and let necessity be the cornerstone of my blooming, but … necessity is what drives me to work and pay bills.

2006-03-10

 

Eleven years ago today

So what happened 11 years ago today?

According to wikipedia and BBC’s On This Day – not much.

Lot’s of things have happened on March 10th, but, apparently, nothing newsworthy happened on 10-March-1995.

On this day, I met Sofia for the first time.

I remember this, not because I was so impressed with Sofia, but because of the way I remember things.

I remember most of my first encounters with future friends – but generally not the date I met them.

But … there is one thing I do tend to remember – birthdays.

I remember meeting Sofia because I was asked to pick her up and bring her to a friend’s birthday party.

How did this first meeting go?

Me: Hi. Are you Sofia?
Sofia: Yes.
Me: I’m Richard, I’m supposed to pick you up to go to Olga’s party.
Sofia: Yes, let me get my coat.
Me: I think you should change you skirt and put on a pair of pants.
Sofia: No, it’s ok.
Me: This is Canada, it is still winter and it can get very cold.
Sofia: I’ll be fine, besides we’re going by car.
Me I still recommend you change.
Sofia I’ll be fine.

Sofia’s recollection is slightly different:

Me: Hi. Are you Sofia?
Sofia: Yes.
Me: (disapprovingly) Hmm, a mini-skirt. You need to change.

Now, I know Sofia’s version is incorrect because I can’t distinguish one skirt from another. I also know I made my recommendation as someone who has experienced a few Canadian winters and knows how to dress for them – and since I knew Sofia had only recently arrived in Canada, I was more concerned that she was warm than trying to dress elegantly as if it was summer in Peru.

On the way to the party I got lost, so I had to stop and consult a map. Conversation was awkward because she spoke very little English, so we communicated in French, but … I understand French better than I speak it.

Her impression of me that night was that I was nice, but overly serious. I have no strong impressions of her. I remember when I was leaving I offered to take her home, but she wanted to stay longer (I turn into a pumpkin at midnight or so) because, in Peru (or Latin America for that matter), parties don’t really get started until 23:00 or later and continue on until morning. (The birthday girl was Colombian – Olga is a fairly common name in Colombia – I’ve met three Colombian women named Olga).

2006-03-09

 

Pinky out!

Yesterday, I was listening to a report on proper dining etiquette – how to butter your dinner roll, which fork to use at which time, how to spoon out that last bit of soup, etc.

Now, I accept that sometimes there are good reasons for doing things in a particular way – for example, I generally put on my socks before putting on my shoes.

Then … there are other things that are just inane. Yet … people for some strange reason feel compelled to conform, to emulate, to mimic certain forms of behavior without understanding or seemingly caring why.

The lower class try to emulate the upper class, and the upper class try to outdo one another by showing off that they are better than the riff-raff – typically done by assuming the role of a soulless automaton that executes perfectly preprogrammed responses and behaviors.

So what is the proper way to spoon the last bit of soup?

Tip the bowl away from you and spoon away, bringing the spoon to your mouth, not your mouth to the spoon.

How do I finish the last bit of soup in a bowl?

I bring the bowl to my mouth and drink.

From practical perspective, tipping the bowl away from you probably makes sense. If you accidentally tip the bowl too much and spill soup, it won’t run as quickly (if at all) into your lap then if you had tipped the bowl towards yourself. Of course, drinking from the soup bowl always runs the risk of dribbling soup down your front. On the other hand, sitting rigidly, bringing the spoon to your mouth is also a good way to spill soup on yourself, methinks.

Image grabbed from here.

2006-03-08

 

Squeeze people and they complain

My company is going to try out a compressed work week schedule starting in April, so we can get every second Friday off. This is in response to a survey done more than a year ago in which more family time was identified as a priority among the employees.

The rules are simple:

(1) Monday – Thursday we work 8.5 hours
(2) First Friday is 7.0 hours, second Friday is off.

Total hours worked over those two weeks 75.0.

Apparently this is causing a lot of people to get up in arms, because they are finding it incredibly inconvenient.

I find it amazing how sensitive people are to small changes and what a big fuss they put up (you can see e-mails flying about).

I think it is a sad comment on ingrained inflexibility – please do not disturb my comfortable quasi-isolated little paradise.

I can understand those voicing childcare concerns – after all, daycare has fairly fixed hours, but the biggest childcare gripes seem to come from those who have a nanny.

2006-03-07

 

Marking Territory - Again

Hmmm ... where are all those brilliant blog ideas I had yesterday? I need to walk away from the computer and let my thoughts regroup.

Anyhow ... yesterday, Jason again decided to mark his territory by nibbling on 6 cupcakes.

