Miscellaneous

Cross country skiing and the aftereffects

Despite the tiredness which had ensued from a mixture of jetlag and a lack of sleep on Tuesday (after chatting to other Drupalers and drinking open source beer until the early hours of the morning) I couldn't resist going skiing with everyone on Wednesday night. being tired, I didn't want to risk downhill skiing and thought (rather foolishly) that cross country skiing would be an interesting and easier way out.

I skied a few times when I was younger but hadn't been on the piste for about eight or nine years since then, and I figured that corss country would be an easier version of the downhill skiing I'd done in the past. I was told that cross country skis are different in that they don't really have edges, though I didn't quite understand what they meant until I stepped into my skis and then promptly fell over. A few wobbles and near-falls later, I was on my way, with able guides to help me and tell me the way I should be doing it.

It didn't take too long to get going at a relative pace (at times), and it took a suprisingly long amount of time for me to fall flat on my face when I went out of control on a downhill section. Luckily it only happened once, and didn't hurt too much. By the end of it all, I was shattered but had a great time, and wasn't aching at all.

The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed and raring to go to the first session of the day. A session or two later I'd started to seize up and ache rather a lot, and it's not got any better since. Ah well, a few days of aching for a fun night of skiing sounds like a fair trade off, right?

A bit of an update

It has been almost three months since I last posted to my blog, so I think a bit of an update is in order. I'll hopefully get back into blogging on here from now on as well...

Last thing I wrote about was my laptop dieing on me during the middle of my dissertation. I struggled along with just university resources, which were mostly ample, though not as flexible as having my laptop would have been. When I discovered that I could get insurance money back for a the cost of fixing the machine (almost as much as replacing it) I decided to make the bold move I've been wanting to do for quite some time - going back to using a Mac. I've had my shiny new iBook now for over two months and I'm loving it.

So, back to the dissertation - I got the work finished, even if it wasn't everything that I had hoped to do. Despite that I still came away with a good grade for the project and for the course in general. My degree certificate came through in the mail last week but I have to wait until next September for the graduation ceremony. It'll be good to go back and see everyone again and catch up on what people have been up to for the year.

With education over, I had a couple of options open to me as to what to do with myself. During the summer I was contacted by an organisation in Stuttgart, Germany who were interested in my skills and interests in the area of GIS and web development. After flying out for a conference and an interview - as well as a visit to the Volksfest beer festival - I was offered the job.

I accepted, and just a few weeks later I came out to start in the role as a Software Engineer to develop and implement geographically oriented tools in a mostly open source environment.

Computer problems

A few weeks back, my computer decided to stop working for me. Whilst this was extremely inconveniencing for working on my dissertation, I luckily didn't lose any key work and was able to continue relatively unhindered.

Email, on the other hand, is another matter. I'm living out of a webmail service and don't have access to any emails prior to the computer breaking. If you emailed me and haven't heard back, this is likely to be the reason - other than just generally being busy at the moment as well.

Drop me a line if you have been waiting for an email back and hadn't heard anything from me for a while...

Karran family tree

A month or so ago there was a big family reunion for the members of the Karran family from around the world. It was held over on the western side of Canada so I wasn't able to make it, but I hear everyone had a great time.

Maureen Karran left a message to let people know that they are trying to compile a family tree for the whole family (of which there seem to be many links missing at present, as noted from the trees available over on the karran.info website), so if you are a Karran or part of a Karran family, let Maureen know by dropping a line to her at mekarran at telus dot net.

Sun sneezing questions

As I start to think about what I'm going to put on the sun sneezing part of the website, I began to think it may be a good idea to ask for the input of people who may actually use it. The main part of the site will be a sort of central register of sun sneezers that you can leave your details in (as few or as many as you wish) and in return you are given an electronic certificate of sun-sneeziness with a profile you can link to.

I know that there are a lot of people who have expressed an interest in it, so at the same time I'd like to be able to find out a little more about how sun sneezing habits change between people and places, if at all. This is where you come in... If there are any fitting questions that you think may be good to ask of people for their profile, I'll be more than grateful if you could let me know and I'll add them to my list. If you would like to leave any suggestions, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post or send me a quick email to dan at karran dot net.

Finally, apologies to all those people who have emailed me already to express their interest. I'll get back to you all when I have a better idea of launch timings.

20 questions

Last month I was happily playing with a little electronic game of 20 questions that a friend of mine had. Basically you think up an object and after 20 questions with yes, no or maybe answers it will make a guess at the object you're thinking of. Most of the time it was right and the times that it wasn't quite there, it was pretty close. Whilst at the time it was a bit of fun, I didn't really appreciate the amount of time and effort had been put into teaching this machine what it knows. Apparently it started learning back in 1988 by adding to it's neural network memory. Since then it has had the most popular objects and inferences burned into a chip for use in this cheap toy. The toy itself can't learn but the game you can play on the 20q website is still teaching itself for every game that is played. I just tried it out and it guessed first time.

(via Boing Boing)

Repetition

If I was a contestant on BBC Radio 4's Just a Minute panel game I don't think I would last anywhere near that long.

Recently I've noticed that I say and write certain things far too many times within a short space of one another. In fact one of my lecturers highlighted it in an assignment lately, noting an 'irritating repetition' of phrases within a paragraph. Usually I'll check things through to make sure I don't have too many bits like that but sometimes I do forget, or simply don't notice because when reading your own work there is a tendancy to skim-read and avoid important mistakes. When posting to my blog I am often too keen to get the post published, neglecting that checking phase.

On that note: sorry to people who have noticed I use words like 'interesting' too often (and those linked pages are just the ones with the offending word in the title). I'll try and make sure I don't write too repetitively in the future.

Transparent Screens - an interesting concept

Transparent Screens - alexlopOver the past few days there have been a load of pictures being posted to Flickr, a popular photo sharing website, about 'transparent screens'.

The idea is that you take a photo of your computer screen which has a background on it of the area behind the screen. Take this photo, for example. The person who took the photo has taken a photo of their desk with a lavalamp on it, set that photo as their desktop and then taken a photo of the two combined.

I think it's pretty clever - especially with some of the others where there are cats sitting behind the monitor with tails sticking out. They have to be perfectly aligned for it all to work.

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