If we lived in different sanitary conditions I would have blamed it on rats.

2006-03-06

 

When 24 is really 15

What is it with prepackaged cake mixes? The side panel said it made 24 cupcakes if you filled the muffin cups 2/3.

Well, I only got 15.

This is always the case. Even with from scratch recipes. I've made cookies where the recipe says something like 'makes 6 dozen' and I'm usually lucky to get half that amount.

Sofia's cousin, Suzana, finds it funny that I enjoy cooking and baking because in the macho Peruvian culture men don't. From my point of view, if I want to eat, I cook.

Note, you can use the microwave to make muffins / cupcakes in about 3 minutes.

I use a metal 4 hole muffin tray. If someone has experience with the silicone rubber ones, I'd like to know - my suspicion is that it might bake faster.

Sofia is not crazy about baked goods out of the microwave because they don't brown - but, let's face it, if you are making angel cake, nice and white is just right.

Image grabbed from here.

2006-03-05

 

Chinese Wisdom Concerning Money


[19September-2007 @ 17:11 EST: Revised preamble. This page still gets the most search hits:

There is no Anthony de Croud. The e-mail is SPAM. I post things that pique my fancy at the moment. I like the 8 precepts, but the rest of the e-mail is junk. However, I thought it fair to post everything in its entirety.

I did not write the e-mail. I did not forward the e-mail. I strongly encourage you not to forward it either. (I also encourage you to reply to whomever sent you the e-mail and tell them you don't appreciate getting junk mail.)]


Received this in our e-mail (English translation follows):

PRECEPTO CHINO SOBRE EL DINERO

EL DINERO PUEDE COMPRAR UNA CASA, PERO NO UN HOGAR,
EL DINERO PUEDE COMPRAR UN RELOJ, PERO NO EL TIEMPO.
EL DINERO PUEDE COMPRAR UNA CAMA, PERO NO EL SUEÑO.
EL DINERO PUEDE COMPRAR UN LIBRO, PERO NO EL CONOCIMIENTO.
EL DINERO PUEDE PAGAR UN MÉDICO, PERO NO LA SALUD.
EL DINERO PUEDE COMPRAR UNA POSICIÓN, PERO NO EL RESPETO.
EL DINERO PUEDE COMPRAR LA SANGRE, PERO NO LA VIDA.
EL DINERO PUEDE COMPRAR SEXO, PERO NO EL AMOR.

UN PRECEPTO CHINO TRAE SUERTE, EL ORIGINAL SALIÓ DE LOS PAÍSES BAJOS.

ESTE PRECEPTO YA HA DADO 8 VECES LA VUELTA AL MUNDO, AHORA ES A TI, A QUIEN TRAERÁ SUERTE. DESPUÉS DE HABER RECIBIDO ESTA CARTA, TÚ TENDRÁS BUENA SUERTE. ESTO NO ES NINGUNA BROMA.
LA SUERTE VENDRÁ A TI POR CORREO O POR INTERNET.

ENVÍA UNA COPIA DE ESTA CARTA A LAS PERSONAS QUE REALMENTE NECESITAN BUENA SUERTE, NO ENVÍES DINERO, PORQUE LA SUERTE NO SE COMPRA, Y NO CONSERVES LA CARTA MÁS ALLÁ DE 96 HORAS (4 DÍAS)

ALGUNOS EJEMPLOS DE PERSONAS QUE FUERON AFORTUNADAS DESPUÉS DE HABER RECIBIDO ESTA MISIVA:

CONSTANTIN, RECIBIÓ LA PRIMERA CARTA EN 1953, PIDIÓ A SU SECRETARIA HACER 20 COPIAS. NUEVE HORAS MÁS TARDE GANÓ 99 MILLONES DE MARCOS EN LA LOTERÍA DE SU PAÍS.

CARLOS, EMPLEADO, RECIBIÓ ESTA MISMA CARTA, Y NO LA ENVÍA, ALGUNOS DÍAS MÁS TARDE PIERDE SU EMPLEO. DÍAS DESPUÉS DECIDE CONTINUAR LA CADENA Y SE VUELVE RICO.

EN 1967, BRUNO RECIBIÓ LA CARTA, SE BURLA DE ELLA Y LA BOTA, UNOS DÍAS DESPUÉS SU HIJO CAE ENFERMO. ÉL BUSCA LA CARTA, LA COPIA 20 VECES Y LA ENVÍA. NUEVE DÍAS MÁS TARDE, RECIBE LA FELIZ NOTICIA: SU HIJO SANO Y SALVO.

ESTA MISIVA DE LA SUERTE HA SIDO ENVIADA POR ANTHONY DE CROUD, UN MISIONERO DE ÁFRICA DEL SUR. AL CABO DE 96 HORAS DEBERÁS BOTAR LA CARTA.

LA SUERTE TE LLEGARÁ EN MENOS DE 4 DÍAS A PARTIR DEL MOMENTO EN QUE HAYAS RECIBIDO ESTA CARTA, SI CUMPLES CON LO SOLICITADO EN ELLA.

ESTO ES VERDAD. ESTA MISIVA HA SIDO ENVIADA PARA DAR BUENA SUERTE.
LA SUERTE ACABA DE TOCAR A SU PUERTA.

ENVÍE 20 COPIAS A SUS CONOCIDOS, AMIGOS, FAMILIA.
UNOS DÍAS MÁS TARDE TENDRÁ BUENAS NOTICIAS O UNA GRAN SORPRESA.

YO TE LO ENVÍO YA QUE LA CARTA TIENE QUE DAR LA VUELTA AL MUNDO.

ENVÍE SIMPLEMENTE 20 COPIAS Y ESPERE A VER LO QUE PASARÁ EL NOVENO DÍA.

IMPORTANTE:
NO CAMBIE NADA DEL TEXTO QUE SE LE HA ENVIADO, CÓPIELO EXACTAMENTE COMO SE LO HEMOS DADO.

BUENA SUERTE.


This is my translated version - I think it is reasonably accurate (but I don't speak Spanish - but you figure after almost 11 years of knowing Sofia I would have picked up something):

Money can buy a house, but not a home.
Money can buy a clock, but not time.
Money can buy a bed, but not sleep.
Money can buy a book, but not knowledge.
Money can buy medicine, but not health.
Money can buy power, but not respect.
Money can buy blood, but not life.
Money can buy sex, but not love.

This Chinese wisdom brings luck. The original came from the Netherlands.

This wisdom has circumscribed the world 8 times and now it has come to you and will bring you luck. After receiving this letter you will have good luck. This is no joke.
Luck will come to you by mail or the Internet.

Send a copy of this letter to people who really need good luck, do not send money because luck is not bought and do not keep this letter more than 96 hours (4 days).

Here are examples of people who were fortunate after receiving this letter:

Constatin received the first letter in 1953, and had his secretary make 20 copies. Nine hours later he won 99 million marks in his country’s lottery.

Carlos, a worker, received the same letter and did not forward it. Several days later he lost his job. Afterwards, he decided to continue the chain and became rich.

In 1967, Bruno received this letter, scoffed at it and did not forward it. Several days later, his son fell ill. He found the letter and forwarded 20 copies. Nine days letter his son recovered.

Anthony de Croud, a missionary in South Africa, has sent this lucky letter to you. Within 96 hours you must forward it.

Your luck will arrive within 4 days of having received this letter, if you fulfill the requirements of this letter. This is the truth. This letter has been sent to give good luck.

Luck is knocking at your door.

Send 20 copies to people you know, friends and family. A few days later you will receive good news or a great surprise.

I sent you this because this letter belongs to the world.

Send 20 copies and you will see what will happen on the ninth day.

Important: Change nothing in this letter that you have received. Send it exactly as you received it.

Good Luck


Kind of ties in nicely with people expecting a pattern of action to produce a non-causal outcome.

There is no question (in my mind) that those 8 precepts are true, but the rest of it is hocum.

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2006-03-04

 

Pattern Matching

Humans are very good at pattern matching. We do it all the time, whether understanding speech, recognizing faces or reading words – we recognize the patterns. We beat computers hands down in pattern matching (speech recognition software has been in development for over 50 years – the US military was funding research into voice to text systems back in the 1940s).

Given the amount of data and processing involved in pattern recognition, we have developed automatic error correction – i.e. we automatically correct small errors in patterns (an interesting aside of this is that a non-native speaker of a language is much better at proof reading than a native speaker).

Perhaps this automatic correction is to maintain order in out little universe, or maybe it is because we only superficially exam the data before applying a pattern and order to it.

Read the following words:



Did you notice the error?

Most people for whom English is a native tongue, will miss the second the. The brain just filters it out. While the brain can filter out duplications, it can also insert expected words – perhaps you have dropped an article, the brain is perfectly capable of inserting it and you won’t notice.

Here is another example: count the number of Fs in the following paragraph:

FINISHED FILES ARE THE
RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC
STUDY COMBINED WITH THE
EXPERIENCE OF YEARS

Did you get it right?

Probably not, you likely counted 3 Fs. There are in fact 6.

Again, the brain does not match the Fs in the words OF because it sees the word as a single item not a sequence of two letters.

Humans look for patterns in everything. You could substitute meaning for pattern. We have a tendency to want to generalize particular sequences of events as significant – I washed my car and it rained, I do well on tests when I wear something green, my horoscope said something was going to happen today, etc.

How often do you unconsciously establish cause and effect for things that have no causal relationship? How often do you try to recreate something by following the same steps and sequence?

Retracing our steps can help us jog our memory, but it can also become a superstition, where we believe that a particular sequence of events influences outcome.

You can take a test and see how perceptive you are here. I got 19 out of 20 (but this is more because I've seen many of these things before and knew what they were testing - I don't consider myself more intelligent than others, just better read than most).

Image grabbed from here.

2006-03-03

 

"... the only downside of marriage for a woman is the forgone opportunity for prostitution."

Sometimes you read something or hear something or see something (how about we just generalize and say "perceive something") that really leaves you for a loss of words.

The above quote comes from an article in Forbes on the economics of prostitution.

The article was rather unremarkable - at least until that sentence.

It is an outrageous phrase worthy of Oscar Wilde.

Image grabbed from here.

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2006-03-02

 

Immigrants turning emmigrants

According to a number of news articles and reports (like this one) are reporting that about 1/3 of male immigrants between 25 and 45 are leaving Canada within 20 years.

It states that the outflow of immigrants was highest among those admitted in the skilled and business classes.

It also says that refugees have the highest staying rate. Which is odd, since by definition a refugee is someone who is temporaily displaced and has intent to return to their native country once situations warrant a return.

I can understand why skilled immigrants would be leaving. Although Canada gives high marks for skilled wokers, the problem is that their skills and qualifications are often not recognized in Canada.

Sofia was a lawyer in Peru, but her law studies amount to really nil in Canada - certainly, she cannot practice as a lawyer. She would need to study all over again and then article and finally pass the bar exam. The same goes for doctors, whose credentials are not recognized here.

2006-03-01

 

Stroking Thomas

I came across this site promising to teach me how to write a book in 14 days (as mentioned – web surfing is one of my bad habits). I didn’t surf to it on my own, but rather from this blog

I was even encouraged to write a small sample and e-mail it in for a free evaluation. The rules were: I was given 3 words. I had to start the story with one of them, and use the remaining two in the first paragraph. I had 5 minutes to scribble like mad. I could use minor variants of the words instead.

So this is the fragment I came up with using the words fire, clock, and certainty:

Fire raged through the three story apartment building. Clocks chimed three in the city and it was the third of March – a certain sign of ominous ominosity.

Jack wiped his brow as he watched the flames licking at the roof of the building. Ghastly shimmering shadows undulated behind the windows.

People began to gather outside to watch the spectacle. Yes, spectacle was the right word. No one cared what was going on, this simply served as a diversion from their normally humdrum day. After all, who didn’t want excitement in their life? Who wasn’t up for a boisterous round of drinks in the pub after work, or on Saturday, or Sunday?

People drank themselves into a stupor and now stood, mouths agape, around the burning building. Dirty, sodden sheep is what they were.


Here is the free unbiased evaluation (yes, I use the unoriginal pseudonym of John, maybe if I was more colourful, I would use something like Maximilian or Alexander):

John, Outstanding!

Now that's the kind of writing that can easily be turned into a book! It grabs your interest right at the beginning and keeps going. The reader just has to ask, "What happens next to Jack?"

But don't take my word for it. Take this bit of writing and show it to your friends. I have a feeling they'll frankly tell you the same thing. Tell me, what did you think after you had written the piece? Did you think it would be that good, or that straightforward?

You see, that's the strategy behind my writing system. I want to make it as easy as possible for you to write your book. I want your book to be marketable, too. Fiction or non-fiction. The system is a proven collection of strategies that is working for people, literally, around the world.

You and I both know there's a book inside you, waiting to get out. Maybe even two, three, or a dozen or more. My objective is to help you make that happen.

I look forward to working with you. And to adding you to my list of successful students. If you'd like to get more information, don't hesitate to go to http://www.WriteABookNow.com
Cheers,
Steve


Of course, like everything, this life lesson is not free – about $700 of non-freeness (which I presume is US$). Of course, I do get a whole bunch of freebies thrown in. In 5 days, I’ve gotten 6 e-mails from Steve: 3 general purpose lesson / motivation e-mails, 2 special offer e-mails (including one promising me a free audio cassette of one of his seminars – simply for sending my mailing address and home phone number), and 1 writing sample evaluation.

So? What is your evaluation? Are those 4 paragraphs something that can be easily turned into a book? (Yeah, yeah, I know, I tried NaNoWriMo and didn’t exactly run a good race - I didn’t get much past the starting blocks).

